Potatoes in Ireland: A Tale of Intrigue, Espionage, and Dinner

Potatoes in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, so let’s celebrate this traditional Irish holiday by paying homage to that most Irish of foods: the humble potato!

There’s a rich tradition of potatoes in Irish culture, but did you know that potatoes aren’t originally an Irish food? Spuds actually have their roots in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia, where they’ve grown for thousands of years. It wasn’t until around 500 years ago that Spanish conquistadors brought potatoes back to Europe, where they made their way up to Ireland.

Still, 500 years is plenty of time to build some rich — and delicious! — traditions. And since those tasty tubers made their way across the Atlantic and across the Continent, they’ve become an important part of Irish culture, from colcannon chowder to potato tasting contests!

Much has been written about the Great Potato Famine, so let’s get ready for St. Paddy’s day by looking at some of the less talked-about — and happier — history and traditions of Irish potatoes instead!

The Epic Journey of the Irish Potato

So, how did potatoes make it from Spain all the way over to Ireland? By many accounts, it was actually a pretty dramatic journey.

When the conquistadors returned to Spain with their bounty, some say that British spies stole potatoes from Spain and headed back to Britain with them, expecting that they’d catch on as an efficient food source. Unfortunately, the Brits weren’t as crazy about potatoes as you’d think. Their first mistake? They ate them raw. Not the greatest first impression.

Rather than try out these suspicious new veggies on their own people, the British sent potatoes to the colony of Ireland, where they were an instant hit. Not only is Ireland’s climate very similar to the potato’s home soil, but Irish farmers loved how quickly they grew and how many potatoes you could produce in a relatively small space.

It was an instant love affair, and despite experiencing the infamous potato famine in the mid-1800s, potatoes are still a staple of Irish culture today.

Irish Potatoes: Fun Facts!

  • Each year, towns across Ireland hold potato-tasting competitions, where potato growers from all over the area vie for the #1 spot. The event is called “An Spud-Off Mor.” Want to see one of these in action? Check out the video!
  • Potatoes didn’t originate in Ireland. They made their way to Europe in the 1500s after Spanish conquistadors discovered them in the Andes mountains.
  • Irish Potato Candy, a St. Patrick’s Day staple for many people, is neither Irish nor made of potatoes. It’s actually a Philadelphia-based tradition, and the candy is usually made from coconut, sugar, and other decidedly non-potato ingredients.
  • St. Patrick’s Day is when Irish farmers traditionally plant their potato crops. The legend is that St. Patrick – the patron saint of Ireland – makes planting conditions ideal on his special holiday.
  • Potatoes actually came to North America from Ireland in the 1700s, not from our neighbors in Peru, which means that they traveled across the ocean and back again to make it to your dinner plate!
  • While there are almost countless varieties of potatoes in a rainbow of colors, the Irish potato is a white potato, sometimes called an “Earth apple.”

Sources:

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by jemasmith
 

Healthy Holiday Potato Recipes

Holiday Potatoes

The feasting season is upon us. And we are so glad, because there is lots of delicious food to look forward to.

However, it also means a lot more temptation on the eating front (the parties, the fantastic meals, the toasts, the sweets, the eggnog), and for many of us, less time in December to take care of ourselves (eat well, workout, relax and rest).

Overeating is part of December, period. But you can counter balance that, easy peasy. Here are 3 easy recipes and a snack tip for keeping your potato cooking light, but delicious and healthy this holiday season.

PotatOHs: the Perfect Antidote to Overindulgence

Pop a PotatOH into the microwave at work for a fast, healthy lunch. Or stop off at home on a busy Saturday to power up for hours more of shopping fun. In less than three minutes, you’ll have a healthy, satisfying meal that will help keep your hunger at bay. Just keep the toppings trim. Go for veggie chili, low-fat yogurt or a dash of olive oil (a healthy fat) and some salt and pepper.

Bonus tip: to keep the naughty noshing to a minimum, try a PotatOH with salsa as a pre-soiree snack. If you don’t go to the party starving, you’ll be less likely to eat the whole dang cheese platter.

Holiday Recipes

Lightened Potato Latkes
Potato Latkes

An important part of Jewish holidays, latkes are cooked in oil to remind folks of the oil that gave light in the temple for eight days.

