Categories
Crockpot Main Dish Soup

‘Peas’ your tastebuds with a spicy crockpot soup

Crockpot Spicy Black-Eyed Peas
Spicy black-eyed peas are a great way to warm up on a cold day and are even better with some fresh cornbread on the side.

There is enough debate about black-eyed peas that there’s actually an article about them on the Library of Congress website.

It starts out very simply, asking, “Are black-eyed peas really peas?”

The answer is simple: “No.”

The article then goes into a very technical, scientific explanation of how peas, beans and legumes are classified and named. It’s great reading if you want to take a nap.

But I suppose no matter what their official classification, their presence in our house every New Year’s Day is a constant, as they are supposed to create good luck in the coming year.

Obviously, with all the craziness over the past year, I must have not cooked them quite right in 2021, so I’m hoping this year’s recipe was a better one.

I decided to go with a spicy version of black-eyed peas this year, mostly because I had some jalapeno peppers languishing in my crisper drawer already. You can leave those out and just add another bell pepper and cut out the cayenne if you want to try this recipe and you’re not much of a spice person, but if you like a little heat, you’re really going to like this one.

This recipe from Trisha Haas comes from the blog “Salty Side Dish.” You can find the original post at https://www.saltysidedish.com/slow-cooker-black-eyed-peas/. I added extra spices in my version.

Print

Crockpot Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

Spicy black-eyed peas are a great way to warm up on a cold day and are even better with some fresh cornbread on the side.
Course Main Course
Keyword bacon, bell pepper, black-eyed peas, cayenne, crockpot, cumin, garlic, ham, jalapeno, oregano, slow cooker, soup, spicy, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces dry black-eyed peas
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bell pepper diced (any color)
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers diced (remove the seeds for less kick)
  • 1 cup ham chopped
  • 6 slices bacon chopped
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Add the beef bouillon cubes to about 1 cup of hot water. Smash the cubes before adding them to a large crockpot along with five more cups of water, and then add all of the rest of the ingredients, as well. You do not have to do anything to prep the peas. Just dump them in.
  • Give the mixture a good stir and then cook on high for six hours or until the peas are cooked through.
  • This is fantastic served with fresh cornbread.

The photos on the recipe’s website show a mushier-looking soup without a lot of broth. I had a decent amount of broth with mine, so it’s really more about what you prefer with yours if you let it cook down even longer to really get the liquid thinned out. Personally, I love having broth with soups like this so I have something to soak up with my cornbread.

This was so, so easy, since it was as simple as just dumping everything in the crockpot. It literally took no cooking skills whatsoever, which I appreciate sometimes.

Now, with our bellies warmed, supposedly Joey and I are covered for 2022 and all the luck life can bring us. I’m not sure if it worked, but I have some leftovers in my freezer just in case we need a boost in the coming weeks.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 13, 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.

Print

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
Main Dish Soup

Soup recipe lets me tell counter leftovers ‘see you tater’

Potato poblano corn chowder is creamy and filling, especially with the addition of shredded chicken and extra potatoes.

They’ve just been staring at me.

Four potatoes have been sitting on my kitchen counter since Thanksgiving, and as the days passed, they literally were growing some eyes to look at me with.

So I knew I needed to make something to use them up, and with the weather finally hitting a dreaded cold snap, I decided to pull out a chowder recipe I’ve been meaning to try.

Of course, I had to do some tweaking, including making it a bit heartier by adding chicken and increasing the spices and vegetables, too.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian recipe, just leave out the chicken, use some vegetable broth and throw in even more potatoes. It’ll still be delicious.

The recipe I tried, by Ivy Manning, appeared in “Fine Cooking” magazine in 2018. You can find it on their website at https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/potato-poblano-corn-chowder.

Print

Potato Poblano Corn Chowder

Potato poblano corn chowder is creamy and filling, especially with the addition of shredded chicken and extra potatoes.
Course Main Course
Keyword baked potatoes, broth, carrots, celery, chicken, chowder, coriander, corn, cumin, mashed potatoes, poblano peppers, soup, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 poblano peppers diced
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery diced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk I used skim
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes diced
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 2 cups corn kernels I used frozen
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, peppers, carrots and celery and saute until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add the coriander, cumin, thyme, salt and pepper and flour, and stir to combine. Saute for a couple minutes to cook out the flour taste. Stir in the tomato paste, and then add the broth, milk, potatoes, chicken and corn to the pot.
  • Bring the mixture to a low boil, and then turn the heat down to low and simmer, with a lid on the pot, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and cayenne pepper and then serve immediately.

