Categories
Breakfast

Warm breakfast actually is all it’s cracked up to be

Cheesy Egg Toast
Cheesy egg toast is extremely easy way to make eggs and toast simultaneously.

About the time Joey and I got married 10 years ago, I learned what “egg in the basket” was—a simple breakfast dish where an egg is cooked in a hole cut in the center of a piece of bread.

I’ve tried to make egg in the basket many times over the years, completely enamored with the idea, but while I have had a few successes, I have often struggled to actually accomplish a perfect result each time.

On a recent weekend, I woke up early and decided I wanted to pour myself a bowl of cereal, but of course, we were completely out of milk.

Having already convinced myself that I needed breakfast, I started scrolling online and was extremely excited to discover a recipe for a different way to make eggs and toast simultaneously—no poking holes in bread necessary.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Crazy Adventures in Parenting” by Lisa Douglas. You can find her post at http://crazyadventuresinparenting.com/2014/06/cheesy-baked-egg-toast.html. The only change I made was to butter the underside of the bread, too.

Cheesy Egg Toast
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Cheesy Egg Toast

Cheesy egg toast is extremely easy way to make eggs and toast simultaneously.
Course Breakfast
Keyword cheese, easy breakfast, eggs, toast

Ingredients

  • Eggs
  • Sliced bread
  • Butter or margarine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheese I used colby-jack
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

  • Prepare a skillet with a lid by spraying it with cooking spray (unless it’s nonstick) and heating it over medium-low heat.
  • Using a spoon or a butter knife, press the entire inside portion of a slice of bread down to create a rectangular well, leaving about a half-inch lip around the edges. (Repeat these steps for as many servings as you need.)
  • Lightly butter the other side of the bread and place it, well side up into the preheated pan.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper into the well and then carefully break an egg into the well you created. Spread a thin layer of butter around the edges of the bread, and sprinkle cheese on top.
  • Place the lid on the pan and cook for about three to four minutes; then check the toast every minute or so until the egg has reached your desired doneness.
  • Serve.

This was delicious and turned out perfectly. I didn’t have to flip the bread or try not to break the yolk while nudging the toast in the pan. I left my eggs with a runny yolk and ate my breakfast with a fork, but you could easily scramble the egg before adding it to the bread or just cook the eggs with a hard yolk to make it easier to just eat with your hands.

This certainly wasn’t anything fancy, but I loved my morning meal with a side of hot coffee. Plus, if you want a glowing recommendation, Joey politely requested his own plate full when he got up a few minutes later and saw what I made.

This will definitely be my new, go-to way to make an egg/toast combo in the mornings instead of the traditional egg in the basket.

Starting your day with a warm, easy meal is a lot nicer than beginning with the frustrating process of trying to corral an egg in the basket—and it sure beat my bowl of cereal, too.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 1, 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
Main Dish

I’ll take all the Tex-Mex you can ‘chimi’

Chicken chimichangas with white sauce are a scrumptious weekday dinner that tastes like it took a lot longer to make than it really did.

The debate about “authentic” food always fascinates me. 

I recently listened to an episode of NPR’s “The Splendid Table,” where the host and guest were discussing the different ways people make sauce in Italy, and some of the recipes sounded very different than what I’d always thought was uniquely Italian.

The same debate seems to happen with Mexican food, too. People turn up their nose at “Tex-Mex,” claiming only the real thing is worth eating.

But I would argue that a lot of the amazing dishes in the States have benefitted from being tampered with a little—creating something new and delicious.

The recipe I tried this week for chimichangas is an example of that. A chimichanga, according to “What’s Cooking, America,” originated in Arizona, a creation by Mexican immigrants, where a traditional burrito received a deep-fried treatment.

This recipe is another step away from the original because it is baked, but despite its departure from the “authentic” version, it is absolutely delicious.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Munchkin Time.” You can find the original post at https://www.munchkintime.com/easy-30-minute-chicken-chimichanga-recipe/. I’m combining two of her recipes together for you, and I doubled the cumin in my version.

