Friday, September 9, 2011

Ode To The Potato...How I Love Thee In Any Form

I realize there may appear to be a theme lately. Whether it's my Irish roots or just more cravings, I love potatoes. I could eat them with every meal. I remember that last time I was pregnant, I made a hash brown casserole, one of my favorite holiday potluck dishes. My picky family didn't really care to eat this more than once, so over the course of four days, I took care of most of it myself. The next week, I made a large pot of the potato soup from yesterday and lived on that for a few days. Now, this may serve as evidence that I just crave starch when I've got a bun in the oven. Either way, can't get enough of it. So, I'm whipping up this cheesy hash brown casserole and I won't even feel bad if I'm the only one eating it! Here's the recipe:

      Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole
  • 1 (2 pound) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups crushed cornflakes cereal
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/2 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chopped onion, Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Place mixture in a 3 quart casserole dish. Pour the crushed corn flakes over the mixture, covering everything to the edges of the dish. Pour the 1/4 cup melted butter over the corn flakes. Bake covered in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until corn flakes are golden brown and cheese is bubbling.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Smell Of My Favorite Comfort Food Filling The House

Growing up, my grandmother and my mom both made this wonderful soup that I've never found anywhere else. Potato soup! Now, before you ask the address of the rock beneath which I must have lived all my life, let me explain. I know they didn't invent the concept. I've had potato soup elsewhere and from a can. I would almost qualify all those other versions as chowders. Anytime I have had opportunity to eat potato soup, not made by my mom, it was very thick and often dressed up with bacon bits or cheese. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The soup I grew up on was thin and delicious! It was basically boiling boiling potatoes with onion, much like preparing to make mashed potatoes. Then, once they're cooked, you drain the water, add milk and a whole lot of butter, salt and pepper. Bring just to boil, then its done! We always crumbled saltine crackers into the bowl with the soup and it made this starchy mush that was "to die for!" It probably sounds strange to someone who's never had it this way. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I do like to tweak things and dress them up a bit, though. I'm also almost morally opposed to serving a meal that's all one color. The answer to this is, of course, garnish. So, today, I'm while I'm typing this, I'm smelling the wonderful potato/onion combo on the stove top. However, we don't keep saltines in the pantry, so I've decided to make croutons from my home made bread. I just melted some butter, cubed a big chunk of bread, tossed in it the butter. Then I put this in the oven on a baking sheet, preheated to 250, and turned the oven off. The croutons will be prefect by the time my soup is ready.
Now, for those of you that never leave for a road trip without a map and never attempt a meal without a recipe, I hear you. Here's an actual recipe:

Potato Soup
3-4 Medium Potatoes, Peeled, Chopped to Bite-size
1/2 Medium Onion, Chopped
Appx. 1 1/2 C. Milk
4 Tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste (I will remind you that potatoes are the black hole of seasoning and you will need to apply liberally)

In a 3-4 qt pot, boil the chopped potatoes and onion, until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the water, pour in the milk and the butter. You just need enough milk to cover your veggies. Heat until it just starts to bubble. Turn off the heat and stir in your salt and pepper. You can always substitute the onion with scallions. Its a sharper taste and will break the all white rule so you won't feel so monochromatic.  This makes appx. 4 servings. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Love To open The Windows & Put On A Sweater!

Autumn in the Ozarks

This is one of my favorite moments of the year. I love when it starts to cool down over night and we can turn off the A/C and let that wonderful breeze blow through the open windows all day and night. I love having to wear sleeves in the morning, but still pulling off flip-flops all day. The crispness in the air signifies, not only the change in season, but the beginning of the most fun, and sometimes hectic time of year. Soon it will fall festivals and pumpkin carvings, jumping in piles of multi-hued leaves, earlier dusk and the smell of cinnamon in the air. It is also the beginning of what I refer to as the "candy season." While I turn into a baking fanatic, trying new cookies and cakes and reviving old favorites, the holidays bring with them a ton of candy. From Halloween to Easter, we almost can't get rid of it all. Just when the glucose levels start to level out, there's another school party or family gathering that inevitably ends with more bags, boxes or tins of candy!!
It's ok, though. We portion it out as much as we can, without disrupting our daily routine too much. Then, of course, after bed time every night, whole handfuls disappear "mysteriously," with help from my husband and I. The funny part is, the kids are on to Daddy, but they think I'm a sugar-Nazi, so they never suspect me of candy-thieving. I'm not under any illusions, though, that just because the baked treats that I can't stop making aren't individually wrapped, doesn't mean they're any more nutritious or less sugary. I just prefer to know that what they're eating was hand-made with love and I know exactly what ingredients are involved.
That being said, I can't wait to try out a recipe for mini pumpkin tarts! My Mom made it years ago and I've always wanted to try it again. The original recipe came from Pampered Chef, but we tweaked it a bit. Here's the recipe, and I'll post pictures as soon as I get a chance.

Spiced Pumpkin Tartlets

1 package (15 ounces) refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts) (Or You could sub Phyllo Mini Tart Shells & Follow Directions for Prep)
1 can (15 ounces) solid pack pumpkin
2 cups thawed, frozen whipped topping
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 package (3.4 ounces) cheesecake instant pudding and pie filling
Powdered sugar (optional)
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 small orange (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Allow pie crusts to stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Roll 1 crust into a 12-inch circle. Using a scalloped bread tube, cut out 12 pastry pieces (9 from outer edge and 3 from center of pastry circle); press 1 into each cup of a stoneware muffin pan. Prick bottom of pastry with pastry tool. Bake 14-18 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove tart shells from pan to cooling rack; cool completely. Repeat with remaining crust to make 24 tart shells.

2. Meanwhile, combine pumpkin, whipped topping and spice blend in a bowl; whisk until smooth. Add pudding mix; whisk until smooth and thickened. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Lightly sprinkle tart shells with powdered sugar, if desired. Attach open star tip to a decorator; fill with pumpkin mixture. Pipe into tart shells. Chop pecans; sprinkle over tartlets. Zest orange; sprinkle zest over tartlets, if desired.

Yield: 24 tartlets

Tart shells and filling can be prepared up to 1 day in advance. Store shells in resealable plastic food storage bag at room temperature. Store filling, covered, in the refrigerator; fill tart shells just before serving.