Monday, December 29, 2008

Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes

* 5 lbs. russet or yukon gold potatoes
* 2 sticks of butter
* 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
* 1/2 to 3/4 cup half & half
* 1 tsp. Lawry's season salt
* 1 tsp. black pepper

With a vegetable peeler, peel 5 pounds of regular Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes. After peeling, rinse under cold water.

Now, I always like to chop the potatoes in half or in fourths before throwing them into the pot. They cook more quickly and more evenly this way. No need to freak and spaz and wig out here—just cut them so they’re generally the same size.

Bring a pot of water to a healthy simmer and then throw them in. Now, bring to a boil and cook for a good thirty minutes—possibly more. You have to give the potatoes the old fork check to make sure they’re done. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost—but not totally—fall apart. Remember, if the fork meets with any resistance, that means there will be little hard pieces of potatoes in the final product. Translation: LUMPS!

Drain the potatoes in a large colander and give yourself a nice steam facial while you’re at it. Not really.

When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Turn the burner on low. What we’re going to do is mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients. That way, the potatoes won’t be watery or “mealy.”

Do you have a potato masher? You need one! They’re relatively inexpensive and so much better to use than an electric mixer, the sharp blades of which can break down the starch in the potatoes and make the final product gummy. Mash away…until most of the steam has escaped and most of the chunks of potato have been mashed well, about three minutes. Turn off the stove.

Find the butter you’ve been softening and just slice it right into the hot potatoes. For five pounds of potatoes, I use 2 sticks.

Now, are you ready to get SERIOUS? Okay, I’m just making sure. This, my friends and cohorts, is THE secret ingredient of delectable, delightful, creamy, perfect mashed potatoes. Do not be afraid. Do not scream and run. You must trust me. I know of what I speak. To five pounds of potatoes, I add an 8 oz package of cream cheese. It’s best if it’s softened.

Let me just say that Michael and Madison would never—NEVER—touch cream cheese with a ten-foot pole. Never. They’d sooner have their gums scraped than eat cheesecake or spread cream cheese on a cracker. But they love my mashed potatoes. And they ate them for quite awhile before Michael ever got wind of the secret ingredient. He cried for a few days when he found out he’d consumed cream cheese, but now he doesn’t even bat an eye. (Madison will NEVER find out the secret) In terms of culinary repertoire, it’s all about baby steps with these people.

To make the texture just right, we need to add a little Half & Half.

Hey, I COULD have used heavy cream. But this is a low-fat dish, people. I have to make healthy choices. Begin with 1/2 cup. You can always add another splash later.

It’s time to mash away again! If your butter and cream cheese were softened to begin with, everything should come together perfectly.

Okay. That’s the basic mashed potato recipe. From here, you can add whatever seasonings you want: onion powder, salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic salt…even mashed roasted garlic cloves. I like to keep it pretty simple. And Lawry’s, to me, is just right. It provides salt content as well as just a hint of some other flavors. Add black pepper. Stir everything together.

Voila! The perfect mashed potatoes.

Tennessee Meat Loaf

* 1 1/2 pound ground beef (I always use ground turkey)
* 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I usually bump this up to at least 3/4 cup)
* 1 egg
* 1 onion chopped (I usually chop a handful of baby carrots and 2 stalks of celery and put in it too)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
* 1/2 cup water
* 3 tablespoons vinegar
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons mustard
* 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


Mix together beef, crumbs, egg, onion, salt and 1/2 of tomato sauce. Form into loaf and put into shallow pan. Combine rest of the tomato sauce and all the other ingredients. Pour over loaf. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Baste occasionally.

**I recommend serving with mashed potatoes (recipe tomorrow) and green beans.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

This is one of those recipes that I've tweaked and tweaked until I got it just how I want it to be.


2 chicken bouillon cubes (or 2 tsp. granules)
2 cans chicken broth
1 c. chopped carrots
2 c. chopped celery
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 (half) can cream of chicken soup
1/4 c. milk
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. chopped cooked chicken (or do what I did tonight and use a can of chicken breast, made it even easier)
4-6 oz. egg noodles

Boil chicken until fully cooked. Cook egg noodles. Dissolve 2 bouillon cubes in 1 cup boiling water. Add chicken broth and vegetables to the liquid until tender. In separate bowl, whisk a half a can of cream of chicken soup and milk until smooth. Whisk soup and milk mixture into broth and vegetables. Melt butter then stir into flour. Add to soup mixture. Add chicken and noodles.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning Cinnamon Buns

20 frozen dough balls (I used Rhodes frozen dinner rolls)
1 cup brown sugar
1 small instant vanilla pudding mix
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 stick of butter, melted

Place frozen dough balls into a bundt pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Mix brown sugar, vanilla pudding and cinnamon together. Pour over dough balls. Melt butter and pour over dry mixture and dough. Place a damp towel over bundt pan and let rise over night. Bake the next morning at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Andes Mint Cookies

3/4 c. butter (or margarine)
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. water

Melt in a saucepan over medium heat until melted and then add:

2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, stirring until completely melted.

Cool for 10 minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl and beat in 2 eggs.

2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix together and chill for about 45 minutes. Roll into balls (like 1 - 1 1/2 inches big), flatten slightly, and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

When cookies come out of the oven, place an Andes mint on top of each cookie and allow to melt for a few minutes. Swirl the melted chocolate like icing. Allow to cool.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Soda Cracker Toffee

This is one of those "can't stop eating it until it's gone" type recipes! I prefer this to real toffee because you don't need dental work after you eat it. It's quick and easy to make and honestly, it's to die for!

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place one sleeve of saltine crackers, plus a few more to cover the entire bottom of the pan. *Do not crumble the crackers, place them whole.*

In a pan, melt 1 cup (2 sticks) butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Once it's melted, stir for three minutes. Pour the sauce over the crackers. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Pour one package of chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate chips) over the baked layers. Wait 30 seconds. Spread the chocolate to cover the pan. If you want, sprinkle with chopped nuts. Place in the refrigerator for one hour. Remove and then break into bite-size pieces. Store in a sealed container.