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Chicken Chimichangas with White Sauce

Chicken chimichangas with white sauce are a scrumptious weekday dinner that tastes like it took a lot longer to make than it really did.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword baked, cheese, cheese sauce, chimichangas, Tex-Mex, tortillas, white sauce

Ingredients

Chimichanga Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack shredded cheese
  • 4 ounces diced chiles
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 soft-taco-size flour tortillas
  • melted butter to brush tops

White Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream I used fat free
  • 4 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 4 ounces green chiles drained
  • 1 to 4 teaspoons hot sauce I used chipotle Tabasco
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In an oven-safe skillet, heat a tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken breasts and cook for about four minutes (or until you get a nice sear). Flip the breasts over and slide the skillet into the oven. Check the chicken after about 10 minutes, and remove it from the oven when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • While the chicken is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, whisk in the flour and let it cook for a couple minutes.
  • Whisk in the broth slowly, making sure to break up clumps as you do. Once the mixture is smooth, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and let the mixture come up to a slow boil, stirring regularly to incorporate everything. Once the mixture starts to bubble, remove it from the heat.
  • For the chimichangas, shred the chicken and add in the shredded cheese, chiles, cumin, salt and pepper and one cup of the white sauce and stir until well combined.
  • Warm the tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Spoon about 2/3 cup of the chicken mixture into the center of each tortilla, and wrap them by folding in the sides and then the ends to seal them.
  • Place them seam side down on a baking sheet.
  • Brush each chimichanga with the melted butter and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  • Serve them with a ladle of the white sauce over top.

These were amazing. I think Joey told me at least four times during dinner how much he liked them, so I will be making these again, I’m sure.

The cheese sauce was absolute perfection, and honestly, even if you don’t want to make the chimichangas, make the white sauce and use it as a dip for chips. It’s fantastic.

This probably wouldn’t meet the approval of those who look only for “authentic” Mexican food, but I can tell you without a doubt that my stomach didn’t mind the lack of authenticity even a little.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 24, 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
Main Dish

Let’s embrace the ‘pasta’bilities this week

Ziti pasta bake is full of lots of cheese and Italian herbs. It’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal.

Until I began this column, I had no idea how many variations of pasta there are.

I used to think I was pretty knowledgeable until I continued to discover new types that often were tough to find in small-town Kansas grocery stores.

My recipe this week called for ziti, a tube-shaped pasta I’m definitely familiar with, but my local store didn’t have any in stock, so I opted for some penne instead.

That got me to thinking that there are at least three tubular pastas I could think of: ziti, penne and rigatoni, and I decided to do some digging to figure out what the real difference is.

An article online by Brette Warshaw went into great detail about the minuscule differences between the three—most notably, the length. Standard penne is 2.12 inches long, ziti is 2 inches, and rigatoni is 1.8. Other than that, there are small differences in end cut and ridges, but that’s really about it from a visual standpoint. So, when I made this week’s recipe for a ziti pasta bake, I just grabbed what was available as far as tube-shaped pasta and hoped I wasn’t making a mistake.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Together as Family.” You can find the original at https://togetherasfamily.com/cheesy-ziti-pasta-bake/. I added lots more herbs in my version.

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Ziti Pasta Bake

Ziti pasta bake is full of lots of cheese and Italian herbs. It's perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, cheese, cream cheese, garlic, Greek yogurt, marinara, mozzarella, oregano, parsley, sour cream, spaghetti sauce, ziti

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces ziti
  • 24 ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 14.5 ounces petite diced tomatoes undrained
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the sauce, diced tomatoes, cream cheese, basil, parsley, oregano, garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  • Once the pasta is done, drain it (don’t rinse it) and add it to the mixing bowl and stir.
  • Pour half of the pasta mixture into the baking dish and then spread the sour cream over the top. Sprinkle on about half of the mozzarella, spread the remaining pasta on top, and then finish with the rest of the cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until the top of the cheese is melted fully and slightly browned.
  • Serve with some garlic bread.

This was creamy and cheesy and really yummy. It was also meatless, and I didn’t miss the protein at all. You could easily use a meat sauce in this, though, if you would like to.

And despite the use of penne, it was pretty good. I will warn you, though, that apparently my substitution is not without controversy. Chef Paula Ghosh wrote a blog post about ziti vs. penne, and she notes that despite the two pastas having similar origins, ziti is meant to be used in baked dishes, and penne is meant to be mixed in with sauce.

She claims that even seemingly insignificant differences in pastas can change the entire flavor profile of a dish. Since she’s the expert, I suppose I’ll have to take her word for it, but I can tell you this was great even with the penne. It might be even better if you followed the pasta rules.

