Christmas Mash-Up

Mashed potatoes are not my specialty. They are more than just “not my specialty” – they are my arch nemesis! I just can’t seem to master them. They usually come out gluey or lumpy or both all at the same time!

I think making mashed potatoes are a lesson in patience (which I am short on) and require some amount of technical ability.  You need to put the peeled (patience needed) potatoes into the big pot of cold water and bring it all up to boil together (more patience) for the potatoes to cook evenly. You really should warm up whatever dairy product you are adding – milk, cream etc. Don’t over mash and make sure you season liberally.

For Christmas lunch – I decided to be patient with my mashed potatoes and I was rewarded with lovely, creamy, perfect mashed potatoes!

And then I added a few things…

Some roasted garlic cloves. Some grated Parmesan cheese…Some chopped spinach. Yup, chopped spinach. I thought the chopped spinach would be a fun “mash-up.” Like having creamed spinach and garlic mashed altogether.

While my mother and I thought it was tasty, my husband did not!  Weird because cooked spinach is one of the few veggies he really likes and he likes mashed potatoes very much. So what’s not to love about mixing the two?

Ingredient list to fill a 9×13 baking dish

5 lbs Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and cut into similar sized pieces.

3-6 large garlic cloves – roasted and mashed

1 box of chopped spinach ( 9 oz +/-) defrosted and squeezed of excess water.

1/2 stick salted butter

1 cup whole milk – warmed

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tb “Better Life Foods” Depot spice ( or more to taste)

Ground black pepper and additional salt to taste

A Chicken in Every Pot (or Not)

No I am not stating my political views. I just couldn’t resist the play on words!

I saw one of those recipe videos on Facebook  – you know the ones where they step through the recipe in double-time and it looks super easy and successful. Well I saw one for a roasted, beer-can type chicken in a slow cooker.

Seemed simple – put some foil balls in the bottom of your slow-cooker (instead of the beer can) and pour the beer ( or water or cider or whatever liquid) in the bottom. Place a seasoned chicken on top and put the lid on – cook on high for 4-5 hours. Voila! Perfectly juicy, roasted chicken.

So I bought a chicken, pulled out my slow cooker and tried it. Here is my video (slide show):

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I left the chicken in there  about 4.5 hours and it didn’t look any different – it just looked raw! I pulled it out and took its temperature – 120 degrees!! After FOUR AND A HALF HOURS!

I considered for a quick minute about finishing it in the oven, but then I thought about how many hours it had been squished in the pot, in the FDA danger-zone, trying to reach temperature. No thanks – into the trash. What a waste.

Moral of the story: get a bigger pot or a smaller chicken – pretty sure you need to fit the chicken in spaciously but who knows sometimes, the internet is just plain wrong.

 

Easy-Fancy Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes are the perfect blend of  “easy but looks fancy!”

What are they? Basically they are baked potatoes that have been sliced in a decorative manner. They were a Swedish invention at the “Hasselbacken Hotel” in Stockholm, where they are called “hasselbackspotatis,” back in the 1700s.

I decided to test these out as a possible Thanksgiving dish. We were always more of a baked potato family than a mashed family so a twist on the family standard seemed like a good idea. I washed and sliced some potatoes, poured melted butter and seasoning over them as the many internet recipes suggest and baked them in a high oven ( 450!!!) for 50 mins. They were easy and they look impressive, but I think next time I will slice and bake them with just a bit of oil rubbed onto the potatoes and at a slightly lower heat. I will save the butter-garlic-topping for when they come out of the oven because I noticed that garlic pieces burned unless you conscientiously tuck each one into a slice – who has time for that on thanksgiving!

Here is a look at my “test drive”

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One Pan (or Board) Plan

oneboard-plan

clockwise from top: chopped white onion, chopped green onion, salt & pepper, chopped garlic, Penzey’s lamb seasoning, raw Cauliflower “rice” (i.e. finely chopped), quartered Compari tomatoes, 2 lamb patties. not shown: crumbled Feta cheese – wouldn’t fit! 🙂

Folks around the home-cooking world are clamoring about “one pan plans” or “sheet tray dinners.” this is where all the ingredients are cooked in one pan or one sheet tray.

I am not sure my “one board plan” actually qualifies but I did only use one saute pan to cook. I simply cooked the lamb patties (season each generously with salt & pepper), flipping once, till done to my level. (medium/medium-well for lamb, for me, please) removed them from the pan and set aside under foil. Next added the white onion, garlic and lamb seasoning and saute a few minutes. Add the Cauliflower and tomatoes, stir till combined,lower heat and cover. Simmer till cauliflower is soft ( maybe 10-15 mins tops) Taste and add salt & pepper as needed. Add patties and any juice back in to warm through. Served garnished with the green onions and feta cheese.

Here is my Mediterranean “one board plan” on a plate….

lamb-patty-with-cauliflower-rice

 

Stuffed, Shelled or Stacked?

These are the questions I ponder when making a filling for a pasta dish. Will this be better stuffed in a Cannelloni? or bursting out of over-sized shells? or perhaps layered in a lasagna?

Recently I was test-driving a filling for the upcoming thanksgiving dinner.

