Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish Snack

Kick football season off with a bang by making shotgun shells

Smoked Shotgun Shells
These smoked shotgun shells are made with seasoned sausage stuffed into manicotti shells and wrapped in bacon. They are a fantastic dish for a football snack table.

As soon as the weekly forecast came out, telling us that the opening weekend of football would be perfect for spending some time outside, Joey announced we were going to invite some folks to watch the games and throw some food on the smoker.

Of course, I had to stick my nose in and announce to him that I already found the perfect recipe to try, and being completely used to me regularly doing this to him, he immediately agreed—even though the name caught him off guard for a second.

I wanted to make shotgun shells.

The recipe is actually aptly named, considering it consists of stuffed manicotti shells. I suppose it sounds a little more macho than calling them stuffed tubes.

Also, I know I have given you a couple smoker recipes of late, but these can also easily be made in your oven or on a normal grill (as long as you watch your temperature).

This comes from the website “Or Whatever You Do” by Nicole Johnson. You can find the original post at https://www.orwhateveryoudo.com/2022/05/traeger-smoked-shotgun-shells.html. I added garlic and extra spices to my version and used sausage instead of ground beef.

Smoked Shotgun Shells
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Smoked Shotgun Shells

These smoked shotgun shells are made with seasoned sausage stuffed into manicotti shells and wrapped in bacon. They are a fantastic dish for a football snack table.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword bacon, barbecue rub, barbecue sauce, barrel smoker, Big Green Egg, football snack, garlic, ground sausage, Kamado Joe, manicotti, shredded cheese, smoker, Traeger

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sausage
  • 1 cup shredded cheese I used Mexican blend
  • 2-3 tablespoons barbecue seasoning
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 12 manicotti shells uncooked
  • 12 slices bacon not thick sliced
  • about 1/4 cup barbecue sauce

Instructions

  • At least six hours before you want to start cooking, prepare your shotgun shells.
  • In a large bowl, mix the sausage with the cheese, seasoning and garlic. Once it is well combined, stuff each manicotti shell with the sausage and wrap each one with a strip of bacon.
  • Place the assembled shells in an airtight container or on a plate wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours or overnight.
  • To cook them, preheat your smoker or oven to 250 degrees. Place the shells about an inch apart on the grill and let them cook with the lid closed for at least one hour before opening to check the temperature (you’re looking for 160 degrees for done sausage) and turning them on the grill to make sure they cook evenly.
  • Just before the shells are finished cooking (ours took about one and one-half hours), baste them with barbecue sauce on all sides.
  • Once the sausage in the center of the shells is cooked through and the bacon is crispy, remove them from the grill and serve.

These were absolutely fabulous. We didn’t have a single shotgun shell left by the time Sunday Night Football came on TV—and I made a double batch. It was absolutely perfect, both for lunch and for snacking during the later afternoon games.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, the manicotti cooked all the way through on the smoker. Joey and I were both really skeptical and almost par-boiled the shells just in case, but I decided to trust the process, and they were perfectly al dente by the time the sausage and bacon was done. It was a strange sort of magic that I don’t understand but definitely appreciate.

Hopefully we’ll have a few more weekends of dragging our TV outdoors for football and enjoying good food with good people in our backyard. But even if winter comes quickly and drives us indoors, I think shotgun shells will remain a regular on the menu.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 15, 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
Appetizer Breakfast Main Dish

You have ‘Scotch’ to try these tasty smoked eggs

This twist on Scotch eggs is made on a smoker, using barbecue seasonings and sauce and wrapped in bacon. They can also be baked in an oven.

Just as French fries are from Belgium and Hawaiian pizza was invented in Canada, Scotch eggs are actually a British creation.

Traditionally, a Scotch egg is “a shelled hard-boiled egg that is wrapped in sausage, covered in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried or baked until crispy,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

They’re often served cold in pubs, but in the U.S., people most often serve them hot instead.

Joey has been hinting—strongly—for a few weeks that he would really like to try making Scotch eggs on his smoker, so on a recent day when the heat lifted for a bit, we finally decided to give them a try.

I will tell you that these are not traditional—they lack the breadcrumbs, have barbecue flavors, and we added bacon to ours, too. But they were very, very good.

This comes from Susie Bulloch at the blog “Hey Grill Hey.” You can find the original post at https://heygrillhey.com/smoked-scotch-eggs/. I added bacon to my version.

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Smoked Scotch Eggs

This twist on Scotch eggs is made on a smoker, using barbecue seasonings and sauce and wrapped in bacon.They can also be baked in an oven.
Course Main Course
Cuisine British
Keyword bacon, barbecue rub, barbecue sauce, barrel smoker, Big Green Egg, breakfast sausage, ceramic grill, hard-boiled egg, Kamado Joe, Scotch egg, smoker

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 pound ground breakfast sausage
  • 1-2 tablespoons sweet barbecue rub
  • 12 slices bacon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Instructions

  • Preheat your smoker or oven to 225 degrees. (Use a lighter flavored wood; we used pecan in ours.)
  • Place the eggs in a saucepan large enough for them all to fit in a single layer and fill with cold water until they are all just covered.
  • Place the saucepan on the stove over high heat. Once the water boils, turn off the heat (leave the pan on the burner), cover with a lid, and let the eggs sit for five minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl by filling it with ice and cold water. Carefully remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and submerge them in the cold water for another five minutes before peeling them. Set them aside.
  • Divide the pound of sausage into six even balls.
  • To assemble, flatten one of the balls of sausage into a disc in your palm. Carefully place the egg in the center and then wrap the sausage evenly around the egg, making sure it is completely covered. Sprinkle a healthy amount of barbecue rub onto the sausage-wrapped egg, and then finish off by wrapping two slices of bacon around it. Set the finished Scotch egg aside and repeat to complete all six eggs.
  • Place the eggs in the refrigerator until the smoker/oven is ready. When ready, place the eggs onto the grates of your smoker or on a aluminum-foil-lined baking sheet in your oven. Let the eggs cook for about one hour, turning them at least once during the cook time to let them evenly crisp. (They’re done when the sausage reaches 160 degrees.)
  • During the last 10 minutes, glaze the eggs with the barbecue sauce.
  • Serve with additional barbecue sauce or along with breakfast fixin’s.

These turned out great. They’re extremely filling, because they’re packed with a ton of protein between the eggs, sausage and bacon. We did try them both with and without the barbecue sauce, and I recommend using it. The glaze was really nice and added a great flavor to the eggs.

Also, these did reheat OK from the fridge later in the week, but they were much better fresh off the smoker. You could also accomplish these in your oven, although you’ll really be missing out if they don’t have that smoked flavor.

I’m not sure the Brits would approve of this Americanized version of Scotch eggs, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I figure we stopped paying attention to British judgement a long time ago.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 1, 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
Appetizer Side Dish

You won’t want to hush about this week’s southern dish

Homemade hushpuppies are a pretty easy side dish to create.

This summer, we have had the privilege of welcoming an intern from the University of Kansas into our newsroom.

It’s amazing how quickly someone can go from being a stranger to being part of the family, and that’s definitely been the case with Will. So, with his final day looming this week, Joey and I decided to have him over for dinner to treat him to a home-cooked meal and thank him for all of his work this summer.

I sent him a text message before setting the menu, double checking that he didn’t have any allergies or major dislikes before I started planning, and he gave me a carte blanche to do whatever I liked.

As anyone who knows me is aware, that can be a bit dangerous, but after some pondering and discussion, Joey and I decided it was going to be Cajun night at the Youngs, mostly because Joey has been craving some hushpuppies lately.

I’ll share the other recipes from the weekend with you in future columns, but I wanted to start with those hushpuppies, because they were absolutely delicious and actually way easier to make than I ever would have thought.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen.” You can find her original post at https://www.melissassouthernstylekitchen.com/hushpuppies/. I added extra seasonings in my version.

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Hushpuppies

Homemade hushpuppies are a pretty easy side dish to create.
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Keyword cornmeal, fried, garlic powder, hushpuppies, Old Bay, onion powder, seafood seasoning, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons seafood seasoning I used Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk or regular milk with a splash of vinegar
  • 1 yellow onion minced
  • 4 to 6 cups canola or vegetable oil

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, seafood seasoning, salt, garlic powder and onion powder and stir until everything is well combined.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg with the buttermilk, and then add the mixture to the larger bowl, mixing until all of the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.
  • Fold in the minced onion, and then set the mixture aside.
  • In a stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. (You’ll want to put enough oil in the pot to make it a couple inches deep.) Using a two-inch ice cream scoop or a large spoon, carefully drop the batter into the hot oil. (I was able to do about five hushpuppies at a time in my pot.) As the hushpuppies cook, slide a slotted spoon underneath them to make sure they’re not sticking to the bottom.
  • Let them fry, turning them to let them evenly brown, for about four minutes or until your hushpuppies have reached your desired color.
  • Carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle them with a little more seafood seasoning, if desired.
  • Wait until the oil is back to 350 degrees, and repeat until you have used all of the batter.
  • Serve hot.

These were everything Joey had been dreaming of, and he was super excited with how they turned out. I was, too. They were a little sweet but also had fabulous onion flavor without it being overwhelming, and they were a great side dish.

Truth be told, I could probably just eat a plate of them for dinner by themselves, too.

We ended up having a wonderful dinner together with Will, and we’ll be sorry to see him go back home this week. He’s been a great addition to our crew. Maybe someday we’ll be able to entice him into coming back and working with us again. I mean, at least he knows he’ll eat well.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 18, 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
Appetizer Snack

Wow guests with an appetizer that’s a ‘tini’ bit fancy

It may seem like a strange combination, but a creamy blue cheese spread, combined with warm, roasted grapes on crunchy crostini is a fantastic, fancy snack or appetizer.

Joey and I aren’t normally Valentine’s Day people. Generally, romance on Feb. 14 is us hanging out at home and playing a board game or watching TV.

But when some good friends of ours asked us to go on a double date with them this year, we were ready to celebrate.

We ended up at the Coneburg Grill and Pub in Peabody for their Valentine’s dinner, which consisted of several courses and some specialty cocktails, too.

We had a fabulous time, and as has always been my experience at the Coneburg, we had a fantastic meal, even though it was far, far more upscale than the décor of the restaurant would’ve otherwise dictated.

Since we went, I haven’t been able to get the appetizer we were served out of my head. It was one of those dishes that looked super weird at first, but the flavor combinations were perfect, and I finally decided I just had to try it.

So I started Googling and found a recipe that seemed to fit the bill from the blog “Babaganosh.” You can find the original post at https://www.babaganosh.org/blue-cheese-spread-roasted-grapes/. I added to the instructions for making your own crostini and added a bit more thyme in my version.

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Roasted Grapes and Blue Cheese Spread

It may seem like a strange combination, but a creamy blue cheese spread, combined with warm, roasted grapes on crunchy crostini is a fantastic, fancy snack or appetizer.
Course Appetizer, Snack
Keyword baguette, blue cheese, crostini, fresh thyme, olive oil, red grapes, sour cream

Ingredients

Crostini Ingredients

  • 1 baguette
  • olive oil for brushing
  • fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste

Grapes Ingredients

  • 4 cups seedless red grapes rinsed and drained
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • cooking spray

Spread Ingredients

  • 4 ounces blue cheese crumbled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 pinch nutmeg

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Slice the baguette into about one-quarter inch slices. Brush each slice with a light coating of olive oil and place them in a single layer on a large baking sheet (line it with parchment or foil for easy cleanup). Sprinkle the slices with salt and pepper, and bake for about 10 minutes, checking after 5, until the slices are at your desired crispiness.
  • For the grapes, spread the grapes out in a baking dish (an eight-by-eight-inch or a nine-by-13 would each work fine). Spray the grapes with cooking spray, and place the sprigs of thyme around the pan.
  • Roast the grapes at 375 for 15 to 25 minutes or until they are starting to burst. Stir them at around the 10-minute mark.
  • (You can roast your grapes and brown your crostini at the same time.)
  • Transfer the grapes to a serving dish, and serve warm.
  • For the spread, combine the blue cheese, sour cream, leaves of the thyme sprigs and nutmeg into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small serving dish and top with a few more thyme leaves for decoration.
  • To eat this dish, spread some of the blue cheese mixture on a crostini and then top with a few warm grapes.
  • Refrigerate any leftover spread or grapes, and store crostini in an airtight container.

So, yeah, I served roasted grapes, which sounds super weird, but it’s so, so good. Adding that fruitiness to blue cheese is a great combination, and who doesn’t like eating crispy crostini?

I wouldn’t say my version is better than the pros at the restaurant, but since I’ll probably have to wait another 11 months to have theirs again, this is a darn good substitute.

I never would have guessed you could learn about fine dining in a humble town like Peabody, but I am (and my tastebuds are) so glad I did.

This piece first appeared in print on March 10, 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
Appetizer Main Dish Snack

Don’t let delicious sandwiches slide by you

Turkey cheese sliders are easy and cheap to make with a package of Hawaiian rolls.

Being the good aunt that I am, when my niece came to spend the night with us this past week, I made sure to have a bag of chocolate mini donuts ready for breakfast.

When my sister and brother-in-law came to pick her up, I asked her if she wanted me to send the leftovers with her, and of course, she happily took them home.

Joey just shook his head.

“You’re such a pusher,” he said.

That’s when I held up the package of Hawaiian dinner rolls my mother had somehow weaseled us into taking back to our house on a recent visit.

“I learned from the best.”

So, what’s there to do with leftover Hawaiian rolls? Well, you could work yourself into a carb-induced food coma, or you can do what we did and make some delicious turkey and cheese sliders.

The recipe I used came from the blog “The Novice Chef.” You can find the original post at https://thenovicechefblog.com/cheesy-turkey-sliders/. I changed the ingredients and removed the sugar, figuring I’ve had enough sweets over the past couple months.

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Turkey Cheese Sliders

Turkey cheese sliders are easy and cheap to make with a package of Hawaiian rolls.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Keyword baked, butter, cheese, deli turkey, dijon mustard, garlic, Hawaiian rolls, onion powder, sandwich, sliders, spinach, Worcestershire

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound deli turkey
  • 12 Hawaiian rolls
  • 6 to 8 slices cheese I used pepperjack
  • about 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  • 4 tablespoons butter melted
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • garlic salt and pepper to taste
  • sesame seeds to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a nine-by-nine-inch pan (or whatever size you have that can fit the entire package of Hawaiian rolls in it) by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Leave the rolls all connected, and using bread knife, cut the Hawaiian rolls in half to create a top and bottom.
  • Place the bottom part into the prepared pan. Place the turkey evenly over the rolls, add the cheese, and then finish off with a layer of spinach leaves. Place the top layer of buns on top, and poke just a few holes in the buns with a sharp knife.
  • In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, dijon, onion powder, Worcestershire, garlic salt and pepper, and pour it evenly over top of the rolls, spreading it out with a spoon, if necessary to evenly coat the rolls.
  • Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 14 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and bake for another two minutes or until the tops brown.
  • Cut the sliders apart and serve immediately.

These were excellent. Joey and I ate them on New Year’s Eve while we played a board game, and it was the perfect, low-key night.

We recreated the recipe a couple days later (my mom actually gave us two packages of rolls) with deli-sliced pastrami, and it was excellent that way, too. I’m going to keep track of this one for when we’ll inevitably have folks over for the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. It would be great for the snack table.

And now we know what to do with leftover Hawaiian rolls. As far as mini donuts, find yourself a willing 4-year-old.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 6, 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
Air Fryer Appetizer Side Dish Snack

Air fryer rangoon can keep you from ‘wonton’ eating

Making crab rangoon is an easy process, and they’re a bit healthier when you make them in an air fryer rather than dunking them in oil.

An article on the website “Atlas Obscura” called “What the Heck Is Crab Rangoon Anyway?” lays out the history of the crispy little Chinese restaurant staple.

The article notes that while crab rangoon are not from China, they’re an invention by Chinese-Americans, who began serving Chinese dishes to Americans of other backgrounds when they came to the United States.

Apparently, the boom of Chinese restaurants in the States was due to a racist policy restricting Chinese immigrants, who were able to use a loophole for “merchant visas” if they owned a restaurant.

“Chinese food was the first Asian cuisine to take hold in the United States; it was unlike the more Eurocentric restaurant scene at the time, and that made it exciting to some Americans,” the article notes.

But as can be expected, some ingredients immigrants were used to in China weren’t available in the U.S., forcing them to get creative with new dishes and allowing items like crab rangoon—those crispy cream cheese and crab filled delicacies—to become a reality.

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love crab rangoon. My love for the side dish came to a head this week when I found a package of wonton wrappers for sale at my local grocery store. The stars aligned, and I decided it was time to give them a try. Plus, I decided it was time to another recipe using my air fryer, which let me make these normally fat-filled little bundles in a much healthier way.

The recipe I used is from the Kansas-City-based blog “Stay Snatched.” You can find the original post at https://www.staysnatched.com/air-fryer-crispy-crab-rangoon/. I changed the cooking time/temperature in my version, because my first batch were a bit over crispy. You may need to adjust for your own air fryer.

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Air-Fryer Crab Rangoon

Making crab rangoon is an easy process, and they're a bit healthier when you make them in an air fryer rather than dunking them in oil.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword air fryer, crab rangoon, cream cheese, garlic, wonton wrappers, Worcestershire

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 6 ounces lump crab meat drained
  • 2 green onions cut into small pieces (I left these out)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 21 wonton wrappers
  • cooking spray

Instructions

  • Combine the cream cheese, crab meat, onions, garlic, Worcestershire and salt and pepper in a bowl.
  • To assemble, lay a wonton wrapper on your countertop. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, lightly brush water around the outside edges of the wrapper.
  • Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper. Bring two opposite corners up to meet in the middle, and then bring the other two opposite corners to meet them, pressing slightly to seal all of the seams of the wonton and pushing any air out. The wonton should look like a little bundle.
  • Place the wontons in the basket of your air fryer and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  • Fry at 350 degrees for eight minutes, turning the wontons halfway through for even cooking.
  • Serve immediately.

I adjusted my recipe to have a bit more cream cheese than the original. For me, I like the light flavor of crab along with the creaminess of the cheese. But the nice thing about this recipe is you can literally adjust any of these ingredients however you want to meet your personal tastes.

I also love that these are not deep fried, and it’s easy to substitute in fat-free cream cheese if you really want to make these a healthier treat.

I adore a good crab rangoon, and now that I know I have some cool Chinese immigrants who wouldn’t let jerks get the better of them to thank for this appetizer, I think I might like them even more.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 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
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
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.

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