“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence
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It's been a season of stunningly beautiful weather in Iowa.
The time of year when the days feel particularly precious, because we know the rhythm of the seasons all too well. There won't be many more weeks like this one. Pretty soon the landscape will be entirely different: white and frozen, dotted with snowmen
As I type, I'm sitting at a picnic table at the park eating my lunch, Sally at my feet chewing her stick. Recovering after being spayed and a huge bump on her head; we've purposed a few days of quiet. It feels peaceful to be in this spot, bathed in molten sunlight, with bright yellow leaves drifting down from the maple trees. Even the ground seems to glow and burn with light.
For as long as I can remember, October has been my favorite month.
How I loved coming to this very park as a young mom, pushing two little ones through the leaves in their stroller. As they grew older the days of fall were filled with pumpkins to carve, Halloween costumes to make, and trick-or-treating until the last porch light had gone dark
Back then we lived beneath the shade of a maple tree, and there were so many leaves to play in
Admittedly, I've felt weary this week; and just like my old neighborhood, this park always been a place of refuge for me: a place to be still, and re-find my center.
I've been thinking a lot about parenting as of late. Autumn was always a good time to be a mother, and it's during this time of year that I find myself missing my now-grown children as they once were.
How I would love to relive our old apple-picking and pumpkin choosing traditions. Truth be told, those years gave me permission to be a kid again myself; to spend hours stirring pots of applesauce on the stovetop, gathering walnuts, and pressing perfect red leaves between sheets of wax paper tucked into our fattest books.
Those days are but a memory now. Instead, I remind myself that the task at hand is to lean as deeply as I'm able into the place I am today. A chapter where it seems the past and present are layered together; the sum of so many yesterdays making the present
that much better
In the evenings, smoke from our neighbor's fire pit brings back memories of gathering around our own backyard blazes. Just as seeing tractors and combines in the fields brings me even further back in time, to Octobers as a child on our family farm.
I wonder, perhaps, if all autumn memories tend to be bittersweet? Reminders that change is our only constant, and nothing lasts. That even the promises of unconditional love are subject to withdrawal, at a moment's notice. In today's world, with a simple click of a mouse
“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven” ~ The Byrds
Here, in the middle of my forties, these words have taken on a deeper kind of truth. There's no holding onto the things of the past, no grasping for that which has already slipped away, along with summer's long warm days.
“There's only here
There's only now” ~ Van Morrison
I'm always a bit greedy when it comes to fall.
Just one more trip to the farmer's market, a final bag of tomatoes, picking the last of the produce from the garden. Visits with my grandchildren. A full harvest moon hanging in the sky. A house filled with summer's final flowers
Most of all, long golden walks with my husband and the puppies at the park.
I'm so thankful to have gotten my wish
Tater Tot Hot Dishes
They were one of my favorite things to eat as a kid. Over the years they've maintained a soft spot in my heart.
To page through an Iowa country church cookbook, and you'll find a few different versions of this quintessential comfort food. It's a staple at church basement potlucks. Many would argue that one isn't a Midwesterner until you're able to properly apply a layer of tater tots to a 9×13 casserole dish of creamed soup.
A typical tater tot hot dish is made of ground beef and cream of something soup, along with peas or green beans under a bed of store-bought tater tots.
This version adds a healthier twist. Inspired by Cook's Illustrated's recipe for chicken pot pie; it's made with from chicken, béchamel, and veggies.
~ Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Chicken and Veggie Tater Tot Casserole
- 1 ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into ¼ inch-thick slices (frozen work great as well ~ 1 cup)
- 2-3 celery ribs, chopped fine (~ ½- 1 cup)
- fine grain sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- 10 oz mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and sliced thin
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 4 Tbsp butter, unsalted
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (or flour of your choice)
- 1 cup milk (2% or whole are best)
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 ½ Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
- 3 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped (or 1 ½ Tbsp dried parsley)
- 1 cup frozen baby peas
- frozen tater tots
- In a dutch oven over medium heat, add the chicken and stock.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, and simmer until the chicken is just done (~ 8-12 minutes). Transferred the cooked chicken to a large bowl
- Strain the broth, reserving the liquid (Don't wash the Dutch oven, we'll use it again soon)
- Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400° F
- In the now-empty Dutch oven, warm 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat
- Add the onion, celery, a strong pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender (~ 5-7 minutes)
- While the veggies are cooking, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces
- Transfer the cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
- In the now-empty Dutch oven, warm 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat
- Add the mushrooms, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their juices (~ 5 minutes)
- Add the soy sauce and tomato paste.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, mushrooms are well browned, and dark fond begins to form on the surface of the pan (~ 5 minutes)
- Transfer mushrooms to the bowl with chicken and vegetables. Set aside.
- In the now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the butter.
- When the foaming subsides, stir in the flour and cook (~ 1 minute)
- Add the reserved chicken broth and slowly whisk.
- Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits, then continue to simmer until the sauce has fully thickened (~ 1 minute)
- Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp parsley.
- Add to the sauce the chicken/veggie mix, along with the peas
- Finish and Serve
- Pour mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish or 4-5 mini cocottes and cover with tater tots.
- Bake on rimmed baking sheet until filling is bubbling and the tots are well browned (~ 15 - 20 minutes)
- Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon parsley and serve
Wow! These photos are awesome, and the taters were great too.
