Extra, Extra! Twice baked potato casserole

So, our good friend brought steaks over last night for dinner. It was kind of a potluck occasion. I made a side, my mother in law brought salad, and I made a Snickers trifle (since I was already making a huge one for the graduation party today).

Now, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I can’t have steak without some sort of potato, but suitNtie is kind of anti-potato (gasp, I know). Last time our friend brought steaks, you guys got the Kitchen’s pantry scalloped potatoes for a side. This time, I bring you twice baked potatoes… in a casserole. Sorry, the paparazzi didn’t work fast enough on this one, so no photos.¬† I made it the full size, but I think you could very easily halve it. We did ours in a 9×13 Pyrex pan and made it through almost half of it. It makes a good amount.

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Celebrations cookbook.

8 medium baking potatoes, about 4 pounds
1 (8-ounce) package low fat or fat free cream cheese, at room temperature (I basically won’t use anything¬† besides Philly)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups (1/2 pound) shredded 2% sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 pint fat free sour cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
6 slices applewood bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled (I cook mine in the oven on a rack for optimal crispy-ness)

Pierce the potatoes and place on a baking pan. Bake the potatoes for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until very soft.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Peel and mash the potatoes in a large bowl with the butter (if you didn’t soften it ahead of time this will help since the potatoes will melt it slowly). Add the cream cheese, 1 cup of the Cheddar cheese and the sour cream. Stir well.¬† Then add the garlic, salt and pepper and stir again. Place the potatoes into the prepared dish and smooth out so the depth is even.

WHEN READY TO BAKE:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the potatoes for 30 to 35 minutes until hot. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup Cheddar cheese over the top of the casserole and return to the oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese melts.

Garnish with the chopped chives and crumbled bacon before serving.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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