Tater Tot Casserole

What do you do with a bag of ‘Tots? Why casserole, of coarse.

I had some ground beef, browned, bagged and frozen. Tater Tots. Hmm. My family loves casseroles. Here’s what I did (didn’t measure).

Sauteed about a cup of onion in some butter/olive oil, added about 1T. of chopped garlic to the mix. Sprinkled about 1/4 cup of flour on top, then added 5 cups of milk, slowly, while stirring the whole time. Heat and stir, added a few shakes of Tabasco, some salt and pepper. Heat until thick and bubbly, stir in about 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese. Turn off heat and stir until melted. Mix in the ground beef.

In large baking dish empty 1 bag of frozen mixed veggies to cover bottom of dish. Oh, I sprayed the dish with some non-stick spray before I did this. I digress, back to the veggies, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them, and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Pour cheesy beefy mixture on top. Take your bag of frozen Tater Tots and spread them evenly over the top of the dish. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, take it out and top with a cup of cheese (I sprinkled some garlic on top) then return to oven until tots are browned and it is bubbly. Serve with a simple salad. Yum.

Everyone loved it. You can add in some other veggies, too, if you have them. We ate it for a late lunch and then the kids heated more up for a snack later on. I had one kid who claimed he wouldn’t like it and ended up eating those words.

Checking The List

Monday, my work-at-home day. Most of my “home” work is computer related, so often after straining my eyes and body, I take a break by throwing in some laundry, washing dishes, or some other household chore. Today dish washing was in order. We went to bed last night without doing the dishes and the stack was staring me down the second I entered the kitchen. After getting the kids off to school, I threw the dishes in a sink full of water, letting the soaking time take a bite out of my scraping and scrubbing time. I also cleaned out our coffee maker (a percolator) and made a fresh batch of coffee, in the manner I earlier explained. The picture below features 8 O’Clock Columbian beans, which I am pretty certain I won’t be buying again (unless I forget that I detest them and throw them in my cart like, apparently, I did this last time). They just don’t brew the kind of tasty, rich cup that I enjoy.

Anyway. 12 cup portion of beans + 1 cinnamon stick + a healthy pinch of cardamom.


Mmmmm. There are healthy properties in cinnamon, too, don’cha know?

Cinnamon’s essential oils also qualify it as an “anti-microbial” food, and cinnamon has been studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida. – link

Cinnamon and blood sugar control:

Cinnamon may also significantly help people with type 2 diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalizing their blood sugar levels. – link

More information on the health benefits of cinnamon.

Good stuff.

Checkmark I also did some meal planning and have dinners set through next Wednesday. Shyuh.
Checkmark Balanced the checkbook.
Checkmark Got my “home” work done.
Checkmark Purchased a skateboard magazine subscription for Dants as part of his birthday present.
Checkmark Ordered a Peyton Manning jersey for Lootie for Christmas

When the kids got home from school I popped up some popcorn in the iron pot.

Stove-popped popcorn, popped in coconut oil, drizzled with melted butter and sea salt. Lootie and I sat on the couch with the bowl between us, reading enjoying salty, buttery bites.

Checkmark Baked some bread (recipe from hilbilly housewife):

Gotta say the smell of baking bread warms a home nicely.

But the bread was for dinner, even though our household managed to eat an entire loaf before we made it to dinner. We had meatloaf, corn, salad and homemade bread — Franny said, I LOVE this dinner!!!.

Checkmark I even managed to go grocery shopping with my thought-out list (applause). I spent $204 dollars, with a savings of $40 (store sales and a couple coupons).Though I got a lot accomplished, there is always much, much more to do and I find myself having increased difficulty getting everything done. I used to keep notes and lists in a spiral-bound notebook, but got too busy and lazy for that (self-defeating, I know I know). I think, for my own sanity, I need to start one up again. Organization helps me to get more things accomplished and be a better manager of my time and money.

Tomorrow I go to work, but Wednesday I’m taking off since Frank has off. We need to shop. Together. Yay. I feel like we haven’t seen each other in a while. I’m looking forward to spending the day together. We need that.

