Tater Tots

Another food item my beloved J has a thing for, are tater tots.

Like Oreo’s, but in potato form.

Somehow, that just doesn’t sound right.

Anyhoo, I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit – and since it doesn’t take much to convince me to break out the deep fryer, I collected the few ingredients needed and had these ready in a flash.
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Make no mistake – these are miles away from the frozen variety you’ll find in the store, far superior in flavor and texture. Honestly, they aren’t time consuming or difficult to make, plus you can make them ahead of time and chill the prepared tots until you are ready to fry.

Because just about everything is better deep fried.

Including Oreo’s. 

Oh yes…..yes I did…. that post is coming up soon…….

Homemade Tater Tots – adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 3 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), scrubbed
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbs sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • Vegetable oil (for frying; about 3 cups)

Preheat oven to 400°. Prick potatoes all over with a fork and bake directly on oven rack until very soft when squeezed, 60–75 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Cut potatoes in half and scoop flesh into a medium bowl; discard skins. Mash, then mix in scallions, breadcrumbs, cream, sour cream, butter, granulated garlic, pepper, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Mix in eggs just until combined. Roll 1-tablespoon portions of potato mixture into balls.

Pour oil into a medium skillet to a depth of 1/2″ and heat over medium heat until bubbles form immediately when a little potato mixture is added. Working in batches, fry tots until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels; season with salt.

Hush Puppies

Having spent my formative years in Southern California, there are a few specialty food items I’ve come across recently that I am not familiar with.

Right off the top of my head, grits, chicken fried steak and kolaches are at the beginning of the list. And while I’m pretty sure they’re not native to Texas (that would be barbecue, I think), it’s been an interesting culinary adventure since we moved to Austin. And since I’m always open to new ideas and trying new foods, let the record show that I did try rattlesnake this year.

It was….. different… very, very different.

Anyway, slithering foods aside, when this recipe for Hush Puppies popped into my inbox, I was intrigued not only by the name, but the lore behind them. According to my research, they were thrown by Southern cooks to the dogs underfoot, to keep them quiet while food was being prepared.

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My question is, though, why would you throw a delicious chunk of deep-fried-crunchy-yummy-goodness to the dogs? Why should they get all the good stuff? Especially our dogs. One bite of people food and Daisy is sick for days.

That, however, is not a conversation for today. 

Or any day.

These however, were fun, addictive, and definitely not one for the dogs.

Hush Puppies – adapted from Saveur

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup melted butter
¼ tsp. hot sauce
1 medium yellow onion, minced
Canola oil, for frying

1. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, hot sauce, onion, and ¼ cup water. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir together with a spoon; let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Pour oil to a depth of 2″ in a 6-qt. Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375°. Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a ¾″-diameter round tip. Working in batches, pipe and cut 3″-long logs of batter into oil; fry until golden brown, 1–2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with salt and serve hot.

 

Cheesy Corn Casserole

Here is another recipe that we all enjoyed so much (and don’t want to forget about), that I decided to post it even though I don’t have a picture of it. However, if you really want to see what it should look like, click here.

Sabrina declared that this dish could only be improved with the addition of a crispy breadcrumb topping…. and I have to admit that she was right. If you take that route, I would recommend following the instructions and baking it in the oven. I actually put the entire mixture into the slow cooker and let it cook/bake that way.

Cheesy Corn Casserole – adapted from Saveur

4 slices bacon, finely chopped

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup flour
3 cups milk
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. paprika
3 lb. fresh or frozen corn kernels
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375°. Heat bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add butter and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, colby-cheddar cheese, and paprika, and cook until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in corn; season with pepper. Transfer mixture to a 9″ × 13″ baking dish and bake until top is golden brown and bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Eggplant Pizzas – and a lesson of perception vs. reality

Perception: a way of perceiving; awareness or consciousness

Reality: resemblance to what is real

The bottom line? One has nothing to do with the other.

I suppose you’re wondering by now why I’m illustrating the differences between the two words. Well, it goes something like this – more often than not, people’s perception of something is quite far removed from the reality of the situation. And I’ve learned that trying to explain the gap between the two points is futile, and usually ends up making things worse.

