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.


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.

On Formative Books

This little blog began as a way to share recipes, and log what I’ve been eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, many, many years ago. And over time, it’s come to showcase even more pieces of my life. A life which is not complete without reading.

I’m one of those people who has always been a reader. Always. Like, remembers attending preschool story times vividly. Remembers her first time sitting down with Brother and Sister Bear, with Ramona, The Grand High Witch, and oh, how I remember spending some 4th grade afternoons with Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann.

Almost every job I in which I found myself over the years involved working with children in some capacity, and I was the luckiest because though they were written for children younger than me, I also got to meet Stanley Yelnats, Lina and Doon, Jack, Edward Tulane, and Hugo. (It goes without saying that you could find me at the front of the Borders line every summer for the latest Harry Potter installment, right?)

do good quote - do all the good you can in all the ways you can… I think I love this.. maybe because I'm a DG and a Methodist so this hits those both :D


And then, in 2012, a new book came out. A book about a boy named Auggie. And I kept hearing things about this book from people whose opinions I greatly respect. So I bought the book. I read it in a day. The chapters are short, and it is not hard at all to find yourself rooting for multiple characters in the story.


This is where I have to put the disclaimer that Wonder is not the most well-written children’s book of all time. Not even close. There are chapters that are superfluous, the dialog can get clunky, and the story goes on a tad too long.

But you should read it anyway.

The world is worth exploring. 🌎 Who’s excited for Wonder the movie?


It is written exactly the way ten and eleven year olds talk to each other. And it’s dead on in terms of how children handle themselves at school and at home. And while there is slang that won’t hold up over the years, the way kids treat each other will always be something worth looking at from multiple angles.

The movie comes out today. There was never going to be a movie, but of course, there is always a movie. The cast is certainly star-studded enough to do the book justice, and the previews I’ve seen have reduced me to tears on multiple occasions.

I can’t wait.

*Dear readers, I have to tell you, I’ve long had a soft spot for this, John Wesley’s rule, and though this image was the nicest I could find, the last line should read: as long as ever you can.

On Updating Essentials

Tis the season for coveting material goods, no?

I was thinking in the shower the other day, that my husband’s and my marriage has outlived our towels. This is no small feat in that it means we’ve been married for a long time. But it also (mostly) means that we need new towels.

Waffle Towels parachute home

Cup of Jo posted these gorgeous waffle weave towels from Parachute the other day, and a quick search told me they must be in right now because you can find them anywhere. Out of all that I’ve seen, these are my favorite, though, because they look less like towels and more like blankets.

I’ve always gravitated toward #allwhiteeverything, but the possibility of gray is intriguing me. Agonize with me, dear readers, what color towels should we get?

Meals This Week

my dream.


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.

Favorite Things

But can you read that title as Oprah, please?

“It’s time for Favorite Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiings.”

You know, deep and sing-song-y?

Dear readers, Oprah has truly out-Oprah-ed herself this year, by gifting us with these promotional photos. She is just the ultimate best; shining so much light into an increasingly dark world.

Here’s what I’m loving from this year’s list.

(These are not affiliate links because I am not that fancy.)

My Audio Pet Mini Bluetooth Animal Wireless Speaker with TRUE WIRELESS STEREO TECHNOLOGY – Pair with another TWS Pet for Powerful Rich Room-filling Sound – (OWLcapella Brown)

Just ordered a little bluetooth speaker for the main floor of our house. We reconfigured our life a little bit, and lost the one we had there. I was agonizing about what to get in its place – a nice speaker felt too expensive, I still don’t understand why anyone needs an Alexa for anything except playing music, and then this little dude popped up for $30, coming with a whole bunch of 5-star reviews. Done and done. He arrives in two days (God bless Amazon Prime), and I can’t wait to listen to Disney Pandora with him. I think this is the first time in my long, storied history with Oprah’s Favorite Things that I’ve ever seen something and bought it right away.

I have a very different relationship with Sundays now that I’m not working full time. Simply put, I love them. Hands-down my favorite day of the week. They are slow, they start with a fancy breakfast (read: pancakes or French toast) and church, they are mostly for family, until dinner, when we welcome friends, and share a meal. Dream. Day. Oprah knows Sundays are for saving your best stuff, too, and she put together this book with some insights from her Super Soul Sunday guests.

Love me a mom shoe, and if these are good enough for O, they are surely good enough for me. Vionic Slip-On Shoes look perfect for wearing with jeans. The hardest decision on days I wear real clothes (don’t judge my activewear habit) is almost always what shoe to wear. What’s stylish is rarely comfortable for someone popping up and down off the floor all day, and what’s comfortable are Nike sneakers, which don’t go with the whole, look, I got dressed in real clothes thing.

Meals this Week


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.


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.

October Reads

I try to stay current on about 4 or 5 podcasts. And because Gooplet developed an intense passion for the Moana soundtrack over the summer, I have fallen hopelessly behind on all of them. Anytime a noise-making device was on, said device was blasting Moana (make waaaaay, make waaaaay). But. We’re slowly diversifying our tastes, and I’ve even managed to keep a couple podcasts on here and there during the background of our days.

Wonderful mix of Puffin Children's Classics and Puffin In Bloom.


The other day, it was a back episode of What Should I Read Next, and Anne said that she once heard that one of the worst things you can say about a book is “I liked it,” or, “I didn’t like it.” That’s not really what books are for, anyway. Books are for sharing glimpses into other worlds, in hopes that we come to see something, anything, in a new way.

Loved it.

Here’s what I read in October. I think I’m coming out of my slump.

Just Read:

Dear Fahrenheit 451, by Annie Spence – Such a fun book, which I wrote more about here.

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson – If I was still in a fifth grade classroom every day, there is no way two years would have gone by before I learned about this book. But two years went by, and I didn’t know about it until it started popping up across the Bookstagram feeds I follow. Such a fun story, and I’m sure a hit with elementary schoolers everywhere.

All’s Faire in Middle School, by Victoria Jamieson – This is the second graphic novel by the author of the book before, and is just as charming. I always roll my eyes when I see people posting pictures from the local Renaissance Faire, but this was such a sweet peek at what happens behind the scenes there.


My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, by Amy Silverstein – Oh, this one is beautiful. I find myself alternatively delighted and then frustrated with the narrator, but it’s like what I said above. This book is helping me trying to wrap my head around what life would be like on the waiting list for a heart transplant for a second time. And a quick story. As I sat down with this book–about the power of friendship–I started reading the description of the first friend, Joy. Hmmm, I thought, this Joy sounds a lot like my husband’s boss, Joy. Dear readers, one of the friends the author wrote about is my husband’s boss Joy. He’s always mentioned her utter dedication to friends and family, and there she was, on page nine of this book. What a small world, indeed.

Wild Things, by Bruce Handy – I’m not sure I love this book, but I’m going to keep reading it. The author is coming off as smug to me, but it’d be hard for me to put down any book on children’s literature.

Want to Read:

I don’t know! I’ve got my reading goal for 2018 already percolating in the back of my head, and I wonder if I’m going to spend the last 2 months of 2017 getting a jump-start on that, or if I’ll just see what strikes my fancy next. What have you been reading lately?