Twice-baked potatoes are a great way to prepare spuds for family and friends

Today is my birthday. I've been thinking of how to celebrate, if I want to treat myself to something special.
   My mother knew how to treat a birthday girl well. She let me pick anything I wanted for my birthday dinner. Some people might think a kid would pick hot dogs or hamburgers, some kid food. Oh no, not me. I always picked lobster.
   How does a five-year-old living in a little town on the shore of Lake Michigan in the 1950s know anything about lobster, you might ask? It's not like lobsters live in Lake Michigan. It's not like my hometown of Bridgman was the gourmet center of the state. Blame my mother, or from my point of view, thank my mother.
   She used to entertain my father's business associates every now and then, and one time, before I turned the ripe old age of five, she served lobster tails, and she let me eat one. Even then I had good taste. That luscious white meat dipped in melted butter and lemon juice, oh my! I was hooked for life.
   After that fateful day, I requested lobster tails every year for my birthday dinner. She ordered them from a meat market in the next town over because the local A&P didn't normally stock them. I didn't care what else she fixed for that meal as long as lobster appeared on the menu.
   Some people kidded Mom (and not always in jest, I'm afraid) about serving lobster to a young child. They told her I was spoiled. Yep, I sure was, and I loved every minute of it. The kidding didn't seem to bother Mom too much, and I have to admire her for that. She just went right ahead and ordered those tails every year.
   I don't do anything special to fix lobster tails. The hardest part is keeping the shell from curling up when they cook. Mom always broiled them. They need nothing more than melted butter and freshly squeezed lemon juice as far as I'm concerned. I don't want any other ingredients or tastes clouding up that delicious lobster taste. The only problem I've encountered broiling lobster tails is that they smell up the house in the process. A small price to pay.
   To go along with those lobster tails, I think I'll make Twice-Baked Potatoes. The recipe has been around forever, and it's still one of my favorite ways to fix potatoes. I love them. I like the filling to have a little body, not be mashed potatoes. I use a light hand when mixing the filling and I don't add milk.
   For my birthday dinner I might even revive my favorite childhood birthday cake, German Chocolate Cake. Happy birthday to me!
   Sharon Vail lives in Powell Butte. While she took advantage of her birthday dinners, her younger brother never did understand the concept of "anything you want." He always picked plain ol' beef stew for his birthday. Boys. Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. "Cooking from the heart of Oregon
   Twice-Baked Potatoes
   Preheat oven to 450 degrees
   4 medium baking potatoes
   1/2 cup sour cream (or more if you like)
   4 tablespoons butter
   Salt and pepper to taste
   1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
   4 green onions, sliced, divided
   Bake potatoes 45 minutes to an hour or until soft. Don't wrap in foil or butter them or anything. You want the skins to hold their shape. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes or until you can handle them. You can cut them two ways: slice each potato in half or slice just a flap of skin off the top of each potato, and discard the flap.
   Scoop out most of the inside of each potato, leaving just a rim of flesh lining the peel. In a bowl, lightly mix the potato insides with sour cream, butter, salt and pepper, cheese and most of the sliced green onion. Lightly spoon this mixture back into the potato skins - leave it kind of fluffy and not packed down too much. It looks better mounded up in the skin.
   Sprinkle on more shredded cheese and a little more green onion. Place on a baking sheet, return to oven and bake about 10 minutes more, or until the cheese melts.
   Makes 4 servings
   Cook's notes - You can personalize this recipe in so many ways. Add chopped, sauteed mushrooms, chopped red or green bell pepper or pimento, crisp bacon, or top with crumbled French's onions.