Gourmet Loaded Potatoes

I was told a while ago: ‘Every dish tells a story.‘  At the same time, food is meant to be savored with every bite. Since leaving the FoodBuzz event last week, I have had more desire to achieve more than I had since starting this blog.  Joy’s been an incredible inspiration for my cooking and I hope that this is a trend that continues.

Upon my return to the office, there was a flier posted next to the time clock, “Holiday Potluck!’ So I figure, Cool! I’ll make something simple, easy, and enjoyable. My first thought was a simple garlic mashed potato dish. A few days after that posting, the HR manager asked me what I was making for the potluck because she knew about our little journal from previous discussions.

I’m going to keep it simple, garlic mashed, I think.

“What? Don’t be boring! I’ve seen the stuff you guys make! Give us something more gourmet!”

A challenge, huh? I was game. So a few more nights passed, then it hit me. Of all the things of a Thanksgiving meal, there is not much that is not considered ‘comfort food’. Then I started thinking about the various comfort foods of a meal that could not only serve 30 people, but have the flavor and memories that follow with each taste.

I would stick with the potato idea. I browsed various sites for perfect dishes but nothing was out of the ordinary.  Then it hit me. Crème fraîche Loaded Whipped Mashed Potatoes! Yeah, try saying that to your guests at your next dinner party when you make this dish.

So, I decided I would not have a toungue twister and simplify it to “Gourmet Loaded Potatoes“. It is a relatively simple dish, but its attention is needed. If you stick with it, you’ll have an incredibly tasty, rich, and flavorful new spin on the potato.

Gourmet Loaded Potatoes

I took this challenge head-on and I am proud of the results. I got rave reviews at the pot luck and I look forward to serving this dish again soon.


Gourmet Loaded PotatoesDownload PDF recipe for Gourmet Loaded Potatoes

Ingredients [Serves about 30, as a side dish]

  • 10 lbs of Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 lb of thinly sliced pancetta
  • 1 ½ cup of heavy cream, with extra just in case
  • 1 7.5 oz package of crème fraîche
  • 1 3-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons of butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup diced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt (seasoned salt preferred)


  • Large bowl or strainer for holding the cooked potatoes
  • Electric mixer


1. Prepare the potatoes by submerging them in cold water in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add salt to the water and bring the pot to a boil uncovered. When you get to a rolling boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, covered. At the end of the 10 minutes, try piercing a potato with a fork. If it goes straight through, it’s done. If not, cook another 4-5 minutes and check again.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a pan in medium heat and cook the pancetta. You’re looking for a total crisp, nothing undercooked or limp. This cooking time will change depending on your pan, heat, and if you used any oil to help cook. Remove from the heat and pat dry any excess oil or grease with a paper towel.

3. Drain the potatoes from the pot completely and set them aside. Put the pot back onto the stove.

4. Add ingredients into the pot in this order: butter, crème fraîche, cream cheese, heavy cream. Grab the cooked pancetta and crumble it as much as possible. Then add the potatoes back into the pot. By the time the potatoes get into the pot, the butter should be completely melted and the cream cheese should as well.

5. Add the pepper, chives, cheddar, and the remaining salt.

6. Blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer starting with the lowest speed and progressively working to medium, about 5 minutes. When everything is well mixed, check the consistency. If it’s not whipped and/or enough, add 1/3 cup of heavy cream and continue mixing for another minute. Serve warm and enjoy!

Posted in appetizer, cheese, dailies, dairy, dining, experiments, fun, original Gourmeted recipe, vegetables12 Comments

Bailey’s Cafe Mocha Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I always talk about one of my common indulgences during the week: coffee with Bailey’s Irish creme. So I thought, why not put those lovely flavors in a cheesecake? After all, the Daring Bakers Challenge this month calls for playing with a basic cheesecake recipe.

For those of you not familiar with the Daring Bakers, it’s a group whose members undertake monthly baking challenges. :) I was crazy enough to join. Haha. It is so much fun. Last month was my first time and I had an initiation by fire with the spinach lasagna. This month is a sweeter challenge. Yumm…cheesecake!

I’ve made many cheesecakes before because it’s been requested so many times. My “signature” cheesecake was a no-bake one that is light and not anywhere as decadent as your average cheesecake. So it’s nice to go for something different. I took the good things from my old cheesecake and used that for this month’s recipe–lemon juice and zest in the crust and my foil-wrapping  technique that makes cooking and cleaning with the springform pan much easier.

