Tater Tot Potato Skins

Anita declared these as “the only way we will cook tater tots from now on”. And I am in total agreement with her too. Just like potato skins they have a crunchy side and a soft side and taste, well, potato-y. Topped with our favorite potato skin toppings, cheese, green onion and sour cream, these tater tot potato skins can be served as appetizers at your next party or as a side at your next grill-out. Make sure you make lots of them, though, because they are crazy addicting.
You can actually skip the thawing of the tater tots and squash the tots after they have been in the oven for 10 minutes. I found this works fine, but not quite as well as when you fully thaw the tater tots first. They don’t squash out quite as flat, but they still get super duper crispy crunchy, which is the goal.

I spoon sour cream into a squirt bottle to top these tater tot potato skins nice and evenly. You can of course spoon the sour cream directly on top, but I usually end up with a little too much in one spot and not enough in another. The squirt bottle solves that problem.

Also try my tater tot nachos.

Tater Tot Potato Skins
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (2 pound) bag Ore-Ida Crispy Tater Tots, thawed completely
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F..
  2. Spray two large baking sheets with non-stick spray (I found that a Silpat mat works best)
  3. Use the back of a large spoon to flatten the tots. Don't press too hard if they don't flatten immediately.
  4. Place into the oven for 10 minutes. Check if any of the tots need a bit more flattening.
  5. Continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the tots are turning golden brown.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and continue baking until crispy.
  7. Remove from the oven.
  8. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the sour cream and sprinkle with the green onions and bacon.

Cauliflower Popcorn

I loved the flavor of this cauliflower ‘popcorn’. The cumin and chili powder add a nice southwestern, earthly flavor. The nutritional yeast (which I’d never used before) made me think of cheddar cheese flavoring. I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Now, let’s talk ‘popcorn’. That makes you think crunchy, and if you eat this cauliflower raw that’s just what you’ll get. You can also pop (sorry) them into a dehydrator for 12 or so hours. Right out of the dehydrator they have a nice crunch to them, but I found that that crunch doesn’t last. The seems get a bit soft…. and not popcorny. But the flavor was still great!
I’m looking forward to other ways to use nutritional yeast. For us, I’d recommend this cauliflower popcorn, but honestly I’d enjoy them more raw and save the dehydrator time. That’s up to you. I’m a big texture guy, and for me, the texture of the raw cauliflower was better.

Cauliflower Popcorn
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower, florets removed (try to remove as much stem as possible if dehydrating)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Kosher salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the cauliflower into a large bowl.
  2. Add the olive oil, yeast, cumin, chili powder and salt and toss to coat.
  3. Serve raw, or if desired, place into a dehydrator and dry for 12 hours. Serve immediately.

Glazed Baked Mini-Donuts

Every few weeks Anita and I like to make something new and fun for her to take into work to share with her co-workers. This time we definitely tried something new for us, making baked mini-donuts. They turned out to be incredibly easy to make. We glazed some with a vanilla glaze and some with a chocolate glaze. Some got covered in sprinkles. Some didn’t. They were great and everyone enjoyed them!
We actually ended up make three dozen mini donuts because making three is actually just as easy as making one. Both glazes are simple to make. You can’t mess around once you start glazing the donuts, though. As soon as the glaze is ready start dipping those donuts! If you wait too long the glaze will set up and you’ll get nothing but donut sadness.

I used the 12-cavity mini donut pan made by Wilton.

Also try my pineapple donuts.

