Recipes we love!

There went Peter Cotton Tail (hopping down the potato trail…)

Posted by on Apr 9, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I remember my mom once telling me that she’d never seen anyone peel potatoes like my grandmother.  Having lived through the Great Depression years, my grandmother had perfected the art of peeling potatoes, removing very little more than just the peel.  Apparently it was quite impressive to see.  Ever since then I’ve strived to peel a mean tater.  I can’t say I’m there yet (but it’s coming.)

Peeling potatoes plastic bag mashed potatoes

(Does anyone else peel potatoes on a cut-open plastic bag?  Or is this just something quirky that my mom and I do?)

We had Easter supper this year at my brother and his fiance’s house.  We’re a potluck kindof family, so I was responsible for the potatoes.  Specifically requested?  My (er, Kraft’s) Mashed Potato Layer Bake.  Two types of potatoes (sweet potatoes and potato-potatoes.)  Sour cream.  Cream cheese.  More cheese.  All layered up.  Baked.  Soooo good.

Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of sweet potatoes.  I know – they’re GOOD for me.  I get that.  But there’s something about the consistency/flavour combo that doesn’t work for me (I kinda consider the sweet potato one of Mother Nature’s few fails.)  And, plus, they look a bit funny – they’re a bit like the baking potato’s ugly cousin.

BUT, in this recipe, they’re good.  So good, in fact, that Sweetie (also not a sweet potato fan) (which is one of the reasons why I married him – having similar food-likes/dislikes just makes things a whole lot easier.  There’s nothing worse than sitting next to someone who’s eating a big chunk of salmon when you really don’t like salmon) actually asked me to make a double batch (so that we could greedily keep one batch just for us.)  (And, yes, I know.  Salmon is good for me too.)

So, since I was whipping up a big batch yesterday anyway, I thought I’d show y’all what they look like and how it’s done.  Recipe courtesy of Kraft Canada (click HERE for the original recipe/pictures/raving reviews from other happy potato-makers.)

 

Ingredients…

3-1/4 lb. (1.5 kg) baking potatoes (4 large), peeled, chopped and cooked
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped and cooked
1 tub (250 g) Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Product, divided
1/2 cup sour cream, divided
1/4 tsp. each Salt and pepper
1/4 cup Kraft 100% Parmesan Finely Shredded Cheese, divided
1/4 cup Kraft Double Cheddar Shredded Cheese, divided

 

Method:

HEAT oven to 375°F.

PLACE potatoes in separate bowls. Add half each of the cream cheese product and sour cream to each bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mash until creamy.

STIR half the Parmesan into white potatoes. Stir half the Cheddar into sweet potatoes. Layer half each of the potatoes 2-L clear glass casserole dish. Repeat layers.

BAKE 15 min. Top with remaining cheeses; bake 5 min. or until melted.

 

And, in case you’re a visual person (like me!) here’s what that all looks like…

Boiling potatoes and sweet potatoes

Sweetie added the wooden spoons on top of each pot.  He says he’s heard this keep things from boiling over.  In fact, neither pot boiled over.  But the potatoes came close.

Once everything is all boiled up, mash.  And mash.  And mash.  (I was so busy mashing that I forgot to take pics.)  For the record, I’m not a particularly good potato masher (I tend to run out of patience/get tired before all the lumps have been de-lumped.)  My dad, however, is a potato mashing genious.  No lumps, perfect fluffiness…  If you need awesome taters, definitely have a chat with my dad.  :)

Things mashed (-ish), then add the other stuff (the “yumminess-makers”, if you will.)

Sour cream cream cheese parm and cheese

And then the layering begins…

Layered sweet potatoes mashed potatoes

Layered mashed and sweet potatoes

When you get to the third layer (more potato-potatoes over sweet potatoes), layering gets a little trickier (because the sweet potatoes are runnier than the mashed potatoes.)  I’ve found that if you cover the sweet potatoes with little mounds of the regular potatoes, you can then spread everything out with a knife.  It works pretty well.  :)

Spreading potatoes over sweet potatoes

A second layer of sweet potatoes later, and a wee bit more cheese too, and – poof – you’re done!  :)

Finished mashed potato layer bake

And – poof again! – there you have it.  My entire yesterday morning in pictures LOL.  :)  I’m not gonna lie: this is a super time consuming dish to make (by the time I got the potatoes all peeled, boiled, mashed, mixed, and layered I think about 2.5 hours had passed) (true story) (and don’t even get me started on the sink full of dishes this receipe creates too) BUT it’s sooo worth it.  And if you only make it for special occasions, it’s not so bad.  :)  And, well, if you have a dishwasher, that last complaint likely doesn’t apply to you (and, PS, I’m quite jealous!)

Hope everyone had a good (and delicious!) Easter!

