Looking for a Holiday?

Claude Monet – Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878

How about Bastille Day? If you’re looking for an excuse to enjoy some French food and champagne, Bastille Day is as good a reason as any!

The 14th of July is Bastille Day. As handy, dandy Wikipedia tells us:

Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (French pronunciation: [la.fɛt.na.sjɔ’nal] ; The National Celebration) and commonly Le quatorze juillet (French pronunciation: [lə.ka.tɔʁz.ʒɥi’jɛ] ; the fourteenth of July). It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. Festivities and official ceremonies are held all over France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests.

Whenever I think of France, I always think of their national anthem, La Marseilles, and this wonderful scene from that classic film, Casablanca (go on, take less than 2 minutes from your day and enjoy this scene again — you know you want to!):


Given my penchant for finding reasons to celebrate, I decided it would be fun for hubby and me to commemorate Bastille Day! It would also offer a great opportunity for hubby and me to relive, just a bit, our trip to Paris in 2006.

If your half of the world is in winter right now, you may want to search my site for warm-weather French foods, like cassoulet, French bread, my unFrench French bread,  and a kind of Boeuf Bourguignon.

But if it’s hot where you are — as it is here — then you may want to consider enjoying some French picnic fare, such as:

French Flags

French Flags

If you live in the US, you can pick up red, white, and blue decorative items reduced for quick sale from the 4th of July — because we share flag colors with the French!

So pour yourself some champagne or sparkling water, put on some French music, and Vive la France!

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Dance…

zydeco…like nobody’s watching!

That’s a good motto to live by.

I’ve written posts about Cajun food before, namely Po’ Boys,  Gumbo, Jambalaya, and King Cake. Last year,  hubby and I espied a new (to us!) restaurant: a Cajun place (a chain) called Razoo’s. Fun atmosphere and tasty food — it was just what we needed, as emotionally and physically drained as last year ended up making us both feel.

Hubby was so enamored of the place and the food, he asked me why I didn’t cook more Cajun dishes.

Well, why not, indeed?

So, I started studying Razzoo’s menu and also Googling, and I’ve since added a few more Cajun dishes to my repertoire.

The one we’ll address today is a versatile dish called Zydeco Pasta. Razzoo’s describes Zydeco Pasta on their luncheon menu as being “Just like on the Big Boy menu, but sized right for lunch. You choose shrimpies or blackn’d chicken, and we’ll do it up right with penne, veggies, and our creole cream sauce.”

Essentially, Zydeco Pasta is penne pasta in an Alfredo sauce seasoned with Cajun seasoning, veggies (the Cajun holy trinity of onion, bell pepper, and celery, along with some garlic — of course! — and some diced tomato added in at the last minute), and, if you desire, the meat of your choice, such as smoked sausage or blackened chicken, fish (salmon fillets work best, but tilapia or any other like-textured fish would work), or shrimp.

You can either make your favorite Alfredo sauce recipe, to which you add Cajun spice, or you can use your favorite packaged Alfredo sauce.

Myself, I use the dried Alfredo sauce mix to which one adds butter and milk, because it’s easy for me to make as much or as little as I want, and it’s easiest for me to lighten up by 1) using less butter than is called for, 2) using lighter milk (I used 1%) than is called for, and 3) always making one more serving than called for on the package. So, for example, if the package says it makes 2 servings; I had half again as much milk and make 3 servings from it. If the package says it makes 3 servings, I add in 1/3 again as much milk and make 4 servings. If I want to make 4 servings (when cooking for hubby, his hearty appetite, and me, this gives us at least one, and sometimes two, lunch servings left), if my packaged Alfredo sauce mix makes 2 servings, I’ll use 1 packet and half the seasoning in another packet to make 4 servings.

For illustrative purposes, here’s an example, using a sauce packet that says it makes 2 servings per packet and calls for 1 cup of milk and 3 tablespoons of butter:

To make 4 servings, I would use:

  • 1 1/2 packets of seasoning mix (save the other half for another meal)
  • 2 cups of milk (I use 1%)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of butter

So you see, the math is really very easy.

Use the amount of veggies (celery, bell pepper, and onion) to taste. Stirring in fresh chopped tomato (you could probably use tinned tomatoes, drained, in lieu of the fresh chopped tomato) helps cut the rich taste of the Alfredo sauce, as well as adding to the color and nutrition of the dish.