Try this lightened up Latkes recipe that lets you enjoy tradition and taste without without extra calories. You can use any potato you like, but for crispiest results, use the starchiest (Russets.) Enjoy.

 

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

This buttermilk mashed potatoes recipe is a family favorite at our house. The garlic cloves make it super special, because they give the potato puree extra body and lots of flavor. We also like to add some chopped chives to the top because it looks great and adds even more taste.

 

Au Gratin Potatoes
Au Gratin

Richly cheesy sauce coats perfectly cooked potatoes in this classic holiday casserole we dream of all year long. Our go-to recipe for Au Gratin potatoes is healthy and omits butter, keeps the milk and low fat, and backs off a bit on the cheese. You won’t miss it.

 

What are your favorite holiday potato recipes? Let us know in the comments!

Thanksgiving With Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Browned Butter Smashed Potatoes with Butternut Squash

 

Although it wasn’t a national holiday until 1863, Thanksgiving has been happening for nearly 400 years.

You probably still remember what you learned in grade school about that first celebration: it was held in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. A three-day party (feast plus games) to celebrate the fall harvest, it was enjoyed by about 50 Pilgrims and 90 or so members of the Wampanoag tribe.

What was on the menu? They probably ate venison, maybe some turkey, for sure some other birds. We know there was seafood, corn and pumpkins. But probably no pies or sweets—sugar was scarce. And no potatoes.

What!?

Around here, it’s not Thanksgiving without at least a 1/2 pound of mashed potatoes for every man, woman and child. Maybe, just maybe, you could get by with 1/3 of a pound, if you had some sweet potatoes—which we always do—and lots of other sides. But then again, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy are about the most delicious combination in the whole world.

So no matter how many sides we make, we serve potatoes. And we like to keep some of the dishes classic, using the same tried and true recipe every year. But we also do a little experimenting, too. Last year we had fried Brussels sprout leaves and they were awesome! This year, we’re trying a new recipe for sweet potato casserole.

So below are two classic recipes for potatoes and sweet potatoes and two more experimental but equally delicious takes. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your long weekend!

Classic Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes

These are the mashed potatoes we all remember eating as a child. Classic, creamy and delicious, you can’t go wrong with this recipe. We make these at the last minute to be sure they’re hot. And before we bring them to the table, we like to sprinkle a little paprika on the top because it looks really pretty. Enjoy!

Brown Butter Smashed Potatoes with Butternut Squash

This is a great recipe to try if you’re not already making a side of squash. It’s kind of two sides in one. We love the beautiful color and awesome fall flavor of the squash and sage. Like everything else in the world, it tastes even better with a little gravy. Try it out!

Sweet Potatoes With Maple Syrup


This recipe roasts the sweet potatoes before mashing them, bringing out a wonderfully rich taste and smooth texture. Feel free to add more or less maple syrup. If you have it, grind your nutmeg with a rasp yourself. It makes a difference in the flavor. Dig in.

Spiced Sweet Potato Gratin

Completely delicious AND gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan, this recipe was originally posted by Alice Currah on her blog, Savory Sweet Life. The recipe is a little less sweet than traditional sweet potato casserole, adding in some savory and salty tones to replace it. Not only does it sound incredible, we think it looks beautiful, too. We’re going for it this year, for sure.

7 Eerie Ideas for Spooky Halloween Potatoes

This week, we dug around the spookiest corners of cyberspace to bring you a handful of Halloween boo-tato recipes (Cue the evil laughter)!

With a just a little pre-plotting, this boonanza of paranormal potatoes is guaranteed to make All-Hallows-Eve an evil-ing to remember. But in truth, these tasty treasures would be to-die-for on any dark, gloomy night when there’s a full moon and an empty belly growling in the kitchen.

We had a frightfully good time hunting down all these fang-tastic creations. Our research revealed that the world is filled with creative potato makers. So heads off to all you clever devils out there!

Whether you’re a kid or a grownup, you’ll have a scary fun playing with your food on Halloween with these spooky potato creations.

Jack-o-Lantern Sweet Potatoes

1) Jack-O-Lantern Sweet Potato Fries

These super cool sweet potato fries look just like miniature pumpkins. It’s neat that you can “carve” each one to be as friendly or fierce at you like. We also love that this recipe is kid-friendly, meaning school-aged kids will love helping you “carve” them and everyone will love eating them. We can’t wait to try these.

