Categories
Main Dish

Spring is time to come out of your shell

Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells
Chicken Alfredo stuffed shells can be made easily with a rotisserie chicken and jarred Alfredo sauce.

With the weather finally warming up, it’s about the time of year when you begin meeting yourself coming and going, it seems.

There are so many activities outdoors, and staying inside after the harsh winter on top of a pandemic makes me want to spend every moment I can out in the yard or taking a walk instead of standing in front of the stove. If you’re a fan of a kiddo involved in spring sports, your life is about to get pretty busy, too.

This week’s recipe pays homage to that. You can make it as complicated or as easy as you like.

If you’re in a hurry, I’d definitely recommend using jarred sauce, shredding up an already-cooked rotisserie chicken and maybe even skipping the pasta shells and cooking some lasagna noodles to layer in there instead.

Regardless of how much time you spend, though, this dinner is a really yummy one.

I found this on the Julie Evink’s blog, “Julie’s Eats and Treats.” You can find her original post at https://www.julieseatsandtreats.com/chicken-alfredo-stuffed-shells/. 

Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells
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Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells

Chicken Alfredo stuffed shells can be made easily with a rotisserie chicken and jarred Alfredo sauce.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Alfredo sauce, basil, chicken, garlic, mozzarella, oregano, parmesan, stuffed shells

Ingredients

  • 30 large pasta shells cooked according to package directions
  • 1 pound chicken breasts cooked and shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella divided
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan divided
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh Italian parsley optional
  • 15 ounces garlic Alfredo sauce

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • While the shells are boiling, combine cottage cheese, 3/4 cup mozzarella, 3/4 cup parmesan, egg, garlic, oregano, basil and salt and pepper, stirring well. (If using the fresh parsley, dice up 1/4 to 1/2 cup and add it in, too.) Add in the chicken and stir until everything is well mixed.
  • In the prepared dish, add about one cup of the Alfredo sauce to the bottom.
  • Spoon the chicken mixture into the drained, prepared shells and place them, crowded tightly but in a single layer, in the dish.
  • Evenly distribute the remaining Alfredo sauce over the shells, along with the reserved cheese.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is slightly browned and the dish is heated through.
  • Serve garnished with more parsley, if using.

This is a great casserole to create ahead of time and slip into the freezer or fridge to bake later. While you’re busy cooking one, why not go ahead and assemble a second one, too?

I often love cooking from scratch and taking some time preparing food, but when the birds are chirping and the temperature is rising, sometimes it’s OK to just go easy on yourself.

Grab a plate, go eat outside, and enjoy the arrival of April.

This piece first appeared in print April 1, 2021.

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

Categories
Crockpot Main Dish

Don’t let me ‘cashew’ skipping this recipe

Cashew chicken finishes cooking in the crockpot and features great flavors as well as a wonderful, nutty crunch.

If you’re bored and want to blow your mind sometime, I highly recommend doing a quick web search for how cashews grow.

I have assumed for a long time that cashews, just grow inside a normal shell and look pretty much like a walnut or a peanut. But they don’t. At all.

Instead, the nut, which hails from Brazil, grows like a little tail off the bottom of a cashew apple. According to an article by Matthew Baron, people thought cashews were poisonous for a long time, because their shell contains a skin irritant—kind of like poison ivy.

Baron points out that, for that reason, you can’t actually buy unshelled cashews. I had never really considered that I haven’t ever cracked open a cashew before.

I started thinking about cashews this week, because Joey forwarded me a social media post with a recipe for cashew chicken and asked if I would be willing to add it to my experiment list. I, of course, obliged, and the results were great.

I don’t have a source for this recipe. It’s one of those that has been out circulating on Facebook, and the original author hasn’t been included. I did adjust the garlic and ginger for my version, though.

