Categories
Appetizer Side Dish

Sweet peppers are the stuff of dreams

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
Stuffed sweet peppers are a showstopper appetizer that are extremely simple to prepare and can be served warm or cold.

Joey and I tied the knot back in 2010, which meant our 10-year anniversary was pretty anticlimactic last summer with COVID in our backyard. 

No date night out on the town. No restaurant dinner.

We still enjoyed one another’s company (I mean, it’s not like we could be apart while quarantined in the same house.), but when our anniversary hit this summer, we decided we should have a night out for number 11.

We ended up going to Lola’s Bistro in Wichita, a favorite spot of Wichita food blogger “Wichita by E.B.” (Check out his site, if you never have. He does a great job and has visited a lot of mom and pop spots all over the state. It’s at wichitabyeb.com.)

The meal was fantastic, and one of the items we liked quite a bit was a palate starter our waiter brought out before our appetizer. They were bite-sized, delicious stuffed sweet peppers, and we decided the next time we needed an appetizer for a group, we were going to try to recreate the recipe.

The recipe I decided to try did not disappoint. It comes from the blog “From Which Things Grow.” You can find the original post at http://fromwhichthingsgrow.blogspot.com/2012/01/chew-on-this-stuffed-mini-sweet-peppers.html. I added extra garlic powder in my version.

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
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Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Stuffed sweet peppers are a showstopper appetizer that are extremely simple to prepare and can be served warm or cold.
Course Appetizer
Keyword bacon, cream cheese, garlic powder, seasoning salt, sharp cheddar cheese, sweet peppers

Ingredients

  • about 2 pounds mini sweet peppers
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 5-6 strips bacon cooked and crumbled

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin by spraying each well lightly with cooking spray.
  • Wash the peppers, and then cut off the tops. Scoop out the seeds and ribs to hollow them out.
  • Mix the rest of the ingredients together and fill each pepper with as much of the filling as you can (it’s OK if they’re overflowing just a bit).
  • Stand the peppers up, filling side up, in the wells of the muffin tin. The peppers can share wells to help them stand up. Crowding isn’t a problem.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, and then serve warm, or refrigerate them and serve them cold later on.

These were absolutely delicious. Our local grocery store didn’t have itty bitty sweet peppers like we tried at the restaurant, so these were more like two-bite appetizers, but they were fabulous. 

Personally, I like them better warmed up than cold, but they were good both ways, and they actually reheat out of the refrigerator pretty well, if you end up with leftovers.

I also had extra filling when I was done. It would be delicious on crackers, and I even tried it inside a quesadilla, which was pretty darn good.

I’m certainly not trying to claim that my cooking is anywhere near the quality of a fine dining restaurant, but if I can brag just a bit, I do think these stuffed peppers turned out extremely well.

Hopefully, when our 20th anniversary rolls around, Joey and I will be able to celebrate with someone else doing the cooking. But if the next decade repeats the last, at least I know what we can have for our first course.

This piece first appeared in print on Thursday, Aug. 12.

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

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish

Grilling cheese is more than just o’queso’

Smoked queso with charcoal steaks can be made on the grill or modified to be served from your oven.

When it comes to cooking indoors, Joey and I share the load pretty evenly. We each take on lunch or dinner regularly, with both of us having our specialties.

But when it comes to cooking outside, I definitely fall far behind.

Joey has really perfected the use of his kamado-style grill, mostly opting to create delicious smoked chicken or pork, but he’s also branched out into briskets, pastrami, pizzas and more.

So I was a little nervous when I went to try my own grill creation this past weekend: smoked queso and steak nachos.

I do have to confess that Joey was still the one who got the fire started and got the temperature just right for me, but after that, it was my show, and thankfully, despite my extreme novice status with the grill, it turned out fabulous.

I didn’t use a recipe this week. Instead, I read probably 10 different versions of smoked queso that people have out there and ignored a lot of what they did, mostly because I just can’t handle the taste or texture of Velveeta cheese, and that’s what all of them used.

So this week’s recipe is an original, and it turned out great. We did this on our kamado grill, but you could also make this on a regular grill or in your oven (although you’ll want to probably cook your steaks on your stovetop, in that case).

