When one thinks of comfort food, 1st thought often mentioned are potatoes.

They are boiled, fried, scalloped, baked, hashed, diced. You see where I’m going?. Potatoes are not necessarily bad for you. They can even be good for you. I know, you say, “but my diet limits or denies” this wholesome, delicious member of the nightshade family. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like them. The great thing about potatoes is that they keep for a very long time, if stored properly.

Potatoes originated in the New World. It is recorded that the Spaniards found potatoes in Peru in 1524. After that it spread to Southern Chile, Belgium, Germany and into France thereafter. It is not known when they were introduced into the continental US other that somehow brought from Ireland into Londonberry, NH in 1719. They were not accepted for a long while, but Canada jumped on the wagon back in 1623, when a small patch growing in a tiny square, gifted from the Captain of an English trading ship, grew curiosity and this humble beginning became one of Canada’s most important crop still to this day. The top producing state today in America, which also bears the slogan “Famous Potatoes” is Idaho.

Potatoes are a food staple in almost every country in the world. For example, statistics from the US Potato Board (from 2013), states there was more than 1.4 million acres of potatoes planted and harvested to produce 437 Billion pounds of them. We, on the average, each eat about 124 pounds per year, where as in Germany they eat twice as much.

The word “potato” comes from the Spanish/Tainos Indian name “Patata”. It’s also referred to as “spuds.” The “spud” word comes from the digging tool used in planting them. So like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, they are not root vegetables. Today they are one of about 100 species, named because its growth, the potato actually is the swollen part of the stem of the perennial “Solanum Tuberosum”, anchored on the tubers which feeds food to the large leaf part of the plant.

Potatoes are in fact pretty low in calories, a medium size potato contains about 110 calories. It is a great source of Vitamin C, B6, manganese, niacin and pantothenic acid. They are considered a starchy carb only because they contain little protein. In all reality they are stuffed with boatloads of phytonutrients which are an organic element of plant thought to promote health…Hmmm…

We all know Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant which can help prevent or delay some type of cell damage in your body. Potatoes, because of their nutrient components are said to help with digestion, heart health, blood pressure, and even assist in cancer prevention. It makes you wonder why potatoes get such a bad rap.

Potatoes actually have more potassium than a banana, and with the help of the B6, it all works together to create useful brain chemicals which could enhance learning and help with memory. It’s a win-win situation for athletes, potatoes actually help restore electrolyte balance reducing cramps. The combination of all this good stuff helps keep your skin glowing and smooth, and eating potatoes keeps you fuller longer, therefore you are not snacking as much.

There are throws of variety of potatoes, but not all are commercially available. Our popular varieties include Russet, red, white, yellow, purple/blue, fingerling and petites. Not all potato crop is sold for food. Less than 50% grown are consumed fresh. Slightly over 10% of the crops gets lost due to “Shrinkage and Loss”, this accounts for normal water weight loss, decay, bruising, sprouting and diseases, storage and production cost. The rest have many uses not just as a vegetable for cooking purposes but also as ingredients for feed for cattle, pigs and chickens, some are processed as starch for industry uses as in adhesives, processed meats, used as a texturizer, some as potato food products for eating, and many are reused as seed tubers for the following growing season.

There are many ways to cook and enjoy them, but there is a healthiest way to cook potatoes. But what’s a baked potato without all the bells and whistles? Smothering your potato in sour cream and bacon and cheese, sprinkle a few chives on top, if that’s not the way to enjoy that baked potato, what is? I guess you need to use your own judgment, or if you allow yourself just one of those a week, just be smart about it. There is many low-cal or fat free options available. So what’s the best cooking option? Baked, boiled or steamed? The importance of preparing potato is, in actuality its unprocessed form. So baking, maybe even microwaving potato causes the lowest amount of nutrients to be lost. Some people have taken a liking to steaming, that in itself causes less nutrient loss than boiling. Peeling, washing, quartering and getting the water to a boiling point results in significant nutrient loss, all your water-soluble nutrients leak out to bathe in the hot tub.

Have you ever reached into the sack, bag or potato bin and your potatoes are staring at you with eyes ready to sprout? It is recommended you chop those little buggers off before eating as likely they will sprouts. Better yet, take heed, the stems, branches, and leaves are all toxic containing arsenic, chaconine and solanine that even in the smallest amount can make you sick. Green potatoes have been found to have elevated levels of these alkaloids and the US Potato Board (yes, that exist!) recommends “never to eat spoiled, bug eyes or green potatoes”.

I found this recipe in 2017 and it’s part of my collection. These are also known as “Hasselback” potatoes.

Cheese and Garlic butter Potatoes

The potato texture is slightly waxy, smooth, and moist, subtly sweet with a buttery taste.

Yields 8 Servings.

Ingredients

1 ½ # New or small-medium sized potatoes, like a golden yellow, or golden flesh.

¼ cup of melted butter

¼ cup of grated Parmesan

¼ cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

S&P to taste

1 cup of shredded mozzarella

¼ cup of freshly chopped parsley or scallions

Directions Preheat 375*

1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Make small slits in each potato, like an accordion, not cutting through. Place them on the baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, whisk butter, EOO, and garlic. Brush the potatoes with the butter mix. (don’t use it all, you’ll need to repeat this couple times.) Place pan in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until slits are starting to separate and potatoes begin to turn golden. Remove from the oven, brush with more butter mix, sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan on top, bake for another 25 minutes until crispy and deep golden brown on the outside. When finished, remove from the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes, transfer to serving platter, brush with the remaining butter, sprinkle with the chives or parsley to serve.

Burnished Potato Nuggets

Behold a new standard for roasted potatoes. Puck-sized oven fries with a crunchy exterior and a soft and creamy interior. Creamy, you say? Why yes!…The Russet potato texture is floury, dry, light and fluffy with a mild, earthy flavor and medium sugar content.

Ingredients:

5 # Russet Potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into generous 2-3 inch cubes

S&P to taste

½ cup EOO

¼ cup canola oil

8 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

2 fresh sprigs of rosemary

Directions Preheat to 425*

1. Place potatoes in a large pot of water plus 2 inches. Generously add salt, and bring to simmer on med/high. Reduce heat and cook until tender on outside but still firm inside. (8-10 min.)

2. Drain all water out, let potatoes sit uncovered to steam off excess liquids, then toss gently, to “rough” them up~not so they fall apart~Season with S&P.

3. In a large baking pan, combine oils only and heat in oven for 10 minutes. Carefully remove pan from oven, add potatoes turning each one to coat them well. Lay in single layers with little space between them, return to oven and roast turning them over every 15-20 minutes while they brown until crispy. Toss in garlic and rosemary and continue cooking until deep brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer your beauties to a platter and put the garlic and rosemary on top to serve.

Potato Soup

Yield 6-8 servings Prep and cook time: 45-60 minutes

A Senior Social favorite from Scrappy Chef. I’ve simplified it and cut it back so you don’t make gallons of it.

Ingredients:

1.5 # Yukon gold, Red, or new potatoes, diced

5 slices of bacon

3 tbsp. (reserved) bacon grease

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup diced onion

2 large celery stalks, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

4 tsp. of minced garlic

¼ cup of AP flour

2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup whole cream

1 cup milk, warmed

½ cup sour cream

S&P to taste

Directions

1. Heat large stock pot on med/high heat. Add diced bacon and cook until crispy, remove to drain. Reserve 3 tbsp of the grease discarding the rest.

2. Add vegetables and Sautee for 5 minutes, stirring gently. Add garlic, cook 2 more minutes, stir in the flour cooking for 1 more minute. Add stock, stir until mixed, add the potatoes.

3. Bring to a “just” simmer, before it begins to boil, add the milk and cream and cook gently, covered, reduce heat until potatoes are soft, stirring frequently so bottom does not burn. (the smaller you dice the potatoes, the faster it will cook). Once potatoes are cooked, add the yogurt, S&P and bacon bits. Serve warm.

Your thoughts, comments and love are always welcomed. Many thanks for the compliments on my articles. I so enjoy it when you reach out and let me know. Happy fooding and Happy potatoing! [email protected] And the final words, this week are from~Potato Parcel~”If only you knew how mash you mean to me.”~

Scrappy Chef


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