cream cheese mashed potatoes

I begin mentally planning my Thanksgiving menu in July. The hot weather and the constant sun make me yearn for the cooler weather of fall, a little rain, and the comforting foods that you’re only allowed to make when the weather sucks. I’m so excited that fall is finally here and I can begin plotting my recipes in earnest.

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about these mashed potatoes for a while. They’re the only thing on my menu that doesn’t change. Cream cheese brings a fluffy richness to mashed potatoes that plain butter and milk can’t, and once you’ve tried them you’ll never go back.

The recipe is simple: yukon gold potatoes (I find that their texture for mashed potatoes is preferable to any other variety), one package of cream cheese, salt and pepper, whole milk (or half and half, if you want to get a little crazy) and butter.

I forgot to picture the butter, and it may be a first in the history of this blog. Usually it’s the first thing on my mind.

Begin by scrubbing and rinsing the potatoes. Peel off the skins if you must, but I like to leave them on for a little texture. Slice each potato lengthwise…

..and then turn and slice again.

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold, lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook just until the potatoes are fork-tender and the skins begin to separate themselves.

Drain, pour into the bowl of your stand mixer and mash with a hand masher.

Next,  add the cream cheese, butter, and half of the milk. Mix with the paddle attachment until you achieve the consistency that you like, adding more milk gradually if you need to. If you like them really light and fluffy, switch to the wisk attachment and continue mixing (I like mine a little lumpy, but to each her own). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

And there you have it. Perfectly creamy, perfectly decadent mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t trade them for any horseradish, bacon, blue cheese or sour cream mashed potato recipe in the world.

And come Thanksgiving day, you can bet these suckers are going to grace my table. They’re champs at gravy volcanoes, experts at mingling with the cranberries, pros at hanging with the turkey.

What’s your favorite mashed potato recipe?

-RDG

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Using reduced fat or low fat cream cheese is fine, but nonfat doesn’t work as well. Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

  • 3 lbs yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2-1 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold, lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and their skins begin to come off, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and mash with a potato masher.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine potatoes, cream cheese, butter, and 1/2 cup of the milk. Mix on medium-low, adding more milk if needed, until they reach desired consistency. Add salt and season with pepper to taste.

pumpkin. pumpkin. pumpkin.

This time of year, I get an urge to make pumpkin desserts that is so strong, no one can stop me from baking up a pumpkin storm. The only problem is, my better half loathes the stuff. He refuses pumpkin pie, balks at pumpkin cheesecake, laughs at pumpkin muffins. The result is that I am left to eat the fruits (or vegetables) of my labors all by my lonesome.

I don’t mind. Especially when I’m baking two of my all-time favorites.

The first? Pumpkin walnut bread with bittersweet chocolate. The consistency of this bread is as close to perfect as it gets for sweet breads: dense, moist, and not at all dry around the edges. Each bite tastes just as good as the next with no crusty bits to deal with.

I use Elise’s (Simply Recipes) recipe and add bittersweet chocolate chips to the batter before baking. It’s so decadent that it should be a dessert, but since it’s “bread,” I allow myself a little slice for breakfast.

Then I always fall back to the old standby: Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes. Think pumpkin pie with a thicker, sweeter crust and super creamy filling laced with cream cheese.

These little squares are awfully potent. I wouldn’t eat them if you’re diabetic, have high cholesterol, are at all worried about fat and calories, or have an aversion to baking with lots and lots of butter.

I would make them, however, if you’re looking for a fun alternative to the standard pumpkin pie to grace your Thanksgiving table. Or if it’s tuesday. Or if you love Paula Deen more than mayonnaise.

They’re easy, incredibly tasty, and one batch makes about a zillion servings. Just take a jog around the block afterwards.

If you need me, I’ll be trying my best not to let these yummy pumpkin desserts go to waste. It’s a tough job, and a big responsibility. But I’ll take one for the team.

What are your favorite pumpkin desserts?

-RDG

You can find the recipe for Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes right here. A quick tip: they won’t look done when you pull them out of the oven. The middle will be jiggly and the standard toothpick test does not work for this recipe. Don’t over-bake or you’ll get an awfully stiff crust. Let them cool completely before cutting.

