Meatless Monday: The Tabula Rasa that is a Baked Potato

It has been my lot in life to always be several steps behind the popular kids.  This has not changed…so, now just as the Green Phone Booth is hanging up its Meatless Monday feature for the time being (which I never in all its months got my butt in gear to contribute to), I’m getting all these Meatless Monday ideas.  So for the record, if you want lots more, check out their archives!

I do most of my reading these days on the internet through Google Reader, I have a Newsweek subscription for my Kindle, and I get the Mother Earth News (and the Choral Journal, of course, but that’s more like “work”:-)) in paper magazine form…most of my “women’s magazines” have fallen by the wayside, except for my old faithful Cooking Light.  They get a little more hung up on Nutrition Science than I do, but they have some really good articles and recipes…

The October issue featured a two-page spread on the humble baked potato and what to top it with.  This got me thinking…I need to give this a try.  Serious nutritional goodness in a compact but filling package that keeps a long time in your pantry.

(By the way–store potatoes in cool darkness somewhere–this is important, since as a member of the nightshade family when they are exposed to the sun they will start to turn green in their flesh, and then you can get seriously sick. Don’t eat green potatoes. Apparently if it sprouts a little and the flesh isn’t green yet, you’re still okay. At least that’s what I’ve read.  Do your own homework. Standard-disclaimer-I-am-not-a-doc-or-nutritionist-don’t-take-my-advice-and-then-blame-me-if-you-get-sick.)

They are easy to bake–scrub them well, poke them with a fork a few times so they don’t explode, and bake them in your oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or so. You can reduce the temperature of the oven and extend baking time–they are wonderfully forgiving.  They are “done” when you can lightly squeeze them (umm…use a potholder, okay?) and they feel sort of soft all the way through. If you don’t mind more of a “steamed” than “baked” potato, you can also do them in your Crockpot or the microwave. I generally won’t turn on the oven just to bake a couple of potatoes, but if I’m making bread or cake, or roasting a chicken or something, it’s really easy to toss a few potatoes into the oven around the edges and take advantage of the energy I’m already using.

(Okay, y’all got that when I said “toss” the potatoes into the oven I wasn’t being literal, right?)

Once cooked, you can split them down the middle and fill them with all manner of yummy things:

  • steamed broccoli with red pepper flakes and cheddar cheese, melted in the microwave
  • black or pinto beans warmed with a little cumin and garlic powder, with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt on top.  And/or some fresh salsa.
  • Speaking of greek yogurt–try mixing 1/4 cup greek yogurt with 1 tbs. prepared pesto sauce and dollop in there
  • Also speaking of greek yogurt–mix with some crumbled feta cheese and pitted chopped kalamata olives, or a spoonful of olive tapenade.
  • That Tupperware Container of leftover vegetables from the other night, especially with one of the above two yogurt sauces
  • Caponata
  • Leftover chili, with a little cheese on top if you want–it only counts as Meatless Monday if you use veggie chili, you get that, right? (But you could use chili with meat on Tuesday if you wanted, I guess. :-))

This, of course, not intended to rule out the standard sour-cream-chives-butter-green-onions kind of toppings, though if we’re gonna be meatless you’d have to forego the crumbled bacon.

Sweet potatoes, too, make really good baked potato dinners–you can do what I love, and just put a little butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar into it, or you can actually be sorta virtuous and avoid the fats and sugars a bit…I haven’t tried it yet, but I have this idea that baking sweet potatoes and filling them with a sort of diced-tomato-garbanzo-bean-onions-peppers-squash-whatever-curry-spice mixture would be really yummy. Dollop of greek yogurt on top, of course.  I’ll post it if I ever give it a try; if any of you beat me to it, let me know how it went!

What are your favorite potato fillings? Either that you’ve already tried, or that you think you might like to someday?

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Posted on September 27, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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