Showing posts with label Into The Kitchen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Into The Kitchen. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Vacuum Sealing: The Basics

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

Today is the final day of the Write 31 Days blogging challenge. In previous posts we talked about ways to save money and time by stocking our pantries, using coupons, buying in bulk, and stocking up during sales (especially meats), so we are wrapping up the series with a look at vacuum sealing.

One of the best ways to preserve your valuable meat is to freeze it. However, one enemy of food is air, and food that is exposed to air can suffer freezer burn, mold, staleness and rancidity. When you freeze your meat the way it is packaged for sale, you could lose some of it to freezer burn. Now this food is still safe to eat, but the taste and texture may be compromised. 

How can you avoid freezer burn?

A quick and easy way to reduce freezer burn in the short term (a couple weeks) is to rewrap it in several layers of plastic wrap or foil and place in a zip top freezer bag. 

However for longer storage or larger quantities of meat, chicken, pork, etc. you should consider vacuum sealing. There are a number of different types of vacuum sealers on the market, the most well-known is probably the Food Saver brand. I have the Game Saver Deluxe model which comes with the vacuum tubing to seal food in mason jars (with the jar sealer attachment).

When you package your meat for sealing, you should freeze any wet/juicy foods first, then place them into vacuum seal bags, allowing for 3 inches beyond the food level for proper sealing.

What can you seal?

Many foods can be sealed and frozen, but remember that vacuum sealing is not a substitute for refrigeration or freezing and all perishable foods must be refrigerated or frozen after sealing.

Vacuum sealing is excellent for foods such as steaks, seafood, chicken, pork, breads, sausages, casseroles, and hard cheeses. Freeze soft foods like casseroles and soups before sealing. They may not seal properly or you may get liquids into your sealer.

Foods you do not want to seal:

Soft cheeses
Raw bananas
Raw onions
Whole apples
Cruciferous vegetables
Freshly cooked or steamed vegetables


Saves time because you make fewer trips to the store to purchase fresh meats.
Saves money because you can buy larger amounts of meat on sale.
Your meat lasts longer in your freezer.
There is less waste from spoiled meat.
Savings not limited to just meats; seal other foods as well.

What else can I seal?

Vacuuming sealing is not just for food. You can seal things like extra clothes, keys, phone, wallet, books, first aid kits, etc. for outdoor activities, beach or camping trips. You can also seal your silver to keep it shiny and reduce or eliminate the need to polish. Make sure you wrap your silver in cloth or a thick paper to prevent punctures to your bag.

Discussion Questions:

If you have a vacuum sealer, what do you seal most often?
Do you find it saves money?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Secret is in the Seasoning: Herbs and Spices

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

Have you ever wondered why a dish from your favorite restaurant tastes so much better than when you make it yourself, or why grandma's soup always made your taste buds shout whereas yours is bland? The secret is in the seasoning! 

Why do you think the Colonel's chicken has been around so long and still going strong? It is the secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. That was always a treat when I was a kid.

There are many more herbs and spices than we can explore here, and their uses reach around the globe and back. This is simply an overview of some of the more common ones you may have in your own kitchen and how you can use them.


A herb is a plant whose leaves are used in cooking to add flavor to food, or as a medicine. Herbs may be used fresh or dried, depending on the recipe, but always use fresh in salads, salsas or as a garnish. The flavor of dried herbs is more concentrated, so when using dried herbs, use about 1/3 the amount you would use of fresh herbs. It is helpful to crush them between your fingers to release the essential oils and bring out even more flavor.
  • Basil is a member of the mint family and has a mild liquorice flavor. It is often used in sauces, soups, salads, sandwiches, and of course, pesto.
  • Oregano is also a member of the mint family and commonly used in spaghetti sauce, pizza and Greek cuisine.
  • Thyme is used in French cuisine with meats such as pork, lamb, duck and goose. It pairs well with rosemary, sage, oregano and parsley. Thyme also complements spicy Italian sauces, soups and stews.
  • Rosemary has a strong lemon-pine aroma and flavor. It pairs well with roasted lamb, garlic and olive oil as well as roasted potatoes and breads such as focaccia. Given it's strong flavor, less is more.
  • Parsley has a mild, grassy flavor that works well with garlic and olive oil. Add anchovies and you have a wonderful sauce for grilled beef.
  • Sage is native to the Mediterranean and has a fuzzy texture and a musty aroma. Italians pair it with veal, while the French add it to stuffings, sausages and pork dishes. This too has a strong flavor, so go lightly.
  • Cilantro is similar to parsley in appearance but is very different in flavor and aroma. It is frequently used in salsas and Southwestern cuisine. It is a "love it or hate it" ingredient" as some people find it has a "soapy" flavor.

