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Fri, Sept. 20

Potatoes are a surefire people-pleaser

Nearly everyone likes potatoes - fried, mashed, baked, scalloped - you name it. Potatoes rank way up as favorites of just about everyone of every age. And, of course, we always equate potatoes with the Irish, and this month has their big day, so let's celebrate potatoes! They are healthy if you don't load them up with high-fat additions, and they are also filling and easy to cook.

MASHED POTATOES PLUS

The best mashed potatoes are made using very starchy potatoes such as russets. Boil, drain, then mash using a hand-held masher or ricer (electric mixers can make them gluey). Add butter and always heat milk if adding - never cold milk. If you crave a richer flavor, use half and half. An extra treat: Stir in 3 oz. prosciutto, cooked and chopped, 6 tbsp. grated parmigiano-reggiano and 3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley. For another special treat, add 4 oz. Roquefort cheese, crumbled, 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts and 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage. These amounts are for 2 1/2 lbs. mashed potatoes for 6 servings.

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place and not the fridge and they should last about a month.

Calorie counters may substitute plain low- or nonfat yogurt for cream or half and half.

Many new varieties of potatoes are now found in the market and recipes using several newer varieties, colors, and sizes are also becoming popular. Be adventuresome and try a new variety.

CRAB-STUFFED POTATOES

Easy for dinner and elegant enough for guests. 8 servings

4 large potatoes

1 small finely

chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

1 tbsp. butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 cans (6 oz. each)

drained lump crab meat

1/2 cup fat-free milk

1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Scrub and pierce potatoes; place on microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high, uncovered, for 18-22 minutes or until tender, turning once. Let stand 5 minutes until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, sauté onion and celery until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Set aside. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving thin shells. In small bowl, mash pulp with sour cream. Stir in crabmeat, milk, parsley, salt, pepper and reserved mixture. Spoon mixture into potato shells. Place on baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for about 20 minutes or until heated through.

Only 231 calories and 3 grams fat plus 14 grams protein.

CHEESY CANADIAN BACON AND POTATO CASSEROLE

This serves 12 as originally written, but would be easy to cut in half. This is what I call a breakfast, lunch or dinner entrée. It uses many reduced-fat products but they won't be missed because it is so tasty.

1 can (10-3/4 oz.)

reduced-fat condensed broccoli cheese soup, undiluted.

1 cup (8 oz.) each

1 percent cottage

cheese and reduced-fat sour cream

1 package (28 oz.)

frozen O'Brien potatoes, thawed

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 lb. Canadian bacon, chopped

1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

In food processor, combine soup, cottage cheese and sour cream; cover and process until smooth. (A blender should work as well).

In large bowl, combine potatoes, garlic powder and pepper; stir in Canadian bacon and soup mixture. Transfer to 13x9x2 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 50-55 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

POTATO CHEESE PUFFS

Makes 36 to be served as an appetizer or side dish (great for pot lucks). A way to use leftover mashed potatoes.

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter (no substitution)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. dried marjoram

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1/2 cup leftover (or fresh) cooled mashed potatoes

3/4 cup shredded

Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup shredded

sharp cheddar cheese

2 tbsp. fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400. Heat water, butter, mustard, salt, marjoram and pepper in medium heavy saucepan until butter melts and water simmers. Beat in flour, mixing vigorously until mixture forms a ball and no long sticks to sides of pan. Remove from heat and set aside 10 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in potatoes, cheeses (reserving 1/4 cup for top) and chives. Drop teaspoonfuls onto well-greased baking sheet and sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake 18-20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Turn off oven and crack oven door. Let stand 15 minutes before removing from oven.

SWEET POTATO PATTIES

Good served with pork or chicken and healthy, too. Makes 12 patties as written or half for six servings.

3 medium (1 lb.) sweet potatoes

2 beaten eggs

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt and cooking oil

Wash and peel potatoes. Grate by hand or in food processor with medium shred disc, shredding coarsely. You'll need about 4 cups.

In a large mixing bowl, combine shredded potatoes, eggs, onion and salt.

In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 inch cooking oil over medium heat. For each patty, spoon about 1/4 cup potato mixture into hot oil. Spread to make a circle about 3 1/2 to 4 inches diameter cooking about 2 minutes on each side until brown. Drain on paper towels.

May keep warm in oven in single layer on baking sheet up to 60 minutes at 300.

NOTE: For Bruce who wrote a comment on dCourier.com about problems with the chocolate cake done in slow cooker, I am sorry. I studied the recipe and the only thing I can think of is a variation in slow cookers.

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