Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Spin Zone

The spin starts here...

...followed by the artichoke, and the cream cheese, and the Parmesan.

Now, I don't want to alienate any potential blog readers. I just have a strong feeling I won't by saying Bill O'Reilly is an ass. I hope you will notice that this is the first slightly-inappropriate-however-more-and-more-generally-accepted-term I have used during my blogging experience, but I need it for emphasis. I challenge you to find a better word. "The No-Spin Zone" is the term O'Reilly uses to describe his program. Ironically, I would describe him as the least principle-based "news" personality on television. Others in close competition include Keith "anyone-who-disagrees-with-me-is-wrong-just-check-out-my-hip-frames-and-snarky-glances-into-the-camera" Olberman and Sean "I-count-all-my-invalid-points-out-on-my-fingers-to-make-them-seem-more-credible-I-also-whine-like-a-small-child" Hannity. Fox News and MSNBC seem to be competing constantly to see who can get away with the most bias while keeping a straight face.

If nothing else, these shows (The O'Reilly Fcator, Countdown and Hannity's America) are entertaining in an infuriating way. And if there is one thing they all have in common, it is SPIN. So in honor of these fine gentlemen and their spinning tendencies (no matter how far they go to deny it), let's see about another spinach casserole recipe.

This was perfectly prepared by my sister-in-law, Katie, for Christmas dinner this year. Since this girl has joined the family, she has brought nothing but wonderful things: true love for my brother, amazing friendship for me, one adorable little daughter, followed by another and finally this casserole. It was definitely a welcome dish at the table as the dish was wiped practically clean by the end of the meal. In fact, it was the only dish that was spared from becoming "leftovers". This would be a great addition to any holiday meal or potluck dinner. The recipe comes from my brother and sister-in-law's friend, Krista (who is married to one of my brother's best friends). After trying this dish, I would be anxious to see what other recipes Krista has up her oven mitt.

Spinach Artichoke Casserole

(Recipe from Krista Dearolf's family)

2 packs frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz cream cheese at room temp (Reduced Fat if you want)
1 14 oz can of artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons butter at room temp (sometimes I leave this out for less fat)
1/2 cup (or more if you want!) real grated parmesan + extra for topping

Squeeze all liquid from the chokes and put on bottom of small to medium casserole dish.

Drain thawed spinach by squeezing all water out with hands or towel and place on top of artichokes.
Mix cheese, butter, and milk with mixer.

Spread this mixture as the third layer.
If desired, sprinkle more parmesan as fourth layer.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered with foil. Take off foil, and bake for 10 more minutes until golden and yummy looking. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


My Uncle John has always been a big kid.

He is goofy and is always up for having a good ole time. Uncle John, affectionately known as Jano (pronounced "John-Oh") in our family, is my dad's youngest brother. I remember when my brother and I were younger, Uncle Jano would always be the first to suggest playing games or watching Home Alone and The Grinch during the holidays. He would always sleep on a mattress in the living room on Christmas Eve night, claiming he was going to wait for Santa Claus.

Why Jano? For years, I thought the name "Jano" was originated by my mom's Puerto Rican side of the family just to spite him. This year, on Christmas day, I learned that Jano is a nickname that has been with my uncle since he was young. Since Lebanon used to be a French Colony, some people (especially from my dad's generation or earlier) have French names. Uncle John's name was "Jean", later changed to John when he moved to Florida during his high school years. It was explained to me that in Lebanon, Jano is a nickname for Jean in the same way Bob is a nickname for Robert or Bill is a nickname for William in the U.S.

Make of that bit of trivia what you will.

Uncle Jano has lived in South Florida (close to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami for the better part of that past 8 years (I am estimating here). Since the population of this area is overwhelmingly hispanic, I am often greeted with phone calls to my uncle in spanish: Hola, como estas? Muy bien! It doesn't really get much more in depth than that (although I imagine he has picked up quite a bit living down there for so long).

