Competitions and Colcannon

St. Patrick’s Day can be a wild holiday. Especially with pride on the line.

Back in college, I made the *wise* decision of coming to Chicago with my on-again, off-again boyfriend (we were off-again at the time). It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and we went out to a large Irish bar for the evening.

It was there that the competition started.

Since we were “off again,” somehow we decided to see who could pick up the hotter girl first. (A number of lemon drops- part of the reason why I haven’t done shots since- did influence this decision.)

Next thing I know, I’m chatting up a Brazilian girl (whom I had decided was the hottest girl in the bar). We started dancing (some other things might have happened, too…), and then that’s where some deleted scenes occur (I know that I was found dancing upstairs with her, but the rest of that is a little bit hazy, especially after I saw some of the pictures that I really don’t remember taking all that well).

The next morning, I had this text in my phone.

“I had a great time last night. Call me sometime. -Camille.”

Let’s just say I won.

Competition Worthy Irish Colcannon

Colcannon

perfect for your St. Patrick’s Day throw-down (or when you’re recovering the next day)

Ingredients

  • 5 large russet potatoes (about 3-4 lbs worth)
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 + 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 small head cabbage
  • 1 c fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c fat-free sour cream
  • 1 c fat-free half-and-half
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Wash and peel potatoes (or you can skip the peeling part if you have a food mill). Cut into large cubes. Boiled in salted water until easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Cut off the ends of the leeks. Slice in half (nearly down to the root) and rinse in cold water. Slice thinly.
  4. Saute leeks in 1 tbsp butter and olive oil until soft. Set aside.
  5. Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Cut into quarters, then slice thinly. Boil in the plain water until tender (this took about 8-10 minutes). Drain.
  6. Slice the green onions thinly.
  7. Drain the potatoes. Mash until very smooth (or use that food mill). Add the butter, half-and-half, greek yogurt, and sour cream.
  8. Add the leeks, cabbage, and half the green onions.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve with reserved green onions on top.

This makes a LOT of potatoes (so perfect for your get-together), but if making for a smaller crowd, it can easily be halved. Though it does warm up perfectly in the microwave if you’d rather just have leftovers.

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Flowers, Part 2, and Hasselback Potatoes

Over a decade later, I still have issues with flowers.

It all started a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, when my boyfriend and I had a chat over dinner about how neither one normally does much for Valentine’s Day. I thought I was in the clear- maybe we’d make a nice dinner, watch a movie at home, eat some homemade chocolates. And he’s always maintained that he doesn’t like flowers since they die.

Then the week of Valentine’s Day, where I got asked the following questions:

Boyfriend: What’s your address? I’m updating my address book.

That seemed silly, but I gave him my address.

Boyfriend: What’s your schedule like this week? Did you want to get dinner?

I said sure as long as it was low key since I was on nights.

Boyfriend: Hey, I know you’re on nights right now. Do you wake up if someone rings your doorbell? If you get a package, where do they put it?

I replied that the UPS guy leaves packages on my deck since I don’t wake up. To anything.

Boyfriend: Hey, do you wake up if someone call your phone?

I reiterated the point that I don’t wake up. To anything.

Of course, I was working every night up until Valentine’s Day, which made shopping or really anything else a bit difficult, as I was keeping the hours of a vampire (and working a lot of hours at that). But I really had the feeling that I was getting flowers.

On Valentine’s Day, I woke up after sleeping most of the day so I could shower before what I felt was a very early dinner, as it was happening before I was even eating “breakfast” that week. I did, however, check my phone to see if I had a missed call.

No missed call.

I then checked my deck. No flowers.

I checked the side door. No flowers.

I checked the mailbox. No slip from a florist informing me I had missed a delivery.

Now, by this point in time, I was a little bit disappointed. I normally pride myself on my powers of deduction (Sherlock Holmes is my favorite character), and to me there were too many coincidences in Valentine’s Day week. But I then was thinking that I had been wrong.

That is, until my boyfriend showed up, and insisted on walking in (and looking around) my house when he came to pick me up for dinner.

Boyfriend: Did you get a package today? Nope.

Boyfriend: Did you get a phone call? Did your doorbell ring? Nope and nope.

Boyfriend: Well, that’s annoying. I sent you flowers.