Image Source: Babble

Wicked Witch Stuffed Potatoes

2) Wicked Witch Stuffed Potatoes

This recipe is great because, if you wanted, you could use PotatOHs to speed the meal along. Just do the first bake in the microwave according to the directions on the PotatOH package and the second in the oven. Don’t limit yourself to the design here, either. You can use anything edible you have on hand to make the mouth, nose and eyes. Have fun and be creative.

Image Source: Taste of Home

Potato Ghosts

3) Potato Ghosts

These are GREAT. And, like the article suggests, you can follow the recipe from the Gourmet website or you can just whip up a batch of your favorite mashers and let your creativity run wild. If you wanted to mix things up a bit, it would be easy to add some sweet potatoes to your recipe and make these into Jack-O-Lantern Boo-tatoes, too. Go for it!

Image Source: Gourmet

Beef Stew Potato Ghost

4) Beef Stew with Ghoulish Mashed Potatoes

Here’s another take on mashed potato ghosts. We love the green pea eyes on this one, as well as the idea of a slow cook beef stew on Halloween night. Not only is there likely to be a chill in the air, you’ve probably got places to go and doorbells to ring. Right?

Image Source: Taste of Home

Mummified Potatoes

5) Mummified Mashed Potatoes

What we like about this one is even the littlest ghoul in your house can get in on the fun, if you prep the features. Again, anything you have on hand is fair game. In addition to the list of optional decorations, we can see a wicked wig of shredded cheese. Yum.

Image Source: Fabulous Foods

Kitty Cat Potatoes

6) Kitty Cat Potatoes

So cute it’s scary, these would be dead easy to make any day of the week. And using PotatOHs here would be a snap. Let your creativity run wild. If you’d like to make them more gruesome, BBQ sauce would work well for little palettes; hot sauce or buffalo chicken sauce would be great, too.

Image Source: Serenity Now Blog

Shrunken Potato Heads

7) Shrunken Potato Heads

We don’t think you’re meant to eat these. And they look like they’d take some serious carving skills. But this might be our favorite looking project of the whole bunch. Forget shrunken apple heads. Grab a knife and go potato. These would be cool as decorations for a Halloween buffet table. And it’s neat that they might even last for a couple years. The author of this blog says they have some still in their Halloween box. Cool!

Image Source: Chez Larsson

If you possess a menacing, gruesome, ghastly or otherwise fun potato recipe, don’t be invisible. Give us a shriek and we’ll share the link.

Happy Halloween!

Patriotic Potato Salad Recipes for 4th of July

Red White Blue Potato Salad

We’ve got purple mountains majesty, fruited plains, shining seas and much, much more. So it makes sense that we like to celebrate America’s birthday outside. In fact, the 4th of July is probably one of the biggest alfresco dining days of the year. And definitely one of our favorites!

Whether your plans include packing a picnic basket or hosting a happening BBQ, make sure to put potatoes on the menu. They’re great served hot, cold or room temperature, which makes them perfect for summer. They go well with other foods, so you won’t have to fuss too much with your menu. And, last but not least, everyone loves them.

This year, we want you to reach beyond your grandma’s potato salad. Or, maybe, just make room on your plate beside it. So here are four 4th of July favorites that have become summer traditions for our families. Enjoy!

 

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad

It might not be a summer party without potato salad, and it’s not a 4th of July celebration without the red, white and blue. That’s why we’ve picked out this colorful and tasty recipe that features three types of potatoes. The delicious flavors of garlic, onions, bell peppers and ham make it exciting, and a touch of walnut oil and your choice of sherry or white balsamic vinegar round it out to perfection. We promise you’ve never had a potato salad quite like this, and each bite will feel like a celebration of flavor in your mouth!

 

Quick & Healthy Potato Salad

Here’s a modern, mayo-removing remake on the classic potato salad. With the help of a little non-fat yogurt, you get all the great flavor, but a lot less guilt. What’s more, we leave the skins on, which adds a nice subtle earthy flavor, boosts the nutritional value and provides a more sophisticated texture. We also let you cook your potatoes in the microwave, perfect for when it’s hot and/or when you’re in a rush. Which, in this day and age and the current heat index, may be always.