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Smoked Queso with Charcoal Steaks

Smoked queso with charcoal steaks can be made on the grill or modified to be served from your oven.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Keyword black beans, charcoal steak, cream cheese, grilled, pepperjack cheese, queso fresco, Rotel, sharp cheddar cheese, smoked, taco seasoning

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces pepperjack cheese
  • 16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 20 ounces Rotel drained
  • 15.5 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • salt to taste
  • enough charcoal steaks to serve your guests
  • Your favorite steak seasoning

Instructions

  • Prepare your grill so that it is 250 to 300 degrees.
  • Cube the three types of cheese into about one-inch pieces. (Make sure to use blocks of cheese instead of shredded; it melts better.)
  • In a foil, eight-by-eight-inch pan, add the cheeses, Rotel, black beans, taco seasoning, garlic and salt, and stir to combine.
  • For the steaks, pound them to about one-half inch thick, and season them liberally on both sides with steak seasoning, pressing it into the meat.
  • Once your grill is ready, place your pan of queso on a lower rack (we’re going to cook the steaks above it). If you’re using a standard grill, place it so it’s getting indirect heat. Close the lid and let the queso cook for 20 minutes.
  • After the 20 minutes, stir the queso. It probably will only just be starting to melt together. Place the steaks on a grate over the queso so that the juices can add flavor to the queso. Again, close the lid.
  • Check the queso every 20 minutes, giving it a good stir, and turn the steaks when they have good grill marks on one side.
  • Once the queso is melted and the steaks are done (after about one hour), remove it all from the grill. Be careful not to let the cheese overcook; it will get lumpy and separate if you do. Let the steaks rest for five minutes, and then slice them.
  • Serve the queso and steak over chips with your favorite nacho toppings.

We went for a smaller batch of queso than I saw many people make online, and it still fed six people, so definitely plan accordingly, but if you have a crowd, you can easily double this into a nine-by-13-inch pan and feed them all.

You can also make this as spicy or as mild as you like, depending on which style of Rotel and taco seasoning you choose. You could also add a drained can of jalapenos or something spicier if you really wanted to take it up a notch. It could also be made with pre-cooked ground beef or sausage or chorizo, if you don’t want to mess with steaks.

I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a grill master yet, but Joey did seem impressed with my most recent accomplishment. That being said, I think I’ll leave the heavy lifting to him. It’s a lot nicer to be the one sitting in the Adirondack chair than the one next to the grill.

This piece first appeared in print on July 15, 2021.

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

Categories
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.

Categories
Side Dish

Tasty collards will ‘leaf’ you wanting more

Collard greens are slow simmered and paired with bacon to create a traditional southern side dish.

While I have always thought of collard greens as something eaten mainly by southerners, an article from the website “What’s Cooking America” notes that even the ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed the leafy greens.

For the U.S., the tradition of cooking collard greens with pork—often using a ham hock to simmer in the broth—came from Africa as southern slaves honed the technique of cooking collards with the food scraps given to them for sustenance.

Collard greens, which are in the cabbage family, have a taste similar to kale or mustard greens. They have a deep, earthy flavor, and they’re especially good when you cook them down with plenty of pork fat. They’re not healthy that way, but they’re definitely delicious.

I recently decided to give collard greens a shot in my own kitchen and decide to use a recipe from the blog “Cooking with Pennies.” You can find the original post at https://www.spendwithpennies.com/collard-greens/. I added lots of extra garlic in my version.

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Collard Greens

Collard greens are slow simmered and paired with bacon to create a traditional southern side dish.
Course Side Dish
Keyword bacon, collard greens, garlic, onion

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 slices bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion diced (I used yellow.)
  • 1 pound collard greens
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Wash and drain the collard greens and remove as much of the stems as possible, leaving the leaves in large, two- to three-inch pieces.
  • In a very large skillet with a lid or deep stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat and then fry the bacon until it is crispy.
  • Add the diced onions to the bacon and saute for three to five minutes or until they’re starting to soften.
  • Mix in the garlic and collard greens. Once everything is well combined, pour in the broth and place the lid on the pan.
  • Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the greens are tender. Stir them every 10 minutes or so to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Add salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

While this recipe didn’t follow the tradition of boiling a ham hock with the greens, the bacon added plenty of great flavor. I served these with some fresh cornbread, too, and sopping up the juices from the pan—often referred to as “pot-likker,” according to “What’s Cooking America,” was amazing.

And I learned you don’t have to be southern to enjoy collard greens. They have travelled all over the world throughout history, and while this particular recipe probably doesn’t count as adding vegetables to your meal, I still highly recommend them.

