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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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Napoleon would love a "tot" casserole.
Napoleon would love a "tot" casserole.

Daily dish: Tater Tot casserole

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!

There are certain recipes that still sound delicious no matter how sophisticated your sense of taste becomes. Take taco dip, for example. The spicy, creamy potluck favorite is on the "guilty pleasures" list of some of the finest chefs I know.

This recipe for Tater Tot casserole is another one of those classic, Americana dishes that isn't healthy or gourmet, but if I whipped up a batch of it right now, you'd probably grab a fork and start eating it straight from the pan.

Because the Tater Tot is one of my most-craved foods, I have made many tater tot casseroles, but this simple guy remains my favorite. It's comfort food's finest hour.

Ingredients:
1 32-oz. package frozen potato rounds
1 16-oz. container sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 small can French-fried onions

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch-baking dish. Arrange tater tots in the prepared baking dish. In a mixing bowl, combine sour cream, cheese and mushroom soup. Pour over the top. Sprinkle with fried onions and bake until onions are crispy and brownish.

Come to think of it, I could use a little fine-tuning myself.
Come to think of it, I could use a little fine-tuning myself.

Fine-tuning the children

Somewhere around 3 years old, my kids had a firm understanding of basic right and wrong. Now that they have the framework to grow into decent people (I hope), part of my job is to dial in the details.

By dialing in the details, I mean helping them to understand life's subtleties when it comes to communicating with others. For example, this morning I corrected my son when he said I have "fat eyes."

"Um, I think you mean 'big eyes'," I said.

"It's the same," he said.

"No, not really," I said, but then remembered a similar conversation a month ago, when I corrected him after he said his grandma had "big legs." I said he should say she had "long legs" instead of "big legs" because it was nicer.

I was sure he was going to ask me why big eyes are OK, but big legs are not, however, luckily, Mr. Rogers was visiting the dentist on TV and that trumped our kitchen chit-chat.

Later that day, more fine-tuning came when I told Kai we couldn't say "thumbs down!" and pump our tiny, stumpy digits towards the sidewalk whenever we saw someone wearing a political button for the guy we're not voting for.

"But we don't like that guy," he said.

"We keep that to ourself," I said.

"I thought we had to share," he said.

No one told me parenting 5-year-olds was like being permanently cast in a "Who's On First?" skit.

Now THAT'S a supper.
Now THAT'S a supper.

Do you like breakfast for dinner?

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!

Not everyone can stomach pizza for breakfast, yet it seems most humans appreciate the "breakfast for dinner" concept. Sometimes referred to as "brinner," breakfast for dinner has become more talked about in the last few years even though it’s been around forever.

As a kid, I ate plenty of pancakes for dinner, sometimes a frozen waffle or a massive bowl of cereal, but it was more for economical reasons then to put a fun twist on the definition of dinner food. Maybe the current economy is part of the reason why breakfast for dinner is popular again. After all, it’s certainly cheaper to whip up a veggie scrambler or a stack of 'cakes than, say, a steak dinner.

Few people have the time or energy in the morning to make a masterpiece meal, which is another reason why breakfast for dinner makes sense.

"Breakfast anytime" exists at diners like Ma Fischer’s or George Webb, but, unfortunately, most restaurants stop serving breakfast or brunch after a certain time. (McDonald’s only serves breakfast until 10:30 a.m.!)

My kids love breakfast for dinner because it’s a novelty that breaks the routine, and it feels like it’s just a few shades away from being naughty. Maybe this is why adults like it, too.

Ghirardelli chocolate chips really add to this recipe.
Ghirardelli chocolate chips really add to this recipe.

Daily dish: Chocolate chip cherry cookies

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!

I found this recipe on the Whole Foods Market Web site and whipped up a batch this weekend. I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips and organic dried cherry bits, both of which contributed to the amazing flavors. This recipe makes about two dozen cookies.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup cane sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup unbleached white flour, sifted
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries or cranberries, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together butter and sugar, beating until light. Add vanilla and eggs. Continue to beat well. Sift together both flours, salt and baking soda, and add to butter mixture, beating again. Stir in chocolate chips, dried cherries and pecans. Refrigerate dough for one hour.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet lined with parchment (or generously oiled / sprayed.) Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.