Categories
Main Dish

Seize the ‘carne’ with a summer-friendly chili recipe

Chili Con Carne
Chili con carne is an easy recipe that just simmers on your stove until you’re ready for dinner. With tons of spices and several types of peppers, it’s a great meal for a crowd or one that provides plenty of leftovers.

There is an in-depth article that appeared back in 2017 in Texas Monthly by John Nova Lomax about the origins of chili con carne in the United States.

It’s a great read, if you get the chance, and apparently there’s a lot of controversy about the recipe’s origins from historians, but I did love a quoted section from a Kansas newspaper reporter who visited Texas in the late 1800s.

“Speaking of hot things, at San Antonio they have a dish called chili con carne,” he wrote. “[…] It is awful seductive looking […] They always have enough to go around, for no stranger, no matter how terrific a durned fool he is, ever calls for a second dish. He almost always calls for a big cistern full of water, and you can’t put the water in him fast enough with a steam engine hose.”

Let me assure you that although I did decide to try this Texas staple this week, it is not spicy enough to call for cisterns of water. Instead, the recipe I tried has great depth of flavor and is easy to adapt, based on your own favorite spices.

This comes from the blog “Chili Pepper Madness” by Mike Hultquist. You can find the original post at https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/chili-con-carne/. I added lots of extra spices in my version. And, yes, despite the strong opinion of many Texans, I added beans, too.

Chili Con Carne
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Chili con Carne

Chili con carne is an easy recipe that just simmers on your stove until you're ready for dinner. With tons of spices and several types of peppers, it's a great meal for a crowd or one that provides plenty of leftovers.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword ancho peppers, beef, chili con carne, chuck roast, coriander, cumin, garlic, guajillo peppers, jalapeno peppers, kidney beans, oregano, paprika, Tex-Mex, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces dried guajillo peppers
  • 2 ounces dried ancho pasilla peppers
  • 4 to 6 pounds chuck roast cut into one-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers diced
  • 20 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 to 4 cups beef stock optional
  • 2 15.5- ounce cans light red kidney beans rinsed and drained

Instructions

  • Start by heating a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Drop in the dried peppers, turning them every so often, until they are warmed through.
  • Remove from the pot and remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers and submerge them in very hot water (at least three cups) in a container with a lid. Let them sit for 20 minutes. When the peppers are done, combine them with three cups of the soaking liquid in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  • While the peppers soak, place the cubed roast in a large bowl along with the paprika, smoked paprika, oregano, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and salt. Mix well to coat the meat evenly.
  • Heat the oil in your large pot over medium heat and add the meat, onions and jalapenos. Saute for around six minutes or until the meat is nicely browned and the vegetables are softened.
  • Add in the garlic and pepper sauce. If you already have a decent amount of liquid in the pot from the meat and vegetables, bring the mixture to a boil. If there isn’t much liquid or not enough to your liking, add beef stock to the pot and then bring it to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a low simmer and place the lid on the pot. Let it cook for at least two hours or until the beef is tender.
  • If desired, shred the beef at this point. Add in the beans, and add more beef stock, if desired.
  • Serve in a bowl with rice, wrapped in tortillas, with chips or however you like it.

This was extremely delicious. We ate our chili con carne with some Mexican rice along with some corn chips on the side. When we ate the leftovers, we rolled it up in tortillas and ate it like burritos.

If you like peppers, you’ll love the flavors in this chili. It was fairly mild (I did deseed my jalapenos), if you’re not into something overly spicy.

And unlike the long-ago reporter from Kansas, we did go back for second helpings when we were finished. I guess that cements us as durned fools in our house.

This piece first appeared in print on June 23, 2022.

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

Stone fruit and brown sugar are truly made for ‘peach’ other

Brown sugar peach cake levels up a boxed cake mix with lots of fresh peaches and a yummy, from-scratch brown sugar frosting. This one is a real crowd pleaser.

Last summer, we ended up with a large box of peaches, and when they started to get soft before we could finish them, I sliced them up, tossed them in a bag, and stored them away in the freezer.

Well, rather than using them up sometime last fall…or winter…or spring…they’ve just been hanging out in my freezer drawer.