Admittedly, although I knew what flavors to incorporate in my cheesecake, I wasn’t quite sure how until I was making it. And I’ve had a few Uh-Oh (not A-Ha!) moments. I separated the cheesecake batter into 3 parts for the 3 flavors: coffee, dark chocolate and Bailey’s. They tasted right individually, however I ended up with 3 liquids with different viscosities, with the coffee liquid as the least viscous — and I want that the most dominant flavor because I want it to be mainly coffee cheesecake. Hmm. I guess I should have thought of that when separating the batter because the most dominant liquid I had was Bailey’s. Not that I’m complaining, Gimme more, I say.

In the end, I just poured the liquids from the most, to the least, thick. I wasn’t ecstatic about the top:

Before I combined all the liquid mixtures, I saw that the coffee batter was too thin so I added an additional egg. Haha. Bad move…look at that top!!! The dark spots were from the cocoa powder that I thought to add at the very end. Yet another Uh-Oh moment. I should not have added it directly to the mixture.

But then here comes the A-Ha! moment: The Taste and texture! The cheesecake was a nice, smooth indulgent bite that melts into a comforting silk mousse of coffee, chocolate and my favorite Irish creme. Wow.

And three taste testers agree! :-)

I still need to work on my viscosity issues, but this is a winning cheesecake overall. My cake-top problem could easily be ‘fixed’ with a dusting of cocoa.

The basic cheesecake recipe is here, and I’ll be posting my recipe tonight. Done! Thanks Jenny! And thanks to Abbey, too.

Now I can relax again until the next challenge. But for now, here’s the recipe: Continue Reading

Posted in baking, cheese, chocolate, coffee buddy, Daring Bakers, dessert, experiments, fun40 Comments

Fresh Homemade Butter

What could be better?

I love butter. I want my butter all fat and all full of flavor. Give me real creamy butter or deprive me of it. I won’t hold high anything in between.

For a person who loves butter this much, you’d think I’d try to make it sooner. But neither did I know I could, nor how. As with a lot of things, it’s more special when it happens at the right time. (Haha…I crack myself up.) This butter would not be here if we did not have leftover heavy cream that we did not want to consume in one sitting of strawberry with crepes. I don’t know, I just didn’t want it to go to the dairy purgatory and find out later we have a bad cream. And it was such a nice “experiment” with excellent results.

I remembered reading about people putting heavy cream in a gallon bottle and shake it until the butter forms. We don’t have that kind of bottle and I wasn’t about to labor for it that long. I also read that you can use your hand mixer and I can deal with that. So the cream transformed from this:

To this:

To something that resembles butter, which I thought would never come:

Then into butter AND liquid (I read in some places that this is buttermilk):

Oh, hello!!!

And it went right into my toast.

I will add that I only got a bite of this because before I knew it, Dan finished it.

And what did I do with the remaining liquid (buttermilk?)? I used it to soak chicken tenders. Nothing’s wasted.

If you’re up for it, here’s you need to make (unsalted) butter:

  • Heavy cream
  • Hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Deep bowl (the liquid will start to splatter once the butter starts forming)

And all you need to do is beat the cream until butter forms. For about 10 minutes, I think. I lost track of time. You’ll see the yellow butter form. Don’t stop the first time you see it. Mix it further for about 5 minutes until the solids separate in clumps from the liquid. After that, you just need to squeeze out the liquid (I used clean hands) and transfer it to a container or measure it out in tablespoons or cups as you wish.

You can also put the butter in a separate mixing bowl and add salt and whatever spices and herbs you like, then roll it in parchment paper. I think homemade butter would be perfect for making butter with herbs.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TASTE of homemade butter? SO GOOD. I might have to make butter for our toasts from now on. It’s worth the effort, definitely.

Posted in bread, breakfast, dairy, experiments, fun, quick & easy11 Comments

Teddy makes Breakfast for Daddy!

Teddy Wave
HI! It’s Me, Teddy! Remember me? It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, huh? Teddy was busy with being a Teddy for my Mommy and Daddy and not really doing much cooking. The need to cook struck me last week and I decided to break back in with making breakfast when he went back to work for the first time in almost a month! (Get it? Break back? Breakfast?? hmm???) Wanna see??? You know you want to!

