Stuff and Nonsense: potatoes

Showing posts with label potatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label potatoes. Show all posts


#ImprovCooking: Steak & Potatoes

I don’t know about you, but I love all types of roasted vegetables. I feel quite strongly that roasting vegetables is one of the tastiest and easiest ways to prepare them and it's very much my go-to for weeknight cooking. Roasted potatoes are The Husband's favorite, but mushrooms, peppers, and onions are pretty popular with him, too.

When I set about drafting February's Improv Cooking recipe, I thought it best to stick to a combination of flavors I knew we would both like, because I'd also be cooking steak and -- while I believe in packing really nice work lunches for myself -- making steak just for myself seemed pretty mean.

Roasting green beans is a pretty new experience for me and I've found the haricot verts work best as they are thinner and more tender to start with. If you can't find haricot verts, you can use regular string beans but you'll probably want to blanch them first or bump up the overall roasting time if you don't want crunchy beans.

Obviously, YMMV as cooking times will vary depending upon the temperature of the steaks before grilling, the kind and thickness of the steaks, and the cooking temperature of the pan. Just keep an eye on your steaks and have your meat thermometer handy.

Steak With Roasted Vegetables

Yield: 2-4, depending on how famished you are


  • 8 oz small fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
  • 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz haricot verts (thin young green beans)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 2 1-inch thick 10 oz boneless rib eye steaks
  • Sea salt, as desired
  • Penzeys salt-free California Style Seasoned Pepper or similar, as desired


  1. Allow steaks sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 400°F. Line a half-sheet pan with foil.
  3. Place the potatoes, peppers, and mushrooms on the foil-lined half sheet pan, drizzle with oil, season as needed, toss, then roast for 20 mins.
  4. Add the beans and garlic, toss, then roast for another 10 mins.
  5. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season generously.
  6. Heat a nonstick grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Add steaks and grill 5 mins on one side.
  7. Turn steaks over and cook for 5 minutes more or until the steaks are between 130°F and 135°F for medium rare, or until done to your liking.
  8. Remove the steaks from the pan, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the roasted vegetables.

The #ImprovCookingChallenge is a monthly blogging event where two ingredients are assigned to a month. Bloggers can make any recipe they like as long as it features the two ingredients. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, please visit our Facebook page.You can also read more about the event on our our home page.

If you’d like to see previous creations, check out our Pinterest board.


Improv Cooking Challenge: Potatoes & Chives

I was really excited about March's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients -- potatoes and chives -- because we'd been having such a mild winter that the chive plants in my sheltered back bed never properly died back and I've had fresh chives on hand all winter! Or ... most of the winter. As soon as I made this potato salad, dark clouds massed on the horizon and BLAM! a foot of snow buried everything. Happily, chive plants are hardy as weeds and I'll be knee-deep in chives in another month or so.

This salad would look really attractive garnished with chive blossoms, but SNOW ...

While Potato salad isn't particularly exciting or adventurous, it is one of my favorite foods and I love to tinker with it, trying new variations of dressings, etc. With this salad, I've tossed the hot potatoes with a mixture of oil, vinegar, and mustard -- the potatoes absorb the mixture as it cools and, I feel, the becomes much more flavorful this way. If you are part of the no-mayonnaise-in-my-potato-salad brigade, you could easily omit the mayo ... although you would be missing out on the marvelous combination that is potato and mayonnaise and I would judge you. I used ready-made garlic mayonnaise in this recipe, but you could make your own by combining crushed garlic or garlic paste with mayonnaise until it tasted garlicky enough for you.

Yes, the mayonnaise was expired. Yes, I took it back to the shopped for an unexpired one.

Tangy Potato & Chive Salad

Yield: 6


  • 1½ lbs red potatoes, halved or quartered into bite-size pieces
  • 4 scallions
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp zippy yellow mustard
  • ¾ cup garlic mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife.
  2. While potatoes cook, chop all the white and light green parts of the scallions and set aside.
  3. Whisk the oil, vinegar, and mustard together and set aside.
  4. Drain the potatoes. While the potatoes are still hot and steamy, gently toss them with the mustard mixture and the scallions. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. Gently fold in the mayonaisse and chives. Chill the salad until ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, season with salt and pepper and, if desired, garnish with additional chives and scallions.

Mmm ... potatoes! One of nature's perfect foods.

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.


