Guest Post by Amanda M. Socci of Creative Idea Gal
It happened! The inspiration to write about vegetables landed surreptitiously on my doorstep, cloaked in a Facebook mask. Recently, I read an innocent Facebook status update from one of my all-time favorite people, writer Debbie Ridpath Ohi. She had posted a picture of a little girl who was bored with potatoes. Huh? What was all this about? I was captivated. I quickly learned that the little girl was the main character in a children’s book, I’m Bored, and the potato was her friend. Together, they are bored because each one believes the other is “boring.”
Written by comedian and children’s book author Michael Ian Black and illustrated by a dear writer friend whom I have admired for almost 20 years, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, I’m Bored is a newly published children’s book with a good message: you are only as boring as you think you are.
As soon as I saw Debbie’s status update and photo, I knew immediately that I was onto something. I know for a fact that potatoes are un-boring (I made up that word, by the way). Even the Boeing Company agrees that potatoes are un-boring! I set out with a goal to find a potato expert to help me unravel the mysteries of potatoes and drive home the point that potatoes are un-boring.
I found my potato expert! Food blogger Liza Hawkins, who hails from Frederick, Maryland and calls herself the (a)Musing Foodie, is a freelance writer and blogger from Frederick, Maryland with a passion for all things food. Her blog depicts a down-to-earth approach to food, with simple family recipes that are easy to whip up on a busy weeknight. Liza answered the call and proudly simmered, roasted, and baked her potato replies. Here they are for your perusal.
AS: Many people think potatoes are boring vegetables. What do you think and why?
LH: Potatoes often get pigeonholed into the “boring” category because they get sucked into being used for simple staples like French fries, mashed potatoes and baked potatoes. Personally, I love cooking with potatoes – they’re easy to stretch for a large group, and their versatility is endless.
AS: Can you tell us about some different kinds of potatoes and explain the differences?
LH: Potatoes come in three basic varieties – I’ll break down a few different types within each here:
- Waxy: Potatoes with a smooth, waxy texture. These are great for slicing, roasting, and in things like stews or potato salads because they hold their shape. Examples: Red Thumb, Russian Banana, French Fingerling
- Starchy: Potatoes that have a fluffier texture and are very absorbent. These are great for frying and baking, but the texture is easy to overwork if they’re used for mashing. Examples:Russet, Jewel Yam, Japanese Sweet Potato
- All-purpose:Potatoes that have starch, but not enough to completely fall apart during cooking. They are versatile enough to be used for most potato dishes and work great roasted, mashed, boiled or steamed. Examples:Red Gold, All Blue, Yukon Gold, Norland Red
AS: What is your personal favorite type of potato and why?
LH: My favorite is a red skin potato. It’s an all-purpose variety, so I can use it for potato salads, mashed potatoes or roasting with olive oil and herbs. I love the bright white flesh, and how creamy the texture is. Plus, the skin is thin and beautiful and doesn’t need to be peeled!
AS: What are some things about potatoes that people would be surprised to learn?
LH: Blue and purple potatoes are often found at local farmers markets and taste the same as a regular golden or white-fleshed potato. The bonus of going with a blue variety, however, is that they’re high in antioxidants, which means they are delicious and healthier!
LH: What are some misconceptions about potatoes?
1. “Carbohydrates in potatoes cause blood sugar spikes.” Actually, when eaten in moderation and in appropriate portion sizes, potatoes are a healthy way to get carbohydrates. Cutting carbs out of your diet, whether for weight loss or to avoid a diabetes diagnosis, is not a safe way to go.
Carbs are your body’s primary fuel source and you need them! This doesn’t give you the right to gorge on potatoes, or any other carbohydrate for that matter, however. Make sure to read labels so that you understand what a portion size looks like, and what that translates to in terms of total carbohydrates (minus dietary fibers). Eat smart!
2. “Potatoes have no nutritional value.” Actually, potatoes have a bunch of nutritional qualities, including about 620mg of potassium (that’s more than a banana!) and vitamins B and C. As a bonus, potatoes also contain no (that’s zero) fat or cholesterol, and minimal sodium!
3. “All the nutrients are found in the potato’s skin.” Actually, the opposite is true, although it’s easier to prepare a potato when you don’t have to bother peeling it. And in most cases, the peel tastes great anyway and it provides added fiber to your diet.
AS: How often do you cook with potatoes in your home and why?
LH: We have potatoes once or twice a week in our house. I keep a 5 pound bag of whatever variety happens to be on sale at the supermarket and make recipes based on that. We often have mashed potatoes because that’s one of my favorites, but my family also loves potato gratin and herb roasted potatoes.
During the growing season, we get fresh potatoes from my parents’ farm – and there’s nothing tastier than a potato that has been freshly dug from the ground on the same day you’re going to eat it. If you don’t already, consider visiting your local farmers market and buying your potatoes and other produce there!
AS: Do you eat the potato skin? Should people eat the potato skin?
LH: We eat potato skin more often than not! It’s just easier to prepare that way, and none of us mind it. When I bake my potatoes I rub the outside with olive oil and sea salt, and the skin gets nice and crispy. Delicious!
AS: What alternatives to ketchup can you suggest for topping potatoes?
LH: I made a Pomegranate Aioli Dipping Sauce once for a dinner party, and everyone loved it. It’s simple to make:
Combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme. Refrigerate until the dip has chilled completely, and then serve it with warm roasted potatoes.
AS: What else would you like to say about potatoes?
LH: If you’re on a tight budget, potatoes are an easy way to stretch your dollar. A 5 pound bag typically costs under $4 at the supermarket and can feed an army! They store well, as long as you keep the in a dark, dry, room temperature spot; mine are on the shelf of my pantry.
If you notice your potatoes have a greenish hue to the skin, throw them out. It means they’ve been exposed to too much light, and have developed the toxin solanine – not fatal, but it can cause symptoms like stomach cramps, fever, headaches and diarrhea.
Amanda M. Socci is a freelance writer and blogger from Alexandria, Virginia who specializes in writing creatively on diverse topics. Amanda posts frequently on her personal blog and on a local online news service Mount Vernon Patch – search for “Socci.” Amanda also stays busy researching topics and conducting interviews for freelance writing assignments. Her personal interests include craft projects, recycling, and school fundraising. Known as the Creative Idea Gal, she relishes every situation that gives her new opportunities to paint rainbows with 1,000 new original thoughts, ideas and written expressions.
Many thanks to Amanda for this unique way of presenting potatoes in a most un-boring light. This creative gal is the one who came up with the idea that I do a month of Veggie Love! So do show her some veggie love by commenting below. Remember that each commentor is entered into a random drawing to win one of several great foodie books!