October 13, 2014
by Mimi Holtz
2 Comments

Idaho Potato Harvest Part 4: Idahoan Foods and Dehydrated Potatoes

Idahoan groupHere we are at the Idahoan Foods plant in Lewisville, Idaho!  We have just learned how potatoes are dehydrated and made into potato flakes and dried potato slices.  We also had a chance to taste some delicious new potato casseroles made with dehydrated potatoes.  This was the last stop  on  our Idaho Potato Harvest  Tour as we headed toward Victor, Idaho for a little relaxation time.

bus of bloggers

Mimi, Niki, Mary and Renee on the bus!

Idahoan was started over 50 years ago by businessmen and farmers who wanted to make great tasting instant mashed potatoes.  I’m old enough to remember when instant mashed potatoes first came out.  In fact, I was a little girl during the time in the 50’s and 60’s when families began to use boxed and canned foods more than homemade.  Some of the foods were good, and some were just not as tasty as the real thing.  Instant mashed potatoes were a real disappointment in those days.  At the Idahoan plant we learned why that happened and how they corrected it.  Have you tried some of the products made from dehydrated potatoes recently?

product demo

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the plant,  but the tour at Idahoan Foods was one of the most interesting and informative to me.   The plant manager met us in the conference room and talked us through the process of cooking potatoes in preparation for drying.  Then we went inside the plant to see it for ourselves.  We wore protective coats, ear plugs, earphones to hear our guide via a transmitter hooked to our pocket, and hard hats.

rug at Idahoan

 

The potatoes are actually prepared the same way we would do them at home…sorted, washed in one area,  the skins are blasted off the potatoes with heat. Potatoes are cut into uniform sizes and defective pieces are removed.  When the potatoes are cooked they are actually cooked twice.  Remember those pasty instant potatoes we didn’t like back in the 60’s?   They figured out that over-cooking potatoes and then drying them causes the cell walls of the potato to break down so they won’t reconstitute properly with water.   Idahoan product developers  learned that if they cooked the potatoes,  cooled them down, and then cooked them again the cell walls would remain intact and the instant mashed potatoes would be just as fluffy and tasty as homemade.  Brilliant!

mashed potatoesAfter the potatoes are cooked initially, they go through a machine with augers to mash them.  Then they are spread in a thin layer over a huge roller that dries them into a very thin sheet that looks just like paper.  We were each given a piece of that potato paper and told we could taste it.  Of course, with no salt or seasoning it didn’t taste like much!    The potato paper goes through another auger that breaks it up into flakes.  Then it can be mixed with seasonings or other ingredients to make the various products that Idahoan has for sale.  Some go into huge packages for food service,  some are packaged for large club stores like Costco, and some are boxed for sale in grocery stores.

test kitchen demo

Demonstration in the test kitchen at Idahoan Foods.

I have a new respect for dried potato products, knowing now that the potatoes retain most of their nutritional value.   I’m thinking of seniors who don’t cook but who can use a hot pot,  or children who may need a healthy snack.   Campers, college students,  people who must live in less than hospitable situations, could all use these products.  Not only that but potato is gluten free and sugar free…I plan to experiment more with potato flakes in the future!

marketing

A discussion about marketing the Idahoan products.

Another part of the Idahoan plant that fascinated me was the automation  in place to ensure the quality of the products.  We watched as an engineer adjusted the machine that detects defects in potato slices.   As the slices were moved through the machine, they would leap across an open space where a camera would see the defect and send the information to a computer.  Instantly a blast of air would shoot the defect out of the potato slice!  Whacko!  No more spot on that potato slice!

Did you know there are metal detectors in food processing plants?  After the dried potatoes have been packaged the bags of product go through a metal detection system before they are put into the boxes.  Can’t be too careful!  That’s why we were asked to remove all our jewelry before we could tour the plant.   Food safety is a huge priority, and for good reason!

