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Power up your potatoes with bold additions

| Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008

Not that anyone is likely to complain if all you do to your mashed potatoes is add copious quantities of butter and cream ... but if you are looking for ways to add wow! to your taters, it's easier and faster than you might think.

It can be as simple as tossing in a package of herbed cheese spread (especially a garlic variety) as you are mashing. Or lose the butter and cream entirely, and add part of a jar of thinly sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. It's intense, but awesome.

Chopped fresh herbs of just about any variety are another great choice. While they're fine added as is, fresh herbs are even better if you melt butter on the stove and add the herbs for a brief simmer before mixing the whole thing into the potatoes.

Or try these impressively easy and delicious variations of the basic mashed potato. Start by making the standard batch of mashed potatoes (or your own favorite recipe), then adding one of the four finishes.

Basic Mashed Potatoes

Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active)

• 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced

• 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

• 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

• 1 cup heavy cream

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place both varieties of potatoes in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to medium-high to maintain a low boil. Cook until tender, for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, during the final 5 to 10 minutes of cooking, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the butter and cream. Once the butter melts, mix well and set aside.

Drain the potatoes. If you have a potato ricer, use it to rice the potatoes into the cooking pot. Alternatively, use a large spoon to force the potatoes through the holes in the strainer, or return them to the pot whole and use a masher.

Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Use an electric mixer or whisk to lightly beat the potatoes. Whip in half of the butter and cream mixture, then continue adding more to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 390 calories (267 calories from fat), 30 grams fat (19 grams saturated), 1 gram trans fat, 94 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 227 milligrams sodium.

Mediterranean Mashed Potatoes

Start to finish: 5 minutes

• 1 batch Basic Mashed Potatoes

• 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

• 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, sliced

• 1/2 tablespoon oregano

• 2 canned artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 472 calories (328 calories from fat), 37 grams fat (21 grams saturated), 1 gram trans fat, 102 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 669 milligrams sodium.

German Mashed Potatoes With Saffron

Start to finish: 5 minutes

• 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

• 1 batch Basic Mashed Potatoes

• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

• 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

When preparing the mashed potatoes, add the crumbled saffron to the butter and cream while they heat on the stove. Continue with the mashed potato recipe as directed.

After the potatoes are mashed, in a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 402 calories (271 calories from fat), 30 grams fat (19 grams saturated), 1 gram trans fat, 94 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 331 mg sodium.

Horseradish-and-Dill Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Start to finish: 5 minutes

• 1/2 tablespoon dried dill

• 1 batch Basic Mashed Potatoes

• 3 ounces cream cheese, softened

• 2 tablespoons bottled horseradish

When preparing the mashed potatoes, add the dill to the butter and cream while they heat on the stove. Continue with the mashed potato recipe as directed.

After the potatoes are mashed, in a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 443 calories (312 calories from fat), 35 grams fat (22 grams saturated), 1 gram trans fat, 110 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 285 milligrams sodium.

Pumpkin Pie Mashed Potatoes

Start to finish: 5 minutes

• 1/4 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

• 1 batch Basic Mashed Potatoes

• 1 cup fresh cranberries

• 1/8 cup water

• 1/3 cup canned pumpkin

When preparing the mashed potatoes, add the pumpkin pie spice to the butter and cream while they heat on the stove. Continue with the mashed potato recipe as directed.

Mash the potatoes, then set aside.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine the cranberries and water. Microwave on high for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, cranberries (along with any water in the bowl) and canned pumpkin. If needed, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 406 calories (268 calories from fat), 30 grams fat (19 grams saturated), 1 gram trans fat, 94 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 228 milligrams sodium.

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