Garlicky Smashed Potatoes

I love potatoes.  I love them any way you can have them.  NO i mean it.  Hash browns, home fries, mashed, baked, fried, salad, any way…  I have about 10 different ways that we make them.  This is my favorite way mashed!  Cause garlic is amazing with potatoes!  They compliment each other well.  Rob doesnt care for mashed potatoes as much as the boys and I do but if he is going to have them, this is the way he wants them!

This recipe came about when I was making salsa one time and had peeled about 4 bulbs of garlic to make my roasted garlic salsa.  I had 20 or so cloves left over and I didnt want them to smell up the fridge so I threw them into the water with the potatoes.  YUMMMMMMMM  yeah those were good!    So now the kiddos ask for them quite often!  They can be a bit time consuming cause of the amount of garlic to peel but they are uber good!   You can also use roasted garlic as well, just throw it up at the end when mashing. 

A note about potato types.  There are russets, white, idaho, red, yukon gold, etc.  I know that different ones have different textures and that makes for a different final product.  To be honest, I am cheap and I buy whatever is on sale.  My favorite to cook with is russets or yukon gold but that being said I never been able to really afford to be picky.  My fave for baking are idaho or russets and for mashed would have be russets or yukon gold.  Here is a great article about types and what is best served for cooking styles.

Some russet/yukon potatoes (I’m feeding three grown men, so I make a 5 lb bag)
2 bulbs of garlic
2 tbsp salt (yes 2 tbsp, its for the boil water, relax)
1/2 cup milk ( I used to use half and half, then started weight watchers haha)
1/2 stick butter (not in picture, I was slacking)
S & P

Cast of Ingredients

First step is the one I hate the most, peeling the garlic.  I hate how my hands get all sticky, but I much prefer the flavor of fresh peeled to the already peeled stuff. 
Then throw them into the pot after you half them.

Peel the potatoes.

Then after you slice/quarter/cube them (which ever works for you… I do thick slices) throw them in the pot with the garlic and cover with hot water.    Add the salt.  ** see disclaimer on salt below…  

Boil until fork tender.

Drain off  but do so over another bowl.   Potato water has many uses but I use it as a thickener in chowders etc.  Just let it boil down at bit more and it concentrates the starches and I put it into soups that have potato in it, like corn or potato chowder. 
You are left with yummy potatoes, with chunks of garlic. YUM

Put in a serving bowl and add the butter.

Then add some pepper and a tiny bit more salt (like 1/2 tsp).

Add the milk.   This isnt an exact amount (well neither is the butter) it depends on how creamy you want them.  I like them a bit more scultpable.. hehe  I usually try to go a bit on the low side.  You can always add more but cant take away.  Making potatoes is like so much else in life.. start off in moderation.  You can cut down on the milk and use some of the potato water as well.  This is good too.

Then beat the hell out of them.  I do like a bit of lump in my potato from time to time but pretty smooth for the most part.

Then serve them up.. trying hard to not eat them by the spoonful as you go.  

These are my favorite with my meatloaf, and a side of peas or corn.  Simple homecooked, comfort food.  These are easy peasy flavorful yumminess.   And now the disclaimer on salt……
**Salt water is what helps you cut down on the amount of salt needed.  When you cook starches (pasta, rice and potatoes) you need the salt to get pulled in while it is cooking.  If you wait and just do salt when finishing, it sits on the starches and you need more to get the same flavor.  SOOOOOOOOO salt the water.  Start off with one tablespoon the first time you do it.  Then you can add more the next time you do them.

Hope you enjoy…

Happy Cooking!!


Stir Fry Chinese Cabbage

When I was in college I worked in a chinese restaurant as a waitress and delivery girl.  I had never had chinese food before college.  Okay well maybe never isnt the correct word, intensely infrequently would be a better way to put it, like 5-6 times when we would go into the city for school clothes shopping.  HAHA well anyway.  I learned alot about restaurants and chinese food that year.  I learned that most of what Americans call chinese food is not what the Chinese eat when the place is closed for the night.  Those late nights after closing the store, I was introduced to real chinese food. 