To make Pumpkin Walnut Bread with Bittersweet Chocolate, follow Simply Recipes‘ (amazingly perfect) Pumpkin Bread recipe and add one cup of bittersweet chocolate chips to the batter before baking.


will bake for food

I’m sorry about the radio silence this week. It wasn’t my intention. I got wrapped up in my new pet project, and along with an amazing partner in crime, have an event in the works that is going to be amazing.

We’re calling it Will Bake for Food. Food bloggers from all over this lovely city are offering up baked goods to benefit Northwest Harvest. The super kind folks at University Congregational Church are donating their space to host the event on Saturday, November 20, 2010.

Bring any healthy non-perishable food item, baby formula or diapers to “trade” for some delicious baked goodies. Mingle with Seattle foodies, find some new favorite blogs. Help out your community in a fun, tasty way.

Our website is in the works, so check back as we gather our list of bakers who will be attending. It should be an incredible group! And if you’re interested in baking for the event or volunteering, we’d love your help! Email me at jenny (at) rainydaygal (dot) com or tweet @rainydaygal1.

Hope to see you there! And next week it’s back to gluttonous recipes, I swear.

-RDG

chocolate pie deluxe

I like to “borrow” things from my parent’s house when they are out of town. Toys for Lucy, the daily paper, $200, television sets—that sort of thing (just kidding, mom and dad!). So last week, when I went to take in their mail, I decided to borrow a few cookbooks. And I didn’t choose a James Peterson or Simply Classic, but this little well-worn, well-loved beauty.

Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, first printing, 1969. How could I resist a cookbook with fondue, a pimento cheese ball and an unidentifiable meat-looking round on the cover?

The recipe possibilities were endless. I could make Bavarian cream in a Jello mold. I would first, of course, have to locate a Jello mold.

An assortment of geometrically-shaped nibbles, perhaps?

Or how about corn bread with asparagus and cheese sauce on top? Served with canadian bacon and melon balls on the side, of course.

Maybe a creepy cat cake? Or my all-time favorite: a “Marshmallow Menagerie Cake,” replete with a variety of nightmare-induing marshmallow animals.

I kid, I kid. And although looking at a 40 year old cookbook was loads of sarcastic fun, there are actually some very timeless recipes within those pages that have allowed me to think back to basics. If you’re looking for a classic pot roast, pie crust or coffee cake, Betty is your gal.

Dave, upon flipping through the orange book, set his heart on her “Chocolate Pie Deluxe.” So off I went to try my first Betty Crocker recipe, circa 1969.

It’s a simple refrigerator pie with a filling of chocolate, marshmallow and whipped cream. Of course I had to tweak it a bit: more chocolate (and bittersweet, not milk, as the recipe suggests), dashes of salt here and there to enhance flavors, and some vanilla extract. Not huge changes, but changes nonetheless.

The result? Think of it as chocolate mousse in a graham cracker crust.

Betty had it goin’ on with this one: it’s insanely decadent. I’m glad I used bittersweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate, otherwise I’m afraid it would have been way too sweet.

And can we talk seriously about this crust? It is the most perfect graham cracker crust I have ever made. Her proportions were spot on, the butter-to-graham ratio close to godliness. It baked evenly and held together perfectly.

The mousse-like filling was dense but fluffy, although it left a little to be desired in terms of creaminess. It got me thinking that maybe using marshmallow creme instead of melting marshmallows might make a less gritty filling, but don’t quote me on that.

Overall, this flashback is a keeper. It may not have the nostalgia of a Jello mold or the intrigue of the Marshmallow Menagerie Cake, but it’s rich chocolate dreaminess is sure to stand the test of time.

And Mom, I’ve put your cookbook back. I know that the second you got home you were just itching to make an Olive Surprise Roast. I didn’t want to deprive you of that.

-RDG

Chocolate Pie Deluxe, adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

Makes one 9″ pie.