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Cashew Chicken

Cashew chicken finishes cooking in the crockpot and features great flavors as well as a wonderful, nutty crunch.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword cashew, chicken, crockpot

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 rounded teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup cashews

Instructions

  • Cut the chicken into about one-inch chunks. Combine the flour and black pepper in a large Ziploc, and add the chicken. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat the chicken in the flour and pepper mixture.
  • Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a skillet and add the coated chicken, sauteing until it’s browned. (Don’t worry about whether it’s cooked through; it’s going to go into a crockpot next.)
  • Place the browned chicken into a crockpot.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and then pour over the chicken in the crockpot.
  • Cook for four hours on low heat.
  • Mix in the cashews, and serve over rice or lo mein noodles.

This was absolutely delicious. The cashews added a nice crunch, and the sauce was awesome. It was just the right amount of sweet and not spicy at all.

This is also really easy to double, which is what we did, and the leftovers heat up really nicely in the microwave.

And I was excited to have some leftover cashews in my pantry to snack on. Apparently, they’re a lot more interesting than I ever knew and have come a long way from being a “poisonous” nut on a tree to hanging out in my crockpot.

This piece first appeared in print on Nov. 19, 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

You’ll have ‘fillings’ for this pot pie casserole

Chicken pot pie casserole is a great, homestyle meal that comes together quickly and easily for a weeknight meal.

I have a ton of amazing memories about my paternal grandma, who passed away in 2012. She was such an awesome person and a crazy good cook.

Near the end of her life, she invited me over to her small apartment for dinner—just the two of us. She made a chicken and biscuits meal with some mixed veggies in it that was perfectly belly-filling and delicious. And, since she and I both had a serious ice cream addiction, we ended supper with a big bowl of it for dessert.

I don’t remember what all we chatted about while we sat at her small table, but I do remember the meal, which I suppose highlights the power of food in how we bond with one another.

That seemingly insignificant dinner popped into my memory this past week, when I stumbled on a recipe for a chicken and dumpling casserole. It reminded me so much of the meal she and I shared.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Plain Chicken,” and while I generally like the base of this blog’s recipes, I often feel the need to add quite a bit to make them less, well, “plain.” You can find the original post at https://www.plainchicken.com/chicken-dumpling-casserole. I added herbs and veggies to my version, so I decided to dub it a “pot pie” casserole instead of just dumplings.

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Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Chicken pot pie casserole is a great, homestyle meal that comes together quickly and easily for a weeknight meal.
Course Main Course
Keyword canned biscuits, casserole, chicken, dumplings, easy, mixed vegetables, pot pie

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter melted
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken cooked and shredded
  • 12 ounces frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 10.75 ounces cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Pour the melted butter into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and then spread the shredded chicken and mixed vegetables over top of it.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and milk until it’s smooth, and pour the mixture as evenly as you can over top of the chicken. You don’t need to stir or spread it out.
  • In the same mixing bowl (why cause more dishes?), whisk the cream of chicken soup, broth and herbs and spices together until smooth and pour it evenly into the baking dish. Again, you don’t need to stir or spread it out.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes or until the biscuit dough is a golden brown on top.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes.

The mashed potatoes were a perfect touch to give this casserole a very homestyle taste. The night I made this, I actually only had a bag of frozen carrots in the freezer, so ours was missing all of the mixed veggies goodness, but we still really enjoyed it.

As a side note, I used a rotisserie chicken for my version, and then after Joey graciously shredded all the meat off of it for me, I boiled the carcass for about 20 minutes with the herbs listed above to make my broth instead of buying some. It worked really well, and I had some broth left over to put in the freezer for next time.

I can’t tell you what recipe Grandma used when she and I sat down to our casserole nearly a decade ago, but as the old cliché goes, I know the main ingredient was love, and that’s really all that matters.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 13, 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

Have dinner ‘tortellini’ figured out this week

Pesto chicken tortellini and asparagus uses some pre-made ingredients to allow quick cooking with fresh and colorful vegetables.

Over the course of our marriage, Joey and I have developed a special ritual, where each of us tries to be the first one to ask, “What do you want to eat?” before every meal, as though the person who asks first is absolved from having to do any choosing.

I mean, the answer is nearly always, “I don’t know,” but we still try it every meal, every day, with very few exceptions.

He was a little shocked last week, then, when I said, “Hey, don’t worry about dinner tonight. I have an idea.”