I mostly forgot about them, except for Joey asking me once or twice a month, “So, what are you going to do with those peaches?”

After he asked me that again in May, I purchased some ingredients to make a fresh peach cake. And then those sat in the pantry, too.

I mentioned this week that I needed to decide what to make for my column, and he instantly said, “You know, you have those peaches.”

So, if there’s any mystery still left at all, I did go ahead and use up my freezer peaches this week, and the cake I made was a huge hit at the office.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “The View from Great Island.” You can find the original post at https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/brown-sugar-peach-cake-recipe/. I doubled the peaches and vanilla in my version.

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Brown Sugar Peach Cake

Brown sugar peach cake levels up a boxed cake mix with lots of fresh peaches and a yummy, from-scratch brown sugar frosting. This one is a real crowd pleaser.
Course Dessert
Keyword brown sugar, butter, cake, cake mix, fresh peaches, heavy cream, peach juice, peach nectar, powdered sugar, vanilla

Ingredients

Cake Ingredients

  • 15 ounce yellow cake mix
  • Number of eggs on the cake mix box
  • Amount of oil on the cake mix box
  • 1/2 cup peach nectar or peach juice
  • 2 pounds peeled peaches cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a nine-by-13-inch baking pan by spraying it with cooking spray, and set it aside
  • Beat the cake mix, eggs, oil and nectar until smooth. Fold in the peaches, and spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Mine took about 45 minutes.)
  • Let the cake cool completely.
  • For the frosting, cut the butter into chunks and add it, the heavy cream and brown sugar to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and powdered sugar until it’s well combined and there are no lumps. (If it starts to harden up on you before you’re ready, slide it back over on your still-hot burner to loosen it up a bit.)
  • Pour the frosting evenly over the top of the cake, spreading it out where necessary, and place the cake in the refrigerator until the frosting sets up (about 30 minutes).
  • Cut and serve, and store any leftovers in an airtight container.

If you’re not sure where to find peach nectar, the brand I found was Jumex, and it was located in the cold drinks area of my local grocery store rather than in the juice aisle.

This cake was amazing. I used up every last peach from the freezer, and the cake was just bursting with them, which made it delicious. Also, the frosting makes for a great compliment to the peach flavor, even if it is on the sweeter side. The cake is moist enough on its own that you could get away with skipping the frosting altogether, if that’s not your thing.

And Joey is happy that our freezer is now absent one, big bag of peaches after nearly a year. He was right, it did free up a lot of space. Unfortunately, I’m now worried he’s going to notice my collection of baking chips that were hidden underneath it.

This piece first appeared in print on June 16, 2022.

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
Side Dish

Roasted vegetables will be the ‘bell’ of the ball this summer

Southwest potatoes combines potatoes, bell peppers and onion with plenty of herbs and spices for a delicious summer side dish that’s easy to make and looks pretty on the table.

Even though I try not to heat up the house with my oven too often in the summer, I am definitely willing to make an exception for the right recipe.

Last week, that exception came when I decided I didn’t want one of the typical cold summer sides like coleslaw, potato salad or a green salad to go with our dinner, and I stumbled on a delicious-looking recipe that combined potatoes and bell peppers. It sounded like a fantastic summer side, especially with all the brightly colored peppers included.

It fit the bill perfectly, and not only was I happy with the flavors but it also ended up being a great meal for leftovers later on.

This comes from the blog “Will Cook for Smiles.” You can find the original post at https://www.willcookforsmiles.com/southwest-roasted-potatoes. I added extra spices and vegetables in my version.

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Southwest Potatoes

Southwest potatoes combines potatoes, bell peppers and onion with plenty of herbs and spices for a delicious summer side dish that's easy to make and looks pretty on the table.
Course Side Dish
Keyword bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, potatoes, summer side dish, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 large Russet potatoes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 large yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil.
  • Cut potatoes and onion into about one-half-inch pieces. Cut the peppers into about one-inch pieces.
  • Add all of the vegetables to a large bowl or directly onto the baking sheet to combine with the other ingredients.
  • Add the oil, herbs and spices to your vegetables and mix well until they are evenly coated in the mixture.
  • Evenly spread out the coated vegetables on your prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Serve hot.