While I am unsure about my uncle's Spanish speaking pursuits, I am sure of one thing: he knows his sangria. He has been making this recipe for years. He got the base for it from a Cuban restaurant in his area after asking the waiter what was in it one evening. This recipe is nice. It is easy, not too sweet, not too strong (although apparently strong enough to get my mom nice and relaxed after one small glass).

Uncle Jano's Sangria

One bottle of a flavorful red wine (we used a Spanish Rioja wine)
3/4 C orange juice
3/4 C cranberry juice
3/4 C sprite or ginger ale
2 tbsp brandy*
1 small red delicious

* Brandy was not a part of the original recipe, but we added it since we had it sitting around and a lot of sangria recipes include it. I think it was a success.

Pour all the liquids together into a a large pitcher, and mix with a long wooden spoon.
Slice the apple into thin wedges (about 1/8 inch thick each), and dump them into the pitcher.

Place the sangria into the refrigerator (you may want to cover with some plastic wrap if the pitcher is open at the top).
Allow it to chill for at least 2 hours (preferably over night).
Serve over ice with a few apple slices in each glass.

Tip: You may want to add other fruit slices (like orange or mango) to the sangria as well; I just prefer it to be simple.

Monday, December 28, 2009

All Out: Christmas 2009

"If you're gonna go, go all the way".

Of course, that was the first thing Aunt Janet said when we started making the arroz con gandules on Christmas Eve, but I think that statement can be applied here as well.

This was, no doubt, the most hectic Christmas this family has ever seen. If you know me, you know that by "hectic" I mean a blast. I love a crazy mess every now and then, especially if it means I am surrounded by people I love. Christmas Day was relatively quiet compared to the days surrounding it. The roster consisted of my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, two nieces, uncle, uncle's girlfriend and me. We took our time getting to the presents in the morning as we enjoyed this impromptu little spread:

I get nostalgic this time of year. Here are a couple things I was reminded of this time around:

Christmas 1992: My big brother, Brian and Uncle John "hosting" their own sports talk show in front of the video camera. I was in charge of the intro music (for the show opening and coming back from the fake commercial breaks), and my dad would play the voice of "the callers" phoning in to ask their controversial questions about players, coaches and other sports drama.

We went all out.

Christmas 1993: My 3rd grade class memorized and recited the Christmas story from the book of Luke. I remember we would tackle about two verses at a time. At the end of each week, there was a free reading time (if you were really good, you got to sit on a special bean bag chair). Each student was called to the teacher's desk individually to recite the verses for that week from memory. This was done in every 3rd grade classroom so that at the end of the quarter, right before the holiday, the entire 3rd grade class stood in front of the whole school to recite the 20 verses:

Luke 2:1-20
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom his favor rests!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

We went all out.

So why wouldn't this family go all out when it comes to the food at Christmas? I know a lot of people cut back on gifts and spending this year for obvious reasons. Two things I love about food is that it is relatively cheap, and it promotes togetherness. There is really nothing I love more than coming around the table with great people to share a meal. Uncle John and his girlfriend, Connie, were gracious enough to bring a delicious ham from the store that is their new obsession: Costco. We all contributed to the table with dishes including: Katie's spinach and artichoke casserole (from a friend's recipe), dad's green bean casserole, Publix's dinner rolls, my stuffed jalepenos wrapped in bacon and goat cheese mashed potatoes and Uncle John's sangria (recipes soon to come).

Everything was delicious, but more importantly, it was really special to have the opportunity to share the meal with some of my favorite people.

Dessert. There is a lot of pressure to finish off a great meal with a delightful dessert dish. The Costco crew brought an extra large pecan pie which I will continue to enjoy for the next few days. However, I wanted to try my hand at another cake. In an attempt to counter the state of the economy, I aimed at making the richest cake possible. I found a recipe for a dark chocolate cake that included ingredients like bailey's liqueur, dark chocolate chips, chocolate pudding and sour cream.

I went all out.

