How to Boil Potatoes for Making Mashed Potatoes

To make perfect mashed potatoes, you need to use the right kind of potato.

Russet potatoes are the potato of choice because of their high starch, low moisture content.

Read All about Potatoes  to learn which kind you choose for different dishes.

Wash, peel and cut potatoes into uniform sizes so they cook at the same rate.

Wash and peel to potatoes. It is advisable to use 1 potato per person plus 1. Left over mashed potatoes can be used in many ways and you will be lucky if there are any left over.

Put the cut potatoes into a sauce pan and cover them with COLD water.

Cover cut potatoes with cold water; bring to a boil.

Once the potatoes boil, add salt. Please don’t forget to add salt while boiling the potatoes. If you do, you will be left with very bland potatoes. Remember potatoes absorb flavor best while hot.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain. Process the potatoes through a ricer to produce perfect mashed potatoes.

Once the water comes to a boil. test to see how done the potatoes are. They should be almost done when they come to a boil.

Drain the potatoes when they are done.

Press the cooked potatoes through a ricer to get a fluffy lump-free texture.
A ricer is a good investment. This one belonged to Tyler’s grandmother. She used it to make spaetzle and soup noodles made with Romano cheese and lemon.

After ricing your potatoes will be light and fluffy.

In a small sauce pan, Bring 1/2-1 cup of cream to a boil. Add 2-3 tablespoons of butter to the hot cream, melt the butter. Carefully add just enough hot cream and butter to the potatoes to just moisten them and bring them together.

Be careful of over stirring which would cause the potatoes to get gluey, which isn’t very appetizing.

Adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and white pepper (so you don’t see black pepper flecks in the nice white potatoes).

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

To serve, you can mound them with a spoon, scoop or my favorite way is to pipe them out using a smooth tip, in decorative designs on the plate.

We used to do this at the restaurant and I always loved how it looked.

These are some of the ways to pipe mashed potatoes onto a plate.

So, there you have perfect mashed potatoes.

What can you do with left overs?

Make potato pancakes, add scallions and make potato scallion cakes, use them to thicken cream soups. Use left over mashed potatoes to top a casserole or to make Shepard’s Pie.

If you wanted to make them more low-fat, skip the cream and butter and use chicken stock instead. I would still use a bit of butter, but you won’t need much.

Bon Appétit!

How to make Buttermilk Biscuits

OK Tyler,

Here is how to make buttermilk biscuits. Just be careful and don’t eat too many. They have absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. Although they do taste good once in a while.

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups self rising flour

4 tablespoons butter, margarine or Crisco shortening

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F

Measure the flour into a large bowl.

Cut the butter into the flour using a fork, two knives or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal.

Make a well in the center of the flour, pour the buttermilk in and fold to make a sticky mass.

Don’t knead the dough like you would bread. If you do, you will have a tough biscuit. Just bring the mass together.

Put the dough on a well floured board and pat to about 3/4 inch thick. Using a sharp edge cutter, cut straight down.

It is important not to twist. Twisting will not allow the biscuit to rise correctly.

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet with the sides nearly touching.

Bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes. The biscuits are done when they are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter.

Serve wa


Cinnamon Blueberry Almond Scones

Getting around to making scones for International Scone Week took some doing but finally, here is my dedicated scone.

Celia at Fig jam and Lime Cordial I believe started this “tradition” that now has an international reach.

There aren’t many photos as I figured most reading this would also have posted their scones and know the basic mixing process.

(Mix dry, cut in fat, add liquid, pat into shape, cut, bake)

This recipe is inspired by some pages from over 10 years ago entitled “The Joy of Baking Newsletter”.

This particular article had several scone recipes; some marked with “this is my favorite scone” so I thought it a good place to start.

Taking a basic “English” scone recipe ( less sugar) I added several elements together to create:

Cinnamon Blueberry Almond Scones

Cinnamon Blueberry Toasted Almond Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Cut the butter int the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse corn meal.

Mix the half and half with the egg.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour the milk and eggs into the well and mix together with a wooden spoon. Mix just until the mixture comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Pat it into a 16×10 rectangle.