If you’re into something a bit spicier, you could easily toss in some hot peppers or maybe some cayenne pepper in the mix for this. But I will say this combination of spices was definitely flavorful while still being a crowd pleaser.

It was also super gorgeous on the table. I would highly recommend this one for a gathering if you need a good side dish this summer. We really enjoyed it.

And, in the grand scheme of things, heating up the kitchen was very much worth it. There’s something about roasted bell peppers that I absolutely love, even if I have to sweat just a bit to get them.

This piece first appeared in print on June 9, 2022.

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

This crisp lets fresh berries’ true colors shine ‘blue’

Blueberry crisp is a simple dessert with warm spices and lots of delicious, rich blueberry flavor.

The past two weeks, every time I walked through the produce department at our local grocery store, pints of blueberries have been calling my name.

I tried to avoid eye contact with them, knowing that I didn’t have a good way to get rid of a lot of dessert. But when we were invited to have dinner with some friends this week, I knew I finally had my chance.

Blueberries are way up there on my list of favorite fruits, especially when they’re baked. They just look so pretty that even if you’re not the most skilled chef, blueberries make your creations seem more impressive.

That was certainly the case with the very simple blueberry crisp I decided to make this week. Of course, the fact that it was delicious didn’t hurt, either.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Chelsea’s Messy Apron.” You can find the original post at https://www.chelseasmessyapron.com/blueberry-crisp/. I added extra vanilla and spices in my version.

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Blueberry Crisp

Blueberry crisp is a simple dessert with warm spices and lots of delicious, rich blueberry flavor.
Course Dessert
Keyword blueberry, brown sugar, cinnamon, crisp, easy dessert, fresh blueberries, lemon juice, nutmeg, oatmeal, summer dessert

Ingredients

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Topping Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats old fashioned or quick
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter cubed

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an eight-by-eight-inch or nine-by-nine-inch baking pan by spraying it with cooking spray, and set it aside.
  • Rinse the blueberries and then dry them well (I spread mine on paper towels to let them really drain).
  • In a large mixing bowl, add all of the filling ingredients. Stir well to coat the blueberries evenly, and place the blueberry mixture in the refrigerator while you make the topping.
  • In another mixing bowl, combine all of the topping ingredients, except the butter, and stir well to combine. Cut in the butter with two knives, a fork or a pastry cutter until it’s well distributed and the mixture is in small crumbs.
  • Pour the blueberry mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading it evenly. (Be sure to scrape the mixing bowl to get all the juice, too.) Evenly distribute the topping over the filling, and bake the crisp for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned.
  • Serve warm and refrigerate any leftovers in a sealed container.

I loved this blueberry crisp. It had just the right amount of spices to make it taste warm and homemade while also letting the blueberries shine.

It was also good as leftovers later on. If you wanted to keep the topping nice and crispy, I’d recommend reheating it in the oven, but we did ours in the microwave, and it was still phenomenal. Of course, pairing this with some ice cream wouldn’t hurt, either.

I was glad to finally give in to my blueberry craving, although I can’t imagine I won’t keep eyeballing them when I go shopping. Of course, as summer goes on and peaches greet us again, I’m sure my cravings will switch right along with the season.

This piece first appeared in print on June 2, 2022.

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

Meat is ‘naan’ essential for this potato and chickpea curry

Potato and chickpea curry is spicy and full of lots of flavors from a variety of spices. It is also vegan, giving those avoiding animal products a great, quick meal to enjoy.

Quite a number of years ago, when we put our house on the market, our realtor gave us some tips for keeping our home ready for showings.

In addition to keeping things clean and organized, he encouraged us to pin back the curtains for plenty of natural light and begged us to take a break from cooking anything that would have strong, lingering smells. Specifically, he said we should stay away from curry.

I thought about that this week when I decided to try a vegan curry recipe I found online. Personally, I think the smell of spicy curry would be a selling point for a house, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.

This recipe was fantastic, and if you’re trying to cut some meat out of your diet, I highly recommend it. It was filling, extremely flavorful and very pretty, to boot. It was also on the spicy side, so if that’s not your favorite, I’d skip this one. I think it would be a bit difficult to make this one completely mild.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Well Plated” by Erin Clarke. I added extra garlic in my version.

