Saturday, 10 March 2012

A Cosy Casserole To Warm Our Hearts

Links to these books below.

Papa Bear made me smile LOTS today!

I really have not been feeling very well these last few days. I just can't stop coughing and shivering, and I ache all over. But it seems to me that the more I try to hide this from my family, the more they seem to see through my determination not to give in to this illness, and treat me so sweetly and kindly, that it makes me feel as if I must be making far too much fuss! I feel so humbled by their kindness and truely undeserving of their care! After all I am not THAT ill (or I'd be in bed - though like most mamas, in all my years of marriage and motherhood, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I've felt unwell enough to do that!) but today and yesterday, Papa Bear and the cubs have been so sweet to me, and been so patient and helpful. I did go to the supermarket today, and did all my chores (the Saturday chores are just my daily basics, and a bit of food prep - I have cut this down recently, and now do the bulk of it during the week). I also took advantage of the good weather we're having just now to do some extra laundry, which blew beautifully dry - by 3.30 pm today, it was all done! That made me smile too, but not nearly so much as the wonderful gifts that Papa Bear surprised me with!

The images you see above there are the Taste of Home Church Supper Desserts and Best Church Supper Recipes cook books, both of which are available at and, and which my wonderful husband had ordered, and gave to me as a surprise gift, today! I was so thrilled with them! Thank you SO MUCH Papa Bear! He knows how much I like the Taste of Home recipes, and how delicious they taste too! There are a wealth of fantastic recipes in these 2 books, not just for potlucks and church socials, but also for larger families, as well as smaller ones like ours too! I've been busily looking through them both this afternoon, and have been so inspired already by what I've seen. Lots of tasty, frugal, easy to prepare dishes that I know everyone will enjoy. I have a long, long list of recipes now, that I can't wait to try out on the family! Papa Bear had actually planned to give these books to me as a gift on Mother's Day, next Sunday, but he decided they'd make me just as happy if he gave them to me today instead! Aren't I lucky?

In our family we enjoy a lot of cosy casseroles and one-pot dishes. This is partly cultural, as one-pot dishes are the tradition for us, and we were both brought up eating dishes like pot roast pheasant (sooo delicious, and extremely frugal too, but out of season now until October - we had our last one just before Christmas), and stewed rabbit (my mams taught me how to skin and paunch a rabbit when I was still young. It isn't fun, but I grew up on a farm and was taught not to be emotional about animals - they were there to feed us and provide us with a living, first and foremost, although we were also taught to treat them with compassion and respect. But I've never liked doing it and am not sorry to say that nowadays, we don't often eat this dish as there are others that we prefer a lot more). In addition, stews and casseroles are very easy to eat (and to prepare and cook!), usually with few ingredients and being served straight from the dish, with maybe only vegetables alongside. They are a complete meal in one. What is more, sinse they can often be prepared in advance and frozen, or cooked in a slow cooker, they are very adaptable, and easy to fit into a busy schedule, and the left overs usually taste as good if not better than the first time around. For all these reasons, csseroles feature frequently on our menus all year round, though more often in the cooler months.

Today we had for our tea (evening meal) - served a bit later than usual so that the cubs, who both have part time jobs, were able to eat with us - Cheddar Tater Caserole. This is (no surprises here) a Taste of Home recipe, and is a new dish that I decided we'd try as an alternative to the more traditional Tater Tot Casserole that we have eaten and enjoyed many times. This dish is slightly different, in that it has no meat in it. I also adapted it slightly to make it a little healthier than the Taste of Home recipe, which you can read here. I will also re-write the recipe below ...

1 10 3/4 ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup (I used non condensed low-fat mushroom soup instead)
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk (I used half fat)
1 cup sour cream (I ommitted this altogether)
1/2 cup butter, melted (I also ommitted this)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder (I didn't have this, so used Knorr Season-All instead)
1 32 ounce pack frozen Tater Tots
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed potato chips (I used cornflakes instead, to reduce the fat and salt)

To this I also added a can of drained sliced mushrooms!

1. Combine the first 6 ingredients.
2. Add the tater tots and stir gently to mix. At this point I also added the sliced mushrooms.
3. Place in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan, and cover with the potato chips or cornflakes, and the grated cheese.
4. Bake uncovered in a fairly hot oven for 30 - 35 minutes (ours was done in 35).

I'm afraid to say that although the recipe states that this dish is supposed to serve 8 - 10 (oh the shame), we managed to eat the whole entire pan between four of us! BUT we didn't have anything else with it except a simple green salad - that is how I normally serve tater tot casserole. However having eaten (and very much enjoyed this) I would say that it begs to be served with boiled or roast ham - and Papa Bear agrees! It is delicious though. Not totally healthy, I agree, but then we had granola for breakfast, and home made wholegrain peanut butter sandwiches with apple coleslaw (no cheese) for dinner (lunch), and only grapes for dessert. So I don't think it is too bad, seen as part of our whole day's food! It certainly was scrumptious - the cheesy, crunchy topping was especially yummy, and the lack of butter and sour cream in the sauce went unnoticed. It was such a success that I am eagerly looking forward to trying out lots more new recipes now, from my new cook books! Oh, I am a VERY happy mama bear today! And best of all there were smiles all around the tea table too - which makes any amount of effort well worth the results!