Tag Archives: potatoes

Potato Palooza! My Top 20 in Spuds

This week marked two years since I started this blog. It started with a 30-day vegetarian challenge issued by my daughter, Claire.  From there it has become a fun way to share my love of food and cooking with my family and friends (even the friends I’ve never met!), an online recipe box for myself and an ongoing cooking project for me and my kids to work on together.

To celebrate, I thought I would highlight my favorite food – the potato! I know National Potato Day is in August, but let’s be honest.  If you know me, you know it’s always National Potato Day at my house.  Maybe it’s my Irish side, or maybe just because they are irresistible, but I love them.  And apparently, so do you, since some of these rate among my most popular posts over the last couple of years.  I thought it made sense to have a collection of these favorites all in one place.  So I give to you my top 20 in spuds.

One of the most fun things about potatoes are all the incredible ways to cook them.  Which is your favorite?  It’s so hard to choose! Just click on the photo caption to go to the corresponding post.

The #1 most popular potato post on my site, and in the top five of ALL my posts, you can’t go wrong with this fancy presentation of an old favorite.

Like salt & vinegar potato chips?  You will LOVE these zippy roasted potatoes!

Who says potatoes are a side dish?  Grab yourself some big spuds and let them shine as a main course.

Forget frozen french fries.  Leave the chemicals behind and make them yourself!  Easy and oh so good.

Work out your aggression and enjoy a tasty side dish with these delightful smashed and baked potatoes.

One of my very favorites and a cure-all for just about everything.  Restaurant quality hash browns right in your own kitchen.

Spanish tortilla. One of my favorite tastes of Spain and such a beautiful presentation too!

Easy to throw together for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  And you can even use up your leftovers!

My favorite camping food – but perfect for a lazy evening at home too.

Not your mama’s scalloped potatoes.  No cans of soup here.  Just unbelievably good comfort food.

Breakfast anyone?  Easy baked eggs with a little potato and cheese.

Lemony potatoes, perfect side dish for fish or chicken.  I can eat a whole batch of these by myself. Scroll down past the fish recipe for the potatoes (but the fish is worth stopping for too!).

 

The most perfect side dish with just about anything, but especially if you are a “meat & potatoes” type.

A very veggie version of Shepherd’s Pie.

The best – and most unusual – stuffed peppers you will ever eat.  A touch of heat and Indian spices make these irresistible.

A classic potato salad to make your grandma (and mine!) proud.

A not-s0-classic potato salad.  This hearty spinach salad features tiny potatoes that steal the show.

Put your leftover baked potatoes to good use in this hearty, comforting soup.

Cheesy, with a southwestern kick.  This is a great spin on the classic potato soup.

Who says potato soup isn’t healthy?  Get your veggies for the day without evening noticing in this delicious concoction.

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Grandma’s Secret Ingredient

My family takes potato salad very seriously.  It’s not unusual to find four or five bowls of the stuff at any family reunion or potluck.  And they are all roughly based on the same recipe.  My grandma’s potato salad.  A recipe that was probably never written down so we all remember it the same but each make it slightly different with our own little twists.  But we all use her “secret” ingredient, and even in all the differences, they taste very similar.

My version uses red potatoes and red onion, and a little dash of dill.  But the real secret to Grandma’s potato salad is pickle juice.  You can bet that in the depths of every family member’s fridge there lives a jar of dill pickles (and even if the pickles are gone the jar of juice is still there).

potatosalad3

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve never measured the ingredients for this salad.  The other secret to perfect potato salad is to taste as you go.  Start with small amounts of the saucy ingredients, then add and tweak until it’s juuuuust right.  Just like Grandma would do.  Mine might not be exactly the same as hers but I think I’ve hit the high points and I’d like to think she’d be proud of my efforts.  I’m sure she would tell me she was in any case (don’t tell my cousins but I’m pretty sure I was her favorite).  I’d give just about anything to share a bowl of this with her right now.

Potato salad my Grandma Garner would be proud of.