Steak in the Oven, OMG

It's been waylongtime since I made my mom's "Oven-Fried Paprika Potatoes" but I'd picked some nice potatoes up at the farm stand and already had two really lovely strip steaks on hand, so ... it was Time To Revisit The Potatoes.

According to my blog post, the last time I made steak and oven fries, I cooked the steak at 400°F and the potatoes at 450°F. This confuses me, because the potatoes would have gone in first at 450°F and then ... what? When they were done, I let the oven cool down to 400°F and cooked the steak?

Way too much effort.

This time, everything cooked at 450°F. Obviously, the potatoes need 50 minutes so they still went in first. About 20 minutes before the potatoes were due out of the oven, I took the steaks out of the fridge rub, patted them dry with a paper towel and then rubbed them with Just Cook Foods' Ancho Chicken rub (despite its name, this rub works very well with beef and pork). Then I just left them alone.

As the potatoes finished, I seared the steak in a cast iron skillet and then popped the skillet into the oven. Cooked the steaks for 2 minutes on each side, let them rest for 5, and ended up with two beautiful, perfectly cooked steaks with minimal fuss or bother. This is definitely a method I need to use more often!

(We also had mushrooms with the steaks, of course. Just a foil pack of sliced mushrooms, red onion, a little butter, salt, pepper, and herbs, tossed in the oven just as the potatoes came out).


Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Potato

If you hadn't noticed, this past Sunday was the annual championship game of the National Football League. I don't follow football, but I do enjoy chicken wings and Pinterest has been wall-to-wall with chicken wing recipes in the weeks leading up to the game. So, Sunday I really wanted wings for dinner but I hadn't picked any up when grocery shopping and knew that ordering delivery on Super Bowl Sunday would have been an act of madness. However, I did have a leftover baked potato, rotisserie chicken, and a bottle of sriracha wing sauce so...

Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Potato

Yield: 1


  • 1 6-oz baking potato, well scrubbed and dried
  • ½ tsp (or so) olive oil
  • ½ cup shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 2 Tbsp wing sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 scallion, white & green parts coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Prick the potato all over with a fork, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lay it directly on the middle oven rack.
  3. Bake the potato for 45-60 minutes or until the skin is crispy and the potato gives a little when you squeeze it.
  4. Meanwhile, combine chicken, buffalo wing sauce, garlic powder, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and warm for 1-2 minutes or until the butter is melted.
  5. Cut a cross on top of the potato and squeeze the sides open.
  6. Top potato with chicken mixture. Garnish with blue cheese and scallions. Eat.

Well, while it wasn't wings, but it was a pretty decent substitute ... and not just because I've recently become totally infatuated with baked potatoes. It's an easy dish to throw together and the flavors can be easily adjusted to suit your particular tastes. I used Sweet Baby Ray's Sriracha Wings Sauce and Glaze, which I'd bought on a whim a while ago when I needed barbecue sauce for something else and thought, I don't know why, that I might make my own wings someday. The sauce starts off sweet and smoky like barbecue and then the tongue begins to tingle and there's a delicious bloom of heat. Mind you, I'm pretty much a lightweight when it comes to hot sauces, so ymmv.


Barbecue Chicken Stuffed Potato

The Husband has been away at a conference and proper cooking for one seemed an ... onerous ... obligation when I'd rather be catching up with my giant backlog of graphic novels or reorganizing The Dread Cupboards of Random Storage under the bay window. So I've been eating a lot of fancy-ish grilled cheese and baked potatoes. Also, some salad ... but mostly cheese and carbs. And red wine to wash it down, because red wine's heart-healthy, you know ...

This baked potato is a stuffed with a very simple combination of shredded rotisserie chicken and barbecue sauce with cheese and scallions to bling it out a bit. I bought the rotisserie chicken at the fried chicken place down the street. They keep their rotisserie -- always full of plump, golden chickens -- in their side window so it's in front of you, tempting you with promises of juicy poultry goodness, as you walk across the parking lot. Cunning fried chicken peddlers. Tricksy.

I actually baked three potatoes in one go, as well as a tray of broccoli florets and sliced carrots, because heating the oven for one potato simply seemed too decadent. However, I'm giving the directions for one, because I only made one barbecue chicken stuffed potato. The others were topped later in the week, with random toppings, as I needed them.

Yes, that means I ate three baked potatoes in one week. It. Was. Fabulous.

