"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What if Cryptids Were Real?

Yet again, I've put out an invitation for my Kindle All-Stars friends to pop in and write a few words. In answer to my call to arms, our newest member/author, Jeff Provine, sent me a terrific guest blog which explains his approach in writing his short story contribution to Carnival of Cryptids, the latest Kindle All-Stars anthology. I'll let Jeff do the rest of the talking:

I love "what ifs". They make me all tingly as I set my mind to wondering (and wandering) "what if this" or "what if that." What if we had flying cars? We'd have to adapt traffic laws for three dimensions. Instead of left and right lanes, we could have different heights moving in different directions, which would make transit a lot more direct. Imagine having a down arrow for a blinker. The bottom zone would be crazy with landing and taking off. But what if the car stalled or, worse yet, there was an impact that caused both vehicles to plummet hundreds of feet onto an orphanage below?! Well, maybe we just won't have clearance above orphanages.

For a couple of years now, I've been blogging This Day in Alternate History, looking at events in history and asking what could have changed them. It all started with "What if Will Rogers had survived his plane crash?" Doing some research, it turns out his wife died a few years later. I can only imagine how deeply it would have affected the cowboy philosopher, Oklahoma's Native Son. But, it would have sent him looking for new purpose, just about the time FDR was looking to replace his vice-president …

My sci-fi-urban-fantasy YA Dawn on the Infinity is my biggest what if yet: What if you could explore all the what ifs? Fourteen-year-old Dawn fights off a vampire in the girls' room and a troll in her parent's house only to be kidnapped by inter-reality pirates needing her in their plot to better traverse the Multiverse. Every single world is a different what-if: what if a mutant zombie plague had broken out, what if Nixon hadn't been found out at Watergate, and what if you met yourself, but not you-you: instead, a you that was a cheerleader and used a lot of hair product? More importantly, if people were able to travel between alternate realities, who would govern them, and how terribly powerful could they become?

Lately, the what ifs have been about cryptids, those creatures believed to exist but not yet proven by science. For the new charity anthology by the Kindle All-Stars, Carnival of Cryptids, I wrote about what if someone went after a giant ground sloth in 1930s Brazil.  Called a "mylodon" by modern science and believed to be the "mapinguari" of native legend, this enormous beast could move through the jungle silently. It gave off a stench so foul it froze its victims, its skin was impervious to bullets and arrows thanks to bone chips that grew like internal scales, and supposedly it had powers to control the weather. Sounds crazy, but according to Brazilian newspapers and multiple eye-witnesses, whole herds of cattle were wiped out by this monster's attacks in 1937.

Going back to the original question, "what if cryptids were real," there are a lot of cases where they were in fact proven to be real. The most famous example is the platypus, which was rejected by scientific minds as a clear hoax with a duckbill stitched onto a beaver pelt until live specimens began arriving from Australia. Komodo dragons were believed to be just stories from over-excited pearl divers. Mountain gorillas were a folk legend of "ape-men" until 1902. And, of course, the armored fish known as the coelacanth was known to be extinct for millions of years until a fisherman caught one off the coast of Madagascar, much to the shock of just about everybody.

Makes one want to think again about Nessie or Bigfoot, doesn't it? There seem to be too many similar stories of lake monsters and bipedal apes in North America and Central Asia just to be a myth. For a fresh look at some of the world's more mysterious creatures, check out Carnival of Cryptids, which features a whole menagerie released at the end of January.

~      ~      ~

"Where is Captain Rook?" is one of seven stories in Carnival of Cryptids, a Kindle All-star anthology with all proceeds going to the National Center for Missing and Exploited ChildrenJeff Provine is author of YA ebook Dawn on the Infinity and the This Day in Alternate History blog, asking what if things in history had gone a little differently.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tony Acree and The Hand of God

Hey all! My pal Tony Acree and I have been talking about this book for months and it's finally here. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to read it yet, but I thought you'd all like to see something on my blog this week that did not involve spending hours in the kitchen. Although, you could hang out next to the crock pot as you read his new book. I kid. Many thanks, and welcome, Tony!

My thanks to Laurie for letting me stop by and share with folks the inspiration for my debut novel, The Hand of God.

One of my favorite songs when I was a kid was “The Devil Went Down to Georgiaby Charlie Daniels. In the song, the Devil offers Johnny a fiddle of gold against his soul if he can win a fiddle contest. Johnny accepts and of course kicks Satan’s ever lovin’ ass. While I love the song, I always thought there would be no way I would have made the same decision. After all, if Satan is real, then God is real, and why risk eternal damnation for something you won’t get to keep when you die? Which led me to wonder, for what would I risk my soul?