I secretly did a “yessssssssssssssss” for my powers of deduction. But then realized I still didn’t have flowers.

After much arguing, I finally got my flowers four days later. And my dad didn’t have to come to the rescue this time (though he did offer to).

Always On Time Hasselback Potatoes*

roasted potatoesno need to have anything delivered

Ingredients

  • Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil in a spray bottle
  • Parsley
  • Truffle oil (to finish)

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash potatoes and remove any eyes that might have developed.
  3. In a glass baking dish, spray with olive oil spray (so the potatoes don’t stick and get nicely brown).
  4. One at a time, snuggle the potato close to an old wooden spoon. Using a knife, make thin slices in the potato, cutting until you just barely hit the spoon handle (if you go too hard, you’ll cut the spoon).
  5. Place potatoes into the baking dish. Spray with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Bake 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced.
  7. Remove from the oven. Drizzle with a teeny bit of truffle oil (use olive oil if you don’t have truffle oil, though I find that a bit of truffle oil goes a long way, and it’s not that much of a fortune) and parsley. Serve.

*a.k.a. Accordion Potatoes

Horny Old Ladies and Mashed Potatoes

In medicine, you always have some crazy patients.

I was doing my emergency medicine rotation at a private hospital in the Detroit area.  Our patient population was this mix of people with a lot of money and residents of Detroit that didn’t want to go to any of the inner city hospitals.

I picked up the next chart to see that I would be seeing a lady who had been sent to the ED with high blood pressure. I made my way over to her hallway bed- the place was packed, which is normal for night, so the majority of our beds line the hallways.

In taking a history, you run through a number of questions…what brings you here? when did this start? how are you feeling now?

My patient was an African-American woman who was much closer to 100 than she was to 50, decked out in a leopard-print suit and had her red hat lying on the bed next to her. Her daughter, who was much closer to 50, was sitting in the chair next to her. She was a bit hard of hearing, which meant that she answered every question very loudly.

And then, I hit the fated question: “Ma’am, are you in any pain right now?”

Patient (in a loud purr): Oh honey, I have a pain between my legs that only a man or toy can fix.  Unfortunately my husband passed away so I’m stuck resorting to batteries.

Daughter: Oh mom, this nice lady here doesn’t want to know about your sex life. Just answer the question.

I’ll admit two things:

  1. I burst out laughing in the middle of the ED- I just couldn’t help myself. Thankfully they laughed along with me, along with everyone who overheard.
  2. She went home in great health a few hours later.

Satisfying Alternative Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs small red-skin potatoes (about half a 5 lb bag), not peeled and chopped into small pieces (feel free to use whatever potato you have on hand- I just prefer red skin or yukon gold)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (can use more if you like)
  • 2 tbsp light butter
  • 1/3 c skim milk
  • 1/4 c fat-free sour cream
  • 1/4 c fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp chives, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Place potatoes into a 2 qt saucepan and cover with cold salted (normally 1/2 tsp) water. Cover and place over medium heat. Remove cover when boiling and continue for approximately 15-20 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.
  2. Drain potatoes (do not rinse), add butter and garlic to pan, and cover for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Mash potatoes, butter, and garlic together.  (Don’t have a potato masher? Me either!  I always use a whisk- my grandfather’s trick.)
  4. Stir in skim milk, sour cream, greek yogurt, and garlic powder and continue mashing until potatoes reach your desired consistency (feel free to add more skim milk if necessary).
  5. Add chives and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6 normal adults or 3 of Irish-Polish heritage 😉

Hoarding and Potatoes

My kindergarten teacher set me up for a lifetime of hoarding.  Thankfully I got over it.

My teacher was a wonderful woman who imparted her green-living choices to a bunch of five year olds (though this was a long time before we even started talking about the “green revolution”).  She told us that we could always find a second use for something.

I took that a bit too far to heart by then never throwing anything away.  My closet was a sea of should-be-garbage (or at least recycling) where you actually couldn’t find anything.  And that slowly extended into my room.

Like many kids, my idea of cleaning as a child was to throw everything on my floor into my closet, which wasn’t going to help my problem.  I also didn’t have a huge closet, which means that we eventually reached the point where I couldn’t open it.