Barbecue Chicken Stuffed Potato

Yield: 1


  • 1 6-oz baking potato, well scrubbed and dried
  • ½ tsp (or so) olive oil
  • ½ cup shredded rotisserie chicken
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 Tbsp shredded reduced-fat four-cheese Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 scallion, white & green parts coarsely chopped
  • Black pepper, as desired


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Prick the potato all over with a fork, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lay it directly on the middle oven rack.
  3. Bake the potato for 45-60 minutes or until the skin is crispy and the potato gives a little when you squeeze it.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the chicken and barbecue sauce in a microwave-safe bowl and warm for 1-2 minutes or until evenly heated all the way through when stirred.
  5. Cut a cross on top of the potato and squeeze the sides open.
  6. Top potato with chicken mixture and cheese. Garnish with scallions and black pepper. Eat.

I'd meant to serve the potato with a dollop of plain 0% Greek yoghurt on top, but forgot and didn't end up missing it, anyway.


Easy Corn Chowder from Christmas Leftovers

As always, I over-estimated the amount of sides needed to feed everyone Christmas Dinner and have a fridge full of leftover mashed potatoes, braised cabbage, and corn. There's a tiny bit of tenderloin left (I'm quite good at calculating out the meaty needs of four people, so why not the vegetables?) which I knew we'd use for sandwiches and what goes so well with sandwiches? Soup!

I used all the leftover corn, but only a little leftover garlic mashed potatoes in this recipe. There's still three(ish) cups remaining and I'm probably going to take the easy route with them and make cheesy, chivey potato pancakes for supper.

Also, the corn and mashed potatoes, being Christmas leftovers, were already seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, parsley, and the like so I did not season the soup very much. Therefore, you will need to adjust the seasonings according to your own tastes!

Anyway, the soup is tasty (of course), easy, and comforting. Just the thing for the day after Christmas when we're -- or at least I'm -- hungover on sugar, cheese, wine, and too much excitement. And by too much excitement, I mean working on a jigsaw puzzle until midnight and then sitting on the couch until 2 AM, telling The Husband how he should be playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Easy Corn Chowder from Christmas Leftovers

Yield: 6


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced small
  • 1 medium celery rib, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 1 32 oz carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 oz finely diced peeled potato
  • 10 oz leftover corn
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp chopped dried rosemary
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ½-1 cup leftover garlic mashed potatoes


  • Heat olive oil in a large French/Dutch oven over medium. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until onion is tender and fragrant. Add broth, bay, and potatoes and bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  • Stir in the corn, cream, and seasonings and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the potatoes -- starting with a half cup and increasing if needed -- until the soup is thickened to your liking. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasonings as needed.

Of course, this soup makes too much for two people, thus creating leftovers of its own. However, soup is an easy leftover to deal with as it's perfect for every meal -- even breakfast -- and is always ready to go.

And, just for kicks, the puzzle it took way too long for four reasonably clever adults to complete (wine may have had something to do with it?):


Lemon Dill Chicken & Potatoes

My tiny dill plants have become hulking monstrosities. While it's a bit early for pickle-making, I knew I needed to started using fresh dill more often (and in bigger quantities) or the plant would bolt and that would not be good at all. Well, when life gives you too much dill ... roast chicken!

This chicken dish is easy to prepare and comes together quickly. Simply toss all the ingredients in a big baking dish, pop it in the oven, and you're good to go!

Lemon Dill Chicken & Potatoes

Yield: 4


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb baby potatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Generous palmful fresh dill
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Arrange chicken thighs, potatoes, onions and lemon slices in the baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Bake, covered with foil, for 40 minutes. Uncover, stir, and bake 10 more minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken has reached 165°F.

I think the combination of lemon and dill keeps the dish very bright and fresh-tasting, you may want to cut back if you're not a lemon-lover!


Homemade Spudulike: Tuna & Sweet Corn Stuffed Baked Potatoes

While I've made baked potatoes stuffed with Tuna Sweetcorn Mayonnaise before as a homage to the Spudulike jacket potatoes I can't buy stateside, it's been a while. Happily, while I'm still not 100%, baked potatoes are definitely something I can handle and everything I needed to make them was already in the house.

Tuna & Sweetcorn Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Yield: 2


  • 2 baking potatoes
  • olive oil, as needed
  • sea salt, as needed
  • oz can solid white albacore tuna, well drained
  • 1 oz thawed frozen corn, well drained
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
  • Dried parsley flakes, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, if desired
  • 1 oz shard cheddar, shredded [Cabot Seriously Sharp]


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Clean potatoes, pat dry, rub with olive oil, sprinkle all over with sea salt, place on a small baking tray and bake for 1 hr.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients (except cheese!) in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. When potatoes are done, remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or until the are easily handled.
  4. Split potatoes, spread with butter, stuff with tuna mixture, top with cheese, and pop under the broiler for 5 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.


