Potatoes Au Gratin

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The other day while browsing Instagram, I came across a Food52 post about their new app (Not)Recipes.  Basically, the premise of the app is that it is a place for cooks to share recipes, without measurements, that they make up on the spot when they’re too busy to bother with a super complicated list of ingredients and 100 steps until completion.  A.K.A. My perfect dream app (which is saying a lot, because to be honest I’m not huge on having a bunch of apps on my phone).  I immediately decided on my (not) recipe, put on my Lumineers CD, and got to work melding potatoes and cheese together in cute, tiny ramekins.  Then I went to download the app, but damn it, my ancient, Mesozoic era iPhone (an iPhone 5, but whatever..) wouldn’t let me download the thing, because it’s too outdated (thanks Apple!).  Plus, there’s no iPad version.  Wah-wah.  I was sorta bummed, because I cook without recipes all the time, but I guess not all hope is lost, because really, the whole point of writing a blog is that I can share whatever recipes I want, even if they’re not necessarily recipes.  (P.S. definitely not saying anything bad about Food52 or Apple!  I’m a big fan of both, although I wouldn’t mind if they made a  version of the (Not)Recipe app for oldie-iPhones :-))

When I think of meals made without recipes, I think of potatoes au gratin.  While this may not necessarily be a meal to most people, I have definitely eaten my fair share of potatoes au gratin for dinner on Sundays after long days of work and studying.  Plus, I’m pretty convinced that if you add bacon, it qualifies as a meal (probably).  However, I’m always a fan of potatoes au gratin as a side dish too.  Essentially, cheesy potatoes are always a good idea.

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With Easter around the corner, I was also hoping to post a nice Easter-y recipe.  In my family, Easter always involves potatoes + cheese, and since I was already planning on making potatoes au gratin for my failed (Not)Recipes submission, it seemed like fate, or at the very least, convenient.  Potatoes au gratin are perfect for Easter Sunday, but you could also add leftover ham as an easy weeknight meal.  Definitely not a healthy dinner route, but sometimes potatoes, cheese, and ham are necessary for getting through life.

Growing up, my family always celebrated Easter with a nice brunch or dinner, and the Easter bunny left my brother and I presents on the bench on our front porch.  We almost always got a VHS tape, new shoes, and some Easter candy in our baskets.  Sometimes we would get a small toy to play with, and I distinctly remember getting a lime green Skip-It one year.  My parents recently decided to move back to their hometown of Reno in the next couple of months, and today I found out that they accepted an offer on my childhood home.  The sale is incredibly bittersweet, since my parents will be much closer, but I also will be losing the home that gave me the best childhood memories, such as hunting for Easter eggs or playing with my new Skip-It.  Today has been kind of sad, but I know that I will always fondly remember cheesy potatoes on Easter, opening Christmas presents with my little brother, Thanksgiving family dinners, and all the amazing memories I had growing up with my friends and family in that home.

Thanks to Potatoes Au Gratin for the nostalgia!

*Note: When I made this recipe, I just threw all the ingredients together, but in the recipe I included some approximate measurements from potatoes I have made in the past.  For this recipe, I used thyme and cheddar cheese, but the recipe can be adapted to use whatever ingredients you want.

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Happy Easter!

XO SaraLynn.

*Song of the Day: Flowers in Your Hair by The Lumineers

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Norwegian Lefse

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Merry Christmas!  I’m extra excited to share a recipe today, because it’s a traditional Norwegian recipe my family has been making for years.  For non-Norwegians, lefse is pronounced lef-sah, and it is a flatbread made out of potatoes.  It’s kind a cross between a tortilla and a crepe.  My family makes it every year, and we always have it on Christmas Eve with oyster stew (and other things, because as it turns out, many people aren’t necessarily fans of oyster stew).

I’m not quite sure if lefse is a Christmas tradition in Norway.. Actually I’m pretty sure it’s something they eat year round (??).  However, we make it for Christmas, and we always have it with butter and sugar.  Just roll it up and eat it like a tortilla!

