Categories
Cookies Dessert

There’s no ‘matcha’ for tea-flavored cookies

White Chocolate Chip and Cashew Matcha Cookies
White chocolate chip and cashew matcha cookies have the subtle taste of tea, along with the sweetness of chocolate and the crunch of nuts.

It seems like everyone has an extravagant friend. 

The person in your life who likes the finer things, the fancier stuff, the flashy side of life.

I have a few, but one who truly fits this description recently looked at me and said, “You know what’s delicious? White chocolate chip matcha cookies.”

Challenge accepted.

If you’re not familiar with matcha, it’s a green powder made from tea leaves. It’s purported to be a healthier tea option, since it uses the whole leaf instead of just steeping them, and while it’s popular in places like Japan, it’s also become more and more available in the States, especially at coffee shops and smoothie bars.

It has a very earthy flavor, one the author of this recipe described as kind of like grass, but I’d say it really just smells and tastes like green tea. It does, however, make a great addition to some white chocolate chip cookies.

This recipe comes from Zainab Moughal, who writes the blog “Bake with Zainab.” You can find the original post at https://bakewithzainab.wixsite.com/bakewithzainab/post/matcha-cashew-white-chocolate-nyc-cookies. I added extra vanilla, chocolate chips and matcha in my version.

White Chocolate Chip and Cashew Matcha Cookies
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White Chocolate Chip and Cashew Matcha Cookies

White chocolate chip and cashew matcha cookies have the subtle taste of tea, along with the sweetness of chocolate and the crunch of nuts.
Course Dessert
Keyword cashews, cookies, matcha, vanilla, white chocolate chips

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 heaping teaspoons matcha powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped cashews
  • 11 ounces white chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Cream together the brown sugar, sugar and butter for a few minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  • Beat in the flour, matcha powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt until the mixture is smooth, and then fold in the cashews and white chocolate chips.
  • Scoop the batter with a 1-1/2-inch cookie scoop (or about the size of a ping pong ball) and place onto a baking sheet—no need to space them very far.
  • Freeze the cookies on the baking sheet for one hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 395 and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the frozen dough at least two inches apart and bake for nine minutes or until the tops are starting to brown.
  • Let the cookies cool, and then store them in an airtight container.

These didn’t have a really strong matcha flavor, but it was there in the background. If you wanted it to stick out more, you could decrease the chocolate chips or leave them out altogether. I thought they were really good, though. They’d be great with a hot cup of tea.

And I made sure to bag some up for my friend, figuring he would be able to tell me if I managed to accomplish his vision for a good matcha cookie.

I’m sure the fact that I see green powdered tea as a fancy addition to my baking is a sign that I need to get out more. Either that, or I need to live a little and ask for that additional charge at the coffee shop every once in awhile. I think my friend would probably agree with both.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 16, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish

This Greek pasta dish ‘itsio’ good, you have to try it

Pastitsio is a pasta dish that incorporates two different kinds of meat in a tomato sauce with warm spices and a delicious bechamel sauce on top.

It’s not often I can stump Joey with a recipe.

He’s the king of the spice cabinet and my go to when I know a recipe needs “something,” but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

So when I managed to completely confuse him this week, I was a little proud of myself. Well, I was actually proud of TV chef Ina Garten, but who’s counting?

The dish I put in front of my husband? A delicious, tomato-y pasta. The secret ingredient? Cinnamon.

Now, I know that sounds insane, but trust me when I say it gave this dish a deep, fall-like flavor profile that made it tough not to want seconds, and it is definitely worth a try, although I will warn you this is not a quick recipe. Be ready to have a couple hours to blow on creating this amazing dish.

While this week’s recipe is Garten’s creation, I found it on the blog “Vodka and Biscuits.” You can find the original post at http://www.vodkaandbiscuits.com/2016/10/07/ina-gartens-pastitsio/. I added extra garlic, oregano and thyme and used pork in my version.

