Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Onion, and A Friendship Bread Update

1. Amish Friendship Bread Update

Above are two of the most recent Friendship Bread experiments. The one on the right, a whole-wheat version with honey, was quite good. Since then, however, I have developed a superior loaf with whole wheat, oats, and brown sugar. I’m setting out a new starter–I found the recipe on the Internet, of course–to make sure the recipe will work, so it will be at least 10 days before I post on this again.

2. Mashed Potatoes

It’s darn near impossible to beat the creamy, luscious tastiness of mashed potatoes. But since that lusciousness results largely from vast quantities of butter and cream, Fred and I have struggled to keep mashed potatoes on our slimmed-down menu.

I’m the problem. I pretend to be a normal cook, the kind of person who makes desserts with Kool Whip. But the truth is that I am a horrible snob when it comes to food–a dreadful, pretentious, unyielding, unforgiving snob. While others at our Weight Watchers meeting are raving about recipes that call for cake mix combined with diet soda (I only wish I were joking here), or fat-free HoHos, or the menu items at Chili’s that have less than 7 points, I can only smile weakly with supressed horror. Why are they not making cakes from scratch? Who eats at chain restaurants? And why do they not recognize that “fat-free” foods are the worst abominations of the agricultural/military/industrial complex?

My pretensions kept me from using fat-free sour cream or fat-free half and half in any mashed potato recipe. Buttermilk, which is rich but tends to be lower in fat, seemed an acceptable substitute. But the butter, with no “real” alternative, posed a thorny problem.

Luckily, I am a woefully inconsistent snob. I am a sucker for processed foods from the 1970s, the beloved companions of childhood. I will happily lap up cans of Spaghetti O’s, heaps of Hamburger Helper Lasagna, vats of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, and gallons of Kool-Aid. And it’s a good thing for these mashed potatoes that among those foods, margarine holds a special place in my heart.

My health-concious mother, lured by advertising claims that margarine was the healthy option, kept it on hand along with the wheat germ and the embarassing slices of whole-grain bread that encased our bologna sandwiches. My grandmother, across the street, was providing butter churned from cows my grandfather had milked by hand. But my palate, captivated by the salty, flavor-filled chemical overload of margarine, rejected the subtle delicacy of fresh butter. And so even today, there is always a tub of non-dairy spreadin my refrigerator–these days, it’s Brummel and Brown, which uses actual dairy products. It’s right next to the unsalted organic butter.

The Brummel and Brown is essential for this recipe if you are counting calories. If not, butter will do quite well. Roasted onions add flavor and additional liquid without resorting to a lot of cream.

Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Onion

Makes 4 servings

Preheat oven to 350. Take two whole, unpeeled onions and place on cookie sheet. Roast in oven until very soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool slightly, cut off ends, and remove skin. When onions have about 30 minutes remaining, peel and slice potato. Place in enough salted water to cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer on medium-low heat until potatoes are very soft, about 20 – 30 minutes. Drain potatoes and place in food processor with blade inserted. Add 1 – 2 tbsp. Brummel and Brown or butter, 2 -4 tbsp. half and half, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover until Brummel and Brown has melted. Add onions and process until just smooth. Add more half and half if needed and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.