Sunday, April 27, 2014

Make It From Scratch: Hashbrowns

It's been a short while since I posted, and I'm sorry for that if you have been checking in.  I had to take a little break for Easter, and I was even sick for that holiday.  But having the house to myself all day on Easter was not depressing, it was, in a word, bliss.  Even though I was sick and I felt horrible, having hours to myself was very restorative.  I recommend it to every parent out there, minus the being sick part, naturally.

Crispy potato goodness

Today I am very excited to share with you how to make your own hash browns.  These are, arguably, much cheaper to just buy frozen, but not if you want organic.  Potatoes are one of those foods that if you can, you should buy organic because they store more pesticide residue in them say, sweet potatoes.

Our family eats a lot of hash browns for breakfast, because we prefer cheaper and more nutritious foods.  Meaning, no breakfast pastries or cereal at our house.

These make a perfect accompaniment to sausage patties, ham, or bacon, along with some delicious fermented vegetables and some fresh avocado.  I prefer mine plain, not drowning in ketchup like the rest of the family likes them.  Blech!  Honestly I think putting ketchup all over your potatoes basically cancels out any possible nutrition you are getting.  And potatoes aren't exactly the most nutrient dense starch out there.  But a mom has to feed her kids something!

There isn't really a recipe for home made hash browns, more like a method.


When I make hash browns, I cook 5-10 pounds of potatoes at a time, because it doesn't take much longer to do a large batch, and then you only have to wash your equipment once and you are set for a quick breakfast (or lunch, or dinner...) for a week or even two, depending on the size of your family.

First, wash and peel your Russet, or baking potatoes, or you can use yellow potatoes or white.  They all work, but Russet potatoes cook up the best, getting perfectly crispy and perfectly tender in the middle.

Ready for their steam treatment

Place your peeled spuds into a large pot (like a pasta pot) with a steamer basket in the bottom.  Fill the pot with about 1-2 inches of water, and set it on the stove.  Turn it up to high, and once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and cover the pot.

Steam your spuds about 15-20 minutes, then check for doneness.  Since we will be cooking them further when we fry them up, your spuds should be only about halfway cooked when you take them off the heat.  Otherwise, your hash browns will be hard to shred, and then they will get overcooked.

Cook your potatoes about half way done

With a large spoon, scoop the hot spuds out onto a cookie sheet/sheet pan and let them cool to room temperature.  Then pop the tray into the fridge to chill overnight.  This is the secret to perfect hash browns, people!  Leftover cold cooked potato!  You can even skip these first steps, and just used cold leftover baked potatoes from last night's dinner to make hash browns, we just eat so much that it makes sense to cook our potatoes specially for hash browns.  And my kids are picky and won't eat hash browns with potato skin in it.

Cooling spuds

Now here comes the fun part.  The next day, get your nice cold spuds and shred those bad boys.  I use my food processor, because, duh, 10 pounds of potatoes to shred.  A box grater also works perfectly.  Little people like to help with the shredding, too!

Helpers make crispy potato heaven come sooner

Half of my mountain of shreds

Mountain of shreds, ready to fry

 Now you are ready to cook some of these up!  Preheat your griddle, cast iron pan, or electric griddle.  We use a cast iron stove top griddle that came with our stove.  I have also successfully made these on a cast iron griddle that was a 12 inch round, the Lodge preseasoned variety.  If you have a nonstick pan or electric griddle, you can certainly use that, too.

You want your pan preheated on medium to medium-high heat, depending on your stove and pan.  I use medium low heat with my gas stove, it runs hotter than an electric stove.

Grease your griddle with some nice solid cooking fat like coconut oil, lard, tallow, or bacon fat(these fats are best for cooking).  Put some of the shredded potatoes on your griddle, in a nice even layer about an inch thick.  Keep them together in a nice square or rectangle.

Make a flat pile of shreds

Now, season with salt and pepper if you like, and DO NOT TOUCH THEM.  This is where most rookie screw things up.  You want the potatoes to brown and get crispy, and they never will if you fuss with them.  Nobody wants steamed shredded potatoes for breakfast.

After about 5-10 minutes, you may see some browning around the edges of the potatoes.  Now you may carefully lift up an edge with a spatula and check to see how brown your spuds are.