This looks AMAZING!!! It’s like your typical tater tot casserole all glammed up, and I could not be any more excited about it. AND my kids will get their veggies without uttering a peep! Love!
Karly .. Thank-you! It’s a fun one to make 🙂
What a delicious looking recipe that I must try! and I love your intro, I love October autumnal months having said that, bring on 2017 Spring/summer!
This looks so delicious. I have never tried something like this. I am going to make Chicken and Veggie Tater Tot Hot Dish this weekend. Thanks for the recipe. I love your presentation and photos.
This looks absolutely amazing, and perfect for cold nights! Thanks for sharing.
This sounds divine. 🙂 Pinning and look forward to giving it a whirl in the coming weeks! I LOVE the name of your blog too, by the way! lol Eating more veggies is in my 2017 plan, for sure!
This looks like so much fun to eat! I love how you’ve styled/portioned it out. Also, love the photo of Sally – that’s the look I get all the time from our lab mix, Daisy, when she wants to “help” cook. Definitely plan to make this!
I loved reading through your post. I can totally relate with you. Gone are the days when I had little hands to hold, walking in the park, picking wildflowers. My children are all grown up now and we are in a peri-empty nest stage of life. When I come across days feeling like this, I always prepare myself a meal that reminds me of those days when the kids were still little. Thank you for the recipe you added in the post. My grandchildren would love this. We are going to make many memories of enjoying this tater tot hot dish.
Oh Annemarie .. thank-you so much for your kind words.
omg this looks sooo tasty, can’t wait to try it!! thanks for sharing
Oh my God! My heart melted when I saw your dog`s face expression ♥♥♥. Love your pictures and the recipe looks so yum,yum!
This looks like magic! I love tater tot casserole and this one is a must try for me! It’s like a tator tot pot pie!! Thanks for sharing! Pinning for later.
I have never made or heard of a tater tot dish before, but WOAH! This looks insane. I am a sucker for tater tots, now I can make it a whole meal! Thanks for sharing!
I loved the way how you’ve written this post! The dish looks absolutely delicious and thanks for sharing the recipe with us! Can’t wait to try this weekend!
Ooooh, that looks so tasty. I love Tater Tots, so a good Tater Tot dish is a good idea to add to my list of “to-make” food! Thanks for sharing the recipe!
oh my this looks incredible, great for this time of the year as well 🙂 i do love a goodHot Pot yum 🙂
The dish looks absolutely delicious, would definitely batch cook it and place some in the freezer. Wil be pinning for later for sure!!
This dish looks amazing and would be perfect for today, considering it’s only 54 degrees, here in Missouri. I love tater tots, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve had them and to add them on top of a soup…that’s so different!
I absolutely love your style of telling a bit of a story from your life along with your recipes. Autumn can tend to be a little of a bittersweet time for me as well, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s that spring always seems to be a time of new beginnings while fall tends to feel a bit like the start of an end. This tater tot hotdish looks so utterly fantastic! I love how your twist on the classic is a healthier version.
This Chicken & Veggie Tater Tot Casserole looks so delicious! I save recipes when I see something that catches my eye. I’m saving this for down the road, maybe when the leaves start to turn? Your pictures look amazing too!
I’ve never heard of Tater Tots before but this dish sounds delicious!
My family loves potatoes made all kinds of ways. But they especially love tater tots. I will be making this delicious looking recipe. It looks seo easy to make, I cant wait to try it out.
What a creative dish. I think my whole family would enjoy this and I could totally sneak in lots of veggies with out my kids knowing. Love dishes like that! Thanks for the yummy recipe idea.
Your days in Iowa sound quite enjoyable and beautiful. I think all of my family members would love waking up to this in the oven. Tater tots are a new fad in casseroles and I am loving it.
This dish looks amazing! I would love to make this dish on a rainy day like today to warm me up and make my evening brighter. Ièm not sure if there would be any leftover for the rest of my family. 😛 I loved the shot of your dog eyeing the tater tot. It was classic!
This looks and just sounds amazing! Comfort food all the way! I can see me curling up on the couch with a big bowl of this! =D Can I also say, those little dishes are just too darn cute! May I ask where you got them?
I am totally going to try out this recipe! I think the boys will enjoy it! =D
I hadn’t come across tater tots until I visited the US but they are a tasty snack. Like what you have done with them in this recipe
What a clever idea. This would be a great way to use up veggies in the fridge at the end of the week
I can’t get over that picture of your dog…that is SO adorable!! I keep looking back at it and I laugh every time!! lol! On a side note, that looks delicious 😉
I’ve never seen anything like this before! Love the idea of having little tater tots on top of a casserole! xxx
These look like such fun to make and enjoy. I love the presentation too!
Oh mercy that looks amazing – it looks like the ultimate in comfort food. One for me to try! Stephen
That looks delicious. Like proper home comfort food.
your recipes and the presentation always makes my mouth water! miss autumn all the time!
Growing up in the Northeast, I’ve never technically had a “hot dish” before. But count me in for anything with tater tots! This sounds so comforting and warming for cooler weather.
Tried this today – there is no mention in the instructions on what to do with the milk and carrots. I improvised and it everything turned out well, but maybe do a quick edit on the recipes instructions.