Zydeco Pasta with Smoked Sausage

Zydeco Pasta with Smoked Sausage

Zydeco Pasta takes center stage on our table, accompanied by tossed green salad and garlic bread.

Zydeco Pasta takes center stage on our table, accompanied by tossed green salad with homemade Ranch dressing and garlic bread.

This is utterly delicious with blackened salmon, tilapia, or shrimp (you could also blackened chicken), but it’s also yummy with Smoked Sausage (I used smoked turkey sausage, and when I can obtain it, I use the hot pepper spicy smoked turkey sausage). Want it meatless? Use a favorite spicy meatless meat substitute (such as Soyrizo), maybe stir in some cooked kidney beans (“red beans”), or just enjoy it as is.

We typically enjoy this with a tossed green salad and either garlic toast or “Frenchy bread” (a la Razzoo’s), which is French (or other good quality) bread sliced, buttered on both sides, and grilled.

Zydeco Pasta smells — and tastes! — so yummy, you’ll be dancing around your kitchen while you make it!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! :-)

Zydeco Pasta (As noted above, you can easily adjust the number of servings up or down)

NOTE: If serving with Smoked Sausage, you prepare the sausage along with the vegetables as directed in Step 2. If serving with blackened chicken, fish, or shrimp, you prepare the meat separately as described in Step 7.

  • Packet(s) of favorite Alfredo Sauce mix OR favorite jarred Alfredo Sauce OR favorite Alfredo Sauce recipe (see comments above)
  • Butter as required in recipe (As noted above, I use less than is called for on the package)
  • Milk as called for in the recipe (As noted above, I use more than is called for on the package)
  • Diced onion to taste (I usually use about a half of a medium onion for 4 servings)
  • Sliced celery to taste (I usually use 1 large stalk for 4 servings, sometimes 2)
  • Diced bell pepper to taste (I usually use green, but any red, orange, and yellow will work, also; I usually use about 1/2 to 3/4 of a medium to large bell pepper for 4 servings)
  • Minced garlic or garlic powder to taste
  • Cajun seasoning to taste (homemade or store-bought; I usually use roughly two teaspoons for 4 servings)
  • Diced tomato to taste (1 small to medium tomato for 4 servings)
  • Penne pasta (2 ounces per serving, which would be 8 ounces for 4 servings; I usually use mezze penne, but any pasta you like will work, including fettuccine or spaghetti)
  • Desired meat (Vegetarians, see note above)
  1. Boil water for pasta and cook as per package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet of appropriate size (typically a deep 10″ or 12″ skillet will work) over medium to medium high heat. Sauté onion until it begins to soften, then add in celery and bell pepper. Add in minced garlic last. NOTE: If making with Smoked Sausage — I use turkey sausage — a 14-16 ounce package of smoked sausage is sufficient for 6 servings. Thinly slice the sausage — on the bias, if you prefer, and FIRST sauté the sausage in the skillet with a bit of hot olive or canola oil, THEN add in some butter and sauté the vegetables as above.
  3. Once vegetables have begun to soften, in the same pan, add Alfredo sauce mix and whisk in milk OR add in your jarred favorite Alfredo sauce or homemade Alfredo sauce. Heat as directed on packet or in recipe.
  4. Stir desired amount of Cajun seasoning into sauce (I typically add a couple of rounded teaspoons for 4 servings).
  5. Stir cooked, drained pasta into the sauce (if desired, reserve a bit of the pasta water, if need be, to both “loosen” and “thicken” the sauce). At first, it will seem much too loose and runny, but let it simmer for a few minutes on low, stirring occasionally, and you will see it all thicken up nicely.
  6. Stir in diced tomato.
  7. If serving with Blackened Chicken or Blackened Salmon, Tilapia, or like fish fillet: Plan on one boneless, skinless chicken breast (4 ounces or so each) or fish fillet (4 ounces or so each) per serving. Lightly oil both sides of the meat, rub with seasoning, and grill or cook on a non-stick griddle or skillet as directed here — of course, it will take a bit longer to cook the chicken. If serving with Blackened Shrimp: Use raw, cleaned, de-veined shrimp with the tails removed. (I purchase mine from the freezer section for convenience and thaw it as per package directions under running water.) You’ll want 12 to 16 ounces of shrimp for 4 servings. Place shrimp in a disposable Ziploc or similar bag. Drizzle in a two or three teaspoons of oil and shake the bag to cover the shrimp.  Spoon in desired amount of blackened seasoning and shake bag about to cover shrimp. Grill, turning once, until done (shrimp will curl) OR sauté in a skillet or on a griddle in a single layer over medium to medium high heat in a small amount (tablespoon or less) of butter or olive or canola oil.
  8. If serving with blackened fish fillets, I place the whole cooked fillets on top of the pasta. If serving with blackened chicken, you can present it the same way, or you can slice or chop the chicken into more bite-sized pieces and stir into the pasta. If serving with blackened shrimp, I stir the cooked shrimp into the pasta.
  9. Individuals may dress each serving as desired with their favorite hot sauce.
  10. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Posted in Fish/Seafood, Main Dish, Pasta, Vegetarian/Meatless | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

