Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Yay for pumpkin AND cheesecake! I usually don’t like my cheesecake messed with too much, but there are exceptions. Yes to pumpkin in cheesecake for sure.

The first time I made this was for Thanksgiving some years ago.  My family promptly informed me that we no longer needed regular pumpkin pie.  This was the new star of Fall celebrations and Thanksgiving, and pumpkin pie is a little boring after all.  My daughter makes this for her family now.

Right now it is 4:00 a.m. on a beautiful September morning. The windows are open and I can hear an owl outside somewhere. Who-who-whoo! Just the owl and I are awake. Anyway, I’m wired to be a morning person. I can’t really help it so I might as well enjoy it.

When I first found this recipe it had a graham cracker crust and not really enough filling in my opinion – but still a lovely pie with star potential.  So I added a gingersnap crust and increased/modified the filling.  Serve it with some whipped cream or Browned Butter Ice Cream to dress it up a little.

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This is pretty simple for cheesecake.  For the crust:

  • 1-3/4 cup ground ginger snap cookies
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Mix together and press into pie pan or springform pan.  Bake 350F for 10 minutes.

Now for the cheesecake:

  • 3 8-oz pkg softened cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • 1 pinch nutmeg

Mix the cream cheese in the mixer until smooth.  Add sugar and mix until smooth.  Add one egg at a time and mix, add vanilla.  Place half of batter in pan and spread evenly.

Make sure your naughty puppy doesn’t counter surf for the empty cream cheese wrappers.  But she’s so cute…

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Now blend the pumpkin and spices into the remaining cheesecake batter and spread over the top of the plain cheesecake batter.  Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.  Cool and then refrigerate before serving.  Absolutely delicious.  I’m loving autumn!

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Categories: Desserts and Sweets, Recipe Index | 1 Comment

Browned Butter Ice Cream

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I think we all know the wondrous aroma of browned butter.  It has long been used in sauces, on pasta, and on vegetables.  But in ice cream???  Superb.  The complex, nutty aroma in this ice cream takes you to another place on the food-space continuum.  For me, caramel and nuts will win out over chocolate every time and the brown butter caramel notes in this ice cream are deep.  Add to that some cinnamon sugar toasted pecans and it’s almost too wonderful to speak of.

No, Virginia you don’t absolutely have to have an ice cream maker.  But once you make that initial investment you can make ice cream of any flavor, sorbet, frozen yogurt, frozen drinks.  If you’re already familiar with making ice cream sans ice cream maker, go for it.

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I never thought I would love making ice cream.  But when I learned that I could actually make ice cream that is as good as the real premium stuff, I was in. I owe that to my friend Janet who walked past me one day and said “Cuisinart ice cream makers are on sale at The Kitchen Window!”  What??  I’m there.  Oh Janet, I totally blame you.  Kidding.  Sort of.

Now.  Making ice cream isn’t that hard.  You just need to plan a little.  Get everything ready a day ahead and then the next day you’re ready to go.  Place the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer at least 12 hours before use.  You will also want to completely chill the mixture before processing.  Chill for at least 6 hours and overnight is even better.  There’s a science to all this ice cream making.  Ice crystals, fat crystals, emulsification, and freezing.  Follow the directions and you won’t have to get all involved with the sciencey stuff.  And your homemade ice cream will be pure food heaven.  No weird stuff which I’m all for, don’t get me wrong.  But you don’t need it here.

Cinnamon Sugar Toasted Pecans:

  • 1 Cup chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp butter (this will melt by itself in the oven)
  • 1/3 cup cinnamon sugar

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Put the above ingredients in a pan and place in 350F oven for 20-25 minutes.  Stir a few times during that time.  Remove from oven and give one last stir to break them up.  Cool.  I will admit that this is a lot of pecans for about a quart of ice cream but you can freeze the extras.

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Browned Butter Ice Cream (adapted from About.com Desserts/Baking):

  • 1/2 cup butter (I used salted – either works)
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter in a saucepan or small skillet.  Cook over medium heat until the butter is is good and brown, but watch and stir frequently because it can burn quickly.  Brown equals flavor so this step is important.  You’ll want a nice dark brown color and it will be on the bottom of the pan.