Add as much or as little cayenne as you want to this to control the spice level. Poblano peppers tend to be on the milder side, but if you’re nervous, make sure you remove the ribs and seeds when you dice them up, too.

This had a creamy taste and was a good belly warmer. I actually ended up doubling the recipe so I could store the leftovers as quick weeknight dinners in our freezer.

I was glad to finally get some of my counter space back just in time for all my holiday baking. But I have a feeling that when I’m staring down a mountain of treat containers over the next few weeks, I’ll really miss those potatoes.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 23, 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
Crockpot Main Dish

Pantry clean out calls for finally using my noodle

Crockpot lasagna is easy to put together and creates a great, hot dinner without standing over the stove for hours.

After weeks of opening my pantry and sighing deeply at the mess and disorganization, I finally pulled every last item out this past weekend.

Joey came into the kitchen to find boxes, bags and containers on every countertop.

“Today’s the day, huh?” he said, and then he wisely made himself scarce.

He knows better than to get in the middle of my crazy when I’m trying to organize.

As I dug through the pile, I discovered several things. One: At some point, I purchased corn starch, forgot I purchased corn starch and purchased corn starch again. Two: I have way more cupcake liners than I thought I did. And three: For some reason, I spent some time in the past collecting half-full boxes of lasagna noodles.

I’m not really sure what to do with my wealth of cornstarch, and the cupcake liners are now tucked away in a much better location, so I turned my attention to the lasagna noodles, but since I’d already spent a bunch of time cleaning, I decided I needed an easy recipe to try.

The one I found fit the bill: a crockpot lasagna.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Big Oven.” You can find the original post at https://www.bigoven.com/recipe/easy-crockpot-lasagna/229584.

Print

Crockpot Lasagna

Crockpot lasagna is easy to put together and creates a great, hot dinner without standing over the stove for hours.
Course Main Course
Keyword crockpot, easy dinner, mozarella cheese, parmesan cheese, pasta sauce, ricotta cheese, slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 3-4 cups mozzarella cheese divided
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese I used low-fat
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 cup fresh spinach cut into ribbons
  • 24 ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 6 to 9 uncooked lasagna noodles I used a combo of regular and oven-ready

Instructions

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble the ground beef, along with the onions.
  • While the beef and onions cook, add 2 cups of the mozzarella, the ricotta, parmesan, egg, parsley and spinach in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  • Once the beef is cooked through, drain off as much fat as you can, and add the minced garlic, sauteing for a few minutes.
  • Add the pasta sauce and 1/2 cup of water to the skillet. (To really help clean out the jar, pour the water into the jar after you dump the sauce in the pan, and swish it around before adding it to the pan, too.) Add any seasonings you want to spice up your pasta sauce. (I added oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to mine.) Cook the sauce for a few minutes to let it all heat through.
  • In a large crockpot, add about one cup of the sauce to the bottom. Layer in as many noodles as you can fit in a single layer (break them, if necessary).
  • Spread half of the cheese mixture on top.
  • Add about two cups of sauce and add another layer of noodles.
  • Finish out by spreading the second half of the cheese mixture on and topping with the remaining sauce.
  • Cook on low for four to five hours or until your noodles are cooked through.
  • About 10 minutes before serving, top with the rest of your mozzarella and cover to let the cheese melt.
  • (I ended up putting this together the night before we wanted to eat it and refrigerated it in my crockpot. I plugged it in and cooked it on high for four hours, since it started out cold, and it cooked up great.)

This was pretty darn good, made for great leftovers, and it took way less time than a traditional lasagna. You could easily kick this up a notch with fancier sauces or subbing in half the ground beef with sausage, too.

And now I’m down to just one partial box of lasagna, which fits my newly organized aesthetic much better. I still sigh when I open my pantry, but it’s a sigh of happiness now.

