Tator Tot Hotdish is a Minnesota favorite and staple food for any cool winter day. It’s also a personal favorite, with a few twists from my garden.
Tator tot hotdish or casserole is best enjoyed with as-close-as-possible-to-fresh ingredients. When possible I like to use the vegetables that I’ve frozen from my garden. Frozen eggplant andfrozen corn from the garden or farmer’s market make a huge difference- you can tell by the flavor! I also use venison as a substitute for the beef, it is more lean and tastes just as good.
To make the hotdish: Start by browning the meat until it’s thoroughly cooked; then adding your preferred mix of vegetables – about 2 cups of whatever frozen vegetables you desire, along with the cream of mushroom soup. The warming heat of spice comes from the homemade taco seasoning mix below. It’s entirely optional, but definitely worth it!
Layer all of the meat mixture into pans and cover with the tator tots. Cook in the oven per the instructions on the tator tot package- usually about 20 min at 400° F.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Put pan on stove and brown beef or venison. As it browns add the taco seasoning (see below for recipe).
Add mushroom soup and vegetables to browned meat. You can use a bag of mixed vegetables or some corn and peas. I also use frozen eggplant from my garden for a healthy, tasty twist. Stir ingredients together and flatten into a 9x13 pan or 2 8x8 dishes.
Cover top with tat or tots so that meat mixture is covered. Place in oven and Follow cooking instructions for tots - should be about 20 min at 400 degrees.
As part of my week dedicated entirely to eating leftovers “reborn” I am starting with the most important meal of the day: Breakfast. Not just any breakfast, but a big, delicious, hearty omelette breakfast.
To make a long story (recipe) short: Make a basic omelette and add in your favorite leftover ingredients.
Now here’s the real recipe breakdown:
(for a one person omelette)
2 or 3 Eggs beaten together
1 Tbsp. Butter
1/4 cup of chopped pre-cooked Potatoes
2 Tbsp. of chopped Steak – I used pork steak for this recipe
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Melt butter over medium heat in a single-serving sized pan. Beat eggs together. Once butter has melted slowly pour eggs into pan.
2. Roll pan to move eggs around and let sit for 3 to 5 min while bottom cooks through. Add shredded cheese, potatoes and meat and flip half of egg “tortilla” up over itself and the mixed ingredients to create a half circle. Cook on each side for another 2 to 4 minutes, or until the egg is completely cooked inside. Add salt and pepper to taste
I love to cook, but we’re only two people so quite frequently we end up with too much food left over. I personally love leftovers just as they are; perfect for mid-day snacks or lunches to go. Unfortunately the ManO’Man does not, so I have to get creative with them for his sake.
Another reason that using leftovers is a big deal is that it’s also extremely important to me that we not waste food in our home. Personally, I have milk that goes bad way too frequently for my liking. In 2013 my New Year’s Resolution was to not waste food, which has given me extra incentive to be very purposeful about the food I purchase and cook, and even how I go about saving and preserving it.
If I’m not going to get to something before its expiration date, it goes into the freezer immediately.
This week I’ll share a few of my quick re-do recipes to make leftovers into something brand new!
From Breakfast food…
To Lunches and Dinners. All while using food from last night’s supper.
How about you? How do you save and/or use your leftovers?
When I was younger my uncles would all congregate in our big, red barn on our farm for the weekends during deer-hunting season. They would eat all kinds of junk food, drink beer, wear deer urine to mask their scent, and have a grand ole time. Their wardrobe consisted on all orange and I thought it was awesome.
Even better yet, in my mind, was what my aunts did. They had a Deer Camp Widows’ weekend all to themselves. They would also hole themselves away at someone’s lake home to eat, drink wine, laugh and and they always did some really creative inner-woman art- though I’m pretty sure it was way more about the wine than anything else. All I ever really wanted when I grew up was to be invited to that!
Now I’m older and live on the farm, but the big, red barn is no longer available to the deer hunting uncles for overnighters; and the leader of the pack for widows’ weekend has passed, so life is a bit different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still plan a fantastic party for the non-hunters! So grab several bottles of wine, some frames and get started!
There is no shortage of leaves this time of year; Fall, so do something natural to use them.
I love this “floating” leaves in a frame idea. Collect your leaves ahead of time, since you don’t want to be anywhere near the woods when deer hunting is going on. Grab the biggest, most colorful leaves, as they’re make the biggest statement.
If you have several frames to choose from, make sure that you find one whose color compliments your leaves (put just one in the frame, or several- it’s completely up to you!)
If your leaves are already flat, place the leaf (or leaves) on top of one the glass panes and cover with the second. Make sure everything came through perfectly, seal up by placing in the frame and voila, you’re done. Time for another glass of wine! :c)
Venison Meal Time
If you do want to include the hunters for meals; cook them something with venison so they can enjoy the “fruit” of their labors. Make sure to make large enough portions for the hungry, hungry hunters!
Try this Spicy Chiliwith Ground Venison instead of beef – you won’t regret it!
If you’re like me and have family members that enjoy deer hunting, then you know that being creative with the venison meat can be well worth your time.