Duck tongue soup and chicken foot stew, were not really my favorites.  I would try them but I had a hard time getting past what they were.  So I ate alot of rice, simple soups and chinese cabbage or bok choy stir fried.  Fai, the owner, called me Honey and used to say to the cooks Gui and Jimmy, “Honey staying for dinner tonight, make extra bok choy, its her favorite”  and he always would.  I have never had bok choy or cabbage made as well as how Gui or Jimmy would make it.  This is pretty darn close. 

This is slightly adapted from this recipe on the website of a fellow Nestie Blogger.  I originally went to her site to find her scallion pancake recipe for Rob but I still havent made them yet.. but I saw this and had just bought some chinese cabbage randomly.. fate took a hand!   I am still not sure what had prompted me to buy the cabbage 3 days ago, especially since I didnt post for a recipe request for pancakes until yesterday….  (enter the Twilight Zone theme).

WW points 0 
1 head of bok choy or chinese cabbage
5 cloves of garlic (or to your taste)
S & P
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch

Cast of Characters

Start off by mincing your garlic.  I did a kind of haphazard mince so there were big pieces and little pieces to vary the flavor.

Throw it in a pot with a spray of oil.  Saute on low for about 5 minutes, you dont want it to burn but do release its fragrance.

Chop up your bok choy or your cabbage (the original recipe called for baby bok choy, not finding it anywhere, boo).

Once the garlic is fragrant, throw half the cabbage in and let that cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes to start to wilt.

Then once that is started to wilt, add the rest and cook for another minute.

Add your salt, and pepper.  Go gentle on the salt since there is a ton in the soy sauce.

Then add the soy sauce. 

Cover and let cook for about 3-4 minutes stirring often.

Sprinkle the corn starch on (forgot to take a pic of that part) and stir to combine and thicken the fluid.  Once it is thick enough, plate it up, or in this case bowl it up and enjoy! 

I am so happy that I found this recipe.  It brought back some great memories.  I am finding more and more fun things as I get more and more into this blogging thing.  I hope that you all are enjoying it as well!

Happy Sauteeing!!

Spicy Balsamic and Feta Pasta Salad

So it is in the dead of winter here in NH.  Okay maybe not dead but it is cold and snowy and dreary out.  And I want pasta salad.  I want something that reminds me of summer and pasta salad does that.  Well so does potato salad but especially pasta salad.  I love them anyway I can have them, creamy mayo based, oil dressing based, I have even had a weird cheesey based one.  That one was weird and I am not too upset that I never learned the recipe.  LOL   But there is something to be said about the mix of veggies and pasta and something to bring it all together.  And I am totally on Robs side that there is just something fun about cold pasta.  Yum

So two days after my surgery Rob and I were sitting and chattin about pasta and about a conversation that had been on a cooking board I am part of.  We had talked about where people got their recipes from and if people actually just make things up anymore?  So I said to Rob, well I do.  I said (with a little Vicoden induced bravado) that I could make up a recipe for something right then.  And this was born.  I was thinking of the grocery list and I needed feta, we had been out for 3 whole days!  And I needed salad fixings like cucumber and scallions and ohhhhh I want some of my spicy garlic.  Ohhh goodness a caprese salad sounds delightful.. well actually what sounds yummy is the balsamic reduction…….  so this was born.  It was born from a grocery list, balsamic reduction and Vicoden. 