  • Graham cracker crust (see below)
  • 16 large marshmallows or 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 12 oz good quality chocolate (I like Ghiradelli 60% Cacao for a richer, less sweet flavor)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c chilled whipping cream

Melt marshmallows, milk, chocolate and salt over a double boiler, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and chill until thickened.

Whip cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared crust. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or until set.

Graham Cracker Crust, adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

Makes one 9″ pie crust.

  • 1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in butter and mix with a fork until crumb mixture is evenly moistened. Press into pie plate and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.



apple blue cheese puffs

Some recipes are invented out of pure irritation. I get a little miffed at myself when I don’t use up things that I purchased, forget about something in the back of the cupboard, or neglected that zucchini for too long. This week an entire crisper full of Spartan apples have been glaring at me from their chilled plastic drawer, taunting me. You said you would find a way to use 25 pounds of apples “no problem,” remember? Ha. This lady wouldn’t know what to do with an apple if a recipe bit her in the ass.

The fact that my ingredients talk to me is only part of the problem. I’m just damn sick of sweet apple recipes. I’ve been waiting for a savory one to come along and tickle my fancy, but none have. So I set out to make my own, using ingredients that have been driving me nuts. Maybe it was the determination that went into each savory, crispy pocket, or maybe it’s just that these ingredients inherently work well together. Whatever the cause, these little appetizers are keepers.

I started with an apple (only one, but hey, it’s a start), a hunk of blue cheese, walnuts, a sprig of rosemary from the garden, and one sheet of puff pastry thawed from the freezer.

Dice the apples and walnuts, crumble the blue cheese, and mince the rosemary. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Roll out the puff pastry dough and cut into small squares. Fill each square with a little bit of the filling…

…and fold the edges over to make a triangle.

Press the edges together with the tines of a fork.

Before baking, lightly brush with a beaten egg mixed with a little water.

I enlisted help for this part. She loves lending a hand in the kitchen, or as Lucy calls it, “hot cookin!”

After a short time in the oven, they’re puffed, crisp, and ready to eat. 

A little of the blue cheese may leak out during cooking, and that’s okay. It’ll just form a little crispy layer of cheese on the bottom of the puff. The apples cook slightly in the oven, melding them with the cheese and nuts.

I love biting into these little puffs and finding the light crunch of the walnuts, the creamy blue cheese, and the slightly sweet apple. I’ll make them again soon, maybe to serve before Thanksgiving dinner. Let’s hope my apples are no longer yelling at me by then.

-RDG

Apple Blue Cheese Puffs

Puff pastry can be found in most grocery stores in the freezer aisle, two sheets to a box. It usually needs to thaw for about 40 minutes before you can work with it, so plan accordingly. A slightly tart apple works best. Yields 25 puffs.

  • 1 c chopped apple (from approximately 1 medium apple)
  • 1/2 c crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp fresh minced rosemary
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine the apple, blue cheese, walnuts and rosemary in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry dough into a 14×14″ square. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough 5 times horizontally and 5 times vertically to form 25 squares, about 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ each. Fill each square with a rounded 1/2 tbsp of the filling, then fold the edges over to create a triangle. Press the edges of the pastry together with the tines of a fork. Repeat for each puff.

Place puffs on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (greased or sprayed is fine too). In a bowl, beat the egg together with the water. Lightly brush the top of each puff with the egg mixture. Bake one sheet at a time for 12-13 minutes each, until puffs are a light golden brown on top. Let cool slightly before serving.

honey beer bread

Since returning from a short jaunt east of the mountains, I’ve been knee-deep in beer bread. I had a slice at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Wenatchee, Washington, and was unable to sleep until I re-created the recipe. Pregnant palates are mighty picky, and mine needed another slice of that warm, yeasty bread. Several loaves later, I’ve come as close as I can manage.

Lucky for me (and for you), this bread needs no kneading, no rising, and practically no work. If you have 5 minutes, a spare bottle of beer, and a few basic pantry ingredients, you’re all set.

The “moist-makers” (name that show!) include honey, one bottle of beer, butter, and a little club soda.

For the dry stuff: bread flour, baking powder and salt. I never attempted a loaf using all-purpose flour, but I’m sure it would turn out fine.

