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Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

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Fill Their Stomachs for Pennies: Potatoes for All!

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

Potatoes are a natural for stretching even the most strained food budgets | Photo credit: muy yum, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Potatoes are a natural for stretching even the most strained food budgets | Photo credit: muy yum, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Times are really tough now, and for many folks' home food budgets, the pressure to keep costs down and nutrition up for a family can be frustrating and daunting. When you're stretching that puny dollar to buy the ingredients to make a filling and frugal meal that will feed a spouse, retired parent, significant other, or a handful of hungry kids (teenage boys are hopeless, bottomless pits), few foods do it as well as potatoes. Cheap, nutritious, and extremely filling... the triad of excellence when being frugal on a tight food budget.

Some lightning-fast, easy potato recipes are featured below. Click the links below to go directly to the recipe:

Lumpy Garlic Potatoes
Emeril's Cilantro Avocado Potato Salad
Spicy Potatoes and Tomatoes
Bombay Potatoes
Skillet Sausage and Potatoes
Skillet Turkey and Potatoes
Twice-Baked Potatoes
Paula Deen's Fresh New Potato and Green Bean Salad
Spam® and Potato Pie
Potato Patty Treats
Burritos with Potatoes
Baked Potatoes with Onions
Spuds and Eggs Au Gratin
Fennel Potato Hash
Chef Jeff's Garlic Whipped Potatoes
Home-Fried Potatoes

 


 

Potatoes have a fascinating history; Indians in Peru were the first people to cultivate the potato more than 4,000 years ago. The Spanish claim that Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada was the first to introduce the potato to Europe in 1550. The Irish say that it was not until 1585 that Sir Walter Raleigh introduced the potato to Europe. Many Europeans were skeptical and wouldn't eat them, fearing they were poisonous. Apparently, potatoes finally became popular when Queen Marie Antoinette paraded in France wearing a crown of potato blossoms. In the late 1700's, Frederick the Great planted potatoes in his Pleasure Garden in Berlin. He admired the beauty of the potato flowers. King Frederick the Great fell in love with them and promoted the eating of them because of their high nutritional value.

Potatoes are nutritious, cheap, and filling, perfect for tight food budgets. | Photo credit: jeltovski, morgueFile.com

 

Potatoes are nutritious, cheap, and filling, perfect for tight food budgets

In 1845 and 1846, the potato crop in Ireland was devastated by fungus. The potato had become such a hugely major food to the Irish that this plunged the country into a devastating food shortage. Thus, this blight caused the infamous "Irish Potato Famine," forcing many Irish to immigrate. The population of Ireland decreased by nearly two million people between the years 1847 and 1851.

Potatoes can be made likely a thousand different ways. It is is the second most consumed food in the United States, with milk being the first most consumed. The serving of billions of French fries in fast-food restaurants is but one way to prepare potatoes.

Some tips for buying potatoes: Avoid buying potatoes that are wrinkled, have begun to sprout, or have green patches. Also, when possible, choose potatoes with uniform shapes and sizes. That way, their cooking time will be the same and they'll cook more evenly.

The dollar stores in my area typically have at least one variety of potatoes at any given time, in bags ranging from 3 to 5 pounds—when I'm really lucky, they have 10-pound bags. A 10-pound bag of potatoes for 99 cents?? Yes, depending on the season and availability. You just never know when and for how long they'll be available.

Usually, 99-Cent Only stores have russets in stock, but sometimes they also have Yukon Gold or red potatoes. At a mere 99 cents a bag, that's a bargain from the food gods. When I shop there, I snag at least two bags because they aren't always in stock. Even when potatoes aren't that cheap at regular grocery stores (and they've gone up in price just like everything else has), they are still a decent bargain because of their versatility and their nutritional value—and because of the way they can fill up a teenage boy's stomach for longer than than a half hour!