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I love lefse, because it’s my family’s “thing”.  We never have to worry about it coming out perfectly round, and if it turns out too dry or too thick, nobody cares.  When it’s covered with butter and sugar, it’s always going to be good!  Growing up, we always had it during the holidays, and I love being able to share the tradition with my friends.  I watched my grandma make it growing up, and now I make it with myself with my grandmother, mom, and brother!

Like I said, we always had it with butter and sugar, but if that isn’t your thing, there are many other ingredients you can put on lefse: cinnamon, PB&J, meatballs, ham and cheese, veggies and cream cheese, jam…whatever concoction you create in your mind.

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Some lefse making tips:

1. Microwave your potatoes instead of boiling them.  It avoids any unnecessary water.

2. Mix riced potatoes with butter and refrigerate overnight.  Again, this dries out the potatoes a little so the dough isn’t too wet.

3. Roll them as thin as you can.  Thin lefse is a lot better than thick lefse!  (Although, if they do come out a little thick, they’ll still taste good!)

4. Don’t worry about them coming out perfectly round.  I don’t even understand how people make that a reality.

5. Only add cream if the dough feels too dry.  Otherwise, leave it out.

lefse!

Merry Christmas friends!

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*Song of the Day: Baby It’s Cold Outside by Zooey Deshchanel and Leon Redbone*

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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Do you have that one food that whenever you have it, you think of “home”.  Mashed potatoes are “home” for me.  Every holiday, every fall, every home-cooked, comfort-food meal involves mashed potatoes in the Hunt fam.  Mashed potatoes are the equivalent of a food-blanket.  They’re warm and soft and comfy and make me want to curl up on the couch and watch movies.  Wrapped in mashed potatoes.  Truly, I’m pretty sure that there is nothing better than homemade mashed potatoes.

With that said, I can confirm with full certainty that I am pretty sure I make the best mashed potatoes ever.  Sure they have heart-stopping amounts of butter, cream, and salt in them, but it’s not like you’re eating them everyday, right?

Really though, my mashed potatoes are so good that, while making these for dinner while visiting my family in Vegas, my brother and I may have eaten a good serving or two with just our fingers long before dinner would be served.

A little uncivilized, yes, but totally worth it.

I have to warn you that when I said they have “heart-stopping amounts of butter, cream, and salt” in them, I really meant it.  If you are not a fan of buttery, creamy, slightly lumpy mashed potatoes, you probably will not want these.  (Although to be completely honest, I’m not sure why anyone would want dry, flavorless, starchy mashed potatoes, but to each their own).  One of the best parts of mashed potatoes is that you get to put all kinds of fun things on top of them–like meat juice (gravy).  Also, they get served with wonderful foods like pot roast and turkey and pork chops.  Is anyone else hungry right now, too?

Please just do yourself a favor and make these potatoes at least once this fall.  I know your mom says that she makes the best mashed potatoes ever, but I wholeheartedly believe that you have the power to prove her wrong with this recipe.  (I know this because now every time I’m making dinner with my mom, she asks me to make the mashed potatoes.  Coincidence?  I think not).

Ingredients:

10 small russet potatoes, peeled

3/4 c. heavy cream or half and half*

6 Tbs. butter, softened**

Lots of salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1-2 tsp. garlic powder***

Bring a large pot of water to a boil at medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes and boil until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Drain potatoes and let cool slightly.  Transfer potatoes to a large bowl, and begin mashing using a potato masher (alternatively, you can use a potato ricer or a hand/stand mixer, but it’s up to you).  Add cream, butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Continue mashing to desired consistency.  If you like lumpier mashed potatoes, I would recommend stirring ingredients in to maintain consistency.

Taste and add more seasoning, if desired.

–Mashed potatoes can be made in advance.  To reheat, I recommend putting them in a large pot on the stove on medium heat.  Add a splash of cream and a couple more tablespoons of butter to keep them from drying out.  Stir frequently to prevent burning.–

–Sometimes I add 1-2 Tbs. of finely chopped fresh rosemary.  It tastes amazing, and it’s an easy way to make potatoes fancy!–

Serves 6-8.

*I know this is an ungodly amount, but just trust me.