This is the theme I explore in my debut novel, The Hand of God. Bounty hunter Victor McCain couldn’t have cared less about God and spent a lot more time thinking about beer and sex than he did his everlasting soul. That is, until the day Satan walked into his office and wanted to hire him to do a job. For Victor, this was an easy choice: not just no, but hell no. But then the Devil made Vic an offer he dared not refuse.

His brother Mikey, one of Louisville’s wealthiest businessmen, had climbed the ladder of success by selling his soul. And in twenty-four hours he would die and spend eternity in Hell, unless Vic agreed to track down a woman Satan desperately wanted found. After Victor reluctantly agrees he finds he is faced with choice after choice which shoves him further over the line of putting his own soul at risk, just to try and save the soul of his brother.

What would you do to save someone you loved from eternal damnation? While writing the book I asked for, and got, a lot of replies to this question. Some would risk everything to save the ones they love. Others say you have to let each individual make the choice and live, or suffer, as the case may be, with the consequences. As for me? I would like to think I’d be willing to push the limits. But give up my own soul? I’m not so sure.

Writing this book gave me a chance to argue both sides of the coin. It gave me a chance to explore if Heaven and Hell are real and if God is alive or dead. Throw in some action, humor, romance and sex, and you have The Hand of God.

You can buy the book, published by Hydra Publications, in both Kindle and print format on Amazon and  in ePub format on Smashwords.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Yogurt Making 101

If you follow me on twitter, you know my latest addictions are avocados and Greek yogurt. Not necessarily together, but they do complement one another well. (I've found I prefer the plain, unsweetened, low- or non-fat Greek-style yogurt to sour cream.) The only problem is that Greek yogurt can be pricey, but I love making my own in the crock pot.

I believe I've mentioned it before, but here's a refresher: My BFF's sister (to protect the family's anonymity, I will refer to her here as "Sis"), who succumbed to leukemia about six months ago, was a huge fan of Stephanie O'Dea. Yes, that Stephanie O'Dea, the Queen of Slow Cooking. Sis turned me on to Stephanie's blog and, with a little inspiration from Pinterest, I began slow cooking on a regular basis after I moved from Boston to Oklahoma City. In fact, I believe the first dinner I cooked from scratch in my new kitchen included a crock pot entree.

Since then, I've been hooked. I use my crock pot at least once a week. It never gets tucked into a cabinet, not only because I don't really have the space, but also because I use it so much it makes sense to keep the crock pot handy. And my favorite thing to make is yogurt.

So now that we've come full circle ... A few weeks ago, I found a recipe on Pinterest claiming I could make homemade yogurt in my slow cooker. The recipe was from Stephanie O'Dea's blog. I figured, "how bad could it be?" I hadn't prepared any of Stephanie's recipes yet, but thanks to Sis, I had tasted a couple. So I made certain to purchase milk and plain Greek yogurt when I was at the grocery store. Milk because it's the base, and essentially the only ingredient; yogurt because it's Stephanie's starter of choice; and Greek because I'd never tried Greek-style yogurt before and I've read about what a terrific substitute it is for mayonnaise, sour cream, and other more fatty/less healthy cooking ingredients. (The first time I put Greek yogurt on a baked potato, I swore I'd never purchase sour cream again.)

The only drawback to making your own yogurt is time. You need to be able to devote a good fourteen or fifteen hours to this process. In today's world, that's quite a commitment. But I did the math and figured if I began the process some time around 4:30 in the afternoon, I could sleep through most of it.

As instructed, I poured my (whole, full fat) milk into the cooker and heated it for 2 1/2 hours on low, then unplugged it and let it sit for 3 hours. I added my starter, swaddled the pot in towels, and crossed my fingers. Stephanie's instructions confused me only a little. They said to, "Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours." I really wasn't sure if that meant it shouldn't sit for any longer than 8 hours, so I set my alarm to wake me about 8 hours after I wrapped my crock pot.

Yeah, that didn't work so well. I shut off the alarm and slept for another three hours (which, by the way, only garnered me a total of seven hours sleep). I was honestly terrified to open the pot, afraid of what I might find, afraid it had set too long. So how happy was I when I finally worked up the courage to remove the lid?

