Green Onion and Cheddar Tater Tots

Tater Tots are always tempting and delicious, but when you are lucky enough to encounter homemade, from scratch tots it is truly time to pull out the stretchy pants. Pig out especially when you run into a flavor of tot that excites you!!!

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My first time out of the tater tot gate was reserved, I found this recipe and played around with the flavor profile just a bit, as I wanted to master the basics first and then move on to the extraordinary adventurous tots.

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This recipe came from Serious Eats, I just slightly modified it.

Ingredients
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced 1 inch pieces
1 quart vegetable oil
½ tablespoon green onion, sliced thin
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ cup shredded cheddar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

Procedures
Place potatoes in a bowl of cold water and agitate for 10 seconds. Transfer to fine mesh strainer and allow to drain for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in large wok or Dutch oven over high heat to 350°F. Fry potatoes, stirring them with a wire spider until light golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes, adjusting flame to maintain oil temperature. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

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Transfer 1/4 of the potatoes to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until broken down into rough 1/4 to 1/8th inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses. Transfer to a mixing bowl and repeat with the remaining potatoes, working in three more batches.

Add sliced green onions, onion powder, shredded cheddar, salt, starch, sugar and black pepper to taste, and any flavorings if desired. Gently mix with your hands to combine. Shape into cylinders about 3/4-inch wide and 1-inch long.

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Reheat oil to 350°F and add Tater Tots. Allow to fry for 1 minute, then gently agitate with a metal spider to separate them. Continue to cook, adjusting flame to maintain heat, until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season immediately with salt. Serve hot.

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Artisan Tater Tots- what more can you want….. These are a great way to involve the family, the kids will love to help out and play with the “playdough”. Anytime kids hands have fun in the kitchen is a win for their future!

Food Blog Forum 2013, Being a Guest at Walt Disney World

I had the great fortune this last weekend to attend the Food Blog Forum again.  The conference is kept small in amount of  attendees to keep in more intimate and really provide an educational, networking conference.  In fact, the registration was full and wait listing bloggers within 10 minutes of the start time.  The fact that the event was being hosted at Walt Disney World made it even more valuable to me.  The technical and creative tips that came from such a talented group and the friendships that were made and deepened, made the Food Blog Forum were a huge payoff to my blog, but the excellent guest service provided by Walt Disney World gave back tenfold to my professional work.  Very reaffirming to be a guest experiencing the magic you try to provide daily.

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The conference was produced by Food Blog Forum with Jaden & Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Todd & Diane of White On Rice Couple, Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen and Lindsay Landis of Love & Olive Oil and sponsored by Walt Disney World, Florida Milk, KitchenAid, and OXO.  Without these organizers and sponsors the community would not exist- Thank you to all!!

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The opening reception was held at the Grand Floridian Convention Center- I knew it would be top notch- with the Grand Difference! My husband, who works at this convention center was super excited for us to see the creativity and mouth watering dishes being offered at the reception.  Chef Larry and his team did an amazing job, presentations were gorgeous.  If only there was more time to try it all.

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I love the detail of these spheres- truly represent the detail that the Grand Floridian offers!  The next morning started off with a light continental, light enough the lobby was glowing with the fruit! Elegance upon arrival!

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The lunch was a combination of decadence and Mickey Check items- a great idea to showcase the well balance offerings of the Walt Disney World Resorts.  The chefs were all great, happy to engage and discuss the items they were showcasing, as well as the idea and development behind them.

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Here is what the Disney Parks Blog says about the new Mickey Check Initiative-

Part of the Disney Magic of Healthy Living initiative, the tool was created to make it easier to identify nutritious choices that address family needs.   In order to receive the Mickey Check, kids’ meals and other items must meet Disney Nutrition Guidelines. The Disney Nutrition Guidelines align to the  U. S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and focus on contributing to a nutritious diet,  encouraging kid appropriate portions (with calorie criteria) and  limiting nutrients to avoid (e.g. sodium, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat).

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This definitely the way to make fish sticks! Fresh from Florida! And if you don’t want to make them, try the Flying Fish Café instead!

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The Chefs were excited to be there, happy to talk about their offering.  The Walt Disney World Chefs I know and work with love engaging with guests, in particular the guests that love food as much as we do!  Never hesitate approaching a Disney Chef, we love to talk about our passion!

