HERMISTON - "I grew up eating potatoes every day," DeeAnn Amstad said. They are the most versatile vegetable there is."
DeeAnn ought to know. Her family's business, Amstad Farming Company, has been growing potatoes in the Hermiston area since 1959. DeeAnn grew up on a potato farm in Culver, in Central Oregon. She remembers fixing potatoes for her family when she was a child and her mother was out in the field helping with the potato harvest.
"You can use potatoes for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert," DeeAnn said as she prepared a cheeseburger and potato stick casserole in her kitchen. "You can make potato donuts or potato cake. I've even had chocolate-covered potato chips."
From 1997 to 1999 DeeAnn served as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Potato Board International Marketing Committee. She traveled to Asia and Mexico promoting U.S. potatoes.
"Everyone wanted what the Americans had," DeeAnn said. "They loved French fries. Now they've introduced mashed potatoes and other potato products they didn't used to eat into their diets."
DeeAnn went on to serve as chairwoman of the U.S. Potato Board in 2002-2003.
Along the way she collected a shelf full of potato cookbooks and hundred of recipes. When she is not cooking potatoes, she works full-time as comptroller for Amstad Farming and Amstad Produce.
Not surprisingly, potatoes are a favorite dish at Amstad holiday gatherings. Mashed potatoes with turkey and dressing and gravy was a favorite when DeeAnn's children were growing up. This Thanksgiving she watched one of her sons go back for seconds of just the mashed potatoes and gravy.
Not only are they versatile, potatoes are economical and nutritious, high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber. A medium-sized potato has about 100 calories.
"You don't have to add much to them to make healthy meals," DeeAnn said.
With six children of her own, nine grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, DeeAnn has plenty of experience feeding kids. Here she offers three quick, easy and different potato recipes that kids, and grown-ups, too, are bound to like.
You can find more potato recipes on the Amstad Produce web site, www.amstadpotatoes.com
Cheeseburger and potato stick casserole
"I don't think you'll find many kids who don't like a cheeseburger," DeeAnn Amstad says. Time in the microwave may vary considerably, so be sure to check for doneness.
2 medium potatoes, washed
1 pound ground beef
4 slices American cheese
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced dill pickle or dill pickle relish
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch ground black pepper
Blend together the diced onion and pickle and spread evenly across the bottom of a microwave-safe dish. Crumble the beef evenly over the onion and pickle and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the ketchup and mustard evenly across the beef and cover with the cheese.
Cut potatoes into French-fry sized sticks and spread evenly across the cheese. Tightly cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, or until potatoes and beef are done. Because of steam build-up, use oven mitts or tongs to remove plastic wrap.
Loaded mashed potatoes
DeeAnn got this recipe from former Hermiston resident and potato farmer Renee Brewer. It can be made the day before, then reheated and fluffed. "It's so good you don't need gravy," DeeAnn says.
5 pounds potatoes
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 8-ounce package softened cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
1 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon garlic salt.
Peel and boil the potatoes with the grated garlic until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain liquid and add the remaining ingredients. Mash together and cool in the refrigerator until the next day. To serve, place in 300 degree oven for one-half hour or until warm, then fluff with fork and serve.
Taco tater rockets
"You could do chili with these, too," DeeAnn says. She uses the microwave to cut the cooking time.
4 large potatoes (9-10 ounces each)
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup thinly sliced lettuce
1/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
Bake potatoes in microwave oven until tender. In a large skillet cook and stir the ground beef, onion, chilies and garlic until beef is browned. Pour off drippings, stir in the tomato paste and salt and cook for two minutes. Split and fluff the hot potatoes.
Spoon on the beef mixture and garnish with lettuce, cheese, tomato and olives.