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Put your stamp on Taco Tater Tot Bake

Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Taco Tater Tot Bake is a quick and easy casserole that is fun to personalize to your family's tastes.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
For more flavor, add tortillas and hot sauce to the Taco Tater Tot casserole.

Summer seems to have finally arrived here in the Midwest, and now everyone is complaining about the heat. You know what they say, “You can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time.”

So, get used to the heat and be thankful it is not snowing. I will take the summer heat every time, and not complain. I am planning some great summer salads for the days ahead. The sky’s the limit on what you can toss in a salad.

There was a time when salad was just a salad – lettuce, tomatoes, mayo. Now a salad is a beautiful centerpiece on your dining table or your picnic table, with an array of colorful vegetables and fruit that will tempt the smallest appetite. 

I will be a contrarian in the summer heat – this new recipe is not for a cool green salad.

I mean, don’t we grill ribs and steaks on the hot coals in the summer? What food lover would pick a cold hot dog over a hot crisp corn dog slathered with mustard? That’s my favorite.

What I have for you is not exactly a dish for hot weather – quite the opposite. It is a Mexican casserole for all of us tortilla addicts. This recipe is my daughter Penny’s take on another recipe she saw. She kept some of the good stuff in that she loves, tossed some other ingredients, and added a few new ones. 

You might call this a made-to-order casserole. You can personalize this dish to suit your own tastes. 

If you don’t like something in the casserole, just throw it out and put something else in.

Taco Tater Tot Bake

Brown 1 pound of ground beef in a skillet with ¼ cup chopped onions and 2 teaspoons minced garlic. Add 1 package of taco seasoning and 3⁄4 cup of water. Let taco mixture simmer until it boils down a little. Spread hamburger/taco mixture in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan or dish.

Place a package of frozen Tater Tots in a bowl, with a little salt and pepper. Put in as many Tater Tots as you like. Add ½ cup of sour cream. 

Add 6 ounces of grated taco cheese in with the sour cream mix, and mix until all the Tater Tots are coated.

Spread that mixture on the meat mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Spread about 2 ounces of taco cheese over mixture and place back into oven just until the cheese is melted, only a minute or 2.

Serve with chopped lettuce and chopped tomatoes on the side for garnish.

Slow-cooker chicken enchilada casserole

Servings: 6

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 6 hours and 20 minutes

2 cans (4.5 ounces each) Old El Paso chopped green chiles

1 can (103⁄4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup

1 can (10 ounces) Old El Paso green enchilada sauce or other green chile enchilada sauce

¼ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

12 corn tortillas (6 inch), cut into 3⁄4-inch strips

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 can (15 ounces) Progresso black beans, drained, rinsed

2 cups shredded taco cheese blend (8 ounces)

2 large tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)

2 cups chopped lettuce

½ cup sour cream, 1 can (4 ounce) green chilies

¼ cup finely diced onions

¼ teaspoon lemon pepper

1 clove garlic

Serve with Guacamole Dip

Guacamole Dip

2 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped

1 finely chopped onion

1 can (4 ounces) green chiles 

1 small tomato, finely chopped

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Dash hot sauces

Mix all ingredients together.

Lemonade for sale!

Most children, at some point, get the idea to set up a lemonade stand. It is fun, and you can make a little money at the same time. You also can drink all the lemonade you want. As I have watched my children and grandchildren sell lemonade, I have noticed that most adults pay 2 or 3 times what a cup of lemonade costs, so they make a pocketful of money, and there is no overhead, because everything comes from mom’s kitchen. 

Here are some tips for young entrepreneurs:

n The lemons should be room temperature or warmer before the juice is removed. This will make it easier to squeeze the juice from the fruit. 

n Warm lemons by placing in the microwave. First poke the skin of the lemon with a fork, being careful not to poke all the way through the skin to the flesh.

n Place the lemons in the microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds.

n Approximately 8 to 10 medium-size lemons will be needed to produce the 1 ½ cups of pure lemon juice to make your lemonade.

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