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Score big at game time with baked potatoes

It’s been about six years since I shared some baked potato recipes that you can serve on Super Bowl Sunday, which falls on February 4 this year.

Baked potatoes are good any time of year, but seem particularly welcome on a cold winter day. They are hearty and filling and can be customized to please most any palate. You can load them up with vegetables, dairy products (think cheese, butter and sour cream) and meats as you see fit.

A good idea is to have an ice chest loaded with foil-wrapped, hot baked potatoes, then supply an array of toppings so guests can pick and choose exactly what they want. Some ideas include chili, shredded cheeses, chopped onions (red, white, yellow or green), sour cream, crumbled bacon or sausage, diced ham, ranch dressing, butter, sliced ripe olives, guacamole or chopped avocados, salsa, green chiles, just about anything and everything you like.

Enjoy the game and your guests, all the while staying safe, warm and of course, well fed. Potato skins with bacon, green onion and cheese

6 large russet potatoes, washed and dried

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

10 to 15 slices bacon (cooked until crisp and chopped)

3 to 4 cups Cheddar cheese, finely grated

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 to 7 green onions, finely chopped

Sour cream or barbecue sauce 1. Preheat oven to 400. Place potatoes on baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender (cooking time will vary depending on the size of potatoes). Cool until able to handle. Keep oven heat to 400.

2. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp leaving about 1/2-inch thick layer of the cooked potato on the skins.

3. Sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper and grated Parmesan cheese (if using).

4. Oil a large baking sheet. Place the skins on the baking sheet (skin side down, pulp side facing up).

5. In a bowl combine the shredded cheese, chopped bacon, parsley and cayenne pepper; mix to combine. Evenly divide the cheese mixture over top of the skins. At this point you can cover tightly with plastic wrap refrigerate until ready to serve.

6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the skins are crisp and the cheese melts. Transfer the skins to a platter and sprinkle with finely chopped green onions. Serve with sour cream and/or barbecue sauce. Makes 12 servings. Cat’s stuffed baked potatoes

This is one of those freestyle recipes without exact measurements. Baked potatoes, cut in half

Broccoli, steamed and cut into bite-sized pieces

Green onions, chopped

Bacon, fried and crumbled

Cooked ham, cubed and with any rind removed

Sharp Cheddar cheese, cubed

Monterey Jack cheese, cubed

Pepper Jack cheese, cubed

Sour cream

Ranch dressing

Salt and pepper to taste 1. Preheat oven to 350. Scoop out potato filling into a large mixing bowl. Add broccoli, green onions, bacon, ham and cheeses; stir to mix.

2. Mix together sour cream and ranch dressing; add to potato mixture, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Fill potato-skin shells with filling mixture. Bake, uncovered, until heated through and cheese is bubbly. Note: Amounts will vary according to how many potatoes you fix, but there should be enough sour cream and dressing to keep the mixture moist but not mushy. The other ingredients you may adjust to suit your tastes. The main filling ingredients that you will need the most of will be the broccoli, ham and cheeses. Crawfish baked potato

If you don’t have access to any crawfish (many times called crayfish or crawdads) tail meat, you can, of course, use chopped shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops or langostino. 2 large russet potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced yellow onions

1/2 cup diced celery

2 tablespoons diced green onion tops

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning blend (or to taste)

Dash of hot sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound cooked Louisiana crawfish tails

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons sour cream 1. Preheat the oven to 350. Wash and dry the potatoes. Using a fork, poke a few holes in each side to allow moisture to escape during cooking. Coat the potatoes with olive oil and cut in half vertically. Keep the two halves together and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven until completely tender, about 1 hour. Unwrap and scoop out the inside flesh of the potato without breaking through the outer skin. Chop the scooped-out flesh of the potato into small pieces. Keep warm.

2. Increase oven temperature to 400. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter. Add onions, celery and green onion tops and cook until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, Cajun seasoning and hot sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and add the crawfish tails along with the potato flesh that was scooped out earlier. Mix thoroughly to combine and add the cheese and sour cream, mixing well.

3. Stuff the crawfish mixture into the potato shells and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and the tops begin to brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Makes 4 servings. Spinach stuffed potatoes

3 large baking potatoes (about 12 ounces each)

1/2 cup milk

About 4 ounces cream cheese

1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

Sliced green onions (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Pierce potatoes with a fork, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender; allow to cool. Cut each potato in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell.

2. Mash pulp with a potato masher. Combine milk and cream cheese in a large bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add potato pulp, 1 cup Cheddar cheese, onion, salt, pepper and spinach; stir well.

3. Spoon potato mixture into shells; sprinkle each half with 2 tablespoons Cheddar cheese. Place stuffed potatoes on a baking sheet; bake at once more for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with green onions, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

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