Papas Con Chile (Mexican Mashed Potatoes)

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Nearby to my house, there’s a Mexican restaurant that serves these awesome mashed potatoes as a side to their dishes. Suffice it to say, they are positively addicting. They are creamy, and cheesy, but still a little crunchy with the addition of finely chopped veggies. Also, I’ve never seen these potatoes anywhere else, so it makes me wonder if they are truly Mexican. Oh well. They are delicious, and that’s all that matters.

I will warn you though: these definitely aren’t diet friendly. But hey, we all need to splurge some times. And if you balance these potatoes with a salad or fajita veggies on the side, you can have a pretty nutritious and delicious meal. Also, this dish can be thrown together in minutes, which makes it a great side dish for entertaining!

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Papas Con Chile (Mexican Mashed Potatoes)
Serves: 8
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients
3 lbs. red potatoes, washed, with skins on
3 oz fat free cream cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat cream
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
10 oz. Velveeta 2% milk cheese, cubed
Salt, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup green onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp jalapeno, minced

  1. Boil potatoes with skin on until soft.
  2. In a large pot over low heat, add potatoes, cheeses, and creams and mash until cheese has melted. Stir in remaining ingredients until fully incorporated, and heat on low, stirring occasionally, until evenly heated through.

 

 

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Sweet Potato Tikka with Coriander Chutney

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In our family, sweet potatoes always make an appearance at Thanksgiving. My mom would make this amazing whipped sweet potato dish that I loved, but I think she and I were the only ones that actually liked it. My dad wasn’t exactly a fan. Last year, I tried something new, and created a sweet potato dish with an Indian twist, and it was easily the best part of our Thanksgiving meal.

I made these sweet potato tikkas (or patties) again this year, and dad and I had them on Thanksgiving night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday evening, because they were so good. On Saturday, I paired these tikkas with Chole to create a layered, deep flavor profile, and it was the BEST use of leftovers ever. I have a feeling that next year, chole will be included in our Thanksgiving spread. 

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Coriander chutney is a staple in Indian cuisine. If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, they always give a small side green chutney (that’s the coriander chutney) and tamarind chutney (it’s sweeter and maroon in color) with papad/papadum (crispy discs made of black gram). Coriander chutney can be slightly spicy and fairly citrusy and bright. Indians eat coriander chutney with a myriad of dishes, so it’s a fairly useful condiment to know how to make. Of course, you can buy it prepackaged in an Indian grocery store. My dad also likes to make a big batch and then freeze small portions into ice cube trays, so he can defrost little portions as he needs them. Smart guy!

Sweet Potato Tikka with Coriander Chutney
Serves: 6-8 (makes 3-4 patties per person)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
For the Tikka
4 sweet potatoes
⅓ cup finely chopped white onion
1 tbsp. finely grated ginger
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh green chili
2 tbsp. gram flour (chickpea flour/chana besan)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
½ lime
oil, as needed

For the Chutney
1/2 clove garlic
1 green chili
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 cups fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1-2 tablespoons water
Salt, to taste

  1. For the Tikkas: Put sweet potatoes in pot and fill with water. Cover and boil on high heat for approximately 30 minutes or until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork without resistance.
  2. Set potatoes aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes with your hands and put into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher.
  3. In the meantime, mix ginger, garlic, cilantro and chili until a coarse paste is formed.
  4. Add onions, seasonings, garlic-ginger paste, flour, lime and breadcrumbs to potatoes. Mash and mix until well-incorporated.
  5. For the Chutney: blend all ingredients until smooth.
  6. Heat oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Using your hands, form 2-inch wide patties from the potato mixture.
  7. Cook tikkas for about 4 minutes, or until brown, then flip and repeat. Serve warm with coriander chutney.

Caramelized Onion Gravy

Gravy is one of those things that vegetarians usually don’t get to enjoy. It almost always has chicken or beef or turkey or some other meat stock, and it’s truly upsetting to me. I mean, my potatoes often go naked! I mean, I guess it’s not a bad thing all the time, because I sometimes use straight up butter as a makeshift gravy, and that’s okay with me. But every Thanksgiving, I make gravy.

For my family, making gravy is tough. Most vegetarian gravies are made out of mushrooms because they are the “meatiest” vegetarian option, but my dad hates mushrooms. I don’t know why, but I can understand it, I guess. Anyway, every year I have to make onion gravy, which is easy to make but so easy to mess up. But here’s a simple and flavorful recipe of buttery, salty, creamy, vegetarian gravy. Serve this up with my Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes! 🙂

Caramelized Onion Gravy

Serves: 16
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon plus 4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. With the heat on low, melt one tablespoon of the butter in a small or medium saucepan.
  2. Increase heat to medium, and add the onion. Cook the onion 10 – 15 minutes, until it is caramelized.
  3. Remove as much of the onion as possible from the saucepan (don’t rinse out the pan though!)
  4. Keeping the heat on medium, add the remaining four tablespoons of butter and the four tablespoons of flour.
  5. Cook the roux (the butter and flour), stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes.
  6. Add back the onions, then stir in the two cups of vegetable broth.  Continue stirring over medium heat until the gravy starts to boil.
  7. Lower heat to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally until the gravy becomes thick and smooth.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes

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Confession: I am and have always been and forever will be addicted to mashed potatoes. I’m fairly convinced that the poofy clouds that I imagine are in heaven are actually made of mashed potatoes, and each bowl of earthly mashed potatoes is hand delivered by angels. Okay, that might be dramatic, but my love for potatoes, and especially mashed potatoes, is real.

When I was a kid, one of the first things I learned to “make” for myself was instant mashed potatoes. You know, those dehydrated potato flakes that come in a box? Yeah, those. I’d make them just about every weekend, sometimes twice a weekend, and sometimes even during the week. I was a pretty unhealthy child, okay, what’s it to you? Anyway, as you probably know by now, I was an insanely picky eater, so when I liked something, it was miraculous and my mother let me just run with it. Mashed potatoes are my jam, so I’ve spent the better part of the last 25 years running with it.

In more recent years, I have outgrown the strangely-lumpy-yet-soupy texture of boxed mashed potatoes. Fortunately for my waistline, real mashed potatoes are much more time consuming, so I don’t make them that often, but when I do, you best believe that I savor every. last. bite. Also, there are scant any leftovers. Every. Last. Bite. Remember?

Mashed potatoes are a great blank canvas, and a staple Thanksgiving food. In previous years, I’ve added different vegetables, herbs, garlic, cheeses, sour cream, and different ratios of cream and butter. This year, I tried something different — cream cheese. And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but my dad and I agreed that these were the best potatoes in the history of our family’s Thanksgiving dinners. Success! This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman, but I of course made some modifications. I also served this with Caramelized Onion Gravy.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Serves: 8-10
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
1&1/2 sticks Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2 cup (to 3/4 Cups) cream
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste

  1. Boil potatoes in a pressure cooker until 4-5 whistles have gone off. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into large pieces. Place potato pieces into a large pot over low heat. Mash with a potato masher.
  2. Turn off the stove and add butter, cream cheese and cream to potatoes and mash again.
  3. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, and heat potatoes on low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until warmed through. Serve hot with my Caramelized Onion Gravy.

Lemon Potato-Cilantro

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When I was little, my parents used to take my brother and me to their favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, and I would cry and cry and cry. Really, the only parts of the restaurant that I liked were the ceiling lamps that looked like Smarties chocolates and the 7-layer chocolate cake. Somehow, I always worked my parents over and they allowed me to eat cake for dinner if I ate half an order of hummus. It was a pretty okay deal, in retrospect.

Since then, a lot has changed. I still find hummus to be of a weird texture, and unless it’s super creamy and rich, I can’t jump on the hummus-is-the-best-ever superfood bandwagon that seems to be popular right now. But, I have grown to like more Middle Eastern foods beyond chocolate cake.

One dish at our local Middle Eastern literally makes me salivate just at the thought: potato cilantro. It’s incredibly simple in its ingredients: just potatoes and cilantro, as the name suggest, with lemon juice, garlic, oil and salt. But the flavors are complex and varied, creating this juicy-yet-creamy combination that is just divine. This dish makes for a perfect side dish to falafel or kebabs, or if you’re like me and you make a huge portion, a meal!

Lemon Potato-Cilantro
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
4 large Russet potatoes, washed, dried and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (peeling is optional)
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped, and stems discarded
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Toss potatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt until potatoes are completely and evenly coated. Arrange cubed potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer, and bake for 8 minutes. Flip, and bake for 6 more minutes, or until the tops are brown and crispy, and the potatoes can be pierced with a fork with no resistance.
  3. In the meantime, heat remaining oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Add garlic and saute until slightly fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add chopped cilantro to the saute pan, and saute until wilted.
  5. Reduce heat medium-low and add lemon juice and remaining salt (or more, to taste) and simmer, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens slightly.
  6. Remove potatoes from the oven, and add to saute pan. Stir lemon “sauce” and potatoes until potatoes are completely coated. Serve hot.

