Monday, November 9, 2015

No More Instant Potatoes

     I promised to share with you how I am simplifying my kitchen.  I realize that I touched on the "why" of the whole thing last week, but I want to take just a minute to expand upon that.  I don't want anyone to get the mistaken idea that this began as some grand quest to be a better person or find the perfect solution to humanity's questions about what is really healthy.  I'm just an ordinary housewife who is trying to do the best that I can with what the good Lord has provided.  It really is just as simple as that.

     First, I found a recipe for potato pancakes on All Recipes.  I had tried making potato pancakes in the past and failed miserably.  This particular recipe used instant potatoes and approached them rather differently.  I tried them.  My family liked them.  They were cheap.  Score.  So, I used this recipe for about a year.  Then, a new brand of instant mashed potatoes showed up in my grocery store and it was a tidy little bit cheaper.  Naturally, being on an incredibly tight budget, I decided to save the $.60 on my three bags of instant potatoes.  And that $2.40 purchase changed how I will look at my kitchen forever.

     You have probably guessed already that the potato pancakes were awful.  It made me start thinking about the difference between spending $2.40 or $3.00 on the foundation of the meal I was cooking.  And then it hit me... 8 lb bags of potatoes had been on sale that week for $2.77.  I could make the same meal - fresh from scratch - for the same money and still have 6 lbs of potatoes to spare for the rest of my cooking!  And this is where my quest to simplify my kitchen began. 

     I found the perfect recipe for potato pancakes from scratch.  It turns out that this delightful recipe was right there on All Recipes the whole time.  The joke was on me.  And that was when I started the work of taking my kitchen back to basics.  First stop - potatoes!

     Potatoes are hearty, nutritious, and cheap.  My granny kept her family alive for an entire year feeding them nothing but potatoes during the Great Depression.  True story.  Time for me to take another look-see at potatoes.

     Recently Kroger ran russet potatoes on sale for $.99 for a 5 lb bag.  Wanna see what I can do with these potatoes?

  • First, I made Cheesy Potato Pancakes.  I really dislike when recipes call for a certain number of potatoes - as if they are all the same size.  So, I doubled this recipe and used 2 lbs of potatoes.  This made enough to feed my family of three two meals.  I freeze half of the pancakes and they are delicious leftover another night.  Defrost them in the microwave and then heat the in the oven to get a nice crisp texture on the outside.
Photo from Cheesy Potato Pancakes recipe at

  • Next, I prepared an enormous crockpot of rich, Creamy Potato Soup.  Again with the potato counting.  I counted and eyeballed this one.  Served with grilled cheese sandwiches sounds too simple to be a good meal, but my family loves this on cool autumn nights.  And, again, half of the soup went into a freezer container.  I love keeping leftover soups and stews in the freezer for quick meals.
Photo from Slow Cooker Creamy Potato Soup recipe found at

  • The tricky part with my potato transformation was the french fries.  At Walmart I used to purchase their 32 oz bags of store brand frozen french fries for $1.78.  Now I make my own french fries for so much less.  They are fresh, delicious, and I know exactly what is in them.  The french fry transition was the most difficult for me.  They are difficult to get right.  I finally added a deep fryer to my kitchen appliances and that changed everything.  Now I make my own french fries and pub chips to go with burgers, pork sandwiches, chicken sandwiches and the like.  

  • I make my mashed potatoes from scratch now.  I even tried scalloped potatoes from scratch, but I haven't found that I am exceptionally crazy about them.  When I'm cooking a big breakfast, I toss a couple potatoes in my food processor with a shred blade and whip up some simple hashbrowns to go along with the meal.  

     So, what doesn't work with potatoes?  My personal weakness is tater tots.  I haven't figured out how to replace those yet.  And I have one casserole recipe that calls for tater tots.  My husband and son just love it, so I still cook it.  We aren't starting a kitchen militia here.  No one says we have to be perfect.  I replace with the basics where it makes sense, and I use what I need to use for other recipes.  That's just how it works.  One day I may learn to make fabulous tater tots.  Then again, I may just not bother.  Who knows?

     If potatoes aren't your thing, then look around your kitchen and choose something else that works for you.  I still purchase my pasta in a box.  Maybe someone out there has a pasta maker and wants to learn how to dry their own pasta.  Maybe you don't need to dry it.  I don't know.  I haven't reached that place yet.  I still buy hot dogs from the grocery store.  And I can't justify making my own white bread when I can buy it for $1 per loaf.  This is a personal journey and I would never presume to tell anyone how they should approach it.  I'm just here to share my experience with you.  Please add your own comments about what you have taken (or want to take) back to basics in your kitchen.


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