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

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

Categories
Crockpot Main Dish

There are ‘polenta’ of options for this pork dish

Slow-cooked pork ragu is served over a creamy polenta to create a delicious, warm dinner with tons of flavor.

It’s amazing how much variety we have at our fingertips at our local grocery stores.

There are so many options and ingredients that you’d think no one could ever miss out on finding something they wanted, but as is sometimes the case, I hit a brick wall with this week’s recipe.

I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a pork ragu served over creamy polenta, but when I looked at our grocery store, the only polenta I could get was the pre-made kind that definitely isn’t creamy.

So I turned to the Internet to find a solution. Surely there had to be a locally available ingredient I could use to make creamy polenta.

Of course, someone had the solution: coarse grind cornmeal. And I figured out that Bob’s Red Mill makes just such a product, and it was available right here! The website I found claimed that you just used coarse grind cornmeal the same way you use polenta, so I immediately bought a bag. 

And it worked…sort of. If you can’t find actual polenta like I couldn’t, here’s my advice: buy the coarse grind cornmeal, but double the amount of it rather than substituting it one-to-one with the polenta.

I was so ready to eat when I took the lid off my pot of polenta and realized it was more in the “soupy” category than the “creamy” one. So, if you decide to make the swap, I highly encourage you to use three cups coarse cornmeal so you can get dinner on the table on time.

This comes from the blog “White Plate, Blank Slate.” You can find the original at http://whiteplateblankslate.com/pork-ragu-with-creamy-polenta. I modified the recipe by changing up the spices a bit and by using a crockpot instead of the stovetop for the bulk of the cook time.

Print

Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta

Slow-cooked pork ragu is served over a creamy polenta to create a delicious, warm dinner with tons of flavor.
Course Main Course
Keyword asparagus, bay leaves, creamy polenta, crockpot, crushed tomatoes, garlic, parmesan, pork butt, pork shoulder, rosemary, thyme

Ingredients

Ragu Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine I used a Cabernet-savignon
  • 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves

Creamy Polenta Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk I used skim
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse polenta or 3 cups coarse grind cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan grated, plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cut any excess fat off of the pork shoulder and then cut it into three large pieces. Season them with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a stock pot or Dutch oven and saute, turning each piece to evenly brown each side.
  • Remove the pork from the pot and place in a large crockpot and drain off any accumulated fat.
  • Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are soft. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and saute for about five minutes. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze it. Cook for another five minutes and then add the tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, smashing the tomatoes as you stir.
  • Add the mixture, along with two cups of water, to the pork in the crockpot. Cook for two and one-half to three hours on high or five to six hours on low.
  • When the pork is done, shred it with two forks, and stir it back into the sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste and removing the bay leaves.
  • For the polenta, add the milk and chicken stock to a stock pot or Dutch oven and bring to a very low boil. Add the polenta or corn meal, whisking constantly as you add it. Once the polenta is well-combined, place a lid on the pot and remove it from heat. Don’t open it again until 20 minutes have elapsed.
  • Remove the lid and add the butter and parmesan cheese, whisking until everything is well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve the ragu over top of the polenta in bowls, topping with a bit more parmesan.

This was so, so good, and it made a ton of food. We’ve been enjoying lots of leftovers over the past week, and the ragu would be great as a freezer meal, as well.

I’m sure plenty of polenta purists would say that I didn’t really come up with a worthy substitute, but I’d say that being able to swipe my credit card locally instead of online made it worth it. Plus, it was darn delicious, so polenta or not, this recipe earned an A-plus in my book.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 21, 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

Want to be a French chef? You can d’ouille’ it!

Ratatouille is a vegetarian dish with lots of color, deep flavors and makes for a hearty meal or side dish.

In an online article, author Ossiana Tepfenhart explains that there are lots of foods we now consider “fancy” that were once “poor man’s food.”

Dishes that fit the bill include lobster, oysters and even caviar. 

Another dish that she could have included? Ratatouille. 

The summer stew, native to Nice, France, was once considered a humble dish for humble folks, but now (probably thanks, in part, to the animated movie with the same name), it’s a meal that sounds luxurious and expensive.

I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely not expensive (or it shouldn’t be), and it’s actually deceptively easy to make, as long as you’re ready to do a lot of vegetable chopping.