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Pastitsio

Pastitsio is a pasta dish that incorporates two different kinds of meat in a tomato sauce with warm spices and a delicious bechamel sauce on top.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Keyword cinnamon, dry red wine, garlic, ground beef, ground pork, oregano, parmesan, thyme, tomatoes, yellow onion

Ingredients

Meat Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound pork
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine I used pinot noir
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper

Bechamel Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk I used skim
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan divided
  • 5.3- ounce container plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 pound tubular pasta I used penne

Instructions

  • In a large pot or deep skillet, cook the onion, ground beef and pork (crumbling the meat as you go) until the meat is cooked through and the onions are soft. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
  • Stir in the wine and saute until it is absorbed into the mixture. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cayenne and saute another two minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, along with the salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly and squishing the tomatoes so that they break down into a sauce.
  • After the sauce has been simmering around 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • For the bechamel, start by melting the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Once it is melted, stir in the flour and cook for about two minutes. Whisk in the milk and continue stirring constantly, raising the heat to bring the mixture to a low simmer (just below boiling).
  • Continue stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper and 3/4 cup of the grated parmesan. Once the cheese melts, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the Greek yogurt.
  • While your bechamel comes together, boil your pasta according to package directions to al dente. After draining, mix it into the tomato sauce.
  • Now it’s time for assembly. In a deep nine-by-13-inch pan, spread the tomato/pasta mixture evenly. Drizzle the bechamel over the top, and then finish off with the rest of the grated parmesan. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the mixture is bubbly.
  • Serve with some crusty bread.

This does take quite awhile to come together, but it makes plenty for a big family meal, and it got rave reviews at our table. It also reheated great for leftovers. 

It may have a few surprising ingredients, but it was still a home run for dinner at our house.

Plus, if you have a spices expert, it might be fun to play your own version of “stump the chump.” Even if they lose, they’ll still win with a great meal.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 9, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish

Casserole should tread care’philly’ with its cheesesteak claims

This casserole is a quick weeknight meal with lots of cheesy flavor, complimented by bell peppers and mushrooms.

There are tons of great copycat recipes out there.

I was blown away several years ago to learn that you can make a pretty convincing Butterfinger candy bar with candy corn and a few other ingredients. I also once tried a great recipe claiming to mirror Starbucks’s lemon bread.

So when I tried a casserole this week that promised to mimic the flavors of a Philly cheesesteak, I was intrigued. I have only gotten the opportunity to visit Philadelphia once, and if you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend getting one of their famous sandwiches.

Unfortunately, this week’s recipe was not a great substitute. Fortunately, though, it was just a solid, tasty casserole. So I decided to rename it and present it to you. It has great flavor, and it comes together quickly, which is something a lot of us need in our lives now that school activities are starting up again.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog, “Bowl me Over.” You can find the original post at https://bowl-me-over.com/philly-cheesesteak-baked-tortellini-recipe/. I added mushrooms, extra roast beef and seasonings to my version.

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Bell Pepper Baked Tortellini Casserole

This casserole is a quick weeknight meal with lots of cheesy flavor, complimented by bell peppers and mushrooms.
Course Main Course
Keyword Alfredo sauce, bell pepper, casserole, cheese tortellini, cream cheese, garlic powder, mushrooms, onion powder, provolone, roast beef

Ingredients

  • 19 ounces cheese tortellini
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 15 ounces frozen bell pepper strips or use fresh
  • 8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
  • 15 ounces Alfredo sauce
  • 2 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound deli roast beef sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 slices provolone cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Cook the tortellini according to package directions, then drain and set aside.
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pepper strips and mushrooms and saute until the peppers are lightly browned and soft.
  • Add the Alfredo sauce, cream cheese, seasonings and roast beef and stir.
  • Once the cream cheese is melted and everything is well combined, fold in the tortellini.
  • Dump the entire mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the slices of provolone, overlapping them as needed.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

This casserole was filling and cheesy and hit the spot for dinner. Plus, it reheated really well for lunches later in the week. 

It certainly wasn’t a good facsimile for an actual Philly cheesesteak, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I guess I’ll just have to wait for another East Coast trip to taste the real thing, but until then, at least I have a quick dinner recipe to add to my list.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 2, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Baking cobbler outdoors can be ‘berry’ satisfying

This cobbler, made from fresh peaches and blueberries, is a perfect summer dessert that can be made in the oven or out on the grill or smoker.