Potato Nutritional Values

The potato, when it isn't loaded down with butter, sour cream, yogurt, bacon pieces, Hidden Valley Ranch dip, and other fatty, caloric additions, has quite impressive health stats (skin included, of course). In one plain, baked russet potato, you'll find the following Daily Recommended Values:

 

Nutritional Value of a Potato
Protein - 13.5% Carbohydrates -17.2% Fiber - 30.0%
Iron- 28.7% Vitamin C - 71.9% Folic Acid - 41.6%


Source: U.S. National Nutrition Database

 

A common russet potato, with the skin, is low in sodium, high in potassium (more than a banana), is a good source of fiber, has no fat, and no cholesterol. One baked, medium russet potato (5.3 ounces raw, about 4 ounces after baking) has only about 110 calories. It also has 3 to 4 grams of protein and 2 to 3 grams of dietary fiber. The potato is also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, folic acid (folate), beta-carotene, and iron. Although the potato appears to be a bulky vegetable, it is actually 80 percent water.

So many ways to prepare potatoes and save money. | Photo credit: Venn Diagram, Flickr.com

 

So many ways to prepare potatoes and save money

Potato Prepping & Storage

Because of my frequent potato bargains, I've got a few quick recipes that are great when I get home from work late or we're dashing to an activity. My teenage daughter is a great help in prepping for our potato dinners.

When preparing potatoes, whenever possible, leave the peels on. The highest percentage of vitamins are in the skin. Why peel off and toss the most healthy part? Plus, consider the time you save by NOT peeling. When prepping them for mashed potatoes, leave the skin on when you boil potato cubes. The skin will help keep their flavor from purging into the boiling water (so your potatoes will have much more flavor) and will keep them from becoming watery. Peel them, if you must, after they have cooked and before you mash them. When baking potatoes whole, pierce them with a fork in a few places before putting into the oven. This will help them bake faster and will prevent a messy explosion!

Try not to store fresh potatoes in the refrigerator. Potatoes are rather sensitive and are fairly picky about how they are stored and what temperature. The cold in the fridge can be too much for them, making them too sweet and prone to softening, shriveling, or sprouting. You should store them in a cool, dark, dry place. The perfect storage temperature is 45 to 50 deg. F.

A root cellar, if you have one, is the best storage place. We don't have a root cellar here in Arizona, so I store them in the pantry or a cupboard. Don't rinse potatoes before storing them. When storing, you should place potatoes so that they are loose. Put them in either a bin or rack, or in a brown paper, burlap, or plastic bag that has some holes punched in it to allow air circulation. Kept this way, they should last for several weeks.

Here are two secret potato tips from America's Test Kitchen. The first is how to make your own great home-baked French fries. The second is on how to keep boiled potatoes from turning sticky and gluey.

"What's the secret to great crispy baked French fries? Paper towels. Oven-baked fries are usually sodden, dense, and half-baked, but we wanted a recipe for oven-baked French fries with a crisp exterior and fluffy interior that rivaled that of the deep-fried standard. Steaming peeled, cut potatoes in the microwave before putting them into the oven gave us the fluffy interior of fried fries, but the exterior was still soggy and limp. After cooking and ruining many pounds of potatoes, we tried blotting the nuked potatoes with paper towels before baking. As simple as it seemed—the paper towels soaked up just enough moisture to allow our oven-baked fries to crisp to potato perfection."

Extracted from: America's Test Kitchen newsletter, "Kitchen Tips That Work," February 18, 2010.

"No jacket required. Spuds boiled in their skin, or 'jackets,' make great fluffy mashed potatoes. But who wants burnt fingers from peeling hot potatoes before dinner? Keeping the skin on the potatoes during cooking yields that wonderful potato flavor, but the method is not very convenient. We went through bushels of spuds to see how we could avoid this potato unpleasantness. By steaming peeled potatoes for just 10 minutes, then rinsing with cold water before finishing cooking, we avoided gluey, sticky, potatoes and still maintained potatoes earthy rich flavor."

Extracted from: America's Test Kitchen newsletter, "Kitchen Tips That Work," February 26, 2009.

