Appetizer, Snacks

Healthier Living

There was a drizzle of rain and a bit of fog as we climbed our way up the mountain road. The destination was a ‘Harvest Tasting’ dinner and fundraiser event. I was accompanying my mother who is involved with the organization. I had heard her talk about this wonderful program before and always wanted to see, as much as possible in the rapidly fading daylight, what this school was all about. We entered through the doors and it reminded me like any other school building – a big ‘multipurpose’ room with beautifully waxed floors (this school already went above and beyond in my book!) That simply laid the foundation upon which long tables with white tablecloths were dressed with beautiful fall centerpieces – big sunflowers (no doubt grown at the school) bobbed and nodded from their wine bottle vases, below them branches with tiny delicate orange, yellow and red flowers were placed. Large pots of gorgeous fall flowers graced the ends of each table – cabbages, mums, and other beautiful fall flowers. In the background a steller jazz quartet was playing…the husband of the local music teacher was the guitarist. People gathered for one thing – to celebrate what this school, The Crotched Mountain School, has already done and their vision for the future. The week had been an incredibly long one. For me I had been on an emotional roller coaster that put the Sheikra to shame. But here I was at this dinner, with delicious food (prepared by the head chef of the school), featuring fresh produce (which the children helped grow) and tasting fabulous wines. A video clip was shown and gave me a better glimpse into the lives of these students, and their teachers. The beauty of this school is that it gives children with severe disabilities a place to learn – with the support and tools needed to do so.  The smiles and joy on their faces said it all. Is it from the on-site horticulture program where they learn to plant seeds which later becomes a part of their lunch? Is it ‘Tecumseh’ who shows us how to pick up a chicken and say sometimes they fly away (as this one did) – but he isn’t deterred. He still shows us the chicken dance with a joyful smile, and giddiness to his song. Or is it the child that pets a horses muzzle for the first time, having a silent conversation, because words sometimes get in the way, and trust when he puts his hand out the horse will gently, knowingly, take the treat offered. Amazing.

With the weather turning colder I feel as though everyone is churning out macaroni and cheese, soups, pumpkin everything, hearty meals that make you turn your oven on – if nothing else to warm up the kitchen! For many in New England turning on the heat before October 1st is just not done. Me? Yes, I put on layers of warm clothes but I also will turn my heat on low, or light a fire in the woodstove and make a hot toddy to warm up.  And though I am clamoring for hearty fall and winter recipes I am also trying to keep it slightly healthy. The recipe starts here:

Red bliss and sweet ‘taters

And turns into this:

Baked Chili Cheese Fries

I did not invent this but happily followed the recipe of Ms. Joy the Baker. Genius, Joy, genius! Chili seasonings vs. the globs of real chili that weigh down the potatoes turning them into one sloppy mess. Baked potato fries vs. fried. Fries that were slightly crunchy but a couple of ‘just-right-soggy’ fries to round things out and keep it real. I scaled the recipe back – but still found myself eating the last fry with a satisfied smile on my face. It was dinner. It was comfort. It was needed.

This was also a reminder to be joyful of the little things in my everyday life. To trust one another as the kids and horses have learned to do. To take chances and risks (learn how to pick up a chicken) – though it can be frightening and knowing they may take flight. It cannot hurt to try new things.

You may also find this recipe in Joy the Baker’s cookbook.

Baked Chili Cheese Fries


  • Recipe lightly adapted from Joy the Baker
  • 2 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • *salt to taste, if needed (check your Grill Seasoning mixture - it might have salt)
  • 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled (I used a red potato and sweet potato)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoons grill seasoning (I used McCormick Grill Seasoning, which had salt)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, monterey jack - choices are endless!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives and parsley (original recipe states scallions)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425*. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprayed with a nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together your 'rub' ingredients in a small bowl: cornstarch, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  3. Rinse, scrub and peel your potatoes. You may leave the skins on if that is your thing...I left half on! Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch strips.
  4. In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with olive oil, worcestershire sauce and grill seasoning. Next up, sprinkle the cornstarch into the bowl and toss the whole mixture to combine. Coat those potatoes with the cornstarch mixture - it puts the crisp into these crispy fries!
  5. Dump out your potato fries onto the prepared baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, tossing a few times as the potatoes cook. When they are crisped to your desire, sprinkle on your cheese choice, return the tray to the oven, until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with chives to serve! Enjoy immediately!

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