Rich Even When You're Not Chocolate Cake

(recipe from All Recipes)

1 package dark chocolate cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix (about 4 oz)
16 oz sour cream
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup baileys liqueur
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 10 inch bundt pan, and lightly dust with cocoa powder.
Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another (large bowl); whisk the contents of each bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients little by little, mixing in thoroughly.
Beat until ingredients are well blended.
Fold in the chocolate chips to the thick batter.
Scoop the batter into the bundt pan.
Bake for 1 hour.
Cool for 10 minutes in the pan.
Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving (even though we ate it warm).
Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the cake using a sifter to make it pretty.

Tip: A lot of people on the message boards for this recipe on its original post recommend using andes mint chips in place of the semisweet chocolate chips and creme de menthe instead of baileys for a mint chocolate cake. Other suggested adaptations include using raspberry or orange liqueur. Be creative.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve, Puerto Rican Style

The Food.

The Family.

The Madness.

Who doesn't love the holiday season? I have been an absent blogger as of late. I have been chugging around town catching up with an elite list of people. It is not that I don't have time to blog; I just have nothing to blog about. When I visit Florida, I usually find myself at all my favorite restaurants from the cooking involved. But it is time for Christmas, and this year has been a doozie. And yes, the kitchen is open.

Let's start with Christmas Eve. I like to call Christmas Eve the night of the Puerto Rican invasion. I think you can see why (see above picture).

It happens once a year. My mom's side of the family gets together to feast on the usual suspects: pork, arroz con gandules, green bean casserole and rum cake just to name a few. The whole family was together this year so it was very special.

My grandmother and my aunt make arroz con gandules once a year for the holidays. This is something I look forward to in life. Grandma Laura is from Puerto Rico. She is the mother of two daughters, Janet and Nicky (my mother). She is a woman of sincere faith and compassion. My aunt Janet has been in training for years learning to perfect my grandmother's arroz con gandules technique. I have a lot of catching up to do.

This is how it works (although I imagine this is one of those "you had to be there" recipes):

Grandma Laura's Arroz Con Gandules

1 whole bunch of cilantro
1 onion
1 whole head of garlic
1 green bell pepper
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 envelopes ham bullion (Goya makes "jamon en polvo") - about 2 tbsp
2 envelopes Sazon con Azafran (Goya also makes this) - about 2 tbsp
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
12 oz tomato sauce
1/2 slice of cooking ham (include the bone if you can) - about 3/4 C cubed ham
1 lb of pork chops, cubed (about one inch)
1/4 C capers
1/2 C green olives stuffed with pimientos (some chopped some left whole)
5 bay leaves
2 cans green pigeon peas (reserve the juice)
2 lbs white long grain rice (you can also use short grain, just make sure whatever rice you use is high quality)

First make the SOFRITO. This is a sauce, used as a base for many Puerto Rican dishes. You can use this recipe to make soups, stews (like ropa vieja) or even stuffing at Thanksgiving. To make the sofrito, simply chop up the first ten ingredients (cilantro through tomato sauce). Blend everything in a food processor (or if you do not have one, just chop it very fine). You can make this ahead of time and refrigerate or even freeze it to use later.

Place the pork chops and cooking ham (preferably with the bone) in a large pot over medium heat until cooked all the way through.
Once the meat is cooked, transfer to a large stew pot (you must have a tightly fitted lid that goes with it) over medium heat, and pour the sofrito over it. (Tip: Swish some water around in the dish the sofrito was poured from, and reserve it for later in case you need to add more water to the rice).

Drain the juice from the 2 canes of green pigeon peas into the pot with the meat and sofrito (do not add the beans themselves at this point).
Add the olives, capers, and bay leaves.

Mix everything to combine, and bring the mixture to a fast boil (it should be very bubbly before you move on).

Pour both cans of beans into the pot and stir.
When the mixture begins to bubble again, it is time to add the rice.
Add the rice slowly by creating a small pile in the middle of the pot (about 1 cup at a time).

Do not mix the rice into the meat/sofrito mixture quickly. Rather, use a wooden spoon to slowly spread the rice around the pot, starting from the middle and working your way out. The goal is to get the rice to sink towards the bottom without simply whisking it around.

