When the kids lived full time at home, I was on constant red alert to whip up something in the kitchen quick. By the stroke of four (pm), I was usually en garde with a recipe I wanted to try. Sometimes, an impromptu plan brewed and I ended up with more kids than I gave birth to.
“Mom, Paolo’s riding home with us today.”
“Mom, my friends and I are doing group work at home later.”
“Mom, we have a thirty-four head count for Saturday dinner. Four are vegetarians.”
Those were common updates.
Nothing to fear! Mom is here! Coming up with one menu for a combination of carnivores and vegetarians instead of two could be a riddle but I thank God for giving me the joy, energy, as well as staff (Thank you, Manangs!) to help me carry out my ministry of food.
I discovered the streamlining trick of finding common denominators everyone could eat. One of them was potato, popular with practically all the kids since they had active lifestyles.
Two of the standby supplies I kept on hand that could be transformed at the drop of a hat were mashed potato mixes and frozen mini hash browns. My preference is to personally go to my suki in Farmer’s or the local weekend market to handpick my fresh, locally grown potatoes… brush, boil, chop, mash, butter, and whisk them. But when pressed for time, the US mashed and frozen potato kitchen shortcuts are the next best thing; the heightened potato aroma and taste do not disappoint and they have saved me much time and stress!
The frozen mini hash browns are easy to find in the vegetable section’s freezer at Rustan’s Supermarket Rockwell. The mashed potato mixes are in the aisle with the pancake mixes there and at the USA aisle at Ayala The 30th branch. Among the three available varieties I’ve tried, I like Roasted Garlic.
Recipes: US Potato Duchess, Bacon Hash Browns with Brie, Chicken Vegetable Soup, US Potato Quiche Bites, Vegetable Beef Casserole, Mushroom Duchess Pie
Below the US Potato Duchess Recipe are five more
- you can pass off as a one-dish meal/ snack (in case you don’t have time to cook two dishes)
- in a small batch, a relief to not be eating the same food for seven days. It’s a good trial size; you can adjust the recipe to your liking before investing in a big batch.
- cooked in personal-sized dishes. This equals easy portioning; no need to repeatedly or over- heat portions you won’t be eating. Added bonus: leftovers don’t look like leftovers.
- convertible to vegetarian if you substitute the meat with vegetarian ingredients.
You can personalize them using your preferred meat, fish, and vegetables or the fresh seasonal catch and produce which charm you at the market.
Ready? Set? Cook!
4 OZ. US POTATO DUCHESS (Mashed Potato Topping)
If piping US Mashed Potato through a decorating tip/bag, prepare this first so it will be cool to the touch by the time you use it. I use a plastic disposable pastry bag (more sanitary than the old fabric ones). You can make rosettes out of these and bake them alone (375° F oven until edges are golden brown) to use as a side for any meat, fish or vegetable dish. But this can also be used as a more savory version of a mashed potato topping.
Per 4 oz Roasted Garlic Mashed Potato Mix: Substitute the liquid in package directions with 1 1/3 cups water, 3T cream, 2T butter, 2 egg yolks, and add a dash of nutmeg.
Combine liquid ingredients in a saucepan. Add solids. Turn on heat to medium. Meanwhile, whisk until, well-mixed, fluffy, and lump-free. Remove from heat. Set aside.
BACON HASH BROWNS WITH BRIE (6 Mini Hashbrowns)
Use a rack over a roasting tray that allows air circulation to crisp even the bottom of hash browns. Make the bacon overlap longer to allow for shrinkage.
Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
Wrap US Potatoes Frozen Mini Hash Browns with thawed bacon strips. Bake about 20 mins or until hash browns are crispy.
Set the cheese in an ovenproof dish and top with coarsely chopped 2 whole walnuts and pepper to taste. Put in the oven when Hash Brown Timer has 5 minutes to go. Bake cheese 5 minutes or until softened. Drizzle Honey on top before serving.
CHICKEN VEGETABLE SOUP (3-cup serving)
Chicken Soup is known to be the “Jewish Penicillin” for all ailments and healing to the soul. You can improvise your own version after the basics of carrots, celery, and onions. I found some beautiful long beans in the market so I used those. Adding the US potato flakes as a soup thickener makes this more hearty than a consomme but not as heavy as a chowder. You can add small-sized pasta. I used to buy pastas of all shapes… Winnie the Pooh, stars, space ships, alphabet, tennis rackets, or other shapes that my eaters would delight in finding inside their bowls.
A. Debone chicken thigh. Save bone for broth. Chop meat into small uniform pieces. Set aside.
B. Broth Flavorings: Prepare ahead and set aside: Gently tie long Cilantro stalks using one stalk (for easy removal later), 1 bayleaf, slices of 1 small radish.
C. Bean Blanching, if using beans: Make 6 sets of long bean (sitaw) knots (two strands per knot, 2 sets per serving). Trim edges.
Have an ice bath ready to arrest cooking and preserve beans’ texture. Blanch 1.5 minutes for thin or 2 minutes for thick beans. Move beans to ice bath and let rest for 3 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Put 1 Tbsp olive oil in pot. On medium-high heat, add chicken bone and pieces until chicken pieces are cooked on the outside.
