Saturday, February 1, 2014

Loaded TWICE BAKED POTATO Casserole with Freezable Tips - Church PotLuck Main Course

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I went to a restaurant the other night and was offered a Twice Baked Potato as a side.  BUT, they also offered a Baked Potato Bar with LOTS of choices to load up your 'Tater.  All during dinner, in my mind I was creating this simple casserole... Simple, but isn't it pretty?  And you just cannot argue with the taste.  After all, it is LOADED with my favorite things.

This is a series of layers... Bed of THICK pre-baked potato slices, layer of Chili, Layer of Cheese Sauce and then a layer of the usual Potato Bar Fixins'... Corn and Broccoli for color and health, More cheese and Bacon (cause that's what you really want), and Tomatoes for more color (and because I like tomatoes.  But really, the choices are yours.  Whatever you like.

Except for the baked potato, this is almost all a matter of opening cans.  I did make a fresh made chili but there is no reason you can not just open a can of your favorite.  I did add an extra pound of cooked crumbled Sausage to the cooking chili (could have added hamburger instead, but I had sausage in the fridge).

I also made a fresh made Cheese Sauce (so simple, 2 Cups Sour Cream and 2 Cup White Cheddar Cheese, combined and heated until smooth).  But you can just as easily open a jar of Chili Con Queso Cheese dip (sold next to the Tortilla Chips).  Even a can of tomatoes... more color and health.

I also quick fried some fresh Broccoli (2 TBS Olive Oil, heated over medium heat, quick saute fresh Broccoli florets for about 4 minutes.  Rinse in cold water to save bright green color and stop the cooking process..  While trimmed frozen would have worked fine.

I made this Super Bowl weekend, so the freshest tomatoes came out of a can (in summer I would cut up fresh) and the Corn is also best in the can this time of year.

The recipe makes a single 9X13 Casserole.  You could use a 2 smaller "Freezer to Oven to Table" casserole dishes (OK, Pyrex) and eat one now and save one for later (Freeze, wrap tightly in foil, label with date, freeze and plan to use within 2 months).  Or just as easily, double the recipe and make 2 (or 3 or 4)... Just be sure to plan on using within 60 days.

So... if you want to double up and freeze a casserole for later (or divide in half for a smaller meal now and one for later), this freezes perfect. Here's a few tips

First, be sure the actual baking dish is freezer to oven safe. Those ubiquitous Pyrex brand clear dishes work best. You can also use a Foil disposable pan to freeze and bake, then transfer into a presentation dish to serve.

Second, always best to thaw the casserole in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before baking. You can bake a frozen casserole right from the freezer. But the edges will be baked more crispy than the center by the time it is finished. To go straight from freezer to oven to table, just increase the baking time by 30 minutes. But again, you will have better results if you plan ahead and thaw the meal as much as possible. Leaving the casserole out on the counter for 2 hours (covered with the foil) also helps. The casserole will not be thawed completely but will cook more evenly. If you do this, only cook for another 20 minutes. As usual, but even more so, keep an eye on the dish as it cooks. Once the liquid is bubbling and the top is crispy crunchy, the dish is done no matter how much time you cook.

Third, 60 days... Two Months. NO MORE... Prepare and freeze, but date the dish. Cook and serve within 60 days for best results. Any longer and you will have freezer burn and the dish will start to turn on you. Personally, I am a 30 day guy,but I have baked these right at 60 days and it was fine.

OK.. Read over the recipe. The freezing tips are in italics. Enjoy and let me know what you think of this rather unique take on a twice baked potato!!

OK... Here's what I did...


  • 3 Large Russet Baking Potatoes, Baked and Sliced (Baked or microwaved until cooked through)
  • 3 Cups Chili with EXTRA pound of cooked Sausage added. (Be sure to spice the chili to taste as this is the ingredient that adds as much heat to the dish as you like)
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1 Cup Fresh grated Cheddar Cheese (can substitute a jar of Chili con Queso Cheese Dip)
  • Top with an optional Variety of Potato Bar Fixins...
  • 1 Cup Quick fried Broccoli Florettes
  • 1 Cup Sweet Corn Kernals
  • 1 Cup Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Cup Crumbled cooked Bacon
  • 1 Cup Freshly Grated Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 Cup Green onions, sliced thin, green and white parts
Cooking Directions
  1. Cook Potatoes, I simply washed and scrubbed the potatoes, rubbed some Olive Oil on them, Heavily Salted with coarse Sea Salt (only Salt added to the recipe) and backed in a preheated 375 degree oven for 1 hour.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking I made the Cheese Sauce, combining 1 Cup Sour Cream and 1 Cup grated White Cheddar Cheese, heat until cheese has melted and sauce is thick smooth.
  3. Heat the Chili. Add 1 pound of cooked Sausage (or Hamburger) to the chili for an extra meaty casserole.
  4. Quick Fry the Broccoli in a couple TBS of Olive Oil for 4 minutes, sauteing constantly. Rinse in cold water to preserve color and stop the cooking process.
  5. Prepare a 9X13 Casserole Pan with non-stick spray.
  6. When the potatoes are done, drop heat to 350 degrees. Slice the potatoes and put a layer of slices as a base in the pan.
  7. Add Chili
  8. Add Cheese Sauce
  9. Add Fixins (broccoli, Corn, Tomatoes, Black Beans, Broccoli, Bacon).
  10. Top with more grated Cheese and the Green Onion slices.
  11. At this stage, if you are making two casseroles, or plan to freeze the large one... cover the freezer casserole with Aluminum Foil, pushing the foil down so there is as little air between top of casserole and the foil as possible (prevents freezer burn). Allow this to cool on the countertop to room temperature and then pop in the freezer. When you want to cook this, just transfer to the refrigerator 24-48 hours before you plan to cook and cook as directed below. If you do not have the time to thaw in the refrigerator, cook as directed an additional 30 minutes.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes until the sauce begins to bubble at the edges.
  13. Allow to Rest and set for 15 minutes . Serve HOT and Enjoy!!!


This recipe has been added to my growing list of "52 Church PotLuck Dishes"!

A list of something NEW worthy of being shown off at a neighborhood BYODish (Bring Your Own Dish) Party, a Family special occasion dinner, Any Big Holiday Gathering or of course that glorious day when you bring a dish to share with your Church family...

Ages ago, literally almost a half century ago I was listening to our pastor talking about a PotLuck Dinner. It happened to be scheduled around a church work day when we were expected to weed, polish and do general cleaning and maintenance around the church (you know, back in the day when there were no no-wax floors and church pews smelled of Old English furniture polish). I am of course paraphrasing, but as I recall the pastor said,

"A potluck, like a church requires work. At a potluck everyone is expected to contribute.. At a church no one should come empty handed and no one should leave unfed".
I will confess that in my youth I brought more store bought plastic spoons and forks than I ever brought covered dishes and crock pots of fresh made love and caring delights. But now that I have become a hobbyist cook, I occasionally am reminded of those days and people from my youth. I reminded and I do wish that I could drop a dish of some new creation on those old tables at my fondly remembered Liberty Baptist Church.  Tables covered with newspapers and loaded with God's bounty prepared with love and caring... Enjoy


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