’tis the Season(ing)!

Cajun FiddlerAnd no, I’m not talking about Christmas (‘though it is now just a bit less than 6 months away! ;-) ), I’m talking about Cajun Cuisine, peoples. :-)

I’ve written posts about Cajun food before, namely Gumbo, Jambalaya, and King Cake. Last year, when my mom was in the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) after her heart attacks, hubby (who was still in his back brace) espied a new (to us!) restaurant in Tyler while we were out driving around town, passing time until we could get back into the CICU.

The restaurant is a Cajun place (a chain) called Razoo’s. Fun atmosphere and tasty food — and as physically and emotionally exhausted as hubby and I were by that point in our year, we were in desperate need of any bit of fun or humor we could find and for any yummy food that we could find, especially if it saved me the time and labor of preparing it (because yes, peoples, I was so worn out and strung out that even I, who loves cooking and baking and can be quite organized about it, did not have the energy or wherewithal to keep us fed regularly after hubby’s accident, what with caring for my beloved in his back brace; the stress of the remodel in Operation Laundry Room; the additional physical chores I had to do, such as mowing, which would take me two days; having to put down our poor Ally; and then Mom’s heart attacks and caring for her…this is why it’s a common social convention and simple, caring kindness to bring meals to people who are ill, have had a death in the family, and/or are otherwise going through a stressful time).

Hubby was so enamored of the place and the food, he asked me why I didn’t cook more Cajun dishes.

Well, why not, indeed?

So, I started studying Razzoo’s menu and also Googling, and I’ve since added a few more Cajun dishes to my repertoire.

Two seasoning bases for Cajun cooking are Cajun Seasoning and Blackened Seasoning. You can, of course, purchase Cajun Seasoning in most stores — myself, I’m partial to Tony Chacere’s Creole Seasoning — but as part of my Googling, I came across recipes for making one’s own Cajun seasoning. Making your own seasoning has the benefits of not only being more affordable, but also of being made to suit your tastes (such as being hotter or milder, lower in sodium, reduced in sugar or sugar-free, and so forth).

Using Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for inspiration, I whipped up my own version of Cajun Seasoning to suit our tastes.  I just mix it up in a Ziploc baggie and keep it in my pantry.

And although I’ve shared my Blackened Seasoning before, I’ll include it here again, as well just for convenience’s sake.

These seasonings smell — and taste! — so yummy, that when you use them in your Cajun dishes (I’ll be sharing a couple more recipes in future posts), you’ll want to put on Zydeco music and dance around your kitchen!

 

Cajun Seasoning (Adjust to suit your own tastes)

Don’t fret over exact measurements; rounded spoonfuls are fine.
Note that 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon.

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (dried)
  • 2 teaspoons thyme (dried or powdered)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used reduced sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Mix all ingredients together. (I like to put them all in a Ziploc bag, close it, and shake it together to mix them.)
  2. Store in a sealed container (I use a Ziploc bag).

 

Blackened Seasoning (Adjust to suit your own tastes)

Don’t fret over exact measurements; rounded spoonfuls are fine.
Note that 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon.

  • 2 tablespoons ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (red pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (dried leaves or ground)
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use reduced sodium)
  • Garlic powder to taste (I give it a healthy sprinkling, probably 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
  1. Mix all ingredients together. (I like to put them all in a Ziploc bag, close it, and shake it together to mix them.)
  2. Store in a sealed container (I use a Ziploc bag).