I was in 7th grade when my best friend Brittany made the mistake of opening my closet.  I thankfully was standing next to her, and thus we were able to save her from being crushed when everything wanted to tumble out out the closet (it took both of us combined to slam the door in time).  However, it took every pound  in our scrawny 13 year old bodies to get that door closed, and then a chair shoved under the handle to keep it that way.

Unfortunately, my mother heard the crash of trash against the door (it had even scared my deaf dog out of my room, after all), saw the chair wedged precariously under a doorknob, and then made me spend the rest of that remaining weekend cleaning my closet.

It took the entire weekend, from 9am Saturday morning until 9pm on Sunday night.  I threw away or recycled 10 garbage bags full of stuff that I had managed to cram into a very, very small closet.  I discovered clothing that hadn’t fit since I was 5, a homework assigned I lost and had to redo from 5th grade, and a library book that I had been continually renewing for a year because I told myself I would eventually find it.  There were shoes in shoeboxes I had only worn once and then forgotten about. It was like opening up one of those boxes that cities bury and dig up in 10 years, except all mine contained was a lot of junk (plus some nice things) that should have been thrown away years ago…oops.

I’ve at least now learned that recycling and Craigslist means that someone else can use something for a second time (and it’s used a lot faster than I would keeping it in my closet)…which is pretty helpful considering I have to move for the first time in 4 years in less than 6 months and I don’t need to drag everything across the country.

Reduce the Guilt Au Gratin Potatoes

Yes, these are those potatoes everyone brought to potlucks back when this story happened…and they’re still delicious (and I made them slightly healthier)

Ingredients

  • 2lb frozen diced hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 c fat-free sour cream
  • 8 oz reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted (I tried eliminating this completely but it doesn’t taste the same)
  • 1 c fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth (you can also swap in vegetable broth or fat-free milk, but I think chicken broth has the best flavor)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together all of the ingredients and dump into a 9×13 in baking dish.
  3. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender and the top is golden brown.

As you know, this makes a LOT of servings (and pairs perfectly with ham or potlucks)!

Swimming in Potatoes

You can tell a lot about a guy by his taste in food.  During one first date, I could tell there wasn’t going to be a second.

I had met a guy who was a former state-champion swimmer and agreed to go out to dinner.  To start, we went to a Ruby Tuesday.  I’m not saying anything bad about the restaurant, but it’s not exactly what I would picture for first-date material, especially when you take into mind the conversation that follows.

Ordering food was a disaster.  I couldn’t tell you what I ordered for my main dish, but I do remember it came with a side of potatoes.  Now, when it comes to my heritage, I’m a European mutt, which means I love potatoes cooked practically any way (it’s rare for me to meet a potato I don’t like).

Guy: “You’re really going to eat potatoes?”

Me: “Yeah, why?”

Guy: “Potatoes have too many calories.  I can’t keep this swimmer’s body by eating those.  Why don’t you order a salad like me?  It’s better for your waistline.”

Now, there are rules that guys should follow, especially on a first date.  First, never critique my food choices. And second, don’t mention your weight or mine.

Needless to say there was no second date.

Safe for Swimmers Potato Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1lb Yukon Gold potatoes, washed (I’ve also used a mix of regular and sweet potatoes)
  • 6 oz grated cheese (I used a low-fat Irish Cheddar from Trader Joe’s that I grated myself)
  • 1/3 c milk (I used 1/2 %)
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Parsley (dried)
  • Cooking spray

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice potatoes thinly and shred cheese, if needed.  I tend to leave the skin on because I think it makes for a prettier presentation, but feel free to peel if desired (and definitely peel sweet potatoes if you’re using a mix).
  3. Coat 8×8 in glass baking dish with cooking spray (makes for easier clean-up).
  4. Layer 1/3 potatoes into the dish and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (think a light sprinkle).  Reserve 1 oz (a small handful) of cheese, then divide in half.  Sprinkle half the cheese onto the first layer of potatoes.
  5. Layer the second third of potatoes into the dish, season again with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and again top with the cheese.
  6. Layer the final layer of potatoes on top of the dish and pour on the milk.  Top with the reserved small handful of cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes until the potatoes pierce easily with a fork and the dish is bubbly with golden cheese on top.