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The conference was full of inspirational speakers, and overloaded with tips and tricks to work on in our blogs and life.  Pam, Karen, Marisa and all the magical Cast Members were wonderful, providing an experience that makes dreams come true!

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The closing dessert reception was held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, at overlooking the Fantasmic show.  The show is always a hit, but the food was what I was loving!  The team was exceptional- I loved being at this event, seeing our team showcase a well balanced, highly creative and impressively decadent dessert menu.

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Was super proud to be on this team- from the collaboration of menu writing to the planning and execution the team out did themselves.

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The Nitro Smorespheres was an idea we took a chance on that came out fabulous and are just at the beginning of there journey.

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It was a weekend to go down on the books, filled with learning’s, friendships and great food, all defining the community that comes from this group!!

Thank you to all!

The Art of the Grill Master- Fresh Ground Chicken Burgers with Ginger Slaw

There are a few foods that could be considered an “Art Form”, sushi, bread, soups to mention a few.  There is one that seems to be in almost every household- The Almighty Burger….often the muse of the head Grill Master.  Not every family has a Grill Master, but I bet most do.  In our case, my husband Wes is definitely holding this position. As the Head Grill Master, he doesn’t take this title lightly; every meal that come off his grill is in fact a piece of art.

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Wes has recently taken to grinding his own meats, so he can consider the ratio of fat to meat, the toughness of the cut, freshness of product, and type of meat, be it farm raised, local or organic or even the best deal of the week.  For real… he is in knee deep with developing the “absolute” burger.  In the meantime, we are eating superbly!

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One of his recent expeditions I was able to capture a recipe, and even add to it with a fresh made bun and slaw.

Chicken Burgers

  • 1- 3 pound whole chicken, deboned and ground
  • or
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 4 teaspoons fresh sliced jalapeño
  • 2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoon favorite all-purpose seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
  • 4 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.  Allow the mixture to sit for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.  Preheat your grill or prepare your charcoal while scooping 8 -½ cup (4 oz) portions and form patties.  When your grill is hot, cook burgers until they reach the safe temperature of 165.   Serve and enjoy!

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The chicken burger was packed with flavor, and very juicy.  So often burgers made with poultry tend to be dry, but he balanced the breast meat, thigh meat and skin perfectly.

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While Wes was preparing his inspired burgers and the dough for my buns was rising, I took to creating a salad to top the patties.  I love the crunch of a slaw on sandwiches, the texture and acidity adds a great depth.

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Ginger Slaw

Dressing

  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 2 teaspoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Slaw

  • 2 cups sliced cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons julienned carrots
  • 3 tablespoon sliced celery
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger

In a small bowl, add the ingredients for the dressing and stir together until creamy.  Combine raw ingredients in a mixing bowl, add the dressing and toss well.

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As in most art forms, the artist is rarely satisfied, but his fans are often thrilled and overwhelmed.  So while Wes continues on his search to find the “absolute” burger, and carries his reign as Grill Master, I will sit back and enjoy his artwork!

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I’d say this Grill Master is truly an Artist!

White Chocolate Bread Pudding- Straight from DAK Catering Recipe Book

I mentioned that I started my culinary career at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK) Catering department.  It was a super small team- at most 7 people.  We got to be very close, and have always remained like family.  We executed amazing events that we surprised ourselves with.  Hundreds and thousands of guests were fed out of a tiny little kitchen and with a pretty green bunch of cooks.   Luckily we had a few veterans that led us, and gave us all a great culinary foundation.  

Full of good memories and full of amazing food!  My favorite recipe that I took away from “DAK Catering” is the White Chocolate Bread Pudding.  I love this- so perfectly sweetened, lots of rum and deliciously rich.   Loved it enough that when Sir Wes and I got married (he was one of the seven that worked with me); we served it at our wedding as a nod to where we met.

