Baking for Bookworms: Tater Tot Casserole from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park

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Food is supposed to make you feel good. It provides sustenance and is usually the conduit for good memories. But all too often, there are people for whom eating is not a positive experience. I feel so much for Eleanor and the abuse she and her family go through at the hands of their stepfather. I didn’t want to pick a food that was associated with a negative experience for Eleanor; one of the ways that Park is so good for Eleanor is that he and his family make her feel welcome (even if it takes them a while). This tater tot casserole is something Eleanor eats with Park’s family and in some ways it’s the perfect suburban food: it’s quick and easy, wholesome and filling.

“They hung out in his bedroom after dinner (Tater Tot casserole) and managed to sneak kisses while they looked through all of Park’s old school pictures. Seeing him as a little kid just made her want to kiss him more. (Gross, but whatever. As long as she didn’t want to kiss actual little kids, she wasn’t going to worry about it.)”                    260

Tater Tot Casserole

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or beef or chicken)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite seasoning blend
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 bag frozen green beans
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 16oz bag frozen tater tots

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

Brown the ground turkey, adding plenty of pepper, a little salt, and your favorite seasonings. Place in a bowl (no need to drain, unless you’re using beef) and add the cream of mushroom soup.

Cook the mushrooms and green beans until tender. Add to bowl. Mix together and place in an even layer in the bottom of the baking dish.

Add a layer of cheese on top of the meat and vegetables. Arrange frozen tater tots on top of the casserole. Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your tater tots. Cool for five minutes and then dig in!

 

Women Writers Reading Challenge #55: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor & Park may well be the most moving story that I’ve read in a long time. Rainbow Rowell handles the exhilarations and complications of young love deftly and sensitively, knowing that while these relationships may be short lived, they’re every bit as real as the ones undertaken by older adults. Eleanor’s living situation, while challenging to read about, is a fundamental emphasis on something that we instinctively know–that everyone needs love and acceptance and safety.

Though the book is emotional, the feelings develop organically. Rowell shies away from sentimentality and delivers a book with raw, potent power. I’ve had this book on my list for a long time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. This book might make you cry, but it’s a must read for anyone who wants to be young and in love, who is young and in love, or remembers what it was like to be young and in love. A great book.