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.