 

Red, White and Blue Potatoes

This vegan recipe is picnic-perfect, because it’s a German-style potato salad. That means it gets its great flavor from herbs and vinegar instead of mayo, make it easier to bring along and safe to make ahead, even on the hottest days. Two things to note about this recipe: (1) you’ll want to bake or microwave the potatoes instead of boiling them, which will help them retain their color. And (2) even if you cook the potatoes ahead of time, you’ll want to “dress” them with the vinegar while their warm, so they absorb more flavor.

 

Quick and Healthy Microwave Baked Potato Salad

Every potluck party has at least one “classic” potato salad, so it can be hard to create a standout dish. Until now. This modern potato salad remake takes its flavor cues from baked potatoes, so it’s a very original dish for a potluck party. What’s more, it doesn’t take long to make, you can serve it hot or cold, and it goes well with anything and everything else. Just beware: at our parties, it also goes fast.

Perfect Potato Recipes for Memorial Day Celebrations

Memorial Day Cookout

On Memorial Day, we take time to honor the brave men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. We also welcome warm weather as the summer season begins, and for those us lucky enough to have the day off from work, it’s a perfect day to get together with family and friends and enjoy a good meal or two.

Whether you’re going to a park for a barbecue or a picnic, heading outdoors and camping, or staying indoors, here are great potato recipes perfect for your Memorial Day celebrations, including potato meals, potato pairings, side dishes and potato salads.
 

BBQ At The Park or Camping

What better way to bring in summertime than with a BBQ at the park? You can throw some potatoes on the grill for a delicious toasted and smokey flavor, bake them in foil, or bring along a potato salad as a side dish to meat and chicken. And if you’re going camping, just because you’re roughin’ it doesn’t mean you have to eat rough. Cook some of these at home and bring them with you, or pack up the ingredients and heat them up on a campfire.

Recipes


BBQ Potatoes

Grilled Spud Dogs

Southwest Potatoes and Chicken

Quick & Healthy Microwave Baked Potato Salad

 

Hosting Indoors

When you lead a busy life, sometimes the best thing to do on a day off is enjoy the comfort of your own home. If you’re planning to relax at home and invite friends and family for dinner instead of spending the day outdoors, these recipes are for you. There’s something for everyone, including vegetable and meat dishes, a fun and spicy twist on mashed potatoes, and a pesto salad with plenty of zing.

Recipes

Tuscan Potatoes and Vegetables

Meatloaf-Stuffed Microwave Potato

Chipotle Mashed Potatoes

Grilled Pesto Potato Salad

 

If You Have To Work

Getting stuck working on Memorial Day isn’t fun, but we’ve got some easy recipes to cheer you up just in case. You’ll still get the taste of cookout potatoes, but without the need for a grill. Simply pack up your ingredients before you leave work, throw them in the microwave at lunchtime, and treat yourself to a delicious cooked lunch.

Recipes

Cheesy Broccoli Baked Potato

Microwave-Roasted Potatoes

Roasted-Style Microwave Cajun Potatoes

 

Fiesta! Celebrate Cinco de Mayo With 3 Zesty Potato Recipes

Quick & Healthy Chili Lime Potato Tacos

Potatoes were introduced in Mexico by Spaniards in the 16th century, and today they are the best amigos of other favorite Mexican foods, including chili peppers, beans, rice and tortillas. If you’re looking for quick and easy Mexican recipes that are big on flavor and easy on the calories, we’ve got you covered! Here are three potato recipes that will add color, spice and sabor to your Cinco de Mayo party!

 

Fiesta Potato Smashers

Add spice to your Cinco de Mayo party with these smashers that mix potatoes with sweet peppers, cilantro, sour cream or greek yogurt, and a hint of chili powder. You can use any potatoes you like, and you can get creative with yellow and red potatoes, or Express Bake russets, sweets or fingerling Jubileez. They’re easy to make (smash the potatoes together for added fun!), low on calories (only 50), and big on flavor.

 

Baked Potato Nachos

Baked Potato Nachos

With black beans, green chiles tomatoes, olives, onions and shredded cheese, these colorful and delicious spud-infused nachos pack a lot of flavor without the extra calories. Eat them just like that, or add salsa, guacamole and sour cream for extra flavor. Either way, you can’t go wrong! Just be careful when you put them out — your guests may not let them last longer than it takes to dance “La Macarena!”