I knew he was going to be stuck at the office late, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to try a new recipe and hopefully have it ready for him when he got home.

Well, let me tell you, it was a huge hit, and if you or someone you know is cultivating a vegetable garden this summer, this is a great recipe to try out.

This comes from the blog “Julia’s Album.” You can find the original at https://juliasalbum.com/one-pan-pesto-chicken-tortellini-and-veggies. I added garlic salt and more pesto to my version.

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Pesto Chicken Tortellini and Asparagus

Course Main Course
Keyword asparagus, basil pesto, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes, tortellini

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs or breasts cut into strips
  • garlic salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes drained and chopped, divided
  • 1 pound asparagus stalks cut in half
  • 3/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup cheese tortellini fresh or frozen

Instructions

  • In a large skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Season the chicken with garlic salt and add it along with 1/4 cup of the sun-dried tomatoes to the pan, sauteing for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Transfer the chicken and tomatoes to a plate, season the asparagus with garlic salt and add it to the pan (add a little more oil, if necessary). Also add the other 1/4-cup of sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Cook for another 10 minutes until the asparagus reaches your desired doneness (I like mine very tender, so I added about four tablespoons of water and put the lid on the skillet to steam cook it for a bit, too.)
  • While the asparagus cooks, cook the tortellini according to package directions and drain.
  • Remove the asparagus from the skillet, and cover it to keep it warm.
  • In the skillet, add the chicken, pesto and tomatoes. Stir continuously to allow the chicken to reheat and let the tomatoes release some juice.
  • Add in the tortellini and stir to combine.
  • Serve the chicken mixture along with a serving of the asparagus.

This had amazing flavor and was gorgeous on the plate. I also really liked that, while it looked complicated, it used enough pre-made ingredients that it was easy to put together. It was also awesome as leftovers later on, which I always appreciate about a recipe. 

Joey was extremely grateful to have dinner on the table when he got home and to not have to endure yet another discussion about what we wanted to eat.

The only problem is now that I’ve shown my ability to choose a meal, I have to be extra quick about being the first to ask Joey what he wants to eat. Otherwise, it may become my job every day, and I just don’t think I’m ready for that responsibility.

This piece first appeared in print on June 4, 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 Main Dish

Try a recipe that’s ‘taquito’ happiness

Chicken taquitos are quick to make and can be cooked by frying, baking or using an air fryer.

As a general rule, I avoid a lot of specialty appliances in my kitchen.

While I’ve been tempted in the past to consider a rice cooker or a cake pop baker, I haven’t given in—mostly because I have no idea where I would store such contraptions.

But I do have a couple trendy pieces that make me feel like I fit right in on the food blogs, mainly an electric pressure cooker and most recently, an air fryer.

If you’re not familiar, air fryers are all the rage these days, making it possible to get crispy “fried” foods with little to no oil. Really, it’s just a mini convection oven, but it does seem to work as advertised.

With my new purchase on hand, I decided to try a recipe I’d been eyeballing for awhile: chicken taquitos. The recipe reminded me a lot of some chicken flautas my favorite Mexican restaurant makes, and I needed to see if I could recreate the experience at home.

If you don’t have an air fryer, don’t worry. You can still make these by frying them traditionally in oil or by baking them, and I’ll give you the details for all three methods.

This recipe comes from the blog “Chili Pepper Madness” by Mike Hultquist You can find the original post at https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/chicken-taquitos/. I added some seasonings to my version.

