MASHED POTATOES & PARSNIPS: Add A Little Sweetness!

mashed pot & parsnips textMashed potatoes can get a little boring. True, they’re filling, easy, cheap, and everyone likes them. But, maybe it’s time to add in mashed parsnips…you know, to shake things up a bit.

If you’ve never had a parsnip, it’s really time you did. They have a slight sweetness, kind of like a carrot. In fact, the two are related.

And, just to show you what an adventurous gal I am, I use Yukon gold potatoes in this recipe, rather than the standard russet for mashed potatoes.

MASHED POTATOES & PARSNIPS – makes 3½ cups

  • 4 T butter
  • 8 oz parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices (cut fat end into half moons)
  • 1½ lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ circles
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock (homemade or purchased)
  • 3/4 cup half & half (or half cream & half milk)
  • 2 T chives, chopped

Melt butter in pot and add parsnips. Over medium/high heat, sauté until browned – about 10 minutes.mashed pot & parsnips2 Place potato slices in strainer and rinse well to remove excess starch. Let drain. mashed pot & parsnips5When parsnips have browned, add potatoes to the pot. Cover, decrease heat to low, and cook about 20 minutes – until potatoes are tender. Uncover pot and let set 2 minutes to allow steam to escape.mashed pot & parsnips3 Mash mixture until smooth. mashed pot & parsnips4Warm the milk and pour 1/2 cup of it into the potatoes. (Use the rest, if needed. Save it for any leftover mash.) Add in chives and fold mixture gently together. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

 

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO: Full Of Fall Flavor!

butternut risotto textWinter squash comes in many varieties and colors – very tempting to buy as a Fall decoration. Of course, cooking them may seem a bit daunting… what with the potential for slicing off a finger or two.

Never fear! A quick par-cook in the microwave to the rescue!!! It softens the squash just enough to ensure all body parts remain intact.

This risotto recipe cooks faster than the traditional method because it’s given a jump start of a large amount of liquid at the beginning.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO – makes about 4 cups

  • 1 lb butternut squash – whole, washed & dried
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2½ cups vegetable stock – purchased or homemade (VEGETABLE STOCK)
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 3/4 cups onions, chopped finely
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup Arborio rice, unrinsed
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 oz (1/3 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 T fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice

Place whole squash in microwave without piercing or slicing it. (It won’t explode.) Zap for 3 minutes only. Turn it over and zap another 30 seconds. This softens the squash enough to slice through it.

Note: Save all the skin, fibers, and seeds to use in broth. 

Cut off top and bottom to give a firm foundation for peeling. With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, remove the peel down to the deep orange part (just past the yellow part).butternut risotto3 Remove neck (yikes!), slice into rounds, then cut into 1/2″ cubes. Cut the body (this is getting creepy) in half and scrape out seeds and fibers. (Remember to save the seeds, fibers, and skin for the broth!) Slice into 1/2″ thick pieces, then cut those into 1/2″ cubes.butternut risotto10 Measure out 1¾ cup of cubes (put any remaining cubes with the skins and seeds for the broth.) Into a 12″ nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium/high until shimmering. Add the 1¾ cup of cubed squash, spreading out into a single layer. butternut risotto11Cook about 5 minutes without stirring, until bottoms are browned. Continue cooking another 4-5 minutes, stirring now and then, trying not to turn them over – you want only one side browned. Remove to a bowl and set aside. butternut risotto12Into the now empty skillet put the seeds and skins, cooking over medium heat about 4 minutes to brown. (Beware of popping seeds as they cook.)butternut risotto13Remove to a small saucepan. Add in the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook 10-15 minutes.butternut risotto6 Into the empty skillet melt 1½ T butter. Add in the onions, salt, and black pepper. Sauté over medium heat until onions start to brown. butternut risotto7Add in nutmeg, cinnamon, and garlic. Cook another 30 seconds to bloom the spices. Pour the Arborio into the onions and sauté over medium until edges of rice become translucent. butternut risotto4Add the wine to the rice and cook uncovered over medium high until it evaporates.  butternut risotto8As the wine is cooking, strain the broth made with seeds. Discard strained solids and set broth aside.

When wine has evaporated, pour in 1½ cups of the broth and 1/2 of the reserved cooked squash cubes. Cook over medium heat uncovered until most of liquid has been absorbed, stirring now and then. In 1/2 cup increments, continue adding broth to the rice as it’s been absorbed. Add broth (you may need all of it) until the rice is softened. Total cooking time is about 12 minutes. butternut risotto2Stir in Parmesan, sage, remaining 1/2 T butter, and lemon juice. Adjust salt and lemon juice, if needed.

BLEU CHEESE MASHED POTATOES: Jazzing Up A Standard Recipe!

bleu cheese mashed potatoes textGood old mashed potatoes. Straight forward. Easy to prepare. And, most of all, filling. This last one is important if you have picky eater children (I speak from experience).

But, how about if we fancied-up those potatoes to make them company worthy? What would happen if we added bleu cheese, a little thyme, and topped with port infused sautéed onions? A brilliant side dish, that’s what!

BLEU CHEESE MASHED POTATOES – makes about 3 cups

  • 1½ lbs russet potatoes
  • 3/4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp brown sugar, packed (it’s not much, but aids caramelization)
  • 1/2 lb yellow onions
  • 2½ T ruby port (or any sweet red wine such as Masala)
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 6 T half & half
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/3 tsp dried)
  • 2 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Place whole potatoes (with skin intact) in a saucepan and cover with 1″ water. mashed pot1Bring to simmer and cook until easily pierced with fork – about 35 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare the onions. Cut onions into 1/4″ slices. In a nonstick skillet, heat oil and butter over high heat. Add in 1/8 tsp salt, brown sugar, and onions.onions saute1 Sauté 5 minutes – until they start to lose volume and become a little browned. Decrease heat to medium and continue cooking until well browned (about 20 minutes or so).onion saute2 Add in the port and letter simmer for 5 minutes to evaporate the liquid. mashed pot2Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm half & half and thyme just to the simmer point. Cover and set aside.

When potatoes are cooked, remove from water and peel. (They’re very hot so you might want to use a fork to hold them in place, while peeling with a knife.) For best mashing results, use a ricer or food mill.mashed pot3 Gently fold in melted butter. Add in half & half, bleu cheese, remaining salt, and pepper. Very gently blend together. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

To serve, top with onions.

SPINACH RAREBIT – The Perfect Party Vegetable!

Creamy SPINACH RAREBIT

Creamy SPINACH RAREBIT

Menu planning dinner parties is challenging, even for the most experienced cooks. There must be a variety of food so everyone has at least something they can eat.  Then, you need to organize preparation  to ensure everything is done at the same time. Yikes!

Particularly troublesome is vegetable selection – once cooked, many need to be eaten promptly, since they begin to decline in taste. As soon as my steamed broccoli or roasted carrots are ready, I’m like a mad woman trying to get everyone to the table so they can enjoy the food at its peak of flavor. (For some strange and irritating reason, the announcement that dinner is served seems to provoke a desire in my husband to use the bathroom.)

I serve two vegetables, one generally being SPINACH RAREBIT. Not only is it delicious, but it can be prepared a day or two ahead. I LOVE THOSE RECIPES!!!

But wait, there’s more! It’s forgiving in terms of cooking temperature, so if something is in the oven at a different temperature, go ahead and add the SPINACH RAREBIT anyway – just adjust the time a bit. Plus, as if that’s not enough, it retains its flavor throughout the meal – even for the next couple of days as leftovers. It’s the perfect party dish!

Did you notice I said ‘party dish’? That’s because SPINACH RAREBIT is a little labor intensive.  It’s not hard – just takes time. Not that my husband and kids aren’t worth it….but, let’s be honest – we pull out the big guns for company.

NOTE:  You can save time by buying frozen Welsh rarebit (Stouffer’s makes it). Of course, I encourage you to make your own – you can save money, adjust to your taste, AND you know what’s in your food!

SPINACH RAREBIT – will serve at least 8 people

  • 24 oz frozen chopped spinach
  • 8 oz can water chestnuts, chopped in bite sized bits
  • 6 oz canister French fried onions – (I use French’s)
  • 4 slices fake bacon – (I use Morningstar)
  • Welsh rarebit (recipe follows) – if you buy frozen, you’ll need two 10 oz packages

Oven bake the bacon 15 minutes at 375º, flipping midway. Remove from oven and let sit so it gets crispy. If you have a toasteroven, use it – no point in heating up a big oven for 4 slices of fake bacon.

Rinse spinach in a sieve, then squeeze out water. Wrap in paper towel, then wrap that in an absorbent towel, such a terry cloth. You want to get rid of as much water as you can.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, water chestnuts, and enough Welsh Rarebit Sauce (recipe below) to moisten mixture. Pour this into a casserole dish big enough to hold everything (I use a 10.5″ x 7.5″), smoothing top.

Spread remaining Welsh Rarebit Sauce on top, completely covering spinach mix. Crumble bacon and sprinkle on top. Add the French fried onions (you don’t have to use the entire amount). Cover with foil. Casserole can be refrigerated at this point and baked later – I leave off the onions until just before cooking to make sure they’ll be crispy (not sure it matters).

Bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 5 minutes.

     Welsh Rarebit Sauce

  • 4 T butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups milk (I use nonfat)
  • 6 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 T vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

Melt butter in a saucepan. Turn off flame. Add in flour and work a little of the flour into the melted butter at a time, making a smooth paste. Do this slowly, preferably using a flat headed wooden stirrer. This is the only time you’ll be able to prevent lumps. Keep going until all the flour is incorporated (see photos below). Add in the mustard, paprika, and chili powder. Then cook paste for another minute or two, mashing out any lumps from the spices.

white sauce paste

 

Pour in milk and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until thickened. Turn off flame. Add in cheese, salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to blend. Adjust seasoning, if desired.