Planting Potatoes

We had heard over the years how wonderful fresh harvested potatoes were so last year we decided to give it a try.  We did pretty well up to the point tiny little bugs stripped the leaves.  Those little buggers eat really fast.  We did get a small harvest and they were delicious.  So this year we’ll be ready for the little twerps.

The potatoes being planted are Red Norland and German Butterball.  Because our plot isn’t big we needed a way to grow them without taking up a lot of space.  I found last year on Pinterest loads of information about potato towers and that seemed perfect for us.  And it worked very well.  They aren’t hard to grow but there is a bit of prep to do before planting them.

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The seed potatoes get shipped mid April to our area.  We get our stuff from High Mowing in Vermont.  They are great but I do recommend buying your seed from an organic source near your zone.  That way you know it is adapted for your growing conditions.  The potatoes need to be sliced so each chunk you have has some “eyes” on it.  This is where the potato plants grow from.

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The cut sides need to be treated with sulfur to prevent rot.  Now last year we were very careful to follow directions.  They had to dry completely before planting.  But then the next direction was to put them in the soil and water well.  What’s the point?  So this year I cut them all up and treated them.  I let them be in the sun while I put the towers together.

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As the potatoes grow more soil is added so you need enough height to accommodate the growth.  It is also good to have composted soil for this as the potatoes need lots of nutrients.  We had some old wire fencing so we use these for the forms of the towers.  Line the bottom with the compost and line the sides with straw.  Fill the tower with about 6 inches of soil, water well then place the potatoes in with the eyes pointing upwards.

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Cover with a couple inches of soil and water well.

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A friend gave us two small tower bags to try out so we used those and built a second tower.  We should get loads of potatoes without using a ton of space.  🙂

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Cottage Pie

I’m a firm believer in that people should make what they will of recipes. After all they are the ones that have to eat them.  So not a lot irks me when it comes to food.  Except maybe this bit.  People calling cottage pie shepherd’s pie.  So indulge me a moment as I’d like to get up on my soap box.  Ahem, here we go.  Shepherd’s pie is made with lamb.  Easy to remember as sheep get herded by a shepherd.  Shepherds don’t herd cows.  Therefore a shepherd’s pie doesn’t have beef in it.  Which is why it is generally known as cottage pie.  Thank you, I will climb down now and put the box away.

I made this last night as it was a raw day.  Well miserable in fact.  It was supposed to snow and instead we got a cold pouring rain that wasn’t quite freezing but nearly there.  So it was a good night for comfort food.  This is also a quick dish to make if you aren’t overly particular about presentation.   Now if you want presentation you need to check out Conor’s Cottage Pie.  Epic.  🙂

To start I chopped up carrots, garlic, onion, and mushrooms.

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In a bit of olive oil I saute the carrots, garlic and onions.

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Once the onions are a bit translucent I add the beef to brown.

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I used our veg broth for this.  In hindsight I probably should have used 1/2 cup but I used 3/4 cup of broth.  I added the mushrooms, 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and a good squirt of stone ground mustard and brought it to a simmer.

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In the meantime boil potatoes for the mash to go on top.  Once they are cooked I added a healthy pat of butter and enough milk to make it smooth.  I wanted it to be easy to put over the beef.  I also added some grated Jarlsberg to mix in along with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  And yes I do keep the skins on.  Adds colour and keeps the nutrition with the potato!

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As it was just my husband and I the dish was kept pretty rustic.  I divided the beef mixture into two bowls for us.

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I spread the mash over the beef and shredded more Jarlsberg over the mash.

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Stick it under the broiler until the cheese is melted then it is ready to serve.

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My husband, who isn’t normally a huge fan of cottage pie, enjoyed this one.  🙂  And it was lovely with red wine.

Tomato Ginger Chicken

Last week I came across this wonderful looking recipe from Karista’s Kitchen.  It was for Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken and I knew I wanted to do something like this.  But I didn’t have a lot of time and it was cold and I was tired but I wanted the flavour.  So I took inspiration from her recipe and came up with this.  I do plan at some point to follow hers when I have a chance.

This recipe is served on a baked potato so you’ll need to get that cooked while this is being prepared.

