Monday, June 18, 2012

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

We belong to our community pool, and the girls LOVE to go swimming on hot summer days!  In years past, we have spent the early part of the afternoons at the pool and then headed home so the littlest one could get a nap before dinner.  Now with the 3 year old just about giving up her afternoon naps, we're finding that we like going to the pool in the late afternoons when the crowds die down a bit.  My girls say they can do just as much in a two hour swim session when the crowds are less than they can in a 3 hour session when the diving board lines and slide lines are so long.

The only downside to going late in the afternoon is figuring out what to have for dinner because the girls are STARVING after a couple hours of swimming. If they have a big snack while I try to get dinner together, they won't eat much dinner.  So, I've been trying to use my crock pot in new and different ways to have meals ready to eat as soon as we get home, showered, and changed. 

Maybe the rest of you already know about baking potatoes in the crock pot.  I had not ever tried it because I usually just fix our baked potatoes in the oven or the microwave.  I also usually just fix the number of potatoes we'll eat for one night.  I never really thought about making extra baked potatoes to re-purpose later in the week.

As I was reading through some other food blogs and recipe books about crock pot cooking, however, many reported how much they love making baked potatoes in their crock pots.  So, I gave it a whirl last week. 

The verdict?  I'm sold!  The potatoes were cooked perfectly and ready to be topped with the small crock pot of chili I had going on the other kitchen counter when we walked in the door, exhausted from a 3 hour swim session and ready for something to eat.  I also loved that the two littler girls helped me wash and season the potatoes before we headed off to the pool.  Because they had helped with the prep work of the meal, they were excited to try their creation without complaining.  I'm not sure I would have had the same results if I would have just placed a baked potato as the main dish on their plates at the dinner table.

I had about 10 small to medium sized potatoes in my pantry that I picked up a couple of weeks ago at Meijer for around $3 for 8 pounds of potatoes.  We filled the kitchen sink with some water and the 8 year old set off on her mission to scrub those potatoes clean.  The 3 year old perched upon a bar stool and helped me rub the potatoes with a little canola oil and sprinkled them with salt before we wrapped them up in foil.  Then we placed them in my large slow cooker and set the control to cook on high for 4 hours.  My largest crock pot has automatically switches to "keep warm" at the end of the cook cycle, so the potatoes were cooked but not overcooked when we were ready for dinner.  I had premade a tossed lettuce salad and a fruit salad and placed some shredded cheese in a bowl before we left for the pool.  All we had to do was set everything out on the table and sit down to eat.  The kids gobbled up their dinners and the 3 year old even asked if she could have the leftovers for breakfast.  That's endorsement enough for me!

I used the leftover baked potatoes to make a batch of home fries later in the week.  I just cubed them and cooked them in a couple tablespoons of canola oil in a large fry pan on the stove over medium high heat.  I seasoned them with just salt and pepper and added in some sauteed onions at the end.  They, too, were a hit with all the eaters around the table.

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

Potatoes (as many as you want to fix; the leftovers make great homefries)
Canola Oil
Kosher Salt
Aluminum Foil
Toppings of your choice (butter, sour cream, chili, cheese, bacon, chicken, veggies, etc)

1.  Wash and dry potatoes. (great job for kids)
2.  Rub the potatoes with a little canola oil (or even use canola oil spray)
3.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.
4.  Wrap each potato in foil.
5.  Cook in slow cooker on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Crock Pot Baked Potato Night will definitely be making a repeat appearance on our weekly menu due to its low cost, ease of prep, and the clean plates that were the end of result of our dinner table that night! While we topped our baked potatoes with chili and cheese this particular night, I can think of a whole slew of other ways we can top them in the weeks to come.

What do you like to put on top of your baked potatoes?

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