Potatoes are the most consumed vegetables in the United States and have been a staple food for me since college, when eggs and spuds were on the menu daily. Not only are they both healthy and inexpensive but hearty, as well. Twenty years later, when cooking for my family and friends, I find potatoes a pantry ingredient. They last for months in the cool, dark closet, and they are the No. 1 crop harvested in the world.
It’s hearty and healthy, but unfortunately, the potato has gotten a bad rap due to the popularity of French fries and potato chips. Chips and fries are cooked by deep frying and exposing a lot of surface area to oil. Chips average about 33 percent oil and French fries 15 percent from cooking. French fries that are baked have less fat than their fried brethren, but if you really want health benefits from a potato, bake them and be careful what topping you choose.
Potatoes are tubers that grow in the dirt, so buying organic is a good idea. The skins contain most of their nutrients, so you don’t want to peel them to get all the good stuff. That stuff is vitamin C, B6, fiber, copper, potassium and manganese. Plus, they have antioxidants and fight free radicals.
Sometimes, a green color takes over the potato skin and this is not a Halloween, mummy fashion statement; it is an abnormally high amount of alkaloid, which will make the spud taste bitter. When you see that green, peel the potato or toss it because it will not have a nice flavor.
Flavorful skeleton skins are filled with healthy red peppers, green onions, tomato sauce and some cheese. They taste great and are a healthy, hearty snack for anyone getting ready to head off for a night of haunting. Mix in a simple bloody French fry finger, and you have a nice base on the belly for candy or cocktails.
5 large russet potatoes
1 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup green onion, diced
10 string cheese sticks
2 cups mozzarella or fontina cheese, shredded
2 cups pizza sauce
Mini chocolate chips
Guacamole and/or sour cream for dipping
Scrub potatoes, and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce potatoes, and cook for 60 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Cut the potatoes in half, and scoop out meat in the middle, keeping a ¼ inch of potato inside the skin. Brush the olive oil all over the potato skin. Place on baking sheet, cut side up, and cook 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
Mix red pepper and green onion together. Layer the skins, starting with 1 heaping tablespoon red pepper mixture and 2 tablespoons shredded cheese. Cover the cheese and pepper with pizza sauce, and smooth the sauce to make a bed for the skeleton.
To make the skeleton: Cut ½ inch of the cheese from the top, and cut triangles into each side of the ½-inch cheese to make a skull. Poke in 2 mini chocolate chips for the eyes. Cut the remainder of the string cheese into a large and small piece for the legs and ribs.
Pull the cheese apart, and lay the legs at the bottom of the skin. Pull the smaller string cheese apart, and trim some to make smaller pieces for the ribs. Layer the ribs above the legs, and add the head to the top to make the skeleton. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Bloody French Fries
Chipotles in adobo (optional)
Bake French fries according to package directions. Slice tomatoes and grapes in half to make the fingernail. When the fries are cooked, place a small amount of cream cheese on the tip of the fry and stick on half of the grape or tomato. Squeeze out some of the juice from the fruit so it dries out a bit and sticks.
Place the fries in a small bowl of ketchup right before serving (otherwise they will get soft). If making an adult version, blend a small can of chipotles in adobo and mix 1/4 cup chipotles with 1 cup ketchup.
Tracy Miller adds fruits and veggies to all of her meals. She teaches cooking classes and shares recipes on TV8’s “Good Morning Vail.” To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit colorfulcooking.com.