Improv Challenge: Apples & Cinnamon

November's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients are apples and cinnamon. While I considered pie and bundt cake and cookies, I knew my greedy little heart wanted something savory. And simple, because I'm also feeling lazy. It should be a one pot dish, preferably, with minimal washing up or ingredients to be prepped!

Well, I don't think it gets much simpler than this -- apples and sweet potatoes mashed with cinnamon and maple syrup! While the cooked apples dissolve into the mashed potato, the slightly tart Granny Smith flavor is still there balancing out the sweetness of the potato and syrup and the cinnamon makes everything sing. The butter is just gilding the lily, adding a touch of richness to a mixture that could stand just fine without it. (But I'm not going to leave it out, am I? Of course not).

This recipe is suitable for vegetarians and would be fine for vegans if you swap the butter out for something like Earth Balance.

Apple-Cinnamon Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Yield: 2-4
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 15 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 30 mins.
Total time: 45 mins.


  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Put sweet potatoes and apple in large saucepan, cover with water, and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife (about 15 minutes). Drain water.
  2. Add butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Mash until your preferred texture is reached (I like mine a little lumpy). Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Mashed Sweets & Apple

Goes really well with maple-glazed roast pork tenderloin and nutty roasted broccoli. Or, you know, it's great just by itself!


Not Mashed Potatoes

I made mashed cauliflower for the first time! I know, I know, 2004 called and wants its food trends back.

I basically overcooked a bag of frozen steam-in-bag cauliflower so they were super soft and squishy. Then I dumped them into my food processor with heavy cream and melted butter and processed everything until it looked mashed potato like. Seasoned the mash to taste with sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder and served it topped with broth-based chicken gravy.

Were they as good as my usual buttery garlic mashed potatoes? Of course not. Did I regret making and eating them? No, definitely not. They certainly helped banish my cauliflower cravings (seriously, I had cravings lately for big bowls of cauliflower and broccoli) and were a decent stand-in for the potatoes I forgot to buy.


Baked Sweet Potatoes With Black Beans

This month's Improv Challenge ingredients are beans and bacon. Coincidentally, August is Bacon Month in the United States (who decides these things?). Needless to say, I was full of grandiose bacony-plans. And then I thought it might be more healthful to focus on the beans and not the bacon. And then I developed a completely unseasonal craving for baked potatoes (seriously, let's not talk about the number of baked potatoes I've eaten recently) and I ended up with this:

Yes, that's a sweet potato filled with black beans, salsa, and bacon and topped with a dollop of 0% Greek yoghurt and more bacon. And, you know, it was good ... but ultimately not good enough for Improv Challenge. So here it is on Not Improv Challenge Saturday. There's something a little ... off ... with the seasonings and the Greek yoghurt would be better straight up. I've written it up as I made it so feel free to tweak it wherever or however you like.

I did (briefly) toy with the idea of wrapping the sweet potato in bacon before baking it -- I've seen pictures of bacon-wrapped sweet potatoes on Pinterest -- but I worried about what would happen when I split the baked potato to fill it with beany goodness. Would the bacon all fall off? Also, frankly, wrapping the potato in bacon seemed like too much fiddliness!

While the recipe only uses six strips of bacon, I freely admit I baked an entire package of bacon for it. It's just as easy to bake the whole package as half and, more importantly, the more bacon that was cooked, the more likely some would be left for the potatoes. I used lower-sodium bacon, because ... I can't taste the difference. Use whatever bacon you like, obviously.
Black Bean Salsa Bacon Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

4 sweet potatoes
6 strips bacon
[Oscar Mayer Lower Sodium]
14½ oz can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed [Goya]
½ cup diced red onion
¾ cup black bean and corn salsa [Desert Pepper Trading Company]
2 tsp salt-free Southwest-style seasoning blend, divided [Penzeys Salt-Free Arizona Dreaming]
5 oz cup 0% plain Greek yoghurt
Cilantro or chives for garnish, if desired
Additional bacon for garnish, if desired

Whisk together the yogurt and 1 tsp seasoning blend. Refrigerate until needed.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange bacon slices on a small jelly roll pan lined with foil. Set aside.

Jab each sweet potato several times with a fork (this can be very therapeutic). Place the sweet potatoes on another jelly roll pan lined with foil.

