Tag Archives: Easy Buffet foods

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Yes, I said I’d put this recipe up before, but I had a quick request for my Codfish Cake recipe by people who missed the Gorton canned codfish cakes,(no longer available.)
Twice Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, but I serve them often with seafood for Lent.

Twice-Baked Potatoes are also one of the tastiest ways to stretch your budget and leftovers. They are very convenient, and can be made well ahead of time and even frozen, ready in your oven or microwave in short order.

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

[The ones pictured above are made with tiny shrimp and spinach]

Twice-Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, used as a side dish or as an entrée. They can even be made with mini-potatoes and used as finger-food, appetizers or placed on a buffet. They can be made with meat, seafood or vegetables and they can be made completely vegan.

You start with a nice, firm potato, any size. (For an entrée, I suggest russets.) Bake the potato to very soft in the middle. Times will vary according to the size of your potato, and, if using a microwave, the power of your unit. (Use 400F oven for baking 45-60 minutes or microwave on high for about 5-7 minutes for good-sized potatoes.)
Microwaves make perfectly acceptable Twice-Baked Potatoes, and makes them much more quickly, but when done in an oven, the potato skins become nice and crispy and the tops brown. One compromise is to first bake the potatoes in the microwave, (saving up to an hour) and then finishing them off in the oven, or even more quickly, under a low broiler.

If you are unused to baking potatoes, wash them first under running cold water and brush them with a vegetable brush or rub them using a clean cloth. If you usually wrap your potatoes in foil to bake them in the oven, omit for this recipe. Pierce the potato skin with a fork, just once. This will release enough of the pressure from the steam that may build up when the moisture in the potato get heated. If there is enough steam build-up and it cannot escape, potatoes can explode all over your oven or microwave!

When the potatoes are done, (a fork can easily slip all the way into the center of the potato), remove and, using a clean towel, oven mitt or pot holder, carefully cut through the potato length-wise. The potatoes will be very hot and the escaping steam may burn you if you are not careful. Allow to cool slightly, (but don’t let them get cold) and gently scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving the skin intact. (You may want to leave up to ¼ of an inch of the pulp all around the inside so that your potato skin does not break.) Place the pulp in a bowel, and now the creativity begins!

Here is where your taste, what is available and the season challenges you.

From appetizer to entrée any of the suggestions or your own ideas will determine your finished potatoes.

Start by mashing or even whipping the insides of the potatoes with any of the ingredients below, or a combination: [*See Note for easiest suggestions]

Butter, margarine or coconut oil

Cream cheese, sour cream or vegan sour cream, (made from tofu)

Small amount of cream or milk,{rice, soy, coconut or almond can be used

I usually use tiny shrimp, but have used crab meat and imitation crabmeat,(see ‘Seafood Pasta Salads’; Feb 2013 archive for guidelines), but I have used any pre-cooked fish.
You can also use minced bacon, ham, roast beef, or no meats at all. (For roast beef, you can add a little horseradish to the mix.)

You can add cheeses, (or vegan cheese substitutes); cheddar is the best choice here.

Use salt and pepper of any type.

You can add cooked, minced onion, green onion or onion powder, a little garlic or garlic powder;

Sautéed shallots, leeks, celery carrots, sweet peppers;

Cooked, (or frozen and well-drained), spinach is very good in these, as are canned or jarred asparagus

Parsley, paprika, celery salt, chives, sage

Dehydrated vegetable mix

A couple of drops of sesame oil and sesame seeds

Mix & match the above to taste.

* Note: I suggest you start out simply if you are unused to cooking. Add sour cream or cream cheese, salt and pepper, a little onion of some sort and vegetables, cheese, minced ham or tiny shrimp.

After you have mixed all the ingredients, spoon the filling or pipe it with a pastry bag,( or from a zipper-lock bag with the corner cut off), into the potato skin “boats”; they should be heaped in the middle, as there is more to the filling than what you scooped-out. Place the ‘boats” back in the oven, preferably under the broiler on low setting for a short time or placed back in the microwave until heated all the way through. These can then be cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen in a zipper-lock bag, (with as little air trapped as possible), for months. They are great to have on hand as a quick meal or for an addition when having unexpected guests. You can make the little ones ahead of time for a party or gathering.

I hope you try these.

You Make Chicken Wings!

I will never forget when I first heard of the chicken wing craze; I thought people were truly crazy, but found out that I was just as crazy for them!

I’m not hot on hot wings, but I have found that you can make any variety of wings easily and they are on the list of top SuperBowl and sport-watching foods. They are always big hits on buffets. I will tell you how you can make them and suggest kinds, but (ahem), I expect you to take the ball and run with it!

It is easy to make different styles of wings at home

It is easy to make different styles of wings at home

[This is a small sample; I am not ready for Sunday yet!]

