Taters, Taters, Taters (Let’s Exchange Recipes)…

No matter what you call them, how you prepare them or how you serve them I love taters! Yes I know about carbs and yes there are some great alternatives but nothing in my mind compliments a meal like some delicious taters! Basically they are good for you, it’s all the stuff we put on them that causes the problems. But taters are one of my top guilty pleasures in life and that is not likely to change.

So I thought with this particular blog I’d try something a little different – basically suggest a tater exchange. I will give you a recipe that I’ve recently perfected and just love with the hopes that in the comments of my blog you share your favorite potato recipe. Then this blog can be a clearing house for a variety of great potato recipes – and what is better than that? Plus it will give me some new tater recipes to try.

So my recipe is for Greek Lemon Potatoes. These potatoes slow roast in the oven and the aroma of the garlic, oregano and lemon fill the air with a wonderful homey smell. So let’s talk Greek Lemon Potatoes

Lesson Learned 1 – How you cut the potatoes is important: I use Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe and I actually peel them although it’s not necessary. Yukon Golds have a very thin skin and you can roast them either way. I try to pick out ones that are about the same size and thickness (not more than about 4 inches thick). I slice the potatoes in half and then I slice them down the middle lengthwise and into about six equal sized pieces widthwise. The picture below shows how I cut them.

Lesson Learned 2 – Be careful how much oil you use: When I originally tried this recipe I used 1/2 cup of olive oil. I found the potatoes came out too greasy. I’ve cut the amount down to a little over 1/4 cup but I found the amount of oil you use depends on the pan you roast the potatoes in. In a smaller high sided pan you will need less oil. In a larger pan where the potatoes are more spread out you’ll need more. Just make sure you’ve got at least 1/8 in of oil on the bottom. You may have to play around with the amount of oil. If you think the potatoes are coming out too greasy, just put them on paper towels for a couple of seconds before you serve them and you should be just fine.

Lesson Learned 3 – Your roasting time may vary depending on your oven: Once again I live in high altitude so the roasting process always takes a little longer. This recipe works well for me at 400 degrees for 1 1/2 hours but you may find your roasting time will be a little shorter. Keep in mind you’re cutting your potatoes into somewhat larger chunks so you will need some time to roast them completely.

Lesson Learned 4 – Salt the warm potatoes before you serve them: I’ve found that sprinkling a little bit of kosher salt on these potatoes right before you serve them gives them a little touch that really boosts the flavor. The warmth of the potatoes seems to incorporate the salt more fully. Try it and see what you think. These are not difficult at all to prepare and require very little monitoring but the end result c’est manifique… (I know that’s French and not Greek). Try these and share your favorite potato recipe with me. I’m always on the look out for a new way to make taters!

Greek Lemon Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds of Yukon Gold Potatoes sliced in medium sized chunks

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

4 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice, (about 1 medium sized lemon)

2 Tbs. dijon mustard

1 Tbs. dried oregano

1/4 cup olive oil (may need to adjust according to the size you use)

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice potatoes into medium sized chunks and place in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine all of the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour this mixture over the potatoes and thoroughly combine.

Spray a medium sized casserole dish (2 quarts or larger) with cooking spray. Put the potato mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula to get all of the olive oil mixture out of the bowl. Cover with foil and roast for an hour, stirring the potatoes at the half hour mark.

Uncover the potatoes, stir them once again and roast for another half hour. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve immediately.

I’LL START OFF THE RECIPE EXCHANGE!

And since I am suggesting the tater recipe exchange, I will start the process – here is a great cheesy potato recipe that I know you will just love Cheesy Potato and Green Onion Casserole

Cheesy Potato and Green Onion Casserole

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Lithuanian Kugelis (Potato Pudding)…

Let me say right up front that this recipe is an artery clogger. That is why I make it once or maybe twice a year tops. The recipe has its roots in my family history. I am of both Lithuanian and Polish decent, and this recipe comes directly from my Lithuanian heritage.

My grandmother (my mother’s mother) was a great cook. She was one of those cooks who could never give you a recipe since everything she made was by look and taste. So it was with this kugelis recipe. I’ve played around with it and have gotten it to just about the way my grandmother made it. But lets face it, no one ever made it like Grandma or ever will.

Before I go into my lessons learned I think it only fair to share some memories of my grandmother. She came on a boat from Lithuania when she was only 16. Her passage was paid for by the man she was to marry. It was an arranged marriage. I can’t even begin to imagine how, at that young age, she had to courage to travel by herself to meet a man she had never met and marry him. But she felt it was her way out of abject poverty.

She got to the United States and immediately knew she did not want to marry this man. She was fortunate enough to meet another man she liked and convinced him to “buy-out” her marriage contract. He did and she wound up marrying him. They lived in Chicago which, at the time, had the largest Lithuanian population outside of Lithuania itself.

My Grandmother and Grandfather on their wedding day

My Grandmother and Grandfather on their wedding day

They were not rich by any stretch of the imagination and they had four children to feed. My mother told me there were times when my Grandmother went without food so the kids could eat. But they worked hard, watched their pennies and were finally able to make ends meet. They were the embodiment of the American dream but for a long time it was not easy.

Because they were so poor, my grandmother had to find ways to fill up the bellies of her kids while not spending a lot of money. A recipe like kugelis fit the bill. She could make good use out of a few potatoes, eggs, bacon and butter and turn them into a stick to your ribs kind of dish that would feed the whole family. In the end, she was noted for her kugelis and her home made bread, another inexpensive staple she made often during those times. I have not mastered her homemade bread and making bread from scratch is even trickier at high altitude, but I keep trying and someday I hope to post that recipe as well.

So let’s talk Lithuanian Kugelis…

Lesson Learned 1 – There is no one way to make kugelis: Just about every person of Lithuanian decent I’ve spoken to has their own family recipe for kugelis. And the ingredients can vary. Many recipes include onions (my grandmother did not use them), some recipes use condensed milk, (again, this recipe does not) and some do not use cream of rice or wheat (this recipe does). My point is there is not one full proof way of making kugelis. I am sharing the way my grandmother and mother made it.

Cream of RiceLesson Learned 2 – Use a little cream of rice or wheat: My grandmother used “farina” in her recipe. Farina used to be very popular when I was growing up but not so much now. As a substitute you can use either cream of rice or wheat. They are both a very creamy type of hot cereal and the little bit you use gives extra creaminess to the kugelis.

Lesson Learned 3 – Beat the eggs into submission: This is one of the tricks my mother taught me. You want your kugelis to be light and fluffy so you want a lot of air in your beaten eggs. You need to beat them for about 5-7 minutes with a hand mixer. I advise you not to guess when 5 minutes is up but to actually set a timer. You will not believe how long 5 minutes feels when you are beating those eggs. But you want a very airy consistency to the eggs as seen in the picture below.

Beaten eggs

Lesson Learned 3 – Keep the potatoes soaking in water until you are ready to grate them: You use quite a bit of potatoes in this recipe and it takes time to grate them. potatoes in waterThe last thing you want to have happen is for the potatoes to oxidize and turn brown while waiting to be grated. Once you peel them put them in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to grate them. That way they will not turn brown on you.

