Tater Tot Cassarole

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This recipe consists of all the processed foods one could wish for… or not! Tonight my sister, Julie, and brother-in-law, Joe, are coming over to have dinner with Jimmy and I. Begrudgingly, I created this dish for the guys sake and their sake only. My sister is bringing a side of broccoli, thank God, otherwise I’m worried we may all keel over and die from some type of chemical intoxication. Let me bring you up to speed here… My husband and my brother-in-law love processed food. They both grew up on the shit- packaged, canned, frozen foods. My sister and I grew up on a farm, where we ate real food- beef, eggs, and vegetables that literally came from our backyard. Joe describes his favorite childhood dinner as cheeseburgers, tater tots, and a can of soda. Jimmy’s favorite dinner was a deep-fried chicken sandwich and Velveeta Mac n Cheese. Julie and I were fed balanced portions of a lean meat, a starch, a fresh vegetable, and our choice of milk or water. If we were well-behaved and completed our chores all week, we were allowed pizza on Saturday.

We make fun of them. They make fun of us. And around we go.

Now, I know it doesn’t matter where you come from, you find comfort in the food of your family and that is a beautiful thing. But enough is enough. These boys are junk food junkies…

Let me tell you, one time, the four of us went out to dinner at this really good seafood restaurant. When it was Joe’s turn to order, he replied to the waitress with, “I’ll have the chicken fingers and fries, please.” Oh my goodness, I wanted to leap across the table, grab him by the collar of his shirt and shout, “CHICKEN FINGERS?!! THEY HAVE FISH HERE FLOWN IN FROM HAWAII!!!!” But I kept my cool and settled on the exchange of an eye roll with my sis…. Jimmy, on the other hand, would be perfectly content living off McDonalds. His standard order is a Big Mac, a Double Cheeseburger, a 6 piece Chicken McNugget, and a large fry. He smothers everything in a mix of ketchup and mayo and devours it all in less than 5 minutes. I once presented him the article on McDonalds Pink Slime. He read it and swore, “That’s disgusting, I ain’t eating there anymore.” I’ve been finding ketchup wrappers labeled with the yellow capital M ever since.

So, how do you train someone’s pallet to have an appreciation for whole foods? I thought about it long and hard and after careful consideration I came up with an answer. You don’t. You conform. You grab a fork, dig in, and accept the reality of it- hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, and Red #40 are pretty damn tasty. Afterall, it’s all about moderation right?!

Recipe

Serves: 6

2 lbs. ground beef

2 cans cream of anything soup (mushroom, celery, chicken, whatever you have on hand)

2 c. mixed vegetables

12 oz. Velveeta Cheese

1 pkg. Tater Tots, thawed

S&P

On the stovetop, brown the ground beef and drain off excess grease. Remove from heat and mix in the cream soup, vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a 13x9in casserole dish. Top with slices of Velveeta cheese. Arrange Tater Tots overtop. Bake uncovered at 350 for about 20 minutes. Then broil for a couple of minutes to crisp up Tater Tots.

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