There were a few things I knew I wanted to change, like adding fresh broccoli instead of frozen and throwing in an onion. I really didn't think of this as a tater tot casserole until I ate it...I know - but it's true. It has the fundamental bottom layer of tots, followed by a layer of beef and veggies bound together with a cream of (fill in the blank) soup, and topped with cheese.
tater tots potato puffs I mentioned before are Alexia's Roasted Garlic and Cracked Black Pepper Potato Puffs (did you know the term Tater Tot is actually a registered trademark of Ore-Ida?! True story.). These were tasty, but next time I want to try the sweet potato...potato puffs. This layer is par-baked to get it hyped about what's to come.
I wanted to add fresh veggies instead of just frozen broccoli to give this dinner a little more substance. Onion, tomato and broccoli were all we needed, however, the tomatoes completely melted into the dish and really didn't offer much value after the casserole baked, so next time I will skip them.
Top layer is the beef/veggie mixture, which goes back in the oven to finish cooking everything through. And of course a casserole isn't a casserole until you dump some cheese on it (last 5 min of cooking). So all in all this is a great, hearty meat and potatoes dish that is easily customizable (read, throw in whatever ground meat and veggies you have on hand).
Beefy Tot Casserole
2-3 C potato puffs (any variety would work well in this dish)
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced (optional)
1 small head broccoli (about 2 C), chopped - don't be afraid to use the stems!
1 clove of garlic, minced
1-10 3/4 oz can of cream of celery soup (exchangeable for any cream soup you have on hand)
1/3 C milk
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spread potato puffs in one even layer on the bottom of your casserole dish (my dish is about 6 X 11, so you'll need to add more or less tots depending on the size of your dish). Bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook beef, onion, tomato (if using), and broccoli in a large skillet over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in soup, milk and 1/2 C cheese and mix well to make sure everything is incorporated.
Pour meat mixture over the potato puff layer in the casserole dish. Cover and bake at 400ºF for 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer. Serve hot and enjoy!
So next time I'm going to mix things up a bit and omit the tomato, use sweet potato puffs, ground chicken and maybe some fresh herbs. Let me know if you swapped out any ingredients and had roaring success at the dinner table!