More often than not, I leave the skins on when making mashed potatoes (boosts the nutrition level), unless there is an aesthetic reason why I'd want totally white mashed potatoes. At our house, I call them "Lumpy Potatoes," and it often has lots of garlic (so then I call them "Lumpy Garlic Potatoes") and various herbs, depending on mood. Sometimes I include a small amount of diced onions, scallions, parsnips, or green bell peppers. Hearty, filling, and extremely tasty. Oh, and very cheap.

 

Lumpy Garlic Potatoes

We're always in such a hurry at our house (your house, too, right?) and baking potatoes in the oven takes about an hour, which is not usually doable with our weekday evening schedules. So, after piercing them in several spots with a fork, I pop whole potatoes (washed and scrubbed) into the microwave; average "nuking time" is about 3 minutes per large potato; check for doneness. They should be soft, but not too soft.

This is the quickest way I've found to pre-cook potatoes for a side or main dish. If we're going to have baked potatoes, REAL baked potatoes, then I'll cook them in the oven. I do prefer the texture of baked potatoes. However, microwaving is faster and when put in a potato dish, the texture of microwaved is fine for me. When I have the forethought, I'll microwave them while getting ready for work that morning, and put them in the fridge so that they're ready to go that evening.

When the potatoes are done cooking, I pull them out of the microwave, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then chop them into large chunks. In my large serving bowl, I put in the potatoes, add a hefty splash of warmed milk (prepared non-fat dry milk is fine), another splash of water, several crushed garlic cloves (soften these while the potatoes are cooking by sauteing them on the stove in a small amount of olive oil or margarine), a tablespoon or two of margarine, salt and pepper to taste, then mix it all together vigorously, breaking up the chunks a bit (add more water to get your preferred consistency level, but keep the mixture lumpy), and ta-dah—all done!

You can add leftover cooked broccoli, a handful of grated Cheddar cheese, a 1/4 cup of diced scallions or leftover cooked parsnips, any leftover shredded or diced cooked meat you have on hand... use your imagination and your side dish of Lumpy Garlic Potatoes becomes a main dish of Lumpy Garlic Potatoes, Broccoli, and Chicken, or whatever else you choose to add. Adding a handful of dry Parmesan cheese and mixing it in is also delicious.

My daughter and I have added diced cooked parsnips and carrots to the basic Lumpy Potatoes without the garlic and with a bit more margarine and some dill weed and white pepper... it's wonderful! Experiment—you'll come up with other yummy combinations (using up odd little leftovers from the fridge is great with this dish) that your family will love!

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Emeril's Cilantro Avocado Potato Salad

A new spin on classic potato salad from chef Emeril Lagasse, this recipe has a fabulous kick to it.

Emeril Live - Cilantro Avocado Potato Salad

 

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Spicy Potatoes and Tomatoes

Make the Lumpy Garlic Potatoes recipe above. In addition to the other ingredients, add 2 diced fresh tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes (drained) to the mixing bowl and begin mashing up and mixing the potatoes with all the ingredients (add the tomatoes and begin mixing before putting in the milk, so that they can heat from the potatoes). Add 1 tablespoon of Frugal Café Herbal Salt-Free Blend #2: Mediterranean Blend. Mash all together and serve.

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Bombay Potatoes

For a change of taste, try making these wonderful Bombay Potatoes. The video demo with chef Shaan Khan shows how remarkably easy they are to make.

To prep, the potatoes must be peeled and boiled first. These New Indian cuisine potatoes, with the infusion of curry, garlic, cumin, and other spices and herbs, go well with fish, chicken, and pork.

If you don't have a spice or herb used in the video demo, don't worry about it. Duplicate the recipe based on what you have on hand in the spice cabinet – keep it simple.

Bombay Potatoes: Shaan Khan, New Indian Cuisine

 

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Skillet Sausage and Potatoes

One of the dollar stores near my home often carries 12-ounce tubes of ground sausage, and it is usually a name brand. When they do carry them, I stock up and keep them in the freezer. At our chain grocery stores, these same tubes of ground sausage are regularly priced at $3.49 a piece, and when they're on sale, they are 2 for $4 or $5. The 99-cent and dollar stores have been a blessing in saving us money on countless occasions.

