baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

My daughter was successful in finishing kindergarten as a word warrior (a title based on the number of first grade words she knew). In our house, this title earned her a dinner of her choosing.   We meandered through the grocery store, and one of the items she picked out was peewee potatoes.  For her special dinner, I roasted some of the tiny potatoes (they are about the size of grape or cherry tomatoes) and contemplated how else I could serve them.

baked potato salad

One idea that came to mind was a potato salad that didn’t involve chopping and boiling.  Hence, the Baked Potato Salad was born. The mini potatoes are roasted whole, and then stirred together with some chive cream cheese, bacon bits, black olives, green onions, and cheddar cheese for a crowd pleaser of a dish.

The Baked Potato Salad was such a hit with my husband, I’m sure the next time I make it I will need to double the recipe to have enough for guests!

baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

1 ½ pounds peewee potatoes
4 ounces whipped, chive cream cheese
One 2.25 ounce can sliced, black olives, drained
¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup real bacon bits
¼ cup diced green onions

 

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Rinse the peewee potatoes, then spread them out on a large, greased baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and begin to brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Place the cooled, baked potatoes in a large bowl, add the cream cheese and stir to coat.  Add in the remainder of the ingredients and stir to mix.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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shortcut potato leek soup

Shortcut Potato Leek Soup

A few months back I wrote about seven ways to eat broccoli in a week which was inspired by a conversation with a client.  Today’s Shortcut Potato Leek Soup was also inspired by a client.  Recently the team was teasing him because he was raving about these potatoes he was enjoying. Since they were talking about food I tuned in . . .  only to find out he was talking about instant potatoes.  Hmm – the last time I had tried instant potatoes (which had been eons ago) they were a grainy, tasteless mess. Undaunted, the client came in the next day and handed me and a few others a package of the potatoes with a proclamation that we would to love them and that I should use them in a blog. I’m sure the look on my face suggested otherwise, but I promised I would try them.

That very night I subjected my family to the instant potato experiment. To my utter shock they were fantastic. In fact they nearly tasted the way my grandmother used to make potatoes, which were loved by my family.  OK, these I could eat – in fact, the jury is still out on whether I use them on Thanksgiving if I run out of time cooking.

shortcut potato leek soup

Now that you have the background on why my recipe includes instant potatoes, I can describe the recipe.  My client was correct, I have been tinkering with the instant potatoes in recipes to bring down the prep time which lead to this Shortcut Potato Leek Soup recipe. The prep time is focused on sautéing the leek and garlic and the potatoes get a quick stir-in in the end. The resulting recipe is a thick soup with just enough texture interest from the leeks and bacon. 

I am looking forward to having this as a quick dinner recipe for those cold winter nights when you just have a taste for a bowl of soup.

shortcut potato leek soup

Shortcut Potato Leek Soup

3 whole leeks
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
2 cups stock*
4 cups milk, divided
½ teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
One 8.4 ounce (or two, 3 – 4 ounce) package of instant mashed potatoes**
Cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)

 

Remove the root part and dark green part of the leeks, then wash the remaining white/light green stems well.  Chop the washed leeks and set aside.

In a large stock pot melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add The leeks and saute for 8 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the garlic and saute for an additional two minutes.  Add the stock, 2 cups of milk, thyme, oregano, and pepper and heat until it just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining milk and the contents of the instant mashed potato packet(s) until smooth.  Laddle into bowls, garnish with crumbled bacon if desired, and serve.

 

Note:* This soup is thick; if you like thinner soup add 1-2 cups more of stock.

**The mashed potatoes that inspired this post are Honest Earth. If you have trouble finding them I have also tried the Idahoan brand and found it pretty good.

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Sweet Potato and Curry Corn Chowder

For the first course at my Thanksgiving meal I usually start with a festive salad, but this year I wanted to try a soup. While smooth, root based soups typically abound for the holiday meal, I wanted to go for a chunky, curry corn chowder.

sweet Potato Chowder

One of the key ingredients I wanted to use is sweet potatoes.   I LOVE sweet potatoes, but my husband doesn’t care for them. Somehow that doesn’t stop me from picking up a large bag full this time of year. My thinking is that if I sneak them into a soup so filled with other vegetables, maybe he won’t even notice that they are there.

In addition to the sweet potatoes, I used a variety of other vegetables: carrots, celery, onion and corn, plus acorn squash to thicken the soup, eliminating the need for flour or corn starch (whoo hoo – gluten free!). To give it a kick, I stirred in just a bit of hot madras curry powder. Not only did it add just a hint of exotic flavor, it ramped up the golden hue of the soup.

The resulting sweet potato & curry corn chowder is a perfect start for a Thanksgiving meal – full of fall flavor yet not too rich that you can’t enjoy the rest of your meal. But why wait for a holiday meal? It is easy to whip together and is a great addition to any dinner feast or a tired lunch box.

sweet Potato Chowder

 


Sweet Potato and Curry Corn Chowder

2 lb acorn squash
¼ cup butter
¼ cup diced shallots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
3 cups peeled and diced sweet potato
2 cups frozen corn kernels
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups cashew milk
2 teaspoons hot madras curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
Crumbled, precooked bacon (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Cut the acorn squash in half and place cut side down in a 9×13 inch pan filled with 1 in of water. Roast for 1 hour or until flesh becomes soft.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, celery, and carrots. Saute for 3 minutes to soften, then add garlic and saute for 1 minute longer. Add the sweet potato, corn, stock, and cashew milk and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes or until the sweet potato pieces are tender. Scoop the acorn squash flesh from the skin (equals about 3 cups) and add to a food processor, along with 1 cup of hot liquid from the soup. Blend the acorn squash until smooth, and then add to the soup pot; stir to mix evenly. Add the curry powder and salt to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Ladle into bowls and serve with crumbled bacon, if desired.