This piece first appeared in print on Thursday, Aug. 20, 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
Main Dish Salad Side Dish

Making a cold version of tacos isn’t mission im’pasta’ble

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.

I was unloading some groceries a few evenings ago, and Joey came to inspect what I was pulling out of the bags.

Noting that there was a salsa I don’t normally buy, a container of tomatoes and a box of pasta, he immediately asked what new recipe I was trying for dinner.

After being the guinea pig for this column for eight years, he knows an experiment when he sees one.

“It’s a pasta salad,” I told him.

His eyebrows raised. The word “salad” generally comes with things he hates—mostly raw onions and mayonnaise.

“No. This is a taco pasta salad,” I quickly amended.

His eyebrows did not go down. He was not convinced, but he said he’d trust me on this one and waited, eying me suspiciously from the dining room, while I put together my new concoction.

I found this idea when I was looking for a good summer dinner dish, and this recipe is actually a combination of two others, one from Beth Pierce over at “Small Town Woman” and another from Rebekah Garcia at “Amanda’s Cookin’.” And then I added in my own ideas to make one, delicious pasta salad. You can find the two inspiration recipes at https://www.smalltownwoman.com/easy-taco-pasta-salad/ and https://amandascookin.com/taco-pasta-salad/.

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Taco Pasta Salad

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.
Course Main Course, Salad
Keyword cheese, ground beef, pasta, salsa, summer, tacos, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces rotini pasta or another small pasta, like macaroni
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces pepper jack cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves cut into ribbons
  • 10-14 ounces mild guacamole salsa or your favorite kind

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain it, rinse it, and set it aside.
  • In a saute pan, cook the ground beef over medium heat until it is cooked through, breaking it apart as you go. Thoroughly drain all the grease from the pan.
  • Add the halved tomatoes to the hamburger, stirring regularly, until they begin to release their juices slightly—about three to five minutes—and stir in the taco seasoning and salt and pepper. Once the seasonings are well combined with the meat and tomatoes, remove the mixture from heat and let it cool a bit as you prepare your other ingredients.
  • In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, beef mixture, cheese cubes, beans and spinach, along with about 10 ounces of salsa. Stir until the salsa coats everything well, and give it a taste. If it seems too dry or needs more flavor, add more salsa until you get your desired consistency and flavor.
  • Serve immediately at room temperature, serve cold out of the fridge, or heat the mixture in the microwave to serve warm.

On our initial eating of this, we had it at about room temperature—basically the temperature it was when I finally finished mixing it all together.

For leftovers, I ate it cold and loved it. Joey warmed his up and also thought it was pretty good. It would also be delicious to serve it with some avocado cubed up in it, but I think that might be best for serving it cold or room temperature rather than heating it up.

I don’t think I totally sold Joey on the notion of taco pasta salad, but I’m going to vouch for it being pretty darn good. It had some great taco flavor but was also a cool, summer dish, which was really nice for a hot day.

I also thought this would be a nice one to use for a barbecue or picnic, since it doesn’t matter too much if the dish stays cold or gets warm.

I probably should be a little insulted that Joey doesn’t fully trust me after all of these years, but after some of my recipe fails throughout our relationship, I can’t say that I blame him. I think I’d be inspecting any grocery bags coming into the house, too.

This piece first appeared in print on June 25, 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
Main Dish

Beef up your dinner menu with casserole

Hamburger casserole dresses up tomato soup into a hearty, Italian-inspired dish.

A quotation I saw online, attributed to Rob Fee, is one of the best explanations of the conversation Joey and I have every day: “Relationships are just two people constantly asking each other where they want to go eat, until one of them dies.”

In our case, it’s not really asking where we want to go eat so much as what we want to make to eat.

Both of us like cooking, so it’s rarely a battle to see who is going to be tasked with dinner preparations, but we tend to fall into ruts. For me, my common fallback is just to make tacos.

I nearly succumbed to my same rut again this week, but while my hamburger was defrosting, I stumbled across another, just as easy, recipe, and I decided to give it a try.

This comes from the blog “Baking with Mom.” The original recipe only calls for four main ingredients: hamburger, tomato soup, pasta and cheese, but as you can see, I added quite a few more flavors to my version. You can find the original post at https://bakingwithmom.com/hamburger-casserole/.

