Categories
Main Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastitsio
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Pastitsio

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

Ingredients

Meat Sauce Ingredients

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

Bechamel Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Main Dish

Casserole should tread care’philly’ with its cheesesteak claims

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

There are tons of great copycat recipes out there.

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

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

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

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

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Bell Pepper Baked Tortellini Casserole

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Main Dish

Potatoes and ground beef make dinner a done ‘dillo’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Picadillo con Papas

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
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
Main Dish

Make summer meals direct from farm to ‘vege’table

This skillet sausage and zucchini dish is not only a quick meal to make but features plenty of fresh summer vegetables to create a beautiful, colorful plate.

The vegetable section of our local grocery store has been calling to me lately. And now that our local farmer’s markets are in full swing, I’m sure I’ll be finding all kinds of reasons to bring home fresh produce.

This past week, the siren’s song was coming from the zucchini. It was so pretty and just waiting for me to throw it into a pan, so I immediately went hunting for a quick and easy summer recipe for eating some fresh vegetables.

I was not disappointed in the one I found. Not only does it come together in under 30 minutes—even with me being one of the slowest vegetable choppers on the planet—but it was also absolutely delicious.

I found this on the blog “Counts of the Netherworld.” You can find the original post at https://countsofthenetherworld.com/skillet-sausage-and-zucchini-20-minute/. I changed up amounts of the seasonings in my version.

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Skillet Sausage and Zucchini

This skillet sausage and zucchini dish is not only a quick meal to make but features plenty of fresh summer vegetables to create a beautiful, colorful plate.
Course Main Course
Keyword 30-minute meal, garlic, red bell pepper, sausage, yellow onion, zucchini

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 14 ounces fully cooked sausage cut into rounds
  • 2 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion but into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, but into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced

Instructions

  • Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced sausage and cook until it is nicely browned.
  • Remove the sausage from the skillet and add the second tablespoon of olive oil, along with the zucchini, onion, bell pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil and salt and pepper.
  • Stir regularly until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add in the garlic and saute until it just starts to brown, then add the sausage back to the pan. Stir until everything is heated through and serve immediately.

I opted to use a Polish kielbasa for our sausage of choice, but you could easily substitute in something spicier or a turkey or chicken sausage to lighten this even more or even use a meatless “sausage” option, too. 

We ended up with two nice, big portions and another one to put in the fridge, so you might want to double this if you’re feeding a bigger crowd.

Also, it would be so easy to substitute or just add in summer squash, more colors of bell peppers and maybe even some small tomatoes into the mix for this.

Let the local veggie scene guide you on this one.

I’m sure many folks will be very, very tired of zucchini by the end of the summer growing season, but for now, I’m completely excited to start getting ahold of more locally grown vegetables.

Now, if only the ice cream cooler would stop calling to me, too, this could be a perfect summer.

This piece first appeared in print on July 1, 2021.

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

Categories
Main Dish

Explore new ‘pasta’bilities with avocados

Spinach avocado pasta is a great summer dish with lots of fresh flavors, including some roasted tomatoes on top.

There’s a running joke that the people in my generation, Millennials, are completely obsessed with avocados.

In our house, we fit the stereotype, although we rarely eat them on toast. The truth is, avocados are more popular with our generation, because it was in the late 1990s that trade restrictions started to ease for avocados to be imported into the United States and Canada, and a 2015 Super Bowl ad then made Americans start flocking to get their “avocados from Mexico.” (Did you sing the jingle in your head when you read it?)

According to the Canadian restaurant chain Quesada on its website, 90% of the avocados eaten in the United States come from Mexico, whereas past generations had to settle for the shortened growing season in California.

Basically, we now have access to fresh avocados year-round, and they’re cheaper than before, too, so Millennials just happened to be at the exact right time in American history to enjoy the creamy, green fruits. I decided to use avocados in a little different application this week that is absolutely perfect for summer—as a pasta sauce ingredient.

I found this recipe on the blog “Healthy Fitness Meals.” You can find the original post at https://healthyfitnessmeals.com/spinach-and-avocado-pasta-recipe/. I changed up some ingredients, added others, and chose to saute the tomatoes instead of incorporating them raw, like the original author did.