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Potato and Chickpea Curry

Potato and chickpea curry is spicy and full of lots of flavors from a variety of spices. It is also vegan, giving those avoiding animal products a great, quick meal to enjoy.
Course Main Course
Keyword cayenne, chickpeas, coconut milk, cumin, curry, diced tomatoes, garam masala, garlic, ginger, peas, potatoes, rice, turmeric, vegan, vegetarian, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger or ginger paste minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 pounds potatoes diced (I used Russets)
  • 14 ounces canned chickpeas rinsed and drained
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes in juice
  • 14 ounce can light coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Prepared white rice for serving
  • Naan bread for serving

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the onion to the hot oil and saute until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for about 30 seconds. Add in the curry powder, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt, and continue to stir for about a minute.
  • Once the mixture smells really nice, stir in the potatoes and chickpeas to coat them with the spices.
  • Add in the diced tomatoes and coconut milk, and stir well to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a very low boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring regularly to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot, for about 15 minutes.
  • Once the potatoes are fork tender, stir in the sugar, lemon juice and peas. Let the mixture heat over low until the peas are hot.
  • Serve the curry over top of white rice and with a side of naan bread.

I absolutely loved this one. Joey was out of town for the evening, so he had to settle for leftovers later in the week, but he also gave it a thumbs up.

It does make quite a bit of food, and it stretches even further with rice, so if you want to feed a crowd on the cheap, save this one for the future.

Plus, our whole house smelled like warm, delicious spices for a couple days, so I suppose it’s a good thing we aren’t trying to sell it right now.

Of course, with the way the housing market is moving right now, I doubt it would even matter.

This piece first appeared in print on May 19, 2022.

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

From-scratch salted caramel pretzel brownies ‘knot’ an easy task

Salted caramel pretzel brownies are extremely decadent, with each layer made from scratch and supplemented with just a bit of salt to offset the sweetness of chocolate and caramel.

Sometimes, I ironically bite off more than I can chew when it comes to trying new recipes.

This week was one of those times.

I was invited to donate something to a dessert auction, and I decided it was the perfect time to try a recipe for some decadent brownies I’ve been eyeballing for quite a long time.

I naively thought that making brownies would take up far less of my afternoon than if I made a pie or cake. I was so, so wrong—but only about the timeframe. The flavor was absolutely amazing. I highly recommend making these, as long as you have a few hours to burn.

This comes from the blog “Butter Baking.” You can find the original post at https://www.butterbaking.com/2015/04/21/salted-caramel-pretzel-brownies/. I doubled the vanilla in my version and made sure to convert everything to U.S. standard measurements.

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Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

Salted caramel pretzel brownies are extremely decadent, with each layer made from scratch and supplemented with just a bit of salt to offset the sweetness of chocolate and caramel.
Course Dessert
Keyword brownies, dark chocolate, decadent dessert, pretzels, salted caramel

Ingredients

Base Layer Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzels roughly chopped

Brownie Layer Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 16 ounces dark chocolate roughly chopped
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

Salted Caramel Layer Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 heavy cream
  • coarse or flaked salt for topping

