Sunday, October 25, 2009

Skillet Pasta with Salmon

This is like tuna casserole, but with canned salmon. Why canned salmon?

Well, I grew up on the stuff. We were Catholic, no meat on Fridays during lent. But fish doesn't count. And we couldn't afford fresh fish.

Also, it's cheap. And it's Wild Alaskan salmon, which means it's safer and a better environmental choice than other salmon.

My hubby's got low good cholesterol, so I'm trying to fill him with omega 3's. We've got flax and chia seeds in the house too...

This was an experiment along the lines of the "Mexican skillet pasta".

I used fresh onion and portobellos (that's what I had). I made the white sauce with dried milk and cornstarch and herbs. Frozen peas, canned salmon, water, tri-color bow-tie pasta...and it took 40 mins start to finish, major score (since I made it after getting that burrito, and took it for lunch).

Skillet Pasta with Salmon
1 14-oz can Alaskan Salmon, drained: 2.00
1 T canola oil: 0.03
6-8 oz mushrooms, chopped: 2.50
1 onion, diced: 0.25
1/2 lb pasta: 0.60
make-your-own cream soup mix: 1/2 cup (see below): 0.15
3 to 3.5 cups water, divided
1/2 bag frozen peas: 0.55
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
handful of shredded cheese: 0.25
Total: $6.33 for 8 cups, $0.79 per cup, but a serving is more like 1.5 cups, or $1.18

Cream soup mix:

I leave out the bouillon.

Saute onion and mushroom in oil until softened and browned.

Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup cream soup mix with 2 cups of water. Add to the sauteed onion and mushroom and stir until thickened. Add remaining cup of water, pasta, crumbled salmon, salt, pepper, and garlic.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 mins or until water is absorbed (you may need more water). Stir occasionally.

Add peas, cover and steam 5 more minutes. Stir, add cheese and mix. Serve.

I had this for lunch today. Yum! A little bland, as is typical when I take a recipe that usually comes with canned soup and remove the can (less sodium). I think next time I'd add more pepper and more herbs (basil, thyme, garlic). I'll try to post a pic later.

Butternut Squash Soup and Pomegranate Seeds

Well, we've got a bunch of pumpkins this year...several from our CSA, one from the pumpkin patch. Yesterday was the day of carving and roasting pumpkin seeds. And butternut squash seeds, because we had one of those too.

My good friends invited us over for dinner last night. I brought a salad with seeds.

No picture, sadly, but it had red leaf lettuce, lightly steamed green beans from our garden (there was only a handful), broccoli, and...pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranates are a pain in the butt. But we got 6 from the farm (one more to go woo!) I put them in the salad. I had a stowaway spider who ended up in my water bath. He got sent down the drain.

Yesterday I roasted the squash itself and used it today to make my mother-in-law's famous Butternut Squash Soup. I used my fancy new Lodge Dutch Oven (La Creuset is not in the budget, and neither was a trip to Target). I've been slowly replacing some of my pots and pans. I bought a large nonstick set at Costco a few years ago. It's been great...but nonstick wears out eventually. And I cook a lot. So I've worn out almost all of of the pans (they aren't nonstick anymore). The large stockpot, the two large frying pans, and the griddle...gone. We've started using cast iron for our griddle (should last forever), and I've now made the switch to the Dutch Oven. I also saute in stainless steel now for everything except a few things that will stick like crazy (potatoes...) Interestingly, our stainless pots that my spouse got used when he headed off to college in the late 80's are still going strong.

The soup is for dinner tomorrow night and probably later in the week too. Some will find its way into the freezer I'm sure. I'd like to note that the soup itself is vegan this time. I sauteed the vegetables in canola oil. I used water and vegetable bouillon instead of chicken stock. (I don't have chicken stock.) I will probably make the ginger butter, but you could use vegan margarine instead.

Running update

So yesterday I began my "tapering" weeks. Last week was 12 miles in the awful heat and humidity with a tight hamstring (it was...awful). 11 min miles with many many stops to stretch, plus stomach cramps...I almost feel like this is a big science experiment:

1. how much do I eat before the run, and when?
2. what can I eat in the days before (i.e., I've decided no beans on Thurs or Fri)
3. how much water to drink the day before and in the morning so that I don't have to pee one mile in...which I've had to do every day except for the day that I took cold medication with pseudoephedrine.
4. drugs. none? Aleve?