After 7 years of happiness, Sir Wes and I are still celebrating with it!  Happy Anniversary to the guy, that drove me crazy every day; and who later became my best friend and partner in life.
Ingrediants

  • 12 oz. loaf butter pound cake, few days old is perfect as it absorbs nicely
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup Myers Rum
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8- 1 oz. squares white chocolate, cut in large chunks
  • 8- 1 cup oven proof mini casserole dishes

Directions

Slice pound cake into 1 inch cubes and place evenly into mini casserole dishes.  In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, cream, milk, rum, sugar and cinnamon and blend well.  Pour even amounts into the casseroles, filling to almost the top.  Distribute the chocolate evenly around the casseroles, leaving a few pieces on the top of each dish.  Put the casseroles on a baking sheet in case they bubble over and bake for 45-50 minutes until center is set.   Best to serve right out of the oven as they soufflé up and look awesome with the rise.

Makes 8 servings. 

Putting the white chocolate on top lets it get nice and toasted- this is the best bite of the dish. 

I think to this day, we would all agree it was the best team we have worked with, and probably had the most pride in what was accomplished.  And this bread pudding is definitely the dish that has been most requested in my life. 

Cheers to a wonderful family born thru work, and a continued life time of happiness to my best friend.  Happy anniversary Sir Wes!

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

On the 8th Day of Christmas Cookies I remembered why I fell in love with Crackle Cookies a few years ago!  It is the season for Christmas cookies and at work many friends bring in plates of cookies to share.  It’s a great way to celebrate the holiday season and to try new types of cookies (and fall off the diet).  I fell for this cookie at first bite!

Good Things Come In Small Packages

There are a ton of recipes for the popular Crackle Cookie, some use dark chocolate, some semi-sweet chocolate, and some even add nuts- hazelnuts or pecans.  My favorite is simple with semi-sweet chocolate as these cookies are so rich. If you are a dark chocolate fan, you can just substitute bittersweet chips in place of the semi-sweet chips.

Of the many recipes for Crackle Cookies I have tried, the recipe below from Culinate is my favorite.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  •  ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  •  ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  •  3 large eggs
  •  1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  •  2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  •  1 ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  •  3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  ½ tsp. baking powder
  •  ½ tsp. kosher salt
  •  ¾ cup powdered sugar

Crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside!

Steps

1. In a large saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring frequently, until evenly melted. Set aside to cool down to warm, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and then, one at a time, the eggs. Stir in the vanilla extract and the espresso powder.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The batter will have the sticky consistency of brownie batter.

3. Scrape the batter onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap the dough into a large ball. Place in the fridge for at least two hours (up to eight hours) or in the freezer for 30 minutes, to firm up the dough.

4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper or silicone baking mats on cookie sheets.

5. Put the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Roll chunks of the chilled cookie dough into 1-inch balls, and then roll the balls in the powdered sugar until evenly coated. Arrange the balls about 1½ inch apart on the cookie sheets.

6. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (the baking time will vary, depending on how cold the cookie dough is), until puffed and cracked on top. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing the cookies with a spatula to wire racks to finish cooling.

7. Serve warm or at room temperature. Keep in an airtight container for a few days. (Do not freeze, as freezing makes the powdered-sugar coating soggy.)

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

I can’t believe I went so long in life without meeting this cookie! 

Chocolate Ginger Cookies- The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

I was so excited to participate in the first ever Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen.  It was fairly simple, I made and sent a dozen cookies to three participants and three other food bloggers sent a dozen to me!  Pretty easy, once I was finally able to decide on which cookies to send!!   Convinced by Sir Wes, I picked his favorite, Martha Stewart’s Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookie, these little guys have a lot of punch and are delicious! 

The kick in these cookies warm you up!

 They don’t last long in our house!!  If you prefer a lighter ginger flavor, you can cut the fresh ginger by half!

Chocolate Ginger Cookies Mise En Place!

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (cut by half if you want a mild ginger kick)
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

    Little Balls of Dough, dropped in sugar before baking.

Directions

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
  4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Warm and Decadent! Packed with Punch!

We look forward to these cookies all year! 

Sir Wes says these cookies "Have moves like Jagger!"

To ship cookies, check out this link, which offers great tips to keep your little gems safe and sound.  I packed up my cookies with plenty of cushion, using tissue paper and filler from the paper shredder. 

Ready to be shipped across the country!

Many thanks to Lindsay and Julie, the hosts of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, who spent many hours orchestrating  food bloggers across the world!!!  I hope  Also, the cookies I received from Kate, Eleana and Mackenzie were sinfully delicious, just amazing!!  If you would like to partipate next year in the swap, sign up for notifications here!

Let the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies begin!!!!