Vore’s Favorite Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes

My man loves meat and potatoes. I’m working on the cooking meat thing. But potatoes? I can rock a potato!

Vore’s eyes light up every time I bring the twice baked variety out for dinner. These take a little planning ahead–baking potatoes takes ages!–but they are super simple and fun to prepare.

You can always prep the potatoes and stuff the shells ahead of time, then store in the fridge until you are ready to throw them in the oven. Just double the cooking time.

Twice Baked Potatoes

4 medium gold potatoes, scrubbed (approx 1.5 pounds)

olive oil

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons butter

2.5 tablespoons onion and chive cream cheese

3 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

pepper to taste

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

paprika for sprinkling

potatoes sized down

1. Lightly pierce your potatoes all over, using a fork.

2. Pour a little olive oil in your palm. Massage that tater.

3. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.

4. Wrap in foil and bake at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes. If the potatoes give a little when squeezed, they’re ready.

5. Remove potatoes from the oven. Cut in half and allow them to cool a bit.

6. Palm your potato. Use a spoon to form a ring, leaving a border of about 1/4 inch potato flesh.

7. Dig in with your spoon and carefully scoop the potato innards into a microwave safe bowl. Make sure you leave a little potato at the bottom for support.

8. Add the butter, cream cheese, sour cream, garlic salt and pepper to the potato in the bowl. Mash it all together. If your potato has cooled too much to melt the ingredients, microwave for a few seconds and try again.

9. Spoon the potato mixture back into the shells, pressing it in with the back of a spoon. I find this works best if you cup the shell in your palm for support. Top each potato with one tablespoon cheese and sprinkle with paprika.

10. Bake at 400 until the cheese is melted and the potato heated through, about 10 minutes.

I think the chive and onion cream cheese is the secret weapon. Don’t skip it! Do you have a twice baked potato recipe? 

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Chewy Trail Mix Cookies

Oh boy do I have a treat for you!

Snowy Cookies

Semi-random photo taken on the back porch, in the snow. It’s too dark inside!

The last two weeks of nasty weather have had Alabamians relegated indoors for days on end. This makes me major antsy. Today, it snowed. Schools closed. Grocery stores were raided in search of milk and bread. #snOMG.

But me? I want summer! Sunshine…sunflowers…sunflower cookies? Well why the heck not? I need something bright and happy in my day.

I tinkered with a tried and true cookie recipe this afternoon and the results were fabulous. I’m not going to call a cookie healthy, but they do contain healthy fats instead of my usual butter. There’s less refined sugar and the chocolate chips are reduced in favor of equally fabulous granola and dried fruit. Go ahead, get sunny!

Chewy Trail Mix Cookies

       (Yields about 15) 

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup sunflower seed butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup granola (I use this)

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

2 tablespoons golden raisins

*In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

*Warm the coconut oil, sunflower butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. You just want this to get warm enough to melt everything together. Too warm and you’ll cook the egg that’s coming in the next step!

*Transfer the wet ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the egg and use a hand or stand mixer to beat until combined and fluffy.

*Add about a third of the flour to the wet mixture and beat until just combined. Repeat with remaining flour until all is combined. You’re going to have a very thick batter!

*Stir in the granola, chips and raisins. Like I said, this batter is super thick! You’ll have to work a little to get the ingredients combined.

*Form cookies using a heaping tablespoon of dough. Roll them in your hands, then press them down a little on the cookie sheet. Keep in mind, the shape of these cookies changes very little during baking.

*Bake at 375 for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

Italian Stuffed Baby Bellas

Shrooms

Monday was practically a holiday in the great state of Alabama. It was National Championship time in the hotbed of football maniacs.

While I support my state and the SEC, I am an Auburn grad and honestly couldn’t care less. Vore, however, has a graduate degree from UA and a serious Alabama football habit. To honor the occasion, I made a big pot of chili and cornbread. I promptly went upstairs and downloaded workout music on iTunes while he watched the Crimson Tide school Notre Dame.

The meal was delish, but on Tuesday I found myself in a predicament. I had tons of leftover cornbread on my hands. Like I learned from Gran, waste not want not! Let’s upcycle that cornbread, shall we?