In a mixer beat egg yolks, brown sugar and salt until fluffy.  Slowly add the browned butter while mixing.  Just drizzle it in at first and be careful.  Hot butter burns.  No fun.  Meanwhile bring the cream and milk to a simmer.  Then slowly whisk the cream mixture into the browned butter mixture until well blended and pour back into the pot.  Cook over low heat to a temperature of about 170F.

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Stir in the vanilla.  Cool and then refrigerate for several hours – overnight is even better.  Pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.  You can either stir in the pecans or sprinkle on top.  Freeze until firm.  Wait for it….oh my.

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Categories: Desserts and Sweets, Recipe Index | 2 Comments

Grilled Tilapia

 

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Easy, fast and delicious.  I’ve never been super excited about fish but that’s about to change.  Sorry to all the disappointed fish who thought they were off the hook.  Hehe.  That was a totally terrible and spontaneous pun.  Anyway, grilled or oven baked this will be done in just minutes.  Oh yeah.  There’s no pan to clean up because we’re using foil!

You will need:

  • aluminum foil
  • cooking spray
  • Tilapia (or Mahi Mahi, Salmon, Walleye, etc)
  • salt, pepper, this seasoning blend or your own
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • fresh thyme (or tarragon or dill)
  • lemon slices
  • sliced onion

Make a little foil tray for the fish by folding up the sides and ends and spray it with cooking spray.  Double the thickness of the foil unless it’s heavy duty.  Place the fish in the tray and sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasoning, drizzle with olive and a little butter.

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Almost ready.  Take a sprig of thyme and place it on top of the fish and finish with a slice of lemon and a few onion slices.  Now place it on a medium heat grill.  When the fish becomes opaque and firm, it’s done!  About 10-15 minutes is all it takes depending on the size of your fish.

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Categories: Grilling, Recipe Index | Leave a comment

Mint Iced Tea and Peach Mojitos

Summer I have missed you!  Welcome back to Minnesota and quickly, before we float away in this record month of rain, let’s pause and refresh.  What do Iced Tea and Peach Mojitos have in common?  Mint!  My garden is crazy with this fragrant perennial.  Here are two recipes that are super easy. First, the tea.

Mint Iced Tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minty Lemon Sun Tea

  • 12 tea bags
  • Sliced lemon
  • Mint Sprigs
  • 12 cups filtered water
  • Sugar to taste (add post-brewing)

Put it all in a jar in the beautiful sunshine for 3-5 hours and you’ll have minty, lemony sun tea.  My dad used to make sun tea by the pool when we were kids so it brings up some great memories for me.  He would like this, I think.  Remove the tea bags and refrigerate. That’s it.  You have a pretty glass of iced tea.

Peach Mojito

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peach Mojitos

I make these one at a time but you can always make a simple syrup if you’re making more.  One part water to one part sugar; boil and cool.  To be honest, I’d never heard of a peach mojito before.  But I had mint and I had peaches and it sounded like a perfect match.  Of course I did not invent this drink except for perhaps in my own mind.  All that peachy-licious color.  This is seriously very good without the rum too.  Beauty in a glass.

  • 1/2 a lime, quartered
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 1-3 teaspoons sugar (I like one) and equal parts water
  • 1/2 fresh peach
  • 2 oz white rum
  • Club soda

Squeeze the juice of two of the lime quarters into a glass, add mint leaves, sugar and water.  Now….MUDDLE.  This is the fun part.  If you don’t have a muddler – and who does – use a wooden spoon or similar utensil to kind of crush the mint leaves and release their flavor and dissolve the sugar, then add the last two lime quarters and muddle those a bit too.  Now take half a ripe peach and press it through a strainer to get the nectar.  You can buy peach nectar in a can if you don’t have ripe peaches.  Pour the peach nectar and rum into your glass.  Fill it with ice and finish it off with club soda.  Garnish with a sprig of mint and even a slice of peach and a curl of lime rind.  So pretty!  Mint and peach are really nice together.

Now I feel that I may need a muddler seeing as how I have so much mint.  I love kitchen tools.  Happy muddling to you!  May your summer be filled with minty fresh goodness.