Spices are a flavoring for food made from part of a plant, such as its fruit, seeds, or root, usually dried and often made into a powder. You may purchase spices whole and grate them at home with a grater or spice grinder.

  • Chili powder is used most often in chili, both meat and vegetarian based.
  • Curry powder is an essential ingredient in Indian and Thai cuisines, and is a blend of spices that can be sweet, or mild to very hot.
  • Cumin has an earthy, nutty flavored and is commonly associated with Mexican and Spanish cuisine, but also frequently used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking as well.
  • Coriander comes from the seeds of the Cilantro plant, but with no similarity in flavor. Coriander has an earthy, lemony flavor that works well with cumin. I use these together in making black beans.
  • Turmeric is a relative of ginger and widely used in Indian and Thai cuisines and contributes largely to the yellow color of mustard. Turmeric is also used as a natural anti-inflammatory, either through food or in capsule form.
  • Cayenne pepper is a medium hot chile pepper which is versatile, widely used and often found at the table in pizzerias. It adds a nice burst of heat to many different cuisines.
  • Ginger, when paired with garlic, is an integral component in Asian cuisine, specifically Chinese. Like turmeric, ginger also has many health benefits.

  • Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner bark of trees from the Cinnamomum family, and there are numerous species of cinnamon. It is a sweet spice usually used in desserts, cereals and breads.
  • Nutmeg is a warm, fragrant spice that adds something special to sweet as well as savory dishes. Try adding a little freshly ground nutmeg to greens such as spinach or in your Christmas eggnog. It is used in sweet dishes in India and savory ones in the Middle East.
  • Cloves are the unopened bud of the clove tree which is native to India and Indonesia. Cloves lend a deep sweetness to desserts and baked goods. This pungent spice should be used sparingly so as not to overpower the dish.
  • Allspice has an aroma similar to the combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, however it is a single spice - the dried, unopened berry from the Pimenta Dioica tree, native to Mexico and Central America. It is an essential part of Caribbean and Jamaican cuisines, but is predominantly used to flavor desserts here in the U.S. Lastly, an interesting fact about allspice; it is the ingredient of Cincinnati-style chili that give it it's unique flavor

Now look through your pantry and see what inspires you to make some new and exciting dishes.

Discussion Questions:

Do you regularly cook with herbs and spices?
If so, what are some of your favorites?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pantry Soup

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

This is October and the time of year that much of the country starts cooling down. This brings out our desire for warm, comforting dishes, possibly a throwback to when much work was done outside, and as the days grew colder, people wanted to warm up with a good, hot meal at the end of the day. Dishes that quickly come to mind are soups, stews, chili, and casseroles (or hot dishes in some parts).

Image Source: wikipedia
In this series we have been talking about simple recipes, quick-fixes for busy nights, keeping our pantry stocked and saving money. I thought about where to go next, and decided to bring you a soup recipe that you can make entirely from your pantry. 

I usually use any fresh ingredients that I have, but I know that if I am out of potatoes or my carrots went south, I can still make my soup. Here is how I would make a pantry version of my vegetable beef soup.

What you need:

32 oz. beef stock or broth
1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes, pureed
1 tomato can of water
1 can diced potatoes
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can roast beef, undrained (I use Kirkland)
1 can sliced carrots, drained
1-2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to an 8-quart stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes and an hour or more is better. If your soup seems too thick, add more stock or water.

As usual, everything but the canned items are estimates, and this is fine because this is more of an illustration of how you can make a pot of soup with only what you have on hand in your pantry. You can customize it to suit your family's tastes by changing up the veggies, or use it as a guide for your own creation.


For the Italian-style tomatoes, use any style tomatoes you prefer
For the white beans, use kidney beans, pinto beans or pasta
For the roast beef, use frozen meatballs
For the oregano and basil, use Italian seasoning
For the beef/beef broth, use chicken/chicken broth 


When using dried onions, you are looking for the equivalent of the amount of fresh you would use.

When using dried herbs, use about 1/3 of the amount you would use fresh.

When using fresh ingredients, I will heat some olive oil in my pot and begin cooking the potatoes, onions and carrots, then add the liquids and other canned ingredients.