Put the pans in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Reserve one tablespoon of drippings from bacon pan.

Leave sweet potatoes to bake for 45 minutes longer or until the potatoes are tender when you squeeze them.

Meanwhile, heat the bacon drippings in a skillet. Add onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add beans, salsa, and remaining 1 tsp seasoning blend and cook until bubbly.

Crumble four strips of bacon into beans. Reduce heat to lowest setting ("warm" on mine) and set aside until potatoes are done.

Cut a slit down the length of each potato. Gently squeeze each potato until it pops open. Divide bean mixture between the potatoes, topping them with yoghurt. Crumble remaining two strips of bacon and sprinkle over potatoes.
Since I'm the only one eating these (The Husband loathes both bacon and sweet potatoes), I've been taking the potatoes to work and they reheat fine in the toaster oven.


Comfort Me With Sweet Potatoes

It's a good thing I did a big cook at the beginning of the week, because my body decided to come down with the most tragic-sounding of chesty coughs and there's simply no way I would have been up to cooking for myself. As it is, I've run out of precooked food and am down to a diet of scrambled eggs, yogurt, and baked sweet potatoes ... and that's fine, really, because all I want are comforting, easy-to-swallow foods.

Baked Sweet Potato
Very orange sweet potato. Jab with fork and bake in 425F oven for 50 minutes or until a bit squishy.

It's really not fun being sick when there are no other human beings on hand to lend sympathy. The cats just stare at me malevolently, wishing I'd stop making horrible goose honks and flailing about when I cough.


Egg-Stuffed Potatoes

This is definitely one of the odder dishes I've made, but I figured since stuffing a tomato with egg worked out okay, so would stuffing a potato with an egg. There are different versions of this dish all over Pinterest, too, which must mean it works ... right?

And, if it didn't, I still had two dozen eggs in the fridge to make something else with.  No, I don't know how we ended up with so many eggs. Probably multiple cases of listless grocery shopping.

Egg-Stuffed Potato

And, you know, it actually does work pretty well. Hot, starchy, buttery potato wet with rich, runny, yolk and melty cheeeeze. A little bacon wouldn't go amiss, though ...
Egg-Stuffed Potatoes

2 potatoes, baked your favorite way
2 large eggs
1 tbsp unsalted butter
4 Tbsp shredded "Italian" cheese blend or your favorite cheese
3 Tbsp freeze-dried chives
salt and pepper, as desired

Preheat oven to 350F°. Slice a thin layer off the top of each potato. Gently scoop out insides, being careful not to poke holes in the potatoes (save scooped potato for another recipe). Place potatoes on a baking sheet. If potatoes roll a little, just smoosh them flat against the bottom of the sheet.

Divide butter between potatoes. Sprinkle with half the chives, salt, and pepper. Crack an egg into each potato. Divide cheese between the potatoes. Sprinkle with remaining chives and more salt and pepper, if desired.

Bake for 15 minutes and then check egg. Egg whites should be set and yolks soft. If whites are not set, bake another 5 minutes.


Eating the Alphabet: S is for Sorrel

I tend to think of sorrel as a spring green as it usually dies back at the onset of hot weather and does not return again until the following spring. However, this year my sorrel came back with a burst of green in early September and has been going strong ever since.

While sorrel (also known spinach dock) looks a bit like young spinach, it tastes very bright and sharp and green -- the long lost love child of spinach plant and a lemon tree? While sorrel can be eaten raw in salads or just on its on, I prefer it cooked with other ingredients to balance out its distinctive tang.

Unfortunately, cooked sorrel tends to turn a singularly unattractive shade of gray-green. I've no idea how to keep this from happening -- I think lemon juice usually keeps cooked greens from changing color, but sorrel's so tart already that adding lemon seems inadvisable. The color is not such a big deal in a brothy soup where the sorrel is mixed with chunks of potatoes and other vegetables, but it is a bit off-putting by itself.

So making a sorrel sauce for September's Eating the Alphabet Challenge? A delicious idea, certainly, but the results were not aesthetically pleasing.

Tilapia w/ Sorrel Sauce & Sorrel-Smashed Potatoes

Yes, that sauce is baby poop green. But it's yummy -- bright, tart, creamy -- and went surprisingly well with the baked tilapia. I'd half expected the sauce would overwhelm the mild tilapia, but the fish held its own. Still, I think the sauce would be awesome with something like baked salmon. Or with steak, as a substitute for chimichurri sauce!