The first few times I made wings, I followed a recipe with was delicious, but very time consuming. It entailed cooking the wings in a slow-cooker for hours, when reducing,(cooking down), the liquid, them frying the wings until crispy. The part which I messed-up on more than once was by over-cooking the wings in the cooker; I ended up with a tasty mess.

Then I decided to branch out with flavors and styles and fry the wings, then cook them in a glaze. They were also good  and were a hit, but it was a messy way and a pain to clean up; it wasn’t worth it for me,(although the fellas here liked them…  of course, they  did none of the work.).

So I will skip you to the easy way to great chicken wings and one that will allow you to make them in large numbers more quickly and to make several types at a time, if you’d like. My secret weapon?

The oven.

The hardest part about making wings is the fact that the bones make it difficult to cook them all the way through.(I became ill at a famous buffet restaurant from undercooked chicken wings). The next thing you need to make successful wings is to make them crispy; you can do it.

Depending on the amount of time you are willing to put in to preparing the wings, you can make a couple or many types and flavors, more on your own, or some straight out of bottles and jars.

For all of them, you are going to line a baking sheet in foil for easy clean-up and place dipped wings,(with or without the wing-tips cut off; I take them off and use them in broth), on the foil,(or parchment paper). I brush them with more of the chosen sauce , cover them and let them cook in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes, occasionally basting them in more sauce .Cut one gently at the main joint and check for color. If it is red, continue cooking.
When they are gray inside with no red-running, remove the covering and baste one last time.  Place the wings under the broiler for a few minutes,(watch them closely).

That’s it.

Now, for choosing sauces:

There are many wing sauces, barbeque sauces and marinades waiting on your grocer’s shelf; (I  mix 3 parts honey bbq sauce with 1 part hickory; that is my secret for most of my barbeque recipes.) You can even use your favorite non-creamy salad dressings ….or you can make your own, original flavors, specifically to your taste.

One of my men’s favorites is Thai Hot Wings,(which was the first I made on my own ).
I take
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of water
½ cup Asian Sweet Chili Sauce (bottled)

Boil this until thick,(taste and adjust ratio of chili to sugar; do not substitute honey; it removes the “heat” from the chili.)
Use as directed above. Warming: these get hotter as they sit. Be forewarned if you pre-make these!

Basic glaze for wings:

The next way is very versatile. The formula is this:

Reduce, (boil until condensed), chicken broth until very strong
Or
Use chicken bouillon and use twice the amount,(or half or the water), suggested.
Then you can dip or baste the wings with this and sprinkle them with herbs and spices, or add them to the broth.
Sprinkling the herbs and spices on afterward is easiest and is probably necessary even if you add some to the broth beforehand, but adding them to the broth softens dried herbs and spices, and gives more uniform flavor throughout the wings. Depending on the saltiness of your glaze, you may or may not feel the need for more salt on the wings. Taste the broth before dipping or brushing the wings; never eat or taste anything that has been contaminated with raw meat or poultry. Boil down further or make more, (and condense), and add spices or other additions suggested below to make dipping sauces, if you’d like.

Suggestions for additions are:

Italian spice ( or parsley, basil , marjoram)

Garlic-Rosemary

Mesquite

Mexican spice combo( or cilantro, cayenne, cumin)

Mixed Vegetable flakes

Tomato &/or Sweet Pepper flakes with garlic &/or chives

Lemon–Pepper or Lemon-Thyme (squeeze lemon juice on the wings after the first glazing and sprinkle on pepper, or use dried lemon peel)

Oregano, onion powder and paprika

Garam Masala

Dillweed

Sage, marjoram, onion powder , parsley

Sesame seed (add a couple of drops of sesame oil to broth for stronger flavor)

You get the idea, right? I hope you get more ideas.

You can add or glaze at the end with honey (in addition to many of the above), or with maple syrup alone.
If you want sweet but can’t use honey, you can use corn or cane syrup, or brown sugar.
For sweet wings without sugar, use a fruit-only spread,(found in the jelly aisle).
If you are feeling really adventuresome, you can add ginger or allspice and make wonderful wings.

You can freeze the wings after they cool. As always, wrap tightly and remove as much air as humanly possible,(if you don’t have a vacuum machine, use a good, sturdy zipper-close bag and squeeze.) You can microwave them to thaw and they will be good to eat heated that way , but you can re-crisp them under the broiler for a couple of minutes after they are thawed and bring them back to perfect.

So feel free to try several kinds and make them before your party, or to keep on hand for a filling fast snack or an addition when there are unexpected guest, or long-staying ones, ever-hungry teens, or kids’ sleep-overs..

I have a special guest-blogger coming next time. I hope you join me in welcoming him.