NFL Potato Skins: Super Bowl Snack Genius!

So exactly one year ago, I'm flipping through Food Network Magazine when I stop dead in my tracks. I turn the magazine lengthwise, similar to how I can only imagine a man would to an issue of Playboy, and start to "Oooh" and "Ahhh." My husband, Bryan, looks at me curiously, finally asking "What food needs an entire vertical spread of a magazine?"

"Potato skins. Customized for each of the NFL's 32 teams," I replied.

"Oohhh," he said. Followed by a grab for the magazine and a "Lemme see!"

It was then that he understood. Simply put, the idea of creating custom potato skin recipes reflecting a city's local ingredients, flavors and food favorites is brilliant. Totally brilliant. Which is exactly why I'm sharing this post again, two years later. It's a classic, just like these potato skins. So even if your favorite team isn't in the Super Bowl, find the recipe and try it anyway. At least they can be at your Big Game party in spirit!

Here's how you make each of the potato skins:

General directions: Pierce 4 large russet potatoes with a fork. Bake directly on the oven rack at 350 degrees until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool, then quarter lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Brush both sides with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Bake, skin-side up, at 450 degrees until crisp, about 15 minutes. Add your favorite team toppings. (For cheesy skins, flip the baked shells over before topping, sprinkle with 1 cup grated cheddar cheese and bake an extra 5 minutes.)

Chesapeake Butter Potato Skins: Melted butter, Old Bay Seasoning, grated parmesan and chopped chives

Hot Wing Potato Skins: Blue cheese dressing, cayenne hot sauce, and chopped celery and carrots

Five-Way Chili Potato Skins: Cincinnati-style chili, kidney beans, chopped onion, shredded cheddar and oyster crackers

All the Way Potato Skins: Deli-sliced corned beef, shredded Swiss cheese, grated horseradish and spicy mustard; bake 5 more minutes
Western Omelet Potato Skins: Sauteed green pepper, onion and ham, paprika and chopped parsley on cheesy skins

Tex-Mex Potato Skins: Refried beans, crumbled chorizo, shredded monterey jack, hot sauce and pickled jalapenos
Fried Pork Potato Skins: Mayonnaise mixed with mustard and hot sauce, sliced fried pork cutlets, chopped tomato and diced red onion
Deviled Crab Potato Skins: Crab salad, cayenne pepper and paprika; bake 5 more minutes
KC BBQ Potato Skins: Pulled pork, barbecue sauce and sliced scallions on cheesy skins
Cubano Potato Skins: Mayonnaise, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and sliced pickles; bake 5 more minutes
Maple-Bacon Potato Skins: Apple butter, crisp bacon and maple syrup on cheesy skins
Deli Pastrami Potato Skins: Deli-sliced pastrami, Russian dressing and dill pickle slices on cheesy skins
Loaded Tacos Potato Skins: Shredded chicken mixed with taco seasoning, queso blanco, sour cream, salsa, pickled jalapeños and cilantro
Steel City Sausage Potato Skins: Sauteed onions and kielbasa, sauerkraut and grated Swiss cheese; bake 5 more minutes
California Fresh Potato Skins: Guacamole, sprouts and shredded monterey jack
Nashville Side Potato Skins: Creamy mac and cheese; bake 5 more minutes

Southwestern Nachos Potato Skins: Salsa, pickled jalapenos, chopped scallions and cilantro, and sour cream on cheesy skins
Georgia Peach Potato Skins: Peach preserves mixed with yellow mustard, cubed ham and canned fried onions on cheesy skins
Country Ham Potato Skins: Ham salad, chopped parsley and minced pickles on cheesy skins

The Works Potato Skins: Sweet pickle relish, dill pickle spear, pickled peppers, yellow mustard, chopped onion and tomato, celery salt and poppy seeds

Texas Chili Potato Skins: Chunky chili, grated longhorn cheddar, chopped onion, sour cream and hot sauce
Coney Dog Potato Skins: Sliced hot dogs, chili, diced onions, shredded cheddar and yellow mustard
Wisconsin Beer Brats Potato Skins: Beer cheese spread, sliced grilled bratwurst and brown mustard
Cheeseburgers Potato Skins: Grilled mini burgers, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and pickles on cheesy skins

Muffuletta Potato Skins: Assorted sliced Italian deli meats, provolone, olive salad and sliced pepperoncini
Sausage and Peppers Potato Skins: Sauteed onions, green peppers and Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella; bake 5 more minutes
Cheesesteaks Potato Skins
Sauteed onions and roast beef, Worcestershire sauce and Cheez Whiz; bake 5 more minutes
Frisco Gourmet Potato Skins: Artichokes pureed with goat cheese, garlic, fresh herbs and olive oil; bake 5 more minutes
Pacific Salmon Potato Skins: Flaked grilled salmon, sauteed wild mushrooms, and chopped parsley and chives
Toasted Ravioli Potato Skins: Ricotta mixed with parmesan and chopped basil, tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella; bake 5 more minutes
Mojo Shrimp Potato Skins: Shrimp sauteed with rum and mojo sauce
Red-Slaw Skins Potato Skins: Red-cabbage slaw and crumbled bacon on red potato skins


Vegetarian Butternut Squash + Mushroom Lasagna

Butternut Squash + Mushroom Lasagna
I'm always on the look-out for new and interesting lasagna recipes. Over the holidays, I was on the hunt for a vegetarian recipe that would appeal to both a carnivorous and vegetarian crowd. I wanted it to be substantial enough to please both camps but also delicious enough that I would want to add it to my recipe repertoire. Enter this butternut squash and mushroom lasagne recipe, loaded with tender steamed squash, cremini mushrooms sauteed with onion, thyme and sage, and a rich Parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta cheese mixture.

