She Cooks: Crispy French Fries

I love French fries. I like homestyle restaurant versions. I like greasy fast food versions. I like them with the skins on and with the skins off. I even like the bagged, frozen supermarket versions — yes, even the off-brands!

I like them so much that I don’t buy them. You see, if there is a bag of frozen French fries in the freezer, and if I have a working oven to cook them, I will eat them. All of them. In a very short time frame.

So I don’t buy them. (OK, in full honesty I do buy them, very, very occasionally. But only if we will eat them all at one meal!)

I do make French fries, though. Sometimes. And I do so love them. They take time and some effort, so I don’t make them too often. It’s a perfect balance.

And I’m going to show you how to make them, too. These are not just French fries, but guaranteedcrispy French fries. Yum!

Crispy Homemade French Fries

Ingredients:

Potatoes (I like russet potatoes; about 1 small potato per person)

Frying oil (high smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, peanut…)

Seasonings (we are a salt and pepper family, but Cajun blend seasonings or “seasoned salt” is great, too)

Procedure:

Peel the potatoes (optional). Cut into slices about 1/4″ thick. I do this by cutting the potato lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slabs, then those slabs into 1/4″ thick strips.

Cover with generously salted water. Bring to a boil and cook briefly, about 2-3 minutes. The potatoes should be just fork tender, but not falling apart. Think potato salad, not mashed potatoes!

Meanwhile, set up a French fry draining station, using a cooling rack over a baking tray. One rack will be sufficient for 4-5 small potatoes. You may need multiple racks.

When the potatoes are justfork tender, drain them thoroughly, then spread them in a single layer on the cooling racks. Allow them to rest and dry out for a few minutes (a good time to preheat your cooking oil).

Heat about 1/2″ of oil in a heavy skillet. Cast iron really works best here, if you have it. Heat the oil until shimmering. Test the oil readiness by holding the end of a potato in it. The potato should immediately begin sizzling, like this:

When the oil is ready, carefully place potatoes into the oil, in a single layer. Adjust the burner setting so that the potatoes sizzle gently, like this:

Cook the potatoes until they are golden brown. The darker they get, the crunchier they will be. But also, the less fluffy they will be inside. So, it is a balance of perfect browning. Every couple of minutes, use tongs to gently “stir” the potatoes to ensure they don’t stick to the skillet or each other. Turn them a few times, also.

When they look about like this:

carefully remove them back onto the cooling rack. Immediately season to your liking, while the fries are still hot.

As they rest here, they will soften slightly. It is best to eat them as soon as possible.

But don’t burn your mouth! 😉

Tip: don’t toss out that oil! Allow it to cool completely. Using a small strainer over a funnel, pour it into a glass canning jar. It can be reused several times, so long as you are frying “bland” things in it.<<<<<<<<<<<
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She Cooks: Tomato Soup

This makes a great low-calorie lunch for one. And can easily be scaled up for more servings.

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Single-Serve Tomato Soup

1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1 tsp dried basil leaves

Combine everything and heat until warm. Or microwave for 1-2 minutes on high.

I like to serve this with sliced cheddar cheese and whole wheat crackers, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a BLT sandwich, depending on my calorie goals for lunch that day. ☺

She Cooks: Creamy Tomato Pasta

This is a simple, quick lunch I make often for my toddlers. I change the vegetables according to what I have available, and don’t always have cream cheese, but they gladly eat it any which way!

Creamy Tomato Pasta
Serves: 12 (1/2-cup) portions

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta (garden rotini & whole wheat bowties are favorites, here!)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sm yellow onion, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp ketchup
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
4 oz. cream cheese, softened, cubed

Process:

Put salted water on to boil, for pasta. In a separate pot, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in oil/butter for several minutes until very tender. Add garlic and cook briefly (less than a minute). Stir in Italian seasoning, bay leaves, Worcestershire, and ketchup. Add tomato sauce, bring to simmer, and cook on low about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente, drain, return to pot. Stir cream cheese into sauce until melted, then pour over pasta and stir together.

Modifications:

There are several ways to adjust this recipe.

  • add more vegetables to the onion/carrot/celery mix; try eggplant, zucchini, squash, or sweet potato (diced small enough to cook quickly)
  • add peas or chopped baby spinach to the sauce after simmering, before adding the cream cheese
  • add broccoli florets or fresh green beans to the boiling water for the last 2-3 minutes of pasta cooking time
  • substitute 1/4 cup heavy cream or 1/4 cup plain yogurt for the cream cheese
  • add fresh herbs instead of the Italian seasoning
  • like spicy food? replace the ketchup with hot sauce!

The sauce keeps well in the freezer. I only cook 4-6 oz of pasta at a time, and I store the extra sauce in the refrigerator or freezer for another day. That way, the pasta doesn’t swell with sauce and turn mushy!

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sauce on garden rotini pasta

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just the sauce

She Cooks: 2-Ingredient Toddler Dessert, Recipe

This is a recipe, if it can be called such, for a very simple dessert. My toddlers love it. It is healthy and delicious. It begins with just two ingredients, but there are many ways to boost the nutritional value, which I will give below the recipe.

2-Ingredient Toddler Dessert

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen fruit, any combination

1/2-1 cup COLD plain yogurt or whole milk

Procedure:

Blend ingredients until smooth. That’s it! It should be the consistency of a very, very soft ice cream or frozen yogurt; similar to a smoothie but smoother. It can be eaten with a spoon or straw.

Optional additions (stir in after blending):

1-2 tsp sweetener (honey will clump; maple syrup is great); be careful if the fruit used is already sweetened!

1 Tbsp whole flax seed or chia seed

1 Tbsp wheat germ

The picture shows this dessert made with frozen strawberries, vanilla yogurt, maple syrup, flax seed, and wheat germ. The kids love it, and don’t mind the little seeds at all.

yum!

She Cooks: Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

I adapted a few red beans and rice recipes I found online, to suit our tastes. This is the result, and I love it. I don’t think it is particularly authentic to New Orleans cuisine, but it is tasty (and inexpensive)!

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Servings: 8

Ingredients:
1 pound dry red beans, soaked overnight, rinsed & drained
1-2 tsp olive oil or bacon grease
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
2-4 cups water
14 ounces Andouille sausage, diced
sliced green onion as topping (optional)
2 cups cooked brown rice

Procedure:
Saute onion, bell pepper, and celery in oil or grease until tender. Add garlic and cook briefly. Add to crock of slow cooker along with beans, seasonings (except salt), and enough water to just cover. Cover and cook on Low heat about 8 hours. When beans are tender, mash some of the beans against the side of the crock with a spoon, to achieve desired consistency (mashed beans will thicken the cooking liquid). Stir in salt and cook another 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, fry sausage in small amount of olive oil, until browned.

Serve beans over bed of rice (about 1/4 cup per serving), topped with sausage and green onion slices (optional).

served with a side of bacon Parmesan sweet peas