Cauliflower Tater Tots

Oven Roasted Cauliflower Tater Tots
I made a commitment in 2012, to drop a pound a month. I didn't succeed, though I got pretty close! I lost 10 pounds and it has made a world of difference in my energy level.

Diets don't work, at least not for me, but sadly admitting what it is that makes me fat? Well, that seemed to do the trick this year. Because it's not the cakes and cookies that's a problem for me. It's the bread. And, potatoes. I'm slowly evolving into a potato. I get rounder and plumper every year. :(

So that's what inspired me to get creative with veggies. This recipe, which was adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe, is about half the calories of regular tater tots and it tastes better than the potato version! At least, I think so.

Cauliflower Tater Tots
1 large head cauliflower
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Deer Valley Oomph*

Begin by turning that head of cauliflower into 'rice.' Pop this raw veggie into a food processor and chop it up very fine, into teeny tiny rice-like pieces. If you live in the desert southwest (like I do) the air will dry out the cauliflower bits rather quickly. In more humid climates, spread the little cauliflower bits onto a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture.

And, then... Put the Cauliflower rice into a bowl, whisk an egg, pour that onto the cauliflower, stir in the Parmesan cheese. Using your hands, shmoosh these goodies into tater tot shapes. Spread onto a cookie sheet and bake @400 degrees (F.)

* TIP: Do not use low fat, low sodium cheese.  That's just bad, bad stuff. Fat and sodium contribute mightily to the flavor and texture of cheese. If you want to go that route, skip the cheese altogether. (I worked for Healthy Choice for many years and I know a thing or two about what goes into that crap.)

** Deer Valley Oomph is a southwestern seasoning that gives veggies a great flavor kick. I live in Park City, just down the road from Deer Valley Ski Resort, so this is an easy seasoning for me to find. If you're looking to create your own, try something like this:

Southwestern Seasoning Ingredients: 
  • 1/4 cup EACH: chili powder and onion powder 
  • 2 tablespoons EACH: ground cumin, ground coriander, dried oregano, dried basil, & garlic powder.


Simple Sugar Cookies

Back when I had a real job... whenever I wasn't doing a good enough job... my boss would crab at my lack of creativity and accuse me of taking a cookie cutter approach.

That was a confusing way to insult me because I've tried to make perfectly consistent cut out cookies since L was a baby and it's a whole lot harder than it looks.

This is my theory as to why most of us leave the creative cookie cutting to Pillsbury:

After we turn 40, we figure out that women's magazines are filled with re-touched photos of flawed people. Once we realize that Angelina Jolie could very well be fat and ugly in real life, we feel a whole lot better about ourselves.

For some odd reason, we haven't quite accepted the fact that food photography gets the same specialty treatment.

I can assure you it does. I once spent 16 hours at a photo shoot because an incredibly annoying art director needed the peas in the pasta salad to be placed in exactly the right spots.

Today, I'd like to encourage everyone to shrug off those ill-conceived notions of perfection. Haul out the cookie cutters, roll up their sleeves and think... Picasso, Dali, and Pollock ~ definitely Jackson Pollock!

Because there are a whole lot of creative masters out there who happily failed Art Class 101.

Simple Sugar Cookies Recipe
No matter how they look, they all taste delightful. This recipe makes 3 dozen average size cookies or 1 gigantic cookie sculpture (in case you'd like to pay tribute to Gaudi!)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1.25 teaspoons baking powder
How to:
  1. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in egg and vanilla.
  2. Add flour and baking powder in intervals. (Dough will seem too dry but it will improve when chilled.)
  3. Divide dough into four equal parts and refrigerate about an hour.
  4. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper, 1/4 inch thick for crisp cookies or 1/3 inch thick for soft cookies.
  5. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and and bake for 7-8 minutes @ 375 F.
TIP: Be sure to eat lots of cookie dough. This dramatically reduces the amount of time you waste baking the cookies.


Holiday Tea Breads

Daughter, L, is driving up here, this afternoon. (We say 'up' because she lives at the bottom of the mountain, and I live on top.) We've got a full, fun day of holiday baking ahead of us ~ dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies plus a special treat for the gals in my horse club.

I'm an Irish lass. Growing up, tea was big part of our afternoons. Relaxing with a nibble, not the high tea extravaganza those Brits are famous for. :)

Around the holidays, people drop by unexpectedly and it's nice to have a little treat when they come to call...

