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Monday, April 6, 2020

Making the Most of Potatoes in Cooking

As we try to make our supplies last as long as possible, I find I am relying on every trick I've ever heard or known, as well as a few that are new to me. Last Friday, it was with potatoes.

I made a potato salad to go with dinner that night, using 2 russet potatoes. I peeled the potatoes in wide and thick strips, setting the strips aside. While the peeled potatoes boiled, I tossed the peels in some garlic oil, spread on a baking sheet, sprinkled with salt, then baked at about 375 F for 12 minutes or so, until browned along the edges. The result was a small batch of tasty tater skins, just enough for one large serving.

After the potatoes were cooked, I salvaged the cooking water, too. Potato water is reported to be good in many bread products, replacing milk in quick breads or adding moisture to yeasted breads. I'd never tried either before. I used half of the water in place of milk in a large batch of pancakes and the other half in place of water for a double batch of French bread. Both turned out very well.

Water from boiling potatoes can be saved in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or frozen for a couple of months. It can be used in making soups, gravy, and added to baked good doughs and batters. 

Using every last bit of a food means that I can go longer before needing to go back to a store or place an order, extending the days that I shelter in place or have no physical contact with others outside my household.

How is everybody doing? I think my family is doing okay. Mostly, I just feel so sad for all of the lives lost and suffering experienced. Right now, just surviving this period is good enough.


  1. My mother taught me to use potato water while making bread. I never thought about why, but now I know that it makes the bread moister. We are all okay here. Yesterday, was a beautiful day and we spent it working in the yard. We are going out occasionally for supplies, allergy shots, etc., but using all of the proper protocols. It's a tedious process and that in itself should be keeping more people from going out frivolously. Someone at my son's work has tested positive for COVID-19, but he was not in direct contact with them. However, we've put a few more things into place at our house to minimize the risk he might bring home. Once again, a tedious process, but it's a small thing compared to what others are dealing with.

  2. We're doing well also. We did go out for groceries because the Walmart pickup didn't have nearly the things I was looking for so we still had to go out. We needed yeast and flour so we went to GFS which services restaurants but is open to the public. We decided to just get our flour there as well as some big bag frozen veggies. We did get all that we needed and intentionally got more that I needed so that I won't have to go get groceries for several weeks or even as long as a month or longer.

    Dad and mom are home but dad is misbehaving putting a lot of stress on me and mom because we took him out of that rehab center early. He is sneaking outside (and down steps) while mom isn't looking so he can go out to his garden. It's not so much going out there but he has to tell her so she can go with him or make sure he is ok. But otherwise he is doing well. Getting around the house and sleeping like a log at night. Sleep equals healing so that is good. He is eating better too. We're staying away from them to honor the stay at home mandate but I did have to go there when someone called to say their phone was busy for hours. It was off the hook and they didn't notice it.


  3. My grandmother used potato water and mashed potatoes in bread she would make for Easter, I use potato water for gravy-thickens it a bit.

    The potato skins look really good - when I peel potatoes I generally "peel" to much and have quite a bit of potato on the skins, I'm going to try making these.

    Have a blessed Easter.


  4. Oh, great idea! I compost the peels, of course, but that's not an immediate return of food.

    We're entering our 4th week of being home here. The kids start their distance learning program today, and are excited to see their friends and teacher through the use of Zoom. I am so grateful that this pandemic happened in the age of technology so that they're able to easily communicate with friends and we have all sorts of digital resources available.

    Foodwise, we're taking a little different approach with rapidly growing kids in the household. For now, we're still doing a pickup order of groceries weekly. We set up a table in our garage and disinfect everything as it comes in. We're stretching things in adhering more to portion sizes, especially on foods such as meat and ice cream (while it lasts), but I'm also wanting to ensure plenty of protein in the diet especially with my boys shooting up so much right now (my boys are the youngest two kids and both seem to be in growth spurts). Fresh veggies are seemingly some of the easiest things to get on pickup orders right now, so we're eating plenty of those, as well as oranges. But, being cautious, I'm also keeping more long-storing ones on hand right now, such as potatoes, cabbage, and carrots, as well as some canned ones, in the event that cases spike so much that we think it prudent to skip a few weeks of getting anything brought in down the road. Really, I feel like I'm in a crazy guessing game right now as far as that goes, and just trying to make the best guess for the situation. I've seen very different models of when our "peak" will be, just for our state, let alone the country.