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Spinach Avocado Pasta

Spinach avocado pasta is a great summer dish with lots of fresh flavors, including some roasted tomatoes on top.
Course Main Course
Keyword avocado, spaghetti, spinach, tomatoes, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved, if large
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Boil the pasta according to the package directions, and reserve about 1/4-cup of the pasta water before draining it.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley and oregano and stir to coat the tomatoes with oil. Saute the tomatoes, stirring regularly, until they start to burst or give up their juices, then remove them from the heat.
  • Meanwhile, add the avocado, spinach, garlic, one tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, adding some of the pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is smooth and to your preferred consistency. Taste it and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
  • Stir the pasta and sauce together until it is well coated, and then serve, topping each scoop with some of the cherry tomatoes, along with the juices from the pan.

I have to admit, eating avocados, whose taste I generally associate with flavors like cumin and red pepper, along with Italian spices was a bit weird, but I really liked it.

It was fresh and light and perfect for a summer meal. If you did want to make it heavier, serving this with some grilled chicken would be fantastic, too.

And even if it was a little cliché for a 30-something to make an avocado dish, I’ll be easily ignoring any snickering. Those earlier generations just didn’t know what they were missing.

This piece first appeared in print on June 24, 2021.

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

Categories
Main Dish

A one-pot meal won’t take up ‘mushroom’ in the kitchen

This one-pot recipe for creamy mushroom pasta is a great dinner for the whole family.

Joey and I have completely different styles when it comes to cooking.

I’m a measurements person. He’s an “add it until it tastes right” person.

I subscribe to the “clean as you go” philosophy. He waits until the meal is over.

I search cookbooks and online for ingredients that meld well. He goes with his gut.

So, it was a little out of character for me when he walked into the kitchen to me scrutinizing a video on my phone while furiously scribbling down notes.

I watched a video of a person with the online handle of “Everything Delish” make what appeared to be an amazing creamy mushroom pasta, but after a long search, I realized that if I wanted to recreate the recipe, I was going to have to figure it out for myself.

I found her through her Pinterest page, if you’re interested in watching the video as well, and she has a website at everything-delish.com, although I couldn’t find this particular recipe on it. So, for the most part, the following is my interpretation.

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One Pot Creamy Mushroom Pasta

This one-pot recipe for creamy mushroom pasta is a great dinner for the whole family.
Course Main Course
Keyword chicken, creamy, garlic, linguine, mushrooms, parmesan-reggiano, pasta, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into two-inch cubes
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 16 ounces mushrooms sliced (I used baby bellas)
  • 4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • 12 ounces linguine pasta dry
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup parmesan-reggiano cheese grated
  • 6 ounces parmesan shredded
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large pan with a lid over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Don’t worry about cooking it all the way through. Add in the garlic, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, basil, onion powder, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes, letting the garlic brown slightly.
  • Add in the chicken broth and milk. Raise the heat to a low boil.
  • Add in the dry pasta. Stir to incorporate it. A bit, then lower the heat to a simmer and place the lid on the pan. Let the pasta cook for about eight minutes or until it is al dente.
  • Remove the lid and stir. Stir in the flour, then add the cheeses and continue stirring regularly for five to 10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom to keep the cheese from sticking. Once the sauce reduces into a thicker, creamier consistency, stir in the fresh spinach. Let the pasta continue to heat through until the spinach is wilted, and serve.

This was so, so good. I was really nervous at first that the sauce wasn’t going to thicken, but after being patient, it finally got to a great consistency.

It also reheated really well out of the fridge, and Joey and I got several meals out of it.

When Joey figured out I was winging a recipe, he seemed a bit proud of me. I think maybe after a decade of marriage, he might finally be rubbing off on me.

Except for the whole kitchen cleaning thing. I’m not quite there yet.

This piece first appeared in print on June 3, 2021.

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

Categories
Main Dish

‘Poutine’ all this in a taco is a little crazy

Poutine tacos are a strange twist on the Canadian classic but don’t skimp in the calories the dish normally presents.

I have had several people over the years tell me that this column is promoting bad eating.

I mean, yeah, I agree at least somewhat. If you eat many of the recipes I write about every day of the week, you’re probably not making your doctor or your bathroom scale all that happy.

But I also think reading about decadent desserts or calorie-laden meals is kind of fun. There’s a reason the Food Network doesn’t have a full slate of salad shows in its line up.

It’s not that I’m against eating healthy. Actually, Joey and I try hard to eat well regularly. I have a big bunch of asparagus in my fridge right now, along with some other fresh greens, ready to be cooked for dinner this week.

But sometimes I like to try out the dark side of the cookbook, and if you didn’t see it coming, this week’s recipe is way, way on the caloric dark side.

