My mother was an incredible cook who didn't rely on shortcuts. She made rolls from scratch, cooked roasts in the oven and fixed real mashed potatoes. I make homemade rolls, but I let a bread machine do most of the work. I've never cooked a roast in the oven, but I've cooked plenty of them in a crock-pot. I make mashed potatoes, but mine come from a box or, more recently, a bag. I never thought twice about these time saving shortcuts until a few months ago.
My husband, son and I went to a new restaurant for dinner. My son ordered mashed potatoes as one of his side dishes. He raved about the rest of the meal, but said the potatoes weren't any good. They looked delicious so I tried a bite of them. It was then the error or my ways caught up with me. My son didn't like the potatoes because they weren't from a box or bag. They were the real thing, something he'd never had before.
When I first got married, I would fix "real" mashed potatoes the two or three times we ate them during the year. It always seemed like a lot of work, especially since we ended up throwing most of them away a few days later. This is when I started making instant mashed potatoes. When Ore-Ida came out with Steam n' Mash potatoes, I started using them instead. The Steam n' Mash take a little more time than instant potatoes, but they are the closest thing to homemade I've ever found.
I wish I could say the restaurant incident changed my ways, but it didn't. I decided if I wasn't going to make mashed potatoes from scratch, I should at least find a recipe that would elevate the potatoes I do fix from ho hum to wow.
I found the recipe for Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole in a magazine. The recipe starts with a bag of Steam n' Mash potatoes. When combined with the additional ingredients, you end up with a casserole that tastes as though you started with made from scratch mashed potatoes.
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I like substituting healthier alternatives when possible. Casseroles are a great place to do this because, when mixed with all the other ingredients, you can't taste the substitutions. When I fix the Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole, I use margarine, fat-free evaporated milk and 1/3 less fat cream cheese. I always use sharp Cheddar cheese which adds more flavor to the casserole and makes substitutions less noticeable.
I wish I had the time to cook the meals my mother cooked. Since I don't, I'll continue to rely on my shortcuts. I like to think that years from now when my son is married, the pressure will be off his wife to cook everything from scratch. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!