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4 State Cheddar®, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole

I love the draw of the TV show Chopped – either it is the awe of the unusual ingredients the contestants have to work with, or shock of ingredients I can’t imagine having to use to craft a master recipe. Like most of us, I have wondered what it would be like to try my hand at the competition.

Recently, Food Network paired with Sargento cheese to sponsor a 3-round content with various “basket ingredients”. I entered round 3, which required contestants to use the Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar, kale, bacon, and oyster crackers. While I didn’t make it to the final competition, I was a winner with my family in the recipe I created – this 4-State Cheddar, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole.

4stateHashBrownCasserole

I was inspired by a typical potluck dish – “funeral potatoes”. A decadent dish of hash browns and cheese, topped with a crunchy cereal crust is a often a favorite at church potlucks, family BBQs, and yes funerals. I decided to take the dish up a notch by stirring in a bit of kale and bacon, and by swapping the corn flake toping for oyster crackers. I also lightened it up, while maintaining the creaminess by using blended cottage cheese.

4stateHashBrownCasserole

The resulting 4-State Cheddar, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole can easily be served as a side for either breakfast or dinner. Quite honestly, I don’t know which meal is my favorite to serve this dish – let me know which you prefer!

4stateHashBrownCasserole

The finalists in the cooking contest battled it out live for the judges – you can view the results at this link.


4 State Cheddar®, Bacon, & Kale Hash Brown Casserole

¾ pound hickory smoked bacon
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup diced shallot
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
30 ounce bag frozen, shredded hash browns, partially thawed
10 ounce bag of frozen kale, thawed and well drained
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 and 7/8 cups shredded Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar® cheese (about 1 ½, 7.5oz bags), divided
1 cup oyster crackers, crushed

 

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Place the bacon on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain on paper towels. Reduce the oven to 350 °F.

Place the cottage cheese in a food processor and blend until smooth; set aside.

Add the butter to a medium sized skilled and heat until melted. Add the diced shallot and cook, stirring until translucent and begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, then set aside. Chop the cooled, cooked bacon and add to a large bowl along with the hash browns, drained kale, pepper, and 1 and 7/8 cups of the Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar® cheese blend (1 bag). Pour the shallot and garlic mixture over the hash browns, and add the blended cottage cheese. Stir until well mixed, then spread into a pre-greased 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish. Top the casserole with an even layer of the crushed oyster crackers.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar®. Return the casserole to the oven and continue to bake until it bubbles around the side, about 20 additional minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into slices and serve. Makes 12 servings.

 

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Prep Ahead Hash Browns – An Experiment

My husband is on a hash brown kick for his breakfast, choosing to start the day with a big meal to make sure he has the energy to keep up with our children.

Store bought hash browns are convenient, but can get pricy, so I was determined to find a method of prepping hash browns that wouldn’t result in immediately oxidized (i.e. brown discoloration) potatoes. My goal was to find the easiest and most repeatable prep ahead hash brown method that would allow me to store fresh hash browns in the refrigerator for ~4 days or that were easy to transfer from freezer to pan.

Online searching netted a few options, all of which had a common theme – blanch the potatoes to stop the oxidation. I narrowed it down to two methods to try:

The Taste of Home method works perfectly. Blanched hash keeps in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and frozen packets were easy to thaw.  In addition, the hash stayed in distinct strands when cooked.

hashBrowns_2b

The blanched, whole photos just resulted in a mess. The method suggested freezing for ~ 6 hrs before shredding. I didn’t get to shred my potatoes at that mark, and the result was that I had SOLID hunks of potato that could not be shredded without partially thawing first. Thawing frozen whole potatoes takes a while, and then shredding and refreezing resulted in oxidation of the potatoes. Cooking did not reverse the oxidation like some websites suggest, and the consistency of the cooked hash was a bit mushy and didn’t taste as good as the hash made using the Taste of Home method.

Hence, the Taste of Home method is what I plan to stick to for my prep ahead hash browns. To cook them, I season simply with some garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and then fry them in a bit of oil until golden and crisp.

peeledPotatoes2

 peeledPotatoes3

Treating myself to a heaping plateful of hash browns makes for a smile-worthy start of my day. These hash browns could almost substitute for my occasional French fries cravings. Almost. Both Russet and Yukon Gold yield great tasting hash browns (shown below on two different days), so feel free to use your favorite.

hashBrowns_3hashBrowns_1a

hashBrowns_6


 

Hash Browns

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes (makes ~ 1 ½ pounds shredded potatoes), shredded and blanched

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

Toss the shredded potatoes with the garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and salt until evenly coated. In a 12-inch, non-stick skillet heat the oil. Add the shredded potatoes. Cook the potatoes, turning frequently, until the hash browns are browned to your taste. Remove from the stove and serve immediately.

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