Yesterday was my husbands birthday! Not only do we not have snow (hooray!!!) on this January day but we’ve had temperatures somewhere in the 50’s! That’s pretty amazing, of course it is Missouri… and Missouri has a mind of its own! So tomorrow we might have a foot of snow. None the less, we enjoyed the sunshine, sunny day and spent a lot of it outside. We went out to eat for lunch at his favorite place and took the girls to the park afterwards. Of course, we were still stuffed but the girls were famished and thinking they were never going to eat again. So I wrack my brain for something quick and delicious, and also something that will have left overs!!
Cracked Out Tater Tot Casserole is one of our oldest daughters (our exchange student from Germany!) favorite dishes- and I love that it’s a comfort food that she enjoys. I probably make it far too many times because of that… not only does she love it, it’s soooooo easy… which makes it even better!! Finish it off with some of the delicious cookies that her mom sent us for Christmas, and the meal couldn’t be any better!
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know that I like to make my own roux or cream of soup. You can do that by melting 4 tablespoons of margarine/butter on the stove and then adding 4 tablespoons of g/f flour.
Stirring with a wooden spoon until clumped together and a little brown, then slowly whisk in 2 cups of milk. And when I say slow, I mean SUPER slow!!!! I add a little milk and whisk the clumps out, and then continue to add the milk little by little. Otherwise you will have a chunky, clumpy mess on your hands! Before I added the flour, I added some herbs like basil and oregano just to pump up the taste a little. I also added a little chicken broth after the milk was completely added and I was stirring waiting for it to get thick. Once all the milk is added just keep that whisk moving, with your heat on medium. You’ll notice after a few minutes that it thickens up to a nice soup consistency; you’ll then one to pull it off the heat and season it with salt and pepper to taste!
If making your own rue or soup doesn’t at all interest you, just use a can of soup! There’s no harm in that at all! Just be sure it says gluten free 🙂 (if you’re staying away from gluten like we have to!)
Once you’ve got your soup made you’ll want to make sure your chicken is completely cooked. I like to skillet cook it whole (in breasts or tinders) until its thawed enough I can cut it up in pieces and then cook it the rest of the way. I just feel like it cooks quicker that way. So I start it cooking with some oil in the bottom of the pan on medium heat with a lid on. I season it with basil, oregano, onion powder, salt and pepper.
The rest is literally as east as throwing it all together. I grab one of my large bowls and toss in my sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and cooled off cream sauce we just made. I stir that all together then add the ranch packet and chicken and toss it to combine-
I find mixing it in sections like this is a lot easier to make sure that everything is combined and doesn’t take me forever (bacon bits don’t get stuck on bottom, and I don’t have pieces of chicken going everywhere, as bad!) then you toss in your frozen Tater tots being sure to coat them really really well! I make sure to take them directly from the freezer- if you let them thaw at all they’ll start falling a part on you while you mix them in, and you don’t want bits of tater tots mushed into your casserole before baking.
Finish off by transferring it all to a 9×13 greased dish and pop it in the oven! I cook it for about 30-35 mins on 450* but watch it to make sure the top isn’t getting too brown. You’ll notice that it’s bubbling up and looking delicious! The best way to check that it’s done is to fork through a Tater tot in the middle of your dish and make sure it’s tender and hot on the inside!
Not only is this a quick dish to throw together, it feeds a lot and is definitely a comfort meal for winter months. It would make a great freezer meal too!
The ranch brings out a tangy flavor that pairs so well with the smoky bacon and the tender chicken. You’ve got that starch from the Tater tots that not only add a little crunch, they fill you up and really warm you from the inside out! I love pairing this casserole with a fresh salad topped with chopped apples and grapes; along with some steamed peas. I hope your family enjoys this simple dish as much as mine does!!
Cracked Out Tater Tot Casserole
3 cups (4 chicken breasts) chicken cooked
2lbs (32 oz) Tater tots (frozen)
1 package ranch seasoning packet
1 homemade cream of sauce (see above) or 1can cream of chicken
16 oz sour cream
3 oz real bacon bits
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat your oven to 450* and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
Make your soup (directions above) or use your can. Skillet cook your chicken, and chunk.
In a large bowl add your sour cream, cheese, cooked soup and ranch packet- mix them all together until combined well. Add your chicken and stir. Add your frozen tater tots and be sure to completely cover.
Transfer everything to a greased baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until middle tater tots are tender on the inside and hot.