Preparing meals has certainly changed in the past few years as I now have to take into account the fickle and strange eating habits of a 3-year-old. It was much easier when it was only my wife and I. We know what we like to eat and we made it.
So thinking about the culinary palate of a small child and the fact that we are heading into summer picnic season, I decided to make a meal that is good for both.
Think back. There are few meals that are as quick and easy to put together than the old fashioned sloppy joe. It's kid comfort food.
Sloppy joes and tater tot casserole are kid comfort foods and perfect menu items for picnic season.
Now, I'm not talking about the flavorless meat slop that you used to get in school, but an easy and tasty meal that you will enjoy just as much as your kids.
The big bonus with this meal is that if you are in a hurry to get to a family get-together and you need something in less than a half an hour, you can make a ton of this in no time at all.
For a family of three or four, a pound of ground beef is plenty. When I cook with ground beef, such as in chili, sauce or these types of things, I like to use a low-fat beef since you have to drain the meat after browning it anyway.
Tater Tot Casserole
32 ounce bag of potato crowns
16 ounces sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
10 ounce can of cream of chicken soup
French Fried Onions
Place potato crowns in a large baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix sour cream, cheese and cream of chicken soup. Pour mixture over potatoes and top with fried onions. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
1 pound ground beef
chopped green bell pepper
The reason that you don't see any measurements above is that I don't really know them. Chop up the onion and pepper and add as much as you like. I use about a quarter of a green pepper and an eighth of an onion. Sprinkle in garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Add about a teaspoon of yellow mustard and 3/4 to 1 cup of ketchup. Add two teaspoons of brown sugar and stir.
To make these just brown the meat, add the ingredients, stir it up and go.
As I put in the amounts for the ingredients, I realize that I don't tend to measure these types of things. For me, exact measurements are better suited for baking.
What's nice about dishes like this is that you can add as little or as much of most of these as you feel.
I like the peppers and onions, so I tend to add a little more, but if you have someone in the family who doesn't like onions, add less or none at all. Dried onion flakes work almost as well.
The most important thing you can do when working in a haphazard manner like this to just keep an eye on the food and taste it. If you want more, add more. If you did too much, there are ways to fix that without compromising the whole thing.
The second item on this easy-to-do, Saturday afternoon picnic meal is something my wife calls ''tater tot casserole.''
For me, there are few things in this world more detestable and unwanted than a casserole. Plainly put, I don't like them.
But, this is one in name only. It's actually a pretty simple and tasty side dish.
What you need is a large baking pan sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray. Then you add an entire 32-ounce bag of potato crowns. (You know, the flat tater tots.)
In a separate bowl, mix 16 ounces of sour cream, two cups of shredded cheddar cheese and a 10 ounce can of cream of chicken soup and mix together.
Pour the mixture on top of the frozen potatoes, covering everything very well and then top the whole thing with french fried onions.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, and its done.
These are easy, well liked and perfect for the summer time.