This dish had its origins. When I was a kid I went mostly to a small school called Manton Consolidated School. It was a K-12 school in the small town of Manton in the northwestern lower peninsula of Michigan. Each grade had about 50 students - so it was pretty small. I went there from second grade through graduation (moved away a couple of times but always came back) - thus from '82-'92 (really dating myself here!) Those were the days when the school cooks actually cooked the lunches. We did have pizza on Friday, we did have the breaded and fried meat sandwiches on Mondays, but our school cooks actually cooked a lot of our food, and some of that food was really good.
The school made something called Tater Tot casserole. As an adult I realize that tater tot casserole was not a rare thing that my school made up, it was something that had been around for a while, but the schools was the only time I ever had this yummy recipe. I loved the tater tot casserole that my school made, it was my favorite item on the menu!
Fast forward several years. I was in college at Purdue and my husband and I were living in Lafayette, Indiana. One day I started craving my school's tater tot casserole. These were the days before internet recipes were everywhere, so the only thing I had to go off of was my memory. This was were beef glop started, and I will say that everyone who has ever tried it has loved it! It doesn't look pretty, it doesn't sound pretty, but it sure tastes good! Here is the final recipe that we ended up with!
This will feed six people with some leftovers
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1T minced garlic
- 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained(make sure this is the smaller box not the larger bag)
- 1 bag of Tater Tots (I like to use onion flavored, but regular is just fine as well)
- 1 cup shredded co/jack cheese
- 2 small cans of cream of mushroom soup
- milk - to the right consistency.
To begin, open your bag of tots and put them on a baking sheet. Set oven to 400 and put tots in the oven right when you set it. Meaning, don't preheat the oven first, put the tots in there while it is preheating.
Next, chop your onion and put in a large frying pan (I use my electric frying pan for this dish). Add your garlic and ground beef and cook. Now, I usually use 96/4 ground beef so there isn't a lot of fat, if you use a higher fat content ground beef at this point you will want to drain off some of the fat, but not all. You want a small amount in the pan. With the 96/4 beef I don't drain it. At this point pull your tots out of the oven and add them to the pan, using your spatula to break them up into small bits. When those are broken up and mixed with the beef add your chopped spinach. Mix together and cook for about five minutes, stirring often.
Now add your cream of mushroom soup. Mix together well. Add some milk and mix. I never measured my milk, I just added "enough" to make it not soupy but moist. Finally add the cheese and mix well. Once the cheese has melted you are done! All my kids love this, such an easy way to get spinach into my children's diets!