Smashed Potatoes

I’ve been bored, and I’ve found myself making the same stuff over and over again. I needed a new recipe. Thankfully, I found one that seems to be a huge crowd pleaser.

This recipe started off as a way to get rid of some ingredients I had lying around: potatoes that were getting old, a package of bacon I’d only used once and was about to go bad, etc. So the first time, I didn’t measure anything, I just sort of threw it all together.

After he went home, my brother-in-law asked for the recipe for the smashed potatoes, which is where I got the name for today’s post (thanks, Jon!). Of course, I didn’t have one. I picked the easiest way to solve this problem: I decided to throw another dinner party and attempted to recreate it. I think it worked out well, and decided I’d share the recipe. Whether you decided to call this smashed potatoes, loaded mashed potatoes, baked potato casserole, or something else, it’s definitely a new party favorite that I’m sure I’ll make again.

I dedicate this post to Jon, for being such a big fan of the smashed potatoes and for giving it a great name.

Smashed Potatoes

Ingredients:
5 pounds russet potatoes
8 slices bacon
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces heavy cream
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Scrub the potatoes and individually wrap in foil.
3. Bake the potatoes until soft (about an hour).
4. Rinse the shrimp, and mix with the pepper, basil, salt and garlic. Set aside.
5. In a large pan, cook all the bacon until crispy. Set aside.
6. Sauté the shrimp in the bacon grease until they are pink (about 5 minutes).
7. Remove the potatoes from the oven.
8. Remove the foil, and scoop out the insides of the potatoes into a large mixing bowl.
9. Add in all ingredients except the cheese and mix well.*
10. Place mashed potatoes in a large pan, and top with shredded cheese.
11. Bake for 15 minutes.

*TIP: I used an electric mixer and I did this in batches.

My Least Favorite Things

We had a team lunch today with the team requested menu of tastebudsrequired.com favorites: mac & cheese, cornbread, and griot. I threw in a little rice and peas and pikliz (since I have a ton of it!). I absolutely love feeding people, but it left me with the two things I hate most about cooking: leftovers and cleaning.

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Why oh why is there always so much food leftover? I get it, it’s because I cook like I’m feeding an army, but I honestly have tried to do a better job of estimating how much food I need. Unfortunately, it just never works out no matter how much I plan. Part of that is because no matter how many people I plan for, the likelihood is that there are at least some who won’t be able to make it due to last-minute emergencies. I suppose I could try to love leftovers, but it’s much more likely that my coworkers will continue to  enjoy them more than I will.

This brings me to another pet peeve: guests who refuse to confirm one way or the other. Hey, I realize that not everyone is a planner by nature, but doesn’t basic consideration for your host insist that you at least reply to an invitation? Yes; no; or maybe, I’ll let you know soon, are all acceptable answers. Silence makes me wonder if you still respect me. I suppose it’s possible that technology fails and the message was never received (on either side), and perhaps something crazy happened that prevented you from replying, or you could have just forgotten to respond, but those sound like excuses to cover up an uncomfortable truth. I suppose silence can also be interpreted as the no it’s meant to be. Either way, it makes it impossible to plan properly.

My other least favorite part about cooking is cleaning. Creating all the food is fun; the mess that’s left afterwards is not, and there’s just no way to avoid it. I wish I could just learn to love this part too, but it just feels like an unfortunate side effect.

Anyone have any tips on avoiding the leftovers or the cleaning, or learning to love either? I’m all ears!

 

Solution in a Box

It’s amazing how quickly time moves when I’m not paying attention. Has it really been three weeks since my last post?

More recipes are coming soon, but this week is a shout out to revived inspiration. If you’ll recall, my last post was about food boredom, which led to lack of inspiration for blog writing. I’ve found a solution to both problems in the past month, and it all came from a Facebook ad.

Many of my friends have been complaining about Facebook ads recently, but for whatever reason, I’ve been targeted with only useful (or at least relevant) ads. One of those was for a company called Blue Apron.

Maybe it just appeared at the right time, but it essentially came as a solution in a box. It’s a food delivery service, with a few key things that work especially well for me. I started by customizing the deliveries based on food preferences/allergies, number of meals I want to make, and the number of people I’m feeding. Then, once a week, they deliver a box with fresh ingredients and recipes for those meals.

Here’s a list of the top five things this service solved for me:

