“Nacho” Ordinary Appetizer

Tater Tot Nachos Inspired by St. James Gate Irish Pub
Tater Tot Nachos Inspired by St. James Gate Irish Pub

Leave it to an Irish Pub to re-purpose a potato dish. A recent visit to St. James Gate Irish Pub on Folly Beach introduced us to Tater Tot “Nachos.”  What a concept! Who wouldn’t love crispy potatoes topped with good ol’ cheddar cheese, chili and jalapenos? Easy enough to recreate at home, the appetizer left us completely satisfied and reminiscing about our middle school days (Read: carrying our lunch trays through the cafeteria on tater tot day negotiating trades).

Move over tortilla chip, there’s a new nacho vehicle in town!

Paired with a couple good cocktails–a hearty Guinness for my man, and a local ginger bourbon + honey basil libation for me –the nightcap was a surprisingly better alternative to our initial desire for dessert. The waiter had us at “Our special tonight is Tater Tot Nachos…”

Get the recipe for my Beer Can Chili right here on the blog!
Get the recipe for my Beer Can Chili right here on the blog!

Just a few days after our visit, I came across a half bag of frozen tater tots in the freezer at home, just begging to be cooked. As fate would have it, I had some of my leftover Beer Can Chili in the fridge too, as is accustom this time of year. In no time at all, I was serving up “nacho” ordinary appetizer. HA!

Next time you have friends over, or if you’re just in the mood for a good snack, break out this recipe. With little effort and a Some Kinda Good return on your investment, you’ve got nothing to lose!

For a rustic approach, I served them fresh from the oven on the baking sheet in which they were cooked.
For a rustic approach, I served them fresh from the oven on the baking sheet in which they were cooked.

Tater Tot Nachos

  • 1/2 Bag of Frozen Tater Tots
  • 1 cup or more to taste of Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Pepper jack is great too! Combine them for fun!)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Pickled or fresh Jalapenos to taste
  • Leftover Chili
  • Sour cream
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Salt
  • Other desired nacho toppings

Bake tater tots according to package directions (I like mine extra crispy for the perfect crunch). Add about a teaspoon of salt (or more to taste) as soon as the tater tots come out of the oven. Top evenly with diced onion, leftover chili and cheese, then pop the tater tots back in the oven until cheese is hot and bubbly (about 5 minutes). Once cheese is melted, take them out of the oven and add desired toppings. I like sour cream, a sprinkle of fresh parsley to liven things up and a few jarred jalapenos to keep things spicy. Enjoy!

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Holiday Cheese Ball with Sweet Heat

imageThe cheese ball. What a great concept…a ball of cheese. Who wouldn’t want to eat that?

It’s one of those appetizers that’s always present at family gatherings in the South, especially around the holidays. I’ve seen savory cheese balls and sweet cheese balls. There’s a variety of different recipes out there, but this one comes from Mama with a few of my own touches. I contributed this cheese ball to my office Christmas party and it was a hit! It has pops of red and green color for the holidays, and it’s versatile. You can add or take away whatever flavors you like. Spreadable and creamy, this cheese ball has crunch and sweet heat. It’s cold and satisfying.

The cheese ball comes together quickly and is edible right away, but has a more firm texture when chilled. I recommend making it a day ahead and letting it set up in the fridge overnight. If you’re short on time, 30 minutes to an hour will do.

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup of pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • A few jarred jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • A tablespoon of jarred jalapeno pepper juice
  • A handful of maraschino cherries, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion (I used purple for the color, but a sweet Vidalia onion would be great too)
  • Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Braswell’s Green Pepper Jelly
  • 1/4 cup of pepitas (Pumpkin seeds)
  • Seasoned salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup Georgia pecans, toasted and chopped

Directions
Dry roast pecans in a saute pan over medium heat, flipping occasionally until fragrant and golden (5-10 minutes). Set aside. Using a hand mixer, blend the cheeses together until incorporated. Add in remaining ingredients, reserving the pecans for the outside, and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Blend on low-speed until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixture out onto plastic wrap and form it into a ball. Remove the plastic wrap and roll the ball in the chopped pecans until covered. Let chill. Serve with buttery crackers, like Ritz, toasted bread or even Scoops tortilla chips.

Note: If you’re using a food processor to chop your onion and bell pepper, be sure to drain any natural water from the vegetables before adding them to the mixture. Additional water will make your cheese ball runny, and you wouldn’t want that.  

Presentation
Serve the cheese ball on a round dish if you have one! It enhances the natural shape of the appetizer and is fun to surround with crackers. Presentation is everything! I served the cheese ball with snowflake-shaped crackers for a little Christmas cheer, but this recipe is wonderful year around with whatever kind of crackers you like. Enjoy!

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Crack This: Farm Eggs vs. Store-Bought

I’ve eaten eggs from the grocery store my entire life. I’m sure at some point in my childhood I’ve tasted an egg fresh from the chicken coop because my Grandpa raised chickens, but that was before my palate was experienced enough to appreciate the difference. It’s true that when you’ve never experienced better, you don’t know what you’re missing.

wpid-IMG_20130510_185756.jpgSo, when my good lookin’ boyfriend showed up at my door last week with one dozen, light brown and cream-colored farm eggs in one hand and a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the other (I know…keeper), I set my sights on cooking the eggs just the way a farmer recommended: in a little bacon grease with salt and pepper. I’ve never tasted anything like these eggs…it was pure eggstacy (had to do it!). Seriously, the flavor is out of this world, and sure to make you crack a smile (okay, okay). During cooking I found them to be more fluffy than a store-bought egg. Produced by free-range chickens, farm eggs are more nutritious because the chickens are able to roam freely and eat a natural diet. They contain no added hormones or fillers and are not processed. 

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wpid-20130520_195545.jpgOne meal that exemplifies comfort food for me and really lets the farm egg shine, is the tried and true bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. A fancy meal has its time and place, but it’s not always the five-star, fine dining plates that trip my trigger. Sometimes, a good ol’ familiar meal is the only thing I need to feel centered, satisfied and one with my kitchen again. Served with a side of cheese grits, breakfast for dinner has never been better.

Here’s how I make the classic McDonald’s biscuit-turned-sandwich at home:

  • Thick cut, hickory smoked bacon
  • Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread
  • 2 Farm Fresh Chicken Eggs
  • Blackberry Jelly (I used homemade jelly from the Amish country that I got from a quaint market, but Smucker’s works great if you don’t have that).
  • Kraft’s Sharp Cheddar Cheese, sliced

Cook three strips of bacon in a skillet on medium heat until just crispy (I like mine slightly underdone). Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off some of the grease, reserving enough to cook the eggs, about 1-2 tablespoons. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan and let set. Cook for about 2 -3 minutes on each side, flipping once for even browning. Meanwhile, slice or grate the cheddar cheese and toast two slices of bread. Spread toasted bread with blackberry jelly, then build the sandwich. Serve with a side of cheese grits for optimum enjoyment!

wpid-20130520_194926.jpgAnd remember, when building the sandwich, it’s all about good architecture! Somehow, the sandwich tastes better when cut into a triangle shape too. At least, that’s the way mama always sent me to school, with a neatly packed cut-in-half sandwich in my brown paper sack.

Have you ever tasted a farm egg? If so, how would you describe the difference?