Let’s Talk Leftovers [classic tater tot hotdish]

The alternate title for this post could be, “Eat Your Hearts Out, Duggars!” Because they make this tater tot casserole, and it’s Internet famous, and I tried it and thought it was gross.

But ever since then, it’s stayed in the back of my head that the idea of tater tot casserole is far from wrong. I found this one over the summer and promptly made it a billion times in a row for any event for which I was required to bring food. It’s darn good, and easily adapted to fit whatever is in your refrigerator, as long as you have enough eggs.

But that’s decidedly a breakfast casserole, and my vision of a hearty, dinnertime tater tot casserole, just wouldn’t go away.

ugggggh, the picture I want to use isn’t loading, and I really want to get this recipe up today, so …. insert mental picture here!

So when Molly Yeh posted her classic tater tot hotdish, I knew the time was ripe for a second try. That it’s called a hot dish and is not made with cream of anything soup meant that my hopes were high, and boy was I thrilled with the results. If you aren’t a native midwesterner, you may not know that tater tot casserole is basically a pot pie filling with tater tots on top.

Her recipe calls for ground beef, but I kept thinking how great this would be with leftover turkey. You could so easily swap in mushrooms, bell peppers, or any of those half-used-up bags of frozen veggies that seem to multiply in the freezer (that can’t just be me, can it?).  Try it for me, dear readers, and let me know how it is!

Thanksgiving, 2017: The Plan

Normally, you all get a free preview of my meal plan on Tuesdays, but Thanksgiving has us all kinds of out of order, and with a few days ahead of us to start prepping, I’m sharing this year’s plan today, in hopes it may give you inspiration if you need it.

Spoiler alert: Dear guests who are also readers – don’t keep reading if you want to be surprised, but also, we’re mostly having what we always have. (These photos are from Thanksgiving, 2015)

andre, the turkey.

Turkey

Mashed potatoes

Green bean casserole (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Stuffing (made the day before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Sweet potatoes (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Brussels sprouts from my sister-in-law (usually roasted with pancetta, and whoops, now I’m drooling)

Cranberry sauce (made whenever my husband wants)

Biscuits (made in the morning and warmed up before dinner)

apple pie.

Apple pie (gifted by a friend)

Pumpkin pie (sold by a neighbor who is a far superior baker)

And this pecan praline sauce because I’m not making the usual bourbon pecan tart (made a day or two before)

And ice cream, because, duh

And orange cookies, because I can’t not bake anything. Hopefully they’ll be amazing, and you’ll see them before too much longer. (made the day before)

full plate.

The rest of the week, if you’re interested:

Sunday – Sausage and tomato risotto, which is a forever favorite.

Monday – hot dogs and tater tots, and some sort of veggie. Yep. That’s it.

Tuesday – A veggie and chicken stir-fry (love this teriyaki sauce the most) if I’m home early, and leftovers if I’m not.

Wednesday – whatever we didn’t do on Tuesday

Thursday – LOL, see above

Friday – PIE and only pie.

Saturday – Oh gracious, I don’t know yet.

Meals This Week

my dream.

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Monday – I don’t know! And I’m out till late, so we’ll see if we have any good options from Trader Joes in the freezer.

Tuesday – My husband is at a meeting till late, which likely means avocado toast and Everything But the Bagel seasoning for me. But it’s absolutely worth mentioning that for him, this particular meeting requires he prepare a meal for about 15 people beforehand. I’m so excited for him. He practiced the dish on Saturday night, and it was amazing. (And I just searched my blog looking for a link, only to find I haven’t posted it? Not sure how that’s possible, and I wonder if I can get him to snap a picture of it so I can share.)

Wednesday – Thanks to a bit of advanced prep this past weekend, I’ve got some beef stew ready to reheat.

Thursday – We don’t have a friendsgiving on the calendar, so I’m getting in the Thanksgiving spirit by using up a loaf of bread in this stuffing I’ve never made, and I’ll make a green bean casserole too, because there’s never a bad time for green bean casserole. Why do we only eat green bean casserole on Thanksgiving?

Friday – Classic Tater Tot Hotdish – If you didn’t grow up knowing that tater tot casserole is a food (or, perhaps, a food group), then I bet you learned about it from the Duggars.*  That’s where I was first introduced, and in fact, I made it myself many years ago. Though that one was underwhelming, I knew when I saw Molly post a tater tot hotdish recipe, it couldn’t be bad. We’re trying it out Wednesday night.**

Saturday – We’ve got plans in the evening, so if we’re still hungry, we’ll graze when we get home.

