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

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Color Competition

Ever since the purple sweet potatoes showed up things have gotten colorful around the house!

Not only was I intrigued with the colorful sweet potato, but the whole family got into the act. What better time to have a “potato bake-off” then over the holidays, among the many meals shared with loved ones.

Our potato bake-off was all about the sweet varieties – but we did bake some regular old white potatoes too.

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(…and no we did not have like 25 people over for dinner, we mash and freeze the leftovers!)

It was fun to see them all lined up and ready to go into the oven!

Stokes Purple – purple skin and flesh

Garnet- reddish skin and very orange interior

Idaho – we all know this staple of baking white potatoes.

Japanese (Kotobuki) – rosy skin with light yellow inside

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They looked so pretty cut up and on the platter. By cutting them in half everybody got a chance to choose and taste the different varieties. And if you mash some of the varieties together – what a pretty bowl that makes – kinda looked like tie-dyed potatoes!

Everyone had their favorite – I just liked them all!

 

 

The Last Potato

I have made my last batch of mashed potatoes. Ever. By request of my husband.

Yes it is true, and while many of the dishes that come out of my kitchen are delicious and get rave reviews, my mashed potatoes are not one of them. I can’t seem to get the hang of them. I can’t even make instant mashed potatoes properly! Even when I follow the box directions precisely, something is not quite right. No matter how much butter or cream or anything, there is something wrong. Sometimes it’s the texture and sometimes it’s the flavor.

The problem

First off I HATE peeling potatoes and that was the probably the final straw on this last go round.  Secondly I don’t like getting out the big pot and waiting forever for the water to come to boil. After all that, inevitably, I pull the boiled potatoes out either over-cooked or undercooked. Sometimes, in total laziness, I oven-bake the potatoes instead of boiling them to get them cooked. Than they get mashed, peels included. The peels hold all the nutrients, right? (At least I dig out all the little “eyes” on the potatoes first!)

This last (and final) round of mashed potato was used in a perfectly delicious Shepard’s Pie. But the un-peeled mashed potatoes didn’t go over so well. Or perhaps it was the carrots that I adventurous-ly included. Maybe I will never know. But the hubby has instructed me to leave the potato-making to him. He is after all a Boston Irish guy and if that doesn’t qualify him to know his potatoes, I don’t know what would!

Classic with a Twist

Shepard’s pie was a staple growing up. In fact while some would claim macaroni and cheese as their childhood comfort food, I would actually say this was my favorite childhood comfort food. And still is today. And of course the school lunch program had it at least once a week.

If you are not familiar with “shepard’s pie” perhaps you would recognize it by some of its other names; “Chinese pie” or “cottage pie.”

Whatever you call it there are basic characterizations: meat on the bottom, veggie in the middle and mashed potato topping. A fine casserole indeed.

You can read a cute blog entry about it here and also there is a good classic recipe shown as well. (Although I never put peas in mine and never eat it with ketchup.)

The other night I made this classic with a twist.

In true cabinet stew mentality I was using up what I had in the fridge, freezer and cabinets. So that turned out to be some Italian “pepper and onions” sausage, frozen spinach and potatoes.

I baked the potatoes in the morning while I was doing other things so I could just peel and mash later. Easy and I hate peeling and boiling potatoes for mashed!

Although I took the spinach out and let it sit to defrost in a strainer earlier in the day, I didn’t really make too much effort there. A good mash with a spoon before I used it to get some of the water out.

When dinner time came around all I did was slip the sausage out of their casing and brown them in a pan. They already had tons of seasoning and fat so that was easy too.

Layer the browned, crumbled sausage down first. Mix the spinach with a little salt, pepper, grated nutmeg and grated Romano (just because I am a cheese freak) and layer that on top of the meat. Then I mashed my potatoes with melted butter, warm milk , salt and pepper and layered that on top. A dusting of paprika (traditional) and more grated Romano. (not as traditional)

30 mins in a 350 degree oven and we had a quick, delicious, classic casserole with a twist or maybe just a cabinet stew!

Cowboy Up

For some of you that phrase brings to mind the 2001 film starring Kiefer Sutherland, Marcus Thomas and Daryl Hannah.

For others it might just simply mean quit your bitching and be a man.

For anybody who follows baseball it means the Red Sox are down and need get a few in the win column.

Today is the home opener at Fenway and the Sox are already 0-6 for the season. And they are playing the Yankees.

Need I say more.

This concern for the Sox inspired dinner last night. That and the fact that I had a package of Cabot Pepper Jack Cheese in the fridge. Which I love for snacking and cooking.

I shredded the whole 8oz block of cheese into a ton of mashed potatoes with 1/2 stick of butter, some milk and a package of Hidden Valley Ranch.

A little fattening, a lot delicious.

I dusted some cut up peppers and shallots with a little southwest style seasoning and olive oil, threw them in a baking dish to get all toasty.

A lot spicy, and a little sweet.

I opened a package of Bell & Evans gluten free, boneless, skinless chicken breasts made from chicken raised without antibiotics, air-chilled, no preservatives, no fillers, no artificial flavorings, no hydrogenated oils, and no animal by-products fed to the chickens.

Need I say more.

So hopefully today the Sox get the win and maybe my cowboy up inspired dinner helped.

Even “One-Eyed Susie” is root-root-rooting for the home team.

LATE UPDATE: WE WON TODAY!

(Must have been my inspirational dinner ;-))