Allow the dough to rest while you mix the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Cinnamon mixture:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400°F.

Spread the cinnamon mixture all over the 16 x 10 dough, covering it completely.

Sprinkle fresh blueberries and toasted almonds over the surface.

Roll the dough into a cylinder, pinching seams closed.

Cut into 1 inch slices.

Spray a 9 x 9 inch square cake pan with pan release spray.

Place each slice, spiral slice up, into the cake pan, fill it up with the rolled slices.

Brush half and half over the surface of each slice.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until the scones are golden brown. Test doneness by using a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the scones are done.

Remove from the oven, invert onto a serving plate, flipping them again so the scones are right side up. Two plates are needed for this.

Drizzle the scones with fondant frosting and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Fondant frosting:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons half and half or enough to create the desired consistency to drizzle the scones.

Mix together to reach desired consistency, drizzle over scones.

Serve with fresh blueberries.

Now, go out for a brisk walk or run to work off all these scones!

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Pepper Jelly, Another Southern Staple

Chances are, if you live in the southern USA, you have seen and tasted pepper jelly. Pepper jelly is one of those staples that can be used in many things.

Hostess Saver

It saves a hostess when guests show up; pour some pepper jelly over cream cheese and some crackers and you have a marvelous snack with wine, beer or even iced tea.

It adds a special something to pan-fried pork chops and makes scrambled eggs amazing. Slathering some onto a biscuit or over some ham will leave you in taste bud heaven.

While pepper jelly is a bit on the pricy side ($4.99 USD for a small 6 oz jar) it can be made rather quickly and you can adjust the heat to make it hot or just make it sweet.

When you make this, set aside time to give it your full attention because it needs to be stirred constantly to prevent lumping and scorching.

As always, when working with hot sugar, be careful. Keep a bowl of ice water near your working space so if you get splashed, you can plunge it into ice water to prevent a bad burn.

There are many recipes for pepper jelly. This one does not use a large amount of pectin so it sets on a medium gel which makes it perfect for pouring over cream cheese, making a sauce or slathering onto a nice hot buttermilk biscuit.

Pepper Jelly Biscuit with herb and cheese scrambled eggs

Southern Pepper Jelly

1 1/4 cup of finely diced red and orange peppers (one large pepper of each color)

3/4 cup finely diced green pepper

2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno pepper OR 1 small Habanero

Wear gloves when handling hot peppers. If you get the hot peppers on your skin, soak the skin in milk, 1/2 & 1/2 or cream.

Do not rub your eyes or touch small children or babies with hands that have just handled hot peppers.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1.75 ounce package of powdered pectin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Take your time cutting the peppers. The best jelly has lovely evenly diced cubes of multicolored peppers floating the jelly. If you just hack and chop, you see uneven strands and bits and pieces of peppers which isn’t so nice to look at through the jar or when you are eating the jelly.

Here is how to cut a nice looking pepper:

Wash the peppers and remove any sticky labels.

Trim the top and bottom off, remove the stem and save the trimmed ends for kebab or in a salad or stir-fry.

Remove the ribs and seeds, open the pepper so it lays flat, skin side down.

Carefully remove the membrane

See how much prettier the pepper is with the membrane removed?

Slice into julienne, cut even slices all the way down the pepper strip.

Turn the julienne and cut into dice. The cubes should be of even size.

Pepper Jelly, a southern staple and hostess saver.

Slice the pepper so it becomes one long strip. Lay the pepper out with the skin side down. Remove the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper.

Using a sharp knife, remove the membrane from the inside of the pepper, leaving the plump pepper flesh. Just take a very thin slice from the surface to remove the membrane.

Make long thin slices from the pepper (Julienne cut), then turn the strips and cut them into cubes. Do this carefully so you create a bowl full of nicely diced peppers.

Trust me, it really makes a difference to take the time to do it right.

Place the diced peppers, vinegar and pectin into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Be careful of vinegar fumes, turn your exhaust fan on so you don’t get all choked up.

When the mixture comes to a full rolling boil, add the sugar.

Return the mixture to another rolling boil, then boil it for 1 full minute while stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may have formed on the top.

