Friday, May 25, 2012

Tater Tot Casserole

Now that warmer weather is here we’ve been grilling outside a lot.  But on those rainy busy day care days my husband needs something he can bake while I’m at work.  I decided to make a real classic this week because we recently got an eighth of a cow from the local butcher.  Now we have a freezer full of fresh steaks and ground beef and I’m excited to make some tasty dinners!  This one is a big hit with little kids.  It’s an easy way to hide vegetables and they can help line up the tater tots on top.


2 lbs ground beef                        7.50
1 medium or 2 small onions        .50
16 oz frozen mixed veggies       1.00
2 cans reduced fat                      3.50
      Cream of mushroom soup
1 Tbsp beef base                           .25
1 Tbsp steak seasoning                .25
32 oz frozen tater tots                2.59
Salt, Pepper and all purpose seasoning to taste


In a medium sauce pan brown the ground beef with 1 Tbsp of steak seasoning.  Drain and set aside.  Chop the onion and sauté in the pan until just starting to get tender.  Add the beef back to the pan and stir well.

 Stir in 16 oz of your favorite frozen vegetable.  I like the mixed vegetables because they add a lot of color and variety.  Green beans, mushrooms, edamame or lima beans would work great in this casserole.

Add 1 Tbsp of beef base, ¼ cup of water and two cans of reduced fat cream of mushroom soup to the pan.  Stir well.  Give the beef mixture a taste and add salt, pepper and all purpose seasoning to your preference. 

Pour half your meat mixture into two 8x8” pans or one 9x13” pan.

  Top with tater tots.  I like to put mine in neat rows.   This would be a great time to let your little ones help.  So gather your tots and bust out the taters! 

Cover your pans with foil and label. 

I recommend baking covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes to warm through.  Then remove the foil and bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes until the tater tots are a nice golden brown.  This will create a great crunch and contrast to your dish.   I put one in the fridge for my husband to bake tomorrow and one in the freezer to use in a few weeks.  When you are ready to bake the frozen casserole, please thaw in the fridge for two days before baking. 

I was able to make two dinners for $7.80 each.  This recipe doubles easily for making bigger batches or two 9x13” pans. 

If you have picky eaters, or know a mom with a new baby, this casserole is a winner! 

Christie aka Keeza

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Aparagus, Ham and Rice Bake

This is a great dish for fresh asparagus.  I used thick slices of deli ham, steamed rice and asparagus.  You can top yours with bread crumb, cheese, crushed croutons or fried onions.  I chose fried onions to give this dinner a nice crunch.  My husband loved this.  We both went back for seconds.


1 lb of fresh asparagus                               2.48
2 thick slices of deli ham                           4.31
3 C rice                                                       1.00
2 cans reduced fat cream of chicken soup  2.50
1 tsp dry mustard
salt, pepper and all purpose seasoning
12 oz french fried onions                            4.16


Cook the rice according to package directions.  Cut off the fibrous white ends of the asparagus spears and discard.  Slice the remaining asparagus into 1" pieces and steam for 10 minutes.  I have a rice steamer with an attachment on top to steam vegetables.  This made easy work of steaming both the rice and the asparagus!
While these are cooking you can cube the ham into 3/4" pieces.  I like to cut off the edges first so the ham is more uniform and tender.  Set aside.

Pour the two cans of chicken soup into a bowl.  Stir in 3/4 cup water and 1 tsp dry mustard.  Add salt, pepper, and all purpose seasoning to taste. 
Once the rice and asparagus are cooked you are ready to assemble.  Place three 8x8" pans side by side.  Spread approximately 1/2 cup of soup mixture in the bottom of each pan. 

Now evenly divide the rice between the three pans. 
Now sprinkle each pan with 1/3 of the cubed ham.

Top evenly with the steamed asparagus.

Using a spoon spread the rest of the soup mixture evenly over the three pans. 

Now top with friend onions.

Cover each pan with foil.  If you are baking one right away then you only need to bake covered at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, and uncovered for 5 minutes.  Freeze the other dishes.  When ready to eat please thaw in the fridge for two days.  Then bake covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes and uncovered for 5 minutes. 