I personally love venison, it’s incredibly lean, healthy and it can replace beef, in most recipes. Plus it’s cheap, if you have hunters around. The trick is to make sure it stays moist, otherwise the robust flavor of wild game can take over.
I like my food spicy, and spicy is perfect with venison. I almost always use ground venison in my Chili recipes and now I’ll show you how to use it in tacos.
The packaging for the ground venison. Very clearly marked as “wild” and in camouflage, in case you can’t read that it’s wild (but careful, it might blend into its surroundings and be hard to find in your freezer). I get a chuckle every time I see this so just thought I’d share.The first thing is to cook the onion and garlic. I usually cook them until the onion is translucent and then remove about half. This way there is still some in the meat, and some for on top of the tacos. It’s a good way to make those that don’t like onions happy.
Once the onions are cooked go ahead and add the ground venison. Brown thoroughly.Mix together Taco Seasoning and add 4-Tbsp. of it to the browned venison mix.
Since venison tends to be very lean I also add about 1/4 cup of canned tomatoes to the meat. This helps to keep everything moist, as well as making it easier on you to mix in the seasoning. Once it’s all mixed together cook for another 5 min and serve with whatever toppings you desire!
Place olive oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. When hot add onions and garlic. Cook until onions start to become translucent. Set aside half of onion mix for on top of taco salad, if so desired.
Add ground venison to onion mixture and brown. Once meat has been completely cooked add about 4 Tbsp. of taco seasoning mix (more or less to taste). Because venison is a very lean meat stir in 1/4 cup of chopped canned tomatoes, with juice. Your meat will be more moist and it will help distribute the seasoning.
Cook for 5 more minutes and serve with remaining ingredients. It is easiest to set up as an add-your-own-ingredients self-serve meal, starting with chips and ending with toppings like tomatoes, the cooked onions, salsas and more.
Pheasant Hunting is a big deal in the prairies of the midwest. I live in the rolling plains/prairies of Minnesota, which is prime pheasant hunting territory. In fact the Minnesota Governor’s pheasant opener happens in a town named Madelia, not too far from where I call home. That being said, I have never shot a pheasant, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat them.
If you’re wondering- pheasant is similar to a chicken in size; just a bit smaller. The males are beautiful and colorful wild birds. The males are the only one that is allowed to be hunted. Since they are wild animals so they do have a “tougher” and more gamey meat. They are delicious when pared with bacon or in stews and pot pies (my favorite, which I will share when it gets colder out). You could use chicken in this recipe instead of pheasant, but it is so much better with pheasant.
Starting with the meat:
You will need to remove the pheasant meat from the bones. Very similar to if you were to buy a whole chicken.
Here is a very mediocre photo of how to cut the pheasant breast meat from the bone. Once you have all the meat cut off you can cut them into 1 to 1.5 inch pieces and wrap with the thickest butcher-shop bacon you can find!
Use toothpicks to keep the bacon wrapped around the pheasant. This will help lock in fat and moisture into the pheasant- keeping it moist and delicious. Add a few spices if you like- one of my favorites is the McCormick Applewood Barbecue Rub, but you can try whatever your mouth is watering for.
Heat your grill to 375 degrees F. Let the meat pull in that smokey-goodness from your charcoal grill- it’s well worth it in flavor.
1 Pheasant removed from bone and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
5 slabs of thick, Butcher-cut Bacon sliced in half
Spices, like Applewood Barbecue Rub
plenty of Toothpicks
1. Preheat grill to 375 degrees F. Wrap bacon around cut pheasant pieces and hold in place with toothpick. Sprinkle with spices, if desired.
2. Place on grill and cook for no more than 20 min. Cook each side for 5 to 7 minutes. If possible, close up grill for last 5 min. in order to really bring out that smokey-goodness flavor into the meat.
3. Serve warm. As an appetizer or main meal and Enjoy!
It’s that time of year again- Pumpkin Time! The perfect ingredient for pies, breads and side-dishes, its seeds make for some fantastic snacking AND you can decorate with it, or entertain kids for hours with carving ideas. What’s not to love about a pumpkin!
I’ve collected a few of my favorites from the web to share with you today as there are far too many fun things to do with a pumpkin that it’d be a shame to leave you with only one!
I should mention that all the lovely pumpkin pictures here were taken at my favorite local food stand and producer, Valley Veggies. If you’re ever in the Mankato, MN area, stop in and check them out- you will not be disappointed!
When talking pumpkin recipes you have to start at dessert. I’m pretty sure that pie is what made pumpkins famous sooo – here is the most basic of the basic recipes: how to make pumpkin pie from scratch!
Although they use pumpkin from a can, this Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pierecipe is definitely worth turning a blind eye to using fresh ingredients!
Why not try a new pumpkin dessert, like this Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bar recipe. It’s especially perfect if you had enough pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving to last you a life time.
Now for the rest of the meal, though this Pumpkin Bread recipe could easily be substituted for a dessert.
Ready for the real deal – think bacon, pumpkin and some flavorful goodness and you’ve got this delicious Pumpkin Bacon Polenta!
Pumpkin Seed Recipes
Last year was the first year that I saved my pumpkin seeds, roasted and then ate them – and it was ridiculously delicious! Check out this simple step-by-step on how to make your own Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.