Lesson Learned 4 – Grate the potatoes by hand: My mother maintained that the only way to get the potatoes to a perfect consistency for kugelis is to grate them by hand. Let me tell you, that is quite an arduous task. Many people now use food processors to grate their potatoes, but my mother felt a food processor rendered the potatoes too watery. So, I do what my mother and my grandmother before always did and grate the potatoes by hand. You can really build up your upper body strength by grating the potatoes by hand, but the end result is so worth it. The pictures below show the gadget I use to grate the potatoes and the desired consistency of the grated potatoes.

Hand Grater

The desired consistency of the grated potatoes

The desired consistency of the grated potatoes

Lesson Learned 5 – Cut the bacon into lardons and cook until brown but not crisp: You want the bacon to have good color but you don’t want it so crispy that it won’t hold its shape when you mix it with the potatoes. So cut your bacon into lardons, as shown below, and cook them until they have a nice deep rich color.

bacon lardons

The desired color of the bacon

The desired color of the bacon

Lesson Learned 6 – Mix well and taste for enough salt: My mother used to say over and over again that you need to mix these ingredients really well. She usually mixed them for about 3-4 minutes and now so do I. This is not like other recipes that tell you not to over mix as the it will make the end result tough. So take your time and mix the ingredients thoroughly. You won’t be disappointed. My mother was also very specific about tasting the uncooked mixture for enough salt. Now keep in mind there is a lot of salt in the bacon so you don’t want the kugelis too salty. I always take a little taste before putting it in the baking dish just to make sure there is enough salt. I start out with one teaspoon at the beginning and add more after I’ve done my mixing if I think the kugelis needs it.

I guarantee you this recipe is over the top. A great recipe with a treasured heritage – nothing can beat that! Enjoy!

Lithuanian Kugelis...

  • Servings: 16 squares
  • Difficulty: Medium
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INGREDIENTS:

8 Large russet potatoes

1/2 pound of bacon, cut into lardons

1/2 stick of butter

3 Tbs. cream of rice or wheat

1-2 tsp. salt

8 large eggs

Sour cream, for topping

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sauté the bacon and butter together. Set aside. Peel the potatoes and place into a large bowl of water until ready to use.

Beat the eggs with a hand mixer for 5-7 minutes or until extremely frothy. Set aside. Grate the potatoes. Add the eggs, bacon and melted butter, cream of rice and salt. Mix very well.

Pour the mixture unto a 13 x 9 x2 pan (no need to prepare the pan in any way).

Bake for 90 minutes or until the center is done. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream.

Ready to go into the oven

Ready to go into the oven

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

Kugelis

Kugelis

Serving suggestion

Serving suggestion

 

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops With Roasted Italian Potatoes…

I know I have been remiss in posting recipes. As I’ve stated many times, my goal is one new recipe a week. Well, there is a very good reason that I’ve not been able to keep up. My husband and I downsized and moved from a house to a condo in July. It didn’t take us long to figure out that the look and functionality of the kitchen were not what we wanted. And so it began… shopping for granite, replacing appliances (stove top, microwave, oven and dishwasher – the refrigerator is ok so it may get a reprieve for a while). And now we are in the midst of taking it all apart and putting it back together again. You’ll feel my pain when you look at the picture below.

my torn apart kitchen

The good news is that I’ve lived through these types of remodels before and my husband always does a fabulous job. It was hard for us to move away from the home we lived in for over 15 years but it was a smart move. And once we tried to settle in we knew there were some things  preventing us from feeling like this was home. By making these changes our condo will definitely become our home with the kinds of conveniences and appliances we like.

One last thing about the remodel. The condo had quartz on the island and countertops. Although quartz is nice, we are granite people. We loved the granite that we had in our previous home. It was called Crema Bordeaux. When we went granite shopping we decided to be open to new possibilities. We walked through aisles and aisles of various types of granite. Wouldn’t you know it, we kept coming back to the slab of Crema Bordeaux. We decided not to fight it and went with what we’ve loved for a long time. The slab (which weighs 2 1/2 tons by the way) is pictured below.  The templates for the granite will be drawn at the end of this week with installation to occur right after Thanksgiving. Thank goodness we are going out to dinner on Thanksgiving! We should be up and running for Christmas. After all, there are cookies to be made!

Crema Bordeaux

So, this has been a very long winded way of saying that I’ve had to rely on my grill, built in oven (that will be removed when my gas stove is installed) and microwave to do the heavy lifting for meals.

My preferred way of cooking lamb chops is on the grill so this was a no brainer. With a hot grill you get a great sear and the chops take less time to cook. The potatoes are made in the oven and are so easy to prepare and they taste divine!  So here are a few lessons learned making the lamb chops and potatoes…

Lesson Learned 1 – The longer you can marinate the lamb chops the better. I always use loin chops and I find them meatier and juicier, but you can also use rib chops. I found that I can get between 6 – 8 one inch thick chops at a really great price at either Sam’s Club or Costco.

When buying lamp chops, try to pick ones that have a substantive tenderloin. Obviously, that is the most tender part of the chop. Marinating them overnight is optimum, but you can marinate them for as little as an hour as well.

Marinated Lamb Chops

Lesson Learned 2 – Don’t forget to let the lamb chops rest after you cook them: Lamb like beef needs to rest when your done grilling so that the juices can redistribute. Although they will look divine resist the temptation to cut into them right away. Cover them with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes and you will have tender, juicy chops.

Mint JellyLesson Learned 3 – If you’ve never had it, try some mint jelly with your lamb chops: I was introduced to lamb chops with mint jelly when I was a kid. I was at a friend’s house for dinner and this is what was served. I never had lamb before and didn’t know what to think. At the time I was not all that enamored with the flavor but was afraid to say anything to my friend’s mom so I just said it was fabulous. Because of that, she made lamb with mint jelly every time I came over for dinner. I learned to love it, and now it is one of my all time favorites. Just use a little jelly with a piece of lamb. The flavor combination is to die for!

Lesson Learned 4 – Not all types of potatoes cook at the same rate: I’ve found that if I am roasting yukon gold or red potatoes they take less time to cook than russets. In this recipe I used small yukon gold potatoes and halved them. At 425, these potatoes were fully cooked and beautifully crisped in one hour. They were heavenly.

Roast Italian Potatoes

So, if you want a quick, easy meal without using your stovetop this one’s for you. I roasted some cauliflower florets in the oven with the potatoes (I only roasted them for 1/2 hour) and had a fabulous meal. So try this one and let me know what you think.

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

8 one inch thick loin lamb chops

4-6 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped

Zest of one small lemon

1/4 cup garlic infused olive oil (you can also use plain EVOO)

Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Salt and pepper both sides of the chops. In a small bowl, combine garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and olive oil. Put the chops in a bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal the bag and turn it over several times to make sure the chops are coated on both sides. Marinate for at least one hour up to overnight, turning the bag at regular intervals to make sure both sides of the chops are evenly marinated.

Heat your grill to medium high heat (I have a Webber gas grill). Remove the chops from the marinade and sear them for 2 minutes on each side. Lower the temperature of the grill to medium heat and continue to cook for 5 minutes total. This cooking time will give you medium rare chops. Let the chops rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Italian Potatoes...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

15 small yukon gold potatoes, halved but not peeled

6 whole cloves of garlic

2 Tbs. dried oregano

1/4 cup basil infused olive oil (you can also use plain EVOO)

Flat leaf parsley for garnish, optional

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cover a large baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the halved potatoes, whole garlic cloves, oregano and olive oil. Spread the potatoes and garlic cloves on the baking sheet making sure not to crowd the potatoes (they won’t crisp if they’re crowded). Salt and pepper the potatoes.

