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Healthier mashed potatoes. November 12, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes? Here at Hawk’s Haven, we make ours with Yukon Gold potatoes, then mash them with lots of butter and add half-and-half, salt (we like Real Salt or Trocomare, herbed salt) and fresh-cracked black pepper. If our friend Ben insists, I’ll toss in a little cream cheese, too. Talk about indulgence in a pan! It’s the ultimate comfort food, and it goes with practically everything but pasta, Thai and Chinese food, and the like.

But, though delicious, I wouldn’t exactly call this butter- and cream-filled dish a health food. What to do? Fortunately, our neighbors across the pond have figured out two ways to combine the creamy goodness of mashed potatoes with our beloved superfoods, kale, cabbage, even Brussels sprouts, to come up with sides that are nutritious as well as delicious and comforting. In Ireland, this dish is called colcannon; in the UK, it bears the delightful name of bubble and squeak (for the sounds it makes while cooking).

Bubble and sqeak originated as a way to use up leftovers. Basically, you minced up whatever was on hand—cooked cabbage, a few carrots, even scraps of meat—folded them into mashed potatoes, formed patties, and fried them until they were crispy outside and creamy inside. Because these originated during WWII rationing, they were typically served for Sunday night supper, but once rationing ended, they became stalwarts of the standard British breakfast, alongside meats, sliced tomatoes, and eggs.

Colcannon, by contrast, more closely resembles mashed potatoes (though the mashed potatoes may be green!). The basic premise is to make mashed potatoes as you usually would, then prepare an equal amount of shredded green cabbage, kale, or Brussels sprouts. (I don’t see why you couldn’t mix them. I also don’t see why you couldn’t start with a package of pre-shredded green cabbage for coleslaw and/or pre-shredded Brussels sprouts). Saute several large halved and sliced leeks (tough outside green leaves and ends chopped away) or diced sweet onion in plenty of butter until the onion clarifies adding ample salt, black pepper, and (if desired) a pinch of mace. Then add the greens and cover the pot until the greens are wilted and shiny, stirring several times as they cook and adding a little vegetable broth or water to prevent sticking if needed. Once the greens are cooked through, add the mashed potatoes, stir to combine, bring back up to heat, and serve as a side.

Now for the best part. Apparently the Irish serve a big dollop on each plate, but they don’t stop there. They spoon out a depression in the midst of each serving and fill it with a big piece of butter. It still may not be the healthiest dish in the world, but it sounds wonderful to me on a cold winter’s night!

‘Til next time,

Silence

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What’s the most popular Thanksgiving side? November 24, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from all of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac!!!

Silence Dogood wanted to point out that Yahoo had just done a survey of the most popular Thanksgiving side dish, asking vistors to vote for green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, or sweet potato casserole. We love green beans and roasted or baked sweet potatoes, but ix-nay on the nasty canned-soup-based green bean casserole and ooey, gooey marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole.

So Silence hit the button for mashed potatoes to see how everybody else had voted. She was sure that one of the casseroles would win, and was stunned to see that 52% of voters sided with her for the mashed potatoes, a big winner over the 20-something votes for the green bean and sweet potato casseroles. Apparently Americans aren’t as taste-challenged as many might believe.

Mind you, Silence and I both think that the most popular sides should be delicious dressing and dressed-up mashed potatoes, so we’re not sure why dressing/stuffing didn’t figure on the Yahoo list. All you fellow mashed potato fans, enjoy your celebration with a big side of luscious dressing! And enjoy your green beans boiled, then tossed with butter, cracked black pepper, and RealSalt or Trocomare, and your sweet potatoes sliced and roasted with olive oil, cracked black pepper, rosemary, basil, and thyme.

Whatever. We plan to offer our own selection of appetizers and sides: endive boats, dinner rolls, tossed salad, coleslaw, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and Butternut squash, green beans, dressing, cranberry sauce,  roasted veggies. Followed by pumpkin, pecan, and cherry pie.