I have a confession to make. I really like noodle dishes. Anything and everything with pasta, especially with tomato based sauces is amazing. It will never take the place of my love for pickles, but it does rank up there in my mind. Meet the pizza noodle hotdish (aka casserole – for the non-Minnesotans out there) This Pizza Noodle Casserole is from here on out named a “hotdish” as I am from Minnesota and casseroles don’t exist here, only hotdishes.
No matter what you call it, this pasta dish is great. It’s easy to mix together and cook, easy to make ahead and freeze and makes for some fantastic lunch leftovers. I always have the ingredients in my pantry so it’s my go-to dinner when I’ve run out of ideas.
The best part about this recipe is that you just have to mix everything together and then top with cheese so that it looks like a pizza.
Mix all the ingredients together and spread out in 2 pans. I usually use 8×8 size but use whatever you have. Cover with the shredded cheese and top with pepperoni slices (so that it looks like pizza).
The recipe is for an extra large batch. Make one pan now and freeze the second for later. If you want to make this vegetarian omit the pepperoni and ground beef for mushrooms, peppers and onions, cooked in olive oil. I will probably make it that way next time, but I had some hungry boys I was feeding and they really like their pepperoni.
It’s late October in Minnesota, which means very cool nights, and lately we’ve been getting quite a bit of moisture too. There is nothing worse than humid cold weather- it sinks in and chills the bones. Brr. Cue in the need for something warm and delicious for dinner and voila- Stroganoff! Not only does it warm, but in my case it wins me bonus point, as it’s the man’s favorite meal!
This spring I picked quite a few morel mushrooms and we were so busy eating fresh food all summer that we haven’t really gotten to eat them too much, so I decided to make this meal all the more savory by using wild morel mushrooms, picked from the farm as our go-to mushroom.
They give it an amazing earthy taste, although you miss out on some of that nice moisture that a fresh mushroom gives off. I used some dried shiitake mushrooms that I had as well, just so I (selfishly) wouldn’t use up all my morels on one meal!
My recipe originated with this fantastic one from chef Marc Matsumoto with variations to the mushrooms, as well as the amount of sauce. I really like the sauce part of any meal, but especially stroganoff, so expect more than is probably normal!
This recipe starts with the meat, so put the above ingredients aside and get cooking!
Brown the beef in 2 Tbsp. of melted butter. Do not add the beef until the butter is fully melted and hot. You don’t want to cook the meat too much, just enough to get it a bit brown on all sides, but not the center. Once browned, quickly remove beef and set aside.
Place beef in a bowl or rimmed cookie sheet so that it collects all the juices. You’ll want all the juicy flavor for later!
While your meat is cooking place the dried mushrooms in a bowl with water. The amount doesn’t matter, as you will be draining it off, though you don’t want to lose all that flavor, so don’t put in more than a 3/4 cup.
If you have fresh wild mushrooms then you can skip this step. The problem for me is that I always want stroganoff when it’s cold; which means that there are no fresh wild mushrooms for me to harvest; which means I have to use dried ones.
Place chopped onions in the same pot and cook until slightly softened. Then add wild mushrooms and cook down until there is no liquid remaining in the pot. You’ll start to see some of that sticky brown frond sticking to the bottom of the pan- this is good, that’s where all the flavor is.
Once all the moisture has been evaporated away add the white wine to the onion and mushroom mixture. Scrape that frond up off of the pan and mix it into the wine with everything else.
Boil wine down until there is very little left. Then add the mustard and beef broth to the mix. Cook down until it’s about half of that with which you originally started. Add the meat and all its collected juices.
As the liquid mixture slowly cooks and reduces mix the flour into your sour cream so that there are no clumps and it’s all smooth and thick.
Add some of the hot liquid to the sour cream to bring it up in temperature and prevent curdling.
Add the sour cream and flour mix to the wild mushroom liquid mix and stir to quickly disperse the sour cream throughout. Stroganoff is ready when it thickens!
Best when served over egg noodles, but also good on its own or on rice.
Generously salt and pepper the beef. Melt 2 Tbsp. of butter in a pan, when it's hot add a layer of the beef and cook until it's browned on one side. Stir and cook a little longer, but do not cook beef completely through. Transfer to a bowl or a rimmed cookie sheet. If necessary repeat with remaining meat.
Place dried wild mushrooms in a small amount of water to moisten. Add onions to pot and cook until slightly softened. Drain mushrooms and add to pot.
Cook until there is no more liquid in the pot and you have quite a bit of brown fond stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the dry white wine and stir. Scrape up the fond so that it mixes into the liquid.
Boil the wine until most of the liquid is gone, and then add the mustard and beef stock. Continue to boil until the liquid has reduced by half.
Meanwhile, mix sour cream with flour so that it is smooth, with no lumps. Set aside.
Lower the heat and return the beef to pan along with any collected juices. Stir some of the hot liquid into the sour cream mixture. This will help prevent it from curdling when added to the hot liquid mixture.
Add the sour cream mixture and stir quickly to help even distribute everything. Allow to cook on low until sauce thickens. Serve on cooked egg noodles.