Sausage is already seasoned (the spicy versions are excellent in this dish), so you really don't need to add anything from the spice cabinet, unless you want to do so. I've not ever used maple-flavored sausage in this dish, but if you want to try it because you love maple, go ahead. I usually make it with "original" or "spicy" versions. With this ground sausage, you'll be crumbling it or breaking it into small pieces by hand before cooking it.

Cook the potatoes in the microwave (as described in the Lumpy Potatoes recipe above). Crumble the sausage into small pieces into a skillet and brown on the stove. Once there is a bit of grease, add the onions and bell peppers. Cook them until soft, mixing every so often. When the potatoes are done, let cool for about 5 minutes and then chop into small pieces (skins and all). Add the chopped potatoes to the sausage mixture, add about 1/4 c. water, and simmer for another 15 minutes. Break up the potatoes with a spatula into smaller pieces, if desired. Done!

Hamburger can be substituted for the sausage, but because it is usually more expensive than the sausage I buy, I don't often purchase hamburger. It is also much fattier, so you'll want to remove a lot of the grease before adding the onions, and bell peppers. Also, because hamburger has a more bland flavor than ground sausage, you'll want to add some herbs or spices to pick it up. Combinations of crushed pepper flakes, dried parsley, chives, paprika, tarragon, thyme, sage, and coriander are good.

Ground chicken can also be used instead of the sausage (the dollar store carries ground chicken on rare occasions, and when it's available, I grab several chubs of it). Because it has virtually no fat content, you'll need to add some olive oil, shortening, margarine, or a bit of lard when cooking ground chicken so that it will brown and not stick to the pan.

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Skillet Turkey and Potatoes

Follow the recipe above for Skillet Sausage and Potatoes, but substitute 1 cup diced leftover turkey for the sausage and use about 2 tablespoons cooking oil, since turkey is leaner than sausage. You can add a bit of salt to taste. This is great for using up leftover holiday turkey. It will also take much less time to prepare since the turkey is already cooked.

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Twice-Baked Potatoes

Twice-Baked Potatoes | Photo credit: Food Is My Life/Foodie Baker, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

>Twice-Baked Potatoes | Photo credit: Food Is My Life/Foodie Baker, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The recipe for these easy twice-baked potatoes is posted at Food Is My Life, with this intro:

Potatoes are one of my favorite carbs and I love how this humble root can be deep-fried, pan-fried, steamed, boiled, baked, and mixed into various delicious dishes. On days when I’m lazy to whip up a full meal, I’ll slice the potatoes thinly to make rosti. When I need a side to accompany my meat, I’ll instantly think of baked or mashed potatoes. If I am craving for something warm for a cold day, I’ll ask my mom to cook a simple potato soup (hope to feature this in the future!)

A few weeks back I decided to give my baked potatoes a twist – twice-baked potatoes! The potatoes are first baked till softened; the flesh is scooped out and mixed with bacon, onion and cheese; then the mixture is scooped back into their shell and baked again; more cheese is lastly added on top to yield a crispy exterior and a soft and flavorful baked-mashed potato – yes it requires a bit of effort and time but it’s definitely worth every bit and every minute! You can change the flavors in any way you want – use sautéed Italian sausages instead of bacon; use spring onions / chives instead of sautéed onion; add in some roasted garlic — you get the idea.

Originally featured on Frugal Café Blog Zone.

 

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Paula Deen's Fresh New Potato and Green Bean Salad

I haven't yet made this dish, but I love everything chef Paula Deen makes. This unique potato salad, using new red potatoes and fresh green beans, looks down-home refreshing and mega-simple to make for a church potluck or a family dinner side dish. And, it's extremely thrifty!

She doesn't mention how many people this recipe will serve, but I'm guessing about 4 - 8, depending on what other side dishes are served with the meal.

You could add a cup or two of cooked diced chicken, turkey, pork, or beef, and it would be a hearty main dish.

Boil quartered red potatoes in salted water. When they are about done, add the cut fresh green beans. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Mix the olive oil, white wine vinegar, dill, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a separate bowl to make the vinaigrette.