Continue to add rice to the mixture until you can see that the rice is evenly distributed throughout it. You will know this has happened when you can see some rice floating towards the top (it should be about 2 lbs, but you will really have to go by sight more than anything).
Once the rice is added, cover the pot with a fitted lid that will not release any steam from the pot, and cook for 20 minutes between the low and medium stovetop heat setting.
After 20 minutes, uncover the pot. Use a sturdy spoon to carefully flip the rice. The idea here is to get the rice on the bottom f the pot to the top and vise versa for even cooking. You need to work very slowly because simply mixing the rice quickly will cause it to become mushy.

Also use this time to scrape away any bits of the mixture that are stuck to the bottom of the pot.
When you have finished flipping the rice, use the spoon to pack the rice down into the pot.

Start on the outsides, and work your way in, creating a mound.

Use a lid to a smaller pot, and place it on top of the mound of rice to pack it in as tightly as possible.

Leave the smaller lid in the pot, and place the lid fitted to the pot back on top (at this point you will have a lid inside the pot and a lid fitting the pot).

Cook the rice with the two lids for another 40 minutes over the low/medium heat setting.
If the rice is still a little raw after the 40 min, you may need to add some hot water (you can use the water that you rinsed the sofrito bowl with) and continue cooking as needed.

I suspect if you are going to try to make this dish, you will have questions. You can post a question as a comment, and I will see what I can do to help!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Christmastime is here, and I could not be happier.

I am once again in Florida visiting my family. This means I can play all day, seeing family and friends I don't get to hang out with very often. Sometimes at night while I am at my parents' house I tap into my mom's DVR queue: a gold mine full of Doctor Oz, Oprah and 60 Minutes (3 of my top 10 guilty pleasures).

The house is decorated for Christmas. My dad brings home bunches of bright red poinsettias that fill the house every year. Our Christmas tree is mostly white and gold with hints of red. The nativity sits at the base.

My mom even put little gold ornaments on a regular tree that sits in the living room year-round.

I like making Christmas cookies.

I know I have mentioned that mint chocolate is my favorite chocolate combo so you can imagine my delight when I saw this on a discount shelf at target this evening:

This cookie is a variation of a previous recipe for cakies. It is the same base recipe (so I will not bother repeating it here. I simply added about 3/4 cup of crushed mint M&M's to the dough and a single mint M&M to the top of the cookie. I imagine you could also use mint chips, Ande's mints or even add some peppermint extract to the dough.

While they have been and will always be my favorite girl scout cookie (frozen, please), there is nothing thin about thin mints. However, thin mints were the inspiration for this recipe variation so I will respectfully call these cookies... FAT MINT CAKIES.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brunch Club December: Interrogations

Andice hosted brunch this month in their lovely Los Feliz apartment.

For those of you who are not familiar with the area, Los Feliz is a charming trendy neighborhood in East Los Angeles with the tiniest little movie theater, an insane number of delicious local restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating, a couple unique book shops and small houses with bright green yards and fruit trees. It is bordered by Griffith Park, one of my favorite places in the city, and Silver Lake, an even trendier neighborhood full of dive bars, artists and Tomato Pie (home of "The Grandma" pizza). Also, around these parts it is pronounced, "Los FEE-less", not "Los Feh-LEES", the way you may be inclined to say it if you ever took Spanish I. The neighborhood has a great community-type feeling. People walk places.

Andy and Candice are Canadians. In case you don't know, that means they are very nice and good-spirited people who like to walk a lot. Their home was lovely (especially the bathroom with deep purple walls). But this month was the month of interrogations in three parts:

1. It was not easy to believe that Elliott made baklava. Considering it is quite the process to make it from scratch, I was intrigued. It was presented in a casserole dish and not a store bought box, but I thought a little investigating was in order. Apparently, he was taught by a friend. He explained to a room full of wide-eyed ladies exactly what goes into the exotic dessert, batting down every ounce of my suspicion. Impressed.

2. Sue, Natalie and Emily demanded answers from the brunch guests as to whether or not they would be attending or at least interested in the ski trip they are in the midst of planning. The deadline for final answers is Zach's birthday, December 20th.

