September 21st, 2011

Apples and Potatoes/Breakfast for Dinner


What good meal could you make for under five dollars?

Slow Food USA initiated this cooking challenge, one which meshed nicely with our Third Thursday Community Potluck this month. In a rough economy, and an ever-widening “food gap,” knowing how to prepare tasty, nutritious food at an affordable price is a crucial survival tool.

Calling it “The $5 Challenge,” Slow Food encouraged potluck gatherings to share “true value meals.” Last Saturday, 30,000 people allover the country came together to dine on these good dishes, all made with fresh ingredients, and costing less, per person, than an Abe Lincoln. Recipes from these events will be amassed and shared.

Informally, our Third-Thursday group did the same, although we kept our potluck on its given day, rather than the Saturday, as suggested by Slow Food. In the quest for community—and tasty affordable food—we didn’t think a couple of days mattered. It’s part of our monthly pursuit anyway.

And, serendipity, we had already chosen a “Breakfast for Dinner” theme. That meal provides plenty of hearty, nutritious, and inexpensive dishes: Omelettes, vegetable frittatas, mock souffles, noodle kugels, cheese grits casseroles, and the like.


We know that cooking seasonally, using of-the-moment produce, is far more cost-effective.

In Nashville, fall is in air. Bushels of apples and potatoes are plentiful at the market. With that in mind, I chose to make a batch of fresh applesauce, and my crispy potato pancakes. Both are ridiculously simple, and “cheap” recipes–short on ingredients, but long on satisfaction.


I hadn’t considered applesauce in a long time, although it’s something that I associate, in a pleasant way, with childhood. It was one of the acceptable things that this super-picky eater would deign to let past her lips.

We always had jars of Mott’s Applesauce on the shelf, something my beleaguered mother could count on to spoon onto my plate, and not be met with eyes of abject horror or disgust.


But nothing could be easier than making a pot a fresh applesauce. Core and rough-chop the apples–leave their peels on. Cook them down with a little lemon, brown sugar, and cinnamon–that’s really it. (This could be adapted to a slow-cooker–throw everything into the pot, and let it go all day, while you work.)

The peels mostly dissolve as the apples soften into a chunky sauce, providing flavor, nutrients, and needed pectin to thicken. If you want a smoother sauce, you can run the cooked mixture through the food mill.

Ginger Gold Apples, with their pale green skins tinged with rosy blush, proved to be a good choice. They have a bright, pleasing balance of sweet and tart.


Pommes-de-terre, Aardappelen, Potatoes are indeed the Apples of the Earth! We love potatoes in all iterations.

My potato pancake, or latkes, recipe is gluten-free. Years ago I would add flour, but learned later that there was no need; there’s enough natural starch in the potato to accommodate. Eggs add a little protein, and help bind the crispy shreds together.


What’s not to love about these little potato nests? Crunchy golden brown goodness, with a hint of sweet onion in the mix…they make terrific accompaniments to any meal, breakfast or not.


What I must note about the $5 challenge: it’s an easier one to meet, if you are cooking for a group. (And, likewise, if that group is sharing dishes, in the potluck spirit!)

My big batch of potato pancakes cost just about $5, and fed a crowd. Making 30, that’s almost 17 cents a cake. The applesauce cost less, around $4, and was delicious in its own right, or dolloped onto the potatoes.

But I think that we would all be hard-pressed to consistently create well-rounded meals for under $5 a person, especially if cooking for one or two. And many today have less than that to work with.

I lead a charmed life, and I am grateful for it. I am generally frugal, but have the where-with-all to buy, cook, and enjoy more expensive foods. And that’s fine. But access to basic, affordable good food should be a right, not a privilege. It’s important to share our knowledge, so that people can cook delicious meals using fresh food for themselves and their families.

Have you got a favorite inexpensive dish to share?



6 large tart green apples, such as Ginger Golds
1/2 cup Demerara Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Lemon, quartered

Core and rough-chop apples. Place into a large saucepan on gentle heat. Add brown sugar, lemon quarters, and cinnamon stick. Cover and allow apples to cook on slow medium heat, for about thirty minutes. Stir occasionally. Covered, the natural juices will release, condense, and fall back into the apple mixture. The peels will mostly dissolve and add their natural pectin.

Remove cinnamon stick, lemon peels. Serve warm or cold.

Makes about 4 cups of applesauce.

POTATO PANCAKES (gluten-free)
4 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 large Yellow Onion
4 large Eggs
2 t. Sea Salt
1 t. Cracked Black Pepper
2 t. Paprika

canola oil for frying
1 T. butter to season the oil (optional)

Shred potatoes (I used the food processor with the shredder attachment.) and place into a large mixing bowl. Finely dice the onion and toss in with the potatoes.
In a separate bowl, whip eggs, sea salt, black pepper, and paprika together. Pour over potato-onion mix. Toss well so that everything is well coated.

Heat a skillet and pour in canola oil, about 1/2″. Melt in a tablespoon of butter, if you’d like to flavor this neutral a bit.

With a slotted spoon, scoop up a small mound of shredded potato mix and place in hot oil. Repeat until the skillet is filled but take care not to crowd. (I fit 4 at a time.) Cook for about 3 minutes—look for crispy brown edges. Wait for the right “brown-ness” before flipping with a spatula.

Rotate in the pan, as needed, so that the ‘cakes brown evenly.