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Some Enchanted Evening, Part 2 of 2

A very young me with Uncle Bob & Aunt Lois

A very young me with Uncle Bob & Aunt Lois

Losing Aunt Lois was a heart-breaking event that capped off a pretty lousy year. Having to break the news to my ailing mom on Christmas Eve was a challenge which I hoped I handled well (as well as one can, under those circumstances), but it was not a challenge I wanted.

Our Christmas Eve was bittersweet as we reminisced about Aunt Lois while arranging gifts on the tree, listening to Christmas carols, watching holiday films, and other pleasant, festive holiday distractions. I had planned a lovely, but low key, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for us. On Christmas Day, the kids and grandkids would be joining us later in the afternoon (I’d picked up a rib roast for that occasion), but Christmas Eve would just be hubby, Mom, and me. I wanted something easy, but also something special — I wanted us to have an Enchanted Evening. :-) (And heaven knows we all deserved one.) I happily wiled away time Googling and pondering recipes. Then my menu came together — something new that I’d never tried before (although when has that stopped me? LOL): Pecan Crusted Salmon  and Cheesy Rice with Broccoli.

Back Row, Left to Right: Cousin Bobby, Cousin Peggy, my late Cousin Paul; Front Row: Uncle Bob and Aunt Lois

Back Row, Left to Right: Cousin Bobby, Cousin Peggy, my late Cousin Paul; Front Row: Uncle Bob and Aunt Lois

When it came time for supper, I poured Mom and me both some wine. Mom and hubby both asked what we were having. “It’s a surprise,” I said, “Something we’ve never had before!” Hubby, eyeing the salmon fillets thawing in the sink, said, “Salmon? We’ve had that before!” To which I replied “Not the way we’re having it tonight!”

After our supper, Mom commented that were it not for the sad news we’d gotten casting a pall over things, it would have been absolutely perfect and wonderfully festive.

This menu, although easy, will make any evening enchanted,  making it perfect for a holiday, date night, or other festive or celebratory occasion. :-) The recipe, as written, serve four, but the recipe can be adjusted up or down. You can substitute another medium-textured fish, such as tilapia, for the salmon, if you prefer.

It smells, tastes, and looks yummy!

 

 

Pecan-Crusted Salmon (Serves 4)

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless salmon, cut into 4 serving pieces
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • approximately 1/4 cup bread crumbs (soft or dry will work)
  • Parsley to taste (dried or minced fresh)
  • 1 egg
  • Splash of milk
  • Grated peel from one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used a sprinkling of sea salt and coarse ground pepper)
  • Couple tablespoons of oil or mix of oil and butter

NOTE: You can substitute another medium-textured fish, such as tilapia, for the salmon if you wish.

  1. Preheat oven to 425F . About halfway through the preheating time, add oil or butter and oil in a 13″x9″ pan and place in oven to preheat pan and oil or oil/butter combo.
  2. In a shallow dish, mix together pecans, bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest.
  3. In another shallow dish, mix together egg and milk.
  4. Season salmon to taste with salt and pepper. Coat salmon in egg mixture, then in pecan/bread crumb mixture, pressing in the pecans as needed.
  5. Place in preheated pan and bake (uncovered) for 15 to 20 minutes, until fillets are done. (If desired, you can GENTLY turn the fillets about halfway through). Let rest in a warm place for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Sprinkle with lemon juice before serving, if desired.
  7. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Some Enchanted Evening, Part 1 of 2

L-R: Aunt Lois, Uncle Howard, & Mom

L-R: Aunt Lois, Uncle Howard, & Mom

As any of you who know me know, or who follow my blog know, last year was a pretty rough one that brought an incredible number of…well, if you want to be more positive, you’d refer to them as challenges. If you want to be truthful, you would call them disasters, tragedies, frustrations, stressors,  or, simply, stinkin’ lousy events.

In December, I got a call from my cousin Peggy (in Kentucky) telling me that her mom (my aunt Lois, my mom’s older sister and only remaining sibling) was in the hospital. She was seriously ill and the doctors were baffled as to what was wrong with her. Aunt Lois had told Peggy not to tell Aunt Ruth (my mom) because Mom has her own health problems, but Peggy had decided things were serious enough that she should at least call me and then let me decide what to do. Peggy promised to keep me updated.

Ay yi yi. So after some thought, I told Mom what was going on with Aunt Lois. Mom was very upset, as you can imagine. I did my best to keep us both distracted with happy seasonal events — decorating the Christmas tree, watching holiday films, baking cookies, and so on.