It’s also a great dinner if you have a vegetarian eating at your table and can also suit vegans, as long as you substitute vegan parmesan into the recipe.

And I know this is technically a summer dish, but I can tell you there were still enough veggies hanging around at my local grocery store to accomplish this one, and as a hearty, warm meal, it suits these early fall days perfectly.

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Bianca Zapatka. You can find it on her blog at https://biancazapatka.com/en/best-ratatouille-recipe/. I mostly used a video by the blog “One Dollar Kitchen” you can find on Pinterest. I added extra garlic in my version and replaced fresh herbs with dried.

Print

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a vegetarian dish with lots of color, deep flavors and makes for a hearty meal or side dish.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine French
Keyword basil, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, parmesan, rosemary, thyme, vegan, vegetarian, yellow onion, yellow squash

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 yellow pepper diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 small eggplant sliced
  • 2 small yellow squash sliced
  • 2 small zucchini sliced
  • 6 roma tomatoes sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated parmesan for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and saute until they’re soft. Add the garlic and saute until it’s fragrant.
  • Add in the crushed tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper, and cook for a couple minutes.
  • Arrange the eggplant, squash, zucchini and tomatoes in a spiral in the skillet, starting around the outside edge and working your way in. (Stand the slices up on their ends, rather than laying them flat, and arrange them tightly.)
  • Mix the remaining olive oil with the rosemary and thyme in a small bowl, and spoon or brush the mixture as evenly as possible over the top of the vegetables. Top with more salt and pepper.
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for one hour.
  • Serve alone, with pasta or as a side dish and sprinkle servings with grated parmesan.

This has great depth of flavor, and we had an absolute ton of leftovers after making this for just two of us, so I would caution you to plan accordingly.

And after you make ratatouille at home, you can officially say you’ve practiced your French cooking. You don’t have to tell anyone its origins. After all, considering the prices nowadays of lobster, oysters or caviar, I think it’s safe to say things can change.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 14, 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

Spicy Korean chicken is a great bite to ‘heat’

Korean chicken is a spicy, delicious dish, perfect for stuffing into fresh bao and topped with cilantro and sesame seeds.

A lot of people took time during their quarantine to learn to make fresh bread. I don’t know how many Pinterest posts I saw where people proudly showed off their sourdough starters. 

Rather than tackle that particular challenge, I decided to try my hand at some Asian dishes instead.

As a lifelong Kansan, I haven’t had a lot exposure to different cultures’ cuisines, so I decided to see if I could create some of those flavors myself. It was fun to explore some areas of the grocery store I don’t normally even visit.

Last week, I shared my experience with making steamed buns, bao, for the first time, and I promised to tell you how to make the chicken recipe I made to go with it. (If you missed that one, check out my website at spiceupkitchen.net to find it.)

Ironically, while I spent all kinds of time making my bao from scratch, I simplified the recipe for the chicken quite a bit, so even if you don’t have time to make steamed buns, I highly recommend trying this recipe out and serving it alongside some rice or maybe even over some Asian noodles.

This comes from the blog “Kitchen Sanctuary” by Nicky Corbishley. You can find the original post at https://www.kitchensanctuary.com/korean-chicken-bao/. I switched out a few ingredients—opting to use popcorn chicken instead of breading my own and substituting miso and sambal oelek for gochujang paste, which wasn’t available at my local grocery store. I also added extra garlic.

Print

Korean Chicken

Korean chicken is a spicy, delicious dish, perfect for stuffing into fresh bao and topped with cilantro and sesame seeds.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Keyword Asian, chicken, garlic, ginger, honey, Korean, miso paste, sambal oelek, spicy

Ingredients

  • 25 ounces frozen popcorn chicken
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • fresh cilantro for serving
  • white and/or black sesame seeds for serving

Instructions

  • Fry or bake the popcorn chicken according to package instructions. While the chicken cooks add the miso, sambal oelek, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, canola oil and sesame oil in a saucepan, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about five minutes, until it thickens.
  • Add the chicken and sauce to a bowl and stir to coat the chicken. Serve the chicken inside bao or over rice or Asian pasta. Top with cilantro and sesame seeds.

