Monday, September 24, 2012

Garden Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

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I made these Garden Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes a couple weeks back, but I was waiting until the weather cooled off a bit before sharing this recipe with you. Well, I can't wait any longer. They're just too good to keep to myself. They were amazing the first night, and thanks to my planning ahead and freezing method, I have plenty more on hand whenever the craving strikes. (I love having all the work done ahead of time for busy nights - which seem to be every night these days!)
   I call them "garden" stuffed because I put lots of veggies in them. I used Broccoli, carrots and squash, but of course, feel free to substitute your favorite veggies. Just use whatever you have on hand, I'm sure it will be delicious.
   There are actually 3 "recipes" in this post because twice baked potatoes are such a process to complete. First - I'll share with you how I do my baked potatoes. Next, I will share my new favorite mashed potato recipe (which happens to be The Pioneer Woman's Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes ). Finally I will show you how it all comes together with veggies and cheese to be the twice baked version you see above. (My apologies for the pictures. By the time I had dinner on the table the sun had already gone down and I was left with the awful overhead florescent lights to click my camera by.)

  These potatoes are super simple - they just have a few steps is all.

First and foremost, wash the potatoes. I used about 5 lbs of Russet potatoes. It ended up being 20 small to medium potatoes.

After the potatoes are washed and dried, they get a rub down with your fat of choice. If I'm the one choosing it's going to be bacon fat. Yeah, you heard me right. Bacon fat. That luscious liquid that is left in the pan after cooking up some bacon. If you haven't saved yours in the past, your really should consider it. I just pour mine into a mug.

Each potato is pricked with a fork a few times,

and then gets a rub down with a little bacon grease. It doesn't take much, just enough to cover the skin of all the potatoes. I probably only used 1-2 Tbsp for all 20 potatoes. I don't salt them if I'm using bacon grease (since it already has some salt in it), but if I'm using olive oil or some other kind of fat I do salt the potatoes. You do as you wish. :)

When they are all coated, they go onto a baking sheet and into the oven. They bake @ 400F for about an hour (50 minutes for my small ones), or until they are fork tender.

While the potatoes are baking, I took my butter and cream cheese out of the fridge for later. You want these to be @ room temperature, so if they haven't come out of the fridge already they should come out now.(1 1/2 sticks of butter and 8 oz cream cheese)

When the potatoes are done baking, they look like this.

When they are cool enough to handle, I slice them in half horizontally.

Then I scoop out the insides with a spoon; making sure to leave at least 1/4 inch rim around the edges and on the bottom. The potato skins need to have some support to hold all the filling later.

See? Just like this. Leave enough potato in the skin so it holds it's shape well.

You'll need to scrape out all of the potato skins (that's 40 halves for me).

The insides of the potato skins go into a large bowl.

Here's where the butter and cream cheese come in. Now, let me start off by saying that I really did try to make these more figure friendly than the Pioneer Woman has them written. She calls for 3/4 cups butter (that's 1 1/2 sticks) and 8 oz of cream cheese. I got out the total amounts in the beginning to soften, and come to room temperature, but I didn't really think I would need it all. SO, I started out with just 1 stick of butter. . .

and about 4 oz of cream cheese.

I mashed them all together with the potatoes until almost smooth.

Then I added the cream. (The recipe states to add half and half but I never keep that on hand. Instead I just added equal parts cream and milk. Voila. Homemade half and half.)

I tasted it, and wouldn't you know? It needed the other 1/2 stick of butter.

What the heck. Might as well add the other 4 oz of cream cheese too right?

Then goes in the milk (the other half to my "half and half")

1 tsp of seasoned salt

and some freshly ground black pepper.

Now, these potatoes are perfectly "delicious and creamy" as the name states, but I like some sour cream in my twice baked potatoes. So, I wanted to add some of that too. The "light" variety counteracts all the butter, cream cheese and cream right?

I'm guessing I added about 1/2 cup.

I stirred it all together, and that is the base. The next variations are completely up to you. This is what I did:

I got out some broccoli stems I had in my freezer. (I always save these. They are just as good as the florets, and hey, I paid for them! There's no way they are going in the trash.) Then, I put them into my mini food processor and pulsed it until it turned to confetti.

Like this:

Then I put the 2 cups of broccoli confetti into a skillet with a little butter.

Next I processed up 3 carrots. (About 1 cup of diced, raw carrots)

And turned that into confetti too.

It also went into the skillet with the broccoli.

The last veggie I did was some squash from my garden. (I used about 1 cup of this)

That got turned into confetti as well,

and added to the skillet with the other veggies.

I cooked them over medium low heat, with just a little salt and pepper, until they were tender.

Then the sauteed veggies were added to the mashed potatoes.

The potatoes and veggies were stirred together and then some cheese was added. I probably added about 1 1/2 cups, but add as much or as little as you'd like.

When everything is well combined, the filling is done! (Some people add egg to their twice baked potatoes but I'm not one of them.)

We are almost done, hang in there! The potato skins get filled, and filled generously.

I lined up 10 halves onto a baking sheet for tonight's dinner.

They all got topped with a little more cheese, and into the oven they went @ 350F for about 20 minutes. (Until heated through and the cheese is melted.)

I filled the other 30 potato skins just like the first ten, but I didn't top them with extra cheese.

Instead, I wrapped each one up with plastic wrap.

Then they went onto a baking sheet and into my freezer to get rock hard.

After a couple hours, I put them into a labeled zip-top freezer bag for later use.  Now I can have twice baked potatoes anytime I want, without all the work. They can be cooked from frozen @ 350 for about 45 minutes. (30-40 minutes for the small ones) I got this trick from Omaha Steaks. About 10 minutes before they are finished, I would add the extra cheese on top. (I actually added cheese to a couple of them before I froze them, but most I left plain to top later.)

When the ones for dinner were done, this is what they looked like.

We had them with steak. They are filling and very scrumptious, if I do say so myself. This is a definite must try!
Here's the recipe:
adapted from PW Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Garden Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

5 lbs of Russet Potatoes, washed and dried
1-2 Tbsp bacon grease (or other fat)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) salted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese softened
3/4 cups half and half 
1 tsp seasoned salt (to taste)
1/2 cup sour cream
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
2 cups broccoli, processed into confetti
1 cup carrots, processed into confetti
1 cup squash, processed into confetti
1 Tbsp butter
salt (to taste)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (more if you like), plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 400F. Poke all of the potatoes with a fork at least 3 times each, and rub each one with bacon grease. Put onto a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour (until they are fork tender). When they are cool enough to touch, slice them horizontally in half. Scoop out the insides with a spoon, leaving at least 1/4 inch rim around the potatoes and on the bottoms. Place the scooped out potato into a large bowl. When all the insides are scooped out, add the softened butter, cream cheese, half and half, seasoned salt, sour cream and black pepper. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Set aside.
   In a skillet, combine the broccoli, carrot and squash confetti with 1 Tbsp butter and a little salt. Saute until soft. Add to the mashed potatoes. Stir and add 1 1/2 cups (or more if you like) of the cheese. Stir to combine.
  Turn oven to 350F. Fill each potato skin generously. For those you want to bake now, top with more cheddar cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes (until they are hot all the way through and the cheese is really melted). Serve hot.
   The rest of the potatoes can be wrapped in plastic wrap, and put into the freezer. When they are rock hard, place them all into a labeled zip-top freezer bag with instructions for baking (30-45 minutes @ 350F from frozen for small to medium potatoes).

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