**Remember what I said about trust?

***I highly recommend garlic powder over chopped fresh garlic.  I like the consistency better with garlic powder, and it’s easier to season it.  However, you can totally use fresh garlic if you prefer!  I also recommend starting with 1 tsp. of garlic powder and adding more if necessary.  I like mine very garlic-y, but some may not!

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My little brother (A.K.A. my honorary photographer reflected in the spoon above) told me that mashed potatoes reminded him of mountains while photographing these for me.  I told him that reminded me of the children’s book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.

Happy fall, friends.

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*Song of the Day: Hold On–Alabama Shakes

Balsamic Marinated Steak with Roasted Vegetables

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Midterms are over.  I actually think I can hear angels singing right now…

It’s nice having a life after major tests are over.

To celebrate Halloween (and Nevada Day!) and the end of midterms, some of my family and I went to Disneyland.  Which was super fun and amazing and Disneylandish.

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Me and my mom’s Halloween costumes in Disneyland!  Can you guess who I am?

Lately, my roommates and I have gotten into the bad habit where about once every week or two, we stay up too late drinking craft beer (or cranberry vodkas in my case) and doing ridiculous things.  Last night we ended up getting nerf guns at Wal Mart at midnight so we can ignore our priorities and hide behind corners to shoot each other with little styrofoam darts.

College, right?

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Luckily, I still do things that most college kids don’t do.  Like voting, caring about important issues, making nice meals…

I haven’t given up yet guys.

However, let me tell you now: It gets dark around Reno at about 5 starting in October, so the prep pictures are pretty dark, and this meal is not the prettiest.

However, it does look very comfy and winter-y and I promise you, it’s so good.  And it only takes about 30 minutes of actual work.  The rest is marinating/cooking time.  It’s worth it.  I swear.

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Serves 2

Marinade:

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1-2 tsp. Dijon, to taste

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

Salt, to taste

Ingredients:

2 thinly cut sirloin steaks (or whatever steak you prefer)

1 zucchini, cut in larger chunks

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 red potatoes, thinly sliced

Olive oil

Garlic powder and Onion powder, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

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In a bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients.

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Add 4 Tablespoons to steaks.  I put my thin steaks in ziplocs with 2 Tbs. of marinade each, and let them marinate for 2 hours.  You can do overnight if you like, but definitely do at least a couple hours!

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Cut zucchini into larger chunks.  I cut them into four spheres and then cut those into fourths.  If that makes sense?

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Slice red bell pepper.  Remove seeds!

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Mix veggies in a bowl with remaining marinade.  Let marinate for a couple hours also.

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When you’re ready to prepare dinner, dice potatoes into thin chunks.

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Preheat oven to 400* F.  Place potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  *The reason I did not marinate the potatoes with the rest of the vegetables is because they did not get crispy when I marinated them.  You could try to mix them with marinade to make it easier.  Totally up to you!*

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Remove veggies from marinade and place on baking sheet.  Discard remaining marinade.  Bake veggies for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.

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About 8 minutes before veggies are done, pan fry your steaks to desired doneness.  This is for thinly cut sirloin steaks.  If you use regular steaks, allow yourself more time to make steaks.  Alternatively, you can grill them.  Which I would have done if it wasn’t 45* outside.

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Serve steaks over roasted vegetables.  You can cut the steak into strips if you want pretty steak, or you can just leave it whole to make it easy.

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Balsamic + Steak + Roasted Vegetables = So good and so healthy.  I was a happy Sara.

Until next time, my friends.

XO Sara

*Song of the Day*: Low Light Assembly–The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

(Crockpot) Light Zuppa Toscana

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I have been surprisingly social all weekend.  I went to a football game on Friday (we won!) (Go Wolfpack!) and then my roommates and I spent the rest of the night with Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen and Cards Against Humanity.  If you have never played Cards Against Humanity, let’s just introduce you to their slogan : A party game for horrible people.

And that it is.

Just take a look at their website.  Or check out this and this.

I also spent my Saturday night bar hopping with one of my best friends/pseudo cousin.  Except that I had to drive home so my bar hopping experience was mostly just me getting leaned on by a bunch of drunk people.

Good times right?