    Again, I really appreciate the practical approach of your blog right now. Thanks, Lili, for all the work you put into it.

  5. Thank you for the tip. Potatoes thicken soups and stews, so I imagine the water from boiling potatoes should be good too. Saves using flour or other starches to thicken. We don't have any potatoes at the moment. We haven't shopped for groceries since mid February. We received 2 pineapples and a bag of romaine lettuce from others, that's all the new groceries. Our meals are less than ideal but we are used to it. Peanuts that we normally snacked on are now considered a protein source and not frivolously eaten.

    We are doing good. On the flip side, not going out means not spending. I haven't done my expense tally for the month of March but I think food expense will be zero. That's a first, ever. When this is over, we'll have new insight in so many areas of study. I am not as confident as the experts that a vaccine will be available. I know researchers are doing their best, but this virus is very different and unusual, and we don't know much about the mechanisms. Like other envelope viruses, it has an ability to camouflage and evade the immune response. And mutations so far have not been beneficial. Purely guessing, but this virus seems to have an intelligence that seems almost bioengineered. Researchers are wanting patient zero for clues, but China is unable to give that information. I am hoping my worst fears are just that. So often we hear the phrase, "like other viruses", I cringe because it is not like other viruses. I still go back to the swift 180 that China took from concealment to aggressive containment/building two hospitals as an indicator that this is not like other viruses.

    I have a tendency to play both ends of the fiddle, from pessimistic and conservative in my assessment and planning to optimistic, generous, and unconditional in my belief that the human spirit does triumph over time. I recall over 30 years ago, seeing a timeline of our benchmark achievements in a newspaper article (The Oregonian) and realizing with astonishment that we always without exception resolve conflict to a higher good. That realization on that day was my watershed moment. I have no doubt we will triumph again.

    Be safe,

  6. We are doing well. I did my weekly trip to Meijer this morning during the essential worker shopping hour. I had made one of those diy quick face masks with a bandana and hair ties but it didn't stay on well so I shopped without it. I'll have to look up a better pattern and sew one--sewing isn't a big skill of mine, but hopefully I can pull this off. There aren't a lot of people in Meijer during that time frame so social distancing isn't hard to accomplish. The store didn't have any toilet paper--we still have enough but I wanted to pick up more as supplies never last long. I decided to go to Target as well (I think there were 3 customers in the store including me) and they had some in stock.

    After that I needed to pick up medication for my cat at the vet--I had pre-paid by credit card and they carried it to my car. Then the kids and I did another window visit with my mom. Thankfully, before all the craziness began, I had done some shopping at the dollar store for an Easter basket for her--I was able to assemble it and deliver it to her facility. I included a headband made in the shape of a giant butterfly and told her she had to wear it. She's good natured about silly stuff and hopefully that made her day a little more fun. She is soooo bored.

    I've made potato bread before and have used the potato water--it turns out well but I wouldn't have thought to save the water for other uses. Good idea! I find myself making oven fries or roasted potatoes with the skins on these days (I do the same when I use potatoes in soup--I use the skins) as I've read that's where the greatest nutritional value is. Your potato skin snacks look yummy, Lili!

  7. Alice, glad your dad is home and doing well. I think the tendency to push the limits is pretty typical of people when they get back home. They don't have medical personnel watching them 24/7 so it's easier to get away with things. I hear ya on managing the phone of elderly parents--I had to have the facility staff check my mom's today as there have been more problems with it again. I would never recommend a Jitterbug phone to anyone!!!

  8. Oh yes, I routinely save my potato cooking water also. Plus I always save my pasta cooking water as well, using it to replace the water called for in homemade bread dough -- it does wonderfully...!

  9. Hi Live and Learn,
    You're right, these protocols may be tedious, but they're just what we all need to do for now. I hope your son's fellow employee recovers quickly.

  10. Hi Alice,
    your dad's spunk, although a difficulty for you and your mom, may be a sign that he's feeling stronger. However, I can understand the anxiety of just wanting him to keep himself safe and free from falls or further injury. I hope his recovery continues to go well.

    Good job on stocking up on groceries and using a restaurant supply. One of the bonuses of restaurant supply stores is they're usually not as crowded and they don't have all of the tempting highly-commercialized food products. I'm glad you'll be able to just stay in for a while, now.

  11. Hi Shelby,
    When I was looking up what to do with the potato water, I saw several bread recipes that called for mashed potatoes. They did look like they would make a delicious bread for a special occasion.
    Wishing you a blessed Easter, as well, Shelby.