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Chicken Taquitos

Chicken taquitos are quick to make and can be cooked by frying, baking or using an air fryer.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword chicken, taquitos

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 large jalapeno diced (remove seeds and ribs if you want milder flavor)
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1.5 pounds chicken breast cooked and shredded
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 packet sazon seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 20-24 small soft corn tortillas
  • 2 cups vegetable/canola oil if frying
  • vegetable/canola spray if air frying or baking

Instructions

  • In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and jalapeno, stirring regularly, until they are both soft, about six to eight minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute for another two minutes or until it slightly browns and becomes fragrant. Remove the pan from heat.
  • In a large bowl, combine the contents of the saute pan with the shredded chicken, seasonings and cheese, and stir to coat the chicken evenly.
  • To properly heat the tortillas and make them pliable, wrap the stack in a damp paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds. Keep them covered with the damp towel while you work.
  • If you are frying, heat your oil in a deep pan over medium heat to about 350 degrees. If you are baking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you are air frying, you’ll set it to air fry at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes (you may have to experiment with the timing a bit).
  • To assemble the taquitos, place a spoonful of the chicken filling on the middle of each tortilla and then roll it up tightly, leaving the ends open. Secure it by placing a toothpick through the center of the taquito.
  • If frying or air frying, cook the taquitos in batches. If frying, fry them for about three minutes until they are golden brown. If air frying, mist the taquitos with cooking spray before frying them.
  • If baking, place the taquitos on a baking sheet and lightly spray them with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the taquitos halfway through.
  • Remove the toothpicks and serve hot taquitos with your favorite salsa and sour cream.

We loved these, and they were really easy. I ended up deboning a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking my own to make the process go even more quickly, and I paired these with some Mexican rice. They also reheated really nicely in the air fryer or the oven. They do reheat in the microwave, but they lose their crispiness.

Making this recipe solidified for me that the air fryer won’t be taking up unnecessary space in our house, and I’m looking forward to playing with it more.

Many people claim it’s a great way to cut a lot of extra oil and fat out of your diet. Of course, as Joey helpfully pointed out, if I keep buying frozen French fries now that I have the option, it may have the opposite effect.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 30, 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 Soup

Chicken mushroom soup is ‘chowder’ this world

Creamy chicken mushroom chowder is a hearty soup for a cold night’s dinner.

Thanks to this column, I’m constantly on the lookout for recipes I have never tried. If you look at a lot of food blogs and recipe books like I do, you’ll find several common words and phrases in the titles of recipes.

There are quite a few that include the descriptor “Amish” in the title, and while I’m not necessarily qualified to say what makes a recipe particularly Amish or not, there are some I wouldn’t peg as particularly authentic.

And, of course, people love making recipes that claim to be like “crack.” I’ve also always found that one strange, considering that the bios of most of these online chefs don’t seem to indicate drug problems on their end.

But this week, Joey and I ended up trying to figure out what makes a “chowder” a “chowder,” and after searching online quite a bit, I’m not sure if that isn’t just another random adjective cooks use. The only official explanation that seemed to show up more often than not was that a chowder must be cream based, but folks differed on that rule, too.

I found this recipe on the blog “The Chunky Chef.” You can find the original post at https://www.thechunkychef.com/creamy-chicken-mushroom-chowder/. I changed the amounts of some of the ingredients in my version. I also actually doubled the recipe below to give me some leftovers for the freezer.

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Creamy Chicken Mushroom Chowder

Creamy chicken mushroom chowder is a hearty soup for a cold night's dinner.
Course Main Course
Keyword chicken, chowder, mushrooms, potatoes, soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 3 carrots peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms sliced (I used baby bellas, but use what you like)
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4- cup flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 5 medium-sized red potatoes diced
  • 3 cups shredded or cubed chicken cooked
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or half and half

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large pot.
  • Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until they’re soft (about five minutes). Add the mushrooms and garlic and stir, cooking for about two more minutes.
  • Add the salt and pepper, thyme and flour and stir to soak up any liquid in the pan. Let the flour cook for about one minute.
  • Stir in the stock, making sure the scrape the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the potatoes, chicken and bay leaf and bring the soup to a very low boil. Let it cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are to your desired tenderness, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the cream and let the soup simmer until it’s hot again.
  • Serve.

I went about this a little differently by boiling my chicken in the broth to cook it to start and making my veggies in a saute pan on the side. I did all the steps up to adding the broth in the saute pan and then dumped my veggies in with my cooked chicken that was already boiling in the stock pot.

If you do it that way, you will probably need to add a little water or more broth to the pot.