Idahoan casseroles collage

The new Steakhouse casseroles made with red potatoes were very tasty.  Dehydrated potato products have come a very long way since the days when boxed foods first made their appearance in the grocery stores.

hills

It was time to get back on the bus and drive to Victor, Idaho.   We noticed the changing landscape as we moved into higher country,  and the potato fields were still too wet to harvest.   We stopped at a beautiful scenic overlook  to enjoy  the beautiful Snake River below us and the changing leaves of autumn. scenic overlook

We all put on jackets because it was chilly up there!   And of course, everyone wanted a “selfie” to put up on Instagram!

selfiesIn such a picturesque place, everyone wanted a photo…even me! Thanks to Laura Bashar for taking this one!

Mimi in Idaho

 

As we headed back to the bus for the last leg of our trip to Victor,  we had no idea what awaited us at the Teton Springs Lodge.   We were having a wonderful time together,  grateful for this opportunity to see Idaho through the hospitality and generosity of the Idaho Potato Commission.

bus

 

This old barn was a landmark that helped us know we had almost arrived at our destination.   We would be spending the night at the Teton Springs Lodge,  enjoying a reception prepared by Chef Rick Sordahl including appetizers and cocktails made from Idaho potatoes,  and a farewell dinner in the evening.

 

old barn

 

Stay tuned for the final post …  we were about to be treated to a wonderful night in a fantasy suite at Teton Springs Lodge!

to be continued….

Disclosure:   I was treated to a expense-paid trip with other bloggers to celebrate the Idaho Potato Harvest.  I was under no obligation to write this post and was not paid to write this post.  All opinions and experiences are mine. 

 

 

October 12, 2014
by Mimi Holtz
0 comments

Idaho Harvest Trip Part 3: Food Bloggers Dig Potatoes!

digging potatoes

By the time we arrived at Brett Jensen’s farm near Idaho Falls,  all of the bloggers and dietitians were beginning to get acquainted.   We all knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime tour, and we were eager to spend as much time as we could with each other.   One thing about bloggers that you have probably noticed by now:  we love to tell stories!  Each bus ride and meal shared together included fascinating tales of growing up, education, early careers, and family life.   A microcosm of humanity journeying through Idaho in a small bus.

potato field ready for harvest

We turned off the main road and drove along a dirt lane, through acres of potato fields.  The bus turned in at a potato storage where a group of men were working some large equipment.  The wind was blowing hard, and it was a bit chilly,  but most of us didn’t mind.  Here was our opportunity to dig in the dirt..and find potatoes!

conveyer in the fieldWe had a chance to see the Spudnik potato storage equipment that Brett Jensen and his workers use up close.  On the ground you can see potato vines and a few potatoes that were culled out of the last load that went into storage.   Want to see how it works?

YouTube Preview Image

Isn’t that something?!   I wanted to know how the potatoes get taken out of the storage in the spring…I’ll be you do too!   They use a machine called a scooper.  Here  it is:

YouTube Preview Image

We were invited to walk into the storage,  never tired of seeing all those potatoes piled up!  Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with the potatoes!

Niki and Dr Ayoob

Brett Jensen tells us about this potato storage (left) Dr. Keith Ayoob of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC and professional chef Niki Miller-Ka (right)

Brett  explained  about how important it is to keep the potatoes at a consistent temperature and humidity, using  the metal pipes to distribute mist and air underneath the potatoes in the storage.   We have all experienced what happens when a potato goes bad in the bottom of a bag.  It would be terrible if that happened to a whole building full of beautiful potatoes.  All the care, the work, and the cost of growing and harvesting those potatoes would be wasted.  And I certainly would not want to be the one to clean up!

We all buttoned up our jackets and headed out to the field.  Who wants a shovel?  Who wants to dig potatoes?  I do!!

digging potatoes

Patricia Chuey, dietician from Saskatchewan, Canada shows us how it’s done

The potatoes aren’t that deep in the ground.   As you can see, the earth is shaped into mounds where the potato seed is planted.   The vines have already been removed from the field.

digging potatoes Brett Jensen showed us where to start digging….first find the vestiges of the plant, and then dig into the side of the mound.   He showed us how easy it is to find potatoes with his hands!

how to find potatoes

We were all tired and some of us felt really cold by the time we boarded the bus.   The ride back to our hotel was pretty quiet.  We had seen and learned a lot about potatoes in one day!  The Idaho Potato Commission folks had scheduled  some free time for us to rest or take a walk once we arrived at the hotel.