 

Categories: Drinks, Recipe Index | Leave a comment

Swedish Nuts

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I think I’ve known this recipe my whole life.  But what I don’t know is what makes these nuts Swedish.  I’m a little Swedish.  Does that do it?  No?  I asked my mom where she originally got the recipe.  And yes, it was out of a church cookbook about 50 years ago.  Church cookbooks were the backbone of middle-American cooking.  Before the internet people had to share recipes in cookbooks and on recipe cards.  Seriously.  I find it humorous that the Swedes would take a food that is of various brown tones and make it white.  Ha!

Anyway, we all have our favorite recipes that are part of our heritage.  I guess this one is part of mine and that’s why I want to share it.  Although…I confess I didn’t love nuts when I was a child.  But now I make these for Christmas every year and they’re even gluten free so if all that Christmas cookie baking has you down, don’t despair!

This is so easy and requires only a few ingredients.  Who doesn’t love brown butter, sugary, meringue-coated nuts?  Use any nuts that you like.  I used roasted, unsalted Pecans and Almonds.  I think unsalted is a good idea for this recipe.  This is simple.  And nuts are healthy so get ready!

You will need:

  • 4 cups mixed nuts
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 325F.  Place nuts and 1/3 cup butter on a half sheet pan (a pan with edges, aka jelly roll pan?).  Bake for 20 minutes or so.  Give them a stir about halfway through to coat evenly with the butter.

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And they look like this:

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And this.  Mmmmhmmmm…..

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Now you’ll want to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Sloooooowwwly add the sugar and salt.  Now pour onto the baking sheet,

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stir to coat the nuts and into the oven.  Don’t stir too much or you break down the meringue.  Be gentle.

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Give them bit of a stir or just kind of loosen them after 15 minutes for a total bake time of 30 minutes.  That’s it.  Let them cool for a few minutes, loosen from the pan with a spatula so they don’t stick too much.

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Cool completely and place in an airtight container.  They will keep for a few weeks.  Keep in the freezer for longer storage.

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Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Glory Be

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Our daughter Jamie’s 14th birthday was coming up.  Steve said that the golden birthday, in her case February 14th, was a special birthday and we should think of a special gift.  Hmmmm….the only thing that I could think of was a puppy.  Steve balked.  We got her a kitten for her 6th birthday – wasn’t that enough?  I pressed and he finally gave in.  But only if it was a Border Collie.  Fine – no problem!  I liked Border Collies.  So the search began.  We looked at some black and white BC’s in Isanti but they were almost 12 weeks old.  They looked so big.  I wanted a younger puppy.  Little did I know that a 12 week old puppy would have been much better socialized.  Anyway, we found some seven week old pups in New London.  They were red and white.  I didn’t know there was such a thing as red and white Border Collies.  Off we went to New London while Jamie was at school.  And there was that sassy little girl pup.  She liked to bark and had two different colored eyes.  She’s the one.  We drove for home with a side trip to the pet store for all the necessary items.  Jamie came home from school and I told her she needed to clean her room.  Now.  A look of confusion crossed her face.  Now?  Yes, now.  She went in her room and screamed!   A puppy!!  Glory Be became the one nickname that stuck over time.  The phrase “glory be” is an old fashioned kind of an exclamation point. That describes Glory for sure.

Glory was sassy from the get go.  And driven.  Throw the ball.  Throw the ball.  Throw the ball.  THROW THE BALL!!!!  Where’s the squirrel.  Where’s the squirrel.  Relentless.  She would leap into the air so she could look directly into your eyes.  Nothing could get her as excited as the mention of a squirrel.  It was about the game – not the squirrel – although she did like to chase them.  But she wanted you to be as excited about the squirrel as she was.

Glory was unbelievably smart.  I know everyone says that about their dogs.  But what I loved about her was that she processed what you would say.  Glory, go upstairs and get the toy turtle.  Thinking…..her head would tilt to one side, the wheels were turning.  Though I’d never told her to do that before, she put those commands together and off she went.  I loved that about her.  She really listened – more than any other dog I’ve ever known – and tried to understand your words.  So you can imagine how sad we were when she seemed kind of disoriented yesterday morning.  I took her outside early in the morning and had to help her with the step down to the sidewalk.  But she ate her breakfast and though she’d been lethargic lately all seemed well.  Until she had a seizure.  Oh how hard to watch a dog go through that.  All you can do is hold them.  But we thought that was the end of it. Until the next one.  And the ten more that followed that for a total of twelve seizures in 24 hours.  Steve was by her side all night, holding her through each one.  What a good man he is.