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Start by greasing and lining a nine-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and set it aside.
  • In a bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Stir until it’s well combined, and then stir in the pretzels, making sure to coat them evenly.
  • Spread the pretzel mixture in an even, single layer in your prepared pan. (It won’t completely cover the bottom. Just spread it as evenly as you can.) Bake the pretzel mixture for six to eight minutes or until the layer is set. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside while you prepare the next layer.
  • Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  • Place water in the bottom of a double boiler or in a medium-sized saucepan with a glass bowl that will fit on top (be careful not to let the bowl touch the water); heat the water over medium heat to bring it to a low simmer. Add the butter and dark chocolate to the top, stirring constantly until everything is melted and well combined. Remove it from heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla on high speed until it is thick and a pale yellow—about three minutes. Fold in the chocolate until well combined, and then fold in the flour.
  • Pour the batter into the pan over top of the pretzel layer, smoothing it out evenly.
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the top begins to crack slightly and the brownie layer is mostly firm. (Try wiggling the pan a little. If it’s really wobbly still, bake it a bit longer. These won’t feel completely set when they’re done. Just pay attention to the edges and the top.) Set the brownies aside to cool.
  • For the caramel, add the water and sugar into a medium-sized saucepan, place a candy thermometer in the mixture, and heat over high heat, stirring occasionally. In a second medium-sized saucepan, heat the butter and cream over low, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted.
  • When the caramel turns a deep brown color and the thermometer reads 350 degrees, immediately remove it from the heat. Whisk the butter mixture into the caramel (be careful; it will fizz up a bit).
  • Return the pan to high heat and cook for another five minutes, stirring continuously, until it thickens a little.
  • Pour the caramel over top of the brownie layer and spread it out evenly.
  • Refrigerate the brownies for about five hours or until the caramel layer is set. Sprinkle the entire top with your desired amount of coarse salt, and then cut into squares.
  • Keep the brownies refrigerated in an air-tight container until you’re ready to serve them.

Holy moly, guys. These were awesome. They were very rich, but the salt from the tops and the pretzels balanced everything out really well.

In the end, all my effort to make these was worth it, and they fetched a good amount on the auction. Plus, I got to try the ugly end pieces while I was cutting them up, so it was a win-win. Next time, I’ll need to remember that just because a dessert is smaller doesn’t mean it’s easier. Lesson learned.

This piece first appeared in print on May 12, 2022.

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

Avocado tuna salad pits spouses against each other

Avocado tuna salad is packed with yummy vegetables, along with the creamy addition of Greek yogurt and ripe avocado.

Joey and I love to prepare meals together. He’s a great cook in his own right, so we take turns with one of us cooking while the other helps with prep work.

Well, that’s most of the time.

For this week’s recipe, I was all on my own. As soon as Joey heard the words “tuna salad,” he was out.

I tried to explain to him that it was mayonnaise free, since he has a very vocal dislike of the condiment, but he said just the idea that tuna salad is normally laden with tons of mayo meant he was going to make himself a nice turkey sandwich for lunch instead.

Oh, well. More for me.

I kind of went rogue on this recipe, but it was inspired by a recipe from Carrie Walder at her blog, “Walder Wellness.” I took her base and subtracted a little and added a little to land on my version. You can find the original post at https://www.walderwellness.com/no-mayo-high-protein-tuna-salad.

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Avocado Tuna Salad

Avocado tuna salad is packed with yummy vegetables, along with the creamy addition of Greek yogurt and ripe avocado.
Course Main Course
Keyword avocado, English cucumber, garlic powder, Greek yogurt, green bell pepper, tuna, tuna salad

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces tuna packed in water
  • 1 medium-sized avocado
  • 5.3 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup English cucumber diced
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Drain the tuna extremely well.
  • In a bowl, mash the avocado with a fork, and then add all of the ingredients. Stir well and then taste to see if there’s anything else you need to add.
  • Serve immediately on bread or as a wrap with additional vegetables as desired (I did mine with fresh spinach and a few more slices of cucumber). Refrigerate any leftovers.

I really, really liked this. I like regular tuna salad, too, but this had a little bit of a tang from the yogurt and tons of fresh flavor from the cucumbers and green peppers.

The only drawback was when I went to eat the leftovers. Because the cucumbers and green peppers have so much water in them, there was quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of my container the day after I made this. I drained it off and still had a great wrap, but I think it was much more delicious when it was first made.

This would also be very easy to customize, depending on your favorite veggies and maybe what’s growing in your summer garden over the next few months. This is already pretty full of protein, but you could add eggs, too, if you wanted a bit more.

I probably won’t ever give up traditional tuna salad, and Joey will still have to deal with having a jar of mayonnaise in the refrigerator for the rest of our marriage, but using an avocado and Greek yogurt instead was a nice change of pace. Plus, it was kind of nice that I didn’t have to share.

This piece first appeared in print on May 5, 2022.

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

Reese’s cake nearly got the ‘butter’ of me this time

With a boxed cake mix and only a few frosting ingredients, this cake boasts the flavors of a Reese’s candy bar.