(Of course, supper might have looked a smidge more attractive if I hadn't left the plates in our warm oven for two hours while a salesman successfully sold us a bridge).
Sorrel Sauce
Serves 2 plus leftovers

4 oz sorrel leaves, stemmed and washed
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp half and half
1 tsp dried thyme, crushed
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and black pepper to taste

Roll the wet sorrel leaves up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (chiffonade).

Chopped Sorrel

Add to a saucepan with olive oil, thyme, and garlic powder.

Chopped Sorrel

Cook, covered on medium, for about 5 minutes or until sorrel is greatly reduced and gone an unattractive baby-gak green.

Wilted Sorrel

Remove from heat, add a splash of half and half, and puree until smooth. Add a little more half and half until desired thickness is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Try not to dwell on the color.

Sorrel Sauce

Serve over fish or meat.

Because I had chopped more sorrel than I needed, I decided to make sorrel-smashed potatoes to go with the fish! The sorrel's flavor was, obviously, much more subtle than in the sauce, but still gave the potatoes a slight lemony tang that was really quite nice.

Sorrel-Smashed Potatoes
Serves 2

12 oz small unpeeled red potatoes
1½ oz sorrel leaves
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter, melted
⅓ cup half and half, warmed
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook your potatoes however you like (I steamed mine whole in the microwave).

Meanwhile, roll the sorrel leaves up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (chiffonade, again). Place sorrel in a small saucepan with the oil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sorrel is completely wilted.

Add sorrel, butter, and half-and-half to potatoes. Mash until desired texture is reached, adding more half and half if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
(Another way to do this would be to stir any extra sorrel sauce into your already mashed potatoes).


Steak, Tomatoes, & Oven-Fried Potatoes

I was in the mood for steak and potatoes late last week and, happily, had a nice piece of organic grass fed steak in the freezer. I seared the steak in a very hot pan then popped it in a 400F° oven for 10 minutes. Came out perfect!

Steak, Tomatoes, & Potatoes

We ate the steak with sautéed cherry tomatoes and my mom's oven-fried potatoes. They're not really fried, but that's what she called them on the recipe card. They're really awesome potatoes and taste even better then next day with a runny egg.

Mom's Oven-Fried Potatoes

Yield: 4 generous servings


  • 6 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped into thumbnail-sized pieces
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Smoke paprika, as desired
  • Dried parsley, as desired


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush 13x9 baking dish with a little olive oil or spritz with baking spray.
  2. Put potatoes and onions in dish. Liberally season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Toss. Dot with butter. Cover and bake 50 minutes.
  3. Uncover and broil 10 minutes longer or until browned and a little crunchy on top.

If you want to use fewer potatoes, that's fine. Just remember the rule of thumb is one tablespoon butter per potato. Also, be very liberal with the seasonings. I'm fond of Bourbon Barrel Foods' Bourbon Smoked Paprika, but Penzeys Smoked Spanish Paprika is also pretty fine.

Mom's Oven Fries


Improv Challenge: Sweet Potatoes & Honey

I love sweet potatoes so I was very happy to find November's Improv Challenge ingredients were sweet potatoes and honey. I considered many dishes -- including these beautiful tzimmes from the Boston Globe -- but eventually settled on soup, because it's soup weather here. Too many grey, dreary days that cry out for a beautiful bowl of rich, spicy-sweet, orange goodness.

Making Curried Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Soup

I've made Sue Bee Honey's recipe for "Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry Soup" twice now -- the first time I used thawed frozen organic cauliflower instead of fresh and just added them to the pot during the potatoes' last ten minutes of cooking time. The second time I used fresh organic cauliflower. While the flavor was better with fresh -- richer and deeper -- it was still good either way and frozen vegetables are certainly a time saver, so don't be afraid to go frozen.

Both times, I omitted the sour cream and cilantro as I don't like cilantro and simply thought the soup was delicious enough without sour cream. And I couldn't find my cinnamon (!) so I substituted Penzeys Baking Spice -- a blend of cinnamon, mace, anise, and cardamom which made the soup even more aromatic and flavorful. Aaaand I used vegetable stock, making this a vegetarian soup perfect for Meatless Monday or whathaveyou.