Discussion questions:

What is your favorite soup?
Is soup only a cold-weather food?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Well-Stocked Pantry Saves Time and Money

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

Previously we talked about how to quickly turn convenience foods into something more interesting and appealing. That is easy to do with a well-stocked pantry, which can be your kitchen cupboard or other storage place for dry goods and shelf-stable items. In addition, we will look at the freezer as another way to save money.

Where to Start?

The best place to start planning your pantry is to look at what your family likes and eats regularly and categorize ingredients such as pastas, soups and sauces, vegetables, meats and fruit. This is not meant to replace fresh foods, but rather to supplement them.

As an example, perhaps you eat pasta frequently, and unless you always make your own sauce, you would want to keep jars of sauce on hand as well as dry pasta such as spaghetti, macaroni or penne. 

Other pantry staples include: 

Canned vegetables, meats and fruits
Soups, sauces and broths/stocks
Dry mixes such as taco seasoning, gravy mixes and other seasonings
Herbs and spices
Condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, relish, olives, etc.)
Cooking oils
Peanut Butter and jelly

As I mentioned in a previous post, if you are a baker, you might consider purchasing your baking ingredients in bulk to save money. This also helps keep your pantry functional and prevents that last minute run to the store for sugar or flour. Another tip for the baker's pantry is bulk yeast. It is far cheaper than the 3-packs and will keep for quite a while in your freezer.

Your freezer is an extension of your pantry.

Your freezer is another money-saving strategy, especially on meat, because we all know how expensive that is these days. 

When it comes to beef, chicken, bacon, etc. buy one get one free sales are your best friend. Stock up on your family's favorites and freeze them. Some things will need to be repackaged because the way it's packaged for sale will not protect it for long in the freezer. 

A well-stocked pantry is about saving money, reducing last minute trips to the store and having what you need when you need it. This will help with quick-fix meals as well as allow you to eat better on a regular basis. Personally, I use fresh, frozen, dried and canned foods, and each has it's own place in my kitchen.

Discussion Questions:
Are you a weekly shopper, a monthly shopper or a stop-on-the-way-home shopper?
What are your favorite money-saving strategies?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fixing Up Your Quick-Fix Meals

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

We all do it, right? We are busy running around and all of a sudden it's time to make dinner. You have hungry mouths to feed, not the least of which is your own, so you grab whatever is the easiest or worse, take-out. 

When hunger strikes, I look to my pantry and freezer to see what I can pull together in a hurry. It is important to be able to make a meal without having to run to the store (which is another post), but how do you turn your quick-fix convenience foods into something interesting rather than serving up the same old boxed mac and cheese, or frozen pizza...again?

Here are a few examples:

Buy frozen cheese pizza and add your own toppings. This way you can make one or two pizzas and everyone can customize their own portion. Maybe you add extra cheese to one half and peppers and onions to the other, and make the second one half mushrooms and ham and the other half pepperoni. Everyone wins!

Take boxed or frozen hash browns and add chopped onions and green peppers and top with cheese or bacon bits. Serve with eggs and toast for breakfast or dinner.

Boxed mac and cheese can be dressed up with add-ins such as ham, bacon, onions, or prepared as directed and then topped with buttered bread crumbs and baked like homemade.

Packaged pasta salad is another side dish you can embellish upon. Prepare as directed and add in things like olives, pepperoncini, pepperoni, tomatoes, feta, red peppers, onions...whatever suits your family's tastes.

Another tip is to check the bag or box for alternate preparation ideas.

Not every meal has to be slaved over or planned to the nth degree to be delicious and satisfying. So next time you're puzzling over dinner to the tune of grumbling stomachs, try some of these ideas or come up with your own creations.

Discussion questions:
What is your favorite pantry staple?
What are some of the ways you jazz up convenience foods?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

An Unlikely Combination

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

Many good recipes come with a story. They can be handed down for generations or the result of a plan gone awry. This recipe comes from friends who served it at a wine dinner they held in their wine shop. Their backgrounds are Italian and Polish, I believe...forgive me if I got that wrong. 

We were all gathered around the table and when the course was announced, I thought hmm, I probably won't like this but here goes. I forget exactly what they called it, but essentially it was white rice and navy beans (white beans) with a onion and butter sauce topping.

Who would have thought that the combination of white rice, white beans and onions would make such a tasty dish? Not me for sure, but let me tell you I was surprised and pleased. It was so simple and so delicious, I had to try and duplicate it. Now I don't make it like they did, but it is every bit as good because all the same ingredients are there.

