Tater Tots Cheeseburger Casserole Recipe

Tater Tots Cheeseburger Casserole
Tater Tots Cheeseburger Casserole
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There’s something to be said for All-American comfort food. What could be more representative of that culinary niche than the humble cheeseburger? Well, this recipe for Tater Tot Cheeseburger Casserole fits the bill nicely, especially on those summer days when it is raining to much to go out on the backyard deck and fire up the grill. One thing it is not is low-carb.

You’ll notice that this recipe doesn’t really go into all the possible condiments and spices that you may prefer. That is because we believe that burgers should be individually tailored; make this meal your own by throwing in what you are craving. There are things you can add after the fact as well. For example, I’m fond of shaking on some homemade habanero hot sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped onion (1 1/2 medium)
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (12 oz)
  • 1 cup Original Bisquick™ mix
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 bag (32 oz) Ore-Ida™ Tater Tots™ frozen potatoes

Meal Preparation Steps

  • Pre-heat your oven to 400°F. Spray 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with your favorite cooking spray.
  • Use a 12-inch nonstick skillet to cook beef and onion over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the mixture frequently until beef is brown. Drain. Stir in salt and pepper and spread the mixture in the dish. Sprinkle mixture evenly with 2 cups of the cheese.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, stir Bisquick™ mix, milk, and eggs using a whisk until well-blended. Pour over the cheese layer in the baking dish. Arrange the frozen Tater Tot potatoes on top of casserole.
  • Put dish in oven and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese evenly on top of the casserole. Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Finally, remove the pan from the oven and let it rest 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Modifications

As I mentioned above, this is a bare-bones recipe yearning for your modifications. Although this is great for kids that are finicky diners, adults are more likely to tweak the basic. Here are some of the possibilities.

  • A layer of tomato slices between the cheese layer and the Bisquick™ mixture.
  • Jalapeno or Serrano peppers anywhere.
  • Powdered ranch dressing mixed into the hamburger meat.
  • Bacon (of course!).
  • And the list goes on…

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Habanero Hot Sauce Recipe

Habanero Pepper Plant
Habanero Pepper Plant
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This article was updated on 03/04/19.

I don’t make any bones about it; I like hot sauce and spicy food. I’m not sure if this is something masochistic or not–I try not to overthink it. We have a lot of hot sauce choices here in South Texas; we are not limited to the ubiquitous “Tabasco” brand. But I wanted something different. So here is what I came up with and I think you’ll like it too.

I have to tell you in advance that I am, as much as possible, a stickler for homegrown and organic ingredients (the photo above is one of the habanero pepper bushes I have been cultivating for the past year).

To be honest, I’m not sure about the name of the pepper. It depends. The one I bought called it habanero but they are also called Scotch Bonnet. Back home in Panama we called them Aji Chombo which is likely not a politically-correct term anymore so if you do not want to be called racist do not use it. Whatever you call them, they register, on the Scoville heat unit (SHU) rating, 350,000, which is 100 times hotter than a 3,500 SHU jalapeño. Hungry yet?

I am always looking for more seasoning and sauce recipes for dishes like low-carb egg noodles so here we go.

The Hot Sauce Ingredient List

I did a lot of research and took what I considered to be the best ideas for the ingredients. This is not to say that I plagiarized any other cook’s recipe. I simply developed my own and is quite simple.

  • 6 habanero peppers
  • 6 oz. balsamic vinegar (other recipes favored regular but I just prefer the flavor of balsamic)
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • (optional) 1/4 cup ground flaxseed. High levels of Omega-3 fatty acids is great for cardiovascular health.

Making the Hot Sauce

This is easy as well. Simply whip up all the ingredients in your food processor or juicer. I used my Ninja Bullet that I use to make spaghetti sauce, pesto, and smoothies.

To store the sauce I used one of those glass salad dressing carafes that you can find on the grocery store shelf. I haven’t researched it but I know that when I make hot pepper dishes like Panamanian ceviche I always have to use either glass or metal. It has to do with the acidity, hotness, etc. In any event, I don’t want to be melting a plastic container.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Don’t Make These Mistakes Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee

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Cup of coffee and coffee beans
Love a hot cup of coffee!

Coffee; there’s nothing like it, whether when waking up to a breakfast of toast made with homemade bread, taking a social break, of settling a satisfying dinner. It seems so easy but many people make these following mistakes when brewing the perfect cup of coffee.

