This wasn't what I'd originally planned on for today's post. But, yesterday it snowed like crazy, temperatures were in the single digits, and I didn't want to go to the grocery store. So, I opened my fridge to see what kind of leftovers I had inside. Turns out that I had some of my Thick and Hearty Steak Chili, and I had a couple of baked potatoes leftover from a recent batch of Baked Potato Soup. Yay! Those two ingredients were a good start to making Loaded Baked Potatoes. So, dinner and today's post were well underway. Sometimes it's the unplanned, spontaneous meals that turn out to be the best.
Take a look at that photo above. Does that not scream comforting, hearty, & delicious?!? Perfect on a cold, snowy day. It made a tasty one-dish meal, but it also has possibilities for expanding into a versatile, fun, build-your-own baked potato bar. This meal is fun for a regular family dinner, but it's also an easy, fun way to feed a crowd. One of things I like about a build-your-own entree is that I don't have to worry about accommodating individual tastes, allergies, picky eaters, vegetarians, etc. This way there is something for everyone. And, did I mention how delicious these loaded baked potatoes are? Yummy is the word.
Did you know? The potato is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. One medium potato provides a healthy dose of magnesium, iron, potassium, fiber, vitamin C and niacin. Find more nutrition information here.
This is so easy. You need baked potatoes and a variety of toppings. You can offer a few toppings, or go wild with lots of options. If you're cooking for your family, this is a great way to combine some healthy ingredients with some splurge ingredients and make something everyone will eat. Here's how I prepare my potatoes and a list of toppings to consider.
PREPARE THE POTATOES
- If possible, purchase potatoes that are a uniform size so they cook evenly. I prefer russets for baking.
- Scrub them under water and dry them off.
- Spray or rub them with oil.
- Use a metal fork to poke a few holes in each potato. (This keeps them from exploding when they cook. Don't do this too far ahead of baking or the fork holes will oxidize and turn dark.)
- Put them on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until soft.
- If you're baking potatoes ahead for a party, the hot, baked potatoes can be stored in a cooler for up to 4 hours. Seriously. They keep really well this way. Preheat the cooler with hot water before hand; empty and dry it right before adding the hot potatoes. (Here's a link to more information about preparing baked potatoes for a crowd.)
- When it's time to serve, cut potatoes longways across the top of each potato and squeeze the ends together to open the potato.
PILE ON THE TOPPINGS. Here are some to choose from:
- freshly ground pepper
- butter (try whipped, herbed, or garlic butter)
- sour cream (I use light) or yogurt
- shredded cheddar or jack
- crumbled blue or feta
- grated Parmesan
Fresh herbs and seasonings:
- chopped fresh basil, cilantro, oregano, or dill
- crushed red pepper
- seasoned salt
- chopped chives
- chili (see my recipe for Thick and Hearty Steak Chili)
- taco meat
- fajita chicken or beef
- pulled pork (see my recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork)
- crumbled bacon (use the real thing--so much better than those bits in a jar)
- chopped ham
- smoked salmon
- chopped salami or pepperoni
- chopped scallions or red onions
- steamed broccoli, green beans, or asparagus
- grilled corn
- beans (canned black beans or chili beans)
- chopped fresh tomatoes
- chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- sauteed spinach
- sauteed mushrooms
- grilled onions
- roasted red peppers
- sliced jalapenos (fresh or from a jar)
- thawed frozen peas (no need to cook them)
- chopped avocados or guacamole
Sauces & dressings:
- barbecue sauce (see my recipe for 3 Barbecue Sauces)
- alfredo sauce
- nacho sauce
- blue cheese or ranch salad dressing
- marinara sauce - or other red Italian sauce (see my recipe for Marinara Sauce)
- pesto (see my recipe for Classic Pesto)
My loaded potato (below) has chili, light sour cream, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles, and chopped scallions. Pretty darn tasty considering it was an unplanned meal made from leftovers from my fridge. Fritos sprinkled on top would be a good, crunchy finishing touch.
Want an even healthier option? Serve baked sweet potatoes in place of or in addition to baked white potatoes. Check out this post:
Baked Sweet Potato Bar
Whatever potato type you prefer, whatever toppings you like, there's a way to customize this recipe to satisfy everyone!
What do you like on a baked potato? Have I left anything off of my list of toppings?
Make it a yummy day!
Other recipes you may like:
Baked Potato Bar
- Baking potatoes (russets recommended)
- Olive oil
- TOPPING POSSIBILITIES--
- Basics: salt, freshly ground pepper, butter, sour cream (or yogurt)
- Cheese: shredded cheddar or jack, crumbled blue or feta, grated Parmesan
- Fresh herbs and seasonings: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, oregano, or dill; crushed red pepper; seasoned salt; chopped chives
- Meats: chili, taco meat, fajita chicken or beef, pulled pork, crumbled bacon, chopped ham, chopped salami or pepperoni, smoked salmon
- Vegetables: chopped scallions or red onions; steamed broccoli, green beans, or asparagus; grilled corn; canned black or chili beans; chopped fresh tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes; sauteed spinach; sauteed mushrooms; grilled onions; roasted red peppers; sliced jalapenos; thawed frozen peas; chopped avocados or guacamole
- Sauces & dressings: salsa; barbecue sauce; gravy; alfredo sauce; nacho sauce; blue cheese or ranch salad dressing; marinara sauce - or other red Italian sauce; pesto
--Scrub potatoes under water and dry them off.
--Spray or rub potatoes with oil.
--Use a metal fork to poke a few holes in each potato.
--Put potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until soft.
--If baking potatoes ahead for a party, the hot, baked potatoes can be stored in a cooler for up to 4 hours. Preheat the cooler with hot water before hand; empty and dry it right before adding the hot potatoes.
--When it's time to serve, cut potatoes longways across the top of each potato and squeeze the ends together to open the potato.
--Serve with a variety of toppings.