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Hamburger Casserole

Hamburger casserole dresses up tomato soup to make a hearty dinner.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword casserole, kid-friendly, pasta, tomato

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces small pasta I used macaroni
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound ground hamburger or turkey
  • 2, 10.75- ounce cans tomato soup
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheese I used a combination of monterrey jack and mild cheddar

Instructions

  • Prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish by spraying it with non-stick spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Brown the hamburger and onion in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • While the hamburger is browning, cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.
  • Once the hamburger is cooked through and the onions are soft, drain as much grease from the pan as you can and then add the garlic. Saute for a couple minutes until the garlic starts to brown slightly, and add in the tomato soup, spices, and fill one of the soup cans halfway with water and add that into the pan as well. Stir to combine.
  • Let the mixture cook for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.
  • Dump the cooked noodles into the prepared baking dish and top with the hamburger mixture. Just spread the hamburger mixture over the top of the noodles; there’s no need to mix it together.
  • Top the casserole with cheese and cover the dish with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for another 10 minutes. Then turn the broiler on high to brown the cheese just a bit—probably about two minutes, but keep an eye on it.
  • Let the casserole cool for about 10 minutes and then serve.

This was really simple to put together and was yummy, too. Plus, I managed to put away quite a bit of leftovers in the fridge.

If I’m being honest, I doubt neither Joey nor I will ever get sick of tacos, but it was a nice change of pace to try a new casserole, and with such simple ingredients, it was easy for me to make on the fly, which I appreciated.

Now, with plenty of leftover casserole in the fridge, tonight’s dinner should be easy to figure out. Unless, of course, one of us starts craving Mexican food instead.

This piece first appeared in print on March 12, 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
Main Dish

Deciding to make enchiladas an open and shut ‘queso’

Queso fresco enchiladas have lots of green chile flavor, using the diced peppers and salsa verde in the recipe.

When I was in grade school, our family used to frequent a now defunct Mexican restaurant called Zaki’s. 

For some reason, at that age, I was particularly fond of making bets with my dad, and I can remember two challenges that centered on that restaurant in particular.

The first was a bet I won. The waiter came to the table and asked if we preferred corn or flour chips with our salsa.

“What do we normally get? Flour, right?” my dad said.

“No. It’s corn,” I told him.

And then the bet came into play. Dad ordered the flour, and I bet him a month of him making my bed (these were the things that were important to me back then) that he was wrong about our usual order.

And he was.

It was a glorious month of relaxation as he came through on his end of the bargain each morning.

The second time was more of a challenge than a bet, when I announced that I thought I’d like the cheese enchiladas the restaurant served rather than ones that included meat.

My mom tried to warn me that it might be a bit intense to have an entire plate of just cheese-filled enchiladas, but of course, my dad got me to take up the challenge.

I thought back to that day when I recently made a batch of enchiladas myself—although I included chicken and some other elements in mine.

I didn’t really follow a recipe for this one, although I would give credit to Gina Homolka on her blog “Skinny Taste” for inspiration. If you go to her site at https://www.skinnytaste.com/enchiladas-verdes-green-enchiladas/, you’ll see a lot of similarities to the recipe I present here.

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Queso Fresco Enchiladas

Queso fresco enchiladas have lots of green chile flavor, using the diced peppers and salsa verde in the recipe.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword cheese, enchilada, green chile, queso fresco, salsa verde

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces diced green chile peppers drained
  • 10 ounces queso fresco
  • 16 ounces salsa verde
  • 10-16 six-inch flour or white corn tortillas
  • 2-3 cups shredded Mexican style cheese blend

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Prepare a 9×13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper, green chiles, and queso fresco. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the salsa, too, and stir to combine.
  • Dump about half of the remaining salsa in the bottom of the prepared pan.
  • Warm the tortillas based on their package instructions to soften them. Place a large spoonful of the chicken filling in the center of each tortilla and roll it tightly and place them side by side in the pan, seam-side down, packing them closely together.
  • Once the dish is full (I ended up having to finish my filling out in a second, smaller baking dish), pour the remaining salsa over the top and then sprinkle liberally with the Mexican style cheese blend.
  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown on top.
  • Let them rest for at least five minutes before serving.

These enchiladas were great and reheated wonderfully as leftovers. I paired them with some Mexican rice, and they were an excellent dinner.

