Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Garden Geek 2014, vol. 2

Pictures from the Spring and Summer garden.

Potted plants from Christian's classroom get to camp out in our garden for the summer. This ageratum took up residence in a pot with an aloe plant, and is winding its way around and out of the pot!

G'day, Daylily!

Feathery, pretty Astilbe.

We're getting lots of tomatoes this summer (despite the leaf spot visible here.) These are Early Girls.

Here comes Coriander!

And cukes! Cucumbers are this year's zucchini... our neighbors have brought armloads to us. 

I must pick up a field guide to dragonflies. I swear I see a new variety every day. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Salt Potatoes


I heard about salt potatoes for the first time at the beginning of this summer, from my good friend Meghan. Our conversation went like this:

Meghan: "I went to Hannaford's to see if salt potatoes are in, but they didn't have any. The guy there said he's never heard of them."
Me: "What are salt potatoes?"
Meghan: "You've never heard of salt potatoes?!?"

She explained that "salt potatoes" are small, white potatoes that come in a bag along with a packet of salt. The packet of salt gets added to the cooking water for the potatoes. "Then," she said, "you eat them hot with lots of butter." Sounds simple. Sounds delicious! 

Shortly after that conversation Meghan made a trip to Syracuse, NY where she grew up, and there managed find her salt potatoes. She also brought back an extra bag for lucky me! This bag was Hinerwadel's Famous Salt Potatoes, "Now with "Less Salt, More Potatoes". 
The "packet" of salt!
I cooked them up exactly to the original recipe on the bag. Those little, steaming potatoes with white rings and swirls covering the skins were sublimely salty and buttery! The skins on the potatoes had taken on a thin crust of salt, and the potato inside was soft and fluffy. Christian and I had them for dinner, nothing else, just those wonderful potatoes. 
Salty water boiling over
Wikipedia gave me this historical information about salt potatoes:
"The SyracuseNew York area has a long history of salt production. Salt springs located around Onondaga Lake were used to create consumable salt that was distributed throughout the northeast via the Erie Canal. Salinated brine was laid out to dry on large trays. The salt residue was then scraped up, ground, and packaged. 
Salt potatoes originated in Syracuse and once comprised the bulk of a salt worker's daily diet. During the 1800's, Irish salt miners would bring a bag of small, unpeeled, substandard potatoes to work each day. Come lunch time, they boiled the potatoes in the "free-flowing" salt brine."

I checked with other New York folks to see who knew about these potatoes. (Who else had been keeping them from me?) I started with my mom who grew up Hoosick Falls, NY, about an hour outside of Albany. She had never heard of them either, too far south. Next I checked with her brother, my Uncle Jack who lives in the Rochester, NY area as well as my cousin Meghann who lives over there with her family, too. Bingo! Though they had not heard of Hinerwadel's, my cousin said that there were many brands of potatoes that came packaged like that. They both agree that salt potatoes are yummy! My uncle said they're usually served at clambakes and lobster bakes. 

This seems to align with history of the Hinerwadel brand. Their website says that John Hinerwadel began selling salt potatoes at his popular clambakes in the early 1900's. One hundred-plus years later, and selling about a million bags each year they are still going strong! 

I'm very happy to now know of this method of cooking potatoes and will probably try to replicate it at home. More than that I just love learning of regional favorites like this, with their own little historical tale and devoted local fans. Hinerwadel's has the perfect formula figured out... it's not just any old potato with a dash of salt. It's small white potatoes, skins left on, scrubbed clean, and boiled in water to which 12 ounces of fine salt have been added. I'm sharing below the recipe right off the Hinerwadel's bag, and visit their website at And take it from my friend Meghan: Don't forget the butter, lots of it!

Who else out there has heard of salt potatoes? 

Hinerwadel's Salt Potatoes: Original Recipe
Ingredients (inside the Hinerwadel's bag):
5 lbs. small white potatoes
12 oz. salt packet (fine grain, like pickling salt)

Place 4 quarts of water in a pot with the entire contents of the salt packet, and bring to a boil. Add all the potatoes and cook about 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and serve hot. Eat them plain, or melt butter or margarine on top. Leave the skins on though, they're the best part!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Garden Geek 2014

Pictures from the Spring and summer garden.