There are so many neat videos online that give an insider’s view of all kinds of professions.

For some reason, I can get absolutely lost watching someone power wash a driveway, paint fingernails or frost cakes and cookies.

And then I have it in my head that I could also easily accomplish any of these seemingly mundane tasks—especially if it deals with the kitchen.

I think that’s why I got especially frustrated this past weekend when I could not, for the life of me, properly frost the chocolate cake I was planning on taking for a family lunch. The thick peanut butter frosting only wanted to stick to my knife, my hands or itself, but it was completely immune to sticking to my soft cake.

It was one of those moments where Joey came in the kitchen, asked how things were going, and then slowly backed away and out of the room after seeing the frustration on my face.

So, the bad news is that I didn’t make a beautiful, video-worthy cake this week. It was definitely not winning any beauty contests. The good news, though, is it tasted pretty darn good, and despite being tough to frost, it actually came together really quickly.

The recipe I used came from the blog “Oh, Bite It!” You can find the original post at https://www.ohbiteit.com/2014/03/inside-out-reeses-peanut-butter-cake.html. I didn’t adjust any of the ingredients, because this was incredibly easy, but I will give you some ideas on how to better frost this cake in my version below.

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Reese’s Cake

With a boxed cake mix and only a few frosting ingredients, this cake boasts the flavors of a Reese's candy bar.
Course Dessert
Keyword cake mix, chocolate cake, creamy peanut butter, easy dessert, layered cake, peanut butter, powdered sugar, Reese’s

Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate cake mix and ingredients from package
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Prepare your cake mix in two eight-inch, round cake pans, according to the package directions. Set them aside to cool.
  • In a glass mixing bowl, beat the peanut butter, powdered sugar and salt until it is fluffy and well combined.
  • Pop the bowl into the microwave for a few seconds (start with 20) to thin the frosting out a bit before frosting your cake.
  • Place one of your cakes onto a plate and slather a thin layer of frosting on top. Top with the other cake and cover the whole layer cake to your liking with the rest of the frosting. If it’s still difficult to work with, microwave it just a bit more. Just be careful not to make it so runny that you have the opposite problem to thick frosting.
  • Serve your cake immediately or store in an airtight container.

This really was tasty. I used a devil’s food mix, but I also could have easily just used my from-scratch chocolate dump cake recipe that I love, if I wanted to.

At our family dinner, my four-year-old niece informed me that she only wanted to eat the frosting. Considering the amount of candy I watched her eat that afternoon, I don’t think leaving the cake on her plate was a bad decision.

But I must admit I was a little grumpy as I watched her scrape all of my hard-fought icing off of the cake. “If only she knew what I went through to get that on there,” I thought.

But then I remembered she’s four. You don’t get much sympathy from a four year old.

This piece first appeared in print on April 28, 2022.

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

Sorry, everyone: I must ‘confetti’ that I’ve done it again

Confetti blondies take a confetti cake mix, combined with sprinkles and a few other ingredients to make chewy, tasty bars.

Holiday-themed recipes are sometimes hard for me—specifically when it comes to this column.

As I see recipes start to pop up online for fun holiday treats, the responsible thing would be to make them weeks in advance to give everyone reading this the time to get the ingredients and make it for their holiday get-togethers.

But, of course, I rarely think about it in time, and I normally end up publishing a great holiday dish after the fact. For Easter this year, I decided I wasn’t going to make anything themed. My family get-together isn’t until next weekend, and I already have the ingredients for some pies that look fantastic. (Coming soon!)

Then we were graciously invited to spend Easter with some good friends’ family, so I quickly looked for a dessert to take.

The one I landed on ended up looking very Easter-y, with pastel sprinkles shaped like eggs strewn through it, but the good news is you can make these bars for any holiday theme—just customize your sprinkles (and maybe even your cake mix) to match. And if you have nothing in particular to celebrate, you can make these anyway with your favorite colors. Plus, they’re easy and quick, too.

This recipe comes from the blog “Crayons and Cravings” by Jaclyn Anne Shimmel. You can find the original post at https://crayonsandcravings.com/cake-batter-blondies/. I left this recipe alone, since it was so simple.

