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 Side Dish

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

Homemade hushpuppies are a pretty easy side dish to create.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hushpuppies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 18, 2022.

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

Categories
Side Dish

Everyone will want to ‘congri’gate around your table for this dish

Congri is a beans and rice dish from Cuba. Some argue that traditional congri can’t be made with black beans, but this mixture was good enough that you probably won’t care.

An article by Eliana Rivero goes into great detail about some of the cultural dishes of Cuba, including a dish I decided to try for this week’s column, congri.

According to Rivero, “The name comes from the Creole French words congo and ris (beans and rice) to produce what today is widely consumed by Cubans in the diaspora (and in their Louisiana variation, Cajun red beans and rice).”

Except, after reading Rivero’s article, I discovered that there’s a lot of back and forth amongst Cubans about what actually constitutes congri. Some people, like her, claim it must be made with red beans, and others claim it can be made with black.

So, I’m putting it out there now that while what I made—a delicious black beans and rice dish—may not be considered congri by all Cubans, what I can promise is that it’s absolutely worth a try.

This comes from the website “Food52.” You can find the original post and a great personal story about the dish by Taryn Pire at https://food52.com/recipes/83081-congri-cuban-black-beans-and-rice. I doubled the seasonings in my version.

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Congri

Congri is a beans and rice dish from Cuba. Some argue that traditional congri can't be made with black beans, but this mixture was good enough that you probably won't care.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Keyword adobo, bay leaves, black beans, chorizo, congri, cumin, garlic, green bell pepper, white rice, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large green bell peppers diced
  • 1 medium yellow union diced
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 9 to 12 ounces chorizo
  • 4 cups white rice
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons adobo seasoning
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • The day before you cook your beans, rinse them well. Add them to a stock pot and add water until there’s about one inch covering them. Bring the pot to a boil, then remove them from heat, place a lid on the pot, and let them sit undisturbed until the next day.
  • When you’re ready to cook the beans, add more water to the pot—again, to about one inch covering them. Add the bay leaves and bring the pot to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer and place the lid on the pot. (They’ll need to cook for 45 to 70 minutes.) Check the beans every 15 minutes or so to make sure there is still plenty of water in the pot. Add more, if necessary.
  • While the beans cook, heat the olive oil in another large stock pot over medium heat. Saute the peppers and onions until they are cooked through. Add the chorizo, chopping it up as it cooks. When the chorizo is nearly cooked through, add the garlic and uncooked rice. Stir well.
  • Add in the cumin and adobo, stir well, and then remove the mixture from the heat until the beans are cooked through. (To test the beans, fish one out, let it cool, and try it. You want it to be easy to bite without being complete mush.)
  • When the beans are done, remove them from the heat. Drain the beans, but reserve six cups of the bean broth (if there isn’t enough, add water until you get six cups). Discard the bay leaves. Add the bean broth and beans to the pot with the rice.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, put the burner on low, and place a lid on the pot. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir the mixture well. If the mixture is soupy, let it cook a bit longer, with the lid off, to evaporate the liquid to your desired level. Generally, congri is a drier dish, with little to no liquid. Add salt to taste and serve.

This was flavorful and super delicious. It makes a ton, too. I made a batch and a half and couldn’t even fit all of it into my large crockpot for a group meal we had.

It’s perfect as a side dish, especially with something that has some sauce with it—like enchiladas or chili con carne. You can also eat it alone, although I’d think it would be best with a little salsa added to the mix.

I may not have actually accomplished historically accurate congri, but I did manage to create a delicious dish with plenty of leftovers for us to enjoy for the rest of the week, so I’m not going to worry too much about labels.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 11, 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
Side Dish

‘Tajin’ up the flavor with yummy seasoned rice

Tajin rice takes on all the flavors of the popular spice mix—chili peppers, lime and salt—and is perfect as a side dish to all kinds of Mexican dishes.

When we were stuck in the house for lockdowns at the start of the pandemic, I (like everyone else) started getting a bit stir crazy and began looking for ways to reorganize different parts of our house.

One of my first projects was my horribly organized spice cabinet. The way it was all stacked in, I had to pull half the contents out to find what I needed. I started looking online and discovered a large spice rack I could hang on my kitchen wall and immediately bought it.

That thing has been a game changer. I love having everything in its place, alphabetized and ready to use immediately. It also freed up an entire cupboard in the kitchen for other items.

Recently, I kept staring at a large bottle of Tajin Clasico (pronounced tuh-heen) seasoning in my spice rack, which I purchased for a failed recipe and hadn’t touched in awhile. I decided I needed to put it to good use.