What you need:

1 can white beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup rice (long-grain, parboiled)
¼ cups water
4 cups sweet onions, rough chopped 
2 tablespoons butter
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Remember, I don't measure this stuff (except the rice and water), so these are my estimates, and I may use more or less on any given day. And yes, you read that right. Four cups of onions...don't skimp, the onions make the dish!

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium low. Add the onions and let them cook, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes total, adding more olive oil as needed. I put a lid on mine, but it's not necessary.

4 cups of onions
Periodically add small amounts of butter, reserving some to stir in just before you add them to the beans. 

At about the halfway point, bring the water to a boil and add the beans and rice. Cover,  reduce the heat and cook for 20 minutes. 

When the rice is done and the onions are a dark golden color, add them to the beans and rice and mix thoroughly. 
Caramelized onions
This recipe can be used as a main dish or a side and is easily doubled.  I often serve it with a small portion of sausage or perhaps a vegetable. 

It's not the most photogenic dish, but it is really good. I served this last night with some spicy sausage. Yum!

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rice: Brown, White or Other?

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

Rice, as we know it, was domesticated from Oryza Rufipogon some 10,000 to 14,000 years ago and has been eaten by people all over the world. Rice was first grown in California back in the gold rush days, and it is one the top rice producers in the U.S.

The question on our minds today is this: What is the best rice? There is no right answer because there are multiple types and varieties. Let's break it down and take a closer look at one of the most common foods on earth, found in almost all cuisines.

Rice comes in three basic sizes: 

Long-grain, which is the most common, it cooks up fluffy and stays separated. It is about four times as long as it is wide.

Medium-grain is tender, moist and chewy. It is twice as long as it is wide.

Short-grain rice is short and plump, sticks together and clumps when cooked.

Each size has it's own characteristics and dishes for which it is best suited. There are many varieties of rice, which come in one or more of the sizes discussed above.

Variety and Uses:

White Rice. Most common is the standard white rice, which has been milled to remove the husk and then polished to remove any remaining bran. This has fewer nutrients than the other types. It is, however, very versatile and great for everyday dishes with meat, chicken and veggies, and also as part of a salad.

Brown Rice.  Brown rice comes in both short and long grain sizes and is milled to remove the husk, but the bran layer remains. It has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. It is very nutritious, and you can substitute brown rice for any recipe made with white rice. Brown rice does take longer to cook than white rice.

Parboiled Rice. Parboiled rice is the product of rice that has been soaked, steamed and dried. During this process, the nutrients from the husk are absorbed into the grain, making it more healthy than standard white rice. The starch content is altered, and the lower starch content means it is less sticky than white rice, and particularly well-suited for thick curries.

Other more specialized types of rice:

Arborio is used mainly for risotto and absorbs liquid and flavors from slow cooking.

Basmati, a long-grain rice from India, is very fragrant and full flavored. This comes from aging for one year after harvest. Basmati is often served with curries.

Black Rice, once known as "forbidden rice" or "emperor's rice" is high in antioxidents. It is a medium-grain rice frequently used in Asian cuisines. It is also nutritionally even more impressive than brown rice.

Jasmine is a long-grain, slightly sticky rice that pairs well with curry or Jamaican Jerk Chicken.

Sushi Rice comes in white or brown and is a Japanese short-grain. It's high starch content gives it the stickiness needed to make sushi.

Nutritionally Speaking:

Now that we have covered the styles and some of the varieties, what should we use for our go-to rice? While brown rice has more calories, protein, carbs, fiber, sodium, sugars and fat than white rice, it also is rich in magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, B vitamins, copper, zinc, iron, calcium and potassium. There are differing opinions on the brown vs. white question, but based on it's nutrition analysis, brown rice is certainly a good choice. It is healthy, versatile and delicious. 

Brown rice does require more liquid and needs longer to cook (at least twice as long as white rice). Also, because of it's higher fat content, it does not keep as long as white rice.

White rice has had the husk and all bran removed, so it is basically stripped of many of its nutrients. It is lower in calories and fat content and has more iron and calcium than brown rice. A negative is that it has a higher glycemic index than brown rice.

Which brings me to parboiled rice, and my rice of choice for everyday cooking. What is the nutritional difference? Compared to standard white rice, parboiled rice has more fiber (double that of white rice), calcium, potassium, B6, niacin, magnesium, iron, zinc and more. Here is some good news for diabetics; parboiled rice, like brown rice, has a lower glycemic index than white rice.