Roast at 425 for one hour turning the potatoes half way through the roasting time. Serve immediately.

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops With Roasted Italian Potatoes

Easy Potato Casserole…

Are you a rice or potato person? In my experience you are either one or the other. There is no doubt when it comes to me. I am definitely a potato person. Born and raised on potatoes, I barely had rice until I was an adult. And although I like rice and find it very adaptable in recipes, my starch of choice is and always will be potatoes!

And that it why I am always thinking about new ways of making those spuds. I think this recipe fits the bill of not only being incredibly easy but also incredibly delicious. When I get a, “these potatoes are good” from my husband, I know I’ve hit the jackpot.

Easy Potato CasseroleNow I will admit I made this recipe twice. The first time I tried it I felt the potatoes were not done as well as I would have liked. The first time I used my mandolin slicer and cut the potatoes to 3/16 of an inch. The second time I cut them to 1/8 inch and there was a world of difference in the result.

As I’ve share before, I live in high altitude so recipes often take longer to cook. I cooked this potatoes casserole for 2 hours, 1 hour and 40 minutes covered with foil and the last 20 minutes uncovered. If you’re not at high altitude it will probably only take one and a half hours total.

So let’s talk easy potato casserole…

Lesson Learned 1 – The thickness of the potato slices is very important: As I just mentioned, the potato slices should be even in thickness and not overly thick. I used 1/8 inch slices and the casserole turned out perfectly. The thicker the slice the longer the cooking time. And it’s very important that all slices have a consistent thickness. Otherwise some parts will cook while others won’t. The best way to ensure even slices is to use a mandolin slicer. But be careful when using one. The blades are very sharp and you can easily slice your finger if you are not careful.

Easy Potato CasseroleAlso, remember to slice your potatoes as the very last bit of prep. Potatoes will oxidize (turn brown) when they are left in the open air too long. And in this case you don’t want to soak the potatoes to prevent them from oxidizing. You want the potatoes as dry as they can be. After slicing my potatoes I dried them off with a paper towel to get out as much moisture as I could. You don’t want a soggy potato casserole. So make sure your very last bit of prep is slicing the potatoes. From there you want to begin assembling your casserole layers right away.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use a good smokey thick cut bacon for depth of flavor: If you have a Trader Joe’s near your home, go to meat section and get a package of uncured bacon pieces. These pieces have been a tremendous find for me. Quite often they are from thick cuts and I found their flavor to be much better than the bacon you find in stores in half pound packages. They’re great and convenient when you want to add some bacon pieces to a recipe, much better than the jarred fake kind. If you can’t find them, then I would recommend any thick cut bacon cooked and crumbled into small pieces. The flavor really permeates the potatoes when the bacon is a thicker cut.

This recipe is pretty straightforward so not many lessons learned to share with this one. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of making the potato slices thin. Other than that this recipe is not only delicious, it’s full proof! Enjoy!

EASY POTATO CASSEROLE...

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2-3 russet potatoes, peeled (if the potatoes are large you will only need 2)

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Easy Potato Casserole1 cup monterey jack or havarti cheese, shredded

4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 cup milk

1 large egg, room temperature

2 green onions, diced (include some of the green parts)

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Butter or spray a 9 inch pie pan.

Layer potato slices in the pie pan, slightly overlapping the slices. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle half the cheeses over the potatoes and add half of the crumbled bacon and green onions. Repeat the entire process ending with the top layer being the cheeses.

In a small bowl whisk together the milk and egg. Pour the mixture over the potatoes.

Cover with foil and cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Remove the foil during the last 20 minutes of baking.

Allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Easy Potato Casserole

 Easy Potato Casserole

Easy Potato Casserole

Easy Potato Casserole

Spud Pockets…

A friend of mine, who is a professional chef, once said that when it comes to great recipes the simpler the better. Ain’t that the truth.  Over the course of the past six weeks my husband and I have been in the midst of a sell/buy process, selling our home of 15 years and downsizing to a condo. With downsizing comes a myriad of emotions but in the end it is quite cathartic as well as hugely stressful.

Spud Pocket IngredientsDuring this time I’ve not had the opportunity to uphold my goal of one new recipe a week, but I am back in the swing and will definitely try to post regularly, although I still cannot guarantee once a week. I do promise to get back to my routine, I just can’t determine when as of yet.

So, getting back to simpler is better, as you can imagine during a process like this you resort to very basic and quick meals. Often meals consisted of “eating out” but that gets to be a bit much after a while as well. So my challenge was to try to figure out how to make something fast but not just the same old thing. So I did a little experimentation with this recipe and my husband loved it. So let’s talk spud pockets…

Lesson Learned 1 – Simple is always the best: This recipe couldn’t be any simpler – potatoes, green onion, heavy cream, butter, fresh chopped parsley – that’s it! You could add some smoked paprika for additional color and flavor, but I haven’t unpacked my herbs and spices yet so I had to forgo the paprika. You would not believe how tender and flavorful the potatoes turn out.

spud pocketsLesson Learned 2 – Use whatever kind of potatoes you have on hand: When I went to the grocery store the red potatoes looked fantastic. So instead of using a russet potato I used red potatoes. I liked the fact that the skin added some nice color to the dish as well.

Lesson Learned 3 – Keep the potatoes in the oven longer if you want crispy bottoms: I made these potatoes two days in the row. The first day I kept the potatoes in the oven for 50 minutes, the second day for 65. Keeping them in for 65 minutes gave them a nice crispy bottom. Make sure you spray your foil with cooking spray to help get them out of the foil pocket. Even with the spray you may have to scrape a few out, but that nice crunch on the bottom of the potato is well worth it.

spud pocketsLesson Learned 4 – Use two sheets of foil so the pocket is reinforced: – I took two sheets of foil and placed one sheet on top of the other. Then I put the potato mixture in the center, crimped the two longer ends together and rolled the smaller sides upward. There was no leaking in the oven this way. And the smells that came out of the oven were divine!

Lesson Learned 5 – This is a very economical recipe: One large red potato is more than enough for two people. I happened to have some heavy cream in the refrigerator so I used that. You could use milk or half and half, but the heavy cream really gives more depth of flavor.  One bundle of green onions made four pockets and you only need a small dollop of butter on top of each. I had a small bundle of fresh parsley and I used only about a quarter of it for four servings. A little goes a long way.

I’m telling you this recipe could not be any easier. You just chop the potatoes into half inch cubes, dice the green onions (use the green parts too) and parsley. Combine them all together, put the potatoes on a piece of reinforced foil (I used two sheets of foil), add a dollop of butter, a splash of heavy cream, some salt and pepper and that’s it! If you want a quick recipe that is sure to please, this is the one for you. You can also serve these rustic style right in the foil. Either way this is an easy go-to recipe. Enjoy!

Spud Pockets

SPUD POCKETS...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 large potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 bundle of green onions, chopped

4 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

8 Tbs. heavy cream, 1-2 per pocket

2 Tbs. butter, 1/2 Tbs. per pocket

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Light sprinkle of smokey paprika per pocket, optional

Olive oil cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl combine the cubed potatoes, onions and parsley. Evenly distribute the mixture onto reinforced aluminum foil (two sheets, one on top of the other, per pocket- make sure to spray the foil with cooking spray first). Pull the sides up on the foil. Splash heavy cream over the potatoes. Put a pat of butter over each bundle. Close the foil by taking the large ends together and turning them over on each other to crimp them. Then pull up each smaller side and crimp the foil upward and toward the center of the bundle.