But yes, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for us without mashed potatoes. We’re delighted to find out that 52% of the rest of us feel the same.

Happy, happy, happy day!!!!

                         Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders

 

 

 

Reheating without a microwave. January 28, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I was recently reading a statement on a blog I very much respect in which the blogger responded to someone who asked how to reheat leftover mashed potatoes without a microwave, “Mashed potatoes don’t reheat very well.” Gasp!

This certainly hasn’t been my experience. Now mind you, I’ve never owned a microwave, which for all I know could reheat mashed potatoes, leftover pasta, dressing, corn pudding, rice, dal, refried beans, chili, and so on perfectly at the push of a button. But if, like me, you don’t have one, what’s the alternative?

Clearly, it’s not a pot on the stove. Try reheating rice, mashed potatoes, pasta, or what-have-you in a pot, however heavy, on the stove, be it turned down ever so low, and you’re asking for the dreaded burned-on bottom and thrown-out, burnt-smelling top. Yuck! And to top it off, you need Iron Man to scrape all that burnt, sooty gook off the bottom of the pan.

Been there, done that, way too many times. Forget the stovetop: When it comes to heating leftovers, the oven is your friend. Our friend Ben and I have a compact countertop convection oven—larger than a toaster oven but way smaller than a conventional oven—on, shock surprise, our kitchen counter.

Now, this convection oven has definite drawbacks when it comes to cooking, simply because it’s smaller than a “real” oven. Fewer slices of pizza, fewer trays of roasting veggies, fewer pans of lasagna or dressing or a combination of casseroles can fit in the countertop oven at a time. But when it comes to reheating, it’s a dream.

Here’s what I do: Put a little milk—and I mean a little milk, a couple of tablespoons—in the bottom of an ovenproof glass, clay, or metal pan. Add your mashed potatoes or creamy pasta, cover with aluminum foil, and pop in the oven at the “convection-stay on” settings. I like to start out at 350, then quickly dial down to 300, then 250, then 200, removing the potatoes or pasta when they’re heated through. Give them a quick stir, serve: They’re perfect! No burnt anything, and if anything, they taste even better than when first made.

This works for pretty much any leftovers, too, even if they’re not creamy like mashed potatoes or creamy pasta. Suppose you’re reheating rice or baked beans or spaghetti or chili or refried beans or dal. If the rice or spaghetti looks really dry, add a splash—again, just a splash—of water or veggie stock in the bottom of the pan instead of milk, then put in your leftovers, top with foil, and heat until heated through. I’ve found that veggie sides like green beans, carrots, or roasted veggies reheat beautifully in the aluminum-topped pan with no additional liquid at all, as long as you added butter when you originally cooked them.

So simple, but so good! Clearly, this would work in a real oven as well if you kept the heat low, but it seems like a waste to heat an entire oven just to heat up some leftovers. But if you do happen to have a countertop oven, I think this is the very best way to reheat leftovers, even if you do have a microwave. And if, like us, you don’t, it’s a godsend.  

             ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

Addendum: Once again, my friend Delilah has come to the rescue with a great suggestion here. She uses a double boiler to heat leftovers without scorching, burning, or drowning them. Delilah points out that adding a bit of water—one or two inches—in the bottom pan of the double boiler (make sure you don’t add so much that it touches the top pan), bringing it to a simmer, then putting the leftovers in the top pan, covering it with the lid, then cooking until the leftovers are heated through, typically ten minutes, turns out perfect leftovers with no added anything, every time. Thanks, Delilah! Great idea!!!

Ultimate winter mashed potatoes (plus). December 27, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, we’re big fans of mashed potatoes. We love mashed potatoes all year ’round, made with Yukon Gold potatoes, red-skinned new potatoes, or baking potatoes. We love them with lots of butter, Trocomare or RealSalt, lemon pepper, and half-and-half, and maybe even some cream cheese if we’re feeling really decadent. The calorie hit insures that mashed potatoes are a treat at our house rather than a staple, and we never tire of them.

