Categories
Appetizer Dessert Snack

You ‘cran’ easily whip up these delicious holiday bites

Cranberry Orange Bites
Cranberry orange bites are incredibly easy to make, and not only are they a pretty appetizer or item for your holiday dessert table, but they’re delicious, too.

For all the complicated dishes that come along with the holidays, I tend to be especially attracted to all the fun snacks, candies and sweets that people make throughout November and December.

Our family get togethers always feature a wide array of goodies on the snack table. It would be easy to skip the actual meal altogether and fill up on all the delicious bites on the side. I love digging into a homemade cheeseball or peanut clusters, filling my plate with tons of completely uncomplimentary flavor profiles. It’s the best.

We recently hosted a get together at the office, so I decided to try a recipe for some cranberry orange bites to share on our snack table. They turned out great, and they were really pretty, too, with the color of the cranberry peeking out around buttery crescent dough.

This recipe comes from the blog “Play, Party, Plan” by Britni Vigil. You can find the original post at https://www.playpartyplan.com/mini-cranberry-orange-bites/. The only thing I changed is the amount of sugar, and I decided not to glaze these, too.

Cranberry Orange Bites
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Cranberry Orange Bites

Cranberry orange bites are incredibly easy to make, and not only are they a pretty appetizer or item for your holiday dessert table, but they're delicious, too.
Course Appetizer, Dessert, Snacks
Keyword cranberries, cream cheese, crescent roll dough, dried orange peel, orange, orange zest, powdered sugar

Ingredients

  • 1 can crescent roll dough
  • 2/3 cup cranberries fresh or thawed
  • zest of one large orange
  • 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a mini muffin tin by spraying each well with cooking spray.
  • In a food processor, process the cranberries until they’re fully chopped up.
  • Add in the orange zest, orange peel, cream cheese and two tablespoons powdered sugar and process until the mixture is smooth.
  • Taste it and mix in more powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture reaches your desired sweetness. (It will be just a bit tart, but it shouldn’t make your lips pucker.)
  • Roll out the sheet of crescent rolls and, with a pizza cutter, cut it into 36 to 38 squares.
  • Using your hands, flatten out each square just a bit before placing it into the prepared muffin tin.
  • Scoop about one teaspoon of the cranberry mixture into each piece of dough, and then pinch the opposite corners together to make a little bundle.
  • Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until the crescent rolls are lightly browned.
  • Store the bites in an airtight container.

My filling was incredibly tart when I first tried it, which led to me adding quite a bit more sugar to get it to a place where I didn’t think people would screw up their faces when eating it.

These were a very simple treat that went over well with our guests, and it made me excited for all the holiday snack tables to come over the next couple of months.

As those big meals come, I won’t mind skipping a larger scoop of mashed potatoes or foregoing the gravy. I’d much rather spend my holiday calories in a little different way.

This piece first appeared in print Nov. 24, 2022.

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

Categories
Dessert

This summer, let’s come together and give ‘pies’ a chance

Handheld apple pies are a little more labor intensive than making a whole pie, but they’re perfect for a summer get together when utensils are optional. They feature warm spices and a buttery, flaky crust.

When I was growing up, my mom’s specialty, which was required at every family get together, was her deviled eggs.

I remember my uncle jokingly blocking the door, looking for her tell-tale Tupperware box before we were allowed to come inside. I also remember one fateful day when I accidentally dropped the box, creating havoc as everyone had to scoop the filling, which was splattered all over inside the plastic container, back into the eggs. (Sorry, Mom.)

It’s funny how people can sort of become known for their potluck specialties. Over the past couple of years, we have been blessed to be included in some friends’ family get togethers—such as their most recent on July 4—and I’m pretty sure I’ve become the dessert person.

Their family creates an enviable spread of amazing dishes. You literally can’t fit a taste of everything on your plate in the first pass. And there are also always all kinds of cakes and cookies and other great desserts on the table. After introducing them to pineapple tarts last year and handheld apple pies this year, though, I’m pretty sure my spot is cemented in that dessert section.