This recipe, a twist on the classic Canadian dish of poutine, which features cheese curds, French fries and brown gravy, comes from the website “Recipe Champions” by Josh Elkin. If you haven’t ever heard of his website, check it out sometime. He has some truly crazy recipes on there. You can find the original post at https://recipechampions.com/recipe/poutine-tacos/. I took out some steps in my version. Also, I used yellow cheese curds, although the classic uses white. I’d recommend just using what is available in your local grocery store.

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Poutine Tacos

Poutine tacos are a strange twist on the Canadian classic but don't skimp in the calories the dish normally presents.
Course Main Course
Keyword bacon, brown gravy, cheese curds, French fries, mozzarella, poutine, tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 12 ounces frozen French fries
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cheese curds
  • 6 strips bacon cooked and chopped

Instructions

  • Start by making the taco shells. Set out a taco holder or a cupcake pan, turned upside down. Heat a small skillet (about five inches wide) over medium heat. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese evenly into the bottom of the pan. Let it cook, undisturbed, for about three minutes. Then turn the heat to medium high, and when you notice the edges starting to turn brown, check to see if you can move the cheese, if it can move, it’s ready. Remove the circle of cheese from the heat.
  • While the cheese is still hot, carefully place it in the taco holder to create a taco shape or place it in a taco shape between two of the cups on the cupcake tin.
  • Repeat the process with the rest of the mozzarella.
  • As the shells cool and harden, cook the French fries in your preferred method.
  • Create a brown gravy by bringing the beef broth to a boil in a small saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup cold water. Once the broth is boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and whisk in the garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire, dissolved corn starch mixture and salt and pepper. Let the gravy thicken, stirring regularly, and add more salt and pepper if desired.
  • To assemble the tacos, start with a layer of fries in the mozzarella shell, top with cheese curds, and then add gravy and bacon pieces. Serve immediately.

These were ridiculous. They were delicious, with lots of great texture, but they felt ridiculous to eat because of how bad for us they were. It was kind of like when you get something fried and delicious at the state fair.

I can’t say that we’ll be making them again any time soon, but it was definitely worth eating once, feeling bad about it, and ticking this off the life experience list.

I’m sure I’ll wound the egos of some Canadians for putting out this non-traditional version, and I’m also certain I’ll have some health professionals wagging their finger at me, but this was so, so good, and it was fun to make, too.

And to all my naysayers, don’t worry. I promise my asparagus will be made with no frying or bacon involved. I’m just not making any commitments for next week’s column.

This piece first appeared in print on May 13, 2021.

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

Categories
Main Dish Soup

Spicy ramen makes ‘miso’ happy

Spicy garlic ramen comes together in about 15 minutes, has lots of levels of flavor and is extremely easy to customize with your favorite ingredients.

One of the first meals Joey and I had inside a restaurant after we were officially vaccinated for COVID-19 was to try out some local spicy garlic ramen we heard about online.

The restaurant serves its spicy ramen in levels, with each level getting progressively hotter. Joey started off asking for a relatively high number, and the sweet girl at the counter just shook her head at him and asked if he was sure. He went with a lower option, just in case.

We really enjoyed the ramen. It was flavorful and just the right amount of spicy. It made for a great meal, so of course, we decided we had to figure out how to make some spicy garlic ramen for ourselves at home.

If you’re not into spicy flavors, I’d recommend starting with less of the sambal oelek, which is a spicy chili sauce. I used only one tablespoon the first time, and in the four or five times I’ve made this since, I added a second tablespoon, and it gives it a good “makes your nose run” heat.

This comes from the blog “40 Aprons” by Cheryl Malik. You can find her original post at https://40aprons.com/15-minute-spicy-ramen/. I added extra garlic in my version.

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Spicy Garlic Ramen

Spicy garlic ramen comes together in about 15 minutes, has lots of levels of flavor and is extremely easy to customize with your favorite ingredients.
Course Main Course
Keyword garlic, gingerbread, miso paste, ramen, sambal oelek, sesame oil, soy sauce, spicy

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1- inch knob fresh ginger cut into fourths
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons sambal oelek
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • dash rice wine vinegar
  • 2 blocks ramen
  • Optional toppings: soft-boiled eggs sliced green onion, sesame seeds, fresh sliced mushrooms, etc.

Instructions

  • Combine the broth along with one cup water in a medium-sized pot. Toss in the ginger, garlic, miso paste, sambal oelek, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar and stir to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, letting the flavors meld for 10 minutes.
  • If you are serving this with soft-boiled eggs, place your eggs in a pot and just cover them with cold water. Bring to a rapid boil and remove from heat after six minutes. Drain the eggs and immediately plunge them in a bowl of ice water, and set them aside while your ramen finishes.
  • To finish off the ramen, remove the slices of ginger, and bring the broth back to a low boil and drop in the blocks of noodles. Cook for two minutes or until the noodles reach your desired level of doneness.
  • Serve with whatever toppings you choose.

This was so, so good. I don’t normally make something again, let along numerous times, before I share a recipe with you guys, but this one was so good that it has its own card in my recipe box already. 

It’s so easy to add extras, too. You could add shrimp or chicken or tofu, too, if you want some protein in there.

And the nice thing about controlling the spice level yourself is even if you guess wrong, you don’t have to deal with the judgmental eyes of a cashier, silently telling you, “I told you so.”

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

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

Categories
Main Dish Side Dish

Huge casserole will make you say, ‘Cheese, Louise!’

This over-the-top version of macaroni and cheese makes a huge amount of the creamy, decadent dish.

As the extremely proud aunt of a fantastic three-year-old, I have been around for quite a few meals of macaroni and cheese the past several years.

I definitely can’t argue with her taste in good food. Joey makes fun of me for ordering mac and cheese regularly, and while my niece’s dish of choice is generally a cup of the single-serving microwaveable kind, I tend to opt for a more grown up version.

After I recently saw a recipe online for a batch that claimed to be the “world’s best” and featured three types of cheese, I decided to forgo any boxes of Kraft and try my own version from scratch.

I will warn you, before we even launch into this, that this makes an absolutely huge dish of macaroni and cheese. I would highly recommend halving or even quartering the recipe if you aren’t feeding a crowd or don’t want a lot of leftovers.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Mom on Timeout.” You can find the original post at https://www.momontimeout.com/best-homemade-baked-mac-and-cheese-recipe/. I ended up adding extra pasta to my version, because it was way too soupy for my tastes. I also added garlic powder and extra paprika.

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Over-the-Top Macaroni and Cheese

This over-the-top version of macaroni and cheese makes a huge amount of the creamy, decadent dish.
Course Main Course
Keyword garlic, gruyere, macaroni, panko, parmesan, sharp cheddar cheese

Ingredients

  • 24 ounces elbow macaroni cooked al dente
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar shredded
  • 2 cups gruyere shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/2 cup parmesan shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a three- or four-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  • While the pasta cooks, combine the shredded cheddar and Gruyere in a large bowl and set it aside.
  • When the pasta is finished and drained, add it to another bowl and drizzle it with the olive oil and mix to combine. Set it aside.
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt six tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and continue to stir for one minute. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream until the mixture is smooth. Continue stirring regularly until small bubbles start to form on the surface. Whisk in the salt, pepper and garlic powder and continue cooking, stirring regularly, for about two more minutes. Reserve two cups of the combined cheddar and gruyere, and add the rest to the pot, a handful at a time, whisking in between additions until the sauce is smooth. Once all of the cheese is melted into the sauce, add the pasta. Stir to fully coat the pasta and dump half of it into the prepared baking dish.
  • Add the rest of the cheddar and gruyere in an even layer and then top with the rest of the macaroni mixture.
  • In a bowl, combine the panko, parmesan, four tablespoons melted butter and paprika, and stir until all of the bread crumbs are moistened.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on the top of the dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is browned and the cheese is bubbling.

This was so rich and really delicious, and while gruyere is not a cheap cheese to buy, it really did add some complex flavors I wouldn’t have been able to get with just the sharp cheddar.

Two things I would add as tips are, first, you might want to bake this on a baking sheet in case it spills over. My baking dish was just over three quarts in size, and I could barely fit the entire batch into it.

Second, if you want the best results, shred the cheddar and gruyere yourself. Pre-packaged shredded cheese often doesn’t melt as easily because of additives put in to keep it from clumping together.

I was amazed at the size of this batch of macaroni and cheese by the time I was done. I ended up giving away quite a few helpings so that it would all get eaten.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy this one with my niece. We’ll have to have a mac and cheese date sometime soon; although, I suspect that my use of “fancy” cheese won’t impress her too much and with her three-year-old appetite, we’re bound to have a lot of leftovers.

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

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