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And now five months after Kip died, here we are again, faced with a tough decision although there really was no other decision we could make.  It’s so sad and so hard that I can’t judge another for not making the decision.  We held Glory in our arms and again Dr. Audrey was there.  She said Glory was ready and it’s nice to hear someone say those words because we second guess ourselves as it is.  So again we held her as the life went from her little body and again we are unbearably sad.  The house is completely empty except for ourselves now.  No pets left where once we had four.

Goodbye, Glory.   You were a good girl.  Now there are two empty collars and two heavy hearts in this home.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Pumpkin Chai Marshmallows

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Pumpkin chai marshmallows?  These are fun and if you are a lover of pumpkin lattes, this is a must try!  These bouncy little pillows get all melty in your coffee and create this beautiful pumpkin spice foam of deliciousness.  And it won’t cost $5 a cup either.  I chose to make these with honey and not corn syrup.  A direct one-to-one substitution.  I’m a little bit anti corn syrup although it has it’s place.  If you choose to use corn syrup, this will work just as well.

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Homemade marshmallows are quite a bit different from the store bought kind.  They melt much more easily which is nice for your coffee.  And how about in your cocoa??  Divine.

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If you’re going to make Pumpkin Chai Marshmallows, don’t forget the S’mores!  I used gingersnaps, put a few chocolate chips on the bottom of one and placed my roasted marshmallow on top.  The chocolate melts, the marshmallow oozes out and there is the taste of autumn goodness.  A tip about roasting these: since they melt more easily than regular store bought marshmallows, use caution when roasting.  

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Recipe

  • 3 packets unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 cup cold water, divided in half
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • A pinch of cardamom
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Grease and sprinkle with powdered sugar/corn starch blend  9×13 inch pan. Set aside.

In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup water. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes for the gelatin to “bloom” or activate.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the honey, 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, and salt to a boil over medium high heat. Using a candy thermometer, continue boiling until the temperature reaches 238-240 degrees F. This will take about 8-10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over.

While the syrup mixture is cooking, blend the pumpkin puree, spices and vanilla together with a fork or spoon until smooth.

As soon as the temperature of the syrup is reached, slowly pour into the gelatin mixture while beating on low speed to incorporate using a whip attachment.  Use extra caution here to not burn yourself or any innocent bystanders!  Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for 12-14 minutes.  The marshmallow should be thick and fluffy. At about the 8 minute mark, beat in the pumpkin, spice and vanilla mixture.  Mix until well-incorporated, about 1 minute.

Pour marshmallow mixture into prepared pan and allow to set overnight.  Sprinkle work surface with powdered sugar/corn starch mixture.  Remove from pan and cut with an oiled knife.  Once all the pieces are cut, give all sides of the marshmallows a generous coating of the sugar/corn starch mixture.  Allow to dry at room temperature.  Store in a closed container or in the freezer if you plan to keep them a while.

 

Categories: Desserts and Sweets, Recipe Index | Leave a comment

Brown Butter Pumpkin Apple Bread With Salted Maple Caramel Sauce

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That title is a mouthful but worth every word.  The flavors of pumpkin, apple, brown butter, and spices are really special and a nice change from banana bread.  Wow.  I’m on a pumpkin mission right now and this is the opening number.  Developing a recipe is a little bit like giving birth or being a mother.  Just a little.  And when you present it to the world, it’s very personal.  Anyway, I hope you’ll make it and love it even half as much as I do.

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And when you slice it…it’s moist and full of flavor.  I’m trying not to say “amazing” so much.  I need a new word for amazing.  But not awesome.  I also over-use that one.

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Now, mis en place!  That is French for “everything in it’s place.”  Get everything ready before you start and the whole process will be more fun and you won’t forget anything.

