It seems like almost every other day I get a request for a tater tot casserole and there are several variations. What is this obsession with tater tots? I think there is a certain generation that probably grew up with them and ate them a lot. Not my generation, even though we did have them later on in school, but more like my son's generation and a little older. Although, when my son went to public school and was exposed to the 'school cafeteria' food, he came home one day during the first week and when I asked him what they had for lunch, he said, "We had some sort of square/round potato things! They weren't that bad, but weird. " For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what he was talking about. My sister-in-law just happened to be at the house and she starting laughing (mostly at me) and said to me, "It was tater tots, you idiot"! She meant that affectionately, I am sure...lol. She couldn't believe I never had served this child tater tots, but I hadn't.
I was raised by the queen of 'from scratch' cooking and I sort of cooked the same way, although I did use more convenience foods than Mama did and still do. It just never dawned on me to buy and serve tater tots. My mother never even bought frozen French fries when we were growing up. She cut them by hand and I still do that myself sometimes. Mama always made the best French fries! We just didn't buy a lot of things like frozen and ready made foods.
However, I am not adverse to using such things on occasion. I use frozen hash browns and French fries and even tater tots for a quick meal. I am not what I refer to as a 'food snob'. Since I started Sweet Tea and Cornbread, I have been subjected to the 'food snobs' of the world and I don't care for them. They are equally annoying and amusing to me. You know those people who leave comments, like "I do not use cake mixes, ever" or "Velveeta is poison" or "I will not use canned soup in anything". When I see those comments it translates to, "I can't cook, eat things far worse for me than cake mixes, canned soups or Velveeta, and have no life.. so I come on random food blogs to razz people like you"...lol. Now, maybe some of these folks do live this way and don't eat any 'processed' foods or use any 'packaged' foods or consume any 'trans fats' and that's fine and probably is better for you, but if so, why on earth are they reading a food blog called 'Sweet Tea and Cornbread'? They aren't all that smart are they? It's hilarious, bless their lil ole hearts! Those of us who have cooked for years, pretty much every day of our adult lives, see through all of that pretense and fake superiority pretty fast!
Any who, on to this Tater Tot casserole. Every time I say or write Tater Tot now, I think of Ron White...lol. This recipe is a Mexican twist on the old Tater Tot casseroles and it is so good. We really enjoy it! This also feeds a lot of people on a budget. If you are feeding teenagers and especially teenage boys, you know they can eat you out of house and home. I know when I fed my son and his friends and my nephews during those years, I could not cook enough food. This recipe will be a huge hit with them! Here is what you need:
1- 1.5lb. ground chuck
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 cup water
1 can ranch style beans or chili hot beans, undrained
2 cups frozen yellow whole kernel corn or 1 can yellow whole kernel corn, drained
1 (12 oz.) can enchilada sauce
1 (32 oz.) bag of tater tots
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (can use shredded cheddar)
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
taco sauce, salsa, additional cheese, sliced green onion, olives, shredded lettuce, sour cream...anything you like on tacos
Brown the ground chuck with the onion. Add the taco seasoning and the cup of water. Add the beans and corn. Bring to a bubble and then turn down to low.
Spray a 3 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray I used my 3 quart round Temptations Baker, but a 9"x13" baking dish also works. Pour half of the enchilada sauce in the bottom to cover.
Layer the tater tots evenly over the sauce. You do not cook them, frozen is fine.
Spread the meat mixture evenly over the tater tots. Pour the other half of the enchilada sauce over all.
Spread the shredded cheese over the top and place in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. You do not cover this.
Remove from oven and sprinkle the crushed tortilla chips over the top. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes.
Serve with the same garnishes you would with tacos and let each person garnish their own serving!