Thursday, February 17

Recipe Review: Slow-Cooker Baked Potato Bar

This is as easy as it gets, y'all! Forgive the off-color picture - it's from my phone.

My favorite: salsa, chopped ham, light sour cream, and onions.

I never make baked potatoes. Generally if I'm going to the trouble to heat up the oven I expect something gooey and chocolate-laden to come out of it. So I was intrigued when I saw a post on slow-cooker baked potatoes on one of my favorite recipe sites. A Year of Slow Cooking is a blog written by a daring lady who cooked a dish in her crock pot every day for a year while blogging about it. Not all the recipes I've tried have turned out perfectly, but they've all been easy and some have been fantastic. Click here to see the post.

This is an incredibly simple and cheap way to cook for a crowd or just your family. Since this was my week to provide dinner for our church homegroup I decided to try a baked potato bar instead of picking up pizza or subs. It costs less than fast food and takes just a little more planning.

The steps are simple:
1. Wash the potatoes - for maximum ease soak them all in the sink, scrub, and lay out to dry on towels
2. Prick each several times with a fork and wrap in foil. Place in your slow cooker. 17 potatoes completely filled my 6-quart and 2-quart cookers (I fit about 12 in the 6-quart and 5 in the 2-quart).
3. Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours (both the big and small pots cooked evenly).
4. Serve with toppings. I chose diced ham, which I browned in a skillet, green onions, shredded cheese, salsa, light sour cream, and of course, butter, salt, and pepper.

They were delicious and we all had fun. We ended up with a lot of leftovers, but we've found they reheat beautifully in the crock pot as well. Michael set two of them, still in their foil jackets, in the 2-quart crock pot to reheat on low for about an hour and they were as good as new.

There are serious advantages to this method versus baking. Having the potatoes ready when you come home is much better than lurking outside the oven and checking them for doneness so often that it takes twice the suggested cooking time (not that I do that). Honestly, the thing most likely to hinder me from baking anything is the dread of digging through the way-too-crowded pan drawer below my oven. I hate it! I grumble and groan because the pan I need is always mysteriously at the bottom of the pile. Bah! Fortunately my slow cooker is more easily accessible. And with this method the only cleanup required is rinsing out the crock when you're done. I also love that the crock pot keeps dinner warm until we're ready to eat it. Just be sure to have tongs handy for fishing out the hot potatoes!

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