And I also planned a lovely, but low key, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for us. On Christmas Day, the kids and grandkids would be joining us later in the afternoon (I’d picked up a rib roast for that occasion), but Christmas Eve would just be hubby, Mom, and me. I wanted something easy, but also something special — I wanted us to have an Enchanted Evening. :-) (And heaven knows we all deserved one.) I happily wiled away time Googling and pondering recipes. Then my menu came together — something new that I’d never tried before (although when has that stopped me? LOL): Pecan Crusted Salmon  and Cheesy Rice with Broccoli.

One can, of course, purchase rice and broccoli mixes at the store, and I was tempted to do that simply for convenience, but I wanted to be sure to include plenty of broccoli (as opposed to just broccoli bits or broccoli flavoring! LOL) so that it would actually be nutritious. I also wanted more control over the quality of the ingredients. And so I devised a way to make it (similar to how I make my homemade stove top macaroni and cheese) that I thought would be yummy but would be almost as easy, if not as easy, as the packaged kind — and it would certainly be more nutritious and, I hoped, yummier!

On the evening of 23-December-2014 (Christmas Eve Eve, as it were), I got the call from my cousin Peggy that I’d been sadly expecting: Aunt Lois had passed away. (For those who are curious, her final diagnosis was a very rare disease: Amyloidosis.) Peggy, exhausted from the whole ordeal, started to cry a bit and said, “I can’t bring myself to tell Aunt Ruth. Will you tell her?”

Aunt Lois and her second husband, Uncle Verlon

Aunt Lois and her second husband, Uncle Verlon

After some pondering upon it, I decided the best way to break this awful  news to Mom would be the next day, when she came over for Christmas Eve — that way, she wouldn’t be alone with the news, and also, given that she often has so much trouble sleeping, I didn’t want to risk ruining any chances of her possibly getting a good night’s sleep by telling her that evening.

The next day, Mom came over, and I told her. It was hard. She was upset, although we’d been expecting it, sadly. In an effort to distract ourselves, we spent the day doing pleasant holiday things, often reminiscing about Aunt Lois.

When it came time for supper, I poured Mom and me both some wine. Mom and hubby both asked what we were having. “It’s a surprise,” I said, “Something we’ve never had before!” Hubby, eyeing the salmon fillets thawing in the sink, said, “Salmon? We’ve had that before!” To which I replied “Not the way we’re having it tonight!”

After our supper, Mom commented that were it not for the sad news we’d gotten casting a pall over things, it would have been absolutely perfect and wonderfully festive. I’m addressing the Cheesy Rice with Broccoli in this post; the next post will have the recipe for the salmon.

As you will see, this menu, although easy, will make any evening enchanted,  making it perfect for a holiday, date night, or other festive or celebratory occasion. :-) The recipes, as written, serve four, but the recipes can be adjusted up or down.

It smells, tastes, and looks yummy!

 

 

Cheesy Rice with Broccoli (Serves 4)

  • 3/4 cup brown rice (or another rice of your choice)
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water (or more or less liquid, depending upon type of rice and corresponding instructions on the rice package)
  • 12 ounce package of fresh broccoli florets (or equivalent from a fresh head of broccoli)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons butter
  • Couple splashes of milk (I used 1%) (2 tablespoons to maybe a 1/4 or 1/3 cup — eyeball it!)
  • Squirt of yellow mustard
  • 3 or 4 ounces of cheese(s) of choice (or more or less, depending upon how cheesy you want it), grated, crumbled, or thinly sliced/diced (use a combo of whatever you like and have on hand — Swiss, cheddar (yellow or white), feta, bleu cheese, American, Monterrey Jack, Asiago, Parmesan — it all will come together and be yummy!)
  1. Bring stock or water to a boil. (If using water, add a wee bit of salt to taste, if desired.) Add rice and simmer until done (45 to 50 minutes for brown rice, less for other types of rice.)
  2. Meanwhile, crumble, shred, and/or thinly slice desired kinds of cheese.
  3. Steam fresh broccoli. (I steamed it in my microwave in its package as per the package directions, easy peasy.)
  4. Once rice is done, add in a tablespoon of butter (remember, you can add in a bit more if you need to), a splash or two of milk (you can add in more if you need to!), the cheeses, and a squirt of mustard. Simmer over medium to medium low heat, stirring gently to prevent scorching or clumping,  until it reaches desired consistency (you may need to add in a bit more butter, cheese(s), and/or milk as you go along).
  5. Gently stir in steamed broccoli.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Set it and Forget It!

