When I say “loaded baked potato” probably the first image that comes to mind is a piping hot, fluffy Idaho russet potato loaded with butter, bacon bits, sprinkled with chives and topped with a dollop of sour cream and maybe a handful of shredded cheddar cheese for good measure. Sooo good, but sooo bad at the same time! And I’m as guilty as the next person for indulging in one alongside a juicy ribeye or sticky BBQ’d ribs. Nowadays, I’m much more health conscious and enjoying potatoes in a whole different light.
I feel bad for the potato and the fate that has befallen it: the poor spud has been beaten up for being a carb and highly caloric, yet this reputation is by no fault of its own (a medium-sized potato has only 110 calories), but rather the sum of the parts being heaped on top of it. Besides being low in calories, a potato is also very nutritious – high in Vitamin C, and B6, Potassium, fiber, and simple and complex carbohydrates necessary to energize our minds and bodies. The potato is extremely versatile and, believe it or not, can be delicious without all that added fat. The best thing about potatoes is their versatility – you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and there are a gazillion ways to prepare them. With no fat or cholesterol, potatoes are also heart healthy and have been certified by the American Heart Association as a heart healthy food. An added bonus, is they’re naturally gluten free and one of the most inexpensive foods you can buy.
I don’t know many people who don’t like potatoes, do you? Don could eat them every day, so we’re glad that they’re heart healthy and not another food he has to be careful about, the challenge is preparing them in a way that accentuates the positives vs. canceling them out. I’ve been on a mission to create a meal plan which I’m calling, “A Spud A Day Keeps The Doctor Away”: a week’s worth of nutritious, vegetarian weekday dinners that fit in with our busy schedules, are relatively quick & easy to prepare, and include ingredients that are widely available. Why vegetarian? Many households, ours included, are trying to eat healthier and live more sustainably by cutting out meat one day a week. That’s what the Meatless Monday campaign is all about. Obviously, if there’s someone who must have their animal protein to be satisfied, it can always be added or served alongside.
Today’s Spud of the Day is the Fully Loaded Baked Potato. Overflowing with the vibrant colors, flavors and textures of leeks, gai lan, red pepper, and roasted cauliflower, it makes a perfect nutritious weeknight meal with minimal prepping and cooking. It’s been one of my go-to Meatless Monday dishes for the past two years because Monday’s are notoriously hectic and you can substitute whatever vegetables you like so it’s a wonderful vehicle for emptying the crisper drawer of veggies that need to be used.
- 4 large Idaho® potatoes (about 8 ounces)
- 1 large leek, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 6 stalks gai lan, stems and leaves coarsely chopped (kale, spinach, beet greens, or chard can be substituted)
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1 red pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
- 1½ teaspoon Mrs. Dash's Zesty Lime
- Condiments: Gomaiso (Black and Tan Sesame seeds with Sea Salt), Butter and Sour Cream, or Earth Balance and/or Olive Oil and pureed Silken Tofu for vegan.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Wash and scrub potatoes. Pierce in three places with a grill fork or knife. Place in oven and bake for about an hour and 15 minutes, depending on size. It's not necessary to oil the potatoes or wrap them in foil unless you want to the skins to remain soft instead of a little crunchy.
- Wash and prepare all the vegetables. Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, Mrs. Dash's seasoning, and garlic in a small bowl. Place the cauliflower floret on a baking sheet and drizzle the oil mixture all over, use your clean hands to move the florets around and make sure they're coated with oil. Put the baking pan with the cauliflower in the oven when there is about a half hour of baking time remaining.
- Remove the cauliflower after 30 minutes of baking. Cover with tin foil to keep warm. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the leeks, gai lan stems, and red pepper to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the gai lan leaves and cook for about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Drizzle with lemon juice.
- After an hour, test the potatoes for doneness - they should be semi-soft, if they feel too firm they need more baking time.
- To serve the potatoes, cut a zig zag in the top and squeeze the potato by the ends to open up, fluff the insides with a fork. Have the sautéed vegetables and cauliflower in serving dishes and let everyone dress their own potatoes.
Truthfully, besides a fully loaded potato, when I think of fully loaded I imagine a sleek automobile with all the bells and whistles, not any of the boring cars of today, but an elegant vintage car or hot muscle car with personality oozing from all its sexy lines. Hubs and I used to watch the Mecum auctions all the time, but I declared a moratorium unless we were actually going to buy one! Which, of course, is not likely because we can’t even get the cars we currently own parked in our two-car garage. Gear heads may have caught the George Barris, Cars of the Stars book in the background, signed by George Barris himself. Known as the King of the Kustomizers, George Barris created whatever his star clients desired, from ultra glamourous to totally outrageous. He also designed the original Batmobile (recently sold at auction for a cool $4.62 million), the DeLorean in Back to the Future, and talking KITT from Nightrider. The black Corvette is one he customized for Farrah Fawcett (RIP). *sigh*
Disclosure: I was compensated for developing this recipe for the Idaho Potato Board, all opinions are my own.