Monday, August 16, 2010

Tater Tot Taco Salad/Smoky Four Cheese Macaroni Bake

So I'm slightly delayed in posting this, but here it is nonetheless! This was last weeks new creation, compliments of


  • 2 cups frozen miniature tater tots
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced ripe or stuffed olives
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons taco sauce
  • 1/4 cup sour cream


  1. Bake Tater Tots according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning. Divide Tater Tots between two serving plates or bowls. Top with taco mixture, cheese, olives, lettuce, taco sauce and sour cream.

I actually kind of liked this recipe. It's a new take on tacos, and since I love tacos, finding new ways to eat them is always great. My only complaint about this was that the tater tots really need to be good and crispy, and my my oven just doesn't do that! I've heard of some ovens that have speed bake, which sounds like it works well for crisping things. Leftovers were good, but again, the tater tots created a problem of being dry and mushy. I didn't use olives because the hubby doesn't like them, and just applied toppings to taste. 

Recipe #2
Smoky Four Cheese Macaroni Bake


  • 1 (12 ounce) package macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring (optional)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and cook for 3 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the garlic, and continue cooking until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 2 minutes more. Slowly stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the half-and-half and milk, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in mustard powder and liquid smoke; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, along with the cream cheese, Swiss, Monterey Jack, and Cheddar cheeses; stir until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the drained macaroni noodles. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs over the macaroni
  5. Bake in preheated oven until bubbly and brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

I go back and forth about this one! I LOVE the idea of adding liquid smoke, and would increase the amount next time, probably at least double. We followed the recipe mostly to the letter, with only a few changes. We ended up using 16 oz. of macaroni noodles because that's what the box came in, and used 1 cup half and half + 1 cup milk, and ended up adding another cup of half and half once all of the cheese was added. I have NEVER seen so much cheese in one recipe!! Once it was all added, it was the thickest concoction I have ever seen, hence the added of more half and half. Next time, I think I would leave the onion out. I really do love sautéed onion, but it provides a very distinct flavor, and I think the dish would be better complimented without it. I also would change some the different kinds of cheese. Again, it's one of those complimenting flavor things - I LOVE Parmesan cheese - but it gives this kind of weird aftertaste. I stole an idea from another mac and cheese recipe and I would substitute Muenster cheese instead of the Parmesan. It ended up being super cheesy and gooey, but dried out a little bit after it sat for awhile. Not sure how leftovers would be, but I might play around with the amount of flour and decrease it a bit to make it a little less thick. 
I definitely recommend shredded cheese, or if you need to shred cheese, do it before you start things. And don't start the noodles until you get to the simmering the sauce for 10 minutes part, otherwise they just sit there for like 20 minutes or something. 

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