And while the recipe is called a chowder and does meet a lot of the definitions of what a chowder should be, I’m still not sure if everyone would agree.

What I can tell you is that I’m pretty sure it’s not Amish, it certainly doesn’t mirror any drugs I’m aware of, and it’s an extremely satisfying, good soup, especially when served with a thick slice of crusty bread.

I may never figure out what a chowder is, but it won’t stop me from eating seconds until I figure it out.

This piece first appeared in print on Nov. 14, 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 Soup

This soup is ‘dumpling’ you should try

Chicken and dumplings come together in about half an hour and make a delicious, hearty dinner.

As I was poking around our local grocery store’s clearance bin about a month ago, I stumbled on a box of “dumplings.” I was a bit confused, since they really just looked like really wide noodles, and it certainly didn’t fit my internal definition of what constitutes a dumpling.

But they were cheap.

So Joey and I tried “chicken and dumplings,” made with the recipe on the back of the box, which consisted of these noodles, canned chicken and a can of peas and carrots. It was fine.

But I wanted to give a more traditional dumpling a try, so I hunted for a recipe and found one that purported to create a delicious, homemade soup in only 30 minutes.

I have rarely made myself gasp with a kitchen creation, but let me tell you, I celebrated out loud when I pulled the lid off my soup and saw beautiful dumplings floating on the surface. This recipe was a complete slam dunk for me, and while the noodles we tried before were good, this recipe was the winner.

The blog “The Slow Roasted Italian” is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and this recipe came from there. It was created by Donna Elick. You can find the original post at https://www.theslowroasteditalian.com/2012/11/chicken-and-dumplings-in-30-minutes-2.html. I played around with her seasonings a bit in my version.

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Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings come together in about half an hour and make a delicious, hearty dinner.
Course Main Course
Keyword chicken, dumplings

Ingredients

Soup Ingredients

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk I used skim
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas and diced carrots

Dumplings Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup milk I used skim

Instructions

  • In a large pot with a lid, heat the chicken broth, water, butter and seasonings over medium. Cover the pot and let it come to a boil.
  • Cut the chicken into about one-inch pieces and add them to the pot and cover again.
  • In a large sealable container, combine the flour and milk. Seal and shake until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour mixture to the pot slowly, stirring as you do so. Add the vegetables to the pot as well and put the lid back on.
  • While the soup is cooking, combine all the dumpling ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • Stir the soup really well, scraping the bottom with your spoon to make sure the flour mixture isn’t sticking to the bottom.
  • Then, using a tablespoon-sized scoop (or eye-balling about that amount with a normal spoon), add scoops of the dumpling mixture to the soup. They’ll sink like rocks, but don’t worry, that’s what they’re supposed to do.
  • Once all the dumpling mixture is in the pot, cover it again and reduce heat to a low simmer. Let the soup cook for 10 minutes. It’s done when the soup coats the back of a spoon.
  • Remove from heat and serve.

Oh, boy, was this a hearty dinner for us. And we were able to freeze the leftovers for later, too, which has been a nice treat on busy evenings. 

I know there are a lot of complicated types of dumplings out there, but this recipe is not one of them, and you definitely get the “wow” factor with those beautiful balls of dough floating in the top of a creamy soup.

And I still haven’t found any evidence that the noodles I used technically counted as dumplings, but I guess now that I have a really good recipe, it won’t matter much—unless I find another really good sale.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 26, 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 Side Dish Snack

You can’t just wing crispy chicken

Cooking nice, crispy chicken wings in the oven takes some time but is well worth the wait.

Although we had big crowds of folks in our house for the NFL playoff games this season, Super Bowl Sunday was a calm evening without company—something Joey and I were both very much in the mood for after a few busy weeks in a row.

Despite the lack of a table full of food, I still decided to make a traditional football snack for the big game: buffalo wings.

Buffalo wings are one of Joey’s favorite foods, and we’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to figure out how to make some at home that are crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and aren’t the product of lots of deep frying.