Yesterday I felt MUCH better on the 10.75 miler, but still my pace was 10:47, a ways off of my (good-weather) goal of 10:00. Can I make that up on the race? "The Complete Book Of Running for Women" says so...says that I should be running my long runs at 11:09, and my half should be around 2:08. I'm not so sure.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm either going to GET a good time or HAVE a good time, but not both (especially if it's 85 degrees like last week! then it will be neither).

So we'll see. Maybe if I don't hit 2:11 this time, I can run another one and get it later. I'm not so sure how well the 39-year old body likes distance though. I think my 2010 goal is going to be more of a speed goal. My best 5k thus far is 27:19, I'm thinking I set a goal of 25:00.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mexican Skillet Spaghetti

This recipe started with a recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Favorites. And then I adjusted it. A lot. And it was delicious.

You could make this vegan by eliminating the cheese and sour cream. I liked it with that stuff, but it's good without it too. And you could add a couple of cups of beans to the recipe too. I threw in some fat free refried beans with the leftovers...yummy!

Mexican Skillet Spaghetti
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti: 0.65
2 T. canola oil, divided: 0.07
1 onion, diced: 0.30
1 small bell pepper, diced: 0.30
1 stalk celery, diced: 0.05
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1/2 an ice cube pureed chipotle in adobo: 0.20
2 cups crushed tomatoes: 0.38
1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp cumin: 0.02
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded: 0.34
sour cream for topping
Total: $2.41 for 4 servings, $0.60 per serving.

Heat 1 T. oil over medium heat in nonstick skillet. Toast spaghetti until it starts to brown, remove to a plate.

Heat other T. oil. Saute onion, celery, pepper until soft, 6-10 min. Add garlic and cumin, stir and fry for about a minute.

Add tomatoes, water, chipotle, salt and pepper, and pasta. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 min or until pasta is cooked.

Top with cheese. Serve with kale chips. Or whatever.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sausage and Many Bean Soup

So...a new Whole Foods just opened here in our town. Word has it that there was a line around the block to get in on the first day. So I decided to wait a couple of weeks to check it out. I've never been to a Whole Foods, and I guess ours is on the small side.

On a Friday afternoon I decided to wander on over there with my boy. I enjoyed a bit of perusing...I found that red lentils are about $1.50 per lb cheaper than the other three stores with bulk bins. I scooped a bunch, then heard "but Mommy I want the colored ones!" Sure enough, right next to the red lentils was "sunshine soup" mix. Looked like a mix of red lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, yellow and green split peas, barley, and a few other things. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I scooped some.

Google found another poor lost soul asking for advice, which was basically "cook on low all day". I figured it was a good candidate for the slow cooker.

Sausage and Many Bean Soup
1 lb mixed bean and barley soup mix: 2.99
4 links chicken and gouda sausage: 3.00
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
1 large onion, diced: 0.50
2 cloves garlic, minced: 0.10
2 large carrots, diced: 0.30
4 stalks celery, diced: 0.50
1 medium tomato, diced: 0.75
1 tsp each basil, thyme, rosemary: 0.25
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp sage
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $8.42 for about 14 cups, $0.60 per cup

Rinse the bean soup mix, put in the crockpot. Cover with 6 cups of water and turn on high for two hours. Reduce heat to low. Cook for several more hours.

Saute onions, sausage, carrots, and celery in a pan in oil until starting to brown. Add garlic and spices, except for salt and pepper. Saute a couple more minutes.

I have a vegetarian slow cooker book that specifically mentions sauteing vegetables - not only does it impart rich, carmel-y flavors, but it also gets them softened. I have learned the hard way that carrots don't like to soften in a low crockpot. When browned, deglaze the pan with a little bit of water.

Add the sausage and vegetables to the pot. At this point, I added two more cups of water that I heated in the microwave with a little bit of beef bouillon, until I read the package and realized there was no beef in the bouillon, but there was MSG. So, most of the cube went into the trash, but some made it into the soup.