And if you did want to just make vegetarian enchiladas, you could easily leave out the chicken and include some fresh peppers or beans instead.

This recipe definitely turned out better than my cheese enchilada challenge of yesteryear. Being the stubborn kid I was, I finished the plate, but my stomach was unhappy with me for the rest of the evening, and I never ordered that particular dish again.

I guess that leaves my father and I tied when it comes to Mexican food challenges. It’s probably about time I took him out to dinner to see if I can get back in the winner’s circle—although I doubt he’d agree to any bed making this time.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 15, 2019.

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 Microwave Side Dish

It’s tough to see one more empty seat at the table

Scalloped broccoli won’t heat up your kitchen with the oven and makes for a good side dish for a big family meal.

A couple weeks ago, our family gathered around my maternal grandmother’s table, enjoying a meal with her along with all of the cousins and their children and spouses present.

It was sometimes a bit loud and boisterous, and there was plenty of laughter as we all ate way too much while telling stories and catching up. It was a rare moment when everyone was able to come.

This past weekend, we were all there again, minus one very noticeable presence: Grandma.

After losing my grandpa in March, she went to join him last week. She was ready; we were not.

Grandma’s table expanded several times over the years as grandchildren, significant others and great grandchildren continued to join our family, and although it seemed like there were always more places set every time we gathered, the amount of leftovers seemed to stay constant. She taught us all to cook for an army, and as she often said, if you left hungry, that was your own fault.

When we were younger, Grandma made us all elaborately decorated birthday cakes every year. I almost always requested a spice cake, and when she asked what dishes we’d like to see for our family dinner together to celebrate, I requested her scalloped broccoli.

The broccoli casserole was a favorite amongst all the grandkids, which I suspect had less to do with the broccoli and more to do with the fact that it had plenty of cheese in it.

I decided that making that dish was the perfect way for me to honor her memory and all of those elaborate meals over the years, so I opened the handwritten cookbook she gave me for my 16th birthday, following the directions written in her beautiful cursive.

I’m not sure if anyone has ever shed nostalgic tears over broccoli before, but I definitely did.

So this week, my recipe comes from the kitchen of Lola Franklin—one of the best cooks I’ve ever known.

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Scalloped Broccoli

Scalloped broccoli won't heat up your kitchen with the oven and makes for a good side dish for a big family meal.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword broccoli, casserole, cheese, cream of mushroom, rice

Ingredients

  • 32 ounces frozen broccoli
  • 1 pound American cheese cut into chunks
  • 2 cups minute rice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2, 10.5- ounce cans cream of mushroom soup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In a large pot, add the frozen broccoli along with three cups of water. Put it over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is cooked through.
  • While the broccoli is cooking, add the cheese (Grandma used to either get the loaves of sliced American cheese to use or would request it from the deli counter), rice, milk and soup to a large, microwave-safe casserole dish with a lid.
  • Drain the broccoli and stir it into the other ingredients.
  • Microwave on high, with the lid on, until the cheese is melted and the rice is cooked through (somewhere between five and 10 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave).
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

This is a great dish for leftovers, which I can attest to after being sent home with many Tupperware containers of it over the years.

After mixing up my batch of broccoli, I have to admit it didn’t taste as great at Grandma’s. I doubt I’ll ever be fully satisfied with my version of it, though, since I won’t be enjoying it with one of the most influential women in my life.

Over the years, she taught me much more than just cooking skills around her dinner table. As she loaded up our plates, she also demonstrated how to be resilient, to be caring, to love unconditionally, and to always put others first.

As we spent our last family meal together, Grandma watched my mom, her daughter, bustling around the table, her own plate still empty as she made sure that everyone else was getting their fill and each dish was making its way around.

She looked across at me and said, “I’d be shocked if she ever actually sat down and ate.”

“I wonder where she got that from,” I responded.

“Hey, now,” she said, a gleam in her eye and a wry smile on her face.

I’ll miss sharing those meals with her as we all try to move forward, but she’ll most certainly always be with us at our family dinner tables and other gatherings we host with friends through the years.

If nothing else, Grandma taught me that life can always use an extra large scoop—of love and, of course, of ice cream.

This piece first appeared in print on July 18, 2019.

