Potatoes from the farm to your freezer

I spent my growing up years in an area where row crops were every bit as prevalent as wheat and hay fields. 
One of the most popular row crops (next to onions) happens to be potatoes. Some of our neighbors grew acres and acres of them. One year, as a fundraising project for our senior class, we went and picked up all the “cull” potatoes from their field and sold them for something like a $1 per bag by going door to door in our small town. That was not the most fun any 17-year-old ever had.

I also just happened to grow up in the same valley where one famous potato company started and continues today, known as Ore-Ida.

If you’ve ever stood in the freezer section at your grocery store and looked at the selection of frozen tater tots, French fries, or hash browns, you’ve probably seen Ore-Ida potatoes with their trademark red bag and distinctive logo.

Ore-Ida is  currently produced and distributed by the H.J. Heinz Company, now part of Kraft Heinz. The primary production facility for Ore-Ida is located in the community of Ontario, Oregon, that sits right on the border between Oregon and Idaho. The company once employed more than 1,000 people, but today has around 600 employees. 

Back in the mid-1930s, entrepreneurs and brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg began growing sweet corn in eastern Oregon. Their first company, Grigg Brothers, became one of the largest distributors of sweet corn in the United States. 

Then, in 1949, with financial backing from their brother-in-law Otis Williams, the brothers rented a frozen food plant located in Ontario, at the border with Idaho, and converted it into a potato-processing facility. The three men purchased the facility in the early 1950s. In 1952, Oregon Frozen Foods Company was founded. 

Initially, the company produced and sold frozen corn and French fries. In 1953, Tater Tots were invented and patented by Ore-Ida. The tots were made from seasoned slivers of potatoes left over from the French fry production. (Oddly enough, Tater Tots are the brand’s most popular product). 

The company went on to build a second plant in Burley, Idaho, where many of their potato fields were located. The company’s name became a syllabic abbreviation of the two states where they ran the companies and the original logo consisted of outlines of Oregon and Idaho with Ore-Ida superimposed in italicized letters. 

Ore-Ida was acquired by the H.J. Heinz Company in 1965. Ore-Ida’s headquarters were located in Boise, Idaho, until 1999 when a new frozen foods division was created at Heinz’s corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

So the next time you reach into the freeze for a bag of fries or tots, you’ll know a little history of the company of you bought the Ore-Ida brand. 

Of course, I have to share a recipe with you today. This one includes Tater Tots and is easy to whip together for a fast meal. 

Tater Tot Casserole

2 pounds of ground beef

1 package of Ore-Ida Tater Tots

1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese (or cheddar)

1 tsp. onion flakes (or grated fresh onion)

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup

1 teaspoon seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place tater tots into a 9 x 13 casserole pan (I lightly spray mine with non-stick spray first) and set in the oven while you brown the ground beef. I add the onion flakes, seasoning and salt and pepper to the ground beef. When the hamburger is browned, mix it with the cream of mushroom soup and spoon over the top of the tater tots. Layer on cheese and cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until soup is hot and bubbly. Remove foil and bake for a few more minutes until cheese is a melted layer of luscious gooey-ness. Remove from oven and serve. I like to sprinkle the top of my casserole with a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Captain Cavedweller likes his straight up “without any of that weird green stuff on there.”

What is your favorite fast or easy dinner recipe using potatoes?


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After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

73 thoughts on “Potatoes from the farm to your freezer”

  1. Emmmm good.I like to use shredded hashbrowns, cubed ham, beaten eggs, and shredded cheese to make a casserole. You can use leftover ham or crisp bacon broken up. About 1 pound. Any cheese you like can be used. About 2 cups. Mix some in with the hash browns (1 bag still frozen) and meat choice and about 6 beaten eggs. Put the remaining cheese on top. Salt and pepper as you want. Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese is Browning.
    Can vary any to your tastes. Can serve with hot sauce, salsa, catsup, etc. I add diced jalapenos or diced green chili peppers. Mix in or serve on the side.

  2. Good morning Shanna- Thanks for the amazing history of ORE-IDA, that’s so cool you have it right smack dab in your neck of the woods. I love the recipe thanks for sharing. I like to take a baking potato slice it all along the top into (I slice the width, not length wise) then I put butter in between the slits and add Morton’s nature seasoning. Then wrap it in foil just like you would a bake potato. I then bake it. It doesn’t take as long and the butter and seasoning cooks right in for a delicious baked potato.
    You have a great day, love and hugs from KS.

  3. Found this a very interesting bit of history. We make are tater tots casserole with either corn or green beans. One way I could be sure my kids est veggies. Thanks for sharing.

