It is officially the beginning of fall, that time of year where I shiver all the way to school in the mornings and blast the AC on the way home (so confusing). I love fall, though, and I know I’m not alone. There is something so refreshing about the crisp air, frosty mornings, and colorful leaves.
Fall brings another reason to celebrate: FOOD! (“Wait, Rachel,” you may ask. “Isn’t every day a reason to celebrate food?” Why yes! But just let me pretend that I have a legitimate reason to celebrate food on this particular day.)
In particular, fall is football season and comfort food season. Friends and family gather to watch football games on Sundays from now until later in the winter, and having an easy appetizer or two to throw together is a must. The crisper air also means those creamy comfort foods just taste that much better. Plus I’m sure our bodies are just helping us to prepare for the harsh North Dakota winters by really making us crave things like mac & cheese, creamy soups, hearty meat sandwiches, and the like (that’s my excuse, anyway. Survival, man).
To start, I’m going to share a recipe for Cowboy Caviar. It is actually my husband’s recipe. He has adapted it over time and isn’t even sure where he first got it. It’s a perfect appetizer for football season, as it makes quite a nice amount — perfect for sharing — and is also a little healthier than the usual Velveeta-based chip dip as it is chock full of veggies, beans, and delicious spices.
The second recipe I’m sharing today is a favorite classic around these parts: Tater Tot Hot Dish. (Yes, it is a “hot dish” and not a “casserole” because we are in North Dakota, darn it.) This is comfort food at its finest, and is a perfect recipe for a fall Sunday after church. It takes no more than a couple minutes to throw together and then bakes for a little under an hour, which gives you time to change out of your church clothes, do some Sunday chores, and prepare any desired side dishes. I found it years ago in my cookbook North Dakota: Where Food Is Love. I’ve adjusted it slightly, but the credit here goes to Marion Meether who contributed the recipe. Thanks, Marion! It really is a recipe of love.
1 can black-eyed peas, drained
1 can black beans, drained (my husband uses a can of black beans in chili sauce)
1 can corn with red & green peppers, drained
3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, diced
4 green onions, diced
Cilantro (hubby really can’t tell you how much. “Just put some in.”)
Juice of 1 lime, 2 for extra flavor (in a pinch, hubby uses lime juice from a bottle)
Chipotle spice to taste
Chili pepper/powder to taste
Mix all together in a serving bowl and serve with Wheat Thins or black bean tortilla chips (my personal favorite). You will not regret making Cowboy Caviar!!
Tater Tot Hot Dish
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg. dried onion soup mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans green beans
1 pkg. frozen Tater Tots
-Spread raw ground beef on the bottom of a casserole dish. I use a 9×13 metal baking dish. Just be sure whatever dish you use has a flat surface to ensure even cooking.
-Season the ground beef with onion soup mix – no other salt is needed. You can also sprinkle some water over the ground beef (about 1/4 cup) for a juicier casserole or if your hamburger is extra lean.
-Cover the hamburger with the cream of chicken soup. Spread evenly.
-Next, layer on both cans of green beans.
-Finally, top with Tater Tots – yep, the entire package.
-Bake uncovered at 350 degrees on the center rack in your oven for a little under an hour — about 50-55 minutes.
Optional add-ons: You can dice onions and add to the hamburger, add an extra can of green beans, top with cheese for the last 10 minutes, and/or serve with ketchup or sour cream. It goes great with mixed fruit and crescent rolls on the side!
Enjoy the fall weather and of course, some delicious fall eating!