I had a wait a few days to make it since we didnt get to the store that day.  And dont let the Vicoden fool you!  This is good!!  Since WW kind of limits my pasta intake I was not able to partake as much as I would like but Aaron ate almost the entire bowl by himself.  He loved it.  Rob liked the flavor but I had cooked the pasta a bit much.  Nik is weird, he doesnt like pasta salad, with the exception of my italian dressing one.

yield is about 12  3/4 cup servings.   WW points plus is 5 per serving
1 lb whole wheat rotini
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar boiled down to 1/2 cup
2 tsp sugar or 2 packets splenda
1/2 an english cuke  (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup red onion
4-5 scallions
3/4 cup quartered grape tomatoes
Spicy garlic from the olive bar to taste, I used 6 cloves
2 tbsp spicy oil (this was good for us, if you want just a subtle taste go with 1)
S & P
1/2 tsp ground mustard
3/4 cup crumbled feta

Cast of characters

Start by getting your balsamic vinegar in a medium sauce pan and add the sugar/splenda.  Reduce until it is about 1/2 cup, no need to be exact just get close so you can get the intensity of the reduction.  This may take about 1/2 hour and it will need to cool so unless you do a cold water submersion once complete you will need to start this before hand.  Or you can be a dork like me and have some on hand.  I use it for dressing on salads.   Next get your pasta cooking.  Salted water is important! 

While this is going, peel and seed your cuke and dice into pieces.

Dice the scallions.

And the onion

Quarter and seed the tomatoes.  Rob didnt like tomatoes until last year.  He still doesnt like the “slimy bits” in the middle so I get those out of there too. 

Mince up your garlic, or slice it if you would like it a bit chunkier.

Throw all the veg into a bowl and set aside.

Next take the cooled down balsamic reduction and add the spicy oil and some S & P to taste.  Add the ground mustard and whipped them together until the oil and vinegar were combined.

Add the feta to the cooled off pasta.
And then the veggies.

And then the balsamic vinegrette!

And mix thoroughly.   Chill completely.  Serve in a chilled dish.

So very good. Balsamic reduction is slightly tart but with a sweet finish at the end.  The spicy from the oil is subtle and adds a depth.  The veggies are not swimming in dressing so they stay crisp.  The feta is a creamy contrast and I LOVE feta with balsamic anyway so this just works for me.    I hope it does for you too.  Comment if you have any ideas for serving options.

Happy Cooking!!

French Onion Soup

Many of my friends are Nesties.  For those of you who are scracthing your heads asking what a Nestie is, let me enlighten you.  The Nest is an offshoot of The Knot, a webcommunity where many women will go to plan their wedding.  They are tying The Knot…. get it.  It was a great site where I met some of my dearest friends.  The Nest is where you go once you are married, you know building The Nest.   Clever play on words there I know.  There I met Katie, Jodi, Beth, Britni, Jess and a slew of wonderful ladies.  They have brought many things in to my life.  One of those things is this soup.

This was posted last year on a board I frequent by Sue, a fellow NH Nestie.  I had only had french onion soup once before.  I loved it.  It was rich and silky and covered with cheese and crusty bread, seriously what was not to like.  I like this recipe so much i dont even need the cheese or bread on it.  In fact I didnt even have any in the house the last time I made this. 

adapted from Sue-NH Nestie

3-4 large onions
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
4 cans beef broth or 8 cups homemade (I have made this with beef, chicken and veggie broth, all work)
2 tsp worchestershire sauce

Cast of Characters

First slice your onions, thick or thin, it depends on how big you want them.  I like medium, so that is how i do mine. 
Break them up a bit so they cook even.

Cook in the butter until slightly translucent.

Throw in your sugar.

Stir until incorporated and then add flour.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, it will get thick and look kind of gummy, dont worry it will cook out.  You need to let it cook for that long so that the flour cooks fully and will thicken it slightly.

Then add your stock or broth and worchestershire sauce. 

Let simmer for about 30 minutes, give it a taste.  It might need some salt or a bit of pepper per your tastes.  Serve either as is..

Or like this..  which I just made for the boys.. right now.. to be able to take this picture.. the wine is for me.. i am studying.. haha

For the cheesy way above, you can take croutons (easy but can change the flavor of your soup) or a dense bread that you toasted and lay it on the top of your soup.. lay the cheese over it and broil until the cheese is melty and browned.