Needs some more browning time

 In the picture above, these are browning, but not quite browned enough.  I will give them about 3-5 minutes more.

When your hash browns are nice and browned, flip them!  I break the big rectangle up into serving size portions as I flip them over.

It's breakfast time!

And you are done!  Turn off your griddle and serve up some home cooked love on a plate!

From start to finish when you are browning up your hash browns, they cook up in about 15 minutes, so you can even make these during the week as a quick, hearty breakfast.  Just scramble or fry up some eggs to go with and breakfast is served!

Crispy potato goodness time!

You can store your shredded potatoes in the fridge in a covered container for about 1 week.  If you need to store them for longer you can freeze them.  Just sprinkle some shreds all over a sheet pan in an even layer, then place it in your freezer.  Once the shreds are frozen, transfer them to a zip top bag and keep in the freezer for 3-6 months.  You can cook frozen shredded potatoes exactly the same as fresh.  It might take a few extra minutes, but they turn out perfectly.

I hope this inspires you to try making your own hash browns for your family, I promise you you will never go back to store bought again!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Watercolor Art Invitation

Watercolor art invitation

 I have read a few things online lately about art invitations, and thought we would give some a try.  Basically you set out all the supplies for an art activity, and clear the work area of everything else.  I'm not sure if you purposely lead your child/children to the art table or if you just leave it for them to discover on their own.  I kinda did both.  Out of three kids I had only two takers, which worked for me.  (kid #3 is my 2 year old niece, who had a BLAST making a watercolor mess)

 This particular art invitation involved watercolors, my favorite for the kids since it is the easiest to clean up.  Ha!  You draw a swoopy curly line on the paper, and let the kiddos paint it however they like.  Maybe they will paint inside the bubbles, or on the lines......

Swirly lines

Painting a flower...

 Or just disregard the lines altogether, like my kid.......

Well, I guess she painted inside some of the bubbles eventually....

Creation number 1: flowers, rainbow, some letters

Creation number 2: letters, swirly letters, dots

 Finally I just had to show Big Sis the possibilities of watercolors and the swirly line.  We did these ones together, and after I showed her she got excited about choosing what colors to do in each bubble.  We made one in all browns and blues for daddy, since brown is his favorite color.

Our art

This was very fun, and made art time a bit more interesting than usual.  I have plans to try out some more art invitations, and will venture into the messy ones, too (the ones with sand and glue....ack!).  I want to add that these can be great quiet time activities, as well as a time for you to have a couple minutes to yourself to get one of those things done that requires no children clinging to you.  Perfect!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Make It From Scratch: Crackers

Crackers, the perfect crunchy snack with cheese and sliced deli meat.  Or to go with tuna or chicken salad alongside some crunchy sliced veggies.  The perfect quick lunch for kids and grown-ups alike.

Crunchy goodness
 There are definitely some good quality crackers out there, but if you know how easy it is to make your own, and if you care a lot about what your family eats, then this is a great snack food to try and make yourself.  The following recipe is grain free because that is how we eat most of the time.  But don't be put off by that, the flavor of these crackers puts that box of generic cardboard flavored disks to shame.  And this is a great recipe to get the kids involved, too; just measure everything into a bowl and stir it up.  Easy!

Cracker making helpers showing me the turmeric.

Super fun to measure and dump herbs.  Letting the kids help with the cooking is fun.

Stir stir stir

Adding the olive oil to the dry ingredients

A cohesive dough

Smoosh it out with oiled hands

The finished dough before it is baked

Baked and cooled, just break it into pieces

 Grain Free Italian Seed Crackers


2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 Tablespoon hemp, flax, or sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons olive or avocado oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lay a silpat or parchment paper on a sheet pan/cookie tray.

In a medium bowl measure all dry ingredients and combine with a spoon.  Pour in oil and water and stir to form a cohesive dough.  With oiled hands press the dough out on your silpat or parchment, pressing gently with your fingers and palms, using more oil as needed to prevent sticking.  Press to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Place in your preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until firm and the edges of the crackers are lightly browned.  Let cool completely, then break into pieces.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

This would also be delicious with different herbs like fresh rosemary or thyme.  If you cannot have nightshades, omit the paprika and pepper and the crackers will still be fantastic.