Keep potatoes on the menu; avoid high calorie extras

Published 9:53 am Friday, January 20, 2017

Keep potatoes on the menu; avoid high calorie extras

Potato is not a bad word, so get your head out of the deep fryer.  Thank goodness for potatoes.  This old standby has literally kept most of the world from starving down through the ages. The Incas feasted on potatoes for thousands of years before the Europeans did.  History tells us that Sir Walter Raleigh planted potatoes on his farm in Ireland and soon convinced everyone over there that potatoes were not poisonous as once thought.  After that the lowly potato became the cash crop of Ireland and eventually showed up in pots all over the world.
Potatoes don’t deserve their recent bad name.  It’s not their fault that so many Americans are overweight and not so healthy.  Some say it’s because they contain bad carbs and that we shouldn’t eat “white” foods.
I’d say it’s rather what we do to them, like frying them in grease and pouring on the salt or loading them up with butter, cheese, sour cream and bacon or eating oversized portions.  But really, potatoes are perfectly fine, nutritious, versatile, and actually not so pricey compared to other fresh vegetables.  Let me explain, I’ll start with the “P”.
P is for power packed. Potatoes are low in sodium, high in potassium, making them good for blood pressure control (minus the grease, added salt, butter, etc., etc.) They are also pretty much fat free, high in vitamins C and B-6, plus they provide us with energy from their complex carbohydrates (fiber). Portion control is the way potatoes work for us without excessive calories or raising blood sugar. Plan for one starch (potatoes, rice, bean, peas, corn, macaroni or other pasta) and one non-starchy vegetable at meal time (green beans, carrots, broccoli, greens, squash, tomatoes, okra, beets, cauliflower, etc.) for the perfect meal plan.
O is for options: Russet potatoes are a good general use potato for mashing, baking and frying. Red potatoes hold their shape well, so they’re good for potato salads, stews, and scalloped. Yukon gold potatoes make great tasting creamed potatoes.  New potatoes are baby potatoes and can be roasted whole or cooked with other vegetables. Fingerlings are also good for roasting whole.
T is for time.  Serve potatoes anytime: breakfast, lunch, supper choosing from hundreds of recipes…. depending on how much time you have!  When time is short microwave one in 5 minutes or less, even pressure cook potatoes to reduce prep to plate time. Or use a convection oven to cut baking time by at least a third! And for added time saving convenience there are potatoes dehydrated, frozen, and canned with extra-long shelf life and extra quick preparation time.
A is what to avoid: potatoes that are wrinkled, sprouted, have bald spots, cracked skins, or a green tinge.  Storing potatoes in the refrigerator causes them to sweeten and darken when cooked.  So, store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, unwashed, for up to 2 weeks.  New potatoes should be used in 3 days of purchase.
Then to keep potatoes as a healthy food, avoid extra-large or second servings and all the high fat, high calorie extras. And to avoid too many starchy foods at the same meal remember the one starch rule for meal planning.
T is for tuber.  Botanically a potato is a tuber and is actually related to the day lily. Potatoes are also a member of the nightshade plant family as are tomatoes and eggplants.  There are poisonous members of this plant family, that’s why early Europeans thought that potatoes were too.  Potatoes grow below the soil surface and have to be dug up to be harvested.
O is for more options: There are not so many foods as versatile as the humble potato. Seems like a million ways to prepare them: baked (not once but twice) boiled, grilled, roasted, and fried.  They can be mashed, stuffed, grated, diced, riced, or sliced; cooked slowly in a crock pot or in a hurry in the microwave.  They can even be turned into flour, used to thicken, and they even make divine yeast breads and rolls.  Potatoes go well with any other vegetable and can just about be seasoned to taste like whatever flavor you want.  Too many options.
So please don’t pass up the potatoes.

Recipe of the Week

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Mashed Potatoes
Lumpy potatoes were not acceptable in home ec class.

6 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds)
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
¼ – ½ teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper

Peel potatoes. Cut in large chunks or slices.  Place in pot and cover with water.  Cover; turn burner on medium high; heat to boiling; cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well. Place over low heat.  Gently shake pan to dry potatoes for a couple of minutes. Turn off heat. Mash potatoes (can use potato masher) until no lumps remain.  Add milk in small amounts, beating with a fork or whisk after each addition. Add butter, salt and pepper.  Beat until potatoes until are smooth and fluffy.  Dot with another teaspoon butter or margarine and serve immediately.  Makes 4 – 6 servings.