Sunday – Sunday dinner! Hopefully whatever I make is blog-worthy, and you’ll see more soon.

*Also, I know you’ve watched the Duggars because one time I clicked on one of their Instagram accounts to see who else I knew followed them, and Instagram told me it was this person, that person, and about 50 other friends. Not even joking. It’s okay, we don’t have to acknowledge it in public or anything.

**I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point you toward this all-star tater tot recipe, which I make frequently.

Meals this Week

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Monday: Just stocked up on chicken at Costco, and we’ve got half a bottle of Wishbone left from all of our summer grilling. One more round of Wishbone chicken before the weather turns frigid and it doesn’t seem seasonally appropriate anymore.

Tuesday: We are down to the very end of a bag of corn chips. When it gets to just the crumbly bits that means it’s time for Parmesan Ranch chicken.

Wednesday: Two nights in a row with no pasta on the menu means we’re due. We’ve got some tomatoes to use up, so I’ll probably just make a simple sauce with tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms.

Thursday: Leftovers!

Friday: Something meaty will go in the slow cooker. We didn’t love the short ribs we had a couple weeks ago, so I may call for a re-do with red wine instead of beer.

Saturday: I’m eyeing this pasta with brussels sprouts and bacon, but it doesn’t have the greatest reviews. (3 stars?!?!) We’ll see.

Sunday: I don’t know what’s on the menu, but we haven’t hosted anyone for a Sunday Dinner in way, way too long, so let’s hope we can have friends over that night.

 

In Praise of Thanksgiving [shaved sprouts salad]

It should surprise no one that the very minute I flipped my calendar’s pages to November, I started seeing HOLIDAY posts across every blog I read. And I have to tell you, dear readers, that I have a soft spot in my heart for every single person out there who takes at least a post or two to dedicate to Thanksgiving before jumping headfirst into Christmas.

Thanksgiving is my favorite.

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And sprouts are a great side for the Thanksgiving table. Of course, I think sprouts have a place on the table all year round, which is why this shaved sprouts salad showed up for a recent Sunday dinner. And then again a few nights later. And likely at least once, if not twice more, before.

In Which I am Lame [smitten kitchen confetti cake]

It’s confession time, dear readers.

I don’t get funfetti.

 

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I mean, I get it. Sprinkles in and cake and on a cake. What could be more festive?

But is it that big a deal to throw sprinkles in a cake? I guess it is because you can find funfetti versions of just about anything. But I never got into it.

Which is why when an old college friend asked if I’d made Smitten’s confetti cake, I answered no. I remember watching Deb’s Insta story this summer, when she deftly iced Muppets on her daughter’s second birthday cake (because of course she did), but I wasn’t overtaken with a need to replicate the cake itself. I signed up to bring birthday snacks at the end of every month to a group of women I love to hang out with, and right as the end of October rolled around, I got that question. I completely trust this friend’s foodie opinions, so there we go. Decision made. Confetti cake was on the menu.

Gooplet and I cranked the cupcakes out on Monday, iced them on Tuesday, and we served them on Wednesday. I used the little non-pareil rainbow sprinkles that no one really likes (Seriously, does anyone have a place for these in their heart?), and guess what? Still some seriously wonderful cupcakes. Deb will never leave you astray. I doubled the cake recipe and baked 20 cupcakes for 22 minutes. Double the frosting was plenty for icing them.

Meals This Week

Happy Halloween, Dear Readers! This is the first week in FOREVER where we are just home. No one is going anywhere anytime soon, and I can plan for the week, but also start thinking about seriously restocking my pantry. During September and October it was never very long before we took another weekend trip, so we are down to the dregs of so many supplies.

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Monday: My husband has a work event, so I’m fending for myself. I have some frozen ravioli I bought at an Italian market my parents frequent, and some tomatoes I’m going to chop and saute and call a sauce.

Tuesday: We’ll do just what we did last year, though I’ll likely put together a green salad as well.

Wednesday: Another night where I’m not home until it’s time to eat. I can prep the recipe Smitten just posted for sheet pan sausage and potatoes (I’ll add broccoli), and it will be ready for me upon my return.

Thursday: Leftovers! (Which is great because I’m making a late night Costco run before I host a sip and see this weekend.)

Friday: I’m hoping I can pull off the risotto I made with Sous Chef Lauren at home on Friday.