A “rift” on sweet potato casserole if you will. I took baked sweet potatoes, scooped out the flesh, mixed it with copious amounts of butter, salt and pepper and didn’t stop there.

I proceeded to mix up a basic béchamel sauce (flour/butter roux with milk and fresh nutmeg) and mixed in some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. This got folded into the sweet potato and “voila” a delicious pasta filling was created!

Since I only had the shells in the house, I boiled up a few and tested this filling out.

img_0131

test driving my filling in the shells

It was good, but I have concluded that this would be better stuffed into Cannelloni pasta. This is the long tube like pasta. (Like a giant ziti)

I think I will also stuff the pasta with just the plain sweet potato filling and save the béchamel for pouring over the top. Baked and served at the thanksgiving table this will be my new twist on “sweet potato casserole” – no marshmallows needed.

Bean Practice

I had a hankering for homemade baked beans and I couldn’t remember the last time I had made them. I checked online and saw that my original baked bean posting was back in September 2010 and after that only one other posting in August 2011. (during hurricane Irene – I should really not wait so long to make baked beans!)

So here we are in 2016 with another hurricane (Matthew) pummeling the country and me working to perfect a very traditional baked bean. The last batches were not too traditional. So this time I stuck to tradition. I ended up making 3 batches (!!!) over the course of a week.

Batch 1: I used a red kidney bean – that’s the bean I had used the last couple of times – but I must have bought some extra giant size and I was out of practice in general so my husband pronounced these “ok, but not great and why are the beans so big?”

Batch 2: My mom heard I was making baked beans and was dying for some so I made a vegetarian & onion free version for her and used a smaller pink bean. I soaked them overnight but was too lazy to do the boil-in-water step but did cook them extra long in the slow-cooker . She pronounced them “delicious, but maybe they could be just a tiny bit more tender.”

Batch 3: I again used the small pink bean and soaked them overnight. This time I boiled them in fresh water for about 10 minutes before cooking them overnight in the slow cooker. I kept them vegetarian and used onion. I am dropping some off at my boss’s house. Hopefully he will pronounce them “an excellent baked bean.”

here is how we like to eat them around here…

baked-beans-supper

Cajun spiced-rubbed steak, corn bread, sliced tomatoes and traditional baked beans

 

The Recipe:

I used approx. 2 lbs (2 small bags) of small pink dried beans, soaked overnight, boiled for 10 minutes in fresh water (no salt) and drained. Place in a sprayed slow-cooker for easy clean up.

Whisk together:

1 6-ounce can of tomato paste

1 cup light brown sugar – barely (lightly) packed

1/3 cup dark molasses

1/2 tablespoon of dry mustard

1/4 cup ketchup

2 cups very hot water

1 tb of ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups small diced white onion (instead of onion this could also be 4 whole garlic cloves thrown in the slow cooker and fished out later – I tried that in one of my versions.)

Taste the mix and adjust as desired. Remember the flavors will deepen in the pot, but this is a chance to get the general “sweet and tangy-ness” right. Add this mixture to the beans in your slow cooker. Stir well. At this point I like to add 1 more cup of hot water to make sure there is enough “juice” as I cooked these on high, overnight. (or about 8-10 hours) The water level should just be “peeking” out from the beans not actually covering the beans. Use +/- water on that final cup of hot water to achieve the right level. Stir maybe twice during the cooking and scrap the sides down.

TIP: When they are done – tender, smelling good, looking good, tasting good – stir in a 1/2 cup of good quality maple syrup. (I like a dark amber from Vermont.) Add a couple pinches of salt. The syrup at the end gives the beans a warm, sweet undertone. I don’t add it in the beginning because I think the delicate flavor gets lost in all that cooking. (believe me I tried that in the first two batches.)

Patty Pan

Such a funny, odd name.  What is a “patty pan” anyway? I mean I know it’s a type of squash but that must be named after something? My husband thought maybe it was an another name for a cupcake-like thing. A quick search of the inter-webs told me that  “The name “pattypan” derives from “a pan for baking a patty”. Its French name, pâtisson, derives from a Provençal word for a cake made in a scalloped mould.”

I may have styled this photo just a tiny bit :)

I may have styled this photo                         …just a tiny bit 🙂

The husband was pretty close to right on this one. Yup, a wife has actually admitted in writing that her husband was right! (just this one time)

I bought a couple of Patty pan’s from the farmer’s market at the Brimfield antique show this past week, along with a variety of summer squash called “Zephyr” along with some tiny little potatoes, Cipollini onions, some beautiful tomatoes, a few tomatillos and some tasty golden raspberries. No trip to the farmer’s market is complete without some corn on the cob, so I picked some up!

And of course since I was there to shop antiques – there was a small side table purchased!

The Patty Pans are small but mighty. They can be sliced or stuffed.

patty-pan-with-cupI sliced up mine along with most of my other farmer market finds and spread them all out on sheet pan with olive oil  and spices and roasted them . This is a great way to cook them easily, all at once. Later they can be arranged on a platter for a meal, snacking or sandwiches.

 

Interested in Brimfield? it happens 3 times a year near Sturbridge Massachusetts – here’s a link for more info and here is some pictures I took….

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