    • Well who knew where the brand, Ore-Ida came from?!?! Thanks for the fyi on it, I love learning these little tidbits! It seems so obvious now.

      I have a question for you about your recipe. I have a child that refuses to eat Mushrooms, crazy kid, she can locate them in anything I swear. So being a fellow cook, what soup would you use to replace the cream of mushroom soup in this recipe? She’d love it except for the soup in the recipe.

      Our favorite easy are just loaded baked potatoes or soft fried potatoes with onions. We do love a good potato soup in the winter though. This is one of the many recipes I use and one of the easiest.

      My Grandma’s Old Fashioned Potato Soup-
      2 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks (about 1-1/2 inch)
      1/2 cup of chopped sweet onion
      1/2 cup chopped celery
      3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
      1/4 to 1/2 cup (1/2 to 1 stick) salted butter
      Water to cover
      1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk or 12 ounces of heavy cream

      Shredded cheese, for garnish, optional

      Toss the potatoes with the onion, celery, flour and salt and pepper; set aside for about 10 minutes.

      Meanwhile melt the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the potato mixture to the pot; stir to coat. Add enough water to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil; stir in the milk, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally about 25 to 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Taste, adjust salt and pepper, and continue cooking on simmer, uncovered, until the soup reach desired consistency and thickness. Garnish each serving with shredded cheese.

      Loved your blog!

      • Hi Stephanie,
        Fun stuff, right? I love finding little tidbits of history like that and I learned some things about Ore-Ida I didn’t know before.
        I’d substitute cream of celery for mushroom. Captain Cavedweller despises mushrooms but hasn’t noticed I add the soup to his favorite casseroles!
        Thanks for sharing the potato soup recipe. Sounds delish!
        Thanks so much for stopping in today!

  4. I don’t have a particular potato recipe because any way you fix em, they are gooood! Thank you for sharing your great post.

  5. My hubs loves Ore Ida tater tots so I usually always have a bag in my freezer. Hubs loves hamburger scrambled up with potatoes into a hash. One day he wanted that for supper and I was out of regular potatoes so I decided to toss in some tater tots and scrambled them in the hamburger and hubs loved the flavor the tots added. So I started using the tots when I made hash from then on. I definitely was not going to complain for that meant no more peeling and chopping of a raw potato and on top of that it cut the cooking time way down as the tots didn’t require near the time to cook as the regular potato did. I love the Ore Ida brand best in frozen potatoes as I have tried other brands but none can compare to the quality of Ore Ida . Really enjoyed your history lesson today on the Ore Ida company. Hope you have a blessed day Shanna love and hugs!!

    • Hi Glenda,
      Oh, that is neat you use Ore-Ida products. They really are top-notch. And how fun how make your hash with the tots! My mom used to make hash with leftover roast cut into bite-sized pieces that sounds similar.
      Hope you have a beautiful day! Hugs!

  6. I had no idea where the name Ore-Ida came from. Now it makes sense. I do love tater-tots but didn’t realize they were actually the left over potatoes from the fries. My favorite quick and easy use of potatoes would be mashed potatoes. I could eat them for any meal.

    • Hi Janine,
      My husband loves mashed potatoes and my dad claims they are just a reason to have more gravy. 😉 It’s fun learning about the Ore-Ida history.
      Thank you for popping in today!

  7. Interesting post. I will have to try your tater tot casserole it sounds really good. I am not a big fan of tater tots but husband loves them. I would rather have french fries.

  8. that is what we buy oreida my husband like the steak fries, and i don’t think they make them anymore, but they use to make cheddar hash browns they were so good, especially when you used them in a casserole. lol

  9. Shanna, how cool that you lived in the valley where Ore-Ida began! And I never knew the name was for Oregon and Idaho. How cool is that? Love, love the recipe. It’s a classic. Oh, I made that so many times when my babies were home. A family favorite!

  10. Mom isn’t crazy about potatoes, so I don’t have any quick recipes using them. I LOVE potatoes, though!! I take after my Daddy. I buy the Publix brand of tator tots, as they’re just as good, and a lot cheaper!! I may have to try some of these recipes, though!! They all sound good!!

  11. Oh Shanna, you brought back some wonderful memories and the recipe is so special to our family. Our girls grew up on it, as did their daddy and the whole Miranda family. My precious mother-in-law, who I’ll always love, used to fix this casserole for us. My girls loved it and I prepared it a little, but not like their Mimi did. What a wonderful memory. I know you’re traveling and will get back to comments when you get to the hotel, but I bet everybody will be patient and wait for your comments. Have a safe trip and thanks for the memories … isn’t that an ol’ classic song? LOL A big hug and thanks, Phyliss

    • Hi Phyliss,
      I love that this recipe brought back sweet memories for you. My mom was never big on making casseroles, but I love anything I can throw together in a pan for an easy meal. So cool your girls grew up on it.
      And thank you! I will catch up with more comments later!
      Have a great day!