 

Quick & Healthy Chili Lime Potato Tacos Thumbnail

Quick & Healthy Chili Lime Potato Tacos

Enjoy great Mexican taste with fewer calories. Make them with chicken, vegetarian, and even gluten free! It’s easy to adapt the basic recipe to your liking with the variations on our recipe page.The chili and lime flavors taste truly authentic and with all four recipes at less than 250 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving, they’re perfect for a low-calorie diet.

 

Potatoes: celebrated in holidays around the world

Nearly ever culture across the globe has a celebration during the cold, short days of winter. These celebrations usually involve uniting family and friends, and feasting on lots of amazing food. No matter where the winter season finds you, you’ll usually find potatoes there, too.

We love trying new things, so here’s a quick round up of favorite potato dishes made around the world at holiday time.

In Russia, Christmas was banned during the Soviet era. So Russians adapted their New Year’s celebration to include many Christmas traditions. They decorate a New Year’s Tree, exchange presents, expect a visit from Grandfather Frost, and dig in to lots of traditional dishes. Mimosa Salad is one traditional dish that includes potatoes. Check it out.

In Scotland, the big winter holiday is Hogmanay—a tradition most likely inherited from the Vikings. Celebrated on December 31, the party can go on into the first couple days of January and includes customs like “first-footings” and dishes like Rumbledethumps, a delicious potato, cabbage and onion creation. Here’s a recipe to try.

Jewish people around the world celebrate Hanukkah with an absolutely delicious potato dish you’ve probably tried: latkes (in Yiddish) or livivot (in Hebrew.) Because Hanukkah is a celebration of oil—specifically the oil that burned for eight days in the holy Temple, latkes (a sort of fried potato pancake) help remind us of the miracle of oil. Here’s a great recipe that recently came to our attention.

Not quite a holiday meal, but worth checking out anyway is nikujaga, a traditional Japanese winter comfort food. It’s exactly the kind of dish your mom would serve on a cold Sunday night. Styled after British beef stew, it’s made from steak, potatoes and vegetables in a soy sauce. Learn how to make it here.

Next time you want to add a new dish to your holiday spread, try one of these!

Potatoes: perfect for any holiday dish

It’s cold. It’s snowing. It’s dark at 4 o’clock. And, we’re off to another party.

Hooray for holiday time!

Whether you’re making merry for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, you’re probably more likely to find potatoes on your plate than any other food.

It’s not just because potatoes keep well in the winter. Kale can go all season long, too, but when’s the last time you ate it on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve? If you did, we want to know.

The truth is, potatoes are one of the only vegetables that pairs perfectly with everything. Whatever you’re serving—whether it’s roast beef, duck, ham, tofurkey—well, there’s a potato for that. They’re the perfect canvas and carrier for the decadent toppings and flavors that make holidays warm and bright. Think butter, cream and cheese—yum! Finally, potatoes are versatile enough to create dishes that are simple and traditional, go way gourmet, or end up somewhere in between. It’s up to you.

We’re sure you have a handful of family favorite recipes, but here are some of ours. Enjoy! (By the way, we’re in the market for a great latke recipe. Care to share yours?)

 

Elegant New Potato Appetizer

New potatoes with crème fraiche, caviar (or bacon) and chives (Makes 24)

 

Ingredients

12 small new potatoes

1 cup cream fraiche (you can substitute sour cream with 1 tsp of lemon juice)

2 ounces black caviar or 8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Chives to garnish

 

Directions

1. Boil potatoes in a medium saucepan for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, cool under running water then refrigerate until cold.

2. Remove potatoes from fridge, cut in half, and scoop a small amount out of each. Top each side with a tablespoon of crème fraiche, a couple stems of chives and a 1/2 teaspoon of caviar (or bacon crumbles). We like to add a pinch of freshly ground pepper, too.

 

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Garlic cloves cooked along with potatoes—russets or Yukon golds—give this puree extra body and lots of flavor. Perfect beside a holiday roast.

 

Microwave-Roasted Potatoes

If you’re pressed for time and/or looking for a flavorful but low-fat recipe, this one’s for you. You can use russet, Yukon gold or small red potatoes. You decide. You can also double the recipe, just keep checking the dish for doneness.