Please keep in mind while reading about this meal that I didn’t give myself much time to prepare. Anyone else’s floor ever look like this after a massive trip to the grocery store?
No? Just me? I was so tired from wrestling with groceries, school supply lists and three kids hopped up on movie popcorn and candy that I just hauled everything and everyone in from the garage and dumped them. (I did manage to get all of the stuff that needed to go in the refrigerator or the freezer put away. Mostly.)
So I approached this dinner still exhausted and completely unprepared. Nothing thawed, no idea what I had that I could use in the mess of bags on my floor, no desire to cook whatsoever. So I rummaged through my recipes and came up with this.
Chicken Tater Bake
makes 2 casseroles, 6 servings each
Source: Taste of Home
2 cans (10¾ ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
½ cup milk
¼ cup butter, cubed
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
16 ounces frozen peas and carrots, thawed
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
32 ounces frozen tater tots
In a large saucepan, combine the soup, milk and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until heated through. Remove from the heat; stir in the chicken, peas and carrots, and 1 cup cheese.
Transfer to two greased 8-inch square baking dishes. Top with tater tots; sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Cover and bake the remaining casserole at 350° for 35 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through.
To use frozen casserole: Remove from the freezer 30 minutes before baking (do not thaw). Cover and bake at 350° for 1½ to 1¾ hours or until heated through.
The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes one for dinner tonight and one to freeze for convenience later. But since this only serves 6 (and would never satisfy the animals at my house) I ended up without enough to freeze, so I’m going to have to try that later. I also didn’t have a 9x13” pan to bake it in. (When a casserole or dessert says to use an 8x8” pan, I just double it and put it in a 9x13”.) My oldest is responsible for putting the clean dishes away and can sometimes get quite creative about where he puts them. I often find myself hunting the kitchen for something only to find it upstairs in a closet or on the love seat in the front room (the one we only use for "company"). I threatened him with hunger if he didn’t help me find it, but no amount of intimidation could drag the information from him, so I had to rely on my ingenuity. This is what I came up with.
Yep, that's my electric frying pan. It was about the right size and conveniently heats up to 350°, so what did I have to lose? It also made it really easy to warm everything up. Rather than dirty a saucepan, I just heated the still-frozen peas and carrots in the microwave for 3 minutes and then dumped them, the soup, milk, butter and the cheese in the fry pan and stirred until they were bubbly. Popped open a couple of cans of chicken and dumped that in, then topped everything with tater tots and cheese, covered and “baked” for 35 minutes. The tater tots weren’t nice and golden and crunchy like I assume they would be in the oven, but the bottom of the casserole was golden and crunchy, and the whole thing tasted pretty good to me. My oldest loved it, and went back for seconds. Littlest liked it well enough to nibble on from time to time all evening. Middlest “forgot” to eat, so refuses to give an opinion. My husband – the pie guy - voted for chicken pot pie instead. (We use basically the same stuff for “innards”, and he’s not much of a tater tot fan. I may or may not post my easy, crowd loving chicken pot pie recipe so if you want it leave me a message and I'll send it to you.) Still, might be worth making again for those "frozen dinner" nights.