Simply put, it was a winner-winner lasagna dinner. But during assembly, I was shocked at how much lasagna the recipe makes. Surely the quantity of ingredients would easily make two lasagnas, right? Not the case. After all was said and done, my large glass casserole dish was bursting with FIVE dense layers of squash, mushrooms and cheese. And that's not counting the eggs, which I omitted to accomodate the vegetarians in the crowd. The hour-plus cooking time was long but the house was wafting with the amazing aroma of bubbling cheese, earthy vegetables and herbs. Well worth it.

My meat- and veggie-loving guests ate the lasagna right up. Literally. Bryan and I had leftovers the next day and arguably, it was even better. 

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 14-ounce can vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 4 tablespoons sliced fresh sage, divided
  • 3 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • Olive oil
  • 1 9-ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles

Directions: Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to high; add mushrooms and cook until tender, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mushroom mixture to bowl; set aside.

Add squash, broth, 3 tablespoons thyme, and 3 tablespoons sage to same skillet. Cover and simmer over medium heat until squash is just tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover and cook until squash is very soft but still retains shape, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon sage in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper; mix in eggs.

Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over bottom. Arrange 3 noodles on top. Spread 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 1/3 cups squash mixture over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mushrooms and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with 3 noodles, then 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, half of remaining squash, 1/2 cup mushrooms, and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat with noodles, 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, remaining squash, and remaining mushrooms. Top with 3 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Cover with oiled foil.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake lasagna, covered, 35 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. DO AHEAD:The lasagna can be assembled one day ahead and refrigerated.

Scrape the potatoes into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; scatter the marshmallows on top. Bake in the top third of the oven for 25 minutes, until the marshmallows are golden. Sprinkle with the pecans and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The sweet potato puree can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature and top with the marshmallows before baking. The spiced nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Pan-Fried Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip
(Photo: 101 Cookbooks)
The road to the Super Bowl is one of my favorite times of the year, mostly because I have an excuse to try all sorts of new appetizer recipes. Lucky for me, our friends are always willing participants when it comes to trying my culinary experiments. Case in point: Bryan and I had a few friends over last night to watch the San Francisco 49ers dismantle the Packers. On the menu: Gruyere sliders, white cheddar and jalapeno shortbread "crackers," and this amazing creamy, caramelized onion dip.

Making the caramelized onion dip from scratch was a no-brainer for a few reasons: 1) It's incredibly easy and comes together in less than 30 minutes, and; 2) Our friends deserve better than a pouch of Lipton onion dip mixed with sour cream. The fact that the aroma of bubbling, caramelizing onions will waft through your house is an added bonus! I served the dip with Salt and Pepper Kettle Krinkle-Cut Chips, but choose your favorite and go with it. Just make sure to pick chips that are thick-ish and can support the weight of the dip.

Pan-Fried Caramelized Onion Dip
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces light cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire

Directions: Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. You should have about 3 cups of onions. Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan (I used a 12" cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and Worcestershire in a medium-sized bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.


Recipe: Healthy Coq Au Vin. No, Really!

I'm seven days into my second annual "Sober January." As if foregoing any and all alcoholic drinks for 31 days isn't hard enough, I'm upping the ante. Sober January, meet No Carb January. Yes, you read right. No alcohol and no carbs for 31 days. Why am I following such a "crazy" diet (as one friend lovingly described it) right after the holidays? It's simple. A colleague putting himself through the same culinary torture put it best: "I'm doing Sober January, well, because December was BIG." 

Eating a restricted diet can get really boring, really fast. To avoid meal monotony and keep the tasty meals flowing, I've scoured magazines and cookbooks for health-conscious recipes. First up: Clean Eating Magazine's Coq Au Vin, a classic French dish typically laden with butter. Clean Eating's version removes the calories but keeps the classic taste; each serving is only 289 calories and 3 grams of fat. Part of the modification means removing the bacon, but I promise you won't miss it. I made this recipe for dinner last night, enjoyed leftovers for lunch today (minus the potatoes), and am watching Bryan dig into his as we speak. It's delish!

Coq Au Vin
Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine
Serves: 6

  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2lb boneless, skinless chicken pieces (6 thighs and 3 breasts, halved)
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/4" thick rounds
  • 4 cups quartered Cremini or white mushrooms
  • 12 oz. new potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth 
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tbsp low sodium tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Herbes de Provence or dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper. Add chicken, turning to coat in mixture. Mist a large heavy skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium. Add chicken and cook 4-6 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned. Transfer chicken to a plate; mist skillet with cooking spray and return to stovetop on medium heat. Add onion, carrot and mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently for four minutes. 

Add potatoes, broth, wine, tomato paste and herbes; stir to combine. Return chicken and any juices to pan in a single layer, nestling chicken into broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced and potatoes are tender. 

Using tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to shallow dinner bowls or plates. Bring sauce to a boil; boil until sauce is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, 3-4 minutes. stir in parsley and pour sauce over chicken and vegetables. 

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