Either way it is yummy..  though when I make the cheesy one for me.. I prefer swiss but the kids like colby mix.    This is a great thing to take to potlucks and I took it to the oncology department a couple times while Rob was getting chemo.  It was a hit.  It is a great to use crock pot to keep it hot and you can just bring some cheese and croutons for ease.   Thanks Sue for a great recipe.

Happy Cooking!!

Orzo Risotto with Spinach

I am on Weight Watchers (WW).   I joined 4 weeks ago and am doing pretty darn good.  I am happy with it.  I had a gastric bypass a few years ago and lost over 130 lbs, which wasnt as much as I wanted to lose but nothing to sneeze at.  I have a heart condition that manifested from losing the weight and it really slowed down my progress.  Add on getting married to someone who is a burgeoning foodie, having twin teenage boys and my own love of cooking and you have a recipe for weight gain.  Hence WW.    I wanted to make my own food and my own choices.  So here is one of the recipes I have added and tweaked and made my own. 

It started out in a Rachel Ray Mag.  Dont hate.  I think she is fun and bubbly and while entirely way over exposed, I like her style and her outlook on food.  If that changes the way you think of me, well I hope we can still be blog acquaintances!   This was in her March edition.  Well what this recipe started out as, is in the March edition.   Now is has been Kimmi and WW-ized!

One of the issues with rice (and some pasta) is that in WW it is so high in points.  I love rice; white rice, brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice.. hell if there is rice in the name I like it.  Even rice wine vinegar. Granted that has wine in there too which gives it a leg up!   So when I saw this I thought.. mmmmmmmmmm orzo…. rice…. orzo is 5 points per cup… arborio is 18 points per cup.  Wooooohoooooo  I was so excited.  Then I looked at the rest of the recipe.  There was no way that I was going to be able to make this points manageable unless I worked with it.  Plus Rob wouldnt eat some of the stuff in it.  So we were off to tweaksville.   And it worked.

Yield: 8 1/2 cup servings

4 cups cooked orzo (I just made 3/4 a box, the left overs are for salads)
1 small onion
1  1/2 cup half and half
1 cup pecerino/asiago/parmesan (italian hard cheese) fresh shredded
2 cups spinach with the spine removed (or use baby)
reserved pasta water (save some out when draining the pasta)

The Cast of Characters

Dice and lightly saute your onion with some S&P in a lightly sprayed pan.

Meanwhile shred your cheese.  The recipe originally called for shaker cheese.  I dont use the stuff.  It tastes like powder to me.  If you use it and love it, great, give it a try but it just isnt for me.  So I shred my cheese fresh, it tastes better and in the end it really isnt all that much more expensive if you watch the sales.

Take the spine out of your spinach.. you know, that part of the stalk that is a bit tough and not as yummy.. and then break it up into smaller pieces.  Or you could just use baby spinach, which would be easier, if I had that in the fridge that is.  So full grown tough spined spinach we used..  its still yummy.

The next couple steps I didnt take a picture of.. I hope you can forgive me.. Please?  

Okay, thanks for forgiving me.. I knew you would, eventually.   Oh the directions.. okay.

Add the half and half to the onions and stir together. Add the shredded pecerino and bring to a simmer until thickened up a bit.  Then add your orzo.  Stirring to incorporate.  Add some of your reserved pasta water to make it a bit creamier and thicken up to your desired creaminess/thickness.   

Toss in the spinach and stir to incorporate (yeah pictures are back)

Serve with whatever your little heart desires.  I served this with some edamame and some sliced cooked chicken. 

In the end, I just sort of mixed it all together.   Very creamy, not too cheesy and other than adding a touch more S&P next time, oh so worth the 6 points for the 1/2 cup serving!

Happy Cooking!!