Glazed Baked Mini-Donuts
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 dozen
 
Ingredients
For the baked mini-donuts
  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Non-stick spray
  • Mini donut baking pan
For the vanilla glaze (makes enough for 12 mini-donuts)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 small pinch Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk or half-and-half
For the chocolate glaze (makes enough for 12 mini-donuts)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons unstaled butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (you might need a bit more)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
For the baked mini-donuts
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Spray the donut pan with non-stick spray.
  3. In large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Stir in the the buttermilk, egg and butter until just combined. The dough will be slightly sticky and thick.
  5. Place a slightly heaping tablespoon of dough into each donut cavity. Spread it out evenly with your finger to fill the circle.
  6. Bake 6-7 minutes or until donut tops are spongy. Cool in pan for 3 minutes then transfer to cooling racks. Apply glaze only after donuts have cooled completely.
For the vanilla glaze (makes enough for 12 mini-donuts)
  1. Place all ingredients into a small shallow bowl and whisk until smooth.
  2. Dip cooled donut bottoms (the smooth side) into the glaze and transfer to a cooling rack to set.
For the chocolate glaze (makes enough for 12 mini-donuts)
  1. Place all ingredients into the top of a double-boiler over low heat with 1" of water in the bottom pan.
  2. Stir and melt completely. The mix should look shiny. If not, add a bit more corn syrup and stir.
  3. Dip cooled donut bottoms (the smooth side) into the glaze and transfer to a cooling rack to set.

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno-Stuffed Olives

I’ve found the replacement for eating popcorn while watching a movie. No more of that. Grilled bacon-wrapped jalapeno-stuffed olives are much, much better. Yeah, there’s definitely a spicy kick to them. And a little smokiness from the bacon. A bit salty. Just give me a bowl of these little bites and a little cool ranch or blue cheese dressing (gotta cool off!) and I’m happy!
You don’t have to go the spicy route if you don’t want to. Any stuffed olives will work just fine for this recipe. Try Gouda-stuffed olives, they’re fantastic too! Just make sure you get big olives, big enough to wrap the bacon around. Those lil ole pimento-stuffed olives that are barely bigger than peanuts just won’t do. And since you’ve got the grill going, might as well add a few bacon-wrapped meatballs!

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno-Stuffed Olives
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15 bites
 
Ingredients
  • 15 jalapeno-stuffed green olives
  • 5 slices thin bacon, cut into thirds
  • Your favorite rub or seasoning
  • Ranch or blue cheese dressing, for serving
Instructions
  1. Fire up your grill for indirect cooking.
  2. Wrap each olive in a piece of bacon. I didn't need a toothpick to secure the bacon, but you might.
  3. Sprinkle your rub out on a plate and roll the bacon-wrapped olives in it to coat.
  4. Grill 20-30 minutes or until the bacon is cooked.
  5. Serve with cool ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Watermelon Pickles

Watermelon pickles are something I’ve wanted to make for a long time. I’ve heard people talk about them, and I always figured there had to be something I could do with the rinds leftover from my watermelons. Watermelon pickles are just like regular ole cucumber pickles. They’re good and crunchy. This particular recipe makes watermelon pickles that are sweet at the start and spicy at the end. You could eat them right out of the jar or even put them on hot dogs or hamburgers for something totally different.
I’m contemplating chopping a few of these watermelon pickles and making a relish. I think it’d come out delicious. The flavor balance is perfect, not overly sweet or spicy. The pickling spice is strong, which I like, but if you’re not such a fan of the cloves in it you might want to use slightly less or remove some of them before adding to the brine.

Love pickles but in a hurry? Try my quick fix spicy pickles. For a delicious easy pickled salad, try my refrigerator cucumber salad.

Watermelon Pickles
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 pints
 
Ingredients
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 4 cups of watermelon rind, peeled, chopped into 1/2"-3/4" cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • Red pepper flake, to taste (optional)
Instructions
  1. Blanch the watermelon rind by bringing 4 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil in a pot over high heat. Stir until the salt dissolves.
  2. Add the watermelon rind. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue simmering until just starting to turn tender (you want them to still be a bit crispy), about 5 minutes.
  3. Skim off any fat and drain. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Make the brine by bringing the remaining 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon salt, vinegar, sugar, pickling spice, and red pepper (if using) to a boil in saucepan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Pour the brine over the watermelon rind.
  6. Cover with a plate to keep the rind submerged and let cool to room temperature.
  7. Transfer to glass jars, cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.
  8. The pickles will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.
  9. Combine and store: Pour the hot brine over the rind. Use a small plate or a Ziplock bag partially filled with water (I use the Ziplock bag) to hold the rind under the brine. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer the rind and brine into clean glass jars (I use Mason jars), cover and chill before serving. Keep refrigerated - they'll keep several months.

