Twice Baked Potatoes

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You can’t really go wrong with potatoes and cheese. And if you brown the cheese it’s even better.

Rich and I had a date night a few weeks ago and we were looking for something that was tasty, but not too indulgent. We are still coming off our holiday indulgences and are happy with lighter meals. We decided on spuds and salads, but we wanted to jazz up the potatoes just a bit. Twice baked potatoes to the rescue.

The potatoes are a nice change from regular baked potatoes and are only a little more work. You can cut the work down even further if you use leftover baked potatoes – it is easy to throw a few extra potatoes in the oven for later in the week.

Twice baked potatoes are the epitome of a customizable dish. Make them early in the day, or even the day before, and stash them in the fridge until ready to bake. Or make them right before you want to eat them. Use less cheese, or more. Add bacon, chives, green onions, garlic or bits of whatever you have in the fridge. I kept the recipe pretty basic, but feel free to make it yours.

What’s your favorite way to eat baked potatoes?

Print just the recipe here.

Twice Baked Potatoes
From The Cook’s Life
Serves 4

Use more cheese if you like your potatoes really cheesy.

You can make bake, mash and fill the potato shells ahead of time. Store them in the fridge until ready to bake them the second time.

4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
1 egg, slightly beaten
2-4 tablespoons milk
Salt
Pepper
1 cup grated cheese (Cheddar, Swiss or a combination of your favorites)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake potatoes for about an hour, or until they are soft when poked with a fork. Cool potatoes until you can handle them comfortably. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides of each half, leaving about ¼ inch shell of potato inside the skin. You don’t have to be precise. Set potato shells aside.

Mash the scooped out potato with a fork or potato masher. Try to get most of the lumps out, but don’t get obsessive. Add the egg, about 2 tablespoons of milk and a few sprinkles of salt and pepper and mash again. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more milk and mash again. You want a mixture that is a little wetter than mashed potatoes.

Mix in about ½ cup of cheese. Reserve ½ cup of cheese for topping the potatoes later.

Fill the potato shells with the cheese-potato mixture, mounding the tops fairly neatly.

Place the filled potato halves on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet, propping the potatoes against each other if they won’t stand up.

Bake the potatoes at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or just until the tops are starting to turn golden brown in spots. Remove the potatoes from the oven and sprinkle the tops with the reserved cheese. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Broil the tops for a couple of minutes if you want the cheese browner.

Turkey Veggie Chili

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Chili is the perfect dish for dreary, gray winter days. And we have had our share of those lately in St. Louis. I am not complaining, mind you. Compared to the snow our near western neighbors are dealing with, our clouds are a picnic. But I am craving chili and other warming meals.

Chili, for me, is a lunch dish. Rich and Calvin dislike chili with such a passion that I try to make it and eat it when they are at work and school. I make a big batch and freeze it in single serving containers. It is a matter of minutes to thaw a portion in the microwave, top it with shredded cheddar and crackers and dig into the warming deliciousness. Even better if I have homemade bread in the freezer to tear up and drop in the bowl instead of crackers.

I like chili. But I don’t really like cumin. Most commercial chili powders contain cumin, so I made up my own spice combination – paprika, ancho chili powder, ground cayenne and ground chipotle. It may not be for everyone, but I like it. Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your tastes.

I want to enjoy my chili without guilt, so I usually use ground turkey breast for the meat. With all the spices and vegetables I don’t miss the beef. Sometimes I’ll use a combination of lean ground sirloin and ground turkey breast.

I also like to pack as many vegetables into it as I can, so I add celery, carrots, tomatoes, shallots and garlic to the usual beans. I thought about adding zucchini to the mix, but haven’t actually tried that yet. I finely chop the vegetables so they add body and nutrition without announcing their presence so loudly.

Let winter give its last hurrah – I have a stash of chili to get me through until spring.

Download or print the recipe here. 

Turkey Veggie Chili
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 8-10 servings

The canned beans and tomatoes add plenty of salt, so I don’t add any extra.

1 pound ground turkey breast, ground sirloin, or a combination
4 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons ancho chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle, or to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
2 large shallots or 1 small onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 carrots. peeled, if desired
3-4 ribs celery
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained
2 (14.5 oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
1-2 cups water
Cheddar cheese, for serving
Crackers or bread, for serving

Brown turkey or ground sirloin in a large pot over medium heat. Add spices and stir to combine and break up meat.

While meat cooks, finely chop shallot, garlic, carrots and celery, by hand, or in a food processor. Set aside.

Remove cooked meat from pan and drain, if necessary. Return pot to heat and add olive oil if pan is dry. When oil is hot, add chopped vegetables and sauté for a few minutes, or until they start to soften.

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and drained meat. Stir well. Add 1-2 cups of water, depending on how thick you want the chili. Once mixture comes to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Cover pot if chili is reducing too much. Taste chili and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with cheddar cheese and crackers or bread. Freezes and reheats well.