Girls night

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Every few weeks or so, my girlfriends and I get together for a night of just us girls.   This involves food, wine, and sometimes playing games or music.  It’s so nice to relax with other gals where we can talk unimpeded about girl things: menstrual cycles, cramps, which IUD is better, how the menstrual cycle is messed up once you start birth control and once you go off of birth control, and annoying issues with significant others.  It’s also a time to bitch about co-workers and gloat about bosses that let you take a Wednesday off to go skiing.

Last night was girls night, and boy, did we need it.  Thank goodness for wine and brownies.   We had a nice spread of food: two types of brownies, popcorn, pita chips and dip, monkeybread, and a spinach artichoke pie, with a crust of mashed potatoes.  I was in a manic cooking mode, so I made the monkeybread (which has become sort of my signature girls night food contribution) and the spinach artichoke pie (because I needed real food for dinner).  And I think there were at least 4 bottles of wine.  The Stinker also got to tag along, and she ate up all the attention–and plenty of popcorn, too.

I was really excited to make the monkeybread because it was a new recipe idea I dreamed up over the weekend.  It included blue cheese, pears, candied spiced pecans, and honey.  Although it turned out alright, I wasn’t in love with it.  But I think it has potential, so I’m going to keep tweaking the recipe until I get it just right.  The spinach artichoke pie was adapted from a recipe I found in my stash of recipes from, get this…Shape magazine in 1997.  At first bite, I wasn’t in love with it, either, but it grew on me.  And when I was reviewing the original recipe for this post, I realized I forgot to add an ingredient–sour cream.  Ah ha!  THAT was what was missing!  I’ve got the photo so show that it looked pretty, and I’ll share the recipe, with this warning: I did not measure a lot of the ingredients for this dish.  I rarely do when cooking (and sometimes when baking cookies) because I go with my gut on how the food looks and feels during prep.  I’m trying to be better about measuring things, and this blog is helping to hold me accountable.  But I was in a huge hurry yesterday, and got a little messy in the kitchen.  Honestly, this recipe is mostly mashed potatoes and spinach, so you can’t really mess it up.  Can you?  I mean, it’s going to taste great no matter what.  Have fun and experiment with it, just don’t forget the sour cream.

Spinach Artichoke Pie with Mashed Potato Crust  (adapted from Mashed Potato Spinach Pie, Shape magazine October 1997)

*NOTE: amounts of all ingredients are approximate

4 cups mashed potatoes (approximately)

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 small bulb garlic, smashed and minced

1 teaspoon oil

1/4 cup white wine

salt to taste

1/3 cup milk (plus more as needed)

2 eggs

8 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1/2  14.5 oz. can artichoke hearts, chopped (about 4 hearts)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup sour cream

smoked paprika

I needed to use up some potatoes from the pantry, so I roasted whole potatoes in the oven until they were soft.  I removed the skins after the potatoes cooled, and mashed them with a potato masher, leaving some fairly large lumps in the mix.  Prep your mashed potatoes however you like, just don’t add a lot of liquid to them, or if you do, reduce or eliminate the amount of milk you add to them for the recipe.

Cook the onions and garlic in the oil and wine over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft and just beginning to brown.  Remove from heat and cool.

Salt the mashed potatoes to your liking and add the milk, mixing well.  Add half of the onion/garlic mixture to the potatoes.  If you want your crust to be a smooth texture, mash the onions and garlic before adding to the potatoes.  Add 1 egg to the potatoes and mix well.  The idea is to have the potatoes a consistency that is spreadable, but not too soupy or they won’t hold up during baking.  Spread about half of the potatoes in the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate.

Mix the rest of the onion/garlic mixture with the spinach, artichokes, Parmesan cheese, and sour cream.  Salt to taste.  Add 1 egg and mix well.  Pour the spinach mixture on top of the mashed potatoes in the pie plate.

Put the remaining potato mixture in an icing bag without a tip, or in a plastic zip top bag and cut the corner off.  Pipe the potatoes into decorative mounds on top of the spinach and around the edge of the pie plate.  Sprinkle the potatoes with a little smoked paprika.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the tops of the potatoes begin to brown.

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