3. Candice's friend, Gabe, was visiting from Winnipeg, a Canadian city just north of North Dakota. The weather there is below freezing which is really all I need to know as far as specific temperature is concerned. Gabe works as a reporter for a newspaper and covers hard-hitting stories. I almost did not need to be told that she was Canadian or a reporter. I gathered both by her pleasantly charming and inquisitive nature. She had a lot of questions for me about what I had forgotten could be interesting to those who do not work in the entertainment industry.

The line up for these brunches is getting really obnoxious. We've got people making insanely difficult and involved dishes. I am proud of my fellow brunchers this week. Here we go:

This month's **WINNER OF THE BITE ME BLOG BRUNCH DISH** December edition goes to:

SUBE'S Poppy Seed Cake:

My love for this dense, moist cake started when I saw Sue soaking the poppy seeds in vanilla and milk the day before Brunch. It almost had the consistency of a muffin top and was delicious with the whipped cream and fresh berries.

ELLIOTT'S Homemade Baklava:

It was incredible.

NATALIE'S Homemade Croissants:

I mean really, people...the competition is so stiff. This was impressive. Some were regular and some were filled with chocolate.

EMILY'S Stuffed Tomatoes:

The stuffing was a creamy corn mixture. No problems eating our veggies here!

BREANNA'S Breakfast Casserole:

This really hit the spot! So warm and hearty.

ANDICE'S French Toast:

I have not had French Toast in years, but now it is all I can think about. The only questions is: Eggnog French Toast or Gingerbread? Oh, yeh, okay. Both.

SUBE'S Rice Pudding:

I did not know I liked rice pudding, but I definitely do.

Lindzachary's Stuffed JalapeƱos Wrapped in Bacon:

(recipe from one of the best food blogs around, The Pioneer Woman)

Bacon is just so good. However, I made a huge mistake one time in making these. I used turkey bacon. Turkey bacon may be good as a side dish for eggs, but it is not good for wrapping. It was not as crispy as I had hoped. Don't use turkey bacon; the fat from regular kind is there for a reason. Let us never forget that.

15 jalapeno peppers
8 ounces cream cheese
15 strips of bacon (don't use the thick kind)

Rinse the jalapeƱos and preheat the oven to 375 F.
Put on some latex or kitchen gloves. The jalapeno seeds will leave your hands feeling like they are on fire for hours after if you handle them directly.
Slice the jalapenos legnthwise, and hollow out the seeds.
Use a small spoon or potato peeler to scrape out the seeds and white membrane out of the inside. Soak the hollowed peppers in some water. Any extra seeds will float to the top. (the seeds are what pack the heat so if you can handle it, you may choose to leave a few in there).
Pat the jalapenos dry with a cloth towel on the inside and on the outside.
Fill the inside of each one with cream cheese.
Wrap one half slice of bacon around each stuffed pepper, and secure with a toothpick.
Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes (you may want to turn up the heat for the last 5 minutes to get the bacon to crisp up).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I Yam What I Yam

Cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar created a comic strip called "Popeye the Sailor" in 1929.

This not-so-handsome-but-still-charming-in-his-own-way comic hero went on to star in his own television show and films. Popeye was a gritty sailor who gathered his superhuman strength from spinach. Move over all you protein-pumping, meat-eating machos. Popeye's forearms grew 10 times bigger when he would down a can of the green stuff.

Segar's choice of spinach for the character's source of strength was due to the high iron content found in spinach in a 1870 German study. The research concluded that spinach contained just as much iron as red meat. Popeye brought popularity to the geen stuff for almost 10 years through the comic strip before it was discovered that the German study had made a mistake. The decimal point in the number for the iron content in spinach had been placed between the wrong two numbers making it appear to have 10 times the amount of iron than it really did. In reality, spinach had no more iron content than any other leafy greens. This was not realized until 1937 when the comic strip was well underway, and Popeye had no intentions of changing what was already working for him. Although I imagine if Popeye was created after 1937, he would be downing cans of sardines instead.