Potato salad my Grandma Garner would be proud of.

Grandma’s Potato Salad (the April version)

4-5 pounds red potatoes
1/2 -3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4-5 boiled eggs, roughly chopped
3/4 cup chopped dill pickles (I like the crunchy baby dills)
3/4 cup black olives, halved (optional if you like olives)
1/2 cup+ mayonnaise (I strongly prefer the Best Foods/Helmann’s brand)
A big squirt of yellow mustard
1/4 cup+ dill pickle juice
A big pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. fresh or dried dill
Dash of paprika

Cut potatoes into thick slices (2-3 pieces per potato).  If you choose to use russet potatoes instead, cut them like this, boil, cool and THEN peel them.  Makes a big difference in the texture.

Slicing the potatoes instead of chopping makes a big difference in texture!  Chop after they are cooked, not before.

Slicing the potatoes instead of chopping makes a BIG difference in texture! Chop after they are cooked, not before.

Cover with water and cook until fork tender but not mushy.  Drain water and rinse to cool, drain again and set aside until cool enough to handle. Slice/chop potatoes into a large bowl (you can peel them if you want but I don’t).

I use a rough slice/chop method instead of your normal dice.  I like the variety of texture you get with some mashed bits and some bigger chunks.

I use a rough slice/chop method instead of your normal dice. I like the variety of texture you get with some mashed bits and some bigger chunks.

Add onion, celery, eggs, pickles and olives and stir to mix.  Add a couple of big spoonfuls of mayo, a big squirt of mustard and pour in the pickle juice.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dill and paprika.  Swirl the sauce and seasonings together a bit and then mix into the potato mixture.  Mix well, kind off mixing/mashing together to really blend the saucy stuff into the potatoes.  Then taste.  Is it too dry?  Add mayo.  Too bland?  Add mustard.  Need a little more zing?  More pickle juice.  Make sure you have enough salt and pepper.

This is the look you're going for.  Not goopy, but not dry.  Use enough mayo to moisten all the ingredients but don't overdo it.  In the end you want the potato to be the star of the dish, not the mayo.

This is the look you’re going for. Not goopy, but not dry. Use enough mayo to moisten all the ingredients but don’t overdo it. In the end you want the potato to be the star of the dish, not the mayo.

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Smothered Breakfast Burrito

Last week I posted a recipe for an amazing pork green chili.  Now just in case you are thinking it’s summertime and too hot for chili, just let me remind you there are other things you can do with chili beyond eating it out of a bowl.  Welcome to Casa de April, where I make a breakfast burrito I would pay for in a restaurant.  Green chili is the key that takes it from ordinary to incredible.  So make the chili, which freezes beautifully by the way, freeze in small batches to bring out for breakfast!  And although I say breakfast, I would eat this for any meal of the day.

Smothered Breakfast Burrito.  More please.

Smothered Breakfast Burrito. More please.

Smothered Breakfast Burrito

For each burrito:
1 small/medium potato
2 eggs
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup green chili (or more!)
Flour tortilla
Sliced avocado

Heat chili in a saucepan or microwave until hot.  Set aside and keep warm.  Poke potatoes and microwave for a few minutes until fork tender.  Dice or chop potatoes.  Beat eggs in a bowl with a pinch of salt & pepper.  Warm tortillas in the oven or microwave (if I’m doing a bunch I wrap them in foil and stick them in the oven while I’m making everything else; if it’s just one I nuke it).

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Add a drizzle of oil or butter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan (or you can use cooking spray).  Add potato and cook for a couple of minutes, until starting to brown a bit.  Add eggs and scramble with the potatoes.  Sprinkle in the cheese, toss with the other ingredients and remove from heat.

Melty yummy goodness on the inside.

Melty yummy goodness on the inside.

Wrap in a tortilla and top with chili and avocado.

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Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

Need a fancy side dish that 99% of people will absolutely love?  Look no further. I’ve made these a few times and they are always a huge hit.  Not only do we love them, but when we have dinner guests they add a little fancy touch to dinner that an ordinary baked potato just wouldn’t have.  They are easy to make but get an A+ for presentation. If these were a house, you could charge extra just for the curb appeal.