Immediately, I was hit with that pungent, tart aroma you encounter when you open a fresh cup of yogurt. I gave it a stir and found the consistency to be a bit richer and creamier than store bought, which makes sense since I usually purchase nonfat rather than lowfat. Honest to goodness, I nearly cried I was so excited. Who knew such a small accomplishment could be so rewarding, so empowering?

I was all over twitter within minutes, showing off my accomplishment and, of course, thanking the Woman Herself for posting the recipe on her blog. When I finally took a few minutes to breathe, I pulled out a large bowl and a colander that I lined with paper towels (you could use cheesecloth) and poured in my yogurt. Then I sat the contraption in the fridge after pulling out enough of my yogurt to use as a starter for the next batch.

In less than 24 hours, the thinner, traditional yogurt was a much thicker consistency and I had a bowl full of whey. In fact, it was just a bit too thick, so I ended up adding some of the whey back in to thin it out just a bit.

On to Yogurt Making 102

Elated, and perhaps inflated, by my success at making whole milk yogurt, I decided that my next batch should be made with almond milk. One of Stephanie O'dea's readers had had success making dairy-free yogurt. She published her process, which was virtually the same, but she went with a probiotic instead of using yogurt as a starter. She also added gelatin later to thicken it. So I decided to give it a shot.

I read up a bit and found that several bloggers had made dairy free yogurt using the same method I had used. Some even went with the basic yogurt starter rather than probiotic. Some, not all, used gelatin to thicken it; some drained the whey. So I put on my big girl pants and headed to the kitchen once again.

This time I got off to a later start. I went through each step: heat for 2 1/2 hours; cool for 3 hours; add starter, swaddle, and let sit overnight. Easy peasy mac 'n' cheesy! Okay, maybe not.

Because of the later start, I actually ended up staying up later than I normally would just to add the starter. This meant I got up in the morning with fewer than eight hours of sleep. So, when the pot had sat for eight hours, I opened it. It smelled yogurty at first whiff, but then it just smelled funky. Had I been more experienced at that point, I would have been wise enough to wrap it all back up and leave it be for a few more hours. I would have realized that the fermentation process was probably working and just needed more time, but my inner Anakin took over and I chose to move forward.

I put together my drainage contraption and stuck the whole shebang into the fridge. I sniffed at it a few times while it drained, but mostly, I just left it alone. It did not smell like yogurt. It didn't really smell like anything, actually.

After 24 hours, I pulled the mess I had made out of the refrigerator and gave it a stir. It was more like a thin ricotta than yogurt. And it tasted vile. I dumped the still-quite-loose mess down the sink along with the whey that had drained and resolved to take smaller steps next time around. By "smaller steps," I mean sticking to cow's milk until I have a bit more experience. Which brings me to . . .

Yogurt Making 101a, the Intermediate Class

This one happened just this week and I feared the worst while it was all going on. Without thinking, and because I was craving a baked potato and hadn't bought any yogurt, only enough to use as a starter, I threw a half gallon of milk into the slow cooker before I did any math. About an hour into the cooling time, I realized that I would need to make a difficult choice.

I had to leave early the following morning and wouldn't be home until mid- to late afternoon. Basically, my pot would have to sit and ferment either for only seven hours or for a full fourteen. (Additionally, I wasn't sure what to expect since I had used 1% milk instead of whole.) Neither sat well with me. But I chose to let it go all night, then all day, and hope for the best.

When I got home that afternoon, just a bit earlier than I thought I would, I steeled myself and unwrapped the pot. It was still quite warm, a good sign. Warm meant it was still fermenting rather than just spoiling. I didn't have a lot of time to deal with it since I had work to do and also needed to figure out dinner, so I poured it into a couple of containers; reserved enough for a starter; and stuck it in the fridge.

It smelled like yogurt, not as strong as the whole milk version had, but I knew I'd done it right this time. It was quite loose, smoothie loose, but that didn't scare me. I knew from experience that it would thicken a bit as it cooled. But the most important part was it tasted like yogurt which could mean only one thing: it was yogurt.

The next day, I figured I'd take some time to drain it so it was more like Greek yogurt. Much to my surprise, it had thickened considerably on its own. Still, I drained off quite a bit of whey and got it to about the same consistency as my first batch.

And here we are, full circle once more. The next batch of yogurt I make will be with the 1% milk again, but with the starter from the last rather than a store-bought yogurt. This will be the test for me.