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Confetti Blondies

Confetti blondies take a confetti cake mix, combined with sprinkles and a few other ingredients to make chewy, tasty bars.
Course Dessert
Keyword blondies, cake mix, confetti cake, cookie bars, sprinkles, sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate chips

Ingredients

  • 2 15.25- ounce boxes confetti style cake mix
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter or margarine softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups sprinkles divided
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a nine-by-13-inch baking pan by lining it with parchment paper, and set it aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the cake mix, butter and eggs until the mixture is smooth. Stir in about half of the sprinkles.
  • Spread about two-thirds of the batter into your prepared cake pan. It will be thick, so it may be easiest to spread it out with your hands.
  • Sprinkle in the chocolate chips and the rest of the sprinkles.
  • Pour the sweetened condensed milk over top of the batter in the pan, leaving about an inch uncovered around the edges.
  • Drop the remaining batter evenly over the top by the spoonful, and gently press it down to kind of make a top crust (it doesn’t need to be perfect).
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Let the blondies cool completely, and then use the parchment to remove them from the pan for slicing. Store in an airtight container.

These were chewy and flavorful, and I came home with less than half of a pan, so I guess you could say they were a hit. Also, if you’re looking for a smaller dessert, you’ll notice this is super easy to cut in half.

And, truth be told, these blondies were a cute addition to the Easter dessert table, so I guess I have to admit that I once again gave you a great holiday recipe a bit too late.

Maybe someday I’ll finally get my calendar synced to my kitchen exploits—but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This piece first appeared in print on April 21, 2022.

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 Salad Side Dish

Customizable pasta dish is worth every ‘penne’

Greek pasta salad is extremely customizable for all kinds of diets and preferences, with lots of fresh vegetables and a light, flavorful dressing.

I’ve written before that I have some random, mostly mild food allergies that make certain recipes difficult for me.

Specifically, tomatoes cause me trouble, and I have to limit how often I include them in my diet, no matter how much I love them.

Because of that, I’m sympathetic to readers who sometimes email me and ask if I’d be willing to throw something gluten free or dairy free into the paper so they can try a new recipe, too. I definitely sympathize with people who have much more serious food intolerances than I do; it’s tough to keep food interesting.

With that said, the recipe I included this week can easily be made gluten free, dairy free and vegan, if you so desire. You’ll only need to do a few quick swaps or deletions to make it happen, and it’s all ingredients that you can easily find in your local grocery store.

This comes from the blog “Strength and Sunshine” by Rebecca Pytell. You can find the original post at https://strengthandsunshine.com/gluten-free-greek-pasta-salad-vegan/. I changed up the ingredients and proportions a bit and added extra garlic, too.

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Greek Pasta Salad

Greek pasta salad is extremely customizable for all kinds of diets and preferences, with lots of fresh vegetables and a light, flavorful dressing.
Course Salad
Keyword black olives, English cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, gluten-free, green bell pepper, Kalamata olives, mozzarella, oregano, penne pasta, red bell pepper, red onion, red wine vinegar, vegan, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 English cucumber cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces black or Kalamata olives halved
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese cubed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Prepare all of the vegetables and cheese and add to a very large serving bowl.
  • While you prepare the veggies, boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain it and run cold water over the pasta.
  • Add the cold, drained pasta to the bowl and stir to combine the ingredients.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper with a fork, and then pour it over top of the pasta mixture.
  • Toss to evenly coat all of the ingredients with the oil mixture, cover, and let the salad marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Serve cold or at room temperature, and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you go to the original recipe author for this, you’ll notice that I left a pint of tomatoes out of my version (for obvious reasons). I also decided to use whole grain pasta in mine, which made me feel like it was a bit healthier, too.

This was a great lunch, and it makes a ton of food. I’ve been eating on this salad all week long for lunch, and it’s been fabulous. It is lightly dressed and has lots of different flavors with all the vegetables.

I also hope it fits the bill for something new for those of you who have some food intolerances. With the weather warming up, a good pasta salad is a great recipe to have on hand, and nobody should have to miss out on a good lunch.

This piece first appeared in print on April 14, 2022.

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.