You can use any potatoes for this.  I used Yukon Gold potatoes basically because I was too lazy to peel and not a huge fan of russet potato skins.  But feel free to use whichever spud floats your boat.

Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

 

Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes (or whatever kind you like)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. butter
A pinch of salt, pepper, & dry Italian seasoning (or use whichever seasonings you like best)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Slice off a thin piece on one side so the potato will sit still and not roll around while you are trying to slice it.  Make thin slices all the way across the potato, but not going all the way to the bottom.  You want the potato to stay together so stop short about 1/4 inch from the bottom (don’t beat yourself up if you slice one in half, it will still taste fine).  Slice garlic very thinly and slip between potato slices here and there.  Slice butter thinly and insert here and there into potato slices as well.  Sprinkle potatoes with seasonings.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Place on a baking pan and bake for about 1 hour until fork tender.

Why not make a couple extra?  They are terrific the next day.

Why not make a couple extra? They are terrific the next day.

I always try to make a couple extra because the next morning I like to do this:

Pull apart, toss in a pan, add a couple of beaten eggs, scramble.  Top off with hot sauce.  Breakfast of champions.

Pull apart, toss in a pan, add a couple of beaten eggs, scramble. Top off with hot sauce. Breakfast of champions.

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Baked Eggs with Potato & Brie

And it’s time for another round of “What Can I Throw In A Ramekin?”  Today my fridge was looking a little bare since I’m way past due for grocery shopping, but I did have eggs and potatoes and really, I could survive on that, no problem!  Add a little scrap of brie and some leftover herbs and I had myself a gourmet breakfast.

Baked Eggs with Potato & Brie

Baked Eggs with Potato & Brie

For each ramekin:

1 small yukon gold or red potato
1-2 eggs
2-3 slices of brie cheese
fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Spray your ramekins with cooking spray.  Poke the potato with a fork a few times and microwave on high for 5 minutes, until fork tender (or you can use leftover baked or mashed potatoes for this if you have any).  Slice and place in the bottom of the ramekin.

A lovely bed of potatoes.

Sprinkle with a pinch of salt & pepper.  Break eggs over the potatoes.  Top with cheese and thyme.

Ready to pop in the oven.

Place in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes, until eggs are set.  Dig in!

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Rustic Chicken Chowder

So it’s been a long day, and you stop and get one of those tasty rotisserie chickens from the grocery store deli, dig in like a ravenous beast and throw the leftovers (if any) in the fridge.  Now if you’re like me, you think, “don’t throw that away, you can make something out of it like your grandma would!”  I’ll be honest.  Sometimes I just throw it away.  But sometimes I get industrious and soup happens the next day.

I know it SOUNDS like a lot of work, but what it really is is throwing everything in a pot and letting it simmer while you’re having a lazy day at home. I love how the chicken just falls off the bones in little shreds that permeate the whole soup.  You just don’t get that when you cut chicken up in neat little bites.  You end up with something that tastes rustic and homey, and honestly tastes like you slaved over it, when maybe you just know how to boil.  And if that’s the case, it’s okay, because it’s still going to be awesome.

Rustic Chicken Chowder

Rustic Chicken Chowder

Leftover roasted chicken (with the bones if you have them)
6-8 cups water or chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
4-5 russet potatoes, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. paprika
1-2 tsp. chicken bouillon (optional)
2 tsp. cornstarch (optional)

Put the whole chicken carcass in a soup pot (including any meat left on it and the weird jelly-like stuff in the bottom of the pan or package) and cover with water.  Add bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down, cover and simmer for a couple of hours.  (If you want to skip this step, you can always use prepared chicken broth and add cooked chicken).  Before adding the other ingredients, remove the bones and skin and return broth and chicken to the pan.