In all our attempts, we generally only attained one or two of those criteria, but I finally figured it out this past weekend, thanks to a blog post by “The Cookful.” You can find it at https://thecookful.com/bake-chicken-wings-crispy/. I will warn you that it takes a good amount of time in the oven to accomplish this, but it is mostly hands-off time, and it’s well worth the wait.

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Crispy Chicken Wings

Cooking nice, crispy chicken wings in the oven takes some time but is well worth the wait.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snacks
Keyword chicken wings

Ingredients

  • 20 wing pieces
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • sauce or dry rub

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
  • Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil and place a rack onto the sheet (I just used my cooling racks).
  • Place the wing pieces into a bowl and dump in the baking powder and salt. Mix them with your hands to distribute the powder and salt. (Don’t expect them to look like they’ve been dipped in flour; you won’t be able to see the coating on the wings when you’re done.)
  • Place the wing pieces in a single layer on the rack, spacing them just slightly. Cook them for 30 minutes.
  • Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and cook for another 45 to 50 minutes or until the wings are brown and crispy.
  • Let them rest for a couple minutes, and then toss them in your favorite wing sauce or dry rub and serve immediately.

My favorite way to coat wings is to put them in a bowl with a lid along with the sauce and then just shake them until they’re coated. I’m not coordinated enough to do it without a lid—unless I want to clean sauce off every inch of my kitchen.

These wings were awesome—exactly what we’d been looking for. It was also nice that any fat dripped down onto the foil, and the wings weren’t swimming in it while they cooked.

I’m not sure what the secret of the baking powder is that makes the wings cook so well, but it was just what I was missing in previous attempts.

They also received the Joey stamp of approval, which is a pretty big deal. He has pretty high standards for what makes for a good wing.

Our Super Bowl snack was awesome. The game, on the other hand, well…maybe it could have used some baking powder.

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 7, 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

Chicken recipe will get you a ‘lada’ accolades

I hate cooking chicken.

I think it’s all the scare tactics people use when talking about salmonella and separate cutting boards. It’s also the slimy factor when I remove the skin or trim off extra fat.

I would use ground meat for every recipe if I could.

Despite my hatred for cooking it, I do enjoy eating chicken, so I will often work past my bias in the search for something good for dinner.

I was checking out the clearance meat at our local grocery store recently and found a great deal on chicken legs, so I bought them and ended up de-boning so, so many of them for this week’s recipe and for use in quesadillas and lunch wraps the rest of the week.

So know that when I say this recipe was worth working with chicken, that’s saying something.

I found this recipe on the site “Centsless Meals.” You can find it at https://centslessdeals.com/sour-cream-chicken-enchiladas-recipe/. I added some seasoning and didn’t include onions in my version.

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Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Sour cream chicken enchiladas are an extremely quick dinner, especially if you use pre-cooked chicken to make them.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword chicken, enchiladas, green chiles, Monterrey jack cheese, sour cream

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 ounces diced green chiles
  • 1 rotisserie chicken or 3 cups cooked chicken shredded
  • 16 ounces Monterrey jack cheese shredded
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 taco-sized flour tortillas

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple minutes until it starts to brown.
  • Whisk in the chicken broth until the lumps are worked out of the mixture.
  • Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, stirring regularly.
  • Mix in the sour cream and green chiles (I lightly drained mine). Stir until it’s smooth.
  • In another bowl, combine the chicken, about one cup of cheese, cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pour about 1 cup of the sauce (or just enough to cover the bottom) into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  • Put about one-third cup of the chicken mixture into each tortilla and roll them up tightly (leaving the ends open). Place each one into the bottom of the pan. They’ll be pretty tightly packed in there.
  • Evenly distribute the rest of the sauce over top of the tortillas and top with the rest of the cheese.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is starting to brown on top.

If you use a precooked rotisserie chicken for this recipe, it should make for a very quick dinner, but even with me boiling a mess of chicken legs on the stove, it came together pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, while Joey did get a great dinner (and subsequent leftovers) out of this meal, he did have to listen to me complain as I dealt with chicken skin and tendons in the kitchen. I was hoping maybe he’d come volunteer to help, but I suspect he may share my feelings on dealing with the slimy stuff.

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 22, 2018.

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.