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Ramen noodles getting a little old? Try this tasty and deliciously easy recipe that features potatoes and cheese.
4 good-sized russet potatoes
1 package crimini mushrooms (also called baby bella mushrooms)
1 1/2 red bell peppers
1 bunch asparagus
1 yellow onion
Sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 tablespoons butter plus enough for the potato
Oven safe plates
To begin with, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats, check the potatoes for any bruises. If there are any bad spots, they can be easily cut out using a paring knife. Scrub the potatoes using a kitchen scrub brush under running water. Scrub until all the dirt has washed away and then dry using a paper towel.
Once the oven heats, place the potatoes in the oven. There’s no need for a cookie sheet. The direct contact with the hot oven rack will help the potato skins become crispy as they cook. It will take about an hour for the potatoes to cook so cuddle up with a book, laptop or that special someone for about 45 minutes before getting the other ingredients ready to cook.
Once the potatoes have been in the oven for about 45 minutes, begin preparing the vegetables. Before slicing it is always important to make sure the ingredients have been washed- if they are not a vegetable that’s peeled like the onion.
When choosing the vegetables for this recipe it is important to make sure they are fresh. Nothing can ruin an otherwise pleasant meal like a slimy vegetable.
Asparagus should be a bright green color with tips that have not begun to feather and turn ratty. The mushrooms should be a good color without bruising and the bell peppers should be a bright red without any cuts or bruises. If unsure about any of the vegetables in the supermarket, do not hesitate to ask one of the produce specialists. It’s their job to help.
Once everything has been washed, break the ends of the asparagus. Hold both ends and bend the stalk; it should snap naturally. Do this for each stalk and then cut into bite-size pieces.
Next, remove the stalk and seeds of the bell peppers. Using a paring knife cut around the stalk. Do not cut too closely around it, but instead cut around the edges of the pepper’s top. This should be about where the edges curve down to form the body of the pepper. Once the cut is completely around the stalk in a circle, pull up. This should bring not only the stalk but also the seeds right out. If some seeds fall into the body of the pepper, don’t worry. They can easily be removed by hand or tapped out into the sink.
Halve the pepper and cut out the ribs. These are the white, almost foamy parts of the pepper. Although they’re edible, the ribs aren’t very tasty at all. Once the ribs and seeds have been removed, dice the peppers into bite-size pieces.
Now, address the mushrooms. These are by far the simplest to prepare. Just cut into bite-size pieces. If the woody stalk is not desired, just remove and discard leaving only the mushroom cap.
The onion is the tricky one when it comes to prep. First, cut both ends completely off. This means cutting off both the root end and the top end. Then make a cut along the side of the onion through the peel and first layer of onion. Peel away the skin and the first layer leaving the clean onion ready for chopping. Dice into bite-size pieces.
Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the butter foams in the bottom of the pan, add both the onions and the mushrooms. Cook until the onions turn translucent and the mushrooms have wilted slightly. Add the asparagus and bell pepper. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until the vegetables have cooked down and the liquid is cooked out. Add salt and pepper to taste at this point. As salt causes the liquid in the vegetables to leech out, a slightly longer cook time may be needed to let it steam off.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and place on oven-safe plates. This does not mean the plastic ones from Goodwill that were dirt cheap; they will melt when they are put into the oven. If you do not have oven-safe plates, then substitute a cookie sheet. Set the oven to broil.
Split the potatoes from end to end, making sure not to cut them in half. Press on either end of the cut and the potato should squish and open so that the filling can be put inside. Repeat for each potato.
Add a tablespoon of butter to each potato before spooning heaping helpings of the vegetables on top. Place several slices of the cheddar cheese over each potato and place under the broiler. It should only take a few minutes for the cheese to melt and become bubbly. Remove potatoes from the sheet, plate and serve.
This meal is versatile. The vegetables can be changed and ingredients can be added to fit particular tastes.
For a more hearty meal, add steak cooked in a simple steakhouse marinade and add to the vegetable mixture.
Different takes are easy to do as well. Try omitting the mushrooms and asparagus and adding ground beef cooked with taco seasoning for a taco-inspired potato.
The only limit to how often this recipe can be changed is the imagination. Go wild and eat well.
Recipe serves four.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ana Faria at Ana.firstname.lastname@example.org.