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

Here’s the ‘ravi-only’ quick dinner recipe you need

An easy ravioli bake is a quick crowd pleaser for nights when you need to get dinner on the table without a lot of time.

There’s something about May that makes Joey and I busier than normal, it seems. I think it’s just the rushing around of all the end-of-school items that need to get into the newspaper, along with all the excitement of events coming up in the summer that keep us on our toes.

That, unfortunately, means May includes a lot more trips to eat out for dinner, as it’s normally not easy to cook a meal when you and your spouse are both getting home from work at almost 8 p.m.

But the other night ,I actually arrived home at a fairly decent hour, and I excitedly preheated my oven, knowing I had the perfect recipe to make on the fly that could be ready before Joey walked in the door.

The recipe I used is labeled as a “lazy lasagna” by the author, but I will say it’s more like a pasta bake than a lasagna, since it doesn’t really hold together like a lasagna does.

That’s not to say it isn’t awesome, though.

The recipe I got was from the website “InstruPix.” You can find it at https://www.instrupix.com/3-ingredient-ravioli-bake-lazy-lasagna/. The original recipe just calls for the ravioli, sauce and cheese. I added some spices to it, because I tend to think jarred sauce lacks some pizazz, but if you have a favorite one that is spiced the way you like it, skip my additions and just toss those three ingredients together.

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Easy Ravioli Bake

An easy ravioli bake is a quick crowd pleaser for nights when you need to get dinner on the table without a lot of time.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword casserole, cheese, ravioli

Ingredients

  • 25 ounce bag frozen ravioli any variety
  • 24 ounces marinara or alfredo sauce
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 cups shredded mozzarella

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • Spread about a quarter of the jar of sauce onto the bottom of the dish.
  • Arrange ravioli in a single layer on top of the sauce.
  • Spread half of the remaining sauce over top of the ravioli and sprinkle the listed spices evenly over the sauce (I didn’t really measure. I just eyeballed it.) Sprinkle on half of the mozzarella.
  • Layer on the rest of the ravioli (I didn’t have quite enough to make a full second layer, so I just spaced them out a bit more than I did on the bottom), spread the rest of the sauce on top, and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
  • Cover the dish in aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  • Let the dish cool for about 10 minutes and serve.

Joey was pleasantly surprised to come home to a meal that didn’t come in a styrofoam box, and I was super happy to actually use my kitchen for the first time in about a week.

This also reheated really well as leftovers for lunches later on in the week, which was a nice bonus that we appreciated.

For a family meal, pairing this with some garlic bread and big salad or some veggies would be perfect.

I’m sure Joey and I have several more restaurant meals in our future over the next couple of weeks, but I’m glad I have a quick recipe to use if I have a spare 45 minutes to spend in the kitchen.

And with being able to choose from a wide variety of ravioli fillings and sauces at my local grocery store, I don’t think we’ll get tired of this one any time soon.

This piece first appeared in print on May 9, 2019.

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

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Snack

Pizza sticks will make you say, ‘Yes, cheese!’

Cheesy pizza sticks are great for a quick snack an especially good recipe for beginning cooks to try their hand in the kitchen.

While my sister was still pregnant with my now almost 1-1/2-year-old niece, I noticed my shopping habits change.

I was constantly picking up this cute outfit or that cool toy even before our beautiful Emi graced us with her presence.

My only problem has been patience, as I always seem to find toys or outfits that she’s not quite ready for yet.

The other day, it was a child’s apron and baker’s hat. It was adorable, and I nearly shoved it into my cart before I thought through the fact that (1) this outfit was clearly made for someone more the size of a five-year-old and (2) my niece, while smart and sassy, is just now completely conquering solid foods and probably isn’t quite ready to help prepare them with me yet.

That being said, I have, on occasion, gotten to cook with kids over the years, and it’s always fun to watch them learn a life skill and enjoy their creations afterwards.

The recipe I found this week on the blog “I Wash, You Dry” is one I’ll be setting aside for Emi and I to try out when she’s a little older. It’s so simple there isn’t much to adjust, but I decided to change up the spices a bit. You can find the original post at https://iwashyoudry.com/cheesy-pepperoni-pizza-sticks/.