But I was thrilled to find a special recipe that combined potatoes and winter squash in a way I was convinced would be healthy, hearty, and perfect for winter meals. Again, the calorie count is stratospheric—not your nightly potato side dish—but in this recipe, you’re combining the vitamin A and high-fiber content of winter squash with the inherent yumminess of potatoes and the protein of cheese. And the gorgeous color combo of golden Yukon Gold potatoes and orange Butternut squash is ideal for a winter feast.

I discovered the dish originally on the Tennessee Locavore’s blog (http://tnlocavore.typepad.com/). She makes it as a casserole. But I wanted to make it for Christmas dinner, and between my dressing and corn pudding, the oven was pretty much taken. So I simplified the recipe and made it stovetop, in the heavy Dutch oven I use to cook the potatoes. Check out her blog to see her recipe, which I’m sure is luscious. But oh my, the version I made was simply fabulous. Our friend Ben, no slouch when it comes to eating mashed potatoes or praising my recipes, announced that he ranked this in the top five of everything I’ve ever made for him. Check it out:

      Mashed Potatoes and Winter Squash

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes

1 Butternut squash, peeled and chunked 

9 ounces (one block) Gruyere cheese, grated

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan

4 tablespoons butter

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon Trocomare or salt (we like RealSalt)

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

Boil the potatoes and squash until tender; drain, mash, and stir well to blend. Return to very low heat. Add butter, cheese, eggs, and spices, stirring well to blend. Heat and taste, adjusting seasonings, and serve.

This really is delicious, and pretty easy, too, though peeling and seeding the Butternut squash isn’t much fun. But our local grocery sells pre-peeled and chunked winter squash, so I’ll use that next time. I’m notoriously texture-sensitive, so the slippery-slimy texture of winter squash would normally cause me to pass up any dish containing it, but the potatoes in this dish cover for the squash, so even I thought it was delicious and have joined our friend Ben with delight in the Christmas leftovers. Try it and let me know what you think!

         ‘Til next time,

                   Silence

Thanksgiving: Those sweet potatoes. November 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. One of the more bizarre Thanksgiving traditions in my view is the sweet potato casserole. Like so many of the foods served at Thanksgiving—turkey, pumpkins, green beans, cranberries, and corn leap to mind—sweet potatoes are a New World food (they’re native to South America), so putting them on the table is completely appropriate. Besides, our friend Ben and I love sweet potatoes. So what’s my problem?

We’re getting to that. First, a little history: In my family (and in OFB’s), you baked sweet potatoes until they were so well done that the flesh literally separated from the skin with no help from you once you split them open. You added liberal amounts of butter, salt, and (if you liked it) black or white pepper, plunged in your fork, and sent your tastebuds soaring to sweet potato heaven.

If you’ve never had a good baked sweet potato, here’s the foolproof method: Choose orange-fleshed sweet potatoes that are long and comparatively thin versus short and stout. Wash but don’t dry the sweet potatoes, place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet to prevent drippings from ruining your oven, and puncture the top of each sweet potato with a fork every inch or so to let the steam escape so the sweet potatoes won’t explode while they’re cooking. (A very bad idea.) Bake at 375 degrees F for an hour or at 350 for an hour and a half, or until you can see dark brown caramelized goo oozing out of the puncture holes and the potatoes are completely soft to the touch. (If you’ve ever eaten—or tried to eat—an underdone sweet potato, you’ll understand the importance of letting them cook as long as it takes. Trust me on this.) Remove the well-done sweet potatoes from the oven, split them with a knife, and you’re good to go. Note: Dogs, parrots, and chickens love the cooled skins, escpecially if there are traces of sweet potato, butter, and salt left on them.