I ran across this fun package of mushrooms in Target of all places:shrooms

They were not quite large enough to qualify as portobello caps, but too big to be regular mushrooms. All the better for stuffing.

If you can’t find the smaller portobellos, an equal weight of the big ones will do just fine. I’m thinking 4 large caps. Avoid your regular size shrooms here, though. The stuffing of such tiny things with crumbly cornbread would drive you mad!

Italian Stuffed Baby Bellas

16 ounces whole baby bellas

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette

salt/pepper

1 1/2 cups cornbread, finely crumbled

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon chives (optional, but awesome!)

1/4 cup mozzarella

1/4 cup parmesan

*Remove the caps from your mushrooms, then carefully clean out the gills with a spoon. Wash the heck out of them, then pat dry.

*Pre-heat your broiler. Using a pastry brush (or your fingers for that matter!) smear the balsamic dressing on your mushrooms. Spread them evenly on a cookie sheet, smooth side down.

*Place the pan on the middle rack of your oven and broil for 5 minutes. When you take the mushrooms out, drop the oven temp to 400.

*Meanwhile, mix your cornbread crumbles with the Italian seasoning and garlic salt. Add in the beaten egg and stir well.

*Fold in the mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and chives.

*Use a paper towel to pat the moisture from each mushroom. Then stuff the caps with the cornbread mixture, pressing it hard with the back of a spoon. Really pack it in!

*Sprinkle the parmesan on top, then place your tray of shrooms back in the oven. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. If you’d like, you can kick the broiler back on and brown the cheese.

*Remove from the oven and take a big ole bite:

Shroom bite.

Biltmore Winter Squash Salad

Before Christmas, Vore and I had a little get away to the mountains. Our first stop was Asheville, NC, to see the Biltmore mansion. (Loved it!) Then we headed over to Gatlinburg to meet my family for a few days of chalet fun.

mountain Collage

(Clockwise: Riding bikes at the Biltmore Winery; Mountaintop with Mom; Snowy woods with my brother; The Old Smoky Candy Kitchen, a family favorite.)

The Biltmore was a blast. One of Vore’s co-workers suggested we rent bikes to ride around the grounds and she was spot on. Such fun! We enjoyed the Candlelight Christmas tour, visited the winery and had lunch at Deerpark–a highlight.

“Taste of the South Lunch Buffet” was on tap for both of us. I was so intrigued with the menu that I asked the hostess if I could nab one. Vore hid around the corner in embarrassment. Never mind that: I’m in possession of a copy now. Sweet!

The dish you see below was inspired by Deerpark’s “Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Fresh Chestnuts, Cranberries and Sage Vinaigrette.” You can see I was pretty liberal in my interpretation. Chestnuts are so hard to find! And fresh cranberries require far too much sugar to be palatable. But the colors and the spirit are there in this hearty salad. So, without further adieu…

Winter Squash Sage Salad

Winter Squash Sage Salad

1.5-2 lbs small winter squash. (I used acorn and dumpling)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon mayo or Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon dried sage

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

1/2 cup pomegranate arils

a few handfuls of your favorite salad greens

2 ounces goat cheese, about 1/4 cup crumbled

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

*Cut the squash in half, then scoop out the slime and seeds. Slice into thin wedges. Place the wedges on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, being careful not to overcrowd. Roast for 30-40 minutes.  (Cooking time will depend on how thick you’ve sliced your squash and how brown you like your veggies.)

*Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mayo, mustard, sage, salt and pepper.

*Add the cooked squash and pumpkin seeds to the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Gently fold in the pomegranate arils. At this point, you may refrigerate for an hour or so if you’d like a cool salad or serve immediately if you’re going for warm. It’s good both ways!

*Spread your greens on a serving platter. Spoon the squash mixture over the greens, then sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles.

TA-DAH:

squash salad 1

We loved every bite of this nutrient rich salad. A few notes on the pomegranate: You can skip the mess of scooping them from the fruit and buy the arils in a ready-to-eat cup. I’m thinking a smaller amount of dried cranberries would work here as well. A 1/4 cup, perhaps?

Enjoy!