Thanks to the Newton Rotary Club’s annual peach fundraiser and my three-year-old niece insisting that I buy blueberries for our recent fun day, I had quite a bit of fruit in my refrigerator this week.

That, combined with Joey itching to use a cast iron Dutch oven he recently got for his smoker, meant we were going on a new adventure of baking outdoors.

After a fruitless (pun intended) search for a recipe that I liked using both peaches and blueberries, I finally decided to combine two in my search for the perfect smoked cobbler, and the final product definitely did not disappoint.

One recipe I used is from “The Grateful Girl Cooks” (https://www.thegratefulgirlcooks.com/berry-cobbler-traeger-grill-style/), and the other is Steven Raichlen’s “Barbecue Bible” site (https://barbecuebible.com/recipe/smoky-bourbon-peach-cobbler/). I added extra vanilla and cinnamon to my version.

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Smoked Blueberry Peach Cobbler

This cobbler, made from fresh peaches and blueberries, is a perfect summer dessert that can be made in the oven or out on the grill or smoker.
Course Dessert
Keyword blueberry, bourbon, brown sugar, cinnamon, cobbler, grilled, peaches, smoker, vanilla

Ingredients

Topping Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter cold
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk I used skim with a dash of vinegar
  • cinnamon for sprinkling

Peach Filling Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6 cups peaches cut into one-inch pieces

Blueberry Filling Ingredients

  • 18 ounces blueberries
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat your grill, smoker or oven to 350 degrees. If you’re using a grill, you’ll want to bake over indirect heat.
  • For the grill or smoker, prepare a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven and for the oven, a 9×13-inch baking dish, by coating the inside with butter and set it aside.
  • For the topping, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a bowl and then cut in the butter with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the buttermilk and set the topping aside.
  • In another bowl, combine all the ingredients for the peach filling, except the peaches. Once they are all incorporated, fold in the peaches.
  • Finally, for the blueberry filling, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir gently until the blueberries are well coated in the mixture.
  • To assemble the cobbler, start with about half of the peach filling, layer in the blueberries and then finish off with the rest of the peaches. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, drop the topping by the spoonful evenly over the top of the fruit. Don’t worry if there’s still some fruit visible. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top of the cobbler.
  • Bake on your smoker/grill/oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out clean. Ours ended up going quite a bit longer on our smoker, so be ready for the time to vary.

This was absolutely delicious. The topping took on a subtle smoky flavor that was majorly complimented by the cinnamon, syrup and brown sugar, not to mention the bourbon, which added a nice, subtle flavor to the background.

Actually, speaking of the bourbon, if that’s not your cup of tea, you might try adding a combination of water and more vanilla extract instead.

We ate our cobbler with scoops of vanilla ice cream and enjoyed our dessert outdoors until the mosquitos drove us back inside. There are few flavors like peaches and blueberries to really help you enjoy a summer evening, and being able to cook it right on the grill makes it even more special.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 26, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Family pie recipe is ‘choc’ full of flavor

This chocolate pie is a family recipe, passed to Adam Strunk by his mom, Ruth. It features lots of dark chocolate flavor, along with a light, fluffy meringue topping.

Several years ago, Danielle Oteri wrote a column for the website “Good Food Stories,” where she explored the differences in personality between her friends and family who preferred to cook, versus those who preferred to bake.

It’s a fun read, if you get the chance (goodfoodstories.com/the-psychology-of-baking), but one quote from her friend Melissa resonated with me from a baking experience I had this past week: “Baking [also] has seemed to me to be chemistry, while cooking is like art,” she said. “Art you can taste as you go—and for me, that’s a big part of it. I like to stick my fingers, er, spoon, into whatever I am cooking and taste at every step.”

Adam Strunk, who is the managing editor of Harvey County Now, was asked to be a celebrity baker for a charity pie auction last week, but Adam is most definitely a cook.

He’s an improviser and follows his instincts in the kitchen. If you ask Adam for a recipe, he’ll give you vague lists of ingredients, not amounts. And he makes darn good food.

So he found himself a bit intimidated by pie, which is why he asked me, the baker, to come make sure the recipe he chose turned out.

