Monday, March 23, 2009

Variations on a Potato

Buzz and I are trying to be more responsible with our money, and my part of that involves saving money on groceries. I've found that making a menu plan saves me money and time. I have been planning our weekly menus on Sunday nights based on what's left in the pantry/fridge/freezer. Buzz had last week off for spring break, and we were still roaming around in a fog of disbelief come last night. 

This afternoon, instead of knowing what I would fix for dinner, I reverted back to my "browse-the-fridge/pantry" stare. I saw a sack of potatoes on the counter that I had bought a few days ago. I peeked in the bag and realized that about 4.5 pounds of the 5-pound bag remained, and while they weren't spoiled, they weren't looking so hot. I decided that the responsible thing to do would be to cook something with potatoes...lots of potatoes.

So, that's what I did. While the kids ran around in their post back-to-the-real-world stupor, I washed, peeled, and cut 4.5 pounds of potatoes, wondering what I might do with them. My mind drifted to memories of potatoes, of how my parents planted a garden early on in their marriage. My mother didn't know that potatoes grew underground and she hoed them all up by accident. 

I thought about how Momma used to stew potatoes for dinner on an all-too-regular basis. I hated most things involving potatoes when I was a kid, but I especially loathed stewed potatoes. Stewed potatoes, for those of you who don't know, are potatoes boiled in water until some of them break down and make kind of a creamy mush for the other pieces to swirl around in. It's kind of like potato soup without the cheese, bacon, and so on. It's just potatoes, stewed.

Potatoes are a poor man's friend, though. They are cheap, filling, easy to cook, and despite the bad rap the Atkins diet gave them, potatoes are fairly nutritious. Because I have had anemia,  I know that potatoes are a great source of iron. One baked potato also has more potassium than a banana. 

The cheap part is why we had so many stewed potatoes growing up, though. We were dirt poor, and potatoes made a hearty meal. Momma made more than just stewed potatoes, though. She fried them, mashed them, and baked them. And, I didn't enjoy any iteration of her potato skills. I found potatoes to be bland and uninteresting unless they were raw, and boy I would eat bites of raw potato as she sliced and diced them for our dinner.  

I've studied the potato some, and one of the grocery stores here in town has an excellent selection of potatoes. They have purple potatoes, blue potatoes, red potatoes, more...All these make the Russet look pretty boring. 

But, it's the Russet potato I was dealing with tonight. As I stood looking at the 4.5 pounds of cut up potatoes, I realized I better find some way to make them interesting enough to eat. 

Tonight's recipe:

Twice-Baked Potato Casserole
Serves 6-12, depending on whether you use it for a side dish or an entree.

  • 4.5 pounds of potatoes (partially peeled, cut up into 2-inch pieces, thoroughly washed)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (leftover from breakfast bagels from a couple week's ago)
  • 8 ounces of Colby Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 medium onion, diced (also found wasting away on my counter)
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk 
  • salt and paprika to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Boil the potatoes until very tender, mushy even.
  3. Drain the potatoes well.
  4. In large bowl, mash potatoes a bit. Mix in the cream cheese, half the Colby Jack cheese, the onion, and the buttermilk until fairly smooth. Do not mix too much A little texture is good.
  5. Then, add some salt and paprika.
  6. Taste.
  7. Add more salt.
  8. Taste.
  9. Add more salt.
  10. Pour the mixture into a deep-dish casserole pan and cover. (I used Pampered Chef's deep covered baker.)
  11. Cook at 350 for about 35 minutes. 
  12. Remove. Uncover. Evenly sprinkle the other half of the shredded cheese on top. 
  13. Cook at 350 for 15 minutes or until cheese is slightly golden brown and bubbly.
Use whatever you've got on hand. No cream cheese or buttermilk? Use sour cream and regular milk. No onion or Colby Jack cheese? Use some green chiles and cheddar. Have some extra garlic cloves? Mash them and add them in the mix.  


Anonymous said...

I had no idea potatoes were high in iron and potassium. I'm glad to hear it because I like potatoes. I'm a cheese addict, too, so that recipe sounds tasty. (Okay, I'm not not a full-on cheese addict, not like this nice girl I know who puts Velveeta in her homemade fudge. That's right. Velveeta cheese. There's a real-deal cheese junkie for you.)

Martia said...

Mr. Craig, I have no idea why anyone would put Velveeta in fudge. That has to be a sin in some religion. ;-) Potatoes get such a bad reputation. Dr. Atkins was a wacko. Potatoes also have some fiber and a little protein. The Russet is no. 17 on a list of the top 20 foods highest in antioxidants. One caution with potatoes, though. The nonorganic kind are one of the foods with the highest pesticide residue because they grow underground and work basically as a sponge to soak up all that poison. Yum. Gee, I read about vegetables way too much.

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