Idaho trout

During the evening we were treated to dinner at a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel, Sandpiper Restaurant.  If you’re ever in Idaho Falls, stop by for a meal…I had Idaho rainbow trout… with mashed potatoes, of course!  (Insider tip:  try their Guinness Chocolate Cheese Cake)

view from hotel

This was the view from my hotel room…the Snake River and the historic Mormon temple built in the early 1940’s,  the very first one in Idaho and the first to be built with the modern single-spire design.   Canada geese flew past as I sat out on the balcony, enjoying the crisp autumn air.   Beautiful cloud formations, plenty of water in the river,  no  traffic noise.  Peace.   And when I arrived home after our  dinner at The Sand Piper,  this was my view:

temple cropped

We needed to pack our bags and set our alarms for an early wake-up, because the next morning our group of bloggers would be leaving without our dietician friends.   We were about to have another amazing adventure in Idaho,  heading up into higher country!  Our next destination was Teton Springs Lodge in Victor, Idaho,  but first we would tour a potato dehydration plant where potato flakes are made.  So much to see and learn about Idaho potatoes!

To be continued…..

Disclosure:   I was invited on the Idaho Potato Harvest Tour by the Idaho Potato Commission.  I was under no obligation to write this post,  was not paid to write this post, and all opinions and experiences are mine.

 

 

potato storage

October 11, 2014
by Mimi Holtz
4 Comments

Idaho Potato Harvest Tour Part 2: All About Potatoes

potato storage

Have you ever seen so many potatoes?   Imagine 13 billion pounds of potatoes…that’s how many are harvested each year in Idaho on 300,000 acres.  94 per cent of those potatoes are russets like these…and there are different varieties of russets too:  Burbank,  Norkotah, Ranger, and Western, to name a few.  Idaho potato farmers also grow gold, pink, red, and fingerling potatoes.   Only about 29% of those  potatoes are for eating fresh, and  9%  are for seeds. More than 60 per cent of all the potatoes grown are processed:   frozen (french fries, hash browns, tater tots. etc.)  or dehydrated as potato flakes and slices for  instant mashed potatoes and casseroles.

unwashed potatoes and vines

Unwashed potatoes and potato vines come into the plant from the farm.

Last week I was lucky enough to visit Idaho to celebrate the harvest with Idaho Potato Commission.  I joined a small group of food bloggers and  registered dietitians on tours of  farms and potato processing facilities.  On our first full day in Idaho we all piled into a bus Continue Reading →

Jensen potato farm

October 10, 2014
by Mimi Holtz
8 Comments

Mimi Avocado’s Trip to Idaho with Idaho Potato Commission – Part 1

Brett Jensen's farm

photo credit: Idaho Potato Commission

There are three things that I love to do more than anything else:  go new places, meet new people, and learn new things.  I’m sure this is one of the reasons I love blogging: there are so many opportunities to do just that.  Last week I had the most wonderful time visiting Idaho as a guest of the Idaho Potato Commission.  I was one of a group of bloggers and dietitians who were invited to celebrate the Idaho potato harvest by meeting farmers and industry representatives,  visiting farms and packing/processing facilities, and tasting  foods and drinks made with  Idaho potatoes over the course of three very full days. Continue Reading →

October 8, 2014
by Mimi Holtz
0 comments

Cheesy Idaho Potato and Mushroom Patties

Potato Patty with Avocado

This may be the very last Reed avocado of the year.  We finished harvesting this year’s Reed crop today.   Now we’ll be waiting until next summer to taste those huge creamy slices again.   They were just perfect with my potato patties for supper.

Idaho potatoes

I returned from Idaho last week to find a big box of Idaho russet potatoes in my kitchen…a gift from the Idaho Potato Commission.  I know I have promised to tell you all about the trip…and I will…but first I need to tell you about making these potato patties. Continue Reading →

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