You can process the jelly in canning jars, hot water bath etc to seal and make them shelf stable. (Great idea for gifts)

Or using clean, sterile jars, fill and invert them on the counter to cool. Once cool, turn them over and they seal will set, but you will need to refrigerate the jars.

This makes slightly over a pint.

Soften cream cheese, to fancy it up a bit, put it in a piping bag and pipe the cream cheese out in a decorative pattern rather than just plopping a chunk of cream cheese on a plate.

But if you want to, you can do it that way. Lots of southern folks do.

Fig and Almond Frangipane Tart

Fig and Almond Frangipane Tart

This recipe has 5 stages.

You will make sweet tart dough, frangipane, and sauté figs to make a jam, blend eggs for custard and then assemble and bake a beautiful tart.

You can make this in stages or in an afternoon, whatever you have time to do.

What is frangipane? Frangipane is a finely ground mixture of almonds, sugar and eggs. It is used as a filling for fine pastries: almond croissants, Danish pastries, underneath fruit in a fruit custard pie such as this recipe.

Frangipane is very similar to marzipan which does not have eggs.

Frangipane must be refrigerated or frozen. If kept fresh, use it within a week for best flavor.

You will have some of these components left to make other things with so get creative!

Pear tarts
The Port Poached Pears are in my “Draft” box.

I had sweet dough, frangipane, and custard left so I made two smaller tarts and topped them with Spicy Port Poached Pears.

For the sweet tart dough

Yield: two 9 1/2 inch tarts
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg

Sift together the confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt into a bowl.

Place the butter into a food processor and process until smooth.

Scatter the flour mixture over the butter, add the egg and process just until the dough forms a mass; do not over mix.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least for an hour.

Line a greased 9 1/2 inch tart pan with half the dough and chill for 30 minutes. Keep the other half for another use.

For the frangipane:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Place the sugar and the slivered almonds in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground; about 2 minutes.

Add the butter and process until combined.

Add the eggs and the almond extract, if using, and process until smooth; about 1 minute.

Add the flour and process until combined.

Use ¾ cup for this recipe. Extra frangipane can be frozen until another use. Use fresh frangipane within a week if kept refrigerated.

For the figs:

  • 2 pints fresh figs, quartered.

Keep enough uncooked figs aside to ring the outside of the tart

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • sugar to taste*

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pan, add the vanilla seeds and beans and the quartered figs and sauté until they have a jam like consistency but retain their shape.

Use sugar to taste.* Often you don’t need it.

Cool the mixture.

For the custard:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac (or to taste)

Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the cream and cognac.

To assemble and finish this tart, you will need:

  • One 9-1/2 inch tart shell made from sweet tart dough, unbaked
  • 3/4 cup frangipane
  • Quartered figs and sautéed figs, cooled
  • Custard mixture
  • Slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

  1. Spread an even layer of frangipane over the prepared tart pan.

Bake for 14 minutes, until the frangipane layer is puffed but not set.

  1. Arrange some uncooked fig quarters around the edge of the tart
  2. Add the fig ‘jam’ inside of the ring you made with the quartered uncooked figs

    Pour the custard mix over the figs

    Bake the tart at 350 degrees F. for 50 minutes. The crust will be golden.
    After making the tart, I had some ingredients left over. 2 small port poached pears with frangipane and custard and some decorative cookies from the remaining sweet tart dough.

    Add the fig ‘jam’ mixture on the baked frangipane layer, inside of the fresh fig ring.

  3. Pour the custard mixture over the figs.
  4. Sprinkle the top with some slivered almonds.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the pastry is golden brown.

Cool the tart completely on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

This is an elegant tart. After putting all your time and effort into it, make it an occasion to eat it! Make up one if you have to.

My First Year of Blogging

Today marks the first year of Spoon Feast!

The first year went fast. I intended to have 150 posts by the first year anniversary; instead there are 122. Not bad, but not what I intended. There were many days off and sometimes weeks in between posts.

Learning about the blogging world has been amazing. Seeing the direction and growth of Spoon Feast has been fun.