 

Meals This Week

mixed floral melamine plate set ii

(Gave you seen these melamine plates from Caitlin Wilson? They’re sold out. I don’t want to talk about it.)

Monday: Trying something new in the slow cooker; Parmesan and Herb Roasted Chicken and Orzo.

Tuesday: That lasagna I talked about last week never happened, so I’m trying again this week. The meat is defrosted, and if I prep it after bedtime on Monday night, I won’t have anything to do on Tuesday.

Wednesday: The slow cooker is back on rotation for a short ribs dish. This in no way aligns with the summer weather we’re having, but I can only hold off on cooking hearty meat dishes for so long.

Thursday: Three nights of cooking in a row? Leftover time

Friday: Eek, I don’t know yet. I’m supposed to head out of town the next day, and so we’ll get creative with whatever is left in the fridge.

Saturday: Cooking up some risotto with Sous Chef Lauren! The most excited. It will likely be a hybrid of this one and this one, but with rice, not barley.

The Story Behind the Menu – Weeknight Dinner for a Friend

Who: the three of us and a friend

What: a regular weeknight dinner

When: Monday evening

Why: because she works less than a mile away from our house, and we thought it’d be a blast

place.

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The thought process: I knew I had to make a lot of food that could be made in advance, and couldn’t make a single thing that would come together at the last minute. I was going to be prepping this with Gooplet right underfoot, so I had to stretch myself to find easy recipes that still qualified as classy.

The menu:

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk – it had been so long since I last roasted a chicken. It’s one of those tasks that could not be easier, and yet every time I’m about to do it, I get anxious about it. Good news: it continues to be the easiest, and turns out just great no matter what.

Ladd’s Roasted Potatoes – Last time I roasted a chicken was probably about the last time I made something from The Pioneer Woman, so I was long past due. Let me tell you – anything dripping in butter and Lawry’s is just fine by me. (Let me also tell you these would be just as delightful at breakfast as they were at dinner.)

Sauteed Green Beans – Whenever I need to take a vegetable dish to the next level, I make green beans a la my mother in law. Saute a finely chopped onion, add some minced garlic, salt and pepper, and some haricots vert. Quickest, easiest, best green bean dish ever. Add toasted, slivered almonds if you want some crunch.

Apple Pie a la mode – A neighbor of ours just started a pop up bake shop, and she sold apple pies to raise money for a wonderful cause. I bought one to enjoy at dinner, and had one less thing to worry about.

What worked: Dinner! My theory with almost every single kind of entertaining I’ve ever done is: it’s going to work because it has to work. It can’t not work. As I had no intention of calling this friend to cancel, I knew dinner was simply going to happen. There’s something about that mindset that helps me immensely. The wine was flowing, we put the kid to sleep before dessert, and kept the party going long into the night. (Well, long into the night for us parents, which means we were done by 10 and fully cleaned up by 10:30.)

What didn’t: I don’t think this didn’t work, but I wish I had made one or two more dishes. By loading my meal with butter, I’m confident our guest went home well-fed, but when I entertain I love having too much on the table. I wish I had done an arugula salad, and maybe some garlic bread too. And I didn’t take any pictures! That happens way too often these days.

Meals This Week

Dear readers, I can’t promise I’ll share my meal plan every week, but I’m hoping that I can pop in now and again when I have it together to have one. This series was my fave, and I think a lot of you liked it too. Hopefully, seeing some real life solutions to the “What’s for dinner?” conundrum that strikes all of us from time to time will be a continued help.

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(RIP my beloved Pottery Barn meal organizer. You lived on our wall till we realized there was just no perfect spot for you anymore. I’ll miss you dearly.)

Monday – No time for grocery shopping this weekend. Thank heavens I’ve got two pot pies still in the freezer from a local market I visit every time I am in Pennsylvania. Pot pie for dinner! Meat, veggies and starch all in one dish. Pre-made food that only needs reheating. What could be better?

Tuesday – My husband is out at a meeting and I’ve got leftover pepperoni gravy to use up.

Wednesday – My husband is at a work event, which likely means avocado toast with Everything But the Bagel seasoning because it is the best, and enough of a dinner for me.

Thursday – We will be gone for the weekend, so Thursday dinner was a tricky one. We’re both home, but I don’t want to create too much mess or too many leftovers. I looked in the pantry and discovered some no-boil lasagna noodles. With some ground beef defrosted, I’ll make a quick lasagna that will feed us Thursday, and upon our return later in the weekend.

That’s it for this short week, dear readers! Thanks for playing along with our week in meals. More soon!