. . . and Alanna at A Veggie Venture has the secret: it’s baking the potato for a long period of time. That’s it? Yep. Well, baking it for a long period of time after giving it a simple treatment of olive oil (I added kosher salt to my rub) and then baking it directly on the rack in the oven. No tin foil, no fork holes, just simple baking . . . for at least 2.5 hours, preferably 3, at 350 degrees. Of course, you want to use an Idaho, or russet, potato–the kind with the thick-ish brown skin. (The British call this type of baked potato a jacket potato, a name I love!)
The slow-baked potato does require you to plan early, but man, it makes for a tasty potato. Cutting into my potato (that had baked for about 2 hours and 45 minutes), I found the skin was crispy, and the inside cut like softened butter on my knife. Delicious–like a really high-quality restaurant potato. Three hours is a long time to cook something, but keep in mind that the last 2 hours and 58 minutes are hands-off easy. Go read Alanna’s post if you want more details.
Like many people, I eschewed baked potatoes for a while as a source of empty calories high on the GI chart. But they aren’t actually empty, especially if you eat that delicious skin. Potatoes are full of potassium (a potato has more potassium than a banana) and high in fiber, and they contain a good dose of Vitamin C, among other nutrients. A small baked potato also has about 1 oz. of protein in it. I find potatoes deliciously satisfying and filling, especially when I include some extra protein in the topping. And, as Alanna says, 1/4 pound of potato (a small potato) weighs in at only 90 cal, or 1 WW point, whereas a big one is likely to be twice that much. 90 to 180 calories for a rich, satisfying base to a meal is completely reasonable.
For those of us who are facing life with no more typical bread, pasta, couscous, etc., it’s great to have a starchy base for a meal that we can load up with toppings like a baked potato.
Of course, it’s the toppings that often truly give baked potatoes a bad name, especially at restaurants. If you eat a 10-oz. steak and a loaded baked potato, you have just loaded yourself up with your whole day’s calorie needs. But a baked potato can be the beginning of a great one-dish meal when you pile veggies and protein on it (you can skip the rest). Here are some toppings that I love to put in/on baked potatoes:
salt and pepper (always)
bacon (for gluten-consuming vegetarians, bits of seitan sauteed in Bragg’s can have a similar appeal)
salad dressing (anything from balsamic to ranch, though I don’t know if this one has universal appeal!)
sour cream (these days I use goat yogurt–runnier than sour cream, but similar otherwise . . . and lower in calories and fat)
butter (or ghee now)
mushrooms, onions, and garlic sauteed in olive oil
broccoli (steamed about 6 min.)
cauliflower (orange cauliflower provides a better color contrast) (also steamed about 6 min.)
grilled steak or chicken
Mrs. Dash (or other garlic-based seasoning)
Swedish meatballs (or vegetarian meatballs, which unfortunately I can no longer eat, but which are truly delicious and way healthier than meat-based ones)
. . . or basically anything else that you would normally eat on or with other types of potatoes (mashed, roasted, or fried)
For the potato in the photo, I added a small amount of ghee, 1 T. goat yogurt, 2/3 cup broccoli, 2 T. grated goat cheddar (which I found at Whole Foods), and 2 crumbled pieces of organic bacon. That was my whole dinner, and I was completely satisfied.
And if you want to add additional veggies to your meal, you can always grill, broil, or roast some vegetable shish kabobs to go alongside.
I think I’ve inspired myself, by the way. My husband and I are going to be trying out different baked potato fillings once every week or two for a while now. I’ll report back. . . .