Before I start, don't forget to enter Saturday's giveaway for csnstores.com (see posting titled "Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!" dated January 8th!)
So, yeah, this idea also came from Summer of The Wannabe Ranch Wife! I really do have my own ideas--I promise! She just has so many good ones that it's hard to ignore them and try to be creative on my own sometimes! And, yes, we do spend a TON of time together! But, that's the way we like it and we don't plan on changing things, so don't make us! Plus, Mario gets along so well with her boyfriend, Zak, that it just makes life easy. In fact, they are eerily similar in ways that always shock us! But I digress. Shocker, I know. These twice baked potatoes are the perfect snack or simple meal for those evenings when you don't feel like having a big dinner (a very rare occasion in my house). During our late night baking extravaganza, I started to get munchy and asked Sum if she had anything I could snack on. Since the oven was already on, she threw a couple of these in for me and they totally hit the spot! I had a bag of potatoes I needed to get used up before they grew too many of those weird root things, and it was a total success! Thanks, Sum! Enjoy these!
Twice Baked Potatoes
Yields: this is for 6 large potatoes, or 12 halves
6 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
some olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup to 1 cup milk
2 to 2 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend, but you can use just cheddar if you want)
1 tsp garlic salt (or more to suit your tastes)
salt and pepper to taste
diced green onions for garnish and ranch for dipping
Preheat oven to 375. Once potatoes are scrubbed clean, pour some olive oil in your hands and thinly coat the potatoes. Arrange the potatoes on a large metal baking sheet and bake for about an hour, or until a fork can easily be inserted and removed from the middle of the potato ("fork tender").
Allow potatoes to cool slightly and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides of the potato into a large mixing bowl. Be careful to not scoop right through the skins, those need to be left in tact. I leave a very thin (1/8 - 1/4") layer of potato in the skin.
Once you've scooped all the insides into the bowl, add in the butter, 1/2 cup milk, 1 cup of the shredded cheese, garlic salt, and salt and pepper. Mix together using a hand mixer until the potatoes are creamy (like mashed potatoes). Add in more milk if they aren't creamy enough, adjust your seasonings, and mix together well. (The picture below is PRE-mixing.)
If you're willing to part with a large zip lock bag, transfer half of the mashed potato mixture to the bag, press out the air, seal shut, and cut off the tip of the bag so you have about a 1-inch opening. Evenly pipe the potatoes into the skins. Fill your bag up when needed and repeat until all the skins are filled.
Use a spoon or knife to spread the mashed potato mixture into all the crevices of the skin and to create a flat surface for the cheese.
Top the filled skins with as much cheese as you want (clearly, I like A LOT of cheese).
At this point, you can do one of two things. You can put them back into your oven at 400 degrees and allow them to heat back up and melt the cheese. Serve immediately with diced green onions (some crumbled cooked bacon would be good too) and ranch. OR, you can put them in the freezer without baking and all them to freeze individually overnight. The next morning, transfer them to a large zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer until you're ready to eat them. When you are, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and pop the frozen potatoes into the oven and allow them to fully reheat and melt the cheese--about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve with diced green onions, crumbled bacon, and ranch, or whatever other toppings/dips sound good!!