That was not only because he’s super competitive and wanted to create a great pie for the auction but also because he chose a family recipe, one his grandmother and mother made only for special occasions. I was only too happy to give the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants cook a lesson in pie dough and patience.

So, the only source I can give you for this week’s recipe is Ruth Strunk, Adam’s mom. I can’t tell you if she would have considered herself a cook or a baker, but I can tell you after this experience that she could make one mean pie.

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Ruthie’s Chocolate Pie

This chocolate pie is a family recipe, passed to Adam Strunk by his mom, Ruth. It features lots of dark chocolate flavor, along with a light, fluffy meringue topping.
Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate, meringue, pie

Ingredients

Pie Ingredients

  • 9- inch pie shell baked
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 2/3 cups milk we used whole
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 egg yolks beaten
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate we used Ghirardelli

Meringue Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  • Pre-bake your pie shell and place it to the side for when the filling is complete.
  • In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, milk, salt, butter and vanilla. It doesn’t have to be perfectly combined, just mostly mixed together and set aside.
  • In another bowl, beat your egg yolks and set aside.
  • Heat a double boiler and melt the chocolate in the top, being careful to stir it constantly so it doesn’t burn.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, add the sugar mixture and continue stirring with a whisk for 10 minutes in the double boiler.
  • After 10 minutes, add about one cup of the chocolate to the egg yolks, beating them together, then add the egg mixture to the double boiler, continuing to whisk constantly for another five minutes.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool for about five to 10 minutes, then pour it into your prepared pie shell, smoothing it out evenly, and set it aside.
  • For the meringue, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add the egg whites to a mixing bowl and beat until they are very stiff. Add in the sugar, baking powder and salt and beat again. Spread the meringue over the top of the filling. Using a knife, create some peaks in the meringue to create a nice pattern when it browns.
  • Bake until the meringue is light brown. (I think ours took about 10 minutes. Just keep watching it.)
  • Refrigerate the pie until you’re ready to serve it.

According to Adam, we managed an excellent recreation of his mom’s classic, and it was delicious—perfectly chocolatey without being too sweet.

We didn’t earn the highest bid at the auction, but Adam’s pie still managed a very nice sum and got great reviews.

I don’t think Adam is quite ready to turn in his reporter’s notebook for a rolling pin, but I do think he’s less nervous about pie crust. Now, if I can just get him to pay attention to what he throws in the pan while cooking, I might have a few more great Stunk recipes to share.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 19, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Appetizer Side Dish

Sweet peppers are the stuff of dreams

Stuffed sweet peppers are a showstopper appetizer that are extremely simple to prepare and can be served warm or cold.

Joey and I tied the knot back in 2010, which meant our 10-year anniversary was pretty anticlimactic last summer with COVID in our backyard. 

No date night out on the town. No restaurant dinner.

We still enjoyed one another’s company (I mean, it’s not like we could be apart while quarantined in the same house.), but when our anniversary hit this summer, we decided we should have a night out for number 11.

We ended up going to Lola’s Bistro in Wichita, a favorite spot of Wichita food blogger “Wichita by E.B.” (Check out his site, if you never have. He does a great job and has visited a lot of mom and pop spots all over the state. It’s at wichitabyeb.com.)

The meal was fantastic, and one of the items we liked quite a bit was a palate starter our waiter brought out before our appetizer. They were bite-sized, delicious stuffed sweet peppers, and we decided the next time we needed an appetizer for a group, we were going to try to recreate the recipe.

The recipe I decided to try did not disappoint. It comes from the blog “From Which Things Grow.” You can find the original post at http://fromwhichthingsgrow.blogspot.com/2012/01/chew-on-this-stuffed-mini-sweet-peppers.html. I added extra garlic powder in my version.

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Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Stuffed sweet peppers are a showstopper appetizer that are extremely simple to prepare and can be served warm or cold.
Course Appetizer
Keyword bacon, cream cheese, garlic powder, seasoning salt, sharp cheddar cheese, sweet peppers

Ingredients

  • about 2 pounds mini sweet peppers
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 5-6 strips bacon cooked and crumbled

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin by spraying each well lightly with cooking spray.
  • Wash the peppers, and then cut off the tops. Scoop out the seeds and ribs to hollow them out.
  • Mix the rest of the ingredients together and fill each pepper with as much of the filling as you can (it’s OK if they’re overflowing just a bit).
  • Stand the peppers up, filling side up, in the wells of the muffin tin. The peppers can share wells to help them stand up. Crowding isn’t a problem.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, and then serve warm, or refrigerate them and serve them cold later on.

