March 23, 2015

Cheap Eats: Loaded Baked Potato with White Cheese Sauce

Hello again!! Our budget challenge for the month has been going very well, and before the month is over, I still have a few more yummy and cheap recipes to share... I also have been working on some awesome recipes for overnight oats (a cheap breakfast!) to share with you soon. 

Baked potatoes are awesome. When done right, the skin is crisp and delicate with just the right saltiness, and waiting inside there is soft, pillowy, creamy potatoey goodness to savor alone... or with every awesome ingredient you can think of. 

The best part? Potatoes are cheap... as were the ingredients we topped them with: a homemade white cheese sauce, crispy bacon and broccoli. These made a great meal- and all of the leftovers were happily consumed for lunch the next day. 

I made this meal (4 potatoes) for about $3.78... that's $0.95 per serving.*

First, let's start with how to bake the perfect potato. The method that I choose to use is oven baking- I have nothing against the microwave, but if your potato is going to be the star of the meal, baked is the way to go. It takes about 45 minutes/ an hour to bake them to perfection, but that's 45 minutes of hands-off cooking that you can spend doing something else... and it is totally worth it!!

Perfect Baked Potato

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Scrub your potatoes (Russets are the way to go),  use a fork to stab holes all over the potato (about 10 times), then rub them down with some oil, and sprinkle with salt. 
Place potatoes directly onto middle rack of the oven, and place a cookie sheet on lower rack, just in case. 
Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the skin is crisp, but the insides feel soft to the touch.
Remove from the oven, split-em open and top as desired...

Now I really want a baked potato...

The perfect accompaniment for these potatoes was my white cheese sauce. It was creamy and delicious- I didn't have to wait for shredded cheese to melt atop my potato- and it poured over the potato so that it was a part of every bite. It doesn't get much better.... The sauce took about 5 minutes to make, stored well in the refrigerator and reheated well for leftovers the next day. Awesome. For anyone a little intimidated by making cheese sauce, I took some photos to help you through it... it is super simple and you'll be very happy you tried it!

White Cheese Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup cheese (I used Monterey Jack)

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. 

Whisk in flour, salt, pepper and mustard. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until mixture is smooth, bubbly and slightly golden. 

Gradually add milk, and continue to whisk. Bring to low boil and stir until smooth. Slowly add cheese, and whisk until smooth/all cheese is melted. 

If you prefer cheddar, you could easily substitute some white cheddar for the Monterey Jack that I listed... I'm thinking that some PepperJack would make a pretty incredible sauce as well. Yum!!

*Price Breakdown: 4 potatoes $1.20 (from 5lb bag); frozen broccoli- half bag $0.50; 4 pieces of bacon $1.26 (I found uncured "Never Any!" bacon at Aldi and have fallen in love!); monterey jack cheese $0.66; milk $0.16... Total price above does not include butter, flour, or spices as those things are pantry staples. 

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