Bake for 45-65 minutes (you will get nice crispy bottoms if you cook them for 65 minutes). Remove the potatoes from the foil packet and serve immediately.

spud pockets

Serving suggestion: Filet of beef with steamed vegetables and spud pockets.

Serving suggestion: Filet of beef with steamed vegetables and spud pockets.

Grilled Three Cheese, Bacon and Chive Potatoes…

Summer time is grilling time. And I love to grill though I have to admit I’m not a purist. I grill on a gas grill. Some people like fooling around with coals and all that stuff. Not me. I like a grill that heats up on its own and can tell me the grilling temperature I am working with. That’s about how hard I want to work at grilling.

Things just taste better on a grill, don’t you think so? From chicken, to steak, to brats and burgers there’s nothing like it. So the other day I had it in my mind to grill a filet I’d had in my freezer for a while and I also decided to try grilling some potatoes in a foil packet. A few years ago I posted a recipe for a blue cheese, onion, garlic and basil potato packet. This time I tried for something that mimicked a steak house baked potato.

Now let it be known I love grilled steak, but this time I found the grilled potatoes to be the star of the meal. This recipe is so easy and so flavorful I bet it will become your go-to grilled potato recipe.

So let’s talk grilled three cheese and bacon potatoes…

coxo-v-blade-mandolineLesson Learned 1 – For uniformity in cooking, use a mandolin slicer to slice your potatoes: The mandolin slicer I use is pictured at the left. I like this particular one for a couple of reasons. First, it was reasonably priced. I just can’t see spending close to one hundred dollars on a mandolin slicer. This one is about half that amount. Second, it has a variety of blades and cutting options (slicing, julienne, french fries). It is a powerful tool that can cut your prep time significantly.

For me, the best part about a mandolin slicer is that you get uniform cuts. That’s important in this recipe. Having various thicknesses in your potatoe slices will skew the cooking time. You want all of the potatoes to be cooked through at the same time. I’ve found no better way to do that than with a mandolin slicer.

One other tip: You see that little round thing next to the slicing unit? That is a hand/finger guard. You should ALWAYS use that when cutting with a mandolin. The mandolin blade does’t distinguish between vegetable and human flesh. It will cut both easily and with equal proficiency. So be very careful when using a mandolin slicer if you cherish your fingers and hands.

Lesson Learned 2 – Keep the potatoes on a little longer for great crispiness on the bottom: This is the first time I tried these. When I checked the potatoes at 40 minutes at 400 degrees, they were done. But I still had more time left for finishing my filet. I left the packet on an additional 10 minutes and much to my surprise that created a wonderful crispy crust on the bottom of the pile of potatoes. It was almost like having a bottom layer of potato chips with the wonderfully soft and flavorful potatoes on top. I think I’m always going to do them this way. I loved the distinction between the crunchy bottom and the soft top. It was delightful!

Lesson Learned 3 – Bacon bits work really well with this recipe: Although you can fry and chop up your own bacon, I found that bacon bits work equally as well with this recipe and help save you some time. So don’t be afraid to use prepackaged bacon bits. Just remember to refrigerate what you don’t use

Lesson Learned 4 – The layering process is very simple: Here it is in pictures.

Place the potatoes and onion on a piece of foil sprayed with olive oil cooking spray

Place the potatoes and onions on a piece of foil sprayed with olive oil cooking spray

Top the potatoes and onions with the cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan

Top the potatoes and onions with the cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan

Top with bacon and chives

Top with bacon and chives

Crimp the top and sides of the foil and place on the grill

Crimp the top and sides of the foil and place the packet on the grill

Doesn’t the uncooked version look simply divine as well. I love the contrast of the colors. And this dish looks phenomenal both uncooked and cooked. And it’s really easy to put together. One potato serves two people so the dish is pretty economical as well. I loved this one so much I made it two nights in a row. I hope you love this too!

GRILLED THREE CHEESE BACON AND CHIVE POTATOES...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced to 1/8 inch thickness

1 medium onion, sliced

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

3/4 cup shredded cheddar

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella (I had unshredded mozzarella that I tore into small pieces)

1/3 cup bacon bits

2 Tbs. chopped chives

2 Tbs. of butter, cubed

Seasoned salt and black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Light your grill to high heat. Divide the potatoes and onions up on two large sheets of foil sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Combine the cheeses and top the potatoes and onion with the cheese mixture. Top with bacon bit and chives. Dot the tops with butter. Season with seasoned salt and pepper.

Fold the foil over the top and crimp the edges. Fold the sides up and crimp the edges securely. Grill for 40 minutes (add an additional 10 minutes for a delightful crispy bottom).

Open the foil carefully and serve immediately.

Grilled Three Cheese and Bacon Potatoes

Grilled Three Cheese And Bacon Potatoes

Herb Roasted New Potatoes…

As you can imagine, I check out a lot of food blogs to see what others are making. I am impressed by the skill and creativity I see in a lot of them. And I say to myself, why can’t I be like that? But I am who I am, and what I make is based on my upbringing, my tastes, and sometimes even an adventurous spirit. But by and large, I am a pretty simple cook who likes to make simple things and be very successful at doing so.

Don’t get me wrong, my palate has matured over the years and I now enjoy many things I never would have dreamed of eating when I was younger. But when push comes to shove I’m basically a meat and potatoes girl (as is reflected by my recipes). So this recipe will come as no surprise.

Herb Roasted New PotatoesI like this recipe both for it’s simplicity and its flavor. Plus during the summer months I grow a lot of herbs and am always looking for ways use my fresh herbs in recipes. So this one fits the bill. I used my flat leaf parsley and lemon thyme as well as garlic to provide the aromatics. I love the added boost of the lemon thyme, but if you don’t have it or can’t find it, you can achieve the same affect by adding some lemon wedges to the roasting process. All in all, the hardest part of this recipe was making sure I didn’t slice the potatoes all the way through but just deep enough so they would fan out slightly. The rest was a breeze.

Lesson Learned 1 – Know your oven: I researched similar recipes to mine and many of them suggested baking the potatoes for an hour at 350. That would never work for me. At high altitude you often have to set your oven temperature higher and cook things longer. I set my oven temperature at 375 and for the last ten minutes cranked it up to 400. Next time I make this recipe I will start at 400 degrees and check the potatoes after 45 minutes. For me, I am thinking that 400 degrees for an hour will be optimum. At sea level, I would suggest starting at 375 and checking the potatoes for doneness at 45 minutes. If they are not done, make a decision from there whether to cook them longer at the same temperature or to crank up the oven.  Keep in mind the size of the potatoes matter. New potatoes are small but can still vary in size and that will affect the roasting time. The larger the new potatoes the longer the roasting time. Check your potatoes at 45 minutes and plan for at least an hour. That way you won’t go wrong.

Sliced New PotatoesLesson Learned 2 – Don’t throw out the garlic: I recommend using a full head of garlic when roasting the potatoes (you can even use more if you like). You don’t need to peel it, just cut off a small portion of the top. It will not only provide a delightful aromatic during the roasting process, but will also give you sweet soft garlic cloves that you can either spread directly on bread or use with butter to make a garlic herb butter that’s great for making garlic bread. You get that extra added benefit with this recipe.

If you  like rich, creamy potatoes infused with an herb and garlic flavor, this recipe is for you. Let me know what you think about the recipe after you make it.