Using Water from the Faucet

Tap water can be full of impurities and various minerals. This is not to say that it will make you sick, but there is a strong possibility that it will throw the flavor of your java off and deposit scale in your coffee pot. Instead of using tap water, use bottled spring water or filtered water.

Purchasing Pre-Ground Beans

OK, in today’s busy world, you might not want to take the time to grind up some beans in the morning. Just grind it before you go to bed the night before. It will still be great in the morning. Why is this important? Many of the aromas contained in coffee are volatiles. This means they are in a gas form and they are imprisoned in the cells of the beans. But when you grind the beans, these gasses are liberated. Ground coffee from the store, whether it is Free Trade or not, has lost aromas 40 times faster than whole beans by the time you see it. This is why a home grinder is a must-have.

What Kind of Grinder? I’m Confused.

There are basically two kinds of coffee grinders, blade grinders and burr grinders. The blade models have just that–blades, similar to your blender. Of course they are the less expensive of the two.  

Burr grinders utilize two revolving abrasive surfaces (the burrs), in between which the coffee is ground, a few beans at a time. Coffee aficionados will pick burr grinders over blades every time. The reason is that that the beans are ground in a uniform size, the machine is sturdier and will last longer, and you have more control over your grind than you do with a blade. I use the Capresso 560.01 Infinity. It has commercial-grade solid conical steel burrs with advanced cutting design. And the price is reasonable.

Using a Cold Coffee Cup/Mug

This one is a no-brainer, right? There is no sense in having a hot beverage if you are just going to pour it into a container that is going to cool it off. So pre-heat your cup!

You can either pour boiling water into it or pour cold water into it and microzap it for 45 seconds or so. Either way you will be off to a good start. I once worked with a fellow who had a small heated coaster on his desk to keep his brew hot since he drank it sloooowly.

Not Using the Correct Sugar and Milk

OK, if you’ve made it this far in the article, you are serious about your cuppa Joe. There’s no point in not doing it right all the way. Now, I am a stickler about drinking mine black and strong but I realize that many of you like the milk and sugar thing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say.)

As far as the sugar goes, raw sugar (turbinado sugar) simply tastes better than white sugar. As for milk, put away the skim, nonfat, or 2% stuff; it will just water down your brew. Instead opt for whole milk or half-and-half. It won’t add that much cholesterol to your diet. If that’s a concern, ask your doctor about statins. A good cup is worth it.

Storing Coffee Beans in the Wrong Place

A popular misconception is that the freezer is a good place to store your coffee beans and grounds. That might sound logical but it doesn’t work that way, no matter what Grandma said.

Ideally they should be stored in a cool, dry place. They will remain in tip-top shape for 1-3 weeks in your pantry if you should store them in an airtight opaque container. They degrade quickly in the presence of light, heat, or oxygen.

So there you have it. Following these tips will ensure that you don’t make the most common mistakes brewing the perfect cup of coffee. And it never hurts to buy organic coffee beans.


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10 Habits of Highly-Successful Runners

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.

Article edited on 07/20/18

By definition, we runners are creatures of habit. We simply don’t feel right if we miss a workout and sometimes push harder on the next one to make amends. This makes it a healthy habit in our eyes and occasionally just a bit on the kooky side in the eyes of our sedentary counterparts.

We are also goal-setters. This is easy for beginning runners when the opportunities are as open and unlimited as the blue west Texas sky. The first 5K, the first 10K and so it goes until we have marked off our bucket list so many pounds lost, that first marathon or ultramarathon.

But what happens after that? Do we crater? Hopefully not. Although I must admit that I don’t see as many of the old crew at the races as I used to. I don’t do as many as I used to anymore either; I just focus on the Texas Bridge Series.




But I do keep running. My goal now is just to keep running until I eventually lay down for that long, long dirt sleep. Now that is a worthy goal. With that in mind, lets look at some the 10 habits of successful runners. As I define success, it’s keepin’ on keepin’ on; with 5 ultras under my belt more distance isn’t the answer it once was. For you it might be still climbing that ladder of goals.

Do Your Strength Training. Many runners neglect the weights and this is a mistake. Building and maintaining lean muscle mass balances us out and reduces the prospect of injury. There is a good reason that those in the know continually stress the importance of maintaining a strong core. Choose exercises that work the upper body, core and lower body. Shoot for 3 times a week. There is really no reason for a gym membership unless you need the swimming pool. Resistance bands are very economical and versatile and will even fit in your suitcase if you spend time on the road.