Bus Adventure

First day of December, first day of Holidalies blogging. For the past week or so, each morning when I awake I glance outside to see if there is snow on the ground. Not because it is in the forecast — just because it feels like it should be snowing. Today, was the day. The kids, up before Frank and I, were the ones to tip us off. The awestruck screech, “Snoooooooow!!!” jolted us. So much for Sleeping In Saturday. You’d think after a lifetime of Wisconsin winters, snow would not be a big deal. But every year, it surely is. Not just for the kids, but for adults as well… including me.

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Ours went well, not without a hitch but hey — I never expected things to go smoothly. Earlier this week I couldn’t find sweet potatoes. Finally found some yesterday (at Wal-mart). I put them in the oven to bake, telling the two oldest that when the buzzer goes off to turn the oven off, and went to a friend’s house. Naturally, they forgot (D said, “Oh turn the oven off? I thought you meant turn the buzzer off.”) and my potatoes turned into hollow shells reminiscent of a sweet potato. I placed them cool outside overnight hoping that some of them could be salvaged. Today Franny and I were able to scrape out only a few cups worth of potatoes, so Frank had to make a trip back to Wal-mart (naturally open on Thanksgiving, of coarse).

Power blew out in the kitchen. Mini crisis/heart attack for that ordeal.

But it all worked out. Food was cooked, company came, we ate and were merry. I was hoping to play some board games, but everyone is just tuckered out.

Snagged this from Robyn:

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Gifts In A Jar

I’m always on the lookout for simple ideas the kid’s can make for Christmas gifts. A gift in a jar has become pretty popular. Just get your recipe(s), grab a case of 1-quart canning jars, your ingredients and voila. You can find free recipes all over the internet. Here’s one that looks tasty:

1 C. chocolate chips
1 1/2 C. miniature marshmallows
1 sleeve of graham cracker (ground into crumbs)
1/3 C. brown sugar (packed)

Pour SMORE BAR mix in large bowl. Melt 1/2 cup butter, pour over mix. Add 1 tsp. vanilla; mix. Place in greased 9×9 baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350.

Here’s a good list of some great free resources:
geocities.com/giftsinajar – tons of recipes and wonderful tips.
recipezaar.com – Butterfinger cookie mix (yum!!)

I have to admit, though, when I get a gift in a jar I rarely eat them. OK, I don’t eat them.. anymore. See, a couple times I’ve opened it up and the stuff tasted like crap. The way the ingrediants are packed in like sardines kind of grouses me out. When you attempt to empty the jar, each layer resembles a hockey puck, clanking against the rim, screaming for Sharon Stone and her ice pick. Turned me off of eating them. So if anyone has some recipes that are actually GOOD to make and consume, I’m all ears. Maybe you can convince me.

If YOU get a gift in a jar, do you actually consume it or do you toss it?

12 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Bell Peppers For a few years now, we have made a conscious effort to feed our family healthier foods, opting for items made with natural ingredients and minimal chemicals. I have to admit, it isn’t always easy on a limited budget.

We do some of our shopping at Whole Foods, but don’t/can’t do all of our shopping there because it would break the bank. Though we purchase more organic foods than we did five years ago, instead of simply buying blanket organic, we buy organic for many of our “staple” foods (milk, eggs, olive oil).

It helps to know what foods are “worth” buying organic and what ones we can skip, if necessary to help save us some money. I found this little list of the “Dirty Dozen” foods you should buy organic, based on the high level of pesticide contamination:


Apples, Cherries, Grapes(imported – Chili) , Nectarines, Peaches , Pears, Raspberries, Strawberries, Bell Peppers, Celery, Potatoes, Spinach

In addition to those 12, the following three were also recommended:


Milk, Beef, Poultry


As always, it helps to comparison shop. Where I live, one store has better produce, once has better bargains on dry goods, and depending on the season, the farmer’s market is another option. We are also fortunate enough to have a relatively large local grocery store that carries a good variety of organic items at lower cost than some of the more upscale grocers supplying identical products.


*Photo credit fallingleaves.

Rossi’s Pizza

Every now and then we order pizza from Rossi’s in Monona. The pizza is good, but I gots to show you a picture of it. Keep in mind that we’re a family of seven and never (well, almost never) does one pizza work for feeding all of us. This pizza is the exception. It is huge. If I remember correctly, it is 30 inches.



Frank is holding it. You have to turn the box sideways, carefully, to fit it through the door. The big factor isn’t all, though, it is a tasty pizza as well.