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
Main Dish

Etouffee is easy to make and ‘shrimp’ly delicious

Shrimp etouffee is made with an easy, homemade stock and lots of fresh vegetables to create a spicy, filling meal.

I’m of the opinion that any dish named using its French term immediately sounds 1,000 times fancier.

Souffles (puffed up egg dishes) and fondue sovoyarde (cheese dip) and crème brulee (custard topped with burnt sugar) all sound infinitely luxurious. Even foie gras (duck liver pate) almost sounds appetizing.

Shrimp etouffee is another of those dishes. “Etouffee” just means “smothered” in French, but having never tried it, I was sure it was way too complicated to create in my own kitchen.

It turns out I was very wrong about that, and not only is shrimp etouffee relatively simple to create, it’s delicious, too.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Chili Pepper Madness” by Mike Hultquist. You can find the original post at https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/shrimp-etouffee/. I added extra veggies, garlic and seasoning in my version.

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Shrimp Etouffee

Shrimp etouffee is made with an easy, homemade stock and lots of fresh vegetables to create a spicy, filling meal.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cajun, Creole
Keyword cajun seasoning, celery, Creole seasoning, crushed tomatoes, fresh thyme, green bell pepper, hot sauce, shrimp, spicy, white rice, Worcestershire, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shrimp shelled (keep shells for stock)
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 green bell peppers diced (keep scraps for stock)
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion diced (keep scraps for stock)
  • 4 stalks celery diced (keep scraps for stock)
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce I used Chipotle Tabasco
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked white rice for serving

Instructions

  • Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium heat. Start by prepping your shrimp and vegetables. Toss all vegetable scraps, along with the shrimp shells into the oil. Cook the shells and scraps for about five minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetable scraps are softened. Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the solids out of the stock and set the stock aside while you make the sauce.
  • In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat three tablespoons oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the flour and stir to create a paste. Continue stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until the roux reaches a light brown color. (Don’t let the roux burn. If it does, discard it and start over.)
  • Add the diced peppers, onion and celery. Cook for about five minutes or until the vegetables are starting to soften.
  • Add the tomatoes, along with their juices, and the garlic and saute for another minute.
  • Stir in the stock you made earlier, making sure to break up any clumps of flour. Once everything is mixed well, stir in two tablespoons Creole seasoning, Worcestershire, hot sauce, thyme and salt and pepper.
  • Let the mixture simmer for at least 20 minutes before serving, regularly stirring to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • While the sauce simmers, heat one tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Season the shrimp with one teaspoon of the Creole seasoning, and saute them in the hot oil, one or two minutes per side, until they are cooked through.
  • Serve the sauce over the rice and top with shrimp.

We absolutely loved this. I was a little nervous about making shrimp stock, but it was super easy, and it added a ton of flavor to the overall dish. It was also good and spicy. If you’re not much of a spice fan, you might decrease the Creole seasoning when you make it, but we thought it had exactly the right amount of heat. I also used chicken stock to make the rice to go with this, and I think that added even more depth of flavor.

And in addition to making something delicious, I have enjoyed mentioning to people that I made such a fancy-sounding meal. I might have to give some more French dishes a try…minus the duck livers.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 25, 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

Spicy, wing-inspired casserole is ‘Buffalo’-key delicious

Buffalo chicken casserole combines alfredo sauce and pasta with Buffalo wing sauce and chicken to create a cheesy, spicy dish that comes together quickly for dinner.

I was gone for a few days last week, and while Joey and I were catching up on our respective adventures from when we were apart, I learned that he made homemade Buffalo wings. Without me.

Now, I’ll forgive him his betrayal, because in his defense, I am normally not a huge fan of eating meat off the bone. But chicken wings tend to be a bit of an exception.

I love the spiciness of Buffalo sauce along with some crispy celery or some cool ranch dipping sauce. Wings are just pretty darn great all the way around.

I kept thinking about how I missed out, when I remembered I had a recipe featuring Buffalo sauce that I’ve been meaning to try. I hoped it would be just the trick to finally kick my craving.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Back For Seconds.” You can find the original post at https://backforseconds.com/buffalo-chicken-alfredo-bake/2/. I changed up the amounts of several ingredients and used breaded chicken instead of rotisserie in my version.