Lilacs and creeping phlox. So beautiful, and so brief!

Johnny Jump-ups, or Violas. They do seem to jump up all over.

Blooms from my tiny azalea. Sadly, this shrub didn't survive the summer. 

Love, love my Japanese Maple! The color is a brilliant ruby-red at the beginning of summer. 

Blooming blueberries! And the blooms look like... old-fashioned bloomers. Hmmm. Why? What's the significance? I don't know!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cappuccino Potato Chip-Topped Sundaes

This year's Lay's Do Us A Flavor: Choose Your Chip contest finalists for a tantalizing new potato chip flavors are Cheddar Bacon Mac n' Cheese, Mango Salsa, Wasabi Ginger and ... Cappuccino

Yes, Cappuccino. I purchased three of these four to try, and to force my family to try. (Our local store didn't have the Cheddar Bacon Mac n Cheese, but honestly it isn't much of a stretch to assume that that flavor will taste pretty dang good. It has bacon!) 

Just days before this I had seen the flavors at another store and, out of sheer curiosity attempted to purchase the Cappuccino chips. The cashier would not let me buy them! She talked me as a teacher might talk to a child caught trying to eat a glue-stick, explaining gently and with a touch of horror just how wrong this coffee-flavored chip idea was. The bag was removed from my hand and hidden away from me. I was about to learn why.

I sprung these flavors on the family as we were about to start dinner. And now, the results of that taste-test: 

Logan liked the Mango Salsa flavor, and refused to try the Wasabi Ginger or Cappuccino. 
Christian tried the Mango Salsa and Wasabi Ginger, hated them both, and refused to try Cappuccino. 
Haley tried the Mango Salsa and Wasabi Ginger, liked Mango better, and refused to try Cappuccino. 
I tried Mango Salsa and Wasabi Ginger and I love them both. Then I turned to the Cappuccino...

Like Jacob Marley's ghost the cashier's face was before me, demanding I right this wrong, run back to the store with the unopened bag and receipt. Yet I could not back down in front of my family of unwilling, weird-chip taste-testers. After all this was my silly idea in the first place! So I tried those Cappuccino chips.... 

I didn't like them at all. A dry dusting of coffee flavor covers the potato chips - they look like dirty chips. There is no sweetness to them and almost no salt - a generous handful of either might have helped. The end taste was pretty disappointing. 

Generally speaking I will always vote "yes" for coffee. For these coffee-flavored potato chips I just could not. 

That night before tossing them out I tried to figure out if there was anything I could do with them. (I had begun to feel bad for them, those unwanted, dirty chips.) Could some dish be enhanced with Cappuccino chips? Well, we all know that chips and ice cream taste great together! (Everyone knows that, right? Ben & Jerry's has a great flavor called 'Late Night Snack' that has fudge-covered chips!)

I whipped up two sundaes using the Cappuccino chips and coffee ice cream: one with chocolate sauce and chocolate chips, and the other with caramel sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt.In this application, I like these dirty chips very much! They add a satisfying crunch to the sundaes. In addition, the coffee taste of the chips is enhanced against the cool ice cream, more bold and less bitter. The sweetness supplied by the ice cream and syrups takes away the dry, dustiness that I think the chips have on their own. The sundae with caramel and sea salt has a smooth, butterscotch-like flavor and a bite from the sea salt crystals mingled with the crumbled coffee chips. 
So, if your friendly, neighborhood grocery cashier does not talk you out of buying Lay's Cappuccino Chips and you find yourself with a bagful, here is my idea on what to do with them!

Cappuccino Potato Chip-Topped Sundaes

3 scoops coffee ice cream
2 TB chocolate sauce
1 TB semisweet chocolate chips
7 Cappuccino flavored potato chips, coarsely crushed

Place the ice cream in a chilled bowl. Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the ice cream. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and crushed chips over the top. Serve immediately.

Caramel Sea Salt Version: Substitute 2 TB caramel sauce for  the chocolate sauce and omit the chocolate chips. After sprinkling the crushed chips over the top, add a pinch of coarse sea salt.