Herb Roasted New Potatoes…

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed

1/4 cup olive oil (I used garlic infused olive oil)

2 Tbs. melted butter

1 Large head of garlic, top trimmed

1 – 2 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley

4 – 6 sprigs lemon thyme (if using regular thyme cut up half a lemon into wedges and add)

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 (for high altitude 400 degrees). Melt the butter and add the olive oil to it. Cut slits into the potatoes being careful not to slice them all the way through. Place the potatoes in a roasting pan (I lined my with foil, but that is discretionary). Put the garlic head in the middle of the potatoes. Baste the potatoes and garlic with half of the butter/olive oil mixture. Sprinkle the potatoes with the chopped parsley and place the thyme sprigs in between the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Half way through the roasting process baste the potatoes with the remaining butter/olive oil mixture. Check the potatoes for doneness at 45 minutes. If they do not appear to be almost fork tender raise the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees and roast at least an additional 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Serve immediately.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Herb Roasted New Potatoes

Herb Roasted New Potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole…

For the longest time I associated sweet potato dishes with the holidays. Turns out I was missing something wonderful and nutritious all year long. That being said, I’d like to share with you a recipe that certainly can be made over the holidays but is wonderful with any meal any time of year.

I like this recipe because it’s designed to serve four (or two very large appetites) so you can either finish it off at one meal or have one serving of leftovers. It reheats beautifully. It’s simple to prepare, a colorful addition to any plate, flavorful and good for you. So throw away your preconceived notions of sweet potato casseroles being something only relegated to the holidays and enjoy them all year round!

IMG_4412Lesson Learned 1 – Cut the sweet potato into evenly sized chunks: This is very important for the cooking time. You don’t want some pieces to be mushy while other pieces are hard. I cut mine into one inch chunks. Also keep in mind sweet potatoes cook faster than russet or red potatoes. So be aware of that and start checking them for doneness at about 10 minutes. You want them to be fork tender, not mushy.

Lesson Learned 2 – To mash or not to mash in the same pot you cook them in: I am a student of the game and so I do a lot of research into cooking methods. There is a train of though out there that suggests once you’ve drained the sweet potatoes it’s best to mash them in the same pot you boiled them in. That way any excess water left on the potatoes will evaporate from the heat of the pan. That’s all well and good, but I find if I do that my potato masher scratches the heck out of the bottom of my pan, and I have some really high quality pans. IMG_4415So I’ll leave this up to you. You can certainly mash them in the same pan, but I wanted to warn you about what might happen if you did. This is what I do. Once I’ve drained the sweet potatoes, I prefer to mash them in a bowl. After I do that (and they mash quite quickly) I put them back in the pot they were boiled in and just stir them around for about a half of a minute or so (you can even use some low heat while you’re doing this). That way I get the same effect without playing havoc with the finish on my pans.

Lesson Learned 3 – You can make this recipe in individual serving sizes: Another way to prepare this dish is to divide it up equally into four ramekins and bake it off. That way your guests can have their own individual portions. This recipe adapts well in that regard and the individual ramekins are pretty cute. You can also use ramekins even when there are only two of you. Just cook two of them off for one meal and refrigerate the other two for another meal. Just make sure if you refrigerate some ramekins, or if you have leftovers in a one quart casserole, that you take the dishes out of the refrigerator and let them sit on your counter for about an hour before reheating them. That way you’ll take the chill off and the cooking time will be shorter. Also if just reheating, cover the casserole in foil. Since it’s already been cooked once you can burn the pecans if you don’t cover them.

My husband just loves this recipe. He asks me to make it all the time. Try it. I’m sure it could easily become on of your go-to potato recipes!

Sweet Potato Casserole…

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 Tbs. butter, divided (2 Tbs. cut into cubes)

1 Tbs. maple syrup

2 Tbsp. orange juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup pastry flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. shortening, to grease the casserole dish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 1 quart casserole dish. (I use an enameled cast iron dish for this recipe). Set the dish aside.

Place cubed sweet potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook until the sweet potatoes are fork tender (10-15 minutes). Drain the sweet potatoes and put them in a bowl (or back in the saucepan if you prefer – see lessons learned above). Add 1 Tbs. butter, the maple syrup, orange juice, salt and cinnamon. Mash until you reach your desired consistency. (At this point, if you mash in a bowl, you can put the potatoes back in the pot the cooked in, turn on a low heat and stir for about a minute to remove any excess water). Put the mashed sweet potatoes into the greased casserole dish.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, pecans and brown sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles course sand. Add the vegetable oil and mix until well combined. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the mashed sweet potatoes.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until the potatoes are hot and the top is golden brown.

Ready To Go Into The Oven...

Ready To Go Into The Oven…

Makes Enough For 2-4 People...

Makes Enough For 2-4 People…

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Mashed Potato Cakes…

Give me my druthers and my carb of choice for any meal will always be mashed potatoes. I love potatoes any which way you can make them but when it comes to deciding how to prepare them, mashed potatoes is on the top of the list.

That being said, I obviously make a lot of mashed potatoes and because of that I normally have a fair amount left over. Leftover reheated mashed potatoes are fine, but I wanted to make something with a little more flair. So the other evening I ventured into making mashed potato cakes.

Lesson Learned 1 – Determining the correct consistency can be tricky. Everyone likes their mashed potatoes prepared a certain way. I like mine with a little more body, stiffer and less runny. Some people like their’s softer and “wetter”.  The key to creating a mashed potato cake you can work with is to make sure the consistency of the cake is not overly soft. So you may have to play with the amount of the ingredients a little until you get it right. For me, I beat one egg but only added a little bit at a time. I wound up using about 1/2 of a beaten egg to the potatoes. The same thing with flour. I probably used between 1/6 and 1/8 cup of flour. I added it gradually to make sure I got a good consistency but I also wanted to make sure the flour would not overpower the flavor.

potcakes

Lesson Learned 2 – Once you get them in the pan leave them alone: You will need the help of a hardened crust on the bottom to help you flip the cakes over. I fried mine over medium high heat for four minutes before flipping them. That could vary for you depending upon your stove and heat source. The good thing is you will be able to see the browning occurring. Give it at least four minutes before you try to flip them over. Then flip them quickly as the top part will be much softer than the bottom.

I think there are basically two specific things to keep in mind when making this recipe. First is getting the correct consistency for the cakes. Second is making sure you have a good crust on the bottom and flipping them quickly. But even if they don’t come out picture perfect, I can attest to the fact they are damned delicious!

Mashed Potato Cakes…

  • Servings: 4 Cakes - 2 Servings
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups leftover mashed potatoes

1 egg, beaten and added gradually (you may not need the entire amount)

3 Tbs. chopped chives (or more if you like)

1/8 cup flour added gradually (you may not need the entire amount)

4 Tbs. butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour for dredging

DIRECTIONS:

Combine mashed potatoes and chives. Slowly add some of the beaten egg, continually checking the consistency of the potatoes to make sure they do not become too runny. Add the flour gradually and mix until the potatoes have a somewhat firm consistency (they will be soft, but you don’t want them runny – they need to be firm enough to hold the shape of a rounded cake).

Form the potatoes into 4 equal sized cakes (about 2 inches in diameter). Put some flour on a plate and dredge the cakes in the flour. Shake off the excess. In a medium size skillet melt the butter over medium high heat. Place the cakes in the skillet and cook for approximately 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

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Loaded Baked Potato Casserole…

I LOVE potatoes. As a friend of mine once said, “I never met a carb I did’t like.” That’s so true, but these days we know you need to balance your carb intake in order to stay healthy. Not an easy task for someone who was raised on meat and potatoes. But I’m trying.