Add onion, celery, potatoes and corn.  Cook for 30 minutes or more until veggies are all soft.  Add cream and seasonings.  If you want more intense chicken flavor, add some chicken bouillon (I like the “better than bouillon” paste stuff) for an extra punch.  I like my soups to be soupy but if you prefer a thicker, more “chowder-like” consistency, mix some cornstarch with water until it dissolves and stir into boiling soup to thicken.

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Cheesy Potato Soup

Potato soup is one of my favorite foods, summer or winter.  It’s also one dish that I just can’t help but mess with because there are so many great variations.  This is the first time I tried this particular combination and it was a huge hit!  The cheese gives it added richness and flavor and the cumin, chiles and cilantro lend just a hint of southwestern flair.  Feel free to play with the texture to suit your tastes, it can be chunky or smooth, thick or thin.  It’s up to you.

And now…I’m off to do extra yoga to work off some of those potatoes.  So worth it!

Cheesy Potato Soup

Cheesy Potato Soup

8 medium russet potatoes
2 leeks, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
1/4 cup butter
1 8 oz. can diced green chiles
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 strips crispy cooked bacon, crunched up into bacon bits (for garnish, optional)

Peel and quarter potatoes, cover with water and boil until fork tender.  Drain off the water (or most of it).  While potatoes are cooking, saute leeks and onions in butter in a separate pan.  When onions and leeks are tender, put in a blender with a little chicken broth and puree.  Add to drained potatoes, along with diced green chiles, 2 cups chicken broth and cream.  Using an immersion blender or a potato masher, mash up the potato chunks, leaving some bigger pieces (if you like it totally smooth, puree to your heart’s content, but I prefer a slightly chunky texture).  Add more chicken broth if you want a thinner texture (I used three cups of broth in mine). Add salt, pepper & cumin.  Heat until just barely boiling.  Turn heat off and stir in cheese until melted.  Serve hot, topped with fresh cilantro and bacon if desired.

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Not Your Mama’s Scalloped Potatoes

I grew up eating scalloped potatoes made with cream o’ mushroom soup and – I’ll admit it – loving every bite.  But as my tastes and cooking skills have evolved, I have found there is a better way.  Not to mention that lately I just don’t see any reason to eat the extra sodium and chemicals that come with most canned food if it can be avoided.  So ditch the can, get out a saucepan, and spend an extra five minutes making a scrumptious cheese sauce to replace it.  You won’t regret it!

For those of you not so keen on the veggies, or trying to disguise them for picky kiddos (or husbands), this is one of those recipes that I use to “hide” veggies.  I added a layer of fresh spinach in this one.  Don’t like spinach?  Try a different green like kale, or chopped peppers, zucchini, eggplant, whatever!

This is a great vegetarian meal, but if you want to take it way over the top add some lean sausage or fresh franks to the top.  I was lucky enough to score some lean, freshly-made spicy frankfurters last time I went to farmer’s market and they made a fine addition to this!  Lip smackin’ good!

Not Your Mama’s Scalloped Potatoes – Sans Meat

Not Your Mama’s Scalloped Potatoes – Over The Top Version!

Not Your Mama’s Scalloped Potatoes

3 pounds potatoes (I used half small yukon gold potatoes and half baby red potatoes)
3 large spring onions
2 cups fresh spinach
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup grated parmesan
Lean sausage or frankfurters (optional)

Slice potatoes in thin rounds.  Chop spring onions (if you don’t have spring onions you can substitute leeks or regular onions). In a small bowl, mix flour, salt, dry mustard, cayenne, and black pepper.  In a saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour mixture.  When the butter is absorbed, gradually whisk in milk.  Continue to cook and whisk until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese.  Whisk until smooth.  Add a little more milk if it seems too thick.

In a large casserole dish, start with a layer of potatoes, sprinkle with onions and generously drizzle with sauce.  Repeat.  After two potato layers, add all of the spinach in one layer.  Top with at least one more potato-onion-sauce layers (I had enough ingredients for two more layers).  End with sauce.  Cover tightly with foil.  Bake at 375˚ for 1 hour.  Remove foil.  If you are using sausage or frankfurters, scatter over the top now.  Either way, continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender and top is browned.