I was hesitant to start this blog. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading an odd collection of stories, thoughts and recipes.

Like everyone else who starts a blog, you spend hours looking and commenting on other blogs.

It’s like a huge party where you “work the room” to get to know who’s who.

I have met some amazing people like Barbara in Sweden who writes My Italian Smorgasbord and Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

Mandy with the Complete Cook Book in South Africa taught me what a “brae” was; and Celia kindly explained what “chooks” are.

How else would you ever meet people like these but through the amazing blogosphere. (Is that a word?)

I have sat back and watched as new bloggers lit the stats on fire and racked up hits and followers while my own numbers slowly eeked up the numbers on daily hits and followers. I’m satisfied.

Our “Logo”

This is something I have no control over but I like seeing these numbers click upward. Sometimes I vision all these numbers are coming from one person who just clicks around to raise numbers and that the hits really don’t mean anything at all.

How do you get thousands of followers or even thousands of hits anyway? I clearly don’t know.

In February WordPress added the world hits – a stat keeper feature I love!

I discovered people from all over the world check in and read the words I write occasionally.

If anyone knows anyone in China or Greenland, send them a link to Spoon feast so those two chunks of land can get colored in too. 😉

Finding my voice in the beginning was hard, I hit writers blocks and couldn’t find anything to say about beloved food.

My son asked me to write a series of things to cook since he was in his first apartment with a real kitchen. So I started the “How to cook” series. He had to move out of his apartment for 6 weeks or so due to the finding of mold in the building. They are cleaning the building and replacing all furnishings before he can move back in.

Bummer to go from an independent apartment back to a confined dorm room. At least the university is covering his food in the meantime.

Tyler told me he has cooked everything I posted for him so far. You would never know it since he doesn’t comment but he says he does cook. Celia asks him questions and prompts him along too. Isn’t it fun!

Since he doesn’t have a kitchen right now, I get to play with other posts. I have 54 ideas in draft that need photos or fleshing out. You would think I could get them finished so that is a goal to complete before the end of the year. That being December, not next August.

Over the last year, in my spare time, I have:

  • White Dinner Desserts

    Started “White Dinners in Charlotte” events

  • My TV show, “Charlotte Cooks” has been picked up by PBS
  • 120+ posts have been and published for Spoon Feast
  • picked up a professional camera and learned how to take better photographs
  •  set up a photo studio in my home and intend to keep learning how to take better photos
  • developed a nearly fool-proof no-knead sourdough recipe
  • kept the sourdough culture alive and thriving and shared literally gallons of it

One blogger I follow Kathryn Dawson The Art of Letting Go, has great photos and had the honor of being Freshly Pressed recently. It was fun to recognize a blog I was following on FP. Kathryn takes beautiful photographs and the recognition is well deserved.

I keep thinking it would be nice to get Freshly Pressed recognition but it seems random and not likely.

So, I’ll just keep writing about food things. It would be lovely if you would join me or even just stop by once in a while.

Happy Anniversary Spoon Feast!

In honor of the 1 year anniversary, the appearance of the blog changed to a much simpler look.

Do you like it?

Anaida’s Back!

Just a quick update, my Russian friend got back in the country. Legally, of course, or else I wouldn’t be writing about it.

Our State Senator, our Representative from the House of Representatives, and several prominent members of the education community wrote letters on her behalf.

The letters worked because they granted her permission to come back.

Here is a silly picture of us. We couldn’t stop laughing while trying to take a picture of ourselves. Besides the lighting makes us look like smurfs!

She found out just before she was leaving for her daughter’s wedding in Germany, not knowing where to return to, Russia or USA.

Now she is working on getting a green card.


I went to visit her, we shared a cup of tea and she told me stories while we ate Russian chocolate and sipped tea from her homeland. I’m glad she’s back.

Anaida had this wonderful vegetable carving kit she received as a gift from a friend in Moscow. I really like and teach vegetable carving so I asked if she ever went back could she get me one.

Well dream come true, she did.

This is it:


The set comes with a lovely book totally in Russian. It’s odd to look at a written language and have not one single idea what it means. It looks to me as they use numbers in spelling words.