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Buffalo Chicken Casserole

Buffalo chicken casserole combines alfredo sauce and pasta with Buffalo wing sauce and chicken to create a cheesy, spicy dish that comes together quickly for dinner.
Course Main Course
Keyword Alfredo sauce, Buffalo sauce, chicken, easy dinner, mozzarella, penne pasta, quick dinner

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces pasta cooked (I used penne)
  • 1/3 cup buffalo sauce plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cups cooked chicken diced (I used frozen chicken patties)
  • 16 ounces alfredo sauce
  • 12 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • While you boil your pasta, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a three-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • When draining your pasta, reserve about one-third cup of the cooking liquid.
  • In a bowl, combine the buffalo sauce and chicken and stir to coat evenly.
  • In another bowl, combine the alfredo sauce, pasta and about one-fourth of the cheese. Pour the reserved pasta water into the empty alfredo jar, put on the lid, and shake it to loosen any leftover sauce in the jar. Pour it into the bowl, as well. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Stir to mix it well.
  • Spread half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Evenly spread the chicken over that, and then finish off with the other half of the pasta mixture.
  • Top with the remaining cheese.
  • Cover the baking dish with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the covering and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.
  • Let the casserole sit for about five minutes, drizzle with a little Buffalo sauce, and serve.

I was really happy with how this turned out. It was a bit spicy with lots of good cheesy flavors mixed in. I also was happy with my decision to cut up chicken patties to use in this instead of deboning a rotisserie chicken. It took way less time, and I liked the added flavor of the breading in the casserole.

It’s not quite a complete substitute for Buffalo wings, but it definitely did a good job of featuring the main flavors.

Joey will probably still have to make it up to me by cooking some wings again sometime in the near future, but I think this will hold me over for now.

This piece first appeared in print on June 30, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chili con Carne

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Main Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Potato and Chickpea Curry

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Main Dish

Avocado tuna salad pits spouses against each other

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

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

Well, that’s most of the time.

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

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

Oh, well. More for me.

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

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Avocado Tuna Salad

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Main Dish Salad Side Dish

Customizable pasta dish is worth every ‘penne’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greek Pasta Salad

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Main Dish

Be ready for an enchi’little’ heat with jalapenos this week

Jalapeno cream cheese chicken enchiladas are a great weeknight dinner. They’re spicy, cheesy and make for fantastic leftovers.

Sometime last summer I found a huge bag of hatch green chiles that were on clearance in our local grocery store.

I immediately threw them in my cart, visions of cheesy enchiladas with mild, roasted chiles dancing in my head.

What I created was an abomination. I quickly realized how spicy the chiles were when Joey and I each took our first bite and nearly choked from the heat. I’m sure there are people who love playing chicken with the Scoville Heat Scale who would have absolutely loved them, but at the point that they even made Joey sweat, I knew they were way too spicy for either of us to consume. They ended up being deconstructed and made into another dish with lots of other ingredients to balance out the spice.

When I told Joey I was going to try a recipe for jalapeno enchiladas this week, he looked at me with a bit of skepticism that I wasn’t going to try to kill us both again. Luckily, though, we ended up with a dinner that was just the right amount of spicy and was really delicious.

The recipe I used is from the “All Recipes” website. You can find the original post at https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/218031/jalapeno-cream-cheese-chicken-enchiladas. I added extra seasonings in my version.

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Jalapeno Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

Jalapeno cream cheese chicken enchiladas are a great weeknight dinner. They're spicy, cheesy and make for fantastic leftovers.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword cayenne, cream cheese, cumin, enchilada, garlic, garlic powder, jalapenos, Monterrey jack cheese, paprika, rotisserie chicken, shredded chicken, weeknight dinner, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken cooked and shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper divided
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2 or 3 jalapeno peppers diced (remove seeds and ribs for milder taste)
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 8 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 28 ounces green enchilada sauce
  • 7 to 8 flour tortillas
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese shredded

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl, combine the shredded chicken, one teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate the ingredients. Set it aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapenos, and saute until they are soft. Add in the minced garlic and saute for another couple of minutes until it just starts to brown.
  • Cut the cream cheese into one-inch cubes and add to the skillet, stirring to melt the cheese and combine the ingredients.
  • Once the cheese is melted, remove the pan from the heat, and add one-half teaspoon cayenne, one teaspoon garlic powder, paprika, cumin and the seasoned chicken. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined.
  • In a nine-by-13-inch pan, spread half of the enchilada sauce on the bottom.
  • Assemble the enchiladas by spreading a large spoonful of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Sprinkle the filling with about one tablespoon of shredded cheese, and roll the tortilla tightly, leaving the ends open. Place it seam-side down in the pan. Continue until all the filling is used, squishing the tortillas together as necessary.
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas and top with the rest of the shredded cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Let sit for five minutes before serving. Garnish with sour cream and pickled jalapenos, if desired.