Making Curried Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Soup

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry Soup


2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
4 garlic gloves, minced
3½ cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken stock [Emeril's Organic Vegetable Stock]
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon [Penzeys Baking Spice]
2 tsp curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah]
1½ Tbsp honey [local]
16 oz fresh cauliflower florets

Coat bottom of a large French/Dutch oven with cooking spray. Add the oil and heat until fragrant. Add garlic and onion and sauté until softened and fragrant.

Add the curry powder and cinnamon to the hot pot and cook, stirring, until spices are very fragrant. Add in salt, pepper, sweet potatoes, fresh cauliflower (if using), stock, and honey and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add in the frozen cauliflower (if using) and cook 10 minutes more or until potatoes are tender/easily pierced with a knife. Remove pot from heat and let sit until soup is cool enough to blend without scalding yourself.

Transfer to a food processor or use an immersion blender and puree until soup is creamy and smooth. Return to the pot and thin with more stock, if desired.
An excellent soup full of fabulous flavors! Velvety smooth with the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. It's impossible to just eat one bowl.

Eating the Alphabet: W is for Watercress & Walnuts

November's Eating the Alphabet Challenge was to use U, V, and/or W ingredients. I knew I wanted to use peppery watercress when I saw beautiful green bunches of it piled in with the mint and dill at Shoprite. Not only is watercress delicious, it's full of nutrients like iron, calcium, and Vitamin A and C. I like to eat it in cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, but that's not really exciting and the Alphabet Challenge is all about excitement and pushing boundaries, you know.

So needed a new spin on watercress. Why not salad? Something light and filling and green? I was first tempted by Patti LaBelle's recipe for "Out-of-This-World Watercress Salad," but tomatoes aren't in season, anymore, and I didn't want to ruin what sounded like a perfectly lovely recipe with questionable tomatoes. So I turned to Martha Stewart and she did not disappoint. Her recipe for "Watercress Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes" is delightfully simple and seasonable. If my family was comprised of more adventurous eaters, it's the kind of dish I might start Thanksgiving dinner with. It's very clean-tasting and just looks, to me, like autumn on a plate.

From all this ...
... to this!
Watercress Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Slightly Adapted From Martha Stewart
Serves 4

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch-long sticks
3 Tbsp + ½ tsp olive oil
Sea salt and ground pepper
½ cup walnuts
¼ tsp sriracha
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
12 oz watercress, stems trimmed
4 oz fat free feta crumbles

Preheat oven to 450 °F, with racks on upper and lower thirds. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with 1 Tbsp oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast on upper rack, until tender, 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently. [Stewart's recipe cooks them longer with less stirring, but mine started to burn so ...]


Remove potatoes from oven and set aside. On another rimmed baking sheet, toss walnuts with sriracha and ½ tsp oil. Bake on lower rack, stirring occasionally, until golden (about 5 minutes).


In a bowl, whisk together lemon juice, honey, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. [Or put it all in an old jar and shakeshakeshake your dressing]. Toss watercress and dressing together. Serve topped with sweet potatoes, walnuts, and feta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


This salad best served while the sweet potatoes are still warm -- otherwise they just go kind of cold and chewy and that's not a good thing!

Overall, I really liked this salad.  It was easy, elegant, and completely yum! I'd definitely make it again, but I'll keep a close eye on the oven as some of my sweet potato sticks charred a bit!

If you can't find watercress, I'm sure baby spinach would work fine. Ohhh, baby spinach and blue cheese and sweet potatoes and pecans ...


Tomato Jam Chicken

Clearing out our fridge at the end of the work week, I turned up thawed chicken breasts, wrinkly green beans and cherry tomatoes, and half an improperly stored red onion. I also found a baking potato that had been left in the bread bin for who-knows-how-long but was starting to sprout eyes. From these questionable ingredients, supper just seemed to assemble itself.

Tomato Chicken & Oven Fries

Tomato "Jam" Chicken

2 3 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp Penzeys Sunny Spain salt-free seasoning blend
1 shallot, minced
½ cup chopped red onion
4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes

Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Season chicken with seasoning blend. Sauté in hot pan until cooked through. Remove from pan, cover with foil, and let sit.

To hot pan, add shallots, onions, and garlic. Cook until onions and shallots are tender. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occassionally, until tomatoes have cooked down to a "jammy" consistency. Stir in any juices released by the resting chicken.

Plate chicken and top with sauce. Serve with garlicky green beans and oven fries.
Oh, the chicken was good but the oven fries stole the show. I'd never made oven fries before so I was really impressed with how easy they were to make and how well they turned out -- crispy-crunchy outside with tender, pillowy potato inside and just the right amount of seasoning.
Easy Oven Fries

1 large baking potato
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp Penzeys Sunny Spain salt-free seasoning blend
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease jellyroll pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Cut potato in half lengthwise, then widthwise. Quarter each piece.