I wanted to try a recipe like this for a while, so I justified it by serving it with baked cod and oven roasted asparagus. It turned out great and I was careful not to over indulge. So for all of my carb lovin’ friends out there, here’s one that you can add to your arsenal of recipes.

IMG_3125Lesson Learned 1 – Give the potatoes a head start: I know this and I still didn’t do it. It’s always best when making a potato casserole to cook the potatoes for about five minutes in boiling water. That takes the edge off of them. Because you cook this casserole for an hour and three quarters I didn’t think I would need to do that. Wrong. The potatoes were done but not as tender as I would have liked. So remember, give your sliced potatoes a bath in boiling water just until they start to soften slightly (no more than 5 minutes). Then drain them, being careful not to break them, and then put together your casserole. You’ll get great results.

IMG_3116Lesson Learned 2 – There can never be too much cheese: Originally I though this recipe would need two cups of cheese (1 of each type). Once I began to put together the layers I added even more (1/2 cup each). Make sure you get a good melting cheese like gruyere, havarti or monterey jack and generously cover the potatoes. You can combine that with some sort of cheddar or better yet be your own chef and experiment. I used a white cheddar gruyere blend combined with a marbled cheddar. It was delish.  I am writing the recipe from what I used, but you can certainly make substitutions.

This recipe is so easy and so good. It’s a great way to get the flavors of a loaded backed potato in casserole form. The leftovers are great as well. Just heat them in the microwave and serve. Enjoy!

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole 2

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole…

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

All natural cooking spray for the dish

2 large russet potatoes, sliced

1 large clove of garlic minced

3 green onions sliced diagonally

1 1/2 cup gruyer/cheddar blend, shredded

1 1/2 cup marbled cheddar cheese, shredded

6 slices hickory smoked bacon – cooked, drained and crumbled

1 cup whole milk

1 large egg

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook, drain and crumble the bacon. Slice the potatoes to 1/4 inch thick (use a mandolin slicer for the best results). But potatoes in a pan with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for no longer than 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes immediately being careful not to break them.

Spray a stoneware tart pan with all natural cooking spray. Layer the potatoes in the dish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle half the onions and garlic on top and season with salt and pepper. Cover the potatoes with half the cheese and sprinkle the top with half the bacon. Repeat with another layer.

In a separate bowl whisk the milk and egg. Add some salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle with parsley.

Cover and back for 75- 90 minutes or until the custard is cooked. Uncover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Cheesy Potato and Green Onion Casserole…

For years I bought boxed potatoes to make potato casseroles to accompany a meal. The boxes contain a sleeve of freeze dried potatoes that look like petrified potato chips with a pouch of powdered cheese and flavorings, depending upon what kind you purchased (scalloped, au gratin, sour cream and onion, etc). To that you add some butter, water and milk, mix the conglomeration together and bake it in the oven. I never really thought about it, I just did it for the convenience of it all. NEVER AGAIN!

In previous blogs I’ve mentioned how over time I’ve begun to realize that there are many things you can easily make from scratch versus buying them pre-prepared at the grocery store. Things like applesauce, cranberry sauce, rouxs, pickles, soups, gravies, macaroni and cheese – the list can go on and on. The point is when you make something from scratch you control what goes into it. You control the sugars and sodium. You control the color naturally versus using dyes to achieve the desired affect. I’ve never made anything from scratch that included ingredients I could not pronounce much less spell, but I see them all the time on the packages at the grocery store.

I think we’ve come to believe that in the name of convenience it is ok to use prepackaged pre-prepared foods. And I am not one to point a finger at them, I’ve used them all my life. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that as I’ve become more adept in the kitchen I realize how easy it is to make things from scratch and in the end how much better that is for you. Don’t worry, I am not a purist. I’m sure in the name of convenience I will use a pre-prepared item myself from time to time. But more and more I’ve moved away from them and haven’t noticed a big difference in the time it takes to make certain things. Hence this recipe I am about to share.

oxo-hand-held-mandolineWhat makes this recipe so easy to make is a simple tool known as a mandolin slicer. There are tons of varieties out there, and the one in the picture to the right is what I use. When I publish something like this I always have to use the disclaimer that I work at Crate and Barrel. We carry a few varieties of mandolin slicers and this one is pretty affordable. I like it because it gives you a couple of different slicing widths, works well and it has the hand protector. But you can get a mandolin slicer just about anywhere and they can range in price from being extremely cheap to very expensive. If you invest in one, just make sure you at least get one that has some sort of hand protector.

One thing I have to stress here – if not used properly a mandolin slicer can be VERY DANGEROUS. You can slice a piece of your finger off just as easily as a piece of potato if you are not careful. Even with a hand guard you have to be very mindful when using one. The blades on these slicers are very sharp and before you know it, if you are not careful, you can really hurt yourself. So always use a mandolin slicer with the utmost care.

That being said, it is a great tool for quickly slicing things like potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. and getting even slices all the time. The key to success in this potato casserole recipe is the thin evenness of the potato slices. A mandolin slicer can give you that in no time flat (see the picture below). It would take much longer to do this by hand and the discs would not be nearly as precise in width.  So let’s talk a little bit about the lessons I learned developing this recipe.

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Lesson Learned 1 – Always use the mandolin slicer with the utmost care: I can’t help it, this just bares repeating. You won’t believe how easy it is to hack off a chunk of skin with this device. Please be careful using it. But when you use it safely, you will be amazed at how quickly you can produce nice even sized pieces of whatever you are slicing.

Lesson Learned 2 – This recipe is adaptable to a wide variety of cheeses: Normally some sort of cheddar cheese is a staple for this recipe. But over the holidays I had a disc of brie that I’d bought to make a holiday appetizer and I just mixed some of the remaining brie with the cheddar. Divine is all I can say about that. Gruyere is also a good cheese to use as well. Any good melting cheese or combination of compatible melting cheeses will do.

And speaking of melting cheese, don’t use prepackaged grated cheese. Those cheeses have an ingredient in them that keeps the grated pieces from sticking together. That ingredient also makes those cheeses difficult to melt. Grate the cheese yourself. You’ll get a much better consistency and much better flavor

The consistency of a roux

The consistency of a roux

Lesson Learned 3 – The formula for making any roux: Making a roux is the key to almost any homemade sauce or gravy. And you won’t believe how easy it is. All you have to do is remember one simple formula: equal parts butter and flour. This particular recipe uses three tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour to create the roux. The amount you use can vary based on the size of the recipe. But remember it is always equal parts of each. The picture on the left shows what the consistency should look like, almost that of a thick, creamy paste.

I could not believe how simple this was to make and so much better than the boxed varieties. Play around with this one to see if you can create the flavor of cheese sauce you prefer the most. Right now I’m a cheddar and brie girl so that is how I am writing the recipe. But don’t be afraid to experiment with this one. I promise anything you do will be so much better than the boxed version of what you make. Enjoy!

Ready to pop into the oven...