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Posted in baking, breakfast, dailies, dining, fun, sweets2 Comments

Smells Like…Tastes Like…But Doesn’t Look Like (Plus an invite for a Tea Exchange party!)

Barley Tea + Corn Tea = Coffee

Read it again, I think you missed it.

Ok, you can smooth your wrinkled foreheads and lower your raised eyebrows now.

I know it sounds ludicrous and almost insulting to the church of java beans. I apologize, but hear this — I’m on your camp, too.  And as a lover of good black coffee, I’ll put my fussiness in matters of taste and gladly attach my Certified Coffee Substitute seal on this one.

I discovered this almost-perfect combination by accident. My friend Alice, my personal purveyor of ALL kinds of tea, made this for me one afternoon. I could smell it from the dining table as I waited so I asked if she was making coffee. Not a coffee drinker herself, I thought she was making an exception for me that one time. She emerged from her kitchen with a teapot and poured golden brown colored tea into the cups. I sniffed the sweet smelling coffee aroma, and was quietly wishing it would taste something close to coffee because I was already craving for it. And then…I took a sip. And fell in love. I love both coffee and tea, and I couldn’t have been on a higher caffeine cloud at that moment. It was REALLY good. It was like drinking coffee, but with the lightness of tea.

Barley and Corn tea are two of the most unusual, if not exotic, types of tea I’ve ever had. One that makes me all giddy, though, is the subtly sweet and fragrant blush-colored rose bud tea. Having a baroness of tea for a friend does have its own benefits. And I encourage you tea lovers to find one of your own! :-D

Do you like tea? What’s your favorite?

Mine is the Coconut Macadamia tea from Hawaii on the right. Alice got me hooked on it as well.

Aside from my dear friend, I learn and get to taste teas from around the world through my like-minded penpals who I exchange teas with. We love mail and we love tea!

Have you participated in a tea exchange before?

It’s so fun! Anyway, my enthusiasm is getting the best of me. But do let me know if you’re into that and I’ll get something going for us tea lovers!
Oh, and enjoy your weekend!

Posted in dailies, drinks, experiments, fun11 Comments

Junior Pretzels

I’ve always daydreamed of making pretzels. Then as soon as I visualize the work involved, I just go on with my day. I don’t know what I’ve been afraid of now that I’ve made my first batch. It was so fun to make, too. Plus they’re cute. [Dan laughs at me when I describe any food as “cute”.]

Junior Pretzels

To ease my way into the pretzel making world, I picked a recipe that didn’t require ‘cooking’ the dough on the stove. Baby steps, baby steps. Also, the scientist (or OCD?) in me kicked in and wanting to have uniform results, I weighed each pretzel dough at 50g, and I was able to produce 15 mini pretzels. They were delish and lasted us for two days.

Making pretzels

A note on these pretzels:

As I said earlier, I took the no-dough-cooking route. I’m not sure if that’s the reason, but these pretzels did not have that fine dough texture when you eat it. It’s not similar to Wetzel’s Pretzels, nor did it have a crust like Auntie Anne’s. BUT this is a pretty easy pretzel recipe with very decent homemade results — it was soft and chewy. Dan loved them. Consider this note a warning from someone who’s overcritical about her cooking.

Here’s the recipe:

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Posted in baking, bread, breakfast, dailies, fun, snacks12 Comments

Celebrate the Mondays

I used to hate Mondays like the plague. I had anxiety attack-like symptoms that petrify me during Sundays that I don’t even get to enjoy that day. I know several people who dread Mondays and just know it’s going to be another ‘case of the Mondays’. Wow, way too many M-words. I’m happy to say that I’ve freed myself from that crutch.

My strategy the past few years? Schedule fun things that I like for Mondays, so I’ll have good things to look forward to, Like this:

Dutch Chocolate donut from Lee's Donuts

This afternoon I’m going to get a few of these incredibly delicious donuts to bring for Dan. This is my absolute favorite donut in the whole world, and that says a lot because I’ve eaten hundreds of them. [Scary.] If you’re ever in Vancouver — as if I haven’t given you enough reasons to go — don’t forget to visit Granville Island. I’m also seeing a good friend later to talk about exciting things (haha).

How do you beat your Case of the Mondays?