Tea Breads
* each one of these recipes makes 1 loaf.

Mix together....
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
Stir in... 
This is where you can get creative. Start with the basic recipe and then add a few extra goodies to make these breads absolutely delightful.

Chocolate Tea Bread:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
Peachy Tea Bread:
  • 1 cup chopped peaches
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Lavender Tea Bread:
  • 3 tablespoons lavender flowers
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • A simple sugar glaze is lovely on this one.  (2 cups powdered sugar and a little bit of water.)
Pour into a traditional-size bread loaf pan. (Use a spritz of cooking spray.) Pop this mess in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees, for about 1 hour. Use a toothpick to determine if it's done.

Then, brew up a pot of Earl Grey tea and...... enjoy!


Sweet Sausage and Grapes

Sausage, potatoes and... grapes? 
Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

Grapes play so well with hot and sweet sausages. Adding a light, fruity flavor to an otherwise greasy heavy meal. This is a fast, fast dinner that I love to make on a cold autumn night. In fact, I made it last night while I was listening to the wind howl and the rains come pouring down.
  • 3 tbs roasted garlic (those Christopher Ranch jars you can find in the supermarket.)
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces.
  • 1/2 lb. Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage + hot Italian Turkey Sausage. (I use turkey to lighten up the calories. You can use pork or chicken, though chicken is not as flavorful.) Bake these whole, or slice into bite-size pieces.
  • 2 cups red and green grapes.
  • Seasonings as you like it.
Stir the roasted garlic into the chopped potatoes. Spread the tators and sausages on a cookie sheet, drizzle with 1 tbs. olive oil and roast at 375 (F) until brown. About 30 minutes. 15 minutes into this baking time... add a couple of cups of grapes. Let them roast with the potatoes and sausage for another 15 minutes, or until everything is a lovely gorgeous brown, indicating it's time to eat me.

√ Add a little oomph with cayenne pepper.
√ Make it totally to die for by sprinkling a half cup of shredded Mozzarella or Asiago cheese over this mess 5 minutes before it's done cooking.

Buon Appetito!


Pie Pumpkins

They all look the same, lounging in the field. But, they were bred for different purposes, so buyer beware...

Jack O’Lanterns were hybridized to ward off evil spirits and provide a riotous good time when you steal them from the neighbor's porch and smash 'em in the street.

Heirloom Variety Pie Pumpkins are prized for their firm texture and sweet flavor. (Jacks are bland and watery.) The best pie varieties are Small Sugar, Winter Luxury and Rouge Vif d'Etampes.

If you're going to all the trouble* of making a pumpkin pie from scratch, you're obviously a romantic. So, purchase a Rouge Vif d'Etampes. It was the prototype for Cinderella's carriage and is sometimes sold as the Cinderella Pumpkin.

But, that means the time to make your pie just went from 4 hours to 4 months because you might have to grow this pumpkin yourself. I’ve never seen a supermarket sell anything but Small Sugars, though these are quite tasty, too.

PS! Pie Pumpkins are good for more than just pie. Click here for a fabulous Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe with gingersnap cookie and pecan crust!

* Good to Know: Canned pumpkin purée is one of the few items where canned product quality is about equal to fresh - though I've found NO documented cases where a can of pumpkin purée warded off evil spirits with any success.

* Rouge Vif d'Etampes means Deep, Red Pumpkin - which is a little misleading, since it's red/orange. Oh, how the French love to toy with anyone who can't speak the language...
* Buy seeds from Burpee - they invented this pumpkin, back in 1883.

Tuna Haters To Die For Tuna Marinade

Looking for a hot tip on how to serve tuna? Serve grilled chicken instead.
On Sundays, we round up the usual suspects and cook a special dinner. It's not easy. There's the 2 teenagers who prefer every meal be mac 'n cheese. There's the one happy little carnivore who thinks adding bacon to that mac 'n cheese might be dee-lish.

And, then! There's the pescatarians. Fish lovers.

I hate fish. Truly, madly, deeply hate fish.

Now I know what you're thinking... certainly not salmon. Everybody loves salmon. Indeed, they do! I can't begin to count the number of times people have invited me to dinner naturally assuming I would eat salmon.