Pour in the beer, club soda and honey…

…and stir just until the flour mixture is moistened. It will only take a moment, and the dough will be lumpy and not very pretty.

Spread it into a greased 9×9″ pan (don’t poke and prod it too much—the unevenness lends nice texture later on).

Melt half a stick of butter and brush it over the dough…

…and then pour the rest right on in. For the moment it will look like a butter dough swamp, but the oven will quickly remedy the mess.

Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

See? Texture, my friends. Crusty, beer-bready texture. Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack and let cool before slicing and serving.

For the non-incubating crowd, enjoy it alongside a frosty cold one. But for those of us with more than beer bread in the oven, eat it with chili, dip it in soup, pile it high with pastrami and mustard, or simply spread with butter.

I’ve made breads that take hours and days, and very few of them compare to the flavor of this bread. The beer lends a deep yeast flavor, but without all of the kneading and rising that yeast breads require.

Does it taste like beer? Slightly. A lighter beer will provide less flavor than a darker variety. The honey adds a slightly sweet note that works nicely alongside the hops. And all but a teeny, tiny bit of the alcohol bakes off, which means I can enjoy this treat in all of my pregnant glory, even when an actual stein is far out of reach.

-RDG

Honey Beer Bread, loosely adapted from this recipe from Epicurious

Yield: one 9×9″ loaf of bread.

  • 4 c bread flour
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 12 oz bottle or can of beer
  • 1/2 c club soda
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c (4 tbsp) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Pour in the beer, club soda and honey. Stir just until moistened—the dough will be lumpy and sticky.

Spread into a greased 9×9″ pan. Brush the dough with melted butter and pour the remaining butter on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack to cool before serving.

foodbuzz 24 x 24: a healthy halloween

When I was young, my cousin and I would, at his insistence, spread out our trick-or-treating loot on his bedroom floor. I would trade him my Mambas for his Starbursts, his Milk Duds for my Sugar Babies. He would then proceed to consume the entire haul in the course of a few days while I would stash mine under my bed, removing one piece at a time for the next year. Sometimes I would forget about the bag altogether. I’ve never been much of a candy person.

As my daughter grows of the age where trick-or-treating and candy consumption will become an inevitability, I wonder what mind she’ll be of when she walks in the door with that heavy sack of treats. I want her to enjoy Halloween—it’s a time of the year when the mood lightens, kids are given permission to be someone else for a while, neighbors open their doors. What I don’t want her to learn is that this holiday, like many others in the grand ole USA, should be about stuffing one’s face with tons of junk.

That’s why when the opportunity came about to participate in this month’s Foodbuzz 24×24 challenge, I leapt feet first into creating a healthy Halloween meal for kids. Ghosts and ghouls need more than sugar and candy, and you can still make the day a memorable one for kids with fun, healthy foods that taste great. At least then when you send them out for trick-or-treating, you know that their tummies will be full of good things. At least you tried.

So last Saturday for our Foodbuzz 24×24 meal, Lucy’s best pals came over for a Halloween lunch. On the spooky menu: Tomataaah! Soup, Ghoulfish, and Scream Crackers spread with creamy pumpkin butter.

For the Ghoulfish, I took the concept of the classic kid’s fish cracker and turned it into one made with natural ingredients. They contain (gasp!) real cheddar cheese and whole wheat flour. I cut them into fun bat and ghost shapes and served them in tiny personal pumpkins that the kids loved to carry around the party.

They were crunchy, cheesy, and the kids gobbled them right up.

Even our resident fireman thought they were crunch-tastic.

Our scary soup stemmed from my earlier take on the classic red-canned soup (minus the high fructose corn syrup and preservatives), decorated simply with piped sour cream to create spiderwebs. I think soups are a perfect way to stuff some vegetables into toddlers. They can drink it lukewarm though a straw, or poured into their favorite sippy cup.

Dorothy thought the Tomataaah! Soup was a scream.

And finally for a little something sweet, I re-created the all time kid favorite: graham crackers. It’s a simple recipe consisting of butter, whole wheat flour and brown sugar, but the results are tastier than anything you can buy in the store. Cut into fun shapes, they’ll fly off the plate. I used a 3″ pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter, but you could also cut them into the classic rectangular shape.

As a spread I created some creamy pumpkin butter, which the adults adored and the kids licked off the crackers. Plus (bonus!) it sneaks another vegetable into the mix.

Before leaving on his next mission to space, our NASA engineer fueled up on these puppies.

And then he put on some pink cowgirl boots and climbed into the space shuttle.

Our healthy Halloween lunch was such a fun success. Thanks to Foodbuzz for the opportunity to host this event and create these recipes. A big thank you to my friends who put up with my crazy food blogging endeavors and only laugh at me occasionally. Thank you to my adorable husband Dave who cleaned and kid-wrangled all morning.

But most of all, thanks to Dorothy, Fireman, Sheriff, Hockey Player, Astronaut and my daughter Lucy (who tantrumed her way out of her Baby Gaga costume). You kids inspire me to make the world a better place for you to eat. I hope that someday you’ll be trading candy with each other on the bedroom floor. Just don’t eat in all in one day.

Happy Halloween!

-RDG

Ghoulfish: Cheese Crackers

Think of these as a much tastier version of Goldfish. If your child is picky about how they look, use all white flour or consider adding a few drops of orange food coloring. Yield: 90-100 1-1 1/2″ crackers.

  • 1/2 lb (8 oz) medium or sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • several turns freshly ground pepper
  • 5-6 tbsp whole milk

Pulse cheese in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the flours, parmesan, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. With the food processor running, add milk one tablespoon at a time, stopping when dough just comes together into one large ball.

Separate dough into thirds. Roll out each piece between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper to 1/8″-1/4″ thickness. Refrigerate sheets of dough for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a 1-1 1/2″ cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes (if you don’t have a very small cookie cutter, consider cutting them into 1″ squares with a sharp knife). Bake in batches of 30-35 for 13-15 minutes until crackers have puffed and edges are becoming golden brown. Let cool before serving.

Tomataaah! Soup: Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

The type of milk you use will determine the creaminess of the soup (whole=very creamy, nonfat=not very creamy). When you’re shopping for the tomato sauce and paste, make sure you select varieties with the simplest ingredients possible. The soup will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator and freezes well. Yield: approximately 5 cups, or 4-5 servings.

  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt plus more to taste
  • 2 cups milk

Stir together the first 6 ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Bring just to simmer, then slowly pour in the milk. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Bring back to a simmer (or just to your desired serving temperature) and remove from heat. Slurp and enjoy.

Scream Crackers: Graham Crackers

These sweet treats lie somewhere between a cookie and a cracker. They’re great cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters or formed into rectangles like the store-bought version. If you don’t have apple cider, or don’t want to buy a whole jug for just 4 tablespoons worth, simply substitute water.  Makes 30-40 3″ crackers.

  • 1 c all purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c wheat germ (“natural raw” or “untoasted”)
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4-5 tablespoons apple cider

Pulse dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with steel blade attachment. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. With the food processor running, add apple cider one tablespoon at a time, stopping when dough just comes together into one large ball.

On a floured surface, divide dough into thirds. Roll out dough into a 1/8″-thick sheet, adding more flour when necessary to prevent sticking. Cut into desired shapes (I used a 3″ pumpkin cookie cutter) and pierce each shape a few time with the tines of a fork. Repeat with remaining dough and scrap dough.

Bake 8-10 crackers at a time on a parchment-lined baking sheet (don’t crowd the pan too much or the crackers will not bake evenly) in a preheated 350F oven for 10-12 minutes, until edges begin to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Creamy Pumpkin Butter

“Butter” is really a misnomer for this type of dish—it’s more like a spread or a jam. It’s delicious spread on crackers or cookies, as a dip for apples, and would even be tasty as a cake filling. Canned it makes a great gift. Yield: 2 cups pumpkin butter.

  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c apple cider
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 whole cloves
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir well. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring often to prevent burning, until all visible liquid has disappeared and mixture is thick, about 7-10 minutes. Remove cloves. Let cool before serving.