Cooking for me isn't just food, it's nostalgia. Many of my earlier memories are of my Mom in the mid/late sixties in the kitchen making most things from scratch but still spoiling us occasionally with such goodies as Kool-Aid, Popsicles, Hostess products, Tater Tots and those little crinkle-cut oven fries which we got only on Friday night with the small steak from the home raised steer, sourdough toast, green beans and orange slices.
I was a big fan of the Tater Tot and as a kid was very disappointed to find out the lyrics to that Christmas Carol was NOT "Tater Tots with their Eyes all Aglow".
Mom had a couple of recipes that were made frequently in our house. One was called "Husband's Delight" that had a mysterious creamy/cheesy layer between two layers of noodles in Italian meat sauce. It was a great way to use up leftover meat sauce and that last couple cups of macaroni or pasta shells in the cupboard.
The second was hamburger and Walla Walla sweet onion fried up and mixed with cream of something and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and topped with tater tots. It was a typical Lutheran Basement Church Supper dish.
I had a bag of Schwans Crispy Taters (their version of Tots, a bit more expensive, but really good with no dairy or fillers for those so inclined).
What if I combine the tastier elements of both, but instead of an Italian based sauce, make a Sloppy Joe version? Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Bake (recipe in comments)
Sweet and savory homemade Sloppy Joe sauce with peppers and onions surrounding a garlic infused sour cream/cream cheese layer, and topped with crispy tater tots. It's nothing like Mom made, yet it was delicious and comforting, like the best of "Mom" cooking. It had a lot of flavor but was mild enough that kids should like it and won't even notice the extra veggies you stuck in the sauce. If you want to up the spice a bit, just add an extra shake or two of crushed red pepper to the sauce.
My husband had a big plate and said it was good enough I should share the recipe.
With some veggies as a side dish, it easily feeds six, wasn't hard to make and was assembled in this case, out of a mish-mash of little bits and pieces in the fridge so it was relatively inexpensive to make.