Friday, April 23, 2010

Baked Potato Night and Other Buffet Meals at the Knowles House

Dear friends,

I count myself quite fortunate that I only have to cook three nights a week, since my husband and a few of our daughters each have an assigned dinner making night.  My turns are on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.  Melody (4) is always asking me, "Who is cooking tonight?"  I think she's going to learn all the days of the week just asking that.   Sometimes I just fix something quick like spaghetti or baked chicken, but I try to make a more creative and unique meal whenever I can.

My friend Tonya and I often talk about cooking while we go on our morning walks once or twice a week.  She has a wonderful blog called Mrs. T.'s Thoughts from a Titus 2 Mom.  The other day we were talking about potatoes and garlic, since she had done a feature on How to Peel Garlic / Best Mashed Potatoes Ever.  I usually take the easy way and use the minced garlic that comes in a jar, but occasionally I chop up some fresh.   Each head of it pulls apart into cloves, as in the picture.

Anyway, coinciding with this discussion, I had just been to our local Aldi discount grocery store and found a bag of 16 potatoes on sale for 79 cents.  My kids, especially Micah, love for me to bake a whole bunch of them and have a potato buffet with all sorts of toppings.  So that's what we did tonight, and since I happened to have a head of fresh garlic on hand, I took the time to pop onto Tonya's blog for a refresher.   We also had butter, sour cream (fat free, which the kids don't like as much), shredded cheddar cheese, fried turkey ham diced into pieces, and fried turkey breast.

A few little tips and tricks for potato night and other crowd cooking:

When you are cooking a bunch of things, you might need to keep some of them warm.  A thick dish towel does the trick for a pan of potatoes.  I baked the whole bag of them, so to speed things up, I put 5 or 6 at a time into the microwave to get them going while the others were already in the regular oven.    When a plate was done in the microwave, it went into the oven with the rest of them.   We'll use the left over potatoes for lunch tomorrow.   Yum!

Serving butter to a crowd is a whole lot easier and neater if you have a simple old-fashioned butter slicer, like the one we inherited from my mother-in-law.  Naomi helped me out here!  Many hands make light work.  Naomi also often shreds cheese if we are using a block of mozzarella.  Unfortunately, our grater just fell apart, so we used pre-shredded cheddar.  We keep shredded cheese in the freezer since we buy 5 pounds at a time from Sam's Club. I had to remember to thaw it out ahead of time on a pie pan.

I sauteed the onions and garlic in olive oil.  This doesn't have to be expensive.  I buy mine at Aldi, and the bottle looks fancy enough to satify the aesthete in me.  I also use canola oil for sauteeing foods, depending on what recipe I'm making. 

I served the toppings in soup bowls. I bought these for only $1 a piece at Walmart since so many of our glass Corelle bowls have broken over the past 25 years. We don't like to use plastic bowls in the microwave, so it's nice to have a stack of sturdy glass ones on hand.  They make pretty matching serving dishes when we're doing a buffet.

At our house, half the fun is getting to serve yourself on a buffet night.  Even little Melody gets to help herself to her favorites.
Here's my plate.  I don't like sour cream much at all, but I  sure love butter!  The turkey ham is inexpensive, only about $1.50 a pound at Walmart.  That's the diced brown stuff on the potato to the right.  I had bought a few turkey hams at Eastertime, but since we'd had to cancel our big Easter dinner because of illness, I had plenty to spare.  I needed to use it up.  The turkey breast at the front is from Aldi, purchased last week half price.  Our other favorite meat topping is bacon, but we didn't have any available tonight.  We just used what we had on hand.

That's our baked potato buffet night!  Two of our other favorite build-your-own buffets are:

Mexican Night with all of the ingredients for tacos and burritos: seasoned ground beef or ground turkey, warmed tortillas and taco shells, shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, green peppers and onions, etc.  We actually did a huge version of this, with many more ingredients like guacamole, for our daughter Mary's wedding reception.  The guests loved it.

Fruit and Waffle Night with sliced up fruits, waffles, syrup, and whipped cream.   When I am topping waffles, I use different fruits than I would for a regular fruit salad.  I like to use a frozen three berry blend from Aldi (blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries), as well as sliced fresh strawberries.  Some of our kids like cantaloupe, and fresh pineapple is also a treat.   It's always easy to find a helper for slicing fruits because all of our kids like it so much. I buy non-dairy whipped topping in a tub, but Tonya has written about how to make it the real stuff: Making Homemade Whipped Cream.

Many delicious blessings to you and yours...



  1. Thanks for the plug! I love simple buffets like this. Another one is taco salad. I make that about once every 2 weeks.

  2. Buffet nights are the BEST! Especially with large groups :)

    I just wanted to pass the word along that I am hosting a NEW linky party called Fun w/Food Friday.
    I would LOVE for you to come by and link up some of your delicious posts!

    Have a great weekend!!!


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