Redneck Caviar

This was recently a post on the Nest’s Whats Cooking site.  I was surprised to say the least.  I had gotten my black bean and corn salad recipe years ago from Allrecipes and had tweaked it alot, but had never seen it anywhere else.  Now here were recipes that gave me so many ideas for many more tweakings.  Haha  I think most other recipes added other types of beans and veggies to the recipe so that isnt something I can thank one specific person for.  But I would like to thank a couple of the ladies of WC for their recipes that helped me tweak to this final product.. first of all Melissa Bakes for her addition of tomato which was unique to the others I looked at.  And secondly Vintage Victuals for her addition of hot sauce.  YUM.  The rest is from an original recipe I found on Allrecipes  8 years ago and I dont think I even bookmarked it since it needed alot of tweaking. 

Now let me say, this is a total bean and veggie fest.  It is not terrible points wise on Weight Watchers either.  A 3/4 cup serving as a side dish is 3 points and it is high in protein!   It is rich and flavorful and goes well with chicken.  I have been using the last week in place of dressing and only using a 1/4 cup which has the same points as dressing but adds protein and flavor. 

Rob and the kids dont like beans.  Well Nik did until Rob moved in and now he doesnt like beans.  KIDS!!  LOL  Rob doesnt like mushy texture and I have yet to find a bean he will try.   So i eat alot of this when I make it.   It is so good on crackers or tortilla chips.  I served some last Sunday to Robs gaming buddies and they loved it.

yield about 9 cups  adapted from: see above

1 can black eyed peas
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 Roma Tomato, seeded and diced
1 medium onion (I use red or vidalia)
1 green pepper (if I had red pepper I would have used that too in addition)
1 large fresh jalapeno
4-5 cloves fresh garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne or chili pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dry basil
2 packets splenda (or you could use 2 tsp sugar)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon (or you can use the whole one but this one was uber juicy!)
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 shakes of hot sauce
1 tbsp water

The Cast of Characters

Drain the corn and beans.  Dont rinse but do put the beans in first and then dump the corn on top!  The water in the corn will rinse it a bit.  I might try two cans of corn next time.. but I am a farmers daughter and used to sell corn.. so I do love me some corn.

Finely mince the jalapeno and the fresh garlic.  And YES you do need to use fresh and not that ready chopped stuff.  You are looking for flavor here not ease!

Set aside in a bowl that is atleast 3-4 cup capacity.

 Dice up your peppers and onions.

Toss in a bowl with the beans and corn.

Seed the tomato.  I like tomato but I dont care for the sloppy middle and the seeds.  This eliminates that mess. 

Then dice them up!

Now make the dressing.  Add the balsamic, oil, hot sauce and the water.

Squeeze your lemon into the bowl.  If you have a juicer thingie use it but I dont so my hand is a juicer!

Add seasonings and such.  Taste to make sure it has enough salt and sweetness.  It is supposed to be a bit tangy but still have a touch of the sweetness.

Pour over the beans and veggies.  And mix….

Serve as a side dish,  or with tortilla chips, or any way.   Its yummy!

Happy Cooking!

Oven Baked Spicy Fries

Since Robs third chemo treatment he has been craving fries, and chicken.  But right now it is fries.  And more fries.  And did i mention fries.  So last night we made the Parchment Chicken packets and these babies since they cook at the same temp.  So yum.  I love baked fries.  I dont do greasy very well anymore so these just tickle my fancy.   You can use whatever seasoning you want but these are so good.

3 lbs potatoes, washed and wedged, I used reds and left the skin on them
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp Adobo
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 and lightly spray or oil a cookie sheet.  Pat down the potatoes with a towel or papertowel to dry them a bit.   Mix the seasoning with the oil in a large bowl, add the potatoes and toss to coat.  Put on the cookie sheet and place in the oven.

Bake for about 40 minutes turning every 10 minutes or so.   When done, test for saltiness as adobo is a bit salty and add more if needed.  Serve immediately.

This is a great recipe for making the Parchment chicken with.  You get the potatoes in the oven and then get your chicken wrapped and ready in the parchment and when there is 20 minutes left on your fries, pop the chicken into the oven at the same time.   SOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!

The fries are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with a nice spice on the crust.  A perfect oven fry!! 

Happy Cooking!

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