If you must serve fish, please do it up right by deep fat frying in gobs of oil and maybe a little butter, too.
'Twas salmon that inspired me to manifest my hatred of fish into a life threatening allergy.

You see, if I tell people I don't like fish they're quite certain they can change my mind. "Oh, give it a try," they exclaim. "You'll love MY fish."

But, if I tell them I have an allergy...
I will surely die if I eat your fish...

Then they're way more understanding about the whole situation and typically cook up something truly palatable. Like a steak! 

This charade worked out well for many years. Right up until my daughter decided to become a [cringe, shudder] pescatarian. Because she knows the truth about me and my fish allergies. She knows I'm a big, fat liar.

Blue Fin Tuna is now an endangered species. One more grand reason never to serve it.
Last night, just to be nice to my sweet girl, I grilled tuna. I also made a giant vat of potatoes and a (from scratch!) chocolate cake so normal people, such as myself, wouldn't starve.

But then something strange happened. It smelled so delicious that I took a little bite. And, it's killing me to admit this but it wasn't half bad...

Tuna Haters To Die For Tuna Marinade:
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire
  • 1/4 cup minced roasted garlic
  • 4 tbs. crushed rosemary
How To ~
    1) Marinate 6 oz. tuna fillets for a couple of hours in this mixture.
    2) Grill fillets on very high heat, basting with the marinade.
    3) Then feed them to the cat and go buy yourself a cheeseburger.

    * Joking about the cat. This is a truly tasty recipe. If I like it, I imagine anyone would.


    2 Die 4 Chicken Enchiladas

    Just returned from a visit to New Mexico, where my cousin John John dazzled me (once again) with his legendary Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas. This time I was on the ball and asked him for the recipe.

    He is a fabulous chef. I gain weight just thinking about heading over there for dinner. But, this recipe, by far, is my absolute favorite. It's so tasty... I get cravings!

    Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Recipe

    • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
    • 2 cans green chile enchilada sauce
    • 1 can cream of chicken soup
    • 1.5 lbs. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 pound shredded pepper jack cheese
    • 2 red bell peppers, chopped into bite-size pieces 
    • 1 pkg. flour tortillas
    • Garnish with: 1 diced, fresh tomato, tossed with 1 tsp chili powder and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.
    How to...
    • In a big pot... combine chicken breasts and bell pepper with both cans of the green chile enchilada sauce. Simmer on the stove top until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Once cooled, shred the chicken.
    • Stir the can of cream of chicken soup into 1/2 of the green chile enchilada sauce you were cooking with. Add the shredded chicken and peppers to this mixture. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
    • Pour the other 1/2 of the green chile enchilada sauce you were cooking with into a 9 x 12 glass casserole dish.
    • Prepare the enchiladas, filling the tortillas with chicken and cheese, roll them up and put them in the casserole dish.
    • Sprinkle any remaining chicken and sauce over the tortillas, cover with remaining cheese. Garnish with diced tomatoes.
    • Pop this gooey mess into the oven and bake @ 350 (F) for 30 minutes. 


    The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook ~ Recipe Collection

    Book Give Away! 

    Do you own cast iron cookware? That's about all I use in the kitchen.

    If you're a fan, you're gonna LOVE this cookbook. With recipes like... HOT LAVA CHOCOLATE CAKE what's not to love?

    Leave a comment if you'd like to be included in the drawing for this delightful cookbook. :)

    The perfect sweet ending to a campfire meal.
    • 2 oz. square semisweet chocolate
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
    • 9 teaspoons flour
    Melt chocolate and butter, stir in the sugar. Add eggs; then flour. Spray a small cast iron skillet (so this delightful mess doesn't stick.) Pour in this ooey-gooey mess. Bake over hot campfire coals for 15-18 minutes. Or, in the oven at 350 (F) for approximately the same amount of time. (Use a toothpick to determine if it's done.)

    Serves 4 normal people, or one uncontrollable choco-holic. {That would be me.}

    * Update ~ this contest is now closed. Congratulations to Alyssa. I hope you love these recipes as much as I do. :)


    Hot Tips in Cold Places

    Yes, you're in my refrigerator but there's a pretty good reason for that! Do you store your green onions in water? If you do you'll hardly ever have to buy new ones. The green tops happily replenish themselves...