I took a chicken breast and cubed it then sauteed it in olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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While that was cooking I finely chopped several cloves of garlic and peeled a chunk of fresh ginger.  The ginger was about 1 1/2 inches by 1 inch by 1 inch or so.

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I tossed in the garlic and added 1 cup of my homemade tomato sauce.  As that started to simmer I used a zester to finely mince up the ginger and added it to the mixture.

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I added maybe a 1/4 cup plus of soy sauce.  I prefer to use the low sodium kind.  We are growing cilantro (coriander leaves) so I had some fresh leaves to chop up and add to the dish.

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I added a splash of lime juice to taste and let it simmer until the chicken was fully cooked.  Slice the baked potato open and top with the chicken and sauce.

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I loved the brightness of the ginger in this dish.  It was a great comfort food meal without being heavy.  Overall a pretty healthy meal.


Rustic Leek and Potato Soup

It has been quite cold lately and that calls for good comfort food.  I had frozen about as much as I could of the crazy sized leeks and we still have some in the garden!  So I decided to come up with a leek and potato soup.  A lot of recipes call for cream and I wanted something lighter as we had dodgeball that night and we didn’t want heavy stomachs.  And I didn’t want to dirty a lot of dishes.  🙂

We like the dark green parts of the leek as it has a wonderful flavour and adds a bit of colour to the soup.  I chopped up about 3 cups of leeks and 3 cups of potatoes. I always keep the skins of the potatoes on as most of the nutrition is right under the skin.  Besides it looks nice.  I also chopped about a cup of mushrooms.

In a large saucepan I heated up the olive oil and sauteed the leeks and mushrooms.

After a few minutes I put in the potatoes to saute.

It is important to keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.  Then I added about 4 cups of chicken stock and brought it up to a boil.  I also added about 1/2 a cup of dry sherry to start with.  I added a few more splashes to get the flavour right.

It needs to simmer on a “fast” simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.  I usually wait to salt and pepper it until the end as simmering it really gets the flavours together then you know how much salt and pepper to put in.

This is a simple soup full of flavour.  It takes about a 1/2 hour to make and is perfect for a cold day.

Tuscan Potato Kale Soup

I used to subscribe to Cooking Light magazine and clip recipes.  I have a ton of them.  There was one that looked really good but boy were there a lot of steps!  Not only were there a lot of steps but it required a food processor, a blender, and several pots and pans.  I hate doing dishes.  So I retooled the recipe, so to speak.  I wanted something tasty and simple to make.  My daughter loves what I came up with.  🙂

To begin with I roast two bulbs of garlic.  This should be done earlier and allowed to cool so it is easier to work with.

Dice about a cup of onions and saute about 3/4 of that in olive oil in a large saucepan.  I use the olive oil from the roasted garlic.  Cube about 6 cups of potatoes and saute for a few minutes with the onions.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Then simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add a cup or so of chopped kale and cook another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

In the meantime, take two Italian sausages out of their casings and place in a hot skillet to begin browning.  Also add 1-2 oz of pancetta to the pan.  Once the fat begins to render add the rest of the onion to the skillet.

As this begins to brown I turn my attention back to the saucepan and add a cup of milk.  This can be cream, fat free milk, chef’s choice basically.  I add in the roast garlic and then bring it back to a simmer.

We have an immersion blender and it’s a great tool to have for soups and things.  I remove the soup from the heat and blend the ingredients together.

Once it is completely blended I add in the meat and a cup or so of grated pecorino cheese.  At this point I check the seasonings as the cheese and pancetta can be quite salty.  Add more salt if needed but not before you check at this point.  The consistency should look like this:

At this point it is ready to serve!  I always make sure there is plenty of pecorino on the table for people to grate the cheese over the soup.

While not difficult to make this soup does require a bit of time to bring it all together but it is worth the effort.  A very healthy and tasty meal!



I’m not a fan of cooked kale by itself. I normally have to hide it in something like I do with my chili. A few weeks ago my mum made colcannon and we all loved it so I asked for the recipe as we have an abundance of kale to eat.  This is my version of her version of colcannon.  As I have said before we aren’t very good at following recipes exactly!  🙂

I start the potatoes for the mash at the beginning.

In an oven safe skillet I pour olive oil to cover the bottom.

I then chop up celery, onion, and garlic to saute in the olive oil.  The celery in our garden seems to be more leaf than stem this year but the flavour is still really good.

