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Desperation dinners: Overstuffed potatoes are a filling, fast entree

Baked potatoes as a pantry staple? Why not? They're inexpensive, it doesn't take any longer to bake a dozen, and they'll refrigerate for up to a week.

With a stash of already baked potatoes on hand (check our Web site at www.kitchenscoop.com for our best high-heat technique), you can get today's Overstuffed Twice-Baked Potatoes to the table in less than 25 minutes. This steakhouse favorite is considered a side dish in a restaurant, but our recipe makes a filling entree.

These potatoes are fairly flexible and can be stuffed with any type of potato topping — chopped broccoli, ham and various cheeses are always welcome. Our recipe is reminiscent of twice-baked potatoes from Alicia's childhood, but that version was banned some years ago owing to its high fat content. Today's slightly slimmed-down version makes a worthy light dinner — and we're not kidding about the name "overstuffed"!

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap. Fast. Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, or send e-mail to telluskitchenscoop.com. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.kitchenscoop.com.

Menu suggestion: Overstuffed Twice-Baked Potatoes

Steamed broccoli spears

Apple slices

Overstuffed Twice-Baked Potatoes

Start to finish: less than 25 minutes

5 extra-large, already baked potatoes (see Cook's note)

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/2 cup finely shredded low-fat (2 percent) cheddar cheese, divided use

1/4 cup real bacon pieces (4 slices, cooked, crumbled bacon can be used)

2 tablespoons low-fat milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Nonstick cooking spray

Cook's note: This recipe does indeed call for five potatoes, but only some of the shells are used. The extra potato insides help create the "overstuffed" stuffing. Also, please visit our Web site at www.KitchenScoop.com for the secret to our favorite Amazing Baked Potatoes.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

If potatoes are cold, microwave briefly to soften the insides. Cut three potatoes in half. Using a spoon, scoop out potato insides, leaving 1/4 inch of potato next to the skin, and place into a medium bowl. This 1/4 inch of potato and skin will form a "potato bowl." Place the potato bowls in a casserole dish lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Set the potato bowls aside. You will have six halves or potato bowls.

Peel the remaining two whole potatoes, and discard this peeling. Add to the potato in the mixing bowl. Add butter, sour cream, 1/4 cup cheese, bacon, milk, and salt and pepper. Using a potato masher, break up and mash the ingredients together. Mixture will be lumpy. Fill the potato bowls, dividing them evenly. Mound the "bowls" using a spoon until all of the potato mixture is used. Top with remaining cheese, and bake until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through, about 15 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings (Each serving is one potato-skin half overstuffed with potato filling.)

Approximate values per serving: 317 calories (30 percent from fat), 11 g fat (6 g saturated), 30 mg cholesterol, 10 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 258 mg sodium.aked potatoes as a pantry staple? Why not? They're inexpensive, it doesn't take any longer to bake a dozen, and they'll refrigerate for up to a week.

With a stash of already baked potatoes on hand (check our Web site at www.kitchenscoop.com for our best high-heat technique), you can get today's Overstuffed Twice-Baked Potatoes to the table in less than 25 minutes. This steakhouse favorite is considered a side dish in a restaurant, but our recipe makes a filling entree.

These potatoes are fairly flexible and can be stuffed with any type of potato topping — chopped broccoli, ham and various cheeses are always welcome. Our recipe is reminiscent of twice-baked potatoes from Alicia's childhood, but that version was banned some years ago owing to its high fat content. Today's slightly slimmed-down version makes a worthy light dinner — and we're not kidding about the name "overstuffed"!

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap. Fast. Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, or send e-mail to telluskitchenscoop.com. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.kitchenscoop.com.