Don’t change the recipe the first time you try it!

It’s November 28…Technically there are three more posts before I could take a break from daily blogging. What to write about today? How about a new recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a while? Sure, great idea. It has all the makings of a good–no, unhealthy–and quick dish: sour cream, cheese, and starches. What could go wrong? Plenty. If you don’t have the list of ingredients the recipe calls for, strange things start happening, in the form of substitutions. From there on out, all bets are off.

To my credit, Meijer, my grocery store of choice had a special offer running today on all groceries with their online coupon program called Mperks. For the past few days, I had planned on making a massive grocery run this afternoon, and our fridge and pantry echoed as much–as well as the kids. “MoooOOOOooom!! Do we have any more tortillas?!?” and my perennial favorite, as heard from inside the bathroom: “WE’RE OUT OF TOILET PAPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Seriously. I am really falling down on the job. This has been the sixth Toilet Paper Crisis of 2012, at least! Hopefully 2013 will be better.)

Of course, despite my planning and list-making, the afternoon turned out much less productive than successfully procuring food and TP for my family. Earlier in the morning, as Ben and I were on our way to his monthly orthodontic appointment, I received a phone call from the kids’ pediatrician. We had just seen her two days earlier after Patrick–awesome bike rider that he is–took off on Ben’s new bike and promptly landed himself at full speed on his shoulder and elbow. Good NIGHT, can we not have an injury for more than 2 weeks? In any case, we iced and motrin-ed it and even so, by Monday, his arm was swollen and he was having trouble raising it. Of course the doc wanted to see him, and once we were there, of course she sent him to an orthopedic doc. Just another day in the life, I guess. Problem was that it wasn’t until today that we could get in. Thankfully, by this afternoon when we went, Patrick’s arm looked and felt much better, and we were all hopeful that it was just a matter of time before Patrick would be back on some other moving object so he could fall off of it. As tempted as I was to cancel the appointment, Todd and I agreed that it would be better to have the orthopedic doc look him over and confirm what we suspected: the guy can be a harmless klutz.

A 2:45 appointment at an office 20 minutes from our house all but guaranteed that I wouldn’t get any other thing done for the afternoon. And I was right. Between the time It took to complete the 469 pieces of paperwork every new patient has to fill out and the time it took to see the doc, the afternoon was shot. No groceries could be had this afternoon. I was grateful when Todd offered to go shopping with me after dinner. Woohoo!

This offer for help, however, did not solve my dinner problems. So I came up with a new idea: What We Have on Hand Wednesdays. Actually, by early morning I knew all this was going down with the appointment and the lost afternoon, so I went ahead and threw it together before we left for Patrick’s doc. It was a recipe from another blog called Plain Chicken. While I don’t have an account on Pinterest, every so often I’ll see one of my recipes pinned on there, and it leads me to peruse someone’s food board. Without going into the reasons I don’t “Pinterest,” I came across this dip recipe that caught my eye because of the name: Crack Dip. HA! If you know me, you probably know my Christmas Crack obsession. (If not, click here to get yourself hooked.) As I read her post about it, I saw that she also made them into Crack Potatoes. Hmmm, I thought to myself, I could make those. And if I changed a few things, maybe I could make it a dinner instead of a side dish. I suppose it was worth a try. If it didn’t turn out, we could always have sammiches or cereal. Sure.

The original recipe calls for shredded hash browns, but I didn’t have those. I did, however, have southern hash browns, so I used those instead. I also somehow had roughly 13 leftover frozen french fries from something else, so I threw those in. Hate to waste anything, right? Besides, if nothing else, it would keep the kids guessing as we ate dinner. “Did I just see a FRENCH FRY in this casserole?!” It’s the little things.

I also left out the bacon and substituted turkey ham chunks, thinking that would make it more of a casserole that could somehow qualify as dinner. Chop, chop, chop. In went the ham. Mixing up, it smelled really good. I think if I make it again, though, I would let the potatoes thaw more. It was very difficult trying to stir it up because the frozen hash browns really slowed everything down. Otherwise, it looked promising.

Here’s the before picture when I slid it in the oven for later baking. Can you spot a french fry??

It smelled lovely as it baked this afternoon, and I was hopeful that it would live up to its name. Honestly, I was also a teeny bit scared that it would live up to its name. I really don’t need another food addiction at this point.

Everyone seemed favorable to try the new dish–except one. But this one usually turns his nose up at new things, so I wasn’t surprised. When he was a younger lad, he once said “I’ll try it before I hate it,” in reference to a dinner he thought he wouldn’t like, and I’ve always remembered that. I have often had to remind him to “try it before you hate it.” What a great expression! As he gets older, he has learned to appreciate that if he doesn’t eat what’s for dinner, it’s a long time until breakfast and therefore can usually muscle down even the most unappealing-to-him meals. That is a definite step forward, in my opinion. In any case, tonight he was about the only one unimpressed with the name Crack Potatoes.

When it was finally time to eat, the finished product looked fab. Here’s a picture for you to see for yourself:

#

You know, cheese, and potatoes, and ham, and sour cream. It really doesn’t magically change once it goes in the oven; it just melts.
After all that jibber jabber, here’s the bottom line: the reviews from my family were very mixed. Very mixed indeed, and honestly, a little surprising. “Two thumbs up! Well…they are two small thumbs….” from the little redhead. while #4 commented that they would have been better with less Ranch powder. “Less potatoes,” was the most hilarious criticism, but I really wanted to hear what they thought. And from the speaker of the house, who was almost wholly unimpressed, “This would make a better side dish.” Fair enough. Lesson learned. I have no control to compare it to, though. If I had made it according to the recipe at first before tweaking it eight ways from Sunday, perhaps we’d know better if we really liked it. As for now, I don’t think there is any danger of any of us becoming addicted to these potatoes. Prepared in the way that the original blogger intended, however, I believe they could at least become a gateway dish to bigger and more dangerous crack-like grub.

As a final wrap-up, I’d like to share the best shot of the meal: Gateway Potatoes with Andrew and Ben photobombing.

Bonus material: I just went to paste the original recipe on here and only now discovered that I read the recipe wrong. It said 2 16oz sour cream containers, but I only used one. BIG FAT OOPS!! Nothing like misreading the ingredients! Am I fired?! I’m not sure if that helped or hurt me in the long run. 🙂 In any case, I don’t know that I’d go all 32 oz for this dish.

OK, enough editorializing. Here’s the recipe:

Crack Potatoes

2 16 oz sour cream containers

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 3 oz bags of real bacon pieces

2 packages of Ranch dressing mix

1 large bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

Combine first four ingredients; mix in hash browns. Spread in greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 400 for 45-60 minutes.

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