Continue to cook over low for a couple more hours. Add the tomato, cook a bit more.

There was a method to my "add a bit here and there" madness. It's possible that you could dump everything in the crock in the morning and it would be fine at the end of the day. I don't know. I've read, though, that salting dried beans (or adding acid, like tomatoes) makes them impossible to soften. Of course, I've read elsewhere that it's not true. Being as this was a weekend, I decided why risk it? So I cooked the beans first, and basically added the rest of the stuff when the beans were mostly cooked through and softened.

The tomato was added last because I forgot about it.

Are we weird?

Reading a few blogs of late has caused me to ask that question.

Heather has made the comment that she doesn't eat "normal" food. I love to read what she is eating. But I will admit, some of her food is "out there" for me (oatgurt?). But it's "out there" not in a "gross" kinda way, but in a "hmm...I will have to try that" kinda way. I say, it's good to not be normal these days. Because "normal", is overweight and sedentary.

Most recently, the fruit-and-vegetable recommendations are what have made me feel a bit weird. Now, anyone who reads about health, diet, and exercise knows that in the last couple of years, the recommendations on produce have been increased from 5 servings a day to 9 servings per day (for an adult). Heck, even now my 3-year old should be getting 3 cups (he doesn't. I bet there are kids out there who do, like these. But he gets 1.5 cups most days and 3 on some days.)

That got me wondering...why was the recommendation increased? Was it increased because most Americans get only 3-4 servings a day (only 1.5 to 2 cups)? So the though is if the recommendation is 9, maybe now they'll get 5-6? Was it increased because the produce we eat today has less nutrition than in the past? Even the fresh veggies are picked far before ripening and are bred for shelf stability, not flavor or nutrients. Is it in the hopes that Americans will replace some of the less-than-healthy foods in their diets with more fruits and veggies? Maybe a combination of all 3.

I recently had a few conversations with some women in my life in an older generation. Namely, relatives in their 60's. I got a bit of a flabbergasted reaction when I mentioned that we eat about 30 lbs of produce a week among the 3 of us. I started to wonder if I'm weird. But I've done the math based on the recommendations:

My math uses the following assumption
1 serving = 1/2 cup = 4 oz.
(recognizing that leafy greens a serving is a cup, and probably weighs less).

High end:
2 adults @9 servings/day = 18 servings @4 oz = 4.5 lbs
1 toddler @6 servings/day = 6 servings @4 oz = 1.5 lbs
6 lbs/day x 7 days = 42 lbs per week

Low end:
2 adults @5 servings/day = 10 servings @4 oz = 2.5 lbs
1 toddler @3 servings/day = 3 servings @4 oz = 0.75 lbs
3.25 lbs/day x 7 days = 22.75 lbs per week.

So at about 30 lbs, we come in right in the middle.

I think part of the reaction to the amounts stems from serving sizes. Many of the older adults that I know maintain a reasonable weight. They may eat meat at every meal, but just enough to flavor the dish. They often grew up in times of scarcity. They eat healthful meals, but in smaller amounts than most people do today. (It also might be a factor that I know a disproportionate number of women from foreign countries (Asia and Europe)). My husband's uncle (from Europe) visited several years ago and was flabbergasted at the serving sizes of even the salads.

The most recent conversation included the comment "don't you think that eating all those veggies really is going to fill you up and make you uncomfortable?" I think that's sort of the point. "Volumetrics" is based completely on that premise...that it's the volume of food that matters in filling you up, and that's how you lose weight. Eat foods with low calories per unit volume (more veggies). In fact, I eat veggies and fruit FIRST. Yes, they fill me I might be hungry sooner. And that's okay. I eat my fruit at 10 am, and I'm hungry for lunch.

This week, we've gotten (among CSA and farmer's market and stores)
3 lbs strawberries
3 lbs bananas
3 lbs apples
1 lb tomatoes
1 lb cherry tomatoes
1 lb peppers
1 large head lettuce (2.5 lbs)
1.5 lbs celery
1.5 lbs onion
1 bunch kale
3 large carrots
2.5 lbs broccoli
1 lb edamame
1 lb peas (frozen)
1 large avocado

That's 24 lbs right there, plus we've got some dried fruits and dried beans and canned tomatoes to round out the menu.