Drain potatoes and green beans, then put into large bowl. Pour vinaigrette over it. It can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Here's Paula's Food Network video demo of the potato and green bean salad.

Paula Deen's Fresh New Potato and Green Bean Salad - Food Network

 

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Spam® and Potato Pie

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe printed on my box of Bisquick®. My husband and athletic son went wild over it the first time I served it for dinner, and Frugal Hubby said, "Babe, this is a keeper." This dish can easily be modified based on what's on hand in the cupboard or fridge crisper and is an excellent way to use up leftover baked potatoes.

Because the canned meat is usually salty, I recommend not adding salt to this dish.

Heat oven to 400 deg. F. Grease 9-inch pie tin (or medium-sized casserole dish), put to the side.

Heat oil in a skillet, add diced meat, diced onion, and black pepper. Sauté, stirring once in a while, until meat starts to brown and onions become soft. Add pre-cooked diced potatoes, mix gently into the meat mixture. Cook another 2 minutes.

In a bowl, combine Bisquick® mix, milk, and eggs; whisk until well blended.

In the pie tin or casserole dish, spread meat-potato mixture evenly. Using half the cheese, sprinkle over the mixture.

Gently pour batter over meat mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Sprinkle dried herbs over cheese topping.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Check the pie after about 20 minutes to be sure the top isn't browning too dark. If it is, lower the temperature of the oven to 350 deg. F. For higher altitudes, bake 30 to 35 minutes.

Allow pie to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6.

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Potato Patty Treats

Making potato patties from mashed potatoes is a favorite at our house. Teenage boys can also eat the leftovers cold as a quick snack while on their way out the door to join friends or off to a football or baseball practice. This video demo, with Italian Australian chef and restaurateur Belucci, gives these patties an Italian twist. Super-simple side dish to make... ingredients used in the demo, in addition to the mashed potatoes, are grated Parmesan cheese, turmeric, cumin, garlic, milk, capsicum, and egg whites.

 

Potato Patty Treats - Cooking Made Simple by Belucci

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Burritos with Potatoes

When I make homemade burritos, I make a lot. My man-child athlete son can eat up to half a dozen at one sitting as a snack after a baseball practice or a swim meet (he also has a passion for drenching them in soy sauce... go figure). It takes about the same amount of time to make a big batch as it takes to make a small batch, so bigger IS better as a major time saver. I make several batches every month as a frugal way to keep my food budget down.

Click here for detailed information on how to make homemade burritos.

Here's a quick overview of making the burritos with potatoes: Simmer the burrito filling concoction of shredded or diced meat (chicken, turkey, beef) with spices on the stove for about 20 or 30 minutes, then add about a cup of diced cooked potatoes (just eyeball it on how much filling you want... it doesn't really matter if the measurement of potatoes is greater than or less than 1 cup). The potatoes (with their skins) add fiber, vitamins, an earthy undertone of flavor, and will nearly double the filling mixture.

After the mixture has cooked together for a few more minutes, take the pan off the burner and let it cool for 10 minutes before filling the tortillas to make the burritos.

On days that I'll be working late, I'll make the filling the night before or while I'm getting for work that morning. Weekend mornings are ideal for me to make several batches. Burritos freeze beautifully and cost very little to make. To store for future use, I either wrap them individually in aluminum foil or pack them in freezer containers.

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Baked Potatoes with Onions

This baked dish is incredibly easy, as shown in the video demo. Here are all the ingredients... watch the video for instructions.

Baked Potatoes with Onions

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Spuds and Eggs Au Gratin

This is another great main dish that doesn't cost much to make and is very filling. I make this often for what we fondly call "brekky dinners." "Brekky" is short for "breakfast," and I have adored having breakfast for dinner since I was a kid.

Prepare the potatoes in the microwave as was described earlier on this page. Once they've finished cooking, chop into bite-size pieces. Heat a small bit of oil, or margarine, or shortening (about 2 T.) in a frying pan and once it is hot, add the potatoes. Mix them around so they are covered by the heated oil and cook them for about five minutes. Then turn stove burner down to medium.