As Paula Deen once said, “I figure it’s almost like a balance. We’re eating these wonderful collard greens and turnip greens, which are so medicinally good for you, and OK, so what if it has a little ham hock in it?”

This piece first appeared in print on April 8, 2021.

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

Categories
Appetizer Side Dish Snack

Dip into something awesome for game day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cheesy Bean Dip

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

This piece first appeared in print on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

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

Categories
Main Dish Side Dish

Yummy Puerto Rican food will help you have a ‘rice’ day

Puerto Rican rice and beans are full of rich flavors, and while they may use some ingredients not standard in a stereotypical Kansas kitchen, they are definitely worth a try.

Often, I launch this column by telling you a story that ties into whatever the week’s recipe is going to be. This week, however, I wanted to talk ingredients, because if you’re like me, this recipe is going to be a bit of a scavenger hunt through your local grocery store. 

My sister-in-law makes amazing Puerto Rican dishes for us when she comes to visit, and after eyeballing this recipe for Puerto Rican rice and beans, I decided I had to take the plunge.

The first ingredient that might stump some but is actually a staple in my pantry is Sazon Culantro y Achiote packets. Sazon is the brand, and the “Culantro y Achiote” means coriander and annatto in Spanish. I use a packet in with my taco seasoning regularly, so if you buy some for this recipe, I highly recommend using the remaining packets for that.

The next is adobo seasoning, which is just a seasoning mix that generally has a mix of spices from black pepper and paprika to oregano and onion powder. If you can’t find it, try looking for a homemade recipe online. It would be pretty simple to replicate.

One that did leave me scratching my head is pigeon peas. I was only able to find them at a larger grocery store in the “Hispanic Foods” section. They are a legume and are definitely more bean-like than green-pea-like. If you can’t find them, substitute a can of black-eyed peas instead.

The final ingredient that might be different for some is basmati white rice. It’s more expensive than traditional white rice, but it cooks differently, so substituting one for the other would likely mess up cooking times and liquid ratios. I have another recipe I’ll share with you soon that uses basmati rice, so if you’re worried about having a bag of it sitting in your pantry gathering dust, stay tuned.

So, now that we’ve covered the bases, it’s time to jump into this delicious dish that, honestly, I wish I would have doubled. It was great.

I found this recipe on the blog “Ambitious Kitchen.” You can find the original post at https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/video-moms-authentic-puerto-rican-rice-and-beans/. I changed the ingredients just a bit but also tried to clarify the directions in my version below.

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Puerto Rican Rice and Beans

Puerto Rican rice and beans are full of rich flavors, and while they may use some ingredients not standard in a stereotypical Kansas kitchen, they are definitely worth a try.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Puerto Rican
Keyword adobo, basmati rice, cilantro, garlic, green bell pepper, onions, pigeon peas, pinto beans, tomato sauce

Ingredients

Beans Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 8 cups vegetarian broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro minced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce divided
  • 2 packets Sazon Culantro y Achiote
  • salt to taste

Rice Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • Reserved tomato sauce about 1/2 cup
  • 2 packets Sazon Culantro y Achiote
  • 1/4 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • 15 ounces pigeon peas undrained
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups basmati white rice
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • The night before you make this (or about eight hours before), combine the dried beans, vegetable broth and bay leaves in a Dutch oven with a lid. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, place the lid on top, and let the beans soak at least eight hours.
  • When you’re ready to start cooking, bring the beans back to a boil and then reduce to a low boil, leaving the lid on the pot. You’ll let them simmer for one to two hours or until they are tender. When they are tender, remove the bay leaves but do not drain the liquid.
  • While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion and green pepper, sauteing until both are soft. Add in the garlic and cilantro and saute for a few minutes until the garlic just starts to brown. Add one cup of the tomato sauce and the Sazon packets, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture cook for a couple minutes. If the beans are not tender yet, remove the mixture from heat. If they are, go ahead and add it to the beans.
  • Once the tomato mixture is added to the beans, cook over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • For the rice, while the beans simmer, in a medium-sized pot with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onion and green pepper, sauteing until both are soft. Add in the garlic and cilantro and saute for a few minutes until the garlic just starts to brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the rest of the tomato sauce, Sazon packets and adobo seasoning and let cook for about two minutes. Stir in the undrained pigeon peas and three cups of water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the rice, place the lid on the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through.
  • Once the beans and rice are finished cooking, add salt if desired, and then serve the beans and rice together in a bowl. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if you want to.