 

Corn Nu Shaak

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As a little girl, I would cry whenever my mom made Indian food for dinner. And not just cry — I would sit at the table for hours and hours, sobbing with each bite my mother made me eat, refusing every step of the way. My poor parents. I sometimes wonder why they put up with me at the dinner table.

Nowadays, I am kind of obsessed with Indian food, and I try to make my own. I’m not nearly as talented as my mom was, or my aunt and grandma are, but I’m slowly understanding the ins and outs of Indian cooking. The most intimidating part of Indian cooking isn’t the actual cooking — it’s the lengthy list of ingredients that precedes each recipe, ingredients that are half in English and half in my family’s language, Gujarati. Many years ago, my aunt, Swatimasi, gave my mom a beautiful handmade cookbook with pressed flowers on the cover, and earthen colored pages. The recipes are beyond delicious, and as I scanned each page (after Swatimasi translated certain words for me), I realized, Indian food isn’t actually that difficult. It takes a little practice to get it right, but once you nail the basics down, it’s simple to just throw a meal together in a snap.

I recently was craving my favorite Indian vegetable dish which consists of spiced okra (bhinda nu shaak), but alas, I couldn’t find okra anywhere. I decided to keep the recipe the same, but substitute corn instead. There are vegetable dishes (also known as shaak or subzi/subji) that involve corn, but none of them are my favorite and tend to involve a lot of tomato. I wanted the base flavors of my bhinda, but with corn instead. I used my rice cooker to cook up some fluffy basmati rice, and made a nice big bowl of Gujarati Khadi (warm, tangy, spiced yogurt soup — recipe coming soon), and served everything up with a generous portion of nostalgia.

Corn nu Shaak
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (see notes):
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1-1/2 cup frozen yellow corn
1/4 tsp dhana jeera powder (ground cumin and ground coriander blend)
a pinch of asafoetida
A pinch of turmeric
A pinch of red chili powder or cayanne pepper powder, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
1/4 Tbsp lemon juice

  1. In a medium sauce pan with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Test heat of oil by dropping one cumin seed in — if the oil begins to sputter, then it is ready. Add cumin and mustard seeds and saute for about a minute.
  2. Add corn, dhana jeera, and asafoetida, and stir well to coat corn evenly.
  3. Once the corn is no longer frozen in the pot, add turmeric, red chili powder and salt. Mix well and lower stove heat slightly. Cover for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add lemon juice, and mix. Serve hot with chapathi, rice, daal, and/or kadhi.

Notes:
Some of these ingredients may seem slightly foreign to you, but fear not! Every ingredient can be found in a specialty Indian or Asian grocer, and most can be found in Whole Foods, World Market, or a specialty spice store.

Dhana jeera can be purchased as a blend in Indian markets; however, you can always buy ground coriander and ground cumin separately, and mix your own blend.

If you haven’t cooked with asafoetida, here’s a warning: it smells insane and mostly unpleasant. But once cooked, it adds great flavor to a dish. A little goes a long way with this one!

Baked Cauliflower and Avocado Mash

My best friend, Elena, came over last night for dinner and to take lovely photos with her fancy camera of my food. How lucky am I to have such a generous friend! We spent the night laughing and “hashtag”ing everything a la celebrity BFFs Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake (see below for the video!).

As a side dish, I wanted to experiment with this wonderful head of cauliflower that I bought from the farmer’s market this week. I knew I wanted something creamy, especially since the Spaghetti Squash “Mac” and Cheese screamed “comfort food.” I figured an avocado, with all its green, creamy goodness would be a great addition to the dish!

Baked Cauliflower and Avocado Mash
Serves: 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
Cooking spray
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 avocado, cubed
3 Tbsp lowfat Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, shaved and divided
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a baking dish.
  2. Rinse and drain cauliflower, and place into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a microwave-safe lid or plate. Microwave on high for approximately 5 minutes, or until very tender. Set aside to cool.
  3. In the meantime, spray a saute pan lightly with cooking spray. Saute garlic and onions on medium-high heat until soft and translucent. Remove from heat.
  4. Combine cauliflower and avocado in a large bowl. Using a fork or potato masher, mash and combine the cauliflower and avocado.
  5. Stir in garlic and onions, Greek yogurt, 2 Tbsp Parmesan, crushed red pepper and salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  6. Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

SONY DSCPhotography by Elena Irizarry