 

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Loaded Baked Potato Soup (an embellished potato is a happy potato)

Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

So I’m still getting the hang of this whole blogging thing.  And a particular challenge (that I haven’t yet mastered) (obviously) is remembering what to take pictures of mid-process.  Take this post, for example (since you’re already reading this) (thank you for reading this btw!): it’s a recipe.  Which, from looking at other blog-posts from other much more experienced bloggers (ie: pretty much everyone in blogland) I think means I was supposed to take pictures of all my ingredients lined up neatly pre-cooking, and then a few action shots too (water flying dramatically off the potatoes as I furiously scrub, or Sweetie grating-away at a big block of cheddar) (since I’ve declared cheese-grating a boy-job) before the final reveal.  Shamefully, I don’t have any action shots for this post.  Or a “before” pic of what all my ingredients looked liked before being expertly combined with chef-like skill (teehee), magically resulting in the best and easiest potato soup ever (seriously, it is…  just wait… the recipe is a’comin once I finish jabbering.)  BUT, what I do have, is this lovely pic of yumminess.  Let’s call this my “after” shot…

If I was an artiste, I'd entitle this "Soup in the Sun" or something equally dramatic

(For the record, there’s something a little odd about taking pictures of your lunch.  And I’m obviously not particularly good at it [although I'm rather proud of that little gleam of sun that's shining off the bowl.  I PLANNED that.] [K, no I didn't.  It was a complete fluke.  But a good one!])

Another admission?  This isn’t my recipe.  It comes from the good folk at Kraft (Kraft folk: you rock.)  With a few changes that make it ours (and, well, yours too, if you’d like to try this!)  Firstly, here’s the original recipe.

Kraft Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Looks yummy eh?  And it IS.  It’s SOOOO good.  But, we had a few challenges with the original recipe.  For starters, my microwave is archaic (it’s over 15 years old, which, in microwave terms, means it’s tired and grumpy and would really really like me to stop asking it to cook stuff, I think.  But until it absolutely quits altogether, I just keep asking it to be a trooper.)  (Label me “thrifty” but I hate throwing (quasi-)functional stuff out.)  So while the Kraft recipe says to microwave the potatoes for a puny 5 minutes, plus an additional 6 minutes once added to the liquid, I found I was microwaving my taters for 30 minutes or so.  Sometimes even longer if I had particularly ornery spuds.

Secondly, I just like to embellish recipes a wee bit.  :)  We love garlic, so a soup without garlic just seems odd to me.  And we never have green onions on hand, but we always have corn (completely different veggie-family, I know, but quite yummy in this soup!)  And cooking bacon is just far too hard and messy.  I’m a pre-cooked bacon bits kinda girl (more expensive, yes, but absolutely worth every penny, in my mind, to have a bacon-grease-free pretty little kitchen.)

So, without further rambling, I present my version of Loaded Baked Potato Soup.  :)

 

INGREDIENTS:
-3-4-ish baking potatoes (washed, obviously), halved

-1 can (10 fl oz/284 mL) 25%-less-sodium chicken broth

-1 soup can of milk (we’re a 1% family, but I don’t think it really matters what kind you use)

-two cloves of garlic minced (or, if you’re lazy like I am, a teaspoon of the pre-chopped stuff in oil)

-about a cup-ish (maybe a little more – I just pour it in) of frozen corn

-cheddar cheese (grated) for sprinkling

-bacon bits (bitted) also for sprinkling

-whatever else you’d like to add (Sweetie adds a dollop of sour cream to his)

 

METHOD (how very Grade 9 Science experiment-y eh?):

1. Cover halved potatoes (I leave skins on – apparently they’re good for you?) with water in a large-ish soup pot and boil potatoes until soft (10-15 minutes.)

2. Drain water. Mash up potatoes lightly (using a potato masher.)  Lumps are a-ok.  :)

3. Add liquids and garlic and corn.  Stir everything together.

4. Cook on medium (giving it the occasional stir) until hot and yummy (5 minutes-ish)

5. Ladel into bowls and serve with the option of sprinkling cheese, bacon bits, freshly ground pepper, dill (ooooh!  Dill is really good in this), sour cream (a dollop, not a sprinkling)…  Whatever you’d normally add to your potatoes. :)

6. Eat.  Marvel at how quick and easy this was and how yummy it all turned out.

 

Poof!  And there you are.  :)  It probably only takes 20-25 minutes from tater-scrubbing to soup-eating.  And it’s soooo good.  One batch serves Sweetie and I for supper, with leftovers for the next day (so it probably serves 4.)  It’s thick (kinda like liquid mashed potatoes) and super filling.  Perfect for a blizzardy Tuesday.

