The Key is Layering

Sometimes I want dinner to serve several functions. Of course, I want it to be delicious, filling, and nutritious for me and my family. But I also love it when it leaves my nest smelling of bacon and warm and toasty throughout. And it's even better when I get my daughter involved and excited about it all. And that, my friends, is where this plate comes in:

Totchos, or nachos made with a foundation of crispy tater tots, are a great way to layer on fantastic toppings, work some bacon into the mix, and leave your home nice and warm. Moreover, kids really love them. My daughter helps with some of the ingredient preparation, like chopping and dicing tomatoes and avocados or grating cheese. You'll probably have impatient little faces waiting at the dinner table, or if you're like me, you'll end up with a little helper when you set up your food photos.

Of course, you can tweak this recipe in a multitude of ways. Try using other seasoning ideas instead of the ranch dressing. All of the toppings were the result of me just having them on hand and wanting to use them. You can really mix things up with recipes like this, which is part of why they are great meals to make with your kids. When they get to pick out what goes on the tater tots, suddenly they are invested in the meal and you can quickly banish picky eaters. Feeding your family, warming your home, making it smell like bacon, and getting the little ones excited about cooking and eating? Before you know it, we'll have meals that was the dishes, too!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Totchos

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 medium onion, cleaned and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 lb. frozen tater tots
  • 1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
  • Diced avocado, for garnish

In a nonstick skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Using the same pan (drain some of the bacon fat off if there's too much left in the pan), sauté the chicken over medium heat. When it is mostly done, add the onion and pepper and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the chicken is cooked through. Add the ranch dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, bake the tater tots in a 450° F oven for 20 minutes, turning once about half way through. When the tots are done baking and the chicken mixture is finished. Carefully spread the chicken mixture evenly over the single layer of tater tots on the baking pan. Then add a layer of chopped tomato and sprinkle the top of the totchos with the grated cheese. Add the cooked, drained bacon to the very top and return to the hot oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sprinkle the totchos with fresh avocado immediately before serving.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes