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Pumpkins One, Two, and Three (and Me)

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Entries in side dishes (3)


Make-ahead mashed potatoes.

I'm getting off pretty easy this year for Thanksgiving.  My folks just moved into a new house this summer and we're gathering there for Thanksgiving.  The last few years, we've hosted.  And to say I like to go overboard on the menu is an understatement--all of the magazines I get tempt me with fabulous looking recipes...and before I know it, I'm making a dozen things in varying textures and tastes, both savory and sweet.  And that's just the appetizers.

My folks will have an abundant spread, to be sure.  But it'll be nice and traditional, no frou frou.  Good, delicious, time-tested family dishes--everything from feel and memory.  In fact, my mind simply cannot form the image of my parents cooking in their kitchen while referring to a recipe in a magazine or cookbook.  You might as well ask me to picture myself eating nothing but raw celery (the one veggie I cannot stand--and it does so have a flavor). 

Along with my sister-in-law, I get to bring dessert.  I'm also allowed to bring one or two starters.  This means I'll bring five.  And they asked me to make the mashed potatoes!!  I about fell over.  But then I remembered that I recently made mashed potatoes for them (using the below recipe) and my mom and I "tasted for seasoning" a good quarter of the dish before it made it to the table.  And then I caught her licking the mixing bowl.

This recipe initially caught my eye because you can make it ahead and store in your fridge for up to 2 days--when planning a large meal, this really works for me.  But even if I'm serving it immediately, it's the only recipe I use because it is amazing.  Once you see the quantity of butter and cream, I doubt you'll doubt that.  Plus, it's from Cook's Illustrated--enough said, right? 

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoess

from Cook's Illustrated

Note:  bake the potatoes until they are completely tender; err on the side of over (rather than under) cooking.


  • 5 lbs russet baking potatoes (evenly sized), scrubbed and poked several times with a fork
  • 3 cups heavy cream, hot (** sometimes I use a cup of half and half but I've never replaced all of the cream)
  • 8 tbl (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • salt (I use kosher) & pepper to taste

1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle position; preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2.  Microwave potatoes on high power for 16 minutes, turning over halfway through the cooking time.  Transfer to the oven, placing directly on the hot oven rack (use tongs).  Bake until a skewer glides easily through the flesh, about 30 minutes, flipping over halfway through the baking time (do not under cook).

3.  Remove potatoes from oven and cut each potato in half lengthwise.  Using an oven mitt or folded kitchen towel to hold the hot potato, scoop out all of the flesh into a medium bowl.  Break the cooked potato flesh into small pieces.

4.  Transfer half of the potatoes to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds, gradually adding the rest of the potatoes to incorporate, until completely smooth and no lumps remain, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape sides and bottom as needed (you can use a hand mixer instead but lumps will remain). 

5.  Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in 2 cups of cream, followed by the butter and 2 teaspoons of salt (this is for kosher salt--start with a lot less if you are using table salt).  Gently fold in up to 1/2 cup more of the cream as needed to reach your desired consistency.  If you are serving immediately, you are done--so dive in.  If storing--continue:  Once the desired serving consistency is reached, gently fold in an additional 1/2 cup cream (the potatoes will be quite loose...don't worry).

6.  To store:  transfer potatoes to a large microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for up to 2 days.

7.  To serve:  poke lots of holes in the plastic wrap with the tip of a knife, and microwave at medium-high (75 percent) power until the potatoes are hot, about 14 minutes, stirring gently half-way through the reheating time.  Add salt and pepper to taste--always stirring gently.  Enjoy!

*check out more "works for me" ideas over at We Are THAT Family.


Creamed spinach with bacon.

Here in northern Virginia, it is rainy and suprisingly chilly this morning.  So chilly, that as we stepped out the door for school, I had to turn Max around to change clothes.  And, of course, I discovered five minutes before the bus was due that he has outgrown everything--his pants he wore last spring, his raincoat, his fleeces...everything.  We were both kind of shocked.  I told him it's because he's eating his spinach these days.  I recently found a recipe for a creamed spinach dish that the boys gobble up every time I make it (four times and counting the last month alone).  Seriously--I am using the description gobble up to describe how a 6, 4, and 1 year-old are attacking spinach.  Spinach.  It's probably the bacon.  Who am I kidding?  It's definitely the bacon.


Excuse the picture.  I'm unsure how to make cooked spinach actually look good.  But taste good?  Evidently, I've got that covered.  Off to online shop for pants long enough to cover ankles. 

Recipe after the jump.  Enjoy!

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Everyday mac n cheese.


Everyone needs a good mac n cheese recipe go-to.  This is mine.  I have others that I pull out for holidays--ones with crunchy toppings, fancier cheese blends, a little paprika, the whole shebang.  But this one is super simple, yet creamy and absolutely delicious.  And because it's a one dish wonder (unlike most recipes, you do not have to pre-boil the noodles!), it's perfect for everyday meals.

When I say it's a standby, I mean it--last fall and winter, I made it weekly!  And I've passed it around to so many playdate friends that we often get to enjoy it at their homes, too.

Everyday Mac N Cheese

adapted from Family Circle Magazine, March 2007


  • 14.5 oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbl macaroni
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 C sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a baking dish (I use a pyrex 9 x 9 with a glass lid), place all ingredients EXCEPT THE CHEESE (sorry for the Internet "yelling" but too many friends added in the cheese before baking).  **When I double the recipe, I use a 9 x 13 pan and cover with foil**.  Bake, covered, for a total of 40 minutes, stirring after the first 15 minutes and again at 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately stir in cheese.  Allow to set up for 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!