Tag Archives: Potatoes

Potatoes

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Aunt Katie would prefer potatoes every day with her main meal. She rarely has bread with dinner, and eats a well balanced mix of lean meats and vegetables, but potatoes are a mainstay. “It doesn’t seem like a whole meal without potatoes,” she has told me.

I like potatoes. I sometimes make a simple meal of fried onions, potatoes and tomatoes. I enjoy a baked potato, with butter and sour cream. I like crisp baked potato skins, with butter melted inside. Mashed potatoes are good, on occasion. There’s nothing nicer, on a Sunday morning, than homemade hash browns with eggs and toast. I like potatoes cooked with boiled dinner in a ham broth, or nestled, along with carrots and onions, in with a beef roast. Rarely, I’ll make a boiled potato. It seems too plain, and needs gravy to make it taster good. I love pierogi, filled with cheesy mashed potatoes; my daughter, Kate, makes them from scratch. I make potato gnocchi, potato pancakes and potato bread. Still, I certainly don’t need potatoes at every dinner.

I am okay with sweet potatoes, as a special flavor at holiday time, but there flavor is not one I would want regularly. My healthy gumbo called for sweet potatoes. They weren’t bad, but over the years I’ve substituted carrots, which I prefer. My sister Cheryl and I used to always split a baked sweet potato at Thanksgiving, and that was just enough.

When I was in college, and my girls were in school in East Lansing, we were only on Beaver Island for three months in the summertime. We didn’t have time for a garden, but I always grew potatoes. I brought seed potatoes up north with me. I split the big ones, and removed extra eyes. Without even working up the soil, I planted potatoes. I pushed the shovel into the ground, jumped on it to get it in deep enough, tipped in forward and dropped a potato in the space behind the head of the shovel. Pulling the shovel out buried the seed potato. One giant step forward, and I’d repeat the process. On and on until all were planted. They took care of themselves, then, through our busy summers. Before we left at the end of August, we’d dig up our harvest. Any missed potatoes would grow up as new plants the following year. I often carried about a bushel back to campus with me.

A few years ago when my granddaughter, Madeline, was here, she was invited to help my cousin Bob with his harvest. I dropped her off on my way to work. When I picked her up, she was covered from head to toe with garden soil, with a great big grin. “You’d think she was digging for gold, as much as she loved finding those potatoes in the ground,” Aunt Katie told me. For that story alone, I like potatoes!

Potato Peels and Other Scraps

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I was planning to make mushroom risotto for my dinner this evening. I have plenty of rice, onions, and a few fresh mushrooms that need to be used before they go soft. I was going to pick up chicken broth and a lemon at the grocery store after work, and would have everything I’d need.

While mailing out Christmas packages this morning, I wrote out a check to cover postage, and realized it was the last check in the book. I had tucked a twenty dollar bill in a birthday card yesterday. In cash, I was left with three dollars and change. Not enough.

Instead, it’s fried potatoes with onions for my dinner this evening.

That’s okay. It’s one of my favorite meals. I fry the potatoes until they’re brown on the outside, but still firm, not quite cooked through on the inside. I like the onions very done, caramelized almost, but the potatoes al dente’. Then, sometimes, I melt cheese on top.

As I was slicing onions, I was struck with a memory of cutting onions horizontally and separating them into neat rounds for fried potatoes. I don’t do it that way anymore. Now I slice them vertically, into long, curved strips. I don’t know when that changed. Or why.

I used to slice the potatoes into rounds, too. Now I cut them in half before slicing them, so I have half-moon shapes. I might have changed my onion slicing at the same time as I changed my potato cutting, so that they’d look similar…but I’m only guessing.

I remembered, as I was peeling potatoes, that the funny tip at the end of a carrot peeler (I suppose it could be a potato peeler, too) is a tool for removing the eyes of a potato (also for the spots on a whole pineapple, but that has nothing to do with this discussion). I used to know that, and then I forgot.

I didn’t remember it at Thanksgiving, when my sister and I were peeling potatoes together. The potatoes were just filled with eyes, and I was passing them to Brenda, to cut out the spots. I lose patience with a job like that, and was sure I’d end up just cutting away chunks of the potato. My mother would have found that unacceptable, and I was afraid that Brenda would feel the same way. I took care of it by just handing the job off to her. I was secretly pleased to see that she was kind of cutting away chunks, too. That would have been a darn good time to remember about the carrot peeler…but, no.

It strikes me that if these two revelations come to me in one day, for no particular reason, how many other things have I forgotten?

 

The White Stuff

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Yes, it’s snowing again.

We’ve gotten plenty of snow here on Beaver Island this Winter. The last time I checked, we were at one hundred and thirteen inches (that’s over 287cm!!). And now it’s coming down again.

Our all-time record is 138 inches of snowfall in a season. We’re in position to beat that record this year.

That’s not the “white stuff” I’m talking about here, though.

Potatoes, rice, pasta…that white stuff.

The foods that seem so comforting this time of year.

The foods that are most friendly to my budget.

The foods that – according to the experts – women my age should avoid, for optimum health and weight control.

I’m pretty careful most of the time.

I center my meals around fresh vegetables from my garden in the summertime. Salad bowls are my usual dinner in warm weather, with chickpeas, egg and nuts added for protein and crunch. If I have a bit of meat, I’ll add it for variety.

In the wintertime, soups are the staple of my diet. I use stocks and vegetable purees that I put up in the Fall, from my harvest. Beans and grains give it substance. Meat, when I have it, for flavor. I make a whole-grain bread that’s a nice accompaniment.

Oh, I have my little indulgences: a glass of wine; chocolate in almost any form; coffee; cream; cheese…still, pretty healthy, for the most part.

Not this winter, it seems.

When the first wave of cold came through, I started wanting “comfort” food. The “white stuff.” Macaroni and cheese; tuna casserole; baked potatoes. As layer upon layer of snow came down, the craving continued. Goulash; fried rice; stew. The many (so many!) extremely cold and blustery days where the wind drove the temperature down and my drafty house was in a constant state of refrigeration, I warmed myself around the oven cooking one heavy meal after another.

Last week, I made a nice turkey soup. Broth and diced turkey that I’d put in the freezer after Thanksgiving, fresh celery, onion and carrots. “Substance,” I thought, “It needs some substance in this cold!” Barley was one healthy choice that I had on hand. I could have also chosen brown rice, wild rice, spelt, wheat berries or quinoa. I opted, instead, to make home-made egg noodles. You know, the white flour and egg recipe. That’s substance, all right.

One night I decided I’d just have breakfast for dinner. I mixed up a half-batch of pancakes. I made them in the silver-dollar size. Added blackberries that I’d frozen last Fall. Ate them with just butter. Looking back at the meal, I thought, “Congratulations, Cindy, you have just eaten one cup of white flour…butter added.”

Yesterday I made St. Scholastica’s Soup. It’s a lentil, barley and wild rice soup that’s one of my staple recipes. I usually top a bowl of the thick vegetarian soup with a dollop of sour cream and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Yesterday, because I had the time, and it was cold, I also made two loaves of crusty Italian bread so that I’d have that to go along with the soup.

I also took time yesterday to try on some clothes, in anticipation of a trip to the mainland. The snow is softening the landscape; it seems my shape has shifted and changed as well.

There is no doubt about it, it’s time to give up the white stuff!