If you’re not familiar, Tajin is a mild seasoning that features chili peppers, dehydrated lime and salt. The lime is the flavor that really sticks out when you first give it a try. Some people swear by it and put it on everything.

This comes from the blog “The Fiery Vegetarian.” You can find the original post at https://www.thefieryvegetarian.com/tajin-rice-recipe/. I added more spices in my version.

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Tajin Rice

Tajin rice takes on all the flavors of the popular spice mix—chili peppers, lime and salt—and is perfect as a side dish to all kinds of Mexican dishes.
Course Side Dish
Keyword chicken stock, garlic powder, onion powder, rice, Tajin Clasico, vegetable stock

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white long-grain rice
  • 1 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Tajin Clasico seasoning

Instructions

  • Rinse your rise with cold water several times until the water runs mostly clear.
  • Add the rinsed rice, vegetable stock, garlic powder and onion powder to a medium-sized pot with a tight-fitting lid. Heat over high heat, stirring to dissolve the seasoning, until the mixture is at a boil.
  • Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to a simmer. Leave it on the heat, covered, for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, remove the lid and stir in the butter until it’s melted and fully incorporated. Stir in the Tajin and then let the rice sit, off the heat, for about five minutes to let the flavors meld. Add any additional seasonings if desired, and serve as a side to your favorite Mexican entree.

This was a nice side dish. We had it alongside some chicken tacos one night and ate the leftovers with quesadillas on another evening.

I will say that if you’re not a fan of Tajin or citrus flavors in your savory dishes, you definitely won’t like this rice, but we thought it was pretty good—especially as a side dish. I don’t know if it could hold its own as the main star of a dinner, but it probably depends on how much you like Tajin.

So, that spice bottle is still staring down at me from my spice rack, but at least it’s a couple tablespoons lighter. I’ll have to come up with some other ways to use it up—especially since it’s nice and tall and has to be stored out of alphabetical sequence in the rack. Now that I finally have things organized, I want to keep it that way.

This piece first appeared in print on July 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
Side Dish

Roasted vegetables will be the ‘bell’ of the ball this summer

Southwest potatoes combines potatoes, bell peppers and onion with plenty of herbs and spices for a delicious summer side dish that’s easy to make and looks pretty on the table.

Even though I try not to heat up the house with my oven too often in the summer, I am definitely willing to make an exception for the right recipe.

Last week, that exception came when I decided I didn’t want one of the typical cold summer sides like coleslaw, potato salad or a green salad to go with our dinner, and I stumbled on a delicious-looking recipe that combined potatoes and bell peppers. It sounded like a fantastic summer side, especially with all the brightly colored peppers included.

It fit the bill perfectly, and not only was I happy with the flavors but it also ended up being a great meal for leftovers later on.

This comes from the blog “Will Cook for Smiles.” You can find the original post at https://www.willcookforsmiles.com/southwest-roasted-potatoes. I added extra spices and vegetables in my version.

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Southwest Potatoes

Southwest potatoes combines potatoes, bell peppers and onion with plenty of herbs and spices for a delicious summer side dish that's easy to make and looks pretty on the table.
Course Side Dish
Keyword bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, potatoes, summer side dish, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 large Russet potatoes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 large yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil.
  • Cut potatoes and onion into about one-half-inch pieces. Cut the peppers into about one-inch pieces.
  • Add all of the vegetables to a large bowl or directly onto the baking sheet to combine with the other ingredients.
  • Add the oil, herbs and spices to your vegetables and mix well until they are evenly coated in the mixture.
  • Evenly spread out the coated vegetables on your prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Serve hot.

If you’re into something a bit spicier, you could easily toss in some hot peppers or maybe some cayenne pepper in the mix for this. But I will say this combination of spices was definitely flavorful while still being a crowd pleaser.

It was also super gorgeous on the table. I would highly recommend this one for a gathering if you need a good side dish this summer. We really enjoyed it.

And, in the grand scheme of things, heating up the kitchen was very much worth it. There’s something about roasted bell peppers that I absolutely love, even if I have to sweat just a bit to get them.

This piece first appeared in print on June 9, 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
Air Fryer Appetizer Side Dish Snack

Air fryer rangoon can keep you from ‘wonton’ eating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Air-Fryer Crab Rangoon

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
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.

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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
Appetizer Side Dish

Sweet peppers are the stuff of dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stuffed Sweet Peppers

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish

Grilling cheese is more than just o’queso’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smoked Queso with Charcoal Steaks

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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