Add 35 grams diced carrots, 35 grams diced celery, 70 grams chopped onions, 1 tsp chopped garlic chives (or green onions). Sweat the vegetables until the onions are translucent. Add broth flavorings (Set B above). Add 3 cups water. Increase heat to high until almost boiling. Just before a rapid boil, turn heat to low. Simmer half-covered 10 minutes. Skim out brown foam that forms at the surface. Taste, then adjust as needed. When you are happy with the taste, remove the Cilantro stems, chicken bone, and bayleaf.
Add 1/4 c US Potato Roasted Garlic Mashed Potato mix to thicken the soup. Add the knotted long beans for 1 minute. Put in serving bowls. Garnish with sliced purple cabbage and cilantro.
POTATO QUICHE BITES (12 1-oz. mini-cupcake pan size)
Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C). Line a mini muffin pan (1 oz. size) with paper cups.
A. BACON Crisp around 3 large bacon strips in the preheated oven until golden brown. Cool, coarsely chop to make 1/4 c; Set aside about a dozen pieces for topping.B. Potato Egg Base: Combine 133 grams Mashed Potatoes (using 1/4 of the 4 oz package and following package directions for that quantity), 4 eggs, 2 Tbsp milk. Add pepper.
C. Cheese Filling: Combine 1/8 cup Cheddar and 1/8 c Parmesan Cheese (or whatever cheese you have) with the remaining baked bacon pieces. Add 1/4 cup chopped green onions. Optional: you can add chopped red bell pepper.
Dump and mix A, B, and C (without the bacon topping portion).
Garnish with bacon bits (and optional) red bell pepper before baking. Bake for about 12 minutes or just until the top is set.
Garnish with chopped parsley.————————————–
VEGETABLE BEEF CASSEROLE (3 personal-sized baking dishes)
Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
A. Make ahead 1 Batch 4 OZ. US POTATO DUCHESS (first recipe above). Set aside.
B. Seasoning Sauce: Prepare ahead and set aside:
Mix: 2 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp Better than Bouillon, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp cornstarch (I utilized the Maizena Sauceline in my pantry, the brown powder at bottom center), 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, 2 pieces bayleaf. Combine ingredients well. Taste, then adjust to your liking. To the above, add 2 tsp. sour cream.
Put 2T olive oil in pan. Add 30 grams onions. When translucent, add 7 grams garlic. Add 260 grams lean ground beef and sauté until cooked through. Add 60 grams carrots, 60 grams celery (strings removed); let soften for about 2 minutes. Add 30 grams diced green beans, 40 grams diced red bell peppers, 40 grams diced yellow bell peppers, rosemary leaves (stalk discarded).
Add seasoning sauce (B) just until thoroughly mixed and slightly thickened.
Spoon the filling onto personal-sized ovenproof baking dish(es).
Potato Topping: Prepare a pastry decorating bag with a giant star tip (with the widest opening available to avoid blockages from any possible lumps). Put the mashed potatoes in the decorating bag. Pipe rosettes (round motion) on top of beef -vegetable filling and stars (straight up motion) to close the gaps. [Music: I Rejoice from Women of Faith]
Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes have turned golden brown at the peaks. I found exquisite edible Sorrel Flowers at the market so I used them to garnish this. You can use rosemary sprigs if these are not available.
MUSHROOM DUCHESS PIE (3-4 Individual sized Servings)
Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
B. Sauteed Mushrooms: Put in pan 2T salted butter. Just as it is melting, add 25 grams chopped onions. When transparent, add 5 grams minced garlic. Add the 180 grams sliced mushrooms (1 or any mixed variety; I used 80 grams Shiitake, 70 grams Swiss Brown, 30 grams Oyster).
C. Cheesy Egg Mix: Prepare 55 grams milk. Take about 1 T of the milk into a small bowl and mix in 1t cornstarch (I used 1 t. Maizena Sauceline just because I already had it in my pantry) until no more lumps. Put back with the rest of the milk. Mix in 1 egg plus the 2 extra egg whites from the Potato Duchess Recipe above (Set A).
Add 25 grams Parmesan Cheese, 25 grams Cheddar cheese (or 50 grams total of your preferred cheese). Pepper to taste.
D. Combine: Sauteed Mushrooms (B) and Cheese Egg Mix (C).
Spoon onto your bakeproof serving dish(es).
POTATO TOPPING: Pipe mashed potatoes through a piping bag with a giant star tip (choose one that is not too closed so lumps won’t clog the flow) and decorate the top edges with a scallop design, leaving the center open to show the mushrooms. Top with sliced Shiitake or Swiss Brown mushrooms at the center. [Music: Planetarium from La la Land].
US dehydrated and frozen potatoes are a trusty kitchen helper: flexible in its use for a stand-alone one-dish meal, an easy-to-prepare snack, as a side dish for meats and fish, a filling with sausage in a spring roll, potato pancakes, as a piped garnish for casseroles and pies, soup thickener, and more. Its long shelf life and ease of use makes it a convenient stand-by ingredient for the instances your time to cook is limited but your instant troop’s hunger is not. You may want to grab a few packs on your next grocery trip. You never quite know when you will need a kitchen shortcut quick!
Video Credits: Malu Ortiz (Vegetable Beef Casserole), Kris Young (Sorrel Garnish, Mushroom Duchess Pie)