This was amazing, and it reheated famously as leftovers. The flavor profile was great. We ended up pairing it with some smoked pork loin that Joey whipped up, and it was a fabulous meal.

Plus, I learned about some new ingredients and got a chance to explore my grocery store a little bit more. It’s always easier to be adventurous when adventure tastes this good.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 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
Side Dish

Don’t get cheesed by too many leftovers

Cheesy mashed potatoes is a great way to elevate leftover mashed potatoes after a big meal.

I’ve heard a lot of folks complain over the years that they never know how many spaghetti noodles to cook when making pasta.

A friend of mine literally just throws in an entire box every time she makes spaghetti and ends up with leftovers that last forever.

That hasn’t been an issue for me, now that I figured out how to use the holes on my spaghetti server to measure it out, but I still have a major portion control problem for another dish: mashed potatoes.

I never know how many potatoes to toss into the pot when I make mashed potatoes. It doesn’t matter if I’m just making them for Joey and myself or a crowd, I never manage to make the amount I need. Instead, I end up with loads and loads of leftovers.

For Christmas this year, Joey and I cooked enough food for a small army when we had his folks and aunt over to our house to celebrate the holiday. When we were all finished feasting, the serving plates all still looked full—especially my big bowl of mashed potatoes.

Over the years, I have transformed leftover taters into everything from fried potato cakes to potato soup, but this week, I tried something completely different that I absolutely have to share with you.

This recipe comes from “Taste of Home” magazine, and you can find the original recipe on their website at https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cheesy-mashed-potatoes/. I added garlic and onion powder to my version, and of course, I used leftover mashed potatoes instead of making some fresh for this dish, but you can do it either way.

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Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Cheesy mashed potatoes is a great way to elevate leftover mashed potatoes after a big meal.
Course Side Dish
Keyword cream cheese, garlic, Greek yogurt, mashed potatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream

Ingredients

  • 6 large potatoes cut into one-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese plus more for topping
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 6 to 8 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Boil your potatoes until they are fork tender, drain them, and then mash with a potato masher until nice and fluffy. (Or skip this step if you already made mashed potatoes and are using leftovers. Just heat them up in the microwave.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a two-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Stir the rest of the ingredients into the potatoes until everything is well combined.
  • Spread the mixture into your prepared dish, cover it with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the dish is heated through and the potatoes are a little browned around the edges.
  • Top with more cheese, and if desired, pop it under the broiler for a couple minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is nice and bubbly.
  • Serve while it’s nice and hot.

I mixed this up for our New Year’s Eve meal, and it was like I made a completely new dish, even though it started with leftovers. These were phenomenal with tons of cheesy flavor, and the added garlic was awesome.

Also, since we ended up with leftovers of these, I can tell you they reheat really well, and they go nicely with leftover ham, too.

Unfortunately, this probably hasn’t taught me any lessons about overdoing it with my mashed potatoes in the future, especially since I can’t say no to cheese, but at least it makes our leftovers a little less boring.

Now, if we can figure out what to do with my friend’s spaghetti problems, we’ll be in business.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 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
Side Dish

How ‘yam’ I still surprised at this point?

Garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes are perfect for those who are tired of marshmallow-covered sweet potato side dishes.

I managed to hit the local grocery store at just the right time a few nights ago to score a couple huge steaks on a great sale.

I was pumped about my luck, and I decided to grab a few sweet potatoes for a side dish to go along with them for a killer meal.

When I got home, I proudly presented my purchase to Joey, who immediately looked at the sweet potatoes on the counter and said, “Oh! Are you going to make those savory sweet potatoes again?”

So, yes, in the short time since I discovered the recipe I am sharing with you this week, I have already made this twice, and since there are still two more sweet potatoes in my kitchen, I have a feeling I will be producing this a third time in the very near future—not that I’m complaining.

I have always been a huge fan of sweet potatoes in any form, and Joey likes them but tends to hate how much sugar gets dumped in for a lot of side dishes. This recipe, then, was right up his alley.

The recipe I tried, by Christina Cherrier, comes from the site “Eat Well 101.” You can find the original post at https://www.eatwell101.com/garlic-parmesan-roasted-sweet-potato-recipe. I added extra garlic and herbs, as well as more parmesan, in my version below.