These were absolutely delicious. Our local grocery store didn’t have itty bitty sweet peppers like we tried at the restaurant, so these were more like two-bite appetizers, but they were fabulous. 

Personally, I like them better warmed up than cold, but they were good both ways, and they actually reheat out of the refrigerator pretty well, if you end up with leftovers.

I also had extra filling when I was done. It would be delicious on crackers, and I even tried it inside a quesadilla, which was pretty darn good.

I’m certainly not trying to claim that my cooking is anywhere near the quality of a fine dining restaurant, but if I can brag just a bit, I do think these stuffed peppers turned out extremely well.

Hopefully, when our 20th anniversary rolls around, Joey and I will be able to celebrate with someone else doing the cooking. But if the next decade repeats the last, at least I know what we can have for our first course.

This piece first appeared in print on Thursday, Aug. 12.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Peaches and fresh ginger will help you snap into August

Ginger peach crisp combines the fresh flavor of summer peaches with spicy, fresh ginger to create the ultimate dessert.

If anyone can tell me the trick to pitting a firm peach, I’m all ears.

So far, my strategy includes cutting numerous slits down the sides, grunting and murmuring regrets under my breath while trying to pull the first slice off, and I can tell you that it doesn’t work all that well.

Luckily, the recipe I tried this week included cutting the peaches into bite-sized pieces, so when some of mine ended up looking a bit rough, they still looked gorgeous in the finished dessert.

Joey and I decided to have a Christmas in July get together last weekend. The meal was loosely based around Christmas meals, with pulled pork on Hawaiian rolls, German potato salad, lots of other delicious dishes, and a yuletide-inspired dessert of a fresh ginger peach crisp.

I figured ginger was a good nod to the holidays, and with peaches coming into season, they were an homage to summer.

And, of course, we had to pair it with some great vanilla ice cream. I was able to pick up a couple pints from our local ice cream expert, Salted Creamery. You can find them online at saltedcreamery.com if you want to place an order or find a store where you can buy it. (That’s not a sponsored endorsement; I just really think they do excellent work.)

The recipe I tried this week comes from the blog “Nutmeg Nanny.” You can find the original post at https://www.nutmegnanny.com/ginger-peach-crisp/. I added extra spices and vanilla in my version.

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Ginger Peach Crisp

Ginger peach crisp combines the fresh flavor of summer peaches with spicy, fresh ginger to create the ultimate dessert.
Course Dessert
Keyword cinnamon, crisp, ginger, peaches, vanilla

Ingredients

Topping Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/3 brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh peaches cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray an eight-by-eight-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the topping ingredients until everything is well incorporated. Set it aside.
  • In another bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients, stirring to coat the peaches. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and then sprinkle the topping evenly over the peach mixture.
  • Bake for 25 minutes.
  • Serve warm for best results, along with your favorite vanilla ice cream, and refrigerate any leftovers.

The fresh ginger added great flavor to this crisp. It has a nice spiciness that is especially delicious with ice cream. I doubled the recipe for our group, and I didn’t end up with a lot of leftovers.

It also came together quickly. Or, I guess it would have if I knew how to pit a peach properly.

As they really come into season, I’ll have to pick out riper peaches, and if I can’t, I might also need somebody to recommend a good place for me to take up weightlifting.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 5, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish

Potatoes and ground beef make dinner a done ‘dillo’

Picadillo con papas, or ground beef with potatoes, is a hearty, simple meal that is great for the whole family.

Not long ago, I saw a spirited discussion on Facebook about online food bloggers. 

The general consensus was that nobody wanted to read the person’s back story and long-winded tales from the kitchen—they just wanted the recipe.

Honestly, that made me a little sad. Not only because I was sure that means they are definitely not fans of anything I write but also because I tend to really like the stories that accompany food. To me, food and recipes bind us together as community—across all kinds of divides.