And no, I’m not talking about Ron Popeil’s Rotisserie oven, but mashed potatoes — in the slow cooker!

This has been a difficult and challenging year (last year was no picnic, either), so desire and time for this blog has been short. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t still be making some yummy things!

This Thanksgiving, I spent the holiday with my mom. (Her health, never very strong, has taken a most definite dive for the worse this year.) We actually had two Thanksgivings — one on the day, with ham, green bean casserole, spaghetti squash, and cornbread (which we used the next day for dressing). I did ham on Thanksgiving for a few reasons: 1) it was easy, 2) it gave the kids and grandkids a different meal to eat after the turkey meal eaten at my in-law’s, 3) it added some ham leftovers for ham sandwiches into the leftover mix, and 4) it gave us a delicious ham bone to freeze later for beans.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we hosted what we informally call “Thanksgiving II,” which we also shared with two dear friends of ours. This was the more traditional Thanksgiving meal and included Mashed Potatoes.

Potatoes have gotten a bad rap, bless their little eyes. ;-) Chris Voigt, head of the Washington State Potato Commission, got so fed up with all the trash talk about potatoes that he went on a potato-only diet for two months — and lost 21 pounds eating 20 potatoes a day!

As Wikipedia tells us:

The potato contains vitamins and minerals, as well as an assortment of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and natural phenols. Chlorogenic acid constitutes up to 90% of the potato tuber natural phenols. Others found in potatoes are 4-O-caffeoylquinic (crypto-chlorogenic acid), 5-O-caffeoylquinic (neo-chlorogenic acid), 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic and 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acids. A medium-size 150 g (5.3 oz) potato with the skin provides 27 mg of vitamin C (45% of the Daily Value (DV)), 620 mg of potassium (18% of DV), 0.2 mg vitamin B6 (10% of DV) and trace amounts of thiaminriboflavinfolateniacinmagnesium,phosphorusiron, and zinc. The fiber content of a potato with skin (2 g) is equivalent to that of many whole grain breadspastas, and cereals.

In terms of nutrition, the potato is best known for its carbohydrate content (approximately 26 grams in a medium potato). The predominant form of this carbohydrate is starch. A small but significant portion of this starch is resistant to digestion by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine, and so reaches the large intestine essentially intact. This resistant starch is considered to have similar physiological effects and health benefits as fiber: It provides bulk, offers protection against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increases satiety, and possibly even reduces fat storage. The amount of resistant starch in potatoes depends much on preparation methods. Cooking and then cooling potatoes significantly increases resistant starch. For example, cooked potato starch contains about 7% resistant starch, which increases to about 13% upon cooling.

Wanting to simplify the meal as much as possible, I was struck by an idea — why not make mashed potatoes in the slow cooker? I Googled and, after reviewing several recipes, inspired by this recipe:

http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/ultimate-slow-cooker-mashed-potatoes/17bd54d5-2647-4144-8579-0cb1b26bc0ba

I decided to give Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes a try.

While I will sometimes peel potatoes when I make mashed potatoes, I usually just scrub them really well and leave the skins on — not only is it faster and easier than peeling them, but it leaves in the nutrition and fiber from the skin. I first had mashed potatoes with the skins at Calico County Restaurant in Lawton, Oklahoma and I found them to be quite tasty.

I’m not too picky about what potatoes I use — I tend to go with whatever I have on hand or what looks good at the store. Red potatoes are a favorite, but I’ve also used Idaho and white potatoes. Last night, I did a mix of red and white potatoes.

I use 1% milk (skim is fine, too) and just a dollop of butter. The amounts depend upon the quantity of potatoes I’m making; I just add it in slowly, bit by bit — remember, you can always add in more, but you can’t take it back out!

These potatoes cook up to be sooo tender that they mash incredibly easily with a potato masher. My mom was shocked at how delicious these potatoes turned out (apparently, she’d had doubts about them but hadn’t said anything beforehand). From now on, if I’m making mashed potatoes for more than just a few folks, I’ll be doing them in the slow cooker! And if you have a slow cooker liner, clean-up will be a breeze, too!

These taste so yummy, you’ll be dancing the mashed potato! (Go on, give it a watch! The first link shows you how to do the dance; the video has the song. You know that watching them and singing and dancing along will do your heart and soul good!)