What do you think? Is 30 lbs a week for a family of 3 too much? Too little?

Sausage and Polenta

I've been in a polenta mood lately. Now, the most frugal way to make polenta is to cook it from scratch. Most of the recipes I've found for soft polenta come with a lot of cream, butter, and cheese. And really, I kind of prefer the tube-polenta that is pan-fried in a little olive oil.

I did try to make it this way myself once. Cooked up from scratch, baked it in a pan to dry it out, and then fried. It was a mess. So now, when I want polenta, I pay $1.99 a tube at Trader Joe's.

I had a few chicken and gouda sausages in the freezer from my parent's visit earlier this year. We're not big meat eaters - I think that's the only meat in the freezer actually. (The rest of the sausage is going into today's bean crockpot soup). I thought it would be a perfect topping for polenta.

In my desire to "use it up", I decided to add cherry tomatoes. The CSA has had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes this year. A few weeks ago, I heard mention of how some members are tired of them. Well, for a few months we've gotten a overflowing pint a week. I'm not a big fan of raw cherry tomatoes. Combine the high acidity with the feel of popping in your mouth (I don't like grapes either), and you get...yuck. So I slice them in half in salads or relishes. Or I cook 'em.

Today they made a lovely sauce.

Sausage and Polenta
4 chicken and gouda sausages, about 1 lb: ~$3.00 (don't really remember)
1/2 a large onion: 0.40
2 small purple bell peppers: 0.50
1 T. canola oil: 0.03
1 pint cherry tomatoes: 3.00
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste
1 tube polenta: 1.99
1 Tbsp olive oil: 0.11
3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese for topping: 0.37
Total: $9.50 for about 3 servings. $3.16 per serving.

Of course, this could be make more frugal by eliminating the meat and making your own polenta. You can use any kind of tomato (including canned). I am estimating the cost of the cherry tomatoes. Mine are local and organic and part of the CSA, so I don't really know the true cost.

Served with a big salad...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Curried Singapore Noodles

This recipe started with a recipe America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

But I so liberally substituted and changed the amounts of the stuff in the recipe that I figure I can post it. I generally don't like to mess with ATK recipes because they are well tested. But I just don't go to the store to get stuff just for one recipe. So, there you go.

Curried Singapore Noodles:
6 oz rice stick noodles: $0.70
1 T canola oil: 0.04
2 small yellow bell peppers, sliced thinly: 0.50 (CSA)
1/3 small red onion, diced: 0.20
1.5 tsp curry powder: 0.10
2 small summer squash, cut into matchsticks with V-slicer: 0.70
1 c. cooked shelled edamame: 1.00
2 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.10
4 scallions, sliced: 0 (garden)
3/4 cup water
1/2 veggie bouillon cube: 0.25
1/4 cup soy sauce: 0.30
2 T. dry white wine
1 tsp sugar

Total: $3.89 for what they call 4 servings. It really made closer to 5 or 6 for us. So $0.78 per serving.

I think it tasted good. I added chili garlic sauce, which kinda burned. Spouse and kiddo liked it for sure.

Cook the rice stick noodles according to package directions, to al dente (go light on the cooking time), drain.

Combine water, bouillon, soy sauce, sugar, and wine in a measuring cup.

Heat oil in pan on medium. When hot, add onions, peppers, and curry powder and cook until softened, about 3 min. Add garlic and cook 30 secs.

Add cooked noodles, edamame, zucchini, sauce, and scallions. Cook, stirring, 5 min, until everything is warmed through and thickened.

Granola and Pasta Bake

No recipes today...I've made this stuff before, and I'm a "throw in whatever you've got" kinda person.

So the granola has oats, almonds, wheat germ, sesame seeds, coconut, cinnamon. The wet ingredients this time were a mixture of canola oil, maple syrup (out of brown sugar), and orange juice (no ripe bananas).

Breakfast today was yummy:

yogurt and strawberries:

meet my homemade granola:
together = perfection!

