Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vegan Comfort Food: Loaded Baked Potato

When I was a kid, we used go to the Cherry Hill Mall Food Court for dinner.  The Food Court had all sorts of delights for an elementary school aged child  - Bain's Deli, Taco Bell, Haagen Dazs, etc.  But, my ultimate favorite was the Potato Pub, where you could get a ginormous baked potato stuffed with pretty much anything.  My favorite was "The Big Cheese."  The Big Cheese was a potato about the size of my ten year old head, a cup of butter and likely a pound of cheese.

I've been making a healthier version of "The Big Cheese" for years now - cutting down drastically on the butter and cheese and adding veggies, either spinach or broccoli.  It's a great dinner option if you want something hearty, but don't want to engage in active cooking time.  Tonight, I decided to see if I could successfully make my already healthier remake as a vegan version.

Yes, this really and truly is vegan!
First, you need to bake your potato. I use a russet potato - it hold up better to the stuffing to come.  I microwave mine.  You can bake it in the oven if you so desire, but it takes 9-10 minutes in the microwave versus, say, half an hour or so in the oven.  Just make sure you stab the potato all over with a fork so that steam can escape.

Carefully remove the potato from the oven and cut it open with a knife.  Fluff the baked part of the potato with a fork.  I added a little bit of Soy-Free Earth Balance.  You can use a bit of butter (if you're not going vegan), or a touch of olive oil, or omit this step.  However, a little bit of Earth Balance or butter/oil will help keep the potato moist.

Next, top with your veggie of choice.  My go to is broccoli.  I usually go with a chopped fresh broccoli, but we already had a mess of steamed broccoli in the fridge, so I used that. But, feel free to use any veggie that suits your fancy! I then topped the whole thing with two kinds of Daiya - cheddar style and mozzarella style.  You can use regular cheese or another vegan cheese alternative, but Daiya does melt quite nicely.

I am giving a thumbs up to the vegan version - it has the same deliciousness as the non-vegan version, but without the heaviness of the dairy.

If you are skeptical that a potato can be good for you, keep in mind that how a potato is prepared is what makes it healthy or unhealthy.  Think about it - what makes french fries and potato chips unhealthy is the oil they're cooked in, rather than the starting product.   Using a large potato like the one I used for this main course dish meant 278 calories.  Figure the other elements added another 150-200 and it's still very reasonable for a main course dinner.  Plus, I got 7 grams of fiber (and even more from the broccoli and Daiya) ,7 grams of protein and a healthy dose of Vitamin C and Iron.  Yes, I eat the entire skin - you should too!  No matter how you're preparing your potato - roasting, baking, etc., keep that skin on to up the fiber count and keep those nutrients in your food.

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