Sunday, February 26, 2017

Memphis BBQ Pork Totchos

Oh my goodness!  What a fun surprise these turned out to be!

A tater tot take on nachos.  Subbing the tots for tortillas and adding some pulled pork, cheese, and some crunchy slaw.  A great game day treat or a busy day entrée.  Easy peasy and quick using prepared ingredients.

I omitted the jalapenos,  but definitely added the slaw.  Adds that great crunch and color.


1 (28 oz) package frozen bite-size potato nuggets (preferably extra crispy)
2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 cups cooked pulled pork in sauce, warmed
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup prepared coleslaw, optional
1 bunch green onions, sliced (1 cup)

Preheat oven to 425F.

Arrange tater tots in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes, then flip nuggets over and continue baking until extra crispy, 20-24 more minutes (NOTE:  I cooked mine according to package directions, about half the time).  Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler with rack 6" from heat source.  Top tots with cheese, pork, onion, and jalapenos.  Drizzle with BBQ sauce.  Broil tots until cheese starts to bubble, 3-5 minutes.  Top with coleslaw and green onions.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Meet Opie

I can't believe I forgot to introduce you to our newest!  Our first little boy puppy dog, Opie!

I went to a craft show back in December and a local rescue group had a tent set up.  When I saw this little guy I just wanted to scoop him up.  But figuring he was  too cute and would certainly be adopted, I left my name and number just in case.

Well, about 5:00 that night the phone rang.  And so guess who had a new home.

We don't really know how old he is, probably somewhere between 1-3, definitely still plenty of puppiness in him.  He loves any kind of food, toys, walks, car rides, and playing with other dogs (he's particularly sweet on our neighbor's dog, Maggie).  I wish I could say the same for Lindie and Nellie.  He tries so hard to play with Nellie and she'll have nothing to do with him (Lindie and Nellie are at least 10-years-old). 

But just look at the mug!  He's even cuter and funnier in person.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Beet Salad with Toasted Pecan Vinaigrette

I've loved beets for as long as I can remember, probably because my Mom made the best pickled beets in the world.  And then years ago I worked in a restaurant where they served a salad with roasted beets.  Since then I've been roasting beets for salads and just to eat.

Recently I've been finding recipes for salt-roasted beets.  After learning that salt brings out natural sweetness in vegetables (try throwing a couple tablespoons of kosher salt in boiling water when cooking green beans to get the sweetest beans you'll ever eat), I thought I'd give this a try.  There were several methods from completely encrusting a beet to simply putting 1/4" of kosher salt in a baking dish, adding beets (ends pared, but unpeeled) then covering with aluminum foil and baking until cooked through.  I tried the latter.  To me, there was just a tad of difference in the way I baked them before (wrapped in aluminum foil like a baked potato) and the salt-roasted batch.  It really doesn't matter.  Either way you'll end up with a scrumptious roasted beet.

So.....when I ran across this recipe for a salad including roasted beets, it piqued my interest.  That along with my love for pecans.  And goat cheese.  Oh, and just to bump this simple salad one more notch, see if you can find Honey Goat Cheese (I get mine at Aldi's).  I could live on this salad alone.


Romaine, spring mix, spinach or a mixture
toasted pecans
roasted beets
goat cheese, crumbled (use honey goat cheese if you can for deliciousness out of this world)

Salad Dressing:
1/2 pecan halves or pieces
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp real  maple syrup (not breakfast syrup)
2 Tbsp chopped shallot
3/4 cup EVOO
water for thinning, around 1/2 cup
S&P to taste

Instructions for the salad dressing:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Place pecans on cookie sheet.  Bake the pecans, stirring occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, around 10 minutes.  Cool completely.  Coarsely chop the pecans.

In a high-powered blender or food processor, add pecans, vinegar, syrup, and shallots.  While blending, slowly add in the olive oil.  Blend until completely smooth.  Add water as needed to thin.

Season with S&P to taste.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pasta e Fagioli (Olive Garden)

I am a shameless fan of The Olive Garden.  Not often, but every once in a while nothing fills the bill like a lunch of soup and salad at TOG.

When I go, my soup of choice is always Zuppa Toscano.  Jim's is Pasta e Fagioli.  I never really care much for his choice, then several months ago The World's Best Neighbor brought me a batch she had made up from a copycat recipe.

I really liked it!  And I paired it with another copycat recipe for their salad dressing (I think this one is even better).

The recipe she gave me makes 9 quarts!!!  I cut it down to 1/4 of this.  See the original recipe if you want to make a ginormous batch.

PASTA e FAGIOLI (Olive Garden Copycat, makes 2+ quarts)

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef or turkey
3 oz chopped onions
4 oz chopped carrots
4 oz chopped celery
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 cup cooked/canned kidney beans (drained/rinsed)
2 3/4 cup beef stock
3/4-1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp hot sauce
12 oz spaghetti sauce
2 oz pasta (ditalini or small shells), cooked according to package directions
Grated Parmesan cheese

Saute beef or turkey in soup pot until browned.  Add onions, celery, carrots, and tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes.

 Add beans, beef stock, oregano, hot sauce, and spaghetti sauce.  Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.  Add parsley and cooked pasta.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Source:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad

This is a great anytime-of-the-year entrée salad.  Quick and easy, beautiful colors, and great textures.


2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tsp chile-garlic sauce
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp honey
S&P to taste

3-4 cups shredded cabbage (can use coleslaw mix for a bit more color)
3-4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 cans (11 oz each) mandarin oranges, drained
3 cups cooked, chopped chicken
3 green onions, chopped
1-2 cups chow mein noodles and/or
toasted chopped almonds

For the dressing,  whisk together all the ingredients and season to taste with S&P.  Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large bowl, toss together all the salad ingredients except for the chow mein noodles and/or almonds.

When ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine (add the dressing gradually if you like less dressing, you may not need any at all).  Sprinkle the chow mein noodles and/or almonds on top and serve immediately.

Friday, February 3, 2017


We finally finished having the interior of our house repainted.  My biggest project was my craft room.  It forced me to purge and re-organized.  It also helped me find some long-lost treasures.  I don't want to lose these again, so a few things I ran across I needed to post because I don't want them to ever be lost again. 

These won't mean much to you, but they mean the world to me.  So here goes (in no particular order):

#1 - Decades ago while living in San Francisco, I use to always look forward to reading Herb Caen's column.  It was a meandering column about life in SFO.  This particular paragraph came from sometime in 1985'ish and reads:

"I was about to say, "It's been years since I heard a good toast," when Irene Marks remembered this from out salad daze:  "Here's to the roses and lilies and bloom, you in my arms and I in your room, a door that is locked, a key that is lost, a bird and a bottle and a bed badly tossed, and a night that is 50 years long."  The old-timers did have a certain lavender style."

Lovely, isn't it?

#2 - Back in my high-school years, one of my first jobs was at a restaurant in Midwest City, OK called "Joshua's."  It was back in the late 70's and a time when "Fern Bars" were becoming the (those of us old enough) remember:  stained glass, ferns, old/worn signs.  In the restaurant, there was a framed saying and whenever I stopped and read it, I thought it was written expressly for my mother.  Thank goodness I had the sense to jot it down.  Through the years I had remembered a few of the lines, but when cleaning out my craft room, I ran across it.  Thank Goodness!!!!  To me, this was one part of my mother's life I will always remember.  I wish I could credit the author.  It's like it was written about Momma:

I used to love to hear the
   of Mom's old treadle
With her feet and fingers
   she could whip up
And many times at
   we'd announce without a
   "Hey Mom! I need a
      for our pageant in
      the morning!

#3 - Oh!  This one goes back even further!  There were two fellows who were friends back in Midwest City.  Drama friends.  And oh so funny!!!  These were the kind of guys and you have to think, "Where the heck did they come up with this?!!!"  So unless you knew them or someone like them you may wonder "why does Kay think this is so funny?"  Personally, I think it was brilliance.  We all had the whole thing memorized.  Forty-something years later I still get a kick out of it (oh, and by the way, David Singer also got a hoot out of one of "The Millionaire's" beneficiaries name which was "Myra Putnam."  He just thought that was the quintessential black & white television character's name!)

So, here goes:

1 hen
2 ducks
3 squawking geese
4 limerick oysters
5 corpulent porpoises
6 pairs of Don Alberto tweezers
7 thousand Macadonians dressed in full battle array
8 brass monkeys from the sacred crypts of Egypt
9 sympathetic, apathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a definite mark of propensity towards procrastination and sloth
10 lyrical, spherical, diabolical demons of the deep who stall in the quo of the quay of the quivey while eating a pepperoni pizza pie with persimmons and pastrami all at the same time.


One last gem to offend people in this politically-correct nation we've turned into.  Thanks to Archie Bunker in "All in the Family:"

re: an upcoming political election's "Balanced Ticket"


"Now that's what I call a balanced ticket.  You gotta Jew and a WOP and a Mick and a regular white guy.

Feldman: You know these people are good with money.

The Wop: can keep an eye on Feldman.  The one thing about those Italians: when you get an honest one, you really have something there.

The Mick: Can make sure the graft is spread equally.

The Regular American: is good for TV, they make the rest of the guys look respectable."

And now these gems go back to bed, probably until the day I die.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Jalapeno Poppers

Are you starting to think about a Super Bowl menu?  I'm going to try this dip Kristen posted on her blog today and these incredibly delicious and easy jalapeno poppers.

First of all, this can all be made ahead of time and then assembled at the time of baking.  And if you're going to have a big group, bake them up all at once.  But with just the two of us, it all still keeps wonderfully.  I've had the cheese stuffing in my fridge for at least a month, so every once in a while when I need a little side dish for dinner (or just a snack), I'll just bake two or three at a time.

Mel's recipe calls for using regular cream cheese, but I've made it with reduced-fat cream cheese resulting in equally good poppers.  I also ended up adding much more smoked paprika (about 1/2 tsp instead of 1/8), but then I absolutely love the stuff.  And her recipe is gluten-free using GF panko, I used regular panko.

JALAPENO POPPERS (makes 30 poppers)

15 jalapeno peppers
8 oz regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, room temp
6 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp chili powder (or ore, to taste)
1/8 tsp smoked paprika (or more, to taste)
1/8 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Cut each jalapeno in half lengthwise.  Remove seeds and white ribs (use disposable plastic gloves if you're going to be making the entire batch).

For the filling, mash together the cream cheese and cheddar until combined.  Fill each pepper half evenly with the filling mixture, mounding it inside the empty shell of the jalapeno rather the pressing the filling flat (so it doesn't leak out while baking).

For the bread crumb topping, in a shallow dish mix together the bread crumbs and seasonings (this will also keep in a tightly sealed plastic container).

Grab each popper by the bottom and roll the top (the part with the filling) in the breadcrumbs so the mixture clings to the cream cheese filling.  Take care not to smush down the filling; try to keep it nice and mounded while getting a healthy dose of bread crumbs stuck to it.

Return the peppers to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining peppers.  Sprinkle any remaining bread crumbs over the peppers for additional crunchiness.  It's ok if there's a little bread crumb mixture leftover - you don't need to use it all.

Bake the peppers for 18-20 minutes under the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are golden.

Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe