Categories
Appetizer Side Dish

Sweet peppers are the stuff of dreams

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
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.

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
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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
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.

Categories
Appetizer Side Dish Snack

Dip into something awesome for game day

Cheesy bean dip elevates boring canned ingredients into something truly spectacular for your snack table.

Until the Chiefs became a part of the post-season, the best part of Super Bowl Sunday for me over the years has been the snack table.

From the days when our church youth group would watch the games while playing a football-themed bingo game to ones with friends gathered in our living room, there has always been a fabulous spread of great food to eat along with the fellowship the game brings.

Of course, it goes without saying that this year’s game will be very different than last year’s Chiefs victory. Last year, our house was packed with people, everyone screaming and yelling when the final seconds ticked down on the game clock, and we all realized we were the Super Bowl champs.

This year, there will likely be more yelling and screaming, and hopefully that will come along with another Lombardi Trophy, but it will be a much quieter din without the crowd of friends and family around us.

Despite the lack of a crowd, Joey and I will still be enjoying some favorite snacks, though, and after I test-drove this one for the AFC Championship game, I have to share it with you.

This comes from Lauren Allen over at her blog, “Tastes Better From Scratch.” You can find the original post at https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/cheesy-bean-dip/. I doubled the seasoning in my version below and substituted refried beans for whole pintos.

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Cheesy Bean Dip

Cheesy bean dip elevates boring canned ingredients into something truly spectacular for your snack table.
Course Appetizer
Keyword bean dip, cheese, cream cheese, Greek yogurt, salsa, sour cream, taco seasoning

Ingredients

  • 2, 15- ounce cans of refried beans
  • 4 ounces cream cheese softened (I used fat free)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream or plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 packets 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup salsa any kind. I used a tomatillo salsa.
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese divided

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In an eight-by-eight-inch baking dish, combine the refried beans, cream cheese, sour cream, taco seasoning, salsa and about 1/4-cup shredded cheese.
  • Mix it well so that the ingredients are evenly distributed, and then spread it evenly in the dish.
  • Top with as much cheese as you like and bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just starting to brown around the edges.
  • Serve with tortilla chips or as part of a taco bar.

This was absolutely amazing. I know it isn’t a health food by any stretch, but by using fat-free refried beans, fat-free cream cheese and non-fat Greek yogurt to make this, I felt a lot better about placing a big scoop on my plate during the game.

And it certainly did not taste low-fat, either. The variety of cheese gave it fantastic flavor, and the leftovers quickly disappeared over the next few days, as we integrated them into tacos for lunch.

It won’t be the same to watch the Super Bowl without a crowd of friends this year, but I’m hoping that a few fun dishes on the coffee table might make up for it. Of course, another Chiefs victory wouldn’t hurt, either.

This piece first appeared in print on Thursday, Feb. 4, 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
Air Fryer Appetizer Side Dish

Fryer lets you ‘air’ in the side of less oil

Air fryer potatoes are seasoned simply and made using very little oil.

When I first moved out on my own, one of the first items I acquired for my kitchen was a deep fat fryer.

I’m a sucker for anything fried, but I could eat French fries every day and never get sick of them. Joey makes fun of me, because if there is any kind of variation of fries on a menu, he knows I’m probably going to get it.

Philly cheesesteak fries? Yep. Chili cheese fries? Of course. Fajita steak fries? Yes, please.

Of course, using a deep fryer on the regular is a pretty terrible idea, so my well-loved appliance finally went in the donation pile in September. It was time to say goodbye and not give into deep frying temptation.

But then I got my hands on an air fryer, and while I have managed to stay away from the French fries for the most part, getting to make “fried” foods with very little oil has been extremely appealing.

This week, Joey and I were collaborating on a meal. He was cooking the main dish, and I took on our side. After glancing a few times at the bag of yellow potatoes on our counter, I decided it was time to use the air fryer, but since Joey was making pork chops, I figured fries weren’t quite fancy enough, so I turned to the Internet.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “40 aprons” by Cheryl Malik. You can find the original at https://40aprons.com/air-fryer-potatoes/. I changed up her seasonings a bit.

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Air Fryer Potatoes

Air fryer potatoes are seasoned simply and made using very little oil.
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Keyword air fryer, garlic salt, potatoes, rosemary

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary

Instructions

  • Cut the potatoes into about one-inch pieces. You don’t need to peel them unless that’s your preference.
  • Toss the potatoes in the oil and seasonings until they’re well coated and add them to the basket of the air fryer.
  • Cook the potatoes on the “fry” setting at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring the potatoes halfway through. Once the potatoes’ outsides are browned and they are fork tender, remove them from the air fryer and serve immediately.

Making these potatoes was really simple, and the flavors and texture were out of this world. The potatoes were soft and creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. It was awesome. Plus, it was so much quicker than making them in the oven, and it didn’t heat up my whole kitchen in the process.

This recipe will definitely be going into my recipe box to make again sometime, and even though they weren’t French fries, they still earned my vote.

I guess I’ll just have to admit I don’t just have a French fries obsession—it’s probably just potatoes in general. But, just like with my deep fat fryer, I’ll have to keep myself in check to keep myself eating healthy.

This piece first appeared in print on July 23, 2020.

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

This will make you ‘patty’ yourself on the back for a dinner well done

Jamaican beef patties are full of authentic flavors without the hassle of traditional techniques.

A few weeks ago, I was a bridesmaid in a good friend’s socially distanced wedding, and in preparation for the big day, I did something I have never done before: get a manicure.

I opted for French tips—a layer of very light pink on the bottom and white for the ends of each nail. It ended up being a pretty decent experience, and I especially appreciated the level of cleanliness and mask wearing the nail salon used.

So, for the last few weeks, I’ve had fancy fingernails, something that’s definitely different for me. I’ve also been amazed at how well they’ve held up. Well, that is until this week’s recipe, when I gave them the ultimate test: exposure to turmeric.

I don’t know what the name for a manicure with light pink on the bottom and orange-ish yellow on the tips is, but I’m sure it isn’t French.

The good news? This recipe was so worth it.

This comes from the blog “Host the Toast.” You can find this recipe at https://hostthetoast.com/3-bite-jamaican-beef-patties/. I didn’t change much outside of using heaping spoonfuls of the listed spices.

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Jamaican Beef Patties

Jamaican beef patties are full of authentic flavors without the hassle of traditional techniques.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican
Keyword ground beef, habenero, onion, puff pastry, Scotch bonnet

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 green onion stalks chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper or habenero pepper finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 rounded teaspoons thyme
  • 1 rounded teaspoon all spice
  • 1 rounded teaspoon curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry thawed
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric

Instructions

  • Set the puff pastry out about an hour before you’ll need it to let it thaw.
  • In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the onions and pepper until everything is soft and cooked through.
  • Add the beef, thyme, all spice, curry powder, salt and pepper, stirring regularly until the beef is cooked through. If there is excess fat in the pan, drain it off before the next step.
  • Mix in the breadcrumbs and then pour in the beef stock. Mix to combine thoroughly. If the mixture is very wet, add more breadcrumbs, and if it is very dry, add a little more beef stock or water. The goal is for the mixture to hold together well but still be moist. Remove the beef mixture from the heat and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and prepare a muffin tin by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Place the pastry sheet on a floured surface and roll it out to expand it by a couple inches on all sides. Sprinkle the entire sheet with turmeric and rub the turmeric around on the sheet to get a good coating.
  • Cut the sheet into 12 even pieces, and place the pieces, turmeric side down, into the muffin cups. You’ll want to make sure there is some dough hanging over the edge of each cup so you can pull it around the filling and seal it.
  • Divide the meat evenly into each cup, and then seal each one by pulling the sides of the dough up and pinching them together. If it is not sticking well, try using a little water along the seams.
  • Flip the sealed beef patty over so the seam is on the bottom.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the beef patties are golden brown.

I actually opted for two habenero peppers for my version, because the ones at my local grocery store were so small, and they were a perfect amount of heat.

We loved these, and the spice combination was fantastic. To go along with our Jamaican beef patties, I decided to slice up a ripe plantain, fry it in some oil and sprinkle it with salt. It was fantastic.

So, my days of fancy nails are over, I’m afraid, although it’s a slow process for me to figure out how one removes gel nail polish, which is apparently much different than the polish I grew up with.

But at least while one set of fingers soaks in acetone, the other can be holding onto a delicious treat.

This piece first appeared in print on July 9, 2020.

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 Soup

This soup is clearly the best way to start a meal

Japanese clear onion soup is incredibly simple but an amazing way to start a meal.

The National Museum of American History notes that Americans started looking for different ways to enjoy outdoor grilling after World War II.

Part of the craze was impacted by people who traveled around the world and discovered they enjoyed the tropical flavors of the Caribbean and of Southeast Asia, which meant that the hibachi grill came into vogue, with some restaurants popping up that allowed diners to cook their own meals on the flat-top grills and people using the small cooktops in their backyards and even their apartments.

Personally, I love dishes that are in the “hibachi” style. They have a little char on them, and I adore the flavors of Japanese cooking.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing the components of an Asian-inspired meal I made for Joey and myself, including a fried rice and orange chicken recipe, so this week, I wanted to share the final component, a soup we both love to get as an appetizer at our favorite Japanese restaurant: clear onion soup.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Living Chirpy,” which features gluten-free and sugar-free recipes, so you might give them a look if that interests you. It’s by Roche Woodworth, and you can find the original post at https://www.livingchirpy.com/japanese-clear-onion-soup/. I adjusted the ingredients and instructions a bit to suit our tastes.

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Japanese Clear Onion Soup

Japanese clear onion soup is incredibly simple but an amazing way to start a meal.
Course Appetizer, Soup
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword cream of mushroom, gluten-free, onion, soup, sugar-free, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tablespoon oil I used extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion diced (I used yellow)
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 large celery stalk cut into one-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot peeled and cut into rounds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced thinly (I used white mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup green onions sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In a pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat and add the diced onion. Saute until the onion is browned and soft.
  • Add broth, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger and sesame oil and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the burner down to low and put the lid on the pot, simmering for about 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  • Strain the vegetables from the broth, and return the broth to the pot.
  • Add the mushrooms and green onions and let the soup cook for another five minutes or so.
  • Serve immediately as an appetizer for your favorite Asian-style dinner.

Joey and I discussed this soup a bit after our meal and agreed that it’s the perfect appetizer. There isn’t much to it, and it would never make a meal for someone (unless they were on a restricted diet or eating very little), but it’s a good way to get ready for your main course.

I used chicken broth in my version, but just a switch over to vegetable broth can make this recipe completely meat free, too. There’s a ton of flavor in this for such a simple recipe.

I recommend serving it in small bowls. It’s a fun way to start a meal, and now that you have all three of the components for the meal we tried, you can do it, too. It was definitely something different, and we enjoyed it immensely.

And, considering Americans have been enjoying the flavors of Asian cuisine for many, many decades, I suppose it’s a good way to celebrate our own history as well.

This piece first appeared in print on May 21, 2020.

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
Air Fryer Appetizer Main Dish

Try a recipe that’s ‘taquito’ happiness

Chicken taquitos are quick to make and can be cooked by frying, baking or using an air fryer.

As a general rule, I avoid a lot of specialty appliances in my kitchen.

While I’ve been tempted in the past to consider a rice cooker or a cake pop baker, I haven’t given in—mostly because I have no idea where I would store such contraptions.

But I do have a couple trendy pieces that make me feel like I fit right in on the food blogs, mainly an electric pressure cooker and most recently, an air fryer.

If you’re not familiar, air fryers are all the rage these days, making it possible to get crispy “fried” foods with little to no oil. Really, it’s just a mini convection oven, but it does seem to work as advertised.

With my new purchase on hand, I decided to try a recipe I’d been eyeballing for awhile: chicken taquitos. The recipe reminded me a lot of some chicken flautas my favorite Mexican restaurant makes, and I needed to see if I could recreate the experience at home.

If you don’t have an air fryer, don’t worry. You can still make these by frying them traditionally in oil or by baking them, and I’ll give you the details for all three methods.

This recipe comes from the blog “Chili Pepper Madness” by Mike Hultquist You can find the original post at https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/chicken-taquitos/. I added some seasonings to my version.

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Chicken Taquitos

Chicken taquitos are quick to make and can be cooked by frying, baking or using an air fryer.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword chicken, taquitos

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 large jalapeno diced (remove seeds and ribs if you want milder flavor)
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1.5 pounds chicken breast cooked and shredded
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 packet sazon seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 20-24 small soft corn tortillas
  • 2 cups vegetable/canola oil if frying
  • vegetable/canola spray if air frying or baking

Instructions

  • In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and jalapeno, stirring regularly, until they are both soft, about six to eight minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute for another two minutes or until it slightly browns and becomes fragrant. Remove the pan from heat.
  • In a large bowl, combine the contents of the saute pan with the shredded chicken, seasonings and cheese, and stir to coat the chicken evenly.
  • To properly heat the tortillas and make them pliable, wrap the stack in a damp paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds. Keep them covered with the damp towel while you work.
  • If you are frying, heat your oil in a deep pan over medium heat to about 350 degrees. If you are baking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you are air frying, you’ll set it to air fry at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes (you may have to experiment with the timing a bit).
  • To assemble the taquitos, place a spoonful of the chicken filling on the middle of each tortilla and then roll it up tightly, leaving the ends open. Secure it by placing a toothpick through the center of the taquito.
  • If frying or air frying, cook the taquitos in batches. If frying, fry them for about three minutes until they are golden brown. If air frying, mist the taquitos with cooking spray before frying them.
  • If baking, place the taquitos on a baking sheet and lightly spray them with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the taquitos halfway through.
  • Remove the toothpicks and serve hot taquitos with your favorite salsa and sour cream.

We loved these, and they were really easy. I ended up deboning a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking my own to make the process go even more quickly, and I paired these with some Mexican rice. They also reheated really nicely in the air fryer or the oven. They do reheat in the microwave, but they lose their crispiness.

Making this recipe solidified for me that the air fryer won’t be taking up unnecessary space in our house, and I’m looking forward to playing with it more.

Many people claim it’s a great way to cut a lot of extra oil and fat out of your diet. Of course, as Joey helpfully pointed out, if I keep buying frozen French fries now that I have the option, it may have the opposite effect.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 30, 2020.

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

Mushrooms are easy ‘caprese’ for dinner

Caprese portabella mushrooms take the flavors of a caprese salad and presents them in a warm, pretty side dish.

On our honeymoon, Joey and I visited a great Italian restaurant in New York City. It was the most expensive meal of our vacation, with us spending a generous gift from a family member that was earmarked for just that purpose.

The place wasn’t all that fancy to look at, but when your waiter is so quintessentially Italian that he’s singing along with the opera music playing in the background, you know you’re about to experience something authentic.

We ordered a bottle of wine, and our waiter suggested an appetizer of some fresh mozzarella that was flown in from Italy the day before, so we decided to go for it.

He plopped a plate in front of us with a giant mound of mozzarella, garnished with fresh basil and tomatoes—and we had no idea how to eat it.

This week, we again enjoyed that flavor combination with a slightly less intimidating side dish, and it was delicious. I will admit this is on the pricier end of recipes from what I normally suggest, but if you’re looking for something special—or you find a good sale—keep this one in your recipe box.

This recipe comes from the blog “Fat Girl Happy.” You can find it at https://www.fatgirlhappy.com/caprese-portabella-mushroom-recipe/. The only difference we made was leaving out the suggestion of balsamic vinegar, and I put amounts to the ingredients.

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Caprese Portabella Mushrooms

Caprese portabella mushrooms take the flavors of a caprese salad and presents them in a warm, pretty side dish.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, caprese, mozzarella, mushrooms, portabella, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 portabella mushroom caps about two-inches in diameter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces fresh whole-milk mozzarella
  • about 5 ounces grape tomatoes
  • about 1/2-ounce fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup and lightly spray it with cooking spray.
  • Scoop out the insides of each mushroom cap and arrange them, with the insides facing up, on the cooking sheet.
  • Lightly drizzle the mushroom caps with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
  • Slice the mozzarella into equal slices—one slice for each mushroom cap—and place one slice into each.
  • Slice the grape tomatoes in half and place four to five halves on top of the cheese.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. (You may want to drain the sheet pan if there’s too much liquid on the pan, but we didn’t bother draining ours, and they were fine.)
  • Turn the broiler on high for one to three minutes or until the cheese starts to brown slightly.
  • Remove from the oven and top with the fresh basil and a little more olive oil and salt and pepper and serve while they’re nice and hot.

These were heavenly. We ate them as a side dish to some expertly prepared chicken breasts Joey made for us. It was a great dinner.

As for our Italian meal in New York, Joey and I discreetly glanced around at neighboring tables to see how we should dig into our mozzarella appetizer. Everyone else had opted to dive in with forks, so we did, too.

It was really good, although it was way more fresh cheese than the two of us could handle in one sitting, with entrees on the way as well.

That restaurant was one of the highlights of our trip, and we reminisced about it while we enjoyed our portabellas the other night. We’re no substitute for an Italian chef, but we certainly didn’t go hungry.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 24, 2019.

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 Snack

A good dip recipe can go ‘onion’ and on

Onion and corned beef cream cheese dip is an addictive addition to the snack table and takes almost no time to put together.

When I rented my first house after I graduated from college, I got the experience of regularly mowing my lawn—a chore my dad normally claimed when I was a child.

My first lawnmower was electric, leading to me learning to wrangle an extension cord around the yard and moving it to various outlets as I reached different corners.

I’m proud to note that I never managed to accidentally run over the cord in the process.

Now that I’m married, Joey has lawn mowing duties—something I was all too happy to relinquish with my grass allergies, but I couldn’t help but have flashbacks with all the rain this week to having to clean out a clogged lawnmower when Mother Nature soaked the grass for a few days in a row.

Part of that memory of mowing my first lawn is the distinct smell of onions.

A past owner or renter of the house must’ve had a vegetable garden at some point, and mowing the backyard meant encountering quite a few volunteer green onion plants.

I never minded the aroma, actually preferring it to cut grass, and once I figured out where the patches were, a few onions made their way into my kitchen, too.

I don’t know how those of you who have gardens are faring so far with the floodwaters, but I hope the green onions still manage to make their way into the local grocery stores and farmer’s markets this summer.

My favorite way to use green onion is in a cream cheese dip my mom makes for family get-togethers. I’m sure the recipe exists somewhere online or in a cookbook, but I know this as one of her specialties.

A couple notes: the corned beef it calls for is a small package, sliced for sandwiches. If you can’t find corned beef, another thin-sliced beef can be substituted. The idea is to have little wisps of meat throughout the dip rather than big chunks.

Also, you can form this into a cheese ball rather than keeping it in a bowl for serving once it sits in the fridge over night, but I’m a firm believer in making it easy to store leftovers and not making more dishes than necessary, so I always just serve it straight out of the bowl.

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Onion and Corned Beef Cream Cheese Dip

Onion and corned beef cream cheese dip is an addictive addition to the snack table and takes almost no time to put together.
Course Appetizer, Snack
Keyword corned beef, cream cheese, dip, onion

Ingredients

  • 2, 8- ounce blocks cream cheese
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1, 2- ounce package sliced corned beef
  • 1 box of sturdy crackers

Instructions

  • Slice the green onion into about quarter-inch slices and dice the sliced corned beef into small pieces.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl that also has a lid for storage, add the cream cheese and microwave on half power for about 30 seconds, until it’s soft and easy to stir.
  • Dump the green onion and corned beef into the cream cheese and stir to combine well.
  • Cover and store the dip in the refrigerator over night and serve with your favorite crackers (my recommendations are Wheat Thin or Ritz type crackers).

If you’re not a fan of onions, you won’t be a fan of this dip (if that wasn’t obvious on its own). Our family loves it. My mom will often double this recipe for our get-togethers, because it’s always a huge hit. Make sure to have plenty of crackers on hand to enjoy every last bit of it. Also, definitely let it sit in the fridge overnight. The flavors will meld much better, and the consistency will be perfect.

Since I no longer have free onions out in my backyard, I had to resort to the grocery store for my ingredients this time. Maybe someday I’ll have to try growing my own.

For now, though, with all the moisture, our backyard has begun to resemble a jungle more than a garden. Maybe I’ll have to try growing something tropical instead.

This piece first appeared in print on May 30, 2019.

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 Snack

Pizza sticks will make you say, ‘Yes, cheese!’

Cheesy pizza sticks are great for a quick snack an especially good recipe for beginning cooks to try their hand in the kitchen.

While my sister was still pregnant with my now almost 1-1/2-year-old niece, I noticed my shopping habits change.

I was constantly picking up this cute outfit or that cool toy even before our beautiful Emi graced us with her presence.

My only problem has been patience, as I always seem to find toys or outfits that she’s not quite ready for yet.

The other day, it was a child’s apron and baker’s hat. It was adorable, and I nearly shoved it into my cart before I thought through the fact that (1) this outfit was clearly made for someone more the size of a five-year-old and (2) my niece, while smart and sassy, is just now completely conquering solid foods and probably isn’t quite ready to help prepare them with me yet.

That being said, I have, on occasion, gotten to cook with kids over the years, and it’s always fun to watch them learn a life skill and enjoy their creations afterwards.

The recipe I found this week on the blog “I Wash, You Dry” is one I’ll be setting aside for Emi and I to try out when she’s a little older. It’s so simple there isn’t much to adjust, but I decided to change up the spices a bit. You can find the original post at https://iwashyoudry.com/cheesy-pepperoni-pizza-sticks/.

Print

Cheesy Pizza Sticks

Cheesy pizza sticks are great for a quick snack an especially good recipe for beginning cooks to try their hand in the kitchen.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Keyword cheese, kid-friendly, pepperoni, pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • 40 slices pepperoni I used turkey pepperoni
  • 10 mozzarella cheese sticks
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with tinfoil and spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Unroll the pizza dough onto the baking sheet (don’t worry about trying to roll it out thinner at this point, just get it flat).
  • Cut the dough into 10 equal rectangles.
  • Place four pepperoni slices and one cheese stick on each rectangle, and then pinch the dough to seal it around the cheese and meat.
  • Lay the pizza sticks, seam side down, about an inch apart on the baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and the oregano, basil, parsley and garlic powder.
  • Brush it onto each pizza stick. (I used a spoon to get the remaining goodies out of the bottom of the bowl and spread them out, too.)
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown on top.
  • Let the pizza sticks rest for at least 10 minutes before digging in.

I didn’t have a kiddo to share these with, but the adults who sampled them deemed them a success. They’d be great with some marinara dipping sauce, too.

They did have quite a bit of cheese spill out of them, which was OK in my book, since I love some slightly browned, melted cheese, but that also made me very glad I used aluminum foil to make clean up a breeze.

As summer is approaching and some of you are looking for good recipes to try out with the kids in your lives, I’d recommend this one.

And if you need a good lead on a kid-sized apron, let me know. I’ve got you covered.

This piece first appeared in print on April 11, 2019.

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.