How do you pronounce that?

This slideshow is what we do with the carving tools using common vegetables and fruit.

Anaida, Welcome back! Everyone is looking forward to seeing you again.

Chinese Fortune Cookies – How do they know?

How do they know?

A few weeks ago we ordered Chinese take-out. Keeping with tradition, the meals came with fortune cookies.

Most of the time these fortunes are kind of cheesy and don’t really make any sense.

However this one was different:

A few days later I was out for a walk and saw someone down the street, whose home and gardens I greatly admired, outside watering plants. I walked up and introduced myself and have become friends since.

Not being one who makes friends easily this surprised me. It surprised me because I am not very outgoing when it comes to making new friends, I am very private actually.

“Now is the time!”

So now I am reaching out and acting and have found a wonderful world of new friends. I have re-connected with high school friends from 40 years ago. We have lunch, we do make up, we go to museums; we have fun. High school friends are one thing but we went high school in Tokyo, Japan and our classmates are scattered all over the world. Keeping in touch on Facebook led us to discover there are 4 of us from Tokyo living right here in Charlotte.

Another fortune cookie said:

White dinners in Charlotte have gone from a thought, discussion and now we are scheduling events. The first one was full of excitement just to get the project launched. I think it is going to be like lighting a firecracker and it will take off. We already have a waiting list for the September event.

July is Planning month for Charlotte Cooks. Charlotte Cooks is my little TV show for those who don’t know.

I got notice Charlotte Cooks has been picked up by PBS and is now being aired in 13 counties in North and South Carolina.

And then there is this one:

There’s no hiding from it anymore when a fortune cookie calls your bluff.

In My Kitchen August 2012

Besides being hot in my kitchen this month, there are a few things I would like to share with you.

White Dinner Desserts Table

In honor of our kick off event for White Dinners in Charlotte, we did a White Dinner Dessert gathering.

So a friend of mine, Joanie, and I decided to make French Macarons and I think they turned out pretty good.

We made:

Vanilla Bean with Mango Curd Filling,

Blueberry with Lemon Curd Filling and

Lime green one with Chocolate Hazelnut Filling (We were playing with color)

We discovered the almond meal we used, which was made with almond skins on the nuts, made all the colors duller than we wanted.

They tasted great and our macarons had feet.

Pierre Hermes says to make and fill them, set in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving. We did and Man-o-man.(Yup I said ‘man-o-man’)

Did they taste great; the mouth feel was so hard to describe! Love, love, love these tasty morsels.

I had heard each macaron had roughly 100 calories in it so you can guess they didn’t stay around here too long. I threw away what was still around this morning , easier than wearing them on your hips.

It was so much fun making them, I look forward to making more. The best part is giving them away before they get stale.

some Fresh Figs; shared bounty strikes again. I traded some pickles.

The first dish created with the figs was a chicken dish with rosemary, garlic and figs. The pan was de-glazed with red wine and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was delicious but no pictures, sigh.

The intention is to make an almond fig tart with the remaining figs but, as you can see from the bowl, they are disappearing fast.

I adore fresh figs.

A dwindling bowl of fresh figs, that tart better hurry up and get made!

Lastly, in my kitchen this month is a glimpse into my spice cabinet.

I try to use things up quickly so I can either make more or buy more. I keep dried, sliced and minced garlic on hand for emergency back up units when fresh garlic isn’t around.

Any lemons we use get zested with a fine microplane. The zest is dried to be used in shortbread, fish, pasta or soup dishes. Why just use the inside when the zest has so much flavor?

A standard unit of Montreal Steak Seasoning holds a permanent spot in the cabinet.

Those square jars are so wonderful, I use them over and over again. The brushed stainless steel tops make them perfect for storing spices and seasoning concoctions I create and often share.

The Spice Cabinet

So much food moves through my kitchen it is hard to believe we are only two. But I feed everyone who comes by. Even the UPS man gets cookies.

Hey, it makes me happy.

So that is what is in my kitchen this month. I can’t believe a month has gone by already.

A BIG thanks goes out to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this marvelous idea!

August? Really?

Guess that’s why this post is late!