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Garlic Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes are perfect for those who are tired of marshmallow-covered sweet potato side dishes.
Course Side Dish
Keyword basil, garlic, oregano, parmesan, parsley, sweet potato, thyme

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 to 6 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated or shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon thyme

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and prepare about an eight-inch baking dish (preferably one with a lid or you can cover it with aluminum foil) by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Add all of the ingredients (leave out a bit of parmesan to sprinkle over the top of the dish) to the bag, and shake to coat the potatoes as evenly as possible.
  • Arrange the slices so they just slightly overlap in a spiral pattern in your baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top.
  • Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after that to see if your potatoes are fork tender.
  • When they are done, remove from the oven and serve.

Remember that the thicker your potato slices, the longer they will take to bake. Mine ended up being done at about the 40-minute mark.

These are absolutely delicious and a nice departure from a lot of the traditional ways sweet potatoes are served. They have a ton of flavor, and they also reheat really nicely.

With our leftovers, I added in some crumbled sausage and a couple runny eggs for a delicious breakfast.

Eventually, Joey did acknowledge that I got a great deal on my steaks for dinner, and he was pretty excited about them, as well. But if I had to make a wager, I know what he would claim as his favorite part of the meal.

Well, at least he likes his veggies.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 17, 2020.

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

Categories
Dessert Side Dish

Candied pecan casserole makes for sweet memories

The only thing missing from this candied pecan sweet potato casserole to turn it fully into a dessert is a graham cracker crust.

For the last few years, some dear friends of ours invited us over for “Friendsgiving” at their home around Thanksgiving time.

It’s always been a great time to get to know new folks and share in a huge potluck meal.

Of course, this year, that meal couldn’t happen, but instead, Joey and I might have begun a new Thanksgiving weekend tradition. I call it “Strunksgiving.”

Adam Strunk and his fiancee, Sam, have been a part of our “COVID bubble” over the past few months, as we’ve been careful to maintain very little contact with folks. During the summer, Adam and Joey spent several weekends hanging outside, smoking a variety of meats, and when Thanksgiving rolled around, they decided to try a turkey.

That idea ballooned into all of us adding side dish after side dish to the menu, ending up with enough food to feed an army. As I often do to my friends, I made Adam and Sam into my guinea pigs and decided to try some new recipes, one of which was a sweet potato casserole that may as well have been on the dessert table.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Creme de la Crumb.” You can find the original at https://www.lecremedelacrumb.com/candied-pecan-sweet-potato-casserole. (I doubled the vanilla in my version below.)

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Candied Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole

The only thing missing from this candied pecan sweet potato casserole to turn it fully into a dessert is a graham cracker crust.
Course Dessert, Side Dish
Keyword brown sugar, marshmallows, pecans, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes

Ingredients

Base Ingredients

  • 5 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Topping Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup butter melted
  • 1 cup pecans chopped
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and set it aside.
  • Place the cubed sweet potatoes into a stock pot and just cover them with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  • Drain the potatoes and dump them back into your stock pot.
  • Mash them, and then stir in the eggs, vanilla, melted butter, brown sugar, salt and milk until everything is well combined.
  • Spread the potato mixture evenly into your prepared dish.
  • In a small bowl, create the topping by combining the brown sugar, flour, melted butter and pecans. Stir until they’re well combined and sprinkle the mixture over top of the potatoes.
  • Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until the topping is caramelized a bit.
  • Remove from the oven and spread the marshmallows over the top. Bake for another five minutes. (If your marshmallows aren’t as browned as you like after five minutes, flip your oven over to the low broil setting and let the casserole cook under the broiler for a couple more minutes.)
  • Serve hot.

If you enjoy sugary sweet potatoes, this is the dish for you. The brown sugar and marshmallows contribute their traditional sweetness, while the pecans offer up a nice, extra crunch to take it all over the top. I actually halved this recipe and made it in an 8-inch dish, and it was a great amount for us.

It got two thumbs up from the tiny assembly.

We had a wonderful time with just the four of us, with great conversation and way too much overeating, but we decided before the pie was served that we were definitely making a regular tradition of sharing a meal together. It looks like “Strunksgiving” is here to stay.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 3, 2020.

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

Categories
Air Fryer Appetizer Side Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Air Fryer Potatoes

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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