The whole drinking and Cards Against Humanity thing ties together because:

1. Most of the time, if you’re playing Cards Against Humanity, you are simultaneously drinking.

And 2. When I told my roommate, “The only two games I know how to play are beer pong and Cards Against Humanity.  What does that say about me?”, his response was, “You’re an evil alcoholic.”

So there’s that.

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And now about Zuppa Toscana.  It is that delicious soup at Olive Garden with sausage, potatoes, and kale.  The broth is lightly creamy and a little spicy.

It is also 220 calories for a bowl of it at Olive Garden.  That doesn’t seem tooooo bad, until you consider that it has 15 g of fat and 990 mg of sodium in it.  And when you consider that you’re going to have another bowl of it.  And a glass (or two) of wine.  And probably some type of pasta.  And that salad, which also doesn’t seem too bad until you see that there are 150 calories, 10 g of fat, and 760 mg of sodium in it. Also, don’t forget that you’re going to eat like, 4 of those bread sticks (140 calories, 2.5 g fat, 460 mg sodium)

Holy shit, what is in this stuff?

Anyways, I definitely recreated the recipe and lightened it up quite a bit.  I calculated it all up and it was about 350 calories per serving.  The recipe serves 4, so you get quite a big serving of soup for less than 400 calories.  Also, you just throw it in a crockpot.  So easy guys.

Ahem.

*thunderous applause*

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*The recipe was originally from Fix it and Forget it, but has been changed dramatically*

Ingredients:

6 c. low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 c. whole milk or half and half

2 carrots, grated

3 russet potatoes, sliced

4 cups kale, chopped slightly

1 lb. turkey Italian sausage

Dash salt and pepper

Sprinkle of garlic powder

Sprinkle onion powder

1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

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Grate 2 carrots into your crockpot.

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Pour in chicken broth.

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And the whole milk/half and half.

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Slice up your potatoes.

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Add them to your broth.

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Brown the sausage.

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Add it to your broth.

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Sprinkle your spices!

Cook for 3-4 hours on high, stirring every once in a while.

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1 hour, I REPEAT, 1 HOUR before serving, stir in kale.  If you do it any earlier, it will be grossly soggy.  Do you want soggy kale?  Do you?!

No.  You really don’t.

Serve with a light homemade salad and some whole wheat rolls.  Sprinkle it with a little parm.

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Yum yum yum.  This is definitely going to be my fall favorite.

Bonus: It’s gluten free naturally!

It doesn’t taste exactly like the Olive Garden version, but it’s pretty damn close for a light version.  Sometime (when you feel really naughty) go ahead and use regular chicken broth, cream, and pork Italian sausage.  Or just go to Olive Garden and really go all out.  I’m normally not a fan of chains, but I still love Olive Garden every once in a while.

But just make this, okay?

XO Sara

Crockpot Baked Potato Soup

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I know that it’s June.  I know that it’s in the 90s and even reaches the 100s.  But I can’t get over soup.

However, it was 75 degrees in Reno all day today, which is totally acceptable soup weather if you ask me.

Especially if you’re making baked potato soup.  Baked potato soup is special.  Believe me.  I made it for a group of friends.  One claimed it was “the best she’s ever had”.  Now that’s a compliment if I’ve ever heard one.

Ahem.

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On another note, do you fellow food bloggers ever notice random things in your photos?  Like a reflection of you taking a picture in the spoon?  Ha.

Before I give you this recipe, please note that I do not normally use “cream of anything” soups.  I really prefer to make most of my food from scratch, but sometimes it’s nice to have a semi-homemade meal.  If you also do not like using cream soups, just give it a chance, you’ll thank me 😉 (Also, this soup definitely should only be eaten on occasion, for the sake of your waistline!)

Ingredients:

1-30 oz. package frozen hashbrowns (the cubed kind)

28 oz. chicken broth (may want more for thinner soup)

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cheddar cheese soup

8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

Toppings: bacon, cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions

In a crockpot, combine hashbrowns, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, cheddar cheese soup, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  Cook on low for about 8 hours.  30 minutes before serving, add cream cheese and stir until melted.