Toss potatoes with olive oil and seasoning blend to coat. Spread potatoes out across jellyroll pan (be careful not to crowd) and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove potatoes from oven; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip potatoes and repeat.

Return pan to oven; bake until potatoes are golden and crispy along the edges (about 15 minutes).
(I don't usually store potatoes in my bread bin -- too warm -- but I'd stuffed it there in a mad dash of tidying before company came and then forgotten about it)


Cooking The Books: And Yet More From The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook

I was full of plans to make "Survival of the Fittest: Quinoa and Black Bean Salad For Bonnie and Twill" from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook this weekend but I was a bit sick of quinoa after eating "Fresh From the Careers' Packs: Super Healthy Dried Fruit Quinoa Salad," delicious as it was, all last week. I had some mushrooms and one benighted leek in the fridge so I made "Raging Wild Mushroom Ragout," instead. While it is neither raging nor wild, it was dead easy and turned out quite well.

Mushroom-y Jacket Potato & Salad

Ingredients: shiitake and cremini mushrooms, leek, lemon juice, garlic, butter, heavy cream, kosher salt, black pepper.

The recipe doesn't call for it, but I ended up cooking the cream down quite a lot as, otherwise, the ragout was very soupy. I also didn't know how to serve the ragout, so I dumped it over Alton Brown's baked potatoes and that worked out quite well -- it made for a tasty and very filling meal. Thank god for the lemon, really, which gave the ragout a bit of brightness and kept it from being food coma-inducingly heavy.

In some ways, it reminded me of a dish I used to make many years ago when The Husband was only The Boyfriend. I'd saute garlic, red onion, and as many mushrooms as I could possibly fit in a pan in a combination of olive oil and butter, season them liberally with salt and pepper, and serve them on hot, buttered toast with big mugs of tea. It wasn't fancy, but it was filling, homey stuff ... and ohmygod I need to make that again, soon.


Improv Challenge: Potatoes & Cheese

I knew I had to sign on for March’s Improv Challenge (hosted by the wonderful Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker) when I saw the ingredients where potatoes and cheese. Potatoes and cheese! Is there any combination of potatoes and cheese I wouldn’t like? Methinks not.

Anyway, despite days spent pinning hearty cheesy potato soup recipes and casseroles, I ended up making "Healthy Sweet Potato Skins" from Pinch of Yum, because it used three ingredients I like a lot -- sweet potatoes, spinach, and chickpeas. Also, lots of dairy. Mmm, dairy!
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes Ingredients 
Healthy Sweet Potato Skins
Reproduced with permission by the author: Pinch of Yum
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 60 mins
Total time: 1 hour 20 mins
Serves: 2-3

2 medium or large sweet potatoes
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
1 bag fresh baby spinach
¼ cup light sour cream
2 ounces light cream cheese
1 cup chickpeas
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Bake sweet potatoes at 350 for 45-60 minutes, or until fork tender.

Cut sweet potatoes in half and let cool for 5-10 minutes. While sweet potatoes are cooling, saute the shallots with the butter over medium heat until translucent. Add fresh spinach and heat for 2-3 minutes, until spinach has cooked down. Set aside. [I dumped the chickpeas into the hot pan and gave them a stir 'round until they were lightly toasted]

Sauteed Spinach w/ Chickpeas

Scrape the sweet potato out of the peel, leaving a thin layer inside with the peel so that it can stand up on its own. Mash the sweet potato with the cream cheese and sour cream. Stir in chickpeas, spinach, and salt and pepper.

Sweet Potato Filling

Coat potato skins with a drizzle of oil and bake for about 5 minutes to get a crispier outside. Remove from oven and fill each skin with the sweet potato mixture and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake again for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and filling is heated through.

Twice-baked Stuffed Sweet Potato
I love these potatoes -- they're pretty, portable, and perfectly delicious. I baked two large sweet potatoes and took a potato half to work each day for lunch. They reheated really well using the staff room toaster oven and a little foil and, paired with a small salad, they kept me going all afternoon. No three o'clock slump for me! No sirree, Bob. Not with these potatoes.

When I make these again, because I will be making them again, I might season the chickpeas and spinach with sweet curry powder and swap the mozzarella out for some fresh goat cheese crumbles.