Shit just got real, yo. Pinocchio style.
Also, I just realized I know how to spell Pinocchio. These are crazy times, my friends.
For the first time in over a decade, I went home this past week. Not only was it the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death but it was time to pay the Grandparents a visit. And not just because I needed more slippers from my Grandma. Though I did manage to stuff 3 pair into my Mom’s purse before we left.
A lot of you know I grew up in small town Alberta. Strathmore, to be exact. When I lived there it had a whopping population of 5000 people. It’s nearly tripled in size since then but in many ways it was still the town I associate with my first Budweiser beer, bumper skiing in the high school parking lot, gettin down on the farm (not to mention in farm trucks) and cows.
After 6 years in the big city of Calgary, another 6 in the small coastal city of Victoria, 2 on the other side of the country in Toronto and another 1 back here on the coast again in Vancouver, I’d long forgotten about wheat fields, jack and coke, belt buckles bigger than your head, “chew”, Wrangler jeans and Stetson hats.
While my childhood home still stands on the same corner I kissed a boy on every day after school in grade 8 (terrified my Mom would look out the window and see us), the “More Than Ice Cream” store still makes the best ginger beef this side of the Rocky Mountains and the whole place still smells like any one of the 4 feedlots, stockyards or livestock processing plants that surround the town, a lot has changed.
That house I grew up in is no longer in the pristine condition my Dad prided himself on, the restaurants we used to dine at as a family have either bottomed out or been turned into less-than-stellar Chinese food joints, and the once vibrant downtown is a ghost town.
The old adage is true: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Despite these changes though, I still caught myself reluctantly meandering through surreal memories of moments and days and years gone by. While the landscape of the town has changed, the essence is still there. Like I said, wheat fields, jack and coke, belt buckles bigger than your head, “chew”, Wrangler jeans and Stetson hats.
Seriously though, I realized that for all the movement and growth I’ve done over the years – inside, outside, ass-side – some things are still the same within:
- I will always and forever listen to country music. And I’ll probably make you listen to it too if you spend enough time with me. Deal with it.
- I firmly believe chewing tobacco is disgusting. So is smoking tobacco. Just stop it.
- I love my Grandparents. So much. And my Grandma’s knitted slippers. I’m officially now the proud owner of no less than 12 pair.
- I love cows. Both to hug and to eat. Though I’m conscious now of how the animal and agricultural workers are treated prior to the meat arriving on my G Ceramic & Co Stoneware plate.
- I think small town manners – saying please, thank you and holding doors open for the person behind you – should be a requirement if you want don’t want to get punched in the teeth.
- I’ve never punched anyone in the teeth.
- I think small town gossip is for small minds.
- I know there’s healing in big open spaces. Literally and figuratively.
- I’m a fair weather kinda gal – anything below freezing (with the exception of a raspberry margarita) and I want to curl up in bed with a hot water bottle and fuzzy jammie-jams and not come out until the frost melts.
- The romantic, the passionate, the emotional, the silly, the spontaneous… Even though I get super busy running my design business and writing my cookbook and trying to be a relatively not-to-crazy human, they’re all a part of me. And always will be.
Lesson learned: We grow. We change. Hopefully we become better people, kinder people and happier people. But our essence stays the same. Essentially, deep down I’m still a meat and potatoes kinda gal.
Hence today’s recipe: Super-Stuffed, Cheesy, Bacony Twice Baked Potatoes.
These are incredibly easy to make, mashed full of deliciousness (like cheese and bacon, hence the title), and while they’re not going to trim your waistline any time soon, they’re gonna taste god damn delicious. Serve em up with a grass fed flank steak slathered in chimichurri sauce, and some sweet roasted carrots with spiced greek yogurt and you have yourself a very simple, very yummy and very satisfying
Albertan Kristy friendly meal.
Super-Stuffed, Cheesy, Bacony Twice Baked Potatoes
Yield 4 potatoes
- 6 russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
- 1/2 Lb thick cut bacon, sliced into 1/4" pieces.
- 1 C grated cheddar cheese + 1/2 C grated cheddar cheese
- 1/3 C chopped green onion or chives
- 1/3 - 1/2 C milk
- 1/3 C sour cream
- 3 Tbsp butter + more for serving
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F and pull out a baking sheet.
- Stab each potato a few times with a fork. This will allow the steam to escape so you don't end up with a potato explosion in your oven. Drizzle enough oil over the potatoes to coat. Massage it all over them, ensuring the entire surface is lubed up. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place the prepared potatoes on the baking sheet and bake in the hot oven for 60 - 70 minutes or until cooked through. A fork should slide easily into the center of a potato.
- When cooked through, remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool just enough so you can handle them.
- As the potatoes bake, set a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon. Cook through until crispy, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Set aside.
- When you can handle the potatoes, slice them lengthwise so you end up with 8 halves. Gently scoop out the cooked potato into a large bowl, careful not to tear the skins. Set the skins back on the baking sheet. Ideally you'll want to end up with 4 - 6 halves still intact.
- In the potato bowl, add the cooked bacon, 1 C grated cheese, green onion, 1/3 C milk, sour cream, 3 Tbsp butter and a good helping of salt and pepper.
- Mash those babies up good and smooth using a fork, potato masher or a hand mixer, careful not to over mash or you'll end up with a heavy gloopy mess. Taste it half way through; If you need the remaining milk to add moisture or more seasoning, add it now.
- Once well mixed, spoon the lot into the reserved potato skins, heap 'em up nice and full. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika and remaining cheese.
- Place back in the oven to heat through and melt the cheese, about 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with extra salt, pepper and butter.
If any skins break, no worries! We cooked extra potatoes so you get lots of filling. Any torn skins can just be munched on or tossed in a skillet with some bacon for breakfast.