Top bowls of soup with bacon bits, cheese, sour cream, and green onions, or whatever you feel like 🙂

Serves about 6-8.

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I personally like to add lots of bacon and cheese.  Weird right?  Also, I served these with pretzel rolls from my local bakery.  Ah-may-zing.

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As I mentioned earlier, this is not a soup for those on a diet.  But it’s so easy, and so good for a crowd that you should make it for family dinner or movie night sometime.  And then let me know how you like it (or love it?).

*Bonus:  If made with gluten free cream soups, this recipe is perfectly gluten free!  Remove the bacon and it’s vegetarian!*

XO Sara

Twice Baked Potato Skins

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Potato skins are perhaps one of the most delicious things known to man, if I do say so myself.  How could you not love a potato stuffed with bacon and cheese and sour cream?  Excuse me, but I don’t hear anyone complaining.

With Superbowl right around the corner, I knew I had to make something that would stand out but was still greasy enough to make it to the game.  And by greasy, I mean delicious.  Greasy does not always equal bad.  Unless you’re on a diet.  In which case, it’s time to splurge a little, okay?

Potato skins actually proved to be a bit of a struggle for me as I was pressed for time in order to also watch a movie in between writing this post and going to bed.  Yeah, I know, my priorities are really straightened out here, but Sunday movie night is important okay?  (Tonight, my bedroom is featuring Peter Pan).

This whole being “pressed for time” thing ended up with me having slightly demolished potato skins because the potatoes did not get cooked quite as long as they needed to be (thanks to my microwave for saving the day).  So they became twice baked potato skins.  You know when bad situations turn into really, really great ones?  Yeah, that’s how twice baked potato skins came to be.  Things happen for a reason, friends.

So therefore, let me prove to you that not everything a food blogger prepares comes out looking all that appetizing and pretty…

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See?  Doesn’t look very appetizing.  But taste wise?

Oh hell yeah.  These things take the cake.

Or the potato.  Whatever floats your boat.

Enough with the cheesy sayings already, Sara.  Show these people how to make these delicious suckers.  (By the way, CHEESY?!  Did you see that?  I’m full of them today).

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Ingredients:

2 small russet potatoes

Olive oil

1/4 lb. bacon

1/2 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

2 Tbs. sour cream + more for topping

1 Tbs. butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

2-3 Tbs. chives, chopped

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Preheat oven to 400* F.  Scrub potatoes thoroughly and dry.  I recommend using 1/2 a potato per person if it’s for appetizers, and 1 potato per person you’re serving this as a meal.  They’re very filling!

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Brush the potatoes with some oil.  Olive oil will be oh-so-fine.

Place them in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until fork tender.

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Meanwhile, chop up some bacon.  I apologize from here on out about the picture situation.  The lighting in my kitchen goes away at about 3-3:30 in the winter, which as many food bloggers know, is a curse.

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Then crisp up that bacon in a frying pan.  Drain on some paper towels when it’s nice and browned.

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Also, grate up your cheese for fun.  (As we all know, grating cheese is not fun so just smile while you work and listen to Tom Petty and it will seem better, I promise).

When the potatoes are good and ready, cut them into quarters.  Scoop out the insides but make sure to leave enough to make a shell to hold everything together, or you will end up with lots of mashed potatoes and no twice baked potato skins.

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Mix about half of the insides with the butter and sour cream.  Mash it all together.

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Then add about 1/2 c. of cheese, about 1 Tbs. chives, and some salt and pepper.

This is when my natural light completely left and I forgot to keep taking pictures.  Sorry for any inconveniences.  Luckily, this recipe is not too complicated!

Brush your potato skins with olive oil or butter and bake in the oven for 5 minutes on each side.  Set your oven to broil.

Fill the skins with about 1-2 Tbs. of the filling and top with some cheese.  Broil for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Finish them off with some bacon and chopped chives.

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Might I recommend serving them with ranch? (I would).  Why don’t you check out my recipe for The Best Ranch Ever?  I made it specifically for these little guys, and oh my lanta was is so worth it.

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I might go eat some leftovers right now, actually.

Please excuse me.

XOXO Sara