This recipe is by Katie Ferrier and is featured on the Taste of Home website. You can find the original post at https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/hand-held-apple-pies/. I went completely rogue on the filling in my version.

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Handheld Apple Pies

Handheld apple pies are a little more labor intensive than making a whole pie, but they're perfect for a summer get together when utensils are optional. They feature warm spices and a buttery, flaky crust.
Course Dessert
Keyword allspice, apple pie, apples, cinnamon, cream cheese, Granny Smith apples, hand pie, summer dessert, vanilla

Ingredients

Crust Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 cups tart apples peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter cold

Topping Ingredients

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • about 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with a teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

  • Beat the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the flour and salt until everything is well combined. Form the dough into a rough ball (It might be sticky. Floured hands is a good idea.), and divide it into two pieces. Form each half into a disk, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • When you’re ready to start assembling, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients except the butter and stir well to evenly coat the apples.
  • Remove the dough disks from the fridge and cut each into 12 pieces. Keep any pieces you’re not currently working with in the fridge to keep them from getting sticky.
  • To assemble the pies, roll out each ball of dough on a floured surface into about a four-inch circle.
  • Add about one tablespoon of apples on one side of the circle and add just a bit of butter. (I cut mine into roughly tablespoon-sized squares and then diced it. Each pie got two to three tiny dots of butter.)
  • Fold the dough over into a half-circle shape, and either fold the edges up to seal them or crimp them firmly with a fork.
  • Place the prepared pies one to two inches apart on a baking sheet.
  • Once your baking sheet is full, whisk the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Brush the tops and edges of each pie with a thin layer of the egg mixture, and then sprinkle them liberally with the cinnamon/sugar mix. Finish the pies off by cutting two or three small slits in the top to let the steam vent while they cook.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops of your pies are golden brown. Remove the pies from the oven and let cool before storing in an air-tight container or serving.

These were buttery and full of great spices and were so, so good. They were a huge hit at the Fourth of July party, and I was glad I doubled the recipe for the whole crew to enjoy.

They are also fantastic for breakfast, if you’re into sweets in the morning.

It’s fun to bake for a whole different crowd—especially one that is so sure to tell you when they really enjoy something you make. And I think, as long as I keep my oven going for these get-togethers, we’ll continue to have a standing invitation. (As long as I don’t drop my creations before they get to the table.)

This piece first appeared in print on July 7, 2022.

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

Categories
Main Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jalapeno Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

This piece first appeared in print on March 24, 2022.

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

Categories
Dessert

Whip up a fluffy cheesecake from Japan this week

Japanese cheesecake has a completely different texture than traditional cheesecakes. It’s a lighter, fluffier cake, best served with fruit or chocolate.

I spend a bit of time each week scrolling through my Pinterest feed, hunting down new recipes I might want to try.

It’s funny how certain recipes start trending suddenly. I’ve seen people get super excited about hot cocoa bombs, charcuterie boards and overnight oats. It starts as a trickle of posts, and pretty soon, there’s every variation of whatever hot, new idea is out there.

It was several years ago that a trend came and went for Japanese cheesecake. A 2016 article in “Delish” notes that these cheesecakes “[…] have a more fluffy, sponge-like texture than classic cheesecake […]” because the recipe calls for separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites before incorporating them into the batter.

When Japanese cheesecake was trending, I placed a few recipes for it on my Pinterest board, and then I never actually tried making one. But, in direct conflict with my grade school D.A.R.E. classes, I finally gave in to the peer pressure this week and gave it a try.

The recipe I tried came from the blog “Foxy Folksy.” You can find the original post at https://www.foxyfolksy.com/japanese-cheesecake/. I didn’t mess with the ingredients, but I did refine the directions below.

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Japanese Cheesecake

Japanese cheesecake has a completely different texture than traditional cheesecakes. It's a lighter, fluffier cake, best served with fruit or chocolate.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword cheesecake, cream cheese, Japanese