Just to give you another angle (and to show off my crazy awesome soup-photography skills just a little more) here’s another look at my lunch…

My inner artiste calls this "Soup in the sun version 2"

Yummy goodness in a bowl.  :)  And again with the little bit of sun being all gleamy off the side of my bowl.  Food-photography?  I think you’ve been mastered.  :)

PS – in case you’re marveling at how dirty my windows look in these pics, um, you’re likely right.  But the dirt is on the outside part that I can’t get to without taking the storm windows off.  Ever had to take storm windows off?  If you have, you’ll understand why the outside of my windows look so dirty.  (Regardless, sorry about that btw!)  (Oooh!  And try the soup – it’s GOOD!)

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Hearty Beef Barley Soup (aka yummy goodness in a pot) (thank you milk calendar circa 1998!)

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

(Aside: today’s post on the best soup ever [seriously - it's awesome] is by Sweetie.  Thanks Sweetie!  He’s helping out this week while I battle my way through Project Laundry Room: Part Two.)  (Official-sounding status update: the laundry room is now cleared out and the walls have politely asked me for a coat of loveliness-in-a-can [aka BM Gossamer Blue paint] – I’m pretty sure me and my paintbrush have a hot date tonight.  Oh!  And only two more days till my pretty new machines arrive!!!  Am I excited?  Just a wee bit.  [Insert random happy dance here.])

SO, while I’m off working away at that, here’s Chef Sweetie’s favourite soup recipe… :)

 

So it’s winter, you’re feeling a little down, a little blah, and you want something that’s not too difficult to prepare, but still yummy as all get out with that stick-to-your-ribs-ness? Well, please allow me to share one of my favourite soup-as-a-meal recipes straight out of an old milk calendar!  :)

12 oz (375 g) trimmed boneless beef sirloin steak
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried thyme
2 cups (500 mL) sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup (125 mL) pearl barley
2 1/2 cups(625 mL) beef stock
2 tbsp (30 mL) Worcestershire sauce (approx.)
3 tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
3 cups (750 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Cheddar or Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper

Cut steak into 3/4-inch (2 cm) cubes. In large pot, melt butter over high heat; brown beef on all sides. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add garlic, carrots, onion and thyme; cook, stirring, for 3 min or until onions are softened. Add mushrooms and barley and stir to combine. Stir in beef stock and Worcestershire; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 min or until barley is tender.

Increase heat to medium. Whisk flour into Milk and gradually stir into pot. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, for about 5 min or until slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

 

That’s it! I can usually make this in about an hour start to finish, and man oh man is it tasty. Some suggestions to consider (and things that I found helpful as someone without a wide variety of cooking experience…):

  • Pretty much any cut of beef works for this, just make the pieces all more or less the same size when you cut them up.
  • Don’t worry, that’s enough barley. You can add a little more if you want, but it’ll become more stew-like.
  • Maybe make this the day before. Letting it sit over night seems to make it taste even better. (And become more stew like… trust me, not a bad thing.)
  • A little splash of red wine works well in this. (I’m partial to a Pinot Noir.)
  • For the mushrooms, I usually use portobello mushrooms. If you know someone doesn’t like the consistency of mushroom chunks, wrap them in cheese cloth and cook with the soup, then take them out and serve on the side.

Enjoy!

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The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach (hint: bake him brownies)

Posted by on Jan 3, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Brownies are my thing.  Some people have a particular cookie that they excel at (my friend Jess makes THE BEST shortbread.  Ever.  Hands down.)  Others have a signature dish.  I make brownies.  They first made my dad a very proud papa.  Then I met my hubby and he declared his love for me over a batch of brownies (ok, not really, but my brownies really are that good, so let’s stick with that.)  My father-in-law accepted me into the family, long before Sweetie actually proposed, after tasting one of my brownies (ok – this one is actually true) and gets a pan of brownies for every major occasion (we have Father(-in-law)’s Day brownies, birthday brownies, Christmas brownies, random just-because brownies…)  All in all, my brownie recipe rocks (and seems to make all men around me quite happy!)

But the secret?  It’s not really my recipe.  It’s Hershey’s.  (Shhhhh.  Don’t tell.)  So, thank you Mr (Mrs?  Ms?) Hershey for making me such a brownie-baking superstar!  :)  It’s the first brownie recipe I ever tried (read straight from the side of the cocoa can in my mom’s kitchen when I was all of about 14 years old) and it’s my go-to “need something yummy for someone special” recipe.  It hasn’t failed me in 20 years.  (Oh.  I might delete that.  I now feel extraordinarily old.)  And I only make one tiny little tweak – I add semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter instead of nuts (since, well, who doesn’t need MORE chocolate in their brownies.)

So, exposing my secret to y’all, here is my Hershey’s recipe:

HERSHEY’S | Best Brownies

I hope it serves you as well (ie: gaining you praise and adoration from pretty much every man in your life) as it has me.  :)

 

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