Quick Fix Spicy Pickles

These quick fix spicy pickles absolutely hit the spot. I love dill pickles, and I love a little spiciness so it was easy to love these pickles. They aren’t overly sweet and they aren’t overly spicy, though you can certainly make them spicier (or less) if you want. I found them to be just right, and perfect for sharing with the neighbors without having worry that they’d be too hot for them.

Whatever you do, do not discard the brine from the jarred pickles. Save it for making Nashville hot chicken or for use as a brine for chicken wings. I always save my pickle juice. I also cut off the ends of the pickles. Since that left me with a bowl of pickle pieces, I decided to make a quick and easy pickle relish.

If you have watermelon rinds on hand, make a batch of my watermelon pickles. They’re crazy good too! My quick pickled jalapeno rings are also great.

Quick Fix Spicy Pickles
Author: 
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 (46 ounce) jars whole dill pickles (not Kosher)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) dried red pepper flake
Instructions
  1. Drain the juice from the pickles, reserving it for other uses (as a brine for Nashville hot chicken or wings!).
  2. Slice the pickles into 3/8" pieces and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.
  4. Let the pickles set on the counter top for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Store pickles along with the accumulated sauce in jars for 3 days before consuming.

Easy Marinated Mushrooms

These easy marinated mushrooms are some of the most addicting little bites I’ve ever made. Easy is right, too. They take no time at all to make. They are packed with flavor, a little sweet, a little heat and a bit of vinegar kick. I can guarantee that you will want to at least double the recipe because you won’t be able to stop eating them.
I used a mix of white button and cremini mushrooms, but you can use any mix of mushrooms you like. You do want to make sure you use mushrooms that are all about the same size or some will cook faster than others. You want them to all be cooked the same, not some soft and some not.

The marinade for these easy mushrooms is very good. I plan on using it for other dishes, including as a marinade for chicken.

Also try my garlic ricotta stuffed mushrooms and my easy marinated cheeses (delicious!).

Easy Marinated Mushrooms
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 pound
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley. Toss gently to combine.
  4. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 8 hours.
  5. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.
  6. Note: The mushrooms will keep up to 5 days but are best the first two days after they marinate.

Turtle Graham Bars

When people that have sworn off sweets and treats come back for thirds and fourths, you know you have a winner sweet snack on your hands. Anita and I made a big ole batch of turtle Graham bars for her co-workers. They disappeared in no time. And I can understand why because I was having serious control issues around them. Lightly bitter dark chocolate flavor (a favorite of mine), crunchy pecans and creamy buttery brown sugar, all over tasty Graham crackers. The sea salt topping is the crowning touch. Every bite is fantastic.
Be careful with the butter and brown sugar mixture when it comes time to pour it over the crackers. It’s hot sticky stuff that can burn if you splatter it onto yourself. Also, you want the bars to sit in the fridge long enough for the chocolate to set up really well so that they can be broken up easily.

Also try my Snicker’s cheesecake bars and my Ting-A-Lings.

Turtle Graham Bars
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (14.4-ounce) box Graham crackers
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for topping
  • 1 (10 ounce) bag dark chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Cover with a single layer of Graham crackers.
  3. Put butter, brown sugar, pecans and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Pour butter mixture over crackers. Bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Melt chocolate per manufacturer's instructions in a microwave or in a double boiler. Pour over crackers, then sprinkle with more salt.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, cut or break into bars, and serve.