These had just the right amount of heat, and it was balanced really well with the cheese, but you can also decrease the spice level a bit by leaving out the cayenne pepper. They were also fantastic leftovers, which I always appreciate on busy weeks.

If these still sound too spicy for you but you’re in the mood for enchiladas, I’d encourage you to search for “queso fresco enchiladas” on my website (spiceupkitchen.net). Those would easily fit the bill.

But if you decide to make up your own recipe, just be careful not to blindly trust mystery peppers at the grocery store. And if you do, let me suggest purchasing some good anti-perspirant, a big box of tissues and a gallon of milk to help you recover.

This piece first appeared in print on March 24, 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

Make a ‘rigaton’ of food with this sausage pasta bake

Sausage and cheese rigatoni is a delicious baked pasta with deep Italian flavors from marinara, roasted red peppers and plenty of cheese.

We decided to have a few friends over for dinner this past week, and I decided it was finally time for me to try this amazing-looking recipe for a baked Italian dish.

Joey was gracious enough to help me out by manning the saute pan. He was busy cooking the sausage and onion and asked, “When do I add the garlic?”

I looked at the recipe and paused.

“Well…um…you don’t,” I said.

“The garlic? What do you mean?”

“I mean, there is no garlic in the recipe.”

He looked at me, appalled, and I laughed and pointed to the large jar of minced garlic I already pulled from the refrigerator.

“Yeah, there’s no garlic in the recipe, but we’re totally adding some in anyway,” I said.

“No garlic. That’s just dumb,” he said.

You have to give the people what they want.

In this case, we ended up with a hearty, cheesy and delicious baked pasta, and it made so much that not only was I not sure it was going to actually fit in my casserole dish, but it barely looked like we even made a dent after enjoying big helpings at dinner.

This recipe comes from the blog “Foodie Crush.” You can find the original post at https://www.foodiecrush.com/baked-sausage-rigatoni/. I added garlic and some other herbs and spices to my version.

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Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni

Sausage and cheese rigatoni is a delicious baked pasta with deep Italian flavors from marinara, roasted red peppers and plenty of cheese.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, fennel seeds, garlic, Italian parsley, marinara, oregano, paprika, parmesan cheese, provolone, ricotta cheese, rigatoni pasta, roasted red peppers, sweet Italian sausage, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage ground or removed from casings
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 12 ounces roasted red bell peppers drained and diced
  • 25 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley chopped
  • 6 to 8 slices provolone cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and prepare a three-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, and set it aside.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, fennel and onion and saute until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are soft. Add in the garlic and saute for another two minutes or so.
  • Dump in the diced red peppers, marinara sauce, oregano, basil and paprika to the pan and stir to combine.
  • While the sauce is warming through, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the rigatoni for just five minutes. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, stirring to coat it.
  • In another bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and parsley. (At first, you’ll wonder how it’s going to come together with all that parmesan, but just keep stirring. It will.)
  • Pour half of the pasta/sauce mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top it with half of the ricotta, and then place a single layer of three to four slices of provolone on top.
  • Finish it off with the rest of the sauce, the rest of the ricotta, and another layer of provolone.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Let the bake sit for five minutes before serving with some garlic bread.

Holy moly, you guys, this was delicious. It had great flavor, made a ton of food, and it was almost even better as leftovers the next day. It was also really easy to put together, which was nice for feeding a group. It also reminded me how underrated fennel seeds are as an ingredient. I can’t remember the last time I used fennel in a dish; I’ll have to make sure to do it more often.

I’m still not sure why it didn’t make the cut in the original recipe, but garlic was an excellent addition to the final product. And that was a good thing, considering I’m pretty sure I would have had to tackle Joey to keep him from adding it to the pan.

This piece first appeared in print on March 3, 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.

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