This had a great kick to it, spice wise. If you’re not into spicy stuff, you might tone down the sambal oelek a bit and opt for a bit more miso instead, but I highly recommend giving this a try. It has more of a slow, sweet burn to it rather than one that smacks you in the face.

We ate ours in bao, obviously, and the puffed, simple bread was the perfect vehicle for the Korean chicken.

I don’t think I’ll be making bao all of the time, thanks to how time consuming it is, but this chicken will definitely go in the regular rotation.

If I’m going to completely master Asian cooking, I have quite a few more dishes—and countries—to explore. It might have been easier to stick with sourdough.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 7, 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

Making steamed buns will make you want to take a ‘bao’

Bao are steamed buns, originally from China, that are perfect to stuff with any of your favorite fillings.

There are so many specialty kitchen items that I refuse to buy. 

It’s not that I don’t see the convenience factor in owning a cherry pitter or a banana slicer for the few times a year I need them, but I just don’t have the room to store them.

That was how I felt about owning a bamboo steamer. Sure, there were recipes I would love to try that required one, but I just couldn’t justify owning (and storing) one.

But then I tried bao.

Bao (pronounced “bow,” as in rhymes with “cow) are Chinese steamed buns. According to the “A Dumpling Thing” blog, they’ve been around for centuries, and while many people call them bao buns, the word bao translates to “bun” already (much like the word “ramen” means “noodles”), so you can just say bao.

Traditionally, bao is served with pork dishes, but today, there are tons of fillings put into these soft, light buns that are folded in half, kind of like a taco, ready for pretty much anything to go inside.

I will warn you that the bao process is time consuming—just like making any fresh bread—but it’s really fun to see them emerge from your steamer, knowing you accomplished something new.

This week’s recipe is going to come at you in a two-parter. This week, I’m going to tell you how I made bao. Next week, I’ll give you a great recipe for the filling I used.

The original recipe for both parts (if you don’t want to wait), can be found on the blog “Kitchen Sanctuary” by Nicky Corbishley. You can find her post at https://www.kitchensanctuary.com/korean-chicken-bao. I clarified some of the directions below, based on what worked for me.

Print

Bao (Steamed Buns)

Bao are steamed buns, originally from China, that are perfect to stuff with any of your favorite fillings.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword Asian, bamboo steamer, bao, Korean, steamed buns

Ingredients

  • 3 3/4 cups flour plus more for kneading
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  • Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl.
  • In another small bowl, add the milk, water and butter, stirring until everything is well combined.
  • Stir the liquids into the flour mixture until the dough starts to come together, then turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead for about 10 minutes. (Or use a stand mixer with a dough hook.)
  • Spray a bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in it, covering with plastic wrap or a damp towel, letting it rise for about 90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
  • Once it is doubled, dump it out onto a floured countertop again, knead it briefly, and split it into 20 even balls.
  • Cut some parchment paper into rectangles—about 2.5 by 3.5 inches—one for each ball, and roll the balls out into an oval shape about the same dimensions as the piece of parchment.
  • Once the dough is rolled out, brush each oval with the olive oil.
  • Place a chopstick or bamboo skewer in the middle of each oval (this will leave a little bit of an empty spot in the dough when you slide it out) and fold it over.
  • Leaving the dough on the parchment, position them into the trays of a bamboo steamer, covering each section with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and letting them rise for an hour.
  • To steam the buns, boil a few inches of water in a skillet that is large enough to fit your bamboo steamer. You want just enough water that it will come up on the sides of the steamer but not actually touch the buns in the bottom section.
  • Once the water is boiling, place the steamer basket in the pan and steam the buns for 10 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the steamer basket and serve the bao immediately with your favorite fillings.

These were delicious fresh. They’re a very neutral-tasting bread, so they don’t compete with whatever filling you decide to put inside. They’re also a great texture—light and fluffy. Honestly, you just have to try them to really understand them.

For reheating, I’d recommend wrapping them in a damp paper towel and warming them in the microwave. Otherwise, they get kind of tough.

And now that I own a bamboo steamer (that I luckily found at our local second-hand shop), I can make bao whenever I have the time and patience to do so.

I still don’t know where I’m going to store the thing, but I figure that’s a problem for another time. Right now, I have some steamed buns to eat.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 30, 2021.

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

Categories
Main Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Print

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.

Print

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.