 

 

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes (Serves 8 – 12, depending upon serving size; I’ve written this up for 3 pounds of potatoes, which is how I made it in my 3 1/2 quart slow cooker; you can increase or decrease based on your needs)

  • Approximately 3 pounds of potatoes, scrubbed well
  • Margarine or butter (amount depends upon quantity of potatoes, I used about 4 tablespoons or so, DIVIDED)
  • Approximately 1 cup chicken stock OR vegetable stock/broth (NOTE: I’ve found that stock has less sodium than reduced sodium broth)
  • Milk (1% or skim is fine; amount depends upon quantity of potatoes and how thick — or thin – -you want them)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (because I cooked with stock, I didn’t add any salt)
  1. Scrub the potatoes. Peel them, if desired — I leave the peel on and just cut away any unsavory-looking spots. Cut into good-sized chunks.
  2. Place a slow cooker liner in your slow cooker, if desired (this will make clean up easier).
  3. Place prepared potatoes in slow cooker. Pour in approximately 1 cup of stock or broth. Add a tablespoon or two of butter.
  4. Cover. Cook on high for 4 hours or so.
  5. Add in more butter (start with another tablespoon or two), some milk (start with just a splash or two), and season with salt and/or pepper as desired. Mash potatoes with a potato masher.  (NOTE: If you’re wanting to be fancier with your potatoes, you could also try adding in some light sour cream or fat-free Greek yogurt, some reduced-fat cream cheese, some garlic powder, maybe buttermilk in lieu of milk.)
  6. Keep warm in slow cooker until ready to serve. Remove to serving dish or serve from slow cooker.
  7. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

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It’s the Most Spook-tacular Time of Year!

The_nightmare_before_christmas_posterI love holidays and special occasions. I love almost any reason to build a celebration around. Life is often difficult (believe me, I know that this year more than ever before!); it’s important to find reasons for joy and celebration whenever one can.

I’ve always thought Halloween was fun, and often wished it were longer than just one night.

When I was n my mid 20s, I came across a book in the library by Anne Rice titled The Feast of All Saints. That was the first I’d heard of All Saints’ Day,” which is a religious holiday that Wikipedia tells us …”begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October and ends at the close of 1 November. It is thus the day before All Souls’ Day.” I was intrigued by this holiday, but I also learned I was not an Anne Rice fan (I could not make it through that book; nor could I make it through Interview with a Vampire years later, so I’ve pretty much given up on her as an author for me).

Later on, I also learned of the Day of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos in Spanish. It, too, is celebrated on 01-November. As Wikiepedia tells us:

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday observed throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico where the day is a bank holiday.

So for several years, I maintained a low-key observance of Day of the Dead, typically with some “spooky” leftovers and attitude from our Halloween festivities.

After all of the frustrations and chaos that this year has brought thus far, I have been especially looking forward to reasons to celebrate and be festive. Already happy that Halloween falls on a Friday this year, I decided to do a bit more research into both Halloween and Day of the Dead, and you cannot imagine how thrilled I was to discover a heretofore unknown holiday to me of Hallowtide, which can also be referred to as Hallowmas!

Yes, that’s right — it’s like the Nightmare Before Christmas!! :-)

As handy, dandy Wikipedia tells us:

AllhallowtideHallowtideAllsaintstide, or the Hallowmas season, is the triduum encompassing the Western Christian observances of All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’) and All Souls’ Day, which last from October 31 to November 2 annually. Allhallowtide is a time to remember the dead, including martyrs, saints, and all faithful departed Christians. The present date of Hallowmas (All Saints’ Day) and thus also of its vigil (Hallowe’en) was established for Rome perhaps by Pope Gregory III (731-741) and was made of obligation throughout the Frankish Empire by Louis the Pious in 835. Elsewhere, other dates were observed even later, with the date in Ireland being 20 April. It was only in the early 11th century that the modern date of All Souls’ Day was popularized, after Abbot Odilo established it as a day for the monks of Cluny and associated monasteries to pray for the dead.

So this year, I’m looking forward to three days of spook-tacular celebrations — which will also include some somber contemplation of loved ones who have passed on.

Happy Hallowmas! :-) May your spooky treats be yummy and may no mean tricks come your way.

 

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I’ll share my Hallowmas tricks and treats on my Facebook page as time permits :-)

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