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Quick, Easy, and Cheap: Potato Pancakes

Need a comforting main or side dish that you can throw together fast? How about potato pancakes. Yes, I'm serious. These don't require grating by hand or hauling out a food processor. The batter takes only a few minutes to mix up, and cooking the pancakes doesn't take long, either. Plus the pancakes can be topped with your choice of toppings--mushroom sauce, applesauce, cottage cheese and green onions, goat cheese and chives, sour cream and bacon crumbles, broccoli and cheese sauce, shredded cheddar cheese and pear slices--use your imagination! I like them topped with whatever chopped up leftover meat I have on hand (like chopped chicken mixed with a little Dijon mustard, light sour cream, and Swiss cheese and heated in the microwave until hot--ummm). The pancakes also make a great side dish. Try the pancakes alongside roast pork or pork in paprika sauce. Traditionally potato pancakes require a lot of grating and time. You can speed your preparation considerably by starting with a bag of shredded potatoes from the refrigerator section of the grocery store. Alternatively you can use frozen shredded hash browns that have been defrosted to room temperature. The packaged potatoes aren't as cheap as shredding your own, but they aren't too bad price-wise and will save you considerable time. So, opt for the labor-intensive option for a day when you have a lot of time and choose the easy way on a weeknight. You can have hot, comforting, and tasty potato pancakes in less time than stopping for take-out food.

Quick, Easy, and Cheap:  Potato Pancakes

Easy Potato Pancakes -- Serves 4

16 ounce bag of refrigerated shredded potatoes (like "Simply Potatoes)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 tablespoon of minced dried onion

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/4 cup of flour

1 tablespoon of minced dried chives

Canola oil

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes and stir it again. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and swirl in a teaspoon or two of oil. Stir the potatoes again and drop about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot pan, spreading the batter out with the back of a spoon to make a pancake about 1/4-1/3-inch thick. You probably will be able to add to more pancakes to the pan, but don't overcrowd the pan, or the pancakes will be hard to flip. Let the pancakes cook for 4-5 minutes until they are set and browned on the bottom and then flip them. Let them cook another couple of minutes until they're done all the way through. Remove the pancakes to a plate and cover them to keep them warm while you cook the rest of the batter, adding a teaspoon or two of oil with each batch (swirling it in the pan a little) to ensure the pancakes don't stick and brown nicely. Serve the pancakes warm with the topping or your choice.

Quick, Easy, and Cheap:  Potato Pancakes

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