Posted in dailies, fun, shoppes, sweets, travel5 Comments

Portillo’s and the Chicago Style Hot Dog Review

Portillo's Hot Dogs

(Pictures taken with a LG9400 camera-phone)

Last week, my parents had a guest from Chicago who brought with him a care package of Portillo’s food. This has turned into a tradition for the past few years for us in Phoenix. I recently introduced Joy to the pleasure of this food as well and she is hooked now. I have always wanted to return to Chicago to do the simple things and in this post, I hope to hit on the big ones. Being born and raised in Chicago, there are a few things I need to require a vistor to do:

1) Visit a Cubs game (even if you are not a fan)

2) Visit downtown for the museums and Sears Tower

3) Eat a Deep Dish pizza (Either Lou Malnati’s or Pizzeria Uno’s, NOT the chain places outside of Chicago.)

4) Eat an Italian Beef. This one is a little tricky to some because it is essentially served like a French Dip sandwich but do not get it confused. The difference being an Italian beef is rubbed with spices, peppers, and you heat the beef in the au jus that you serve with it.

And last but not least, 5) Eat a Vienna Beef hot dog.

Oh, sure, the last one is probably common in your area by now, but have you noticed that is expensive? You are paying for the shipping from Chicago, really. Another thing to note. Do not read the nutritional label. You are getting this hot dog on a need-to-have basis. Besides, you are not in a diet if you do not allow yourself to cheat. You’re in the Second City, enjoy the flavor!

I have recently learned there are a few rules about eating a Chicago style hot dog:

  1. -When making the dog in “The Works” fashion, the order and selection of your toppings is extremely important.
    Taken from Chicago HotDog.com:
    -Yellow Mustard
    -Bright Green Relish
    -Fresh Chopped Onions
    -Two Tomato Wedges
    -A Pickle Spear or Slice
    -Two Sport Peppers
    -A Dash of Celery Salt
  2. Your bun will have poppy seeds and is steamed. Not fried, grilled, or cold. Steamed. So it is soft. If you can get it, I recommend S. Rosen’s for your hot dog holder. A quick Google search will have several outfits selling the packages online.
  3. Any stand will do. Do not be afraid if the place you pick is a little ratty. It is supposed to be that way. I would at least recommend getting your dog at a restaurant and not a street vendor so you can pick up some fries and a drink as a combo.
  4. While the above website says microwaving your hot dog is okay, I will add this to the rules of NOT doing. The optimal way would be a steam bath (Not boiling water!), followed by a good grilling. Leave the microwave for those Oscar Myer hot dogs.
  5. This one is i m p o r t a n t! Did I stress that enough? good.
    In this image, I have performed a cardinal sin of the Chicago dog:Portillo's Hot DogsYes. There is not supposed to be ketchup (catsup, tomato paste, etc.) on your Chicago dog.

If you follow these simple rules, you will have enjoyed the finest hot dog in the US. The Chicago dog is often imitated but never replicated. I hope that this has enticed you to travel abroad and experience the joy that is the Vienna Beef Hot Dog.

Posted in beef, dailies, dining, food g33kery, fun, reviews8 Comments

Smack Yo Mamma Mac and Cheese

Pause. Breathe deep. And behold a remarkably rich and creamy mac n’ cheese that’ll have you smitten:

Smack Yo Mamma Mac and Cheese

And the good thing is, we didn’t even have to lift a finger in preparing it! Dan’s mom, Mary Anne, baked it as part of Easter dinner at their house, and we took some home. Woohoo! What can I say — she spoils the family good. :-)

The recipe she used was from one of the finalists on Emeril’s Best Mac ‘n’ Cheese Ever Challenge, Princess Thompson, who described this as — ‘…the right mixture of love and cheese and once you taste you’ll want to Smack Yo Mamma and say, “Why didn’t you ever make macaroni and cheese like this?“‘

It was awesome. I still remember taking my first mouthful. Wow.

Go make ‘em before you get a smackin’ from your friends and family! Here’s the recipe: Continue Reading

Posted in baking, cheese, dairy, fun, pasta15 Comments

Review: Sauce

Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza

You have heard us comment about the place, now it is time for me to review the place that we have referenced about: Sauce! It’s the pizza and wine restaurant concept from Fox Restaurants (No relation to the Rupert Murdoch corporation) that offers a variety of specialty flat-bread pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and pastas.

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Posted in dailies, dining, fun, pizza, restaurants, reviews5 Comments