The best rices for everyday use are brown, parboiled and white. For specialty dishes or cuisines, choose the best rice for the dish based on it's type and characteristics. 

Discussion questions:
What is your rice of choice for every day?
What is your favorite specialty rice or rice dish?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Into The Kitchen: Grilling Tips

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

Are you a grill master? Do you love the sound of the gas lighting up, the smell of the fire, or the glowing embers of charcoal? Whatever your preference, grilling is fun, it brings people together and the food speaks for itself.

Grilling isn't complicated, but there are a lot of variables and grill options. Gas or charcoal is what most people use, and those are found at every hardware and home improvement store as well as many big department stores. 

There is always going to be the debate over which one is better, but that's not the point here. This is an overview of how to grill successfully.

Having said that, charcoal is definitely a popular method, and the one I grew up with. However it is more affected by the weather than gas grills, thus timing is more unpredictable and the main reason I use gas.

Direct or Indirect?

Many foods lend themselves to grilling, but not all require the same heat or time to cook. For proteins, there are two main methods of cooking, direct heat and indirect heat. For foods that cook rather quickly, you use the direct method of placing the food directly over the heat. Usually all burners are on and set to the same temperature; you may use a higher temperature for searing then reduce the heat. Foods using the direct method include steaks (2 inches or less), burgers, hot dogs, fish and shrimp.

Your thicker cuts of meat, bone-in chicken and roasts, which take longer to cook, use indirect heat. You preheat your grill as normal, then turn one burner off and place your food there, leaving the other burner(s) to maintain your desired heat.

Image Source: Norton Farms
How will I know when my meat is done?

That is a good question and one that hits on the more complicated aspect of cooking (not just grilling) meats. The easiest way is to use an instant read thermometer and you will find much information and charts here

There are other methods, including the hand and finger method described here.

Most of the following tips apply to either gas or charcoal grilling.

Tips for Success:

  • When lighting a gas grill, always leave the lid up to avoid a dangerous accumulation of gas.
  • Always check your gas before beginning. It is no fun to jeopardize your expensive steak by running out of gas in the middle of cooking.
  • Preheat for at least 15 minutes, and longer is better.
  • Keep your grill grate clean. Scrub the hot grill down with a long-handled brush (I prefer brass bristles). You don't want residue from last weeks barbecue chicken on your salmon.
  • You may oil your food and/or grill. If you oil your grill, do so just before putting the food on otherwise the oil will just burn off before you're ready to cook.
  • Never slap a piece of cold meat on a hot grill. Always take your meat out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling.
  • Remember sugars burn at high heat, so always wait until your meat is nearly cooked before brushing on sauces containing sugar, e.g. barbecue sauce.
  • Use tongs or a spatula to turn or remove your meats. Never use a fork as piercing the meat will allow the juices to run out.
  • Always let your meat rest for at least 10 minutes after taking it off the heat. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat giving you a juicy steak.

From the simple hibachi to the Big Green Egg or anything in between, grilling is a delicious way to prepare food, and best of all, there is less to clean up in your kitchen.

Discussion questions:
What is your favorite grilled food?
Gas or charcoal?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Know Your Sausage

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

Sausage may be a love it or hate it food. I love it and always have some in my freezer. I seldom think about what type it is beyond whether it is spicy or mild and whether I need to really cook it or just pop it on the grill until it is browned and sizzling.

There is more to sausage than initially meets the eye. It is basically ground meat, usually but not always, pork, mixed with seasonings. It may be stuffed into casings, formed into patties or sold in bulk by the pound. Following are some of the different types of sausages and a little information and examples for each one.

Four main types of sausage:

Fresh. These need to be refrigerated or frozen if not used immediately. Fresh sausage must be fully cooked before eating. When cooking, prick the skins so they don't explode because that spurt of hot grease when you turn them is impressive. Also, fresh link sausage can be removed from the casing to be crumbled and cooked for other dishes.

  • Breakfast links and patties
  • Italian
  • Bratwurst
  • Mexican Chorizo

Pre-cooked.  All pre-cooked sausage start with a smooth pureed filling, which may be partially cooked before stuffing, but all are cooked after stuffing. You still want to cook these or at least heat thoroughly to bring out the flavor. Many deli meats fall into this category.

  • Hot dogs
  • Bologna
  • Mortadella
  • German Wursts

Smoked. These are cooked over a cool fire which produces a lot of smoke. This provides
flavor and preserves the meat. These can be eaten as is or cut up and used in other dishes. Like the pre-cooked, you often find these in the deli.

  • Andouille
  • Kielbasa

Cured. This type of sausage is made fresh then salted and air dried. These make great appetizers and snacks. Slice thinly and serve at room temperature.

  • Spanish Chorizo
  • Coppa
  • Genoa Salami

Tell me which sausage you like and how you prepare or serve it.

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Humble Potato

During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 

What is your favorite foodEVER? Pizza, ice cream, fried chicken, broccoli? Mine? None of the above. It is the very humble, very nutritious, and very versatile potato. 

Just the Facts.
  • Low calorie and a good source of Vitamins C and B6
  • Fat-free, sodium-free and gluten-free
  • More potassium than a banana
  • More energy packed than any other vegetable
  • A blank canvas for flavors and the most versatile vegetable
  • It is a resistant starch*
*I didn't know this, but a resistant starch is one that doesn't fully break down and get absorbed, and is instead turned into a short-chain fatty acid by intestinal bacteria. The bottom line is that it becomes food for the good bacteria (probiotics), which make resistant starches prebiotics. Read more about resistant starches here.

Red, white and blue, potatoes are patriotic, too.

Potatoes come in a variety of colors. Most are white or pale yellow on the inside. These come in red, white and yellow skin, are generally similar in texture and are good for frying or potato salad. Russets (bakers) are also white inside, but have brown skins and have a drier texture making them better for baking and mashing. 

Blue and Purple potatoes have a dark flesh as well as skin. They also have higher health benefits (the rule is the darker and more colorful, the healthier the food). This is what one source has to say:
"Purple potatoes boast more health benefits than their white counterparts. The golden rule with any fruit or vegetable is the darker and deeper the color, the more nutritional benefits it packs. They contain carotenoids and the color comes from their flavonoid content.
These potatoes are high in carbohydrates, low in fat, high in potassium, and contain a small amount of iron and a moderate amount of dietary fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar and prevent high cholesterol. They’ve also shown anti-inflammatory properties.
Blue potatoes also contain anthocyanins—an immunity-building anti-oxidant that fights free radicals, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer. The skin is rich in vitamin C and contains polyphenols. The skin also helps seal in the nutrients while cooking, so try to leave it intact."
Would you like fries with that?

Besides the ever-popular french fry, what else can you do with this versatile veggie? Just about anything you can think of. You can roast, bake or boil, mash, saute or grill it. You can slice it, dice it or spiral it. Morning, noon or night, potatoes fill the bill and satisfy the stomach.

Start your day off right with potatoes for breakfast as hash browns or home fries or grab baked potato or soup as a lunch option, but beware the loaded potatoes will get you with the added calories. Nothing dresses up dinner like creamy mashed potatoes with butter or gravy, and it goes with practically everything.

I can eat potatoes (a.k.a. taters) anyway you fix 'em. Fries, bring 'em on. Baked, with butter and sour cream, oh and maybe some cheese, please. But I've got to tell you about something called tater hash. Nope, not hash browns or home fries and there is no meat involved. These are some of the best taters on the planet, in my humble opinion.

What you need:

Baking potatoes like Russets
Fatvegetable or olive oil, coconut oil or bacon grease
Salt and pepper to taste

First you bake the potatoes. Exact time and temperature is not critical, the lower the temperature the longer the bake time and so on. I usually bake large potatoes at 400° for about 75 minutes. Just cook them until a sharp knife goes in easily. Remove them from the oven and cool on the counter. When cool enough to put in the refrigerator, go ahead and do so. Leave them in the refrigerator several hours or overnight. Cold potatoes make the best hash!

Then you make the hash. Peel and chop the potatoes into bite size pieces. Heat your fat of choice in a skillet over medium high heat. The oil is hot when a piece of potato sizzles when it hits the pan. Cook, turning them occasionally, allowing them to develop a crusty brown surface. I usually use my spatula to further chop them up in the pan.


These are excellent just as they are, but you can kick them up a notch (to quote Emeril) and add onions, green peppers or other seasoning. I like mine plain with just salt and pepper. I have been eating these my entire life, and some of the best I ever had were cooked on an old wood stove at my grandmother's house. Talk about good eats!

Discussion questions:

Have you eaten blue or purple potatoes?
What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?

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