Of course, spinach still has plenty of wonderful vitamins that make it very good for you. I eat my fair share of fresh spinach in salads. I am not going to pretend that this casserole should be categorized as a health food. It is loaded with creamy, crunchy stuff that makes it something you really want to eat in moderation. I chose to make spinach casserole for Thanksgiving this year simply because Zach does not go for green beans so much. I am really happy with the way it turned out. I made it very small (about half of the recipe) since it was just the two of us, and I really don't imagine this keeping that well as leftovers.

Popeye's Spinach Casserole:

(Recipe adapted from All Recipes - serves 6)

20 oz frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
6 oz cream cheese (softened)*
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup*
6 oz french-fried onions (1 can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Squeeze thawed spinach over a colander in the sink to ring out any excess water.
Separate the spinach so it is not clumpy in a large mixing bowl.
Mix in cream cheese, mushroom soup and 1/2 of the french-fried onions into the spinach.
Transfer the mixture into a small (2 qt) casserole dish, and sprinkle the remaining onions on top.
Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered.

* The recipe calls for the whole can of soup and 8 oz of cream cheese. I think this is too much. I used the equivalent of 6 oz cream cheese and about 2/3rds of the can of mushroom soup so that the casserole would keep more of the spinach flavor. You can use more or less depending on what you prefer.

You can see how it fits right in there on the right side of the plate.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What About Goats?

I love goat cheese. I feel as though it is also an "it food" that I failed to mention in my previous post, "It Foods."

In honor of goats and their amazing cheese below please find a few of my favorite facts about goats pulled directly from the amazing web page I found, Facts About Goats.

Goats were the first animals domesticated by man in 10,000 B.C

The phrase Judas goat is a term that has been used to describe goat that is trained to herd other animals to slaughter while its own life is spared.

Goats were the first animals to be used for milk by humans.

Goats were first brought to America by Columbus in 1493.

Worldwide, more people eat and drink milk from goats than any other animal.

A mature, healthy male buck can breed 20 to 40 does.

The pharaoh Cephranes thought so much of his goats that he had 2,234 buried with him.

Goat’s milk is easily digestible and less allergenic than cow’s milk.

Goat’s milk is higher in calcium, vitamin A and niacin than cow’s milk.

Mahatma Gandhi consumed goat milk every day for more than 30 years.

Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized, and it can be digested in less than 20 minutes where as cow’s milk can take almost all day.

Healthy kids ("kids" are baby goats) can stand within minutes after birth and are able to move with the herd almost immediately.

Goats do not have tear ducts.

Goats and octopus’ pupils of their eyes are rectangular.

Coffee was first discovered when goat herders noticed the animals acting very energetic after nibbling on coffee beans.

Abraham Lincoln’s sons had two goats that lived in the White House with them.

I made mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving (who didn't?). To me, it always seems like mashed potatoes are a blank canvas. There are so many ways to get creative with them because the taste is so mild that they sort of take on the flavor that you add to them. In the past, I have made garlic mashed potatoes, rosemary potatoes, mustard potatoes and cheddar and bacon baked potatoes all of which are easy and delicious. However, this year was the year of the goat cheese mashed potatoes.

How About Them Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes:

(makes 6 servings)

2 lbs of potatoes (any kind you like)*
Salt (to taste...don't be shy about it)
3 tbsp butter
6 oz goat cheese (use more of less depending on preference)
1 C milk
1 tsp black pepper
fresh chopped chives (to sprinkle over top)

*If you do not want the skin and you plan to peel the potatoes, use large potatoes and cube them before boiling. I use the small red potatoes, boil them whole and mash them with the skin still on...I like the skin)

Boil the potatoes in a large pot, adding a few pinches of salt to the water.
Once the potatoes are fork-tender, drain the water from the pot.
Allow the potatoes to cool for a couple minutes.
Add the butter and salt (to taste) and mash the potatoes with a potato masher.
After you have mashed them almost all the way, add the milk, goat cheese and black pepper.
Continue mashing until the potatoes have reached the consistency you prefer.
Sprinkle the chives on top just before serving.

Note: Definitely taste the potatoes as you add the ingredients because you will likely find you would like to add more of something. I almost always end up adding more salt and goat cheese.

Pictures of goats are from