This time of year, we think more about staying inside our warm houses and enjoying a home-cooked meal. But sometimes it's hard to think of things to prepare for dinner night after night, especially when you're trying to use up things you have on hand.
Potatoes are a staple food in my family's winter diet. They're inexpensive, easy to prepare, and there are so many different things that you can do with them. Even though my husband sometimes complains, "potatoes again?!" when we've had them in some shape or form for dinner every night for a week, I still manage to come up with new and different ways to serve them. I personally never get tired of eating them.
Potatoes are very versatile in that you can serve them as a main course, side dish, or appetizer. They also freeze very well, so you can prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them for later use. One easy meal to prepare is a simple potato soup base consisting of potatoes, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and milk or water. You can add flour to thicken it up if you wish, or I add cream of mushroom soup to give it a richer flavor. From there you can add whatever you wish to create a meal your family is sure to enjoy. I often add clams for an easy-to-make clam chowder, ham, or corn and bacon for corn chowder. There is no end to the possibilities you could come up with. Served with fresh homemade bread, you can't beat the feeling of comfort a bowl of potato soup brings on a cold winter's day.
Potato Soup Base
Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and garlic, cooking until soft. Add potatoes and enough water to barely cover the potatoes. Cook, covered, until potatoes are tender (15 to 20 minutes). In a medium-sized bowl, mix together soup and milk. Pour soup mixture into potato mixture and stir. Heat but do not boil. Season to taste.
Parmesan Potato Casserole
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, mix Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs; set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, combine mashed potatoes, cream cheese, eggs, onion, and flour. Beat with a mixer on low speed until blended. Beat at high speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add salt and pepper. Pour potato mixture into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with bread crumb/Parmesan cheese mixture. Bake for 35 minutes.
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of five. For recipes, cleaning tips, gardening, frugal living, holiday hints, and more, visit her site and sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.creativehomemaking.com
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