The kiddo had something similar (applesauce instead of strawberries). He was a bit disappointed in the granola at first "I want regular oatmeal", but that ended as soon as he had a bite. I look forward to the day that my work schedule returns to normal and I can actually eat breakfast at home, instead of in the car on the way to work. (This, I ate at home...tomorrow, I will be eating in the car or at my desk.)

The pasta bake was
1 lb pasta
1 large bell pepper
1/2 large onion
a bunch of tomatoes from the garden
some parsley (from the garden)
2 small summer squash
1 medium carrot
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 small can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, S&P

All the veggies went into a sauce, the pasta got cooked, it all went into an oiled pan, and topped with mozzarella and a little bit of parmesan.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yoga, and who'd have thunk it?

Last night, I did yoga for the first time. It was awesome! Even considering I was in a small room with about 20 coworkers (it was a company event).

A lot of the 2.5 hour program was explanation of yoga's purpose in keeping you balanced, in getting rid of the "residue" of life. Which I thought was going to be all touchy-feely and weird. But you know, it did make sense. From the parts about how stress and life all come with "leftovers" that you need to take care the parts that how we all "accept" that as we age our physical capabilities will decrease. The 50-something year old yoga instructor pointed out that this is just not true. (As an aside, he's also a well-known professor in the area of semiconductors, which confused me before I realized...yep, same guy.)

And I guess...if you had told me a year ago that I could complete a 5k in under a 9:00 mile, I would have said you are crazy. If you had told me that I would run 8.5 miles, and it would feel pretty easy...I would have said the same thing. I am amazed, sometimes, with what my body can do.

And I'm going back to yoga tomorrow...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Frugal Healthy Cooking for the Busy Person

I was going to title this: Frugal Healthy Cooking for Working Moms. Or Busy Moms. But why limit myself? Because I certainly have a lot of friends who complain about how hard it is to cook healthy meals and find the time to grocery shop. And some of them are single, or married without kids.

It doesn't matter if you are a single guy with a full time job, softball games, and grad school, or a married woman with volunteer responsibilities and family get-togethers. It can be hard to feed yourself (and others).

So here are my recommendations. They aren't new. In fact, go to almost any frugal website, blog, book, etc., and almost the first recommendation for a newbie asking "what do I cook for dinner?" is to have a plan by the day of the week.

That's all this is.

Why now, you ask? Well, I've been feeling busy and stressed. In addition to that half marathon training (which really is only taking up an extra 1.5 hours per week), there are other *things* in my life causing stress.

I noticed, for example, that my budget for groceries was totally blown in September (you can see that on the right, was supposed to be $160). Why is that, you wonder?

1. I'm kinda tired of the budget. I started the year with a full spare freezer and pantry. And it's pretty bare now. So filling our bellies without the extra food is a bit of a challenge.

2. My son is now in preschool, and his preschool has a farmer's market on Weds. Folks who know me know that I'm really into local and organic (within financial reason). Our CSA provides a LOT of veggies, but not much fruit. Excellent quality. For the most part, the local farmer's market provides veggies at better prices and better quality than the grocery stores.

However, I've started buying fruits at the farmer's market. And fruits can be expensive. Certainly, in season, citrus, strawberries, avocados, grapes, and melons can be a great deal. But items that don't grow as well here - apples and stone fruits, are expensive. Easily $2.50-$3 a pound. So my weekly farmer's market bill has been about $20, with apples, apple cider, grapes, strawberries, and eggs. I don't *need* to buy free range eggs, but it's much better for the chickens and they taste really good.

3. My work schedule. This time last year, I was working part time, which was about 30-35 hrs a week. I let myself get talked into full time (40 hrs) earlier this year. Now with the startup of a new fab, I'm suddenly at 45 hrs...and wait, that's 13 hours a week more than before. No wonder I'm having a hard time...less time for planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.