Ready to pop into the oven…

Cheesy Potato and Green Onion Casserole…

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 large white russet potatoes, unpeeled

3 Tbs. butter

3 Tbs. flour

3-4 green onions, diced (use the green parts of the onion as well)

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup brie cheese, cut into small pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the skins from two cloves of garlic and drop them in a pot of cold water. Bring the pot of water to a boil on the stove, making sure the water is well salted. While the water is heating, cut the russet potatoes into 1/8 inch slices and put them in a bowl of cold water so they do not begin to brown. Slice the green onions and set aside. Grate the cheddar cheese and cut the brie into small pieces. Set both of them aside.

Once the water is boiling, put the potato slices in the water and cook them for about 5 minutes or until they just begin to soften.  When the potatoes begin to soften, gently remove them from the pan, drain them and pat them dry removing as much excess water as possible. Remove the discard the garlic cloves.

In a saucepan under medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir for about a minute until the mixture becomes a creamy paste (make sure to cook for about a minute so that there will be no flour taste). Add the milk and raise the heat to medium high. Once the milk begins to bubble you will notice it starting to thicken. Keep stirring the milk until it becomes thick. Once it thickens, add the garlic powder and cheeses. Stir until the cheeses are completely melted. Add the green onions and combine. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper as needed. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Place the potatoes in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish that was sprayed with cooking spray. Pour the cheese mixture over the potatoes. Bake at 375 for 50-55 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. For a finishing touch, at the end place the casserole dish under the broiler for a minute or two to brown the cheese.

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Hashbrown Casserole…

Pasta is ok, rice really does nothing for me but give me potatoes and I’m all over it. There is no way that you can cook a potato that I won’t like. Potatoes were a staple at just about every meal I had growing up and my so my love affair with this root (yes it is neither a fruit nor a vegetable but a root) has spanned my entire life. So when I find a potato recipe that intrigues me, I have to try it.

The original recipe from which I’ve based my version in this blog comes from a website called thefrugalgirls.com. I liked the recipe concept because it appeared easy to prepare and was a different way of making potatoes than the traditional ways of baking them, mashing them or grilling them. Coupled with the fact that I already had most of the ingredients plus I needed to fulfill my goal of one new recipe a week, this became no brainer – I had to make this casserole and blog about it. So without further adieu, here is my recipe rating, lessons learned and my version of the recipe.

Hash Brown Casserole Ingredients...

Hash Brown Casserole Ingredients…

Rating A+ – not only is this very easy to make but it smells heavenly when it’s baking in the oven. Anything that combines flavorful potatoes and good kitchen smells is always a hit with me. You really have to try this one.

Lesson Learned 1 – This recipe adapts easily: The original recipe filled a 13 x 9 baking dish. Cutting it in half allowed me to put it in an 8 inch square dish which was just enough for me and my husband with leftovers for an additional meal. But if you have a large family to feed just double everything in the recipe and use the larger pan.

Lesson Learned 2 – Topping a casserole with crushed croutons: Recipes like this are quite often topped with bread crumbs. This recipe called for topping the casserole with crushed croutons. I LOVED IT! The croutons gave a perfect crispiness to the top of the hash browns, just as if the potatoes had been browned in a frying pan. I found the crushed croutons had a much crispier texture than bread crumbs. I am definitely going to try topping other casseroles with crushed croutons instead of bread crumbs. I think it made a big difference.

Lesson Learned 3 – Use fresh garlic: The original recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of garlic salt. I didn’t like the idea of adding that much salt so I substituted one minced garlic clove for the garlic salt. It was fabulous. I figured if the potatoes needed more salt you can always salt them at the table while you’re eating versus adding a lot in the recipe itself.

Lesson Learned 4 – Shred the cheese by hand: The recipe called for shredded cheddar cheese. I’ve recently learned that the shredded cheese bags you buy at the grocery store have an additive in them that is designed to prevent the cheese from clumping together. But that additive also prevents the cheese from melting smoothly. Plus it is an additive and the more you can eliminate additives from your life the better. So take the few extra minutes buy a hunk of good cheddar cheese and use a grater to shred it yourself. The result is so much better in the recipe and better for you as well.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Ready To Go Into The Oven

Lesson Learned 5 – Make caloric adjustments where you can: This is a very rich recipe so any places where you can make adjustments to lessen the fat or salt will still produce a great casserole that is full of flavor while also having less calories. I used light sour cream, fat free milk, low sodium soup and substituted fresh garlic for garlic salt. The recipe turned out perfectly.

Lesson Learned 6 – Use butter and not a butter substitute or margarine: I know this may seem to go against what I just said in the previous lesson learned, but just take a minute to look at the ingredients in butter and then compare them to the ingredients in margarine or any butter substitute. Tell me if you can pronounce some of the ingredients in the substitutes. It’s scary to think about what you might be eating. If you have to use a fat, use the one that has the purist of ingredients which in this case is none other than good old fashioned butter.

Lesson Learned 7 – Not all baking times are created equal: The original recipe called for baking the casserole at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. My long standing experience with high altitude made me leery of not only the timeframe but also the temperature. I will include in the recipe below the original cooking instructions but will tell you that I had to crank my oven up to 375 and cook this for an hour and it turned out perfectly. What I’m basically saying here is you may have to adjust your cooking time based on your oven and where you live. Just be aware of that.

Lesson Learned 8 – The leftovers are fabulous: The leftovers are equally as good if not better than when it was fresh out of the oven. Just reheat them covered in foil in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. The flavors have had some time to meld and the top and ends get even crispier. Can’t beat that!

Right Out Of The Oven

Right Out Of The Oven

Once again, the real work in this recipe is preparing it. Once you get the mixture together, all you have to do is pop it in the oven and let it do the rest of the work for you. This is a great accompaniment to almost any meal so try it. I know you’ll like it!

Hasbrown Casserole

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 pkg. frozen shredded hasbrowns (package size usually 1 lb. 14 oz.)

8 oz. light sour cream

1/2 can cream of mushroom soup (low sodium preferred)

4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (freshly grated not packaged preferred)

1/8 cup milk (fat free or low fat preferred)

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/2 stick of butter, melted

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup seasoned croutons crushed

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375. (*The original recipe called for the oven to be set at 350 and to cook the casserole for 35-45 minutes. I live in high altitude so everything takes a little longer to cook and at a higher temperatures. Use what you think will fit your needs but I think keeping it in the oven a little longer gives it an even crispier crust). Thaw hashbrowns slightly for easier mixing. Crush the croutons (the easiest way to do this is to put them in a plastic bag and mash with a rolling pin or meat mallet). Set the croutons aside.

Combine the hashbrowns, soup, cheese, milk, onion, garlic, salt and half the melted butter. Grease a 8 x 8 pan with a very light coating of butter. Place the hashbrown mixture in the prepared dish. Spread croutons evenly over the top and drizzle them with the remaining butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (*see notes at beginning of recipe). The casserole should be bubbly and the top should be golden and crisp. Let stand for a few minutes and serve.

Hashbrown Casserole

Hashbrown Casserole

Tomato Potato Salad…

This recipe came about by accident – it was one of those things that my mother made for years but morphed into my mother-in-law’s recipe. Talk about inter-family competition. Not really. Both my husband and I came from modest backgrounds and our mothers were faced with learning how to really stretch a dollar while still keeping hungry children satisfied. That meant very simple meals consisting mostly of overcooked meat, canned vegetables (frozen veggies were not as prolific or as good as they are today) and recipes designed to stick to your ribs, high in fat and carbs. And guess what, we survived. Those recipes, for the most part, are what we now call comfort food and are the types of things we make sparingly, often when we feel we need a good hug.

tom and onionsThis is one of those recipes and yet it has an interesting twist, one that when I first heard about it I said yuck! My mom had a very basic potato salad recipe. My dad was not one for a lot of spices, he hated garlic (said it upset his stomach) and mostly enjoyed very bland-type meals. And considering this recipe does not have a lot of ingredients it is quite flavorful. The twist, thanks to my mother-in-law, was adding tomatoes to it. Yes, I said adding tomatoes. I’ve not seen many people, if any, add tomatoes to potato salad but if you’ve never tried it I think you might be in for a real treat. So here is my rating and lessons learned after many years of making Tomato Potato Salad.

Rating A – so easy to make, very colorful and flavorful. You will be amazed at how many people will be surprised by adding tomatoes but say it adds a wonderful flavor and consistency to potato salad.

psaladingredientsLesson Learned 1: Don’t be afraid to try it. I resisted doing it for many years and the idea of adding tomatoes was weird to me, but once I did I never looked back.

Lesson Learned 2: There is a trick to adding tomatoes. I always use roma tomatoes. I normally find that they are firmer with less seeds and more flesh and that is what you want. You need to scrape out the seeds and soft matter so that all you’re left with is the flesh. That way you get the tomato flavor but not the moisture. If you don’t do this you will wind up with watery potato salad, and you don’t want that.

Lesson Learned 3: Err on the side of more eggs than less. I usually use one large or extra large egg for every potato with 2 extra eggs to slice and add to the top. It depends on the size of the potatoes. Since there are so few ingredients in this recipe you need to make sure that you have enough eggs and green onions to provide the flavor.

Lesson Learned 4: Rinse the eggs for a long time under cold water after you boil them. I usually rinse them for 5 minutes and then I let them sit in an ice bath for about 5 minutes. If you do this the shells will easily come off. If you don’t you will struggle with removing the shells.

Proportion of Green Onions

Proportion of Green Onions

Lesson Leaned 5: Err on the side of more green onions than less, at least when you are chopping them. This is truly a recipe of sight versus exact amount. For this particular recipe I chopped 6 green onions. I did not use all of them but I used most of them. I eyeballed it. When you mix it, if the color looks proportional and not too little or too much green – then you’ve got it. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes right now and saying this does little to help me understand the exact amount. Hopefully the pictures will give you and idea. Just remember you can always add more onions but you can’t take them away. And green onions have a much milder flavor so even if you add a little too much I don’t think it will hurt. Also chop and use the green as well as the white parts of the onion. Personally I think the green part has a better flavor.

Potatoes

Potatoes

Lesson Learned 6: Try to, if you can, boil potatoes that are the same size. Then the boiling time becomes more consistent. In the picture to the left you can see that two of my potatoes were much larger than the others. Because of that I had to watch to make sure I took the smaller potatoes out earlier. Otherwise I would have had mushy small potatoes and evenly cooked large ones. You don’t want that. It’s also important to let the potatoes cool to room temperature before you peel them. This is perhaps the most lengthy part of the process, but I found it is so much easier to remove the skin and cut them up if the potatoes are room temperature.

The recipe is deceptively simple but I guarantee you that, especially after you’ve eaten a lot of pre-prepared store bought potato salad, you will enjoy making this for its simplicity and you will definitely love its flavor. Enjoy!

Tomato Potato Salad

  • Servings: 10-12 people
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Serving Suggestion

Serving Suggestion

INGREDIENTS:

5 medium to large red or yukon gold potatoes (if using yukon gold you don’t need to peel them)

7-8 large or extra large eggs, depending on the size of the potatoes (2 eggs are for garnish)

1 bunch of green onions (you will probably use 80% of them)

2 firm roma tomatoes

1/2 cup mayonnaise (again to taste – start with 1/2 cup and use more if you feel it is necessary, err on the side of less; reduced calorie mayo also works well)

1 TB dijon mustard (optional – I do not use it often, but it does provide some depth of flavor)

Salt and pepper – to taste

Paprika for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Hard boil the eggs. (this usually takes me 15 minutes on my stove). Once cooked rinse thoroughly under cold water. Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. (I usually keep the pot covered throughout most of this process). Cook until you can pierce them with a fork (this can take anywhere from 20 to 30+ minutes depending on the size of the potatoes). Be careful not to overcook, you do not want the potatoes mushy but firmly cooked. Put them in a strainer and let them cool to room temperature.

Chop up 5-6 green onions and set aside. Peel and chop all but two of the eggs. Slice the remaining two eggs and leave for garnish.

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch square pieces. Add the chopped eggs, green onion, mayonnaise, dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Carefully mix together so as not to mash the potatoes. Add the slice eggs on top. Chill at least for 2-3 hours.

Tomato Potato Salad

Tomato Potato Salad

Tomato Potato Salad With Egg Garnish

Tomato Potato Salad With Egg Garnish

I know this sounds deceptively simple but it is amazingly flavorful. Try it and let me know what you think.

Grilled Blue Cheese Garlic Onion and Basil Potato Packets…

All my life I’ve been a potato girl, its just the way I was raised. We could probably go on for hours about the “carbs” factor, but when it comes down to it, at least in my estimation, when you say meat I say potatoes. And as I journey into augmenting my culinary skills I look for new and different ways to prepare  the old standby spuds. It becomes more of a challenge during grilling season, but I just happened upon a recipe that with some tweaking became an easy grilling hit.  I found a recipe for “Scalloped Potatoes for the BBQ” on Allrecipes.com and with a few little changes upped the wow factor substantially. It’s so easy, you just have to try it.

The Basics

The Basics

Grilled Potato Pockets

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

3–4 Red potatoes, thinly sliced

1 large onion

2 cloves of garlic (more if desired)

Chopped fresh basil (yum, and again to taste)

Butter cubed (again your desired amount)

Salt and pepper to taste

Crumbled blue cheese (the secret flavor factor)

As you can already see, most of this recipe is ingredients to taste. For me and my husband, I used three smaller sized red potatoes,  a medium sized onion, 6 big basil leaves, enough butter for flavor, no pepper, Lawry’s seasoned salt and about an eighth of a cup of crumbled blue cheese. The key is making sure the potatoes are thinly sliced otherwise they won’t cook. If you have a mandoline slicer that’s the best, otherwise use a good sharp knife and watch your fingers.

Thinly sliced potatoes

Thinly sliced potatoes

Now here comes the easy part, the directions:

1. Preheat your grill (mine was between 400 – 450 degrees).

2. Take a piece of foil and spray it with cooking spray (this way the potatoes won’t stick and you can use less butter).

3. Make a layer of potatoes and then layer the onion, garlic, basil and butter on top. I did not pepper my potatoes but used Lawry Seasoned Salt on top of these layers. Sprinkle with blue cheese and pat this layer down. Repeat with another layer. Once you’re done you should have something that looks like this:

Layered Ingredients

Layered Ingredients

4. Fold the foil around the layers to make a packet. I take an additional piece of foil and packet it one more time to prevent leaking. With just a single layer of packeting, I found the blue cheese leaked through the foil and onto the grill. You don’t want that to happen.

5. Place the potato packet on the grill and cook for 45 minutes turning the packet over halfway during the cooking time. The result is fabulous and if you try it, I’m sure it will become a new family favorite. Enjoy and feel free to share!

BBQ Blue Cheese, Onion and Basil Potatoes.

BBQ Blue Cheese, Onion and Basil Potatoes.