Author Archives: theselftaughtcook

Tex-Mex Tater Tot Casserole

Tex-Mex Tater Tot Casserole

  • 1 – 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 C onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 crushed red peppers
  • 1 1/2 C mild salsa
  • 1 C corn
  • 1 banana pepper, chopped
  • 1 C water
  • 1 can chili beans
  • Frozen tater tots
  • 1/2 C shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brown ground beef in large skillet; drain.  Stir in onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, and garlic salt.  Cook until onion is tender.  Add salsa, banana pepper, and water.  Bring to low boil.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Stir in shredded Mexican blend cheese.  Pour mixture into 9×13 baking dish.  Top with tater tots. Bake 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake 5 minutes longer.


Music to Cook By . . . 


Until next time, Happy Cooking!  :)

Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization.  - Lincoln Steffens

Baked Fried Chicken

Baked Fried Chicken

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 C cooking oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat egg. Mix dry ingredients together.  Heat oil in cast iron skillet.  Dip chicken breasts into beaten egg.  Dredge chicken in flour mixture until thoroughly coated. Cook in skillet 10 minutes, turning once.  Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place chicken on baking sheet and bake 30 minutes.

Music to Cook By . . . 

Until next time, Happy Cooking!  :)

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  ― Dr. Seuss

Beef Enchiladas ( Just in time for Cinco de Mayo)


Tomorrow, Americans will flock to Mexicans restaurants and bars to celebrate a quasi-holiday which is not celebrated in Mexico (except in tourist areas).  According to, Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary of the defeat of the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Not the kind of thing you usually celebrate, right? But just like St. Patrick’s Day, restaurants and bars in the U.S. have appropriated the day and turned it into a commercial success.

We don’t do anything for Cinco de Mayo, but I made these enchiladas yesterday and thought it would be the perfect time to share.

Beef Enchiladas

1 – 19 oz. can Old El Paso enchilada sauce

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp black pepper

12 corn tortillas

1/4 C cooking oil

Sour cream

2 C Fiesta Shredded Chicken (this is the Wal-Mart brand)

Salsa (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown ground beef; drain.  Add onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, pepper, and 1/8 C enchilada sauce.  Stir until well blended.

Heat oil in skillet.  Cook tortillas less than one minute each.

Pour 1/2 C enchilada sauce in casserole dish.  Place tortilla in dish.  Layer ground beef mixture, sour cream, and cheese.  Roll tortilla together and place seam side down.  Repeat until all tortillas have been filled.  Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Top enchiladas with sour cream and salsa if desired.


Music to Cook By . . . 


Until next time, Happy Cooking!  :)


Homemade Barbecue Sauce (Great for Chicken!)


It’s that time of the year.  Spring has sprung, the birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, . . . and the grill has been brought out of the garage.  Whether you use a gas grill or go old-school with charcoal, everyone (I think) enjoys grilling this time of the year.

There are countless recipes and methods for barbecued and grilled foods, too numerous to list here.  Around here, hubs and I prefer simple marinades, dry rubs, and/or sauces.  Nothing too elaborate, just good food cooked outdoors.

With that, I offer up to you the sauce we have been using this Spring.  It is great for grilled chicken.  Just brush it on each side in the last few minutes of grilling.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

1/2 onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 C ketchup

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/3 C apple cider vinegar

1/2 C brown sugar

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp celery seed

1/2 tsp hot sauce

Over medium heat, cook onion and garlic in EVOO until tender.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens.  

This recipe makes enough sauce for 4-6 pieces of chicken.

The Grillmaster at work


Music to cook by . . . 


Until next time, Happy Cooking!  :)

I grill, therefore I am. –  Alton Brown

Review: Starting from Scratch by Patty Kirk

Starting from Scratch: Memoirs of a Wandering Cook

A captivating memoir from a cook who’s traveled across the globe cooking, startingfromscratchtasting, and enjoying good food.


Patty Kirk has always loved food: eating it, cooking it, sharing it, talking about it. At six, she scrambled the last of the family’s vacation provisions over the camp fire and concocted a delicacy-eggs with bacon and onions. Overnight she became the family cook and discovered a lifelong passion for cooking that accompanied her through decades of roaming and finally to the farm in Oklahoma where she now lives. Starting from Scratch narrates Kirk’s wanderings in the U.S. and abroad from a culinary perspective, sounding the spiritual, political, and emotional depths of Brillat-Savarin’s famous observation, “Tell me what you eat; I’ll tell you who you are.” In this candid and engaging food memoir—complete with recipes!—good food beckons from the past as well as the future: surrounding us, eluding us, drawing us, defining us.

  • Hardcover, 288 pages
  • Published January 1st 2008 by Thomas Nelson
  • Original Title:  Starting from Scratch: Memoirs of a Wandering Cook
  • ISBN:  078522047X (ISBN13: 9780785220473)
  • Edition Language:  English
Patty Kirk is the author of “Confessions of an Amateur Believer” and subsequent books on topics ranging from food memoir to her lifelong struggle to sense God’s presence. Raised in California and Connecticut, she spent her early adult years abroad and now lives on a farm in Oklahoma and teaches writing just across the Arkansas state-line at John Brown University, where she is Associate Professor of English and Writer in Residence. She and her husband, Kris, have two college-aged daughters, Charlotte and Lulu. Patty’s passions are cooking, gardening, watching birds, and running on the back roads.
My Review . . . 
Have you ever been happily wandering through the bookstore when, suddenly, a book you have never heard of, written by an author you have never heard of, catches your eye and you know you have to have it?  This is how “Starting from Scratch” came to be mine.  This book, part memoir/part cookbook, has been one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve experienced in a long time.  I couldn’t put it down, yet I wanted to stop and savor it like a good meal.
The way the author remembers and shares her food memories resonated with me on a very personal level.  When she talks about the foods cooked and eaten by her family during her childhood, I was reminded of the ’70s-style foods from MY childhood.  As she shared her food memories from her travels, I remembered foods that I have discovered while traveling.  When she discusses the difficulty of replicating lost recipes, I thought of the foods cooked by my grandmothers that I can’t quite duplicate today.  In short, this is a book, written by someone who has a deep respect for food, to be enjoyed by those of us who share her relationship with food.
If I had to describe this book with one word, it would be….delicious.
5 stars