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Prepare two loaf pans with cooking spray or grease/flour.  You can also use one Bundt pan for this recipe.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup browned butter*
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin
  • 1-1/4 cups finely chopped apples (peeled)

*To brown your butter, melt in a sauce pan on the stove.  It will simmer and foam.  Take care to stir while it’s heating.  All the solids will be on the bottom of the pan and that is what is browning while you cook.  When it gets brown and smells nutty and wonderful, remove it from the heat and set aside.  Give it a stir once in a while as it cools to pull it all back together.

  • Combine flour, spice, soda and salt.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream white and brown sugar, oil and browned butter.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing each one in.  Alternately add orange juice and flour mixture while mixing on low after each addition just until combined.
  • Add pumpkin and apples pieces mixing just until combined.
  • Spoon into prepared pans
  • Bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes

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Serve with Salted Maple Caramel Sauce and I’m not kidding even a little.  It’s….amazing.

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Categories: Breads, Desserts and Sweets, Recipe Index | 2 Comments

Salted Maple Caramel Sauce

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This sauce came about for a couple of reasons.  I needed something special for my Brown Butter Apple Pumpkin Bread, and I wanted to use a gift given to me by my friend from Toronto and so I give you:  Salted Maple Caramel Sauce!  Made with real maple syrup from Canada.   And who knows maple syrup better than Canadians and of course our own Vermont-onians?  Oh Autumn, you are my favorite.  I would keep you around for six months if I could but you are the most fleeting of seasons.

I originally came up with this sauce for my Brown Butter Apple Pumpkin Bread, but all you really need for this sauce is a spoon.  Here are some other options: ice cream, toast or bagels, drizzled over a croissant, cakes, pies and tarts, pancakes and crepes, cheesecake, apples, pears, bananas.  You won’t need a fall scented candle once you get this going on the stove.

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Okay, focus.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Add all ingredients but vanilla and bring to a low boil in a saucepan.  Cook until temperature reaches 200-225F which is about 20-30 minutes.  Stir vanilla in after removing from stove.  Easy!

This makes about one pint and you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Categories: Desserts and Sweets, Recipe Index | Leave a comment

Tater Tot Hotdish

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Yes.  I said “hotdish.”  That’s what we call them in Minnesota.  I could be classy and say “casserole.”  How about Pomme Frites en Casserole.  Now that sounds fancy.  Even the French would eat it.  I LOVE this.  I only make it about once a year but it is serious comfort food that your whole family will love. This is for you busy mommas.  I love you moms out there.  Your contributions to this world are many.

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Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the term hotdish (one word) comes from Minnesota and North Dakota.  A budget minded recipe that feeds the whole family as well as congregations in church basements.  And if you’ve never been able to participate in church basement potluck suppers, you seriously need to do that.  The whole experience brings a smile to my face.  Get yourself to a small rural church and attend some kind of celebration that involves a potluck in the church basement.  Small-town America is an important part of our heritage and as our own Garrison Keillor says on his radio show about a fictional Minnesota town: “Lake Wobegon.  Where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”  If you’ve never listened to A Prairie Home Companion on NPR, check it out.  Americana at its very best.  Listen and eat Tater Tot Hotdish.

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So allow me to go all retro and I hope, really hope, you’ll make Tater Tot Hotdish for your family and create some memories.  Fall is in the air and it’s time to change things up a bit.

You will need:

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/2 lbs hamburger
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 8-oz pkg button mushrooms, sliced (or 1 can mushrooms, drained)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1-1/2 cups corn
  • 1 30-oz bag frozen Ore-Idea Crispy Crown Tater Tots (let these sit out and thaw a bit while you’re prepping everything)
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Serves 6-8

In a large skillet, cook onions in some butter until just slightly translucent.  Add the bouillon cube, garlic, worcestershire, and hamburger and cook until hamburger is browned.  Go easy on the salt because the soup and cheese are salty.  Add the mushrooms cook until softened.

Now add the soup, corn, and one cup of the cheese to the hamburger mixture and stir it in.  Pour into 9×13 or similar size casserole.  Cover with the tater tots and sprinkle with the remaining cup of cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes. I would recommend that you prepare yourself to be loved and adored by your family and friends because you just gave them a special memory that will last longer than this hotdish.

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Glory wouldn’t dare take a bite but she’s close….

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Categories: Main Dishes, Recipe Index | 4 Comments