In theory, you should let it sit for 10-15 minutes so it can set up and be cut into pretty wedges.  But let’s face it, it smells so good that I usually cannot wait.  So if you don’t let it set up, it will still taste great, but instead of a wedge it will look more like this:

Scalloped potatoes in a bowl when you’re too impatient to wait!

 

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Frozen French Fries Are Evil!

In the battle of good and evil, french fries are at the forefront.  Most people don’t know this, but it’s true.  At least, it’s true if you love potatoes as much as I do.

The more research I do about food, and the more I read ingredient labels, the more irritated I become by the amount of chemicals and added sugar and oil I’m eating without even knowing it.  And while I’m not advocating giving up all processed foods (hello, chocolate!), cutting down on them substantially just seems like good sense.  I was in the process of grabbing a bag of frozen french fries at the store (yes, I get lazy sometimes), when I read the label, which went like this:  potatoes, vegetables oil (palm oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil and/or canola oil), salt, dextrose, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, annatto, vegetables (for coloring).

Just for contrast, here’s the french fry ingredients from a major fast food place:  potatoes, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor (wheat and milk derivatives)**, citric acid (preservative), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent)), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). **CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.)

Maybe these added ingredients are benign, simply helpers in the world of making them look good and not stick together.  But that doesn’t mean I want to eat them if I can avoid it.  Aside from the chemicals in there, both of these french fries have dextrose in them.  Why?  Potatoes taste great without added sugar.

So I put down the bag, went home and made my own french fries.  I did have to sacrifice an extra 5 minutes or so, but it was worth it.  The ingredients in mine are potatoes, olive oil, garlic and seasonings.  That’s it.  And that is good.

Homemade Red Potato Fries

Homemade Red Potato Fries

Red Potatoes (or you can use any kind)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Fresh or dried herbs (optional)
Garlic (optional)

Cut potatoes into sticks, toss with a little olive oil (a tablespoon or two) and whatever seasonings you like.  Spread out flat on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚ for about 30 minutes.  Bake a little less if you like them soft and squishy (I do), or a little longer if you want them crispy and brown.

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Hearty Spinach Salad

I grew up thinking spinach was disgusting.  And it was.  Because the spinach of my youth looked a lot like this:

Canned Spinach. Blech!

Nothing can make that look or taste appetizing to me.  And don’t even get me started on the nasty smell.  All of the Popeye cartoons in the world would still not make me want to eat it. Canned spinach is the reason kids hate vegetables.

Luckily, as often happens, in my food journey somewhere along the line I discovered that spinach actually comes from a plant, not a can.  And the fresh stuff is pretty darn good!  In fact, it’s one of my favorite ingredients, and not just for salad.  You can chop up fresh spinach and put it in just about anything, from casseroles and omelets to meatloaf.

I haven’t eaten bacon since before we started Project Veggie.  You could make this without it (just saute the onions in a little butter or olive oil instead).  But I didn’t do that.  I miss bacon sometimes.  And combined with the spinach and apple juice and all the other good stuff in here, it was REALLY good. The potatoes, bacon and eggs also give this salad some nice substance, making it perfect for a main dish.

Hearty Spinach Salad. Much better!

Hearty Spinach Salad

1 – 10 oz. package fresh baby spinach
4-6 small red potatoes, cooked and diced
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2-4 bacon strips
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup apple juice
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. pepper

Combine spinach, potatoes, eggs, and mushrooms in large salad bowl.  Cook bacon and remove to drain on paper towels.  Cook onion in bacon drippings until tender.  Combine cornstarch, apple juice, vinegar, sugar and pepper.  Stir into skillet with onions.  Bring to a boil.  Cook and stir 1-2 minutes until slightly thickened and bubbly.  Pour over spinach mixture.  Crumble bacon on top and toss to combine.

Served with french bread on the side. Make sure you dig down and get all the good stuff from the bottom of the bowl!

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