Enter the "day of the week" meal plan. As you can see, this is pretty much the vegetarian version, but a "chicken on Monday, beef on Tuesday" wouldn't be too far off the mark too. The advantages are:

1. you know what you are making each day without thinking about it
2. you choose what to make based on items that you always have on hand

Saturday: Soup and bread - makes 2-6 meals (minestrone, chili and cornbread, lentil soup with biscuits, butternut squash soup, vegetable soup, egg drop soup)

Sunday: Casserole - makes 5 meals (lasagna, enchiladas, shepherd's pie, tuna casserole, spanakopita, ziti bake, macaroni and cheese)

(Saturday or Sunday option: roast meat of some kind for special occasion, pizza, grilling)

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Pasta (pesto, cashew cilantro, tomato, mexican, asian peanut sauce, pad thai, creamy vegetable primavera, skillet pasta)

Wednesday: Rice (spanish rice, fried rice, chickpeas and rice, stir-fry veggies with plain rice, risotto, or some version of other grain - quinoa, couscous, bulgur)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: sandwiches (veggie burgers, grilled cheese, burritos, pizza, falafel) Or leftovers.

So there you have it...boring, but in the short term, can keep your family well fed for less.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I live in a beautiful place

So, I am training for this half marathon thing. I changed my workout schedule to allow myself to run 4x per week instead of 3. But what I didn't count on was this:
I don't want to run 4x per week. My 39-year old body doesn't want to run 4x per week. Particularly as it's short and stocky, and not built for distance (think: gymnast-shape, but with even bigger thighs and calves).

But I also feel weird about not doing *anything* on most Sundays. So I'll try and go for a walk alone or with the family.

This morning, I went on a short (2-3 mile) walk up to the Mesa. It's cool and windy - fall - or what passes for it in So. Cal, has arrived. Our thermostat says 59 degrees outside, perfect for a walk. It makes me think of pumpkins and apples - fitting, because we're headed to the pumpkin patch today, and just defrosted the last of last year's pureed pumpkin - and I'll be making soup for dinner.

As I turned for home, I have a big hill to walk up (the whole walk is a big hill, up, down, up, down). I was in a shaded, hilly, closed-in twisty-turny neighborhood. I came around the corner and BOOM, there it was. A gorgeous vista of deep blue Pacific ocean, white caps visible. A clear, sunny day with Santa Cruz Island visible in the background.

What a gorgeous place to live.

Well, it's off to get a glass of apple cider, then shower, then pumpkin patch!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

So, I've got some leftover potatoes in a bag. And a bunch of vegetables. I decided to make shepherd's pie. I think because it was part of a challenge on Top Chef last week. And it's finally not 91 degrees here.

I looked up a bunch of recipes on the 'net, and the one common thread was "use whatever you've got". So, here goes:

Veggie Shepherd's Pie (most veggies are from CSA, and hence the amts are estimates)
1/2 cup dry brown lentils: 0.25
1 T. canola oil: 0.03
3 small carrots, diced: 0.30
1/2 red onion, diced: 0.25
2 small summer squash, diced: 0.40
1 small bell pepper, diced: 0.50
1 cup frozen peas: 0.60
1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes, quartered: 1.50
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1 Tbsp soy sauce: 0.10
pepper and sage to taste: 0.15
1 piece veggie bouillon: 0.50
1 T. cornstarch

1.5 lbs potatoes: 0.20
1/2 cup milk: 0.07
1 Tbsp butter: 0.06
4 oz cheddar cheese: 0.50
S&P&garlic powder to taste:

Total: $5.51 for one 9x13 pan, 12 servings. $0.46 per serving. Served this with collard chips.

Rinse the lentils. Cover with water (at least one inch, maybe more), bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, cook for 20 min. Drain.

Saute onion, pepper, carrots, summer squash in oil until browning and carmelizing (great flavor). Add cherry tomatoes, peas, and garlic and cook until tomatoes give up their liquid. Add bouillon cube, sage, soy sauce and pepper.

Mix cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. When well-blended, add to veggies and boil until thickened.

Meanwhile, peel potatoes, cut into large pieces, and put in a pot covered with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer 20 mins or until they are pierced easily with a knife. Blend with a hand mixer, adding milk, butter, salt and pepper.

Grease 9x13 pan. Spread veggie mixture on the bottom. Spread mashed potatoes on the top. Top whole thing with shredded cheese and bake at 375F for 30 min. I used 375 because that's what the collard chips need. You could use 350F.

This was a keeper. Cheap and delicious. Yum yum yum.