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Cheesy Pizza Sticks

Cheesy pizza sticks are great for a quick snack an especially good recipe for beginning cooks to try their hand in the kitchen.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Keyword cheese, kid-friendly, pepperoni, pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • 40 slices pepperoni I used turkey pepperoni
  • 10 mozzarella cheese sticks
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with tinfoil and spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Unroll the pizza dough onto the baking sheet (don’t worry about trying to roll it out thinner at this point, just get it flat).
  • Cut the dough into 10 equal rectangles.
  • Place four pepperoni slices and one cheese stick on each rectangle, and then pinch the dough to seal it around the cheese and meat.
  • Lay the pizza sticks, seam side down, about an inch apart on the baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and the oregano, basil, parsley and garlic powder.
  • Brush it onto each pizza stick. (I used a spoon to get the remaining goodies out of the bottom of the bowl and spread them out, too.)
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown on top.
  • Let the pizza sticks rest for at least 10 minutes before digging in.

I didn’t have a kiddo to share these with, but the adults who sampled them deemed them a success. They’d be great with some marinara dipping sauce, too.

They did have quite a bit of cheese spill out of them, which was OK in my book, since I love some slightly browned, melted cheese, but that also made me very glad I used aluminum foil to make clean up a breeze.

As summer is approaching and some of you are looking for good recipes to try out with the kids in your lives, I’d recommend this one.

And if you need a good lead on a kid-sized apron, let me know. I’ve got you covered.

This piece first appeared in print on April 11, 2019.

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

Shredded cheese, potatoes make ‘grater’ casserole

If you need an easy, crowd-pleasing dinner, keep this recipe handy.

Glancing at my pantry this past week, I noticed a forgotten bag of Yukon gold potatoes nestled on the shelf.

I pulled it out, nervous for what I’d find, and discovered they were still mostly good but weren’t long for this world, so it was at that moment that I decided potatoes were on that evening’s menu.

Looking through my list of recipes to try, I remembered a simple one that was really just three awesome main ingredients: potatoes, hamburger and cheese.

You can’t go wrong with that combo, in my humble opinion.

The recipe calls for Russet potatoes, but my Yukons worked well, too. I probably used 10 to 12 of them, since they’re smaller, and it decreased my bake time by around 20 minutes, since they cook faster. I also used ground turkey instead of hamburger to make it a bit lighter.

This comes from the website “Genius Kitchen.” You can find it at https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/hamburger-potato-cheese-casserole-187672. I changed up the seasonings just a bit in my version.

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Cheesy Hamburger Potato Casserole

If you need an easy, crowd-pleasing dinner, keep this recipe handy.
Course Main Course
Keyword casserole, ground beef, hamburger, potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5 large Russet potatoes sliced about 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk skim is fine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar shredded (or cheese of your choice)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large skillet, brown the hamburger/turkey. Drain off any excess fat, and mix in the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • In the meantime, place a layer of potato slices in the bottom of a 2- to 3-quart casserole dish with a lid (it’s fine if the potatoes overlap a bit if you have lots).
  • Dump half the meat mixture on top of the potatoes and spread it evenly.
  • Place another layer of potatoes in the dish and cover with the remaining meat mixture.
  • Finish out with a final layer of potatoes.
  • Set the dish aside and make your cheese sauce (you can use the same skillet).
  • Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour to make a roux and stir for about a minute to cook the flour taste out.
  • Add the milk and salt and pepper and whisk to break up any clumps.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to stir regularly to keep the milk from scalding. Once the mixture is thick and bubbling, remove it from heat (mine would not thicken to save my life, so I ended up adding quite a bit more flour, a little at a time, until I got a “sauce” consistency).
  • Add the cheese and stir until it is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the cheese sauce over top of the potatoes and meat. Shake the dish a bit to help work the sauce down into the entire dish.
  • Place the covered dish in the oven for about 1-1/2 hours, taking the lid off for the last 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender and the top is browned.

This was a very simple recipe and reheated wonderfully as leftovers. If you’re cooking for picky eaters or kiddos, this is a great one to try. 

If you’re cooking for a more sophisticated adult palate, you might try adding some more spices to it. Crushed red pepper flakes, minced garlic and a real onion in place of powder, and even some basil or paprika could have taken this to a new level. It’s a pretty blank canvas.

I was just happy to not let a bag of potatoes go to waste, and it was a good reminder that I should peer into the back of my pantry more often. Who knows what other treasures lie within?

This piece first appeared in print on March 21, 2019.

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.