1) Creativity: Having someone else decide what I’m making means I don’t have to. But unlike going to a restaurant or getting pre-packaged food, I still have options on how I prepare the food (as you know, I consider recipes guidelines more than strict rules), and I still get all the joy of cooking. It’s also giving me an opportunity to try things I probably wouldn’t have even thought to try.
2) Convenience: Okay, I’ll admit that I actually like going to the grocery store, but sometimes I don’t get around to it. This is getting delivered to me on a weekly basis which means one less thing for me to worry about (or worry about forgetting).
3) Cost: It’s only $10 a meal (and maybe even less if you don’t actually eat the full portion size, which seem a little large to me), which is generally  less than I would pay for groceries or dining out.
4) Calories: Or at the very least, portion control. Each recipe card comes with caloric info and portion sizes, so I know what exactly what I’m dealing with. Since they’ve done all the planning, the meals are well-balanced. The ingredients are also fresh and sustainably sourced, so I know I’m getting a good product. I’m also not worrying about food waste. Have you ever had a recipe call for an ingredient you rarely use, so you go and you buy a package of whatever it is only to use it once? I’m often cooking for one, and sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it to get a huge (fill in the blank) when I know I’m only going to need a part of it. As I’ve said before, grocery stores don’t really cater to single people. Technically, neither does Blue Apron (the smallest order they allow is two people, three meals a week), but it’s still a whole lot better than I would be able to do at the grocery store. For example, they had one recipe call for a piece of fresh ginger, and that’s literally all they sent!
5) Commitment: There is no long term contract, so I can cancel or skip a week if it suits me. They let you know the recipes a week in advance, so I have time to browse and decide if I want the box that’s coming.

I’ve only tried this for a couple of weeks, but so far I’ve loved the recipes. If you’re thinking of trying it, they even let you browse the coming recipes and there’s a email newsletter that will send you the recipes.

Are there other similar services that you’ve tried? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

 

Restaurant round up (Seattle)

I haven’t felt much like cooking (or writing) this week. I’m not sure anyone would have noticed if I didn’t, but I’m trying to be consistent. Since I was short on inspiration, I decided it might be a good week for a list of my favorite restaurants in Seattle.

You may recall one of my earlier posts bemoaning the difficulty of finding good food in this city, but once I was put on the right track, I figured out pretty quickly that there were some pretty fantastic places to eat.

I find myself going back to these places again and again. Some of them are close to work or home, so it makes some sense. If you happen to notice that this is a little heavy on the Caribbean side, I know you’ll forgive me for falling in to my comfort zone.

So here’s my top ten, listed in no particular order:

1. Pam’s Kitchen (Trinidadian): The curried chicken with the paratha is my personal favorite, but the staff will probably try to talk you in to something else (all of it fantastic). If you’re luck enough to show up when they have the pumpkin, make sure to get a side of that as well.
2. Paseo (Cuban): They have main dishes here, but I go for the sandwiches. There’s always a pretty long line, so try to go during the week, and go early enough that they won’t have sold out.
3. Mojitos (Caribbean/Latin American): The location is small, but the staff is nice, and the food and mojitos are excellent.
4. Serious Pie (Pizza): I mostly frown on pizza in Seattle, but this place is actually pretty good! It’s not NY style, but my taste buds still say yes.
5. Toulouse Petit (Cajun): I haven’t had anything here that’s bad, but if you can go for brunch or dessert, I highly recommend both (although not at the same time).
6. The Great Northwest Soup Company (American): There are a lot of great restaurants in South Lake Union, but I eat here on almost a daily basis. The lines during lunch are long, but if you can stand it, the food is worth it.
7. Bizarro (Italian): This is an odd little restaurant. I’m not sure I love all the food, but the lasagna is good, and the tiramisu is amazing.
8. Saba Café (Ethiopian): This place has the advantage of also being open super late.
9. Seastar (Seafood): It’s on the pricier side, but if you can swing in for their lunch special, you can get the great food and stay in a budget.
10. Naam Thai Cuisine (Thai): They have a lunch special that’s pretty…well, special.

There are plenty of other cuisines and places that I love that aren’t on this list, but I figured I had to stop somewhere.

What are some of your favorite places?

Baby, it’s cold outside

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We got a little snow yesterday! My dog Ruby had the chance to experience snow for the first time, and she loved it as much as I do. My friends in NY would probably give me the evil eye for saying this, but I miss snow. We sometimes get a little bit in Seattle, and I enjoy every 1/2 inch of it. I know, I know, there is something about too much of a good thing, so I won’t blame all of those who’ve had more than their fair share of snow this year for thinking this is a ridiculous statement. But before you attempt to throw something at me, just here me out.

I fully admit to having a strong desire to hibernate in the winter. Snow always seems to make things quieter and prettier (at least at first), and (other than playing in it for a little while), it’s a great excuse to stay inside and curl up with a good book and a blanket. It’s also a really good excuse for me to make some of my favorite cold weather recipes. For me, cooking is easier in the winter mostly because I’m okay with being inside cooking, but also because it’s colder so working up a sweat in the kitchen is far more comfortable than it is with high summer heat and humidity. I have my favorite summer foods and traditions too, but winter is for warmth and comfort.

Of course, Haiti has a tropical climate, so these dishes do get eaten in warm weather. However, I prefer some things in the winter, and there are a couple of soups and drinks that make my list as winter comfort foods. I think I’ve mentioned my mom’s pumpkin soup before, but I’m not quite ready to share a recipe on that one yet. Some of my other personal favorites are Bouyon (beef stew) and hot chocolate, both of which will be making an appearance on this blog in the next few weeks.

I know it’s the middle of winter, and most of you are way past over it, but hopefully the recipes will give you some new reasons to appreciate the cold.