  12. My mother-in-law used potato water in her gravey. I thought I read your state is doing better. I live in PA and we are becoming a hot spot. I feel this isn't going away anytime soon. I have to say I am afraid for my kids. My daughter works in a bakery and she said it is is the busiest they have ever been. My son works at a Lowes and not a lot of workers because they are afraid. Finally they are having them wear gloves and masks. One good thing my daughter got married yesterday. Just his mom and dad, us, the photographer took some photos since Rachel paid a deposit, and the Mayor. Quite a few tears but a beautiful day for my daughter.

  13. Hi Cat,
    it sounds like you've come up with solutions that are working for you. And you're wise to have some long-keeping produce and food items, just in case.
    The models and projections seem to change almost daily. The latest one for my area from the U of WA said we peaked in medical resource use on April 2. I'm hoping our area can maintain this improving trend. Even so, we all may have to retain social distancing for a while past the peaks, just to keep the virus from coming back in high numbers.

    I agree -- if ever we had to have something like this, it's good that it's now with technology that allows us to "see" doctors virtually, "see" friends and family, follow news closely and almost instantaneously, etc.

    Have a great day, Cat!

  14. Hi YHF,
    I do believe that eventually, this virus will be behind us. For now, I'm doing whatever is in my own power to do. And it sounds like you are, too.

    We've spent extra in groceries, compared to usual. But we've spent nothing on anything else. The budget should turn out okay to even maybe good as a result. As a whole, we're polluting less, another good thing to come out of this bad time. And the ambient seismic activity is way down because of less human activity, another bonus.

    Stay safe and healthy, YHF!

  15. Hi Kris,
    I'm glad you were able to shop at a time with fewer people in the stores. I haven't been in a store since late February, so I haven't seen what it's like. As for face masks and sewing, I've seen stapling as an option. I didn't think the bandana with hair elastics would hold for very long. I'm surprised that the surgeon general is recommending those. The video I saw made the mask look like it would wiggle right off the moment I moved my head. I'm gathering fabric for our own masks from a pile of clothing we were going to take to Goodwill. I haven't sewed much in the past few years, so I'm not really looking forward to making these.

    I've read that too about nutrients being just under the skin of most vegetables. I may have rethink peeling carrots before cooking them.

    Have a good day, Kris!

  16. Hi,
    I never would have thought to save pasta water for bread. Thanks for the tip!

  17. Cheryl, congrats to your daughter and new SIL! I know this wasn't the way any of you wanted the wedding to happen. I hope you all can have a big celebration once things simmer down. That would be a joyful occasion to look forward to.

    Lili, I just made a mask from the CDC website pattern. They have a couple of non-sew options as well--one uses a t-shirt and looks like it would stay on your face, but it's only 1 layer thick .... but from what I've been reading, the purpose is to protect others from you in case you are a carrier and don't know it. I used ties instead of elastic as I don't have the right kind of elastic on hand. I think it would work for a quick trip to the store, which is all I would want it for, anyway. There are many patterns available on-line but my sewing skills are very basic and the CDC one is basically straight seams. New this week, at work as soon as you walk in the building, you are handed a mask and a bag to place it in when you are eating lunch. To conserve PPE, you are supposed to wear the same mask all day unless it becomes wet/soiled. So anyway, if I get called back to work, I'd have a mask to wear.

  18. Thank you Kris. Definitely party after all of this.

  19. Hi Cheryl,
    Congratulations on your daughter's and new son-in-law's wedding! It may not have been as originally planned, but it's really the marriage that follows that counts. I'm glad that the day was beautiful for your daughter (and you).

    I think Washington is now peaking. Some say the new cases are falling a bit. The deaths are still bad for our state and may be for another couple of days. There isn't a quick fix. Even as our state is doing better, we still have a long, long ways to go before people can even go back to work. They called off school for the rest of the year today. I'm relieved to hear that your son's work is finally requiring masks and gloves. That just makes sense at this point. I noticed our mail carrier was wearing a mask and gloves today. I'm glad for him that he has that protection. I hope your daughter's work provides similar protection. I'll keep you and your family in my prayers, Cheryl. I know how worrying it is when your kids are still working and it doesn't feel safe.

  20. Thank you for that, Kris. I'll take a look at the CDC's masks. I am so glad that your hospital has a plan in place for the staff and masks. I've heard that nurses were keeping their masks in a bag when not in use.


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