Foodie In Training

Monday, April 26, 2010

Homemade Tater Tots: Fact or Fiction?

Who doesn't love tater tots? They are one of my favorite foods. Never mind that they are probably over-processed, full of chemicals, fried, and frozen. They.Are.Awesome. To be honest, if I have the opportunity to eat tater tots, I'm not really concerned with their ingredients and what makes them so good. What I'm concerned about is ordering and eating my freakin' tots..fast! :)

It's kind of rare to see tots on a restaurant menu. I will order them at any and all restaurants that have them on their menu, no matter what. It's definitely not very foodie-like but I don't care!

A few weeks ago, while enjoying some happy-hour adult beverages, Ryan, our friend Thad, and I were discussing Tater Tots and if they could be made at home. A few questions arose from this very serious discussion:
1. How would you go about making a tot?
2. Is it worth it?
3. Is buying the frozen, bagged kind the only way to go?

I've done a little investigating and there isn't a lot of information on how to make Tater Tots. There are Tater Tot casseroles and Tater Tot bakes, and OMG there is such a thing as Maple Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots....but very few homemade tot recipes. And by very few, I'm saying that I only found like two seemingly legit recipes.

So, my good foodie friends, I'm on a quest to find a homemade tot recipe (Or make one up if it comes to that) and make me some tots!

Any thoughts on some good resources? I'm going to consult some cookbooks and do some online sleuthing and see what I find. This is just the beginning, I wanted to get you all involved so this quest can be truly appreciated and hopefully victorious!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Best Tacos Ever: Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw

Seriously. I'm not being dramatic, I'm not being biased. These tacos are the best ever.

I found the recipe on my FAVORITE food blog, Smitten Kitchen. Normally, this is a vegetarian dish, but we decided to add ground beef this time. The recipe says to mash the black beans (we just use a fork) so it thickens into a bit of a paste. Once the ground beef is cooked and the fat drained, we add the black beans. The heat softens the mashed beans and makes the ground beef and bean mixture thick without adding one of those taco seasoning packets. The recipe calls for cumin and we also added cayenne, garlic powder, and taco seasoning (which is just a mixture of paprika, onions, more cumin, oregano, and allspice). In the past I have also substituted the taco seasoning for chili powder, or Hungarian hot paprika.
The star of the tacos is the feta and cabbage slaw. I could seriously eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It's fresh and crunchy with a little bite from the lime and hot sauce. And, it's one of those things that just gets better the more it sits in your refrigerator. I recommend buying a large cabbage and making a big batch because you'll want more after the tacos are gone. Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of the recipe calls for about 2 tablespoons (or more) of lime juice. I'm on the "or more" team. I use the juice of about 2 whole limes..or more. I really like a ton of lime juice. I think it enhances all of the flavors and also provides a nice contrast to the feta cheese.

As you can see in the photos, we did not make our tacos crispy. The first time I made them, I pan fried each tortilla in a little olive oil and man was it good. I definitely recommend it. But, if you are feeling lazy or just short on time, regular soft tortillas are fine, or you could use the store bought hard tacos. This recipe is so user-friendly, you can do whatever you want.
Oh black bean tacos, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. You are so easy and fast.
2. The recipe is very simple and wide open for being creative and adding your own twist!
3. Wallet friendly- black beans, tortillas, cabbage, lime, feta, cilantro, a bit of olive oil. These are the main ingredients..trust me, they don't add up to very much $$.
4. You go so well with a tasty adult beverage...especially of the Mexican variety.
5. You are even better the next day! (If there are leftovers)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

20 Minute Meal!

I have a new work schedule. Two nights a week, I work 5 p.m.- 9 p.m. It's been an interesting adjustment. On said days, I try and eat before work..but I'm not hungry for dinner at 4. I usually have just eaten lunch at 1 or 2. If I don't eat, I'm famished when I get home at 9:30 and proceed to snack my way through the girl scout cookies, chips and salsa, pickles, etc. Pretty much anything in site and that's not really a meal. Is it? So anyway, now I'm trying to eat a light meal before work and then have a small snack in the evening.

I was getting ready for work the other day and trying to decide what to eat. The clock said 3:40 and I had about a half hour to make dinner, eat, and head to work. I decided to use a spaghetti squash that had been collecting a little dust in my pantry and throw together a fast, healthy, filling meal that also makes plenty of leftovers for later!

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato and chickpea sauce:

Twenty minutes and 6 easy steps. The clock says 3:45...Ready..Set..Go!Step 1:
Pierce spaghetti squash with knife about 6 times all over the squash. Put in the microwave for about 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of the squash). Rotate about 3 times during the microwave process. I usually just lay the squash on a few paper towels, but we were out, hence the plate.
Step 2:
Chop one red onion and saute with olive oil on medium-high heat until soft. Add chopped garlic after about 3 minutes.

Step 3:
Chop and add any ingredients you want. This is the fun part!! You can get real creative and use common items in your pantry. I always use canned tomatoes (usually two cans) and a can of beans. I've used garbanzo, black, and cannellini beans. Tonight, I had one zucchini and some canned mushrooms so I threw those in! In the past I've also added green pepper and carrots.

Step 4:
Let all the ingredients cook and get to know each other in the pan. I also start adding some seasoning at this point. This is another way to be creative! I LOVE cumin. I can't get enough of it. And it seems to work really well with my base of ingredients. So I always add cumin and some hot paprika. Salt and pepper are always a must. For a little color and some fresh flavor I usually go with parsley. Fresh is always best, but dried will work.Step 5:
When the spaghetti squash is done, remove from the microwave, let it cool for about 5-10 minutes. Because I was on a time crunch, I let it cool just enough so I could handle it and I sliced it in half. I scooped out the seeds and then proceeded to spaghetti the squash. :) The great thing about spaghetti squash is once you slice it in half, all you have to do is comb the fork along the squash half and it comes out in spaghetti-like strands..Hence the name.Step 6:
Plate! See how many leftovers this makes? Ryan had some of the leftovers for dinner later and we finished it off the next night and served it with grilled steaks.
And what time is it!?
I mean, how quick and easy is that? It's healthy and filling too. I even had time to clean up and I made it to work with time to spare!

Move over Rachael Ray! This is a 20 minute meal...beat that! Actually...Rachael..you can just go away. (She bugs the crap out of me)