Place cooked potato cakes onto a metal grid to drain, (or paper towels).

Note: As the mixture sits, some of the water from the potatoes will release into the mixture. This is not a problem. Continually stir, lifting out each mound with the slotted spoon, leaving some of that liquid behind.

Makes about 30 crispy potato pancakes


Posted in Breakfast, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Fruit, Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegetarian Dishes

21 Responses to “Apples and Potatoes/Breakfast for Dinner”
  1. Juliana Says:

    Oh Nancy…potato pancakes and apple sauce sound and look delicious, I wish I could dip the potato pancakes into the sauce right now…
    Hope you are having a fantastic week and thank you for this nice recipe :-)

  2. Three-Cookies Says:

    Potato pancakes and apple sauce is a combination I have never heard of before, very unique. It does sound delicious though – sweet and salty.

  3. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner–particularly when there are potato pancakes involved? And those ginger golds–they are my new favorite apples. Delicious.

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Michele–the ginger golds were new to me–and I love ’em. great eating and cooking apples.

  5. Faith Says:

    I love the creativity that comes when thinking of meals for $5…delicious new things are born or old favorites are revisited! I’m a huge fan of breakfast for dinner, especially if it involves something as yummy as potato pancakes and fresh applesauce!

  6. John Says:

    Potato pancakes and apple sauce were a regular at my family’s dinner table when I was a kid, especially with a roast pork. I’m going to try your recipe next week.

  7. goodfoodmatters Says:

    John, these would be fabulous with roast pork!

  8. Nicole Says:

    Nancy, I grew up on latkes and can’t wait to try your version. I am interested to know if you have a favorite noodle kugel recipe, I am in search of one! I adore that dish.
    I think you’re right, it is more difficult to feed just 2 on a budget, whereas bigger dishes that you can eat over several days are more economical. Big pots of soups or stews are amongst my favorite healthy and budget friendly meals.

  9. Barbara Says:

    Nancy, we’re in total agreement today! I make applesauce every fall and freeze it. And potato pancakes? My German grandmother’s favorite treat for us. I made them for my kids too. We don’t put onion in ours and slather them with syrup!

  10. Nic@diningwithastud Says:

    Oh I love potato pancakes. Yours looks very crispy and delicious!!

  11. Teresa/ Says:

    I had the pleasure of getting to eat one of your potato pancakes with apple sauce and can highly recommend this simple/simply good little crispy bite of goodness that only potatoes can deliver. The applesauce was just the right enhancer. Great recipe and photos as usual.

  12. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    I love breakfast food at all times of the day and these babies I would eat for the rest of my life! They are amazing. The idea of apples with potatoes is genius. I can just see the crispy outer texture and yummy delicious inside. I want one so bad!

  13. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Nichole–I’ll check through my files. once I locate that noodle kugel recipe, I’ll send it to you.

    Big pots of soups and stews are wonderful, inexpensive ways to feed your family well.

  14. Tammy Says:

    Well, your potato pancakes seem to have come together a bit better than mine! My favorite low-cost meals are soups.

  15. Maria Says:

    Oh, boy! Every time I visit, my mouth waters, and I never know what to try my hand at next. Nonetheless, I’m always on board with breakfast for dinner, so these will end up on the menu probably tonight! Thank you Nancy.

  16. FOODESSA Says:

    Considering I get up at 4-5A.M…my tummy is quite ready for this comforting breakfast…especially since I’m somewhat a potato addict. LOL

    Strangely, I’ve never made potato pancakes…what the heck have I been waiting for?!?

    As usual Nancy…it’s always nice to be received at your cyber table ;o)

    Have a wonderful week,

  17. Kath Says:

    Oh Nancy, yet another brilliant post. You are absolutely right, eating well should not be a privilege but a right. Here in the UK the number of people who are actually unable to afford to eat (or feed their children) is growing and is very wrong indeed. Food banks are springing up but are limited and can only provide limited support and we are supposed to have a welfare state! On another note, I am greatly heartened to read that you were once a picky eater and apple sauce was the one thing guaranteed not to make you grumble, this all sounds so very familiar to my ears. Let’s hope my children grow out of it too. Wonderful potato cakes ( I always add flour and won’t next time) and I had never thought to keep the peel on the apples. Will try that next time. My apple sauce is always just pure unadulterated bramley and it is the one thing that the girls will definitely gobble down. x

  18. Says:

    Ahhh potatoes and apple sauce are two of my favorite foods! What could be better? Nothing I say, I’ll take a plate full of those potatoe pancakes please!! :)

  19. Michelle in DC Says:

    I have a half bushel of apples in my kitchen that I am going to make into applesauce tonight. I think my grandmother’s recipe may benefit from the addition of lemon – so glad I was procrastinating at work today and came across this post!

  20. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Great idea, Nancy. I haven’t had potato pancakes in a while. I like them with apple sauce and a little sour cream.

    I do have an inexpensive and quick dish to share. While I was in Paris in my tiny apartment kitchen I often ate canned tomatoes with canned flageolet beans. I simmered the two with fresh garlic and topped my bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. I can see eyes rolling, but really, it’s quite good. Now I buy dried flageolet beans and make the same dish here at home.

  21. goodfoodmatters Says:

    no eyes rolling here, Denise. sounds simple, nutritious, inexpensive, and good.

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