Leftover mashed potato cakes

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If there are two things you can take away from my cooking style by reading this blog, they are: 1. I enjoy recipes that are tweakable/adaptable/otherwise easy to play with; and 2. It hardly bears repeating, but…potatoes.

It should hardly be surprising, then, that I’m sharing these leftover mashed potato cakes with you. In addition to fulfilling the criteria above, they’re tasty, and they put leftovers to use. So, win/win/win/win.

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Baked spinach.

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My family was sitting around the dinner table one night in the mid ’90s. I was about eight or nine, still young enough to play with my dollhouse, but old enough to start stressing out about things like our house getting burglarized or burning to the ground. (I was a weird kid.) My sister must have been about six, probably missing a couple of her front teeth and generally being adorable.

Our mom had made zucchini for dinner, and neither of us really enjoyed it. I could handle it, but Katie – ever the typical showman youngest child – could. not. even. We were not rude, spoiled monsters, so we obviously did our best to eat stuff we didn’t like, but at that point in time, neither of us had much success conjuring up any enthusiasm. (Currently, we both dig it. THIS IS GROWING UP, KIDDOS.)

My mom asked us – probably in a sarcastic way that was meant to convey one or both of us was being ridiculous about something – what we thought the worst thing god could ever make us do was. I said something probably apropos of my weird, macabre, overly anxious childhood self, like, “Make you kill the people you love.”

Katie, however, was more…well, Katie about it.

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Fathers Day Dinner 2014, and the root of why I love cooking.

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For Fathers Day, my mom and I made dinner for my dad. It’s a running tradition, as my dad loves food and, although he also loves cooking, probably enjoys having someone else do that (and the dishes!) for him.

There’s an excellent butcher in the next town over from them, so they picked up some beautiful veal chops. Dad wanted something with mushrooms and gorgonzola (which I can never pronounce correctly, because Colin like to call it gorGONZOla, because he is a goober).

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Asian roasted potatoes.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Um, Lauren, you already at least a dozen recipes featuring potatoes on here. You have two different recipes for roasted potatoes on here. If you keep this up, you are going to turn into a potato.”

Well, maybe I am. But guys, please. Hear me out. These potatoes are aaaawesooooome. Like, so good. They’re crisp and salty and so full of flavor. It’s probably safe to say that like them as much as the go-to recipe I can’t get enough of. I’ve made them twice in as many weeks, and I already want them again.

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Greek salad couscous.

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I know. I know. It’s been like, three weeks since I last posted. I was away for a week, then I was simultaneously busy and lazy for another week, and now… I’m getting back on track.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that at my old job, I was spoiled by our cafeteria. It was staffed by two very sweet women and one very nice dude, who just so happened to have been trained at the Culinary Institute of America (and shared some recipes with me, which was awesome). There were fresh soups and salads every day, with “deli” sandwich specials and hot meal specials, and everything was delicious, all the time.  This iteration of Greek salad was featured pretty often, sometimes with chickpeas and other times with Israeli couscous. I always made room on my plate for a little scoop of it. I finally got around to buying a canister of Israeli couscous a few weeks ago, and made my own version of it. You should make it too, especially if you have an olive thing. I…have an olive thing. I’m not proud of this, but I ate a whole can of pitted green olives this weekend. I keep buying them with recipe-related intentions, and then I just scarf them all down and wonder how I got here.

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Ginger-lemongrass rice.

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I don’t make rice all that often – for the most part, I only eat it with Chinese food takeout or in sushi rolls. But the other night, I decided that I wanted to make rice with dinner, but I didn’t want it to be plain. Or slathered in soy sauce. Or cheesy. Not that rice in those forms isn’t delicious, but I was looking for something … lighter. Fresher. Do I sound like a fabric softener commercial?

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Baked chili cheese fries.

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I wish my favorite food was something like kale. Or quinoa. Or a green smoothie. Not that I don’t like these things (well, I’ve never actually had a green smoothie. I’ll get there.), but French fries have my heart. This is not a good thing for me – especially with an annual physical coming up (I am certain I’ll be admonished for my mass spud consumption, which will probably show up in my bloodwork because there’s no way that my veins are not full of starch) – but it could be a good thing for you … especially if you’ve been hankering for chili fries but haven’t had a chance to make a pot of chili. And seriously, who’s going to make a pot of chili for the sole purpose of putting them on fries? I mean… you could, but you’d have to make the chili and the fries, and that, my friends, is not going to happen in this girl’s kitchen. Especially not on a Monday night. I’m sure Colin (the superior dish washer of the duo) is grateful for that, too.

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Mashed potatoes with goat cheese and caramelized onions.

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It might surprise you to know that I’m fond of the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Now, to tell you the truth, I’m not the kind of person who really likes fixing things that aren’t food related. A pothole tried to eat my hubcap and it’s just been sitting in my trunk because I can’t be bothered to slap it back on. I’m like, the tire still works? Cool. I’ll let the car dealership handle the hubcap problem when I go in for an oil change. Oh, and ask Colin how long it took me to program the universal remote.

But when it comes to food … I’m always changing things, adding cheese, omitting parsley (because really), tossing in some garlic or bacon or a glug of wine to make a dish my own. But some foods are pretty perfect in their traditional state – like mashed potatoes. Whether you use lots of butter and cream, or sour cream, or cream cheese, traditional mashed potatoes are just tops. But (and isn’t there always a but?) that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment.

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My favorite roasted potatoes.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – one of my favorite things about being a grownup is that I can have roasted potatoes for dinner (or lunch. Or breakfast.) whenever I damn well please. I love their crispy outsides and the feeling of comfort that permeates as soon as you pop one in your mouth. I love the way they smell when they’re cooking. And while I’ve sampled many, many variations, this is the signature, tried-and-true version I make most often. Also, whenever I try making some other kind of roasted potato dish, Colin’s all like, WHY TRY TO IMPROVE PERFECTION*?

*paraphrasing.

I’m going to be honest with you – this recipe is a result of “I’m too lazy to chop garlic” and “Having fresh herbs/a garden is haaaard.” (It’s not. But having even the slightest semblance of a yard is a wistful dream.) I don’t even really measure the ingredients – but this time, I did. Just so I can share it with you fine folks. Unfortunately, most of my pictures came out horrible and sallow-looking, so here’s a picture of Sam looking super concerned. And super cute.

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Twice-baked potatoes with kale.

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Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, please welcome, for the very first time on this humble little blog … kale!

Kale has become an incredibly popular staple for healthy eaters over the past couple of years, and rightly so. It’s chock full of vitamins and minerals, and can be prepared in any number of ways.

For those of you who haven’t managed to incorporate this superfood into your diet, and are perhaps a little wary of this leafy green with its curly, tough texture, here’s a recipe that might help you open your arms (mouth?) to kale. Sure, it’s not the healthiest thing you could eat, but it is delicious, and it’s tangible proof that, as the great Bob Belcher once said, there’s nothing wrong with kale.

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