That’s why I really like the blog this week’s recipe comes from. It is written by Sonia Mendez Garcia, who grew up learning how to cook from her parents, who owned a taqueria in Texas. She explains on her website that the goal of her blog is to help maintain the legacy of her family recipes. It’s a very sweet tribute. Plus, if you read a bit, you find out that she has a pretty impressive resume as a cook.

The recipe I tried this week is one of her mother’s. You can find the original post on her blog, “La Pina in La Cocina,” at https://pinaenlacocina.com/moms-picadillo-con-papaground-beef-in-fresh-tomato-sauce-with-potatoes/. I added some extra seasonings to my version below.

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Picadillo con Papas

Picadillo con papas, or ground beef with potatoes, is a hearty, simple meal that is great for the whole family.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword garlic, ground beef, picadillo con papas, potatoes, Roma tomatoes, Serrano, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1 large Russet potato diced
  • 1 small onion diced (I used yellow)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes cut into chunks
  • 1-2 Serrano chiles cut into chunks

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cover the pan, stirring every five minutes or so until the outsides are crispy and the insides are fork tender.
  • Remove the potatoes from the pan and let them drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Add the onions and ground beef to the skillet. Saute until the beef is cooked through and drain off any fat from the pan.
  • Add the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and garlic, and stir to combine well.
  • While the ground beef is cooking, add the tomatoes and Serranos, along with 1/4 cup water, to a blender or food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, and then pour it into the pan with the drained beef mixture.
  • Bring the entire mixture to a boil. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary, and stir in the cooked potatoes.
  • Reduce heat to low, and allow the sauce to thicken for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve over rice or with tortillas, along with your favorite taco toppings.

This was delicious, and the leftovers were awesome, too. It was a filling, flavorful meal. 

We opted to eat our picadillo on tortillas, along with some fresh spinach, but as Sonia explains on her site, you can eat it all kinds ways, so just pick your favorite (or whatever you have on hand in your pantry).

I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, I can accept that not everyone wants to read little stories about every recipe they try. I mean, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry.

But the nice thing about food—especially family recipes—is whether you know the back story or not, eating connects all of us.

This piece first appeared in print on July 29, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Come out of your shell with pistachio cake

Pistachio cake uses a cake mix and pudding mix, along with chopped pistachios to create a nutty, light dessert.

I normally like to start this column with a story about the week’s recipe, but I have to tell you about my most recent kitchen fail. It’s a doozy.

My parents-in-law gifted us with several packages of frozen tamales that are made by simply boiling the bag for 20 minutes and then serving. They’re great for quick meals. A few don’t have labels on them, so they’ve been a fun surprise when we open up the bag.

I made one of the surprise bags this week, added some Mexican rice and tomatillo salsa to the plate and served it up.

Joey took his first bite, and his face screwed up in an awful grimace.

“These are sweet,” he said, through a mouthful.

Guys. They were apple cinnamon tamales!

I felt awful for ruining our lunch, but Joey, being the trooper he is, scraped the salsa into the rice, ate that first and declared that his slightly spicy apple tamales would be for dessert.

I guess even “easy” meals can take a turn for the worse.

This week’s recipe is one of those easy recipes, but hopefully, you’ll have labels to read, and everything will turn out great.

The recipe I used doctors up a cake mix to make a delicious cake. It comes from the blog “Cake Whiz.” You can find the original post at https://cakewhiz.com/pistachio-cake-recipe/. I added chopped nuts, vanilla and salt to my recipe, as well as simplified the topping.

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Pistachio Cake

Pistachio cake uses a cake mix and pudding mix, along with chopped pistachios to create a nutty, light dessert.
Course Dessert
Keyword cake, cake mix, pistachios, pudding mix

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup oil I used canola
  • 1 cup milk I used skim
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 3.4 ounces instant pistachio pudding mix
  • pinch of salt
  • green food coloring optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios divided
  • 8 ounces frozen whipped topping thawed

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a nine-by-13-inch baking pan by greasing and flouring it, and set it aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla until it’s smooth. Beat in the cake mix, pudding mix and salt. If you want to make your cake a bit greener, add some green food coloring, too.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the chopped pistachios to the mixture, and pour it into your prepared cake pan, spreading it out evenly.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool, and then top it with the whipped topping and the rest of the chopped pistachios.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers.

