Mark it in your calendars – Josh gets an “I told you so”. Ever since I met him in 2008, he has been going on and on about something called tater tot casserole. The idea of something that is just ground beef, condensed cheese soup, and potatoes sends shivers up my spine. Tater tots are definitely something I can get behind, though. Fun fact: I once received a bulk-sized package of frozen tater tots for Christmas. They may or may not have included a note that said “Napoleon, give me some of your tots”.
I probably should stop there. But I’m going to keep going. That was the year I was taking high school Chemistry. We were paired up with a random classmate to make VSEPR models and for some reason, I suggested to Paul (who I had never even conversed with before) that we make them out of these tater tots. He went along with it, but frozen tater tots do not really hold up well to being held together by toothpicks in a pentagonal bipyramidal configuration. We had to coat them in varnish so they wouldn’t fall apart by class the next day, and it pretty much put me off on tater tots for years. Needless to say, how weird I am didn’t win me any friends. But we were told we had the most unique display and got full points for creativity 😉 Oh. And we may have written “Tina, come get some ham” in ketchup on the foil we presented on, ha.
My long history with tots aside, this is GOOD. Pretty? No. So just close your eyes and eat it. It’s a Mexican take on Josh’s old favorite. It was the best way I could think of to up the veggie factor while getting rid of the weird, canned cheese soup. We topped ours with sour cream, but it wouldn’t have needed it if I hadn’t made it a touch too spicy for Josh.
1½ c reduced fat Mexican cheese (vegans, use cheddar Daiya or other cheese swap)
black olives, sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and prepare a 9 x 13″ casserole dish with nonstick spray.
Roughly chop the peppers and onion. Saute over medium heat with the garlic until soft. Stir in the soy sauce and liquid smoke, if using. Add the black beans, taco seasoning, and salt and pepper.
Pour a thin layer of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish and spread out.
In a bowl, mix the frozen tater tots, veggie/bean mixture, and 1 c of the cheese. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and press down lightly. Top with remaining enchilada sauce.
Bake, uncovered for 40 minutes.
Top with remaining cheese and olives. Return to oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melty and exposed tots are crispy.
Serve as is or topped with green onions, sour cream, or ranch.
I added the optional soy sauce and liquid smoke to give it a little more of a “beefy” taste. If preparing gluten free: ensure all ingredients are gluten free, paying particular attention to your choice in soy sauce, taco seasoning, and tater tots.