Smashed Potatoes and Decadent Hot Chocolate

Smashed Potatoes and Decadent Hot Chocolate

On the surface of things, Smashed Potatoes and Decadent Hot Chocolate don’t seem to have much in common. But if you delve a little deeper, you’ll find the connection.

Both mashed potatoes and hot chocolate can be made via the instant, just-add-water type. Which isn’t bad if, say, you’re camping. They can both be quite tasty, depending.

But when made from scratch, when you put the time in, so to speak, you come out with something indescribably delicious. A crispy, buttery-fluffy potato, and a rich, dark chocolate drink that is akin to what they must serve in Heaven. (Or at least in some nifty Paris bistros!)


If you need a side dish that is a step above ordinary, this is it. Hearty, filling, and a taste

Yukon Gold Potatoes

treat, it all starts, of course, with the potato itself. I use fresh, hard, baby yellow potatoes, or baby reds if I’m in that mood. They both work. Slightly bigger than the baby potatoes work as well; you just need to cut them a bit smaller. I’ve never used russets or baking potatoes for this; I assume if you peel them and chop them into similar-sized chunks, they’d work fine.

Ingredients: Baby potatoes, butter, sea salt (or Kosher salt)

Kitchen ware needed: One sauce pan, one baking pan with sides (either a jelly roll pan or a 9 x 13 pan), and one slightly smaller pan of the same type (or a cast iron skillet).

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Scrub the potatoes well. If they are true babies, cut them in half. If they’re a little bigger, cut them in quarters. Your goal is to get them all about the same size so they cook evenly. Put them in the saucepan, fill with water, and boil until they are fork-tender about 10 – 15 minutes. Drain.

Put potatoes, still steaming, into the jelly roll pan.  Crowd them together in the center of the pan, as much as possible, so they’re all touching. Take your slightly smaller pan (or your cast iron pan – anything heavy that you can put your hands into) and make sure the bottom of the pan is clean – you might even want to lightly spray it with cooking spray. Set the second pan on top of the first pan (I put the pan with the potatoes on the floor) and, with all your weight, press down on the second pan so it “smashes” the potatoes to about half to  3/4 of an inch thick.  Spread butter on top of the potatoes; sprinkle with sea salt or Kosher salt. Put in oven for 20-25 minutes. If your potatoes are done before the rest of the meal is done, just turn off the oven and keep the door closed. The potatoes will crisp more while you finish up.

Is this calorie-free? No. More butter makes it taste better. But it’s a fabulous side dish that you can wow your friends with. To make it fancier, sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley on top. Serve directly from the oven to your guest’s plates. They will thank you for it.

thanks to for the photo!

Decadent Hot Chocolate

Perfect for the Holidays, or any day where it’s chilly outside, the powdered stuff will get you by. It’ll do in a pinch. But when you want to see how it feels to be Royalty, have your kitchen slave whip you up some of this  bundle of delicious goodness, and you’ll feel your holiday stress melt away.

Ingredients: 1 cup high quality 60% cacao chocolate (I use Ghiradelli – but regular choc chips are fine) 4 cups milk, 3 Tlb powdered baking cocoa, 3 Tlb white sugar, 1 cup heavy whipping cream.

Put chocolate in a pan, and add just enough milk from your 4 cups to float the chips a bit. Heat until chocolate is melted through, stirring the entire time. Once melted, add the rest of the milk a little at a time, keeping the heat on medium (don’t boil!). Then add the powdered cocoa, one Tlb at a time, whisking it in. Do the same with the white sugar. Once that is incorporated, slowly add the 1 cup heavy whipping cream, stirring the entire time. Continue to stir until the chocolate is hot again. Then drink and be glad you are human!

This goes beyond mere hot chocolate. This will put you into Holiday Nirvana. Turn the Christmas lights on, put the carols on, and get the wrapping paper out – no chore is too much to handle when you’ve got a cup of Decadent Hot Chocolate by your side!