Saute for a few minutes.  In the meantime, boil some water to make 2 cups of broth.  I use the veg broth that we have.  Pour into the skillet and simmer. Add a bit of mustard, we used stone ground mustard to taste. Add the kale.

Simmer until the kale cooks down.

For the mash I add salt and pepper, butter, and milk.  Spread it over the kale mixture and top with cheddar cheese.  We used Kerry Gold that says it is from Ireland.  Wonder if it is actually sold in Ireland.  Either way it is tasty.

Pop the skillet under the broiler until it is a melty lovely golden colour.

We cooked up some Irish bangers to go on the side.  I have to say both went really well with the HP brown sauce.  🙂

This took about 30-40 minutes total to put together.  It’s a great meal for autumn and the kids love it.  Though when I mentioned we were having kale for dinner to my daughter’s friends they decided to eat at home.  Their loss!

Parmesan Baked Potato

We have family coming for a birthday lunch today so this will be a quick post as we have various dishes to prep for.  Today is gorgeous and perfect for eating outside.  We won’t have too many more of these days as our days are getting shorter and cooler.

This dish went with the smoked pork tenderloin and a salad.  I found something similar on Pinterest but they had added butter and a bunch of other things.  I decided to keep it really simple.

I first cooked the potatoes in the microwave for 9 minutes.  Then baked them in the toaster oven for about 20 minutes at 325 F.  I then sliced them in half and sprinkled pepper on the open sides.  Then I liberally sprinkled freshly grated parmesan cheese over the pepper for a complete covering.  I put them back in the toaster oven until the cheese was melted and browned a bit.

This is great as a stand alone small meal or a side dish.

Filet Mignon with Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions

Occasionally as a special treat we’ll cook up some Filet Mignon when it’s just the two of us.  And we did this the other night.  I do wish the grocery store had all natural Filet Mignon but they can’t get the antibiotic/hormone free cuts.  They usually have a small selection of beef that is all natural which is good.

I start off by seasoning the meat with salt and pepper then I set aside while the oven heats up the broiler.

For cuts this thick we usually do 5 minutes a side and it comes out medium rare which is what we prefer.  I like mine a little rarer than Rich but this usually works for both of us.

Then I slice some onions and mushrooms to top the beef.  I decided to try something a little different.  I  started with olive oil then I added a bit of the veg bouillon I like to use with some cognac to make a sauce.  I did add a bit of water as well.  This allowed the mushrooms to brown a bit when it was time to serve. I do need to adjust the next time I make it as all the flavours were there but because it reduced so much it wasn’t really a sauce.

Once the meat was cooked I let it rest a few minutes while I finished the rest of the meal.  I served this with corn and potatoes.  This took me less than 30 minutes to make and it is a real treat for us.

Chicken Marsala

I love mushrooms.  Just not raw.  Fortunately there are an endless number of recipes out there.  It was just Rich and I last night for dinner so I thought I would do Chicken Marsala and Roast Potatoes.  I had to go buy Marsala wine and I couldn’t find it.  I was looking in the wine section because if you don’t want to drink plonk you don’t want to cook with plonk! But I had to ask.  The two young guys thought I wanted to use cooking wine so they thought they needed to set me straight!  Took a moment to get through to them that I wanted the good stuff.  They were really nice about it but they were trying to convert a convert!

The inspiration this time was from

I used regular white button mushrooms as that is what I had on hand but I usually like to use shitake mushrooms for something like this.

The recipe called for pounding out the chicken.  I don’t do this as a general rule as I find you can end up with dry chicken.  I took one breast and sliced it in half lengthwise for two small pieces and added salt and pepper before dredging it in flour.

These are potatoes from our garden and they are delicious!  A trick I learned from my mum is to microwave the potatoes prior to roasting or baking them.  Cuts the cooking time significantly and you don’t notice they have been microwaved.  Depending on the quantity I microwave the potatoes 6-9 minutes.  I do them in our toaster oven and I put the temp at 450F. This time I roasted them in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Don’t get me wrong I love them roasted in lard or shortening but it’s not as healthy!

Per the recipe suggestion I used oregano from our garden.  This is such an easy recipe and takes less than 20 minutes to through together.  The potatoes can take longer depending on how browned you want them.