At some point, I will again attempt a dairy-free version, but not before I try it with nonfat milk. And, coming this summer: fro-yo. I've made ice cream, so frozen yogurt should be a piece of cake. I'll just need to find an ice cream maker that fits my budget. (I'm cheap, remember?)

I really would encourage anyone and everyone who loves yogurt as much as I do to take the plunge and make your own.

Happy Crock Potting!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Way to a Man's Heart

My grandmother really did tell me that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach. She was the one who taught me most of the basics of cooking. Mom did too, but I think Babcie was the bigger influence on me when it comes to all things culinary. Anyhow, how could I not experiment with a recipe called "Man-Pleasing Chicken?"

I decided to blog three recipes today rather than the usual two because I assembled the three as a meal. And they all came out great. I would definitely recommend all three. But first, that chicken . . .

I have no doubt this recipe would please just about any man, but who really cares? This sauce would also be great on pork chops or even on a pork tenderloin. I saved the leftover sauce to use with chicken fingers, but I will warn you: it tastes much better after it's cooked. It's good when you mix it up, but once it's heated and has had a chance to caramelize a bit, it's downright addictive.

Since I'm not a huge fan of dark meat, I opted to use boneless chicken breast rather than the recommended boneless thighs. Additionally, because I am currently without a traditional oven, there was no need for me to adjust the cooking time for the breast. You may need to do so since traditional and toaster ovens tend to bake a bit differently.

Oh yeah, one minor change I made: I did not sprinkle rosemary, or even a substitute over the top of the finished chicken. No rosemary because I can't stand rosemary (but oregano or tarragon would be a good substitute). No herbs at all because I completely forgot by the time I finished cooking the entire meal. (Oops!)
I boosted this gorgeous photo from the recipe page. Click to go there.

I must admit, I've wanted to make this recipe since the first second I saw the pin. I've been waiting, not so patiently, for the right main dish to serve it with. Of course, typical me, I neglected to notice that I would have to use the oven for two different recipes. Yeah, not really possible when you're baking on the countertop.

So I compromised. I assembled the whole thing and wrapped it in plastic, then microwaved the potatoes for ten minutes. (Which, by the way, is my favorite way to make baked potatoes.) I will do it in the oven some time soon, because the microwaved version was a roaring success. Obviously, the nuked potatoes weren't  crispy, but the flavor was amazing!

Okay, I don't necessarily agree with the name, but I think Stephanie O'Dea is definitely onto something with this one. I'm not sure whether I've ever met a Brussels sprout I really didn't like. They may very well be my favorite vegetable.

I figured, given the fact that this recipe had some dijon mustard in it, it would be a good companion to the chicken and I was right. There's just enough dijon to give it a little kick. However, I would not recommend this dish be a regular. Not with that much butter. But then, as I've stated before, many times, I prefer my vegetables completely naked.

The recommendation for this one is a small crock pot. I only have a 6-quart and the dish came out very good but didn't get that toasty crust that resulted in Stephanie's version. The bright side: I now have a good reason to seriously consider buying a smaller crock pot. Yes, I probably could have cooked them on the stovetop, but then I wouldn't have had an excuse to use my slow cooker.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Positive Influence

Let's face it, ladies (and gentlemen), we don't all enjoy sharing our kitchens with others. "Too many cooks . . ." and all that. I think that's a terrible shame because we have so much to teach each other. No matter how good a cook you are, or how experienced you are, or how well you know your way around a kitchen, you can always pick up another little tip or trick by collaborating with another cook.

Which brings me to my point: I used to have a huge kitchen that worked perfectly for me, not because it was the perfect kitchen, but because I had learned to adapt and I had adapted my surroundings to suit my needs. But my BFF had much to teach me because her kitchen was so different from mine. Her style of cooking is worlds away from mine. Her habits and manner of organization in the kitchen (and throughout her home) are vastly different from mine. In the time that I lived with her, I picked up some great habits that she taught me. And that's just one reason for which I will be eternally grateful to her for that time.

So, this week's post is dedicated to "Mom." (I call her that online to preserve her anonymity.) Here is a handful of the most useful kitchen tips I picked up from my BFF during my stay:

Hand Wash Your Cookware and Your Favorite Dishes

Okay, before you object, hear me out. I'm not saying every dish every day, but think about it. My personal worst habit has always been running the dishwasher then not putting my dishes away. Then the new dirty dishes pile up on the counter as I use the clean ones from the dishwasher and it gets to be this vicious cycle.