Again, not calorie-free. But sometimes, during the crazed holiday season, we need to treat ourselves.  It is seriously rich – maybe start with a small espresso-sized cup. It also is a fabulous addition to coffee – say, half chocolate and half coffee. It also goes really well with cinnamon cookies that my hubby made – pure heaven! (But that’s another post!)

I hope you enjoy.  To see the original post, and how we came to steal this recipe, please hop here…

Coming up: This Friday, I talk about affordable wines. More reds – three really good ones, and a chameleon wine…see you then!

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook, as well as in paperback! It makes a great Christmas present, lol!



Artichokes are Silly

Artichokes are Silly

Artichokes are silly. What I really want to know is who was the first brave soul to try to eat one? And did they use melted butter, or ranch dressing, or hollandaise sauce for dipping, or did they just start munching away without bothering to even cook it?

I caught a TV show today as I flopped on the couch, exhausted from the gym. It was some famous Italian cookbook author showing what to do with artichokes. I finally got up, got my notebook and a pen and took notes, since I have a forest of artichokes in my back yard – no kidding.

Now, I’m a good cook, but I often look for shortcuts that mostly involve the microwave. Not the pressure cooker, because the damn thing scares the bees knees out of me if you get my drift. (I think fear of the pressure cooker was passed down to me from my mother’s very DNA. Her mother apparently had a traumatic experience with one…) My best friend swore by her pressure cooker for artichokes, but it’s so totally against my grain that I found a shorter short cut in the microwave.

Normally I trim the stem so it’s flat, I cut the tops off so I don’t poke myself, then I wash them and, still dripping, pop them into a ziplock bag without closing it all the way. Then I put them in the microwave, hit the “fresh vegetables” button, and away they go.

(By the way, before I had a fresh vegetables button, I’d cook them for six minutes, twist them around so the inside was to the outside, burning my hands in the process, and put them in for another 4 to 5 minutes depending on size. )

But the lovely Italian chef wanted me to peel the fairly long (2″) stem until bright green showed. Then, after trimming as above, she suggested cutting them in half and putting them in a large pan. Add chicken stock, water, fresh chopped mint and parsley, and garlic and then cook away until they’re done. (I didn’t ever hear a time. Just “until they’re tender and cooked”. Um, okay.)

The theory went that, after you cooked them that way, the tough hairy choke would just pop out with the slightest pressure from a spoon. I’m sure it would; I’m also sure a lot of the nutrients of the artichoke would get left behind in the water it’s cooked in. But of course she had a suggestion for that as well – use that liquid as a kind of sauce over the artichoke.

And that’s where I kind of lost my patience with her. I mean, come on. Artichokes are a delivery system, pure and simple. They deliver either melted butter to your tongue, or freshly made hollandaise sauce (I’ve got an easy-peasy recipe, if anyone wants it). Maybe a ranch dressing. The nub of the artichoke is a bonus bit of tastiness.

Yes, the way I make artichokes means you have to physically cut out the choke; but really, it’s not so bad; just be careful with that sharp knife, especially if you’ve been drinking wine. And then you have more yummy artichoke to dunk in whatever butter may be left. (Not that I favor salty, yummy, melted butter with artichokes. Not at all. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin.)

Artichokes, if you live in a temperate climate, grow like weeds. I planted a couple of plants several years ago. If you knew me, you’d know that often things die in my garden because I forget to water. Hey, it gets hot here in summer, and when it’s over 100, I don’t go outside except to slip into an air-conditioned car. But these babies, once they’re established, don’t need any kind of regular watering. My garden is proof of that; if they did, I wouldn’t have a single artichoke plant out there by now.

The biggest of my plants is a globe artichoke, and it’s threatening my Bearss lime tree. It’s also spawned smaller plants. Those smaller plants are quickly growing big. We’ve taken eight artichokes off the plant this year so far and there are still four left. And that’s from one plant – we’ve now got six that produce, which makes my friends very happy.

So that’s my wisdom for today. Artichokes are silly. Hard to kill once established. And very good with hollandaise sauce! (Or butter. Seriously.)

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Have you read DEMON SOUL yet? You can find it at Crescent Moon Press or Happy Reading!