In a microwave-safe bowl, break and mix the eggs, adding the dash of milk, and mixing thoroughly. Put into the microwave, cover with a dampened paper towel, and cook for 1 minute on high. Take eggs out, mix some more (they will be about half-cooked), add the cheese and black pepper, and pop back into the microwave for 30 more seconds. Remove the egg/cheese mixture and pour over the potatoes. Mix until the eggs are thoroughly cooked, but still soft, and the cheese is melted. Serve the dish with sides of toast, sliced tomatoes, or cottage cheese.

Additional Note: If you should see any green appears under a potato's skin, it should be peeled off or cut away. The greenish tinge contains a mildly toxic alkaloid, known as solanine. Although you'd have to consume a lot of solanine to become sick, it does taste bitter and is best avoided.

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Fennel Potato Hash | Photo credit: Addison Berry, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Fennel Potato Hash | Photo credit: Addison Berry, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Fennel Potato Hash

This dish was originally featured in the Fab Food Friday Fotos weekly feature on the Frugal Café blog. Photographer/cook Addison Berry provided the recipe link and wrote this about the fennel potato hash:

My first time eating fennel and it was damned yummy. Also the first time I've made a hash actually. Fried an egg in the middle for extra fun and I can see myself doing this one a lot for breakfast. Recipe is posted at Epicurious: Fennel Potato Hash.

 

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Chef Jeff's Garlic Whipped Potatoes

In this video demo, Chef Jeff of CJ's Cravings gives instructions to creating his favorite mashed potatoes. These garlic whipped potatoes will be a hit at your next Thanksgiving dinner of family get-together.

Chef Jeff's Garlic Whipped Potatoes

 

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Home-Fried Potatoes

French fry cooking secret from the awesome Julia Child, from her 1982 cookbook, From Julia Child's Kitchen.

You will find French fries on all the menus from Paris and Prague to Peru, Indiana, but none will be as brown, as crisp, and as fresh as those you make yourself at home. It is the freshness of the frying oil that makes all the difference.

In our French-fry sprees, my husband and I found that we could use a frying oil twice, but that the third time, in every cse, the oil began showing signs of age: it had developed an off taste and odor. It began, in other words, to take on the honky-tonk greasy spoon characteristics that are so offensive, and that give deep-fat frying a very bad name. In fact, in all frying, I use an oil or fat only twice, which does indeed make deep-fat frying a luxurious way to cook. But it is not only freshness that counts in an oil; quality is important, too. I've tried out all the oils on the market, and always come back to fresh pure peanut oil as the one that has the least odor when heated and the most pleasant taste.

From Good Housekeeping, here is a video demo on how to easily make your own home-fried potatoes. You can use peanut oil, as recommended by Julia Child, instead of butter. I make these often for dinner, and sometimes include some diced green and/or red bell peppers along with the onions. While more fattening, a 1/2 cup of melted sharp Cheddar cheese on them is fabulous, but as with all things, do it in moderation and only on occasion to cut additional fat.

Home-Fried Potatoes

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Free Daily Nutrition Requirements Calculator

 

Sources:
About: Potatoes website, (http://nutrition.about.com/od/askyournutritionist/f/potato.htm).
Child, Julia, From Julia Child's Kitchen, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY, 1982.
Colorado Potato website, (www.coloradopotato.org/colorado_potato_facts_nutrition.php).
eHow website, "How to Store Potatoes,"(www.ehow.com/how_3480_store-potatoes.html).
Food Nutrition Facts website, "Potatoes,", (www.food-nutrition-facts.net/potato_nutrition/potato_nutrition.html).
Hot Potato website, (www.thehotpotato.com/english/potato_facts.htm).
iVillage, Food, "The Best Baked Potatoes: 14 Potato-Baking Tips" (http://www.ivillage.com/best-baked-potatoes-14-potato-baking-tips/3-a-57724).
How to Break an Egg, (by the editors, contributors, and readers of Fine Cooking Magazine), The Taunton Press, Newtown, CT, 2005.