The argument for using our dishwashers so much is that they tend to be much more energy efficient than hand washing and they use a hotter water, so they "sterilize" the dishes. All well and good. AND many of us tend to put cookware in the dishwasher because most brands, of both cookware and dishwashers, these days can handle it.

BUT your dishwasher does not, as a rule, get your cookware as clean as hand washing, so half the time we end up scouring pots and pans before they go in, or after they come out, of the dishwasher. What a waste! Just hand wash the cookware and save the space in the dishwasher for actual dishes.

Also, everyone has that favorite mug. You know the one I mean. It's the one from that trip to the Poconos, or the one your kid made you in ceramics class, or the one your friend Courtney gave you for your first Christmas in Oklahoma. Don't put it in the dishwasher and only use it once a week; hand wash it and use it every day.

darn thing keeps trying to sell me insurance
Use Two Kitchen Sponges or Scrubbies at a Time

I used to have one of those wand thingies that had the soap in the handle and the scrubbie on the end for washing dishes. I used rags, or paper towels, or disposable kitchen wipes for cleaning.

First, lets talk about the wipes and paper towels. How many of those are you throwing out every day? Every week? I'm no tree-hugger, but really, it's a lot when you think about it. And how much do you think it's costing you? It adds up. Buying inexpensive kitchen sponges saves you some money in the long run and means less crap in our landfills. Personally, I make my own. (You may have seen my crochet patterns.)

"But they get naaasty!" you whine. Yes, they do. But if you run them through the dishwasher on the top rack, it cleans the nasties out of them. If you make your own, you can just use each one for one day, maybe two, then throw them in the laundry. (But they're so small, I wash mine in a lingerie bag so I don't lose them.)

AND here's another tip: Wet the sponges with water and a little white vinegar and pop them in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds. This sterilizes the sponges. It also makes the microwave easier to clean inside because the steam created loosens up all the stuck-on nastiness that happens in there. The vinegar is a natural disinfectant and also helps get rid of the stink of the burrito you heated in there last week. Yeah, okay, the vinegar doesn't smell so pretty, but that odor dissipates pretty quickly, unlike that burrito. The smell of that thing could linger as long as a dip in the Bog of Eternal Stench.

So why TWO sponges? One for washing dishes, because that wand never works as well as you think it will; and one for wiping down surfaces, because you really should have a separate one for that. If you're afraid you won't be able to tell them apart, then use two different types, or colors, or clip a corner off of one. My BFF uses a plain sponge for surfaces and a sponge with an abrasive/scrubby side for dishes. Unless you make a huge mess on the stovetop (like letting a pot of milk boil over . . . again) you probably don't need a scrubby side for surfaces.

Use a Pump Dispenser for Your Dish Soap

This was a "duh!" moment for me. Why wouldn't I do this? I use a pump for lotions and liquid hand soap, for bubble bath and shower gel. So why would I not think of using one for my dish soap? I find I end up using less soap because I have fewer "oops" moments, like using too much or dropping the bottle. Just a quick pump or two on my sponge, and I'm good for the few dishes I have to wash. Done!

In fact, I like this one so much, one of the first things I did when I moved into my new place was find an empty pump dispenser. (Easier said than done, so I cheated. I emptied a spare bottle of hand soap into a plastic storage container so I could use the pump.)

Clean the Kitchen Before You Go to Bed

Nobody wants to wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes, and goodness knows what's lurking on your countertop in the middle of the night. I like to sit down and check email over my morning coffee. The last thing I want to be stuck doing is washing dishes or wiping down counters.

My BFF, by example, got me into the habit of doing all of that before I settle in for the night. She's better about it than I am. She tackles most of it immediately after dinner while I may let it sit for a little while, but 99% of the time, every dish is washed, dried, and put away before my head hits the pillow AND I have, at the very least, given the kitchen surfaces a good once-over.

Keep a Coffee Can in the Freezer

My mother always kept a coffee can under the sink for draining grease. When the can was full, obviously, she would throw it out. My BFF does the same thing. The difference is, she stores the can in the freezer rather than under the sink. (Why did I never think of that?) You see, the fat that you drain into that can gets rancid pretty quick and doesn't smell so pretty. It's not usually invasive; you only really smell it when you open whichever cabinet it's stored in, but leaving it in the back of the freezer, or even the back of the fridge (on the bottom shelf, which is the coldest spot in the refrigerator) means no smell.