This is how ours looked when the onions got nice and crispy.
I made three meals for $4.82 each.  It was rich and fresh and crunchy all at the same time.  A great meal on a rainy spring evening. 

Christie aka Keeza

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Asparagus Soup

In the last few years I have come to love asparagus.  Now that it is in season I was looking for a few freezer recipes that I can try out so I can enjoy asparagus for weeks and weeks.  I scoured the Internet and polled my friends to find an asparagus soup recipe that doesn't need cream.  Cream based sauces and soups do not freeze well.  When it's time to thaw and reheat the sauce clumps up and never turns smooth again. 

I found a recipe that uses a potato and a little flour to thicken the soup and make it velvety.   This is essential when it's time to freeze and reheat.  I gave this one a try and it has great flavor.  It's thick and rich without any cream or half and half. 


1 lb asparagus                                                  2.48
3 stalks of celery                                                .25
1 small onion                                                      .25
1 clove garlic                                                      .05
1 large russet potato                                           .70
4 Tbsp margarine                                               .20
2 heaping Tbsp flour                                          .10
4 cups chicken broth                                         1.86
2 tsp chicken base                                               .40
2 cups water
1 Tbsp soy sauce                                                .10
1 tsp ground black pepper


In a large pot (4 qt or larger) melt the margarine over low to medium heat.  Chop the onion and celery and add to the melted margarine.  Peel and mince the garlic and add to the pot.  Saute until tender.
While the veggies are softening, peel the potato and chop into 1/2" squares.  Trim the fibrous white ends off the asparagus and discard.  Slice the rest of the asparagus into 1" pieces setting aside the tips. 
I like to roast the tips in the oven at 400 degrees for ten minutes with 1 tsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Then I add the tips to the soup at the very end for a little texture. 

Once the onion and celery is tender stir in 2 heaping Tbsp of flour.  Pour in the four cups of chicken broth stirring constantly to incorporate all the flour without clumping up.  Then add two cups of water and two tsp of chicken base.  Stir well.  Add the chopped potato and asparagus stems. 
  Heat to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for twenty minutes.  I used this time to chop and brown some bacon in another pan for topping.  I suppose I should have done the dishes, but oh well! 
Now the soup looks like this.  Remove from the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly.  Next you will puree the soup in batches in the blender.  I had never done this let me give you some tips.  I made quite a mess and was drenched in boiling hot soup.  I would not recommend that. 

Fill the blender no more then half full will a few ladles of soup.  Make sure the soup has cooled so steam does not build up when covered.  Now place the lid firmly on your blender and use the lowest setting to begin mixing the soup.  Pulsing can cause the soup to bounce up in the blender and may cause a mess so make sure you use the low setting only.  Once the soup has blended for about a minute, then you can blend on medium until all the asparagus has been incorporated.  The finished product will be smooth and velvety.  Pour the pureed soup into a bowl and set aside.  Continue to blend the soup in batches until all the soup is smooth. 
Here's a picture after I got the hang of it.  The soup in the blender has not yet been pureed, and the soup in the white bowl is frothy but smooth. 

Now return all the soup to the pan.  Stir in 1 Tbsp of soy sauce and 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper.  Add the asparagus tips into the pureed soup and stir gently to mix.  This recipe makes about 8 cups or soup. 

You wont believe how rich and creamy this soup tastes without any cream!  If you want it to be dairy free you can use olive oil instead of the margarine.  It's warm and flavorful.  We topped ours with crumbled bacon and croutons for a crunch.  If you like a little zing, try adding some feta cheese or a Tbsp of sour cream. 

After dinner I poured the remaining 4 cups of soup into a plastic quart container and placed it in the freezer.  I was able to make two meals for $3.20 each plus toppings. 

I hope you give this one a try.  You can easily double the recipe if you have a bigger pot.  Then your family can enjoy farm fresh asparagus well into the summer.

Christie aka Keeza