  12. I have a wonderful potato kugel recipe which I make every fall for the entire family to enjoy. It was from my grandmother whose cooking and baking skills were superlative.

  13. During the fall and winter I make a mashed potato casserole with herbs, veggies and get it crispy. What a delight this is.

  14. I was on a Heinz panel and helped develop the change in the logo.

    I like sauteeing potatoes and adding them to a frittata. Quick, easy, and tasty.

  15. Well, mashed potatoes or potato gruel (you just need to add more milk than you would add to mashed potatoes. With potato gruel I would eat meat pie (just write Finnish meat pie, Finnish Minced Meat Pie or Finnish hamburger pie to Google, you’ll get different Finnish meat pie recipes). With mashed potatoes I would have meat balls or maybe some kind of fish and Karelian pasties with egg butter: https://finland.fi/life-society/finnish-recipes/

    Egg Butter:
    3 hard boiled eggs
    3.5 oz butter or margarine
    Salt (if needed)

    Mash peeled hard boiled eggs with butter or margarine with a fork or a knife until eggs are broken up and mixture is spreadable. Salt to taste.

    Serve on warm Karelian pastries, bread or potato rieska.

  16. My mother used to make the most delicious home made fries when we were young. I have never tasted anything like that ever again.

  17. I have always put the Tater Tots on top of the casserole. I’ll have to try your recipe.

    I did know the Ore-Ida story since I live in the middle of “potato country USA” which used to be one of the Washington Potato Growers’ promotions. I was told once by one of our local feedlot managers that they always know when the frozen French fry processor is running fries for McDonald’s. Their standards are so high there are more culls to go to the feedlot for cattle feed than when they are processing for other companies.

    • Hi Alice,
      Oh, that’s so interesting about them running fries for McDonald’s. I wouldn’t have thought about that. And yes, I do believe they trademarked Tater Tots.
      Thank you so much for stopping by today!

  18. Hi Shanna! Ore-Ida was the brand I grew up with, but back then there weren’t nearly the choices that we have now from them! I think “back in the day” when I was little Mom would buy the plain french fries, and then sometimes the crinkle cut ones. I don’t remember her buying tator tots then, but that might be because my dad might not have been a fan. I remember eating those left-over Ore-Ida potatoes (and we made them in the deep fryer, full of greasy goodness!) for breakfast the next morning. SO GOOD! Loved your post and I think that recipe sounds wonderful and quick!

  19. Hi Shanna … I like potatoes mashed, deep fried, baked with olive oil and seasoning until crunchy, and in casseroles. But, on days I’m short of time, I like to raw fry them. Of course, loaded them up with bacon, cheese, broccoli, onions, etc. Such an interesting read today Shanna. Thank you for the recipe, which is similar to a hot dish recipe I make in the winter. You know us Minnesotans and our hotdishes!

    • Hi Kathy,
      There are so many tasty ways to cook up potatoes (but I’m always a fan of adding bacon and cheese!). Love your comment about hot dishes. So fun! We have some friends who grew up in Minnesota so yes, I get it. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping in today!

  20. This is so very interesting, Thank you for sharing. I make tacos with either ground pork or ground hamburger meat, I add some small diced potatoes to it and they come out very good. All I add to the meat is the very small diced potatoes, garlic salt, and pepper to it. It is an easy meal . Thank you for this information , I really like the Ore – Ida fries, or the tater tots. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  21. Very interesting blog Shanna. Honestly Ore-Ida, I never realized that meant Oregon and Idaho. If it was on their packages when I used to cook I never noticed it.
    I love tater tots and used them all the time, now I don’t remember ever using
    them in a recipe, but scalloped potatoes was one staple in our house growing up and I have made that before but I probably just used mom’s recipe. I can’t remember that either. LOL

    • Hi Dorothy! So fun to see you here today. It is neat about the name being for the two states. Scalloped potatoes are delicious! What a tasty staple to have at your home!
      Thanks for stopping in!
      Happy Autumn!

  22. I like the hash brown potato casserole found on the back of the frozen hash brown potatoes bag. The recipe can be found here: https://www.hy-vee.com/recipes-ideas/recipes/ore-ida-cheesy-potato-casserole. It is quick, easy and very popular as a pot luck dinner dish. That is where I first had it and I have made it since. If you have to cook for a large group, it is easy to multiply the recipe accordingly.
    Thanks for an interesting post. I never really thought about the origins of the Ore-Ida name. Really obvious when you look and think about it. Thanks for the information this week.

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