Chow Down on More Vegetables. You don’t have to adopt Michelle Obama’s school menu, but try to fit more organic veggies into your lunch and dinner meals. The point is that high-quality carbohydrates lend power to your workouts, and their antioxidants help keep the potentially damaging free radicals at bay.  Myself, I’m nuts about salad. Try to select vegetables of different colors since that virtually guarantees that you will get a broad range of nutrients. And don’t forget to add some cheese; calcium and protein are good things.

Make Running Your First Activity of the Day. After your coffee of course. You afternoon runners know the drill; the later it is in the day, the more things arise to threaten your workout. Plus the fact that it gives you altogether too much time to talk yourself out of it. And isn’t it worth the early wake-up call to already be endorphin-saturated when you are faced with the prospect of a boring meeting at the office? Enjoying another cup o’ joe? When you set your alarm before bed, be sure to allow enough time for your warm-up routine. Be sure to set out all your essentials the night before so you can plug ‘n play. That means shorts, shoes, socks, water bottle, etc.

Get in Some Cross-Training. As good as running is for us, it is very stressful on the body. Some swimming, spinning and time on the rowing machine will maintain your level of fitness while at the same time giving your joints a break. With that in mind, a couple of good times to work cross-training into your schedule is on the day before or the day after a hard run. I’ve found that some slow yet long lap swimming is just the thing to elevate my heart rate while also getting a great all-over stretch in.

Dump the Gadgets Once in a While. We have become obsessed with cell phones, GPS, earbuds blocking out the world and God knows what else. It will do your soul good to leave all that junk behind every now and again when you hit the road or trails; get out of your box. Enjoy the sights. Listen to your breathing. Smell stuff. Do something nice and redeeming that doesn’t reek of “me.” I run early in the morning and stop to pick up earthworms that have slithered up onto the sidewalk and lost their bearings. I toss them back into the deep grass before the ants can attack them like so many Lilliputians on Gulliver. Weird? Hell yeah, but you wouldn’t believe my karma bank account. Besides, all this will remind you of why you run in the first place.

Make Your Weekly Long Run a High-Quality One. If you are not already doing a weekly long run now is the time to start. They are not just to be used as part of a marathon program. The physical benefits are many including beneficial enzyme changes in you legs, new capillary growth, and musculoskeletal strengthening. Remember to follow the 10% rule to avoid injury—don’t bump up the distance more than 10% from one week to the next. If Saturday morning is your long run, Friday is a good candidate for a rest day.

Be Your Own Cook. Try to say goodbye to restaurants, fast food places, and greasy spoons, at least for dinner and breakfast. Problem is, you can’t control the ingredients or portions when someone else is doing the culinary duty. Case in point: I tend to have high blood pressure and don’t need all the salt that they seem to administer with a front end loader. Can’t cook? Take a cooking class or just practice, practice, practice.

Warm-up before Your Run and Stretch Afterwards. Many runners neglect these two steps and that’s just wrong. Warming up will loosen the muscles that you need limber in order to hit your stride. You might not feel like you need to stretch afterwards (you are already loose as a goose) but during cooling down your muscles will begin to contract rapidly. Static stretching, not ballistic, can prolong that action and reduce soreness. A foam roller can work wonders. Focus on your calves, hip flexors and hamstrings.

Slather on that Sunscreen. Running for hours and hours is a blessing and a curse as far as the sun is concerned. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about a vitamin D deficiency. On the other hand, your chances of developing skin cancer go way, way up. As a general population, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. Ouch. And that estimate also takes those spooky milky-white goth types into account. Try to use a sunscreen that is made for sports, meaning that it will not sweat off as easily.

Finally, Get Plenty of Sleep. Sleep is essential for all of us but it is especially critical for runners because the body undergoes some major repair action when we check into nod-land. In fact people that are taking statin meds to control cholesterol are advised to take it only at bedtime because that is when the blood really gets cleaned up.  Cutting back on sleep can cut the amount of glycogen that your body will store for fuel and may result in weight gain. And besides all those interesting facts, the dreams are just fun, right? If you want to boost the enjoyment level, work on developing your lucid dreaming abilities.

If you need to work on one or more of these 10 habits of highly-successful runners, now is the time. Start working them in one at a time and chart your results. And have fun.

Shop Where It Matters!

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