This was fantastic. It was a great summer dessert, and it was really pretty, too. The cake was light and nutty, and we really enjoyed it.

And the good news is Joey knew exactly what he was getting into when he took the first bite, and I didn’t try to serve it to him with salsa on top.

I’m not sure if he’s going to trust a plate of tamales from me in the future, but at least my cake turned out fine.

This piece first appeared in print on July 22, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish

Grilling cheese is more than just o’queso’

Smoked queso with charcoal steaks can be made on the grill or modified to be served from your oven.

When it comes to cooking indoors, Joey and I share the load pretty evenly. We each take on lunch or dinner regularly, with both of us having our specialties.

But when it comes to cooking outside, I definitely fall far behind.

Joey has really perfected the use of his kamado-style grill, mostly opting to create delicious smoked chicken or pork, but he’s also branched out into briskets, pastrami, pizzas and more.

So I was a little nervous when I went to try my own grill creation this past weekend: smoked queso and steak nachos.

I do have to confess that Joey was still the one who got the fire started and got the temperature just right for me, but after that, it was my show, and thankfully, despite my extreme novice status with the grill, it turned out fabulous.

I didn’t use a recipe this week. Instead, I read probably 10 different versions of smoked queso that people have out there and ignored a lot of what they did, mostly because I just can’t handle the taste or texture of Velveeta cheese, and that’s what all of them used.

So this week’s recipe is an original, and it turned out great. We did this on our kamado grill, but you could also make this on a regular grill or in your oven (although you’ll want to probably cook your steaks on your stovetop, in that case).

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Smoked Queso with Charcoal Steaks

Smoked queso with charcoal steaks can be made on the grill or modified to be served from your oven.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Keyword black beans, charcoal steak, cream cheese, grilled, pepperjack cheese, queso fresco, Rotel, sharp cheddar cheese, smoked, taco seasoning

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces pepperjack cheese
  • 16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 20 ounces Rotel drained
  • 15.5 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • salt to taste
  • enough charcoal steaks to serve your guests
  • Your favorite steak seasoning

Instructions

  • Prepare your grill so that it is 250 to 300 degrees.
  • Cube the three types of cheese into about one-inch pieces. (Make sure to use blocks of cheese instead of shredded; it melts better.)
  • In a foil, eight-by-eight-inch pan, add the cheeses, Rotel, black beans, taco seasoning, garlic and salt, and stir to combine.
  • For the steaks, pound them to about one-half inch thick, and season them liberally on both sides with steak seasoning, pressing it into the meat.
  • Once your grill is ready, place your pan of queso on a lower rack (we’re going to cook the steaks above it). If you’re using a standard grill, place it so it’s getting indirect heat. Close the lid and let the queso cook for 20 minutes.
  • After the 20 minutes, stir the queso. It probably will only just be starting to melt together. Place the steaks on a grate over the queso so that the juices can add flavor to the queso. Again, close the lid.
  • Check the queso every 20 minutes, giving it a good stir, and turn the steaks when they have good grill marks on one side.
  • Once the queso is melted and the steaks are done (after about one hour), remove it all from the grill. Be careful not to let the cheese overcook; it will get lumpy and separate if you do. Let the steaks rest for five minutes, and then slice them.
  • Serve the queso and steak over chips with your favorite nacho toppings.

We went for a smaller batch of queso than I saw many people make online, and it still fed six people, so definitely plan accordingly, but if you have a crowd, you can easily double this into a nine-by-13-inch pan and feed them all.

You can also make this as spicy or as mild as you like, depending on which style of Rotel and taco seasoning you choose. You could also add a drained can of jalapenos or something spicier if you really wanted to take it up a notch. It could also be made with pre-cooked ground beef or sausage or chorizo, if you don’t want to mess with steaks.

I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a grill master yet, but Joey did seem impressed with my most recent accomplishment. That being said, I think I’ll leave the heavy lifting to him. It’s a lot nicer to be the one sitting in the Adirondack chair than the one next to the grill.

This piece first appeared in print on July 15, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.