Sweet potatoes cooked like this are so incredibly delicious that it’s hard to imagine improving on them. OFB and I love them with rice, broccoli, and a huge tossed salad, or with creamy pasta, green beans (or mixed green and yellow wax beans in season), and salad. They’re a natural with chicken, or, of course, turkey, and they go oh so well with cranberry sauce. But there is one sweet potato dish that we love as much, and maybe more. It’s a specialty of a local country inn, the Landis Store Hotel, and they were generous enough to post the recipe on their website so fans like us could enjoy it even when it’s not on the menu. Check this out:

      Landis Store’s Sweet Potato Souffle

2 lbs. sweet potatoes

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/2 cup cream

1 egg

Peel and boil sweet potatoes until they’re soft. Drain sweet potatoes and put in a food processor, adding salt, butter, cream, and egg. Add salt and pepper to taste and bake in six individual buttered ramekins or souffle dishes at 350 degrees F until the tops are light brown. Serve piping hot. [Note: Because Landis Store is a restaurant, they always make their sweet potato souffle in individual serving dishes. If I were making it, I’d put it all into one big souffle dish instead.—Silence]

Let’s get back to why I have a problem with sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. If someone served up well baked and buttered sweet potatoes, or sweet potato souffle, I certainly wouldn’t have a problem. In fact, I’d be the first in line. It’s the idea of turning sweet potatoes (often from a can) into a substrate for marshmallows that floors me. Eeeeewww!!!! Who ever thought of this?! How could anyone eat it, and why would they want to? Aren’t sweet potatoes sweet enough without globbing a bunch of marshmallows on top?!!

Some people have accused this casserole of being a white trash concoction. So while I was researching it, I headed straight for the source of all things trailer-park trashy, the totally hilarious Ruby Ann’s Down Home Trailer Park Holiday Cookbook by one of our heroes, the immortal Ruby Ann Boxcar. Now, you know when a book’s back cover begins with “Decorate the panelin’ and pile on the hair spray… It’s time to celebrate the holidays—trailer park style!” that we’re not talking about your ordinary cookbook. (“Don’t let Elvis’s birthday blow past you like a Baptist in a Revival bus.”) And sure enough, Ruby Ann didn’t let me down when it came to Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. If you have to have ’em sweet, leave the marshmallows on the store shelf and try this casserole from Ruby Ann’s mama-in-law, Momma Ballzak:

        Momma Ballzak’s Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup margarine

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup margarine

2 cups Kahlua liqueur

1 cup chopped pecans

Combine the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and 1/2 cup margarine. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Put into a greased shallow casserole. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, 1/3 cup margarine, 1 cup of the Kahlua, and pecans. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole, and bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes.Pour the remainin’ Kahlua over the casserole and cook for 5 more minutes. Serves 6.

As Ruby Ann notes, “I dare you to have two servin’s of this and then walk a straight line.” I’m quite intrigued by this recipe, I’ll admit, but if I ever decide to try it I’d substitute salted butter for that margarine, and might add a half-teaspoon of additional salt to offset the sweetness.

There are other sweet potato treats that I contemplate for the Thanksgiving season, including sweet potato cornbread and sweet potato biscuits. Try them, they’re yummy! (I’ll give you the recipes in Friday’s Frugal Living Tip, which will be about great frugal uses for Thanksgiving leftovers.) But one thing you’ll never see me making or tasting is that marshmallow-topped gunk.

One more thing while we’re on the subject of potatoes: My family always served mashed Irish potatoes rather than sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. I love mashed potatoes, so I can never resist making some for the occasion. I like to boil Yukon Gold potatoes until they’re thoroughly cooked, then drain them, return the pot to the fire, turn the heat to low, and mash them skins and all, adding lots of butter, light cream or half-and-half, salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare, and white or fresh-ground black pepper. I have a very heavy potato masher I inherited from my grandmother and it’s a real treasure.

Believe it or not, one of Ruby Ann’s friends at the High Chaparral Trailer Park apparently goes for mashed Yukon Golds at Thanksgiving, too. He adds butter, heavy cream, chives, salt and pepper, chopped parsley, and cream cheese to his. Hmmm. That actually sounds really good…

             ‘Til next time,

                        Silence