I've seen other tips for disposing of kitchen grease, like pour it into a bowl lined with aluminum foil, then throw it out once the grease has cooled. But they tend to be wasteful. Aluminum foil is pricey; coffee cans are free. I'm cheap; get over it.

Stop Using Zipper Bags

I love zip top bags. I use(d) them for everything, but they get to be expensive when you're constantly using them. And let's face it, washing them is not really an option. They get nasty. They are made to be disposable and really aren't good for more than two uses even if you are brave enough to use them multiple times.

The solution: Think about what you use those zipper bags for and make sure you have plenty of plastic storage containers to fit your needs. Don't whine to me that you can never find the right size lid. Most manufacturers have made that task amazingly easy by making containers that only need two or three different lid sizes. This means if you stick to one brand (buy a bunch when you have coupons or when they're on sale), you should be able to lay your hands on the right lid in seconds. Some even make lids that attach to the bottom of the container when they're not in use, so you can't lose them.

The best part is that even the cheapest of the cheap containers are sturdy enough to go from freezer to microwave several times without cracking, and when they do eventually need to be thrown out, they can go in the recycle bin. (They're also inexpensive enough that sending guests home with leftovers means you don't have to ask for your container back.)

I still keep a box of gallon-sized bags in the cabinet, but these days, I only use about one a week.

So there you have it. Yeah, yeah, I know they're all no-brainers, but that's why we don't often think about them. Now go play in your kitchen.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Taters 'n' Onions

In an effort to make some of my favorite recipes allergy free, or at least lower in allergens, I've been scouring Pinterest for copycats of various premade ingredients. Now, I don't think I've ever used Lipton Onion Soup mix to actually make soup, but it's always been a staple in my pantry, just as it was in my mother's.

I've used it for pot roast, both in the slow cooker and in the oven. -- Throw a cheap cut of meat (I like a chuck roast), some potatoes, celery, carrots, onions, and water into an oven bag or a crock pot and cook it low and slow. The meat comes out fork tender and the veggies end up tender and soaked in a beautiful gravy.

I've used it for onion dip -- Pour one packet of the soup mix into a quart of sour cream and stir. It's best if you refrigerate it overnight to rehydrate the onion. Of course, these days, I'm more likely to use Greek yogurt as a more healthy alternative to sour cream.

But my favorite use for it is oven roasted potatoes -- This recipe is courtesy of the back of the Lipton Onion Soup Mix box. The only difference is that I reduce the amount of oil. Scrub potatoes and cut into desired shape. (I usually go with chunks or steak fries.) Mix a packet of Soup Mix with 1/4 cup of oil in a zip top bag. Add potatoes and shake until they're coated. Bake on a nonstick cookie sheet at 425 until potatoes are tender in the middle (about 45-60 minutes).*

The potato recipe was my litmus test for these two Pinterest experiments. Heh. Like I needed an excuse. As always, click the section title for the pin.
Click for the link to the official original recipe. This is also the source of the above photo.

This one is really good. It's got a nice, bright flavor, like fresh green onions, and would be a great starter for soup. I would probably also use it for roasted potatoes or a flavoring for other roasted vegetables. If you aren't a lover of the Lipton, try this one as the flavor is quite different.

I would love to tell you that this one is an exact copy of the Lipton mix, but I can't. I actually like it better. The flavor is so close, but it's somehow cleaner. I don't know how else to describe it. That said, if you want the Lipton flavor without all the crap, use this one with the gluten-free bouillon granules.

*Now because this is a favorite recipe of mine, I do vary it so it never gets boring. Here are a few variations I use that you might appreciate:
  • Before tossing the potatoes with the oil and onion mix, microwave them to speed up the cooking time, then finish them off in the oven. It changes the texture slightly but saves a ton of time.
  • Par-boil the potatoes (boil them until they're almost done) before laying them out on the cookie sheet. Then pour the oil and onion mix over the top and toss it all to coat the potatoes. This changes the texture quite a bit. They come out much softer, like good, old-fashioned home fries.
  • I love onions and hate to see them go to waste, so when I have an overabundance, I cube them and toss them with the potatoes. It just adds another layer of onion to the recipe.
  • Finally, this one was a (very naughty) tweak passed on to me by a friend. Add chopped, fresh onion, more oil, and half a stick of butter. Oh. Em. Gee. This is one of those recipes best reserved for special occasions. (But it's sooo good.) For another layer of naughty, add bacon. Best to cook this one in a baking dish with higher sides and you'll need to stir it a few times so the bottom doesn't burn.

Happy Cooking!