Case in point: Sabrina perceived that these eggplant pizzas would be just like eggplant parmesan. The reality was that due to the lack of breading and frying, these really are just what they appear to be – pizzas without the crust.

IMG_6627Class dismissed.

Eggplant Pizzas – adapted from a recipe by Julia Child

1 globe eggplant, about 8 ounces and 9-10 inches long
2 tbs. olive oil, for brushing eggplant before grilling
1 cup marinara sauce – may need more or less, depending on how much sauce you like
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese

10 large basil leaves

Cut off both ends of the eggplant and cut it into 3/4 inch thick slices. Brush the slices with olive oil, then grill the eggplant on both sides over medium high heat until cooked through but not mushy. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet, then spread a few tablespoons of sauce on the top of each eggplant slice and top with a generous amount of cheese. Put pizzas under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Top with a fresh basil leaf and serve hot.

Spinach Cheese Casserole

On the off-chance that I haven’t mentioned this before (or mentioned it several dozen times before), I am a certified cheese addict.

I am also certified as part-time lunatic, but I generally try and keep that under wraps.

ahem

So anytime I come across a recipe that involves copious amounts of cheese, I make it as soon as possible. In this case, it was the same day I found the recipe.

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And this did not disappoint us at all! Sabrina and I loved it because it was full of cheese and low-carb, Alexander and my mother loved it because of all the spinach, and my dad loved it because it was a casserole.

He also loved it because it was tongue-scorchingly hot, but that’s another story.

Spinach Cheese Casserole – original source unknown

  • 4 eggs
  • 24 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I use a combination of pepper jack and cheddar)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tbs. all purpose flour
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a medium size casserole dish and set aside.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, then pour into the casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden brown.

Farro with Sweet Peppers, Goat Cheese and Kale

There’s a funny story about this salad….

I didn’t actually eat it.

Ergo, I am unable to verify its edibility or inedibility.

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How’s that for a recipe recommendation?

Seriously, though, this truly is a fine example of simplicity at its finest, and I can’t wait to make it again so I can actually try it.

Farro with Sweet Peppers, Goat Cheese and Kale – adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup farro
6 tbs. olive oil
2 red peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced 3/4-inch thick
1 tbs. red wine vinegar1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Fresh ground black pepper
1 bag kale salad blend
2 ounces goat cheese

Combine farro and 4 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until farro is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. When done, drain farro in a colander and set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add sliced peppers and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers are tender, but still have some crunch, about 8 minutes. Add the vinegar and oregano and toss well to combine. Season to taste with black pepper.

Arrange the kale salad blend on a large platter. Sprinkle the cooked farro over the top. Lay the sauteed peppers over the top of the farro, then crumble the goat cheese on top of the peppers. Drizzle with more olive oil and black pepper.

Spinach Ricotta Pie

I feel like I really have the upper hand on the holiday “hustle and bustle” right now.

The lights are hung, decorations are in place, space has been cleared for the tree, several gifts have been purchased, and most importantly, I have Christmas Eve dinner all planned out.

Better kick up the workouts now…….

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One year ago: Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake and Apple Pie Bread

Spinach Ricotta Pie - adapted from The Modern Baker

1 2 lb. bag frozen chopped spinach – thawed and squeezed dry
12 oz. whole milk ricotta
5 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fresh ground black pepper

1 9″ prepared pie crust

Line a 9″ pie pan with the crust, crimp the edges, and chill while preparing the filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the  spinach, ricotta, eggs, parsley, and cheese, stirring after each addition. Season with black pepper, and then scrape the filling into the prepared bottom crust and smooth the top.

Bake the pie until the crust is s deep golden color and the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Cool the pie on a rack.

Vegetable Stew with White Cheddar Polenta

I’m confused……..baffled…….flummoxed…… and more that a little bit discombobulated. 

I am well aware of the fact that I have changed over the last four weeks. I’m happier than I’ve been in years, focusing on all the positive, letting go of the negative (and getting rid of negative people)… and what’s bothering me is the lengths at which people are going to express their discontent with my choices. I know that I can only control how I react to things that are said to me, but hey, I have feelings too.

I suppose that the majority of them are perplexed that I am taking charge of my life so firmly. This change was a long time coming – in fact, it started when I was in Italy. I distinctly remember the promises I made to myself – what I would do differently, how to go about achieving what I wanted, and taking the necessary steps to move forward.

And I guess it all comes down to the fact that it isn’t that these people don’t want me to be happy, it’s that they want me to continue to be the same way I used to be. Which isn’t possible. Times change. People change.

Make no mistake – I don’t feel guilty at all. In fact, even though so many changes have taken place recently, it is simply serving to energize me even further. Because even if everything doesn’t work out the way I want it to, I will be a better person in the end.

And that makes me a happy person indeed :)

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One year ago: Pumpkin Yogurt Spice Bread and Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Vegetable Stew with White Cheddar Polenta – adapted from food and wine

Note: I found this dish works best if you cook the vegetables one at a time until they are almost done, then combine everything and cook it all together for a few minutes at the end.

10 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large eggplant (about 1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1/2 ” cubes
3 zucchini, cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 red/orange bell peppers, cut into strips
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Large handful chopped fresh parsley
Large handful chopped fresh basil leaves
Fresh-ground black pepper
4 1/2 cups water
1 1/3 cups coarse or medium cornmeal
3 tbs. butter
2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Heat 6 tablespoons of the oil in the same pan over moderately high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat the process with the zucchini, and peppers.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in the butter, and then the cheese. Serve the hot polenta topped with the vegetables.

Baked Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Happy November 1! Can you believe it? As of today, the holiday season is officially under way, and before you know it, 2013 will be over.

I am very excited about that. The holiday season, that is.

really……..I am….don’t look at me like that…..

This truly is my favorite time of year. Decorating the house, baking, cooking, family, friends…….lots of things to be thankful for.

Especially the food part. 

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One year ago: Homemade Biscoff Cookies

Baked Spaghetti Squash Gratin – adapted from the kitchen is my playground

  • 1 (4) lb. spaghetti squash
  • 1 large jar marinara sauce
Gratin:

  • 1 (15 oz.) container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
For the Squash:
Pierce squash several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender.  Cool. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds.  Use a fork to scrape the inside flesh of the squash into spaghetti-like strands.  You should end up with about 6 cups of strands.
For the Gratin Topping:
Place all gratin topping ingredients in a mixing bowl; stir to combine.
For Assembly and Baking:
Place spaghetti squash ‘noodles’ in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Pour sauce evenly over squash.  Place cheese mixture on top of sauce and spread it with the back of a spoon to evenly cover the sauce.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until heated through, bubbly, and lightly browned.

Potato Pie

When I look back to my previous blogging days, sometimes I am amazed at how ambitious I was. I mean, I was cooking, baking, and blogging every.single.day.

Which was/is a lot of work, if you stop and think about it. Taking the photos, cropping, editing, writing, proofreading…..phew! But I enjoyed it because it was my escape at a time when my personal life was very………unsatisfying.

Enough about that.

So when I get a bit frustrated for not posting/cooking/baking more often, I remind myself that way back then, I didn’t have a job outside the home….or two teenagers with active social lives.

But most importantly, what I have now is a blissful life that I’m enjoying more than anything. :)

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Life is for the living – and live in the moment.

One year ago: “Worth the Wait” Waffles “

Potato Pie – adapted from food and wine

2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes (about 5), peeled and halved
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, drained and chopped fine (about 1 cup)
4 tbs. olive oil
Fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 pound grated fontina (about 3 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Heat the oven to 450°. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and put them back into the saucepan. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring and mashing, until the potato starts to stick to the pan, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil and a pinch of pepper. Remove from the heat.
Oil a large baking sheet. Spread the potato mixture onto the baking sheet, forming two 6-by-11-inch rectangles. Top the potato with the fontina, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle the garlic over the cheese. Top with the drained tomatoes followed by the oregano and Parmesan. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake the potato pies in the lower third of the oven until the cheese is bubbling and the edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes.