Recipe: Twice Baked Wine Potatoes

As promised, here is the recipe for my favorite Twice Baked Wine Potatoes.  I have been making these for quite awhile now.  I alter the recipe each time, depending on the flavor blend I want to have for the meal it might accompany, so it really does work for so many meals.  I’m sharing the basic idea, but please feel free to adjust and play with the recipe to suit your own family’s tastes and preferences.

I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe.  NOTE:  the number of potatoes you bake depends on how many servings you want in the end, but for the two of us, I tend to bake three potatoes so I end up with six small twice-baked potatoes.  Feel free to bake your potatoes however you like, but I typically will cut a small slice in the side of the potato (this will end up being the start of my cut to slice each potato in half) and bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Once the potatoes are cooked, I remove them from the oven (remember that they’re hot, so use oven mitts so you don’t burn your fingers) and slice them in half, lengthwise.  Using the oven mitts and a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato and collect it in a bowl large enough to mix any/all ingredients.  NOTE: If you want to use a mixer for this part, you can put all your potato innards into your mixing bowl… I just like the more rustic feel I get from using a hand masher, similar to one my mom used to use.TwiceBakedWinePotatoes

Once you’ve scooped out all the potato skins, your cooking fun begins!  For the recipe pictured here, I first added the following ingredients:  shredded cheese, one egg, a spoonful of margarine, some great tasting white wine,  and a wedge of Laughing Cow lite cheese.  Once I mashed these together, I needed to adjust the seasonings so I added a spoonful of Greek yogurt, salt, and some freshly ground pepper.  NOTE:  I have used a spoonful of Bourcin Cheese on occasion and this has also been a great addition.  The egg can be omitted, but I find that it adds a touch of richness to the final product that is otherwise lacking.  Feel free to use a Fat-Free Egg Substitute if you prefer, but using only the egg whites won’t produce the same texture – experiment with your favorite ingredients on this one.

Once the mashed potato mixture is to your liking (make sure to taste this part), I use a small cookie scoop to fill the potato skins so I know that I’m filling everything evenly.   You can simply line up the filled potato skins onto a baking sheet, but I have found that I really like to place the potato skins into a muffin tin and fill them inside so they don’t end up rolling off to the side and are easy to store until you’re ready to bake them.   I’m one of “those” people who thinks about dinner early in the day, so if I have the completed Twice Baked Potatoes sitting in my fridge for the day, it’s so much simpler to have them contained in a muffin tin.

NOTE:  This is a recipe that you could easily double and make over the weekend – freeze anything you don’t want to use right away and then you have a perfectly simple side dish available for any night of the week!  I’m a huge fan of “make-ahead” foods that can be stored in the freezer.

To bake these little darlings, just pop them into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until they’re cooked through and lightly browned on top.  I love the crispiness of the potato skin and think that it’s a wonderful complement to any meal.  I’ve served it with BBQ chicken, steak, lobster, shrimp, burgers… almost anything looks fancier when you put these out as your side dish!

Hope you’ll try this and see just how easy it is to make such a fun side dish… our family loves them and I’m sure yours will too!

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Recipe: Red Mashed Potatoes

Yes, this is a strange way to use wine, but I was curious.  I had time on my hands, two potatoes, and some red wine… so what else was I to do, but to try out this recipe?RedMashedPotatoes

I started with two potatoes, a small amount of crushed garlic, about a cup of James River Cellars Hanover Red wine, and some herbs de provence.  I diced the potatoes into even cubes, added them along with the garlic and the herbs into a small saucepan, and then poured in the wine to almost cover the potatoes.  I cooked the potatoes in the wine until much of the wine had been absorbed.  NOTE: Next time, I think I’ll add a small amount of chicken stock along with the wine… the potatoes didn’t cook quite as much as I would have liked before the wine was absorbed.

Once the potatoes were ready, I mashed them until they were fairly smooth before adding a touch of margarine and some milk to turn this into a rather unique side dish.  NOTE: I wasn’t thrilled with the final purple color – next time, I think I’ll smash the potatoes and then just add a little butter, to allow the red and white colors to show through.  When the potatoes were totally mashed, they turned purple…. before that, they were really pretty.  I might even just toss the cooked potatoes with a small bit of olive oil and roast a touch so the colors don’t change.

Sometimes we all have “less than favorite” final results when trying out a recipe.  I wanted to post this so you know that we’re all in that same boat.  I have the occasional flop, just like everyone else… the idea is to learn from any mistakes and keep trying.

Enjoy the journey and keep cooking!

Crock Pot Recipe: Pork Roast

This recipe was so ridiculously easy that I’m almost embarrassed to post it… almost.  I was on the schedule to work earlier this week and decided to through a few things in my crock pot to see how dinner would turn out.  The meal was filling and flavorful, just what I needed after a busy day, but it came together so simply that I just had to share it with you.

CrockpotPork

I found (literally… my husband defrosted our freezer over the weekend) a lovely 2-3 pound pork loin that needed to be used and decided to be a bit creative in what I was making that evening.  To the bottom of the crock pot, I layered 2 sliced onions, 1 sliced apple, 1/2 cup James River Cellars Rad Red, and 1/2 cup James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay.  I un-bagged the pork loin, placed it on top of the vegetables, seasoned it with garlic salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.  I realized that I wouldn’t have time to cook and make mashed potatoes, so I popped 4 small potatoes in the same pot and cooked everything on low for 6-8 hours.  By the time I got home, the house smelled amazing!

Adding the finishing touches on dinner was fairly simple.  I pulled the potatoes out and mashed them in a bowl.  I added some of the liquid (along with the cooked veggies) from the pot to the potato mixture to smooth everything out, then added a touch of margarine (or butter), salt, and pepper before serving.  I sliced the pork, which honestly was falling apart at this point, and served dinner in under 15 minutes after my arrival home.  It was simple, tasty, and satisfying… three things that I look for when trying to come up with a work-night recipe.

I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe or a variation thereof… making dinner doesn’t have to be a huge production… it can be as easy as thinking ahead.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Simple Shepherd’s Pie

Maybe I’m just strange, but I really love the challenge of making a totally new meal out of leftovers from a previous meal.  Such was the case with how this dinner came about.

I made shredded beef sandwiches for dinner on Sunday night and, since I used a large London Broil, had lots of cooked beef left over.  I was coming up with lots of different ways to use this meat but the decision was made for me when I got a huge response from my guys when I suggested making a Shepherd’s Pie.  Unfortunately, for me, my husband’s idea of a Shepherd’s pie was “meat, peas, gravy, potatoes”, so that became my recipe.

The first thing I did was start making the mashed potatoes by dicing a few potatoes and putting them into a pot of water to boil.  While they cooked, I layered the beef in a casserole dish and topped it with frozen peas.  Now all I needed to do was make a gravy so dinner wouldn’t just be dry beef and cooked peas.

Making a gravy is so much easier if you start with the cooking liquid of the meat you’re using – it adds flavor without having to rely on bouillon packets.  Sadly, I totally forgot to reserve the liquid after dinner on Sunday, so I had to start from scratch.  Not my favorite way to do things, but not a huge deal.  I have learned to love making gravy, so it’s always a fun creative way to add my own little touch to dinner.  I always start with a roux…. equal parts butter (fat) and flour, simmered long enough to cook off the raw flour taste.  Liquid is the next ingredient.  I typically stick with the idea of using red wine for beef dishes and white wine for chicken or fish dishes, but this is definitely something I don’t mind mixing up.  For this gravy, I used a packet of beef bouillon, water, and James River Meritage red wine (‘cuz that’s what was in my fridge… I could have just as easily found James River Merlot or a random Pinot Noir from a recent trip to the Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival).   I seasoned the gravy with salt and pepper, and let it simmer a bit until it was thick enough.  I then poured the gravy over the beef/peas already layered in the casserole dish and got to work on making mashed potatoes.ShepherdsPie

Please know… if you prefer using instant mashed potatoes, this meal will be just as tasty.  I’m not really a purist that has to make homemade mashed potatoes anytime I need them… I just don’t have any instant potato flakes in my pantry.  Who knows… I might have used them instead.  Honestly, I tend to make mashed potatoes often enough that I almost always have potatoes available in my pantry, so it’s just easier to make them rather than search for a packet of the instant stuff.

For my homemade mashed potatoes, I use an old potato masher that my mom gave me instead of using my electric mixer – I like the chunky feel of the finished product better than the more whipped consistency I get when I put everything into my KitchenAid mixer.  I use varying amounts of margarineLaughing Cow light original cheesea touch of horseradish, salt, pepper, and maybe some milk.  It really depends on my mood when I’m cooking, so using The Force really comes into play on this recipe.   Once the mashed potatoes are finished, I spooned them on top of the casserole, sprinkled a bit of paprika for color, and then popped the casserole into the oven.  After 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven, this dinner is ready for the troops to dig in.

Feel free to experiment with this recipe to make your own family happy – if they like cooked carrots, feel free to add them.  Want a whole mess of veggies?  Go ahead!  Want to swap out the beef for chicken or a vegetarian option you like?  Try it!  There’s no “dinner police” who will come by and take your food from you, so enjoy coming up with your own options on this recipe.  I just like the tastes of beef, peas, and mashed potatoes all baked into a sublime concoction that makes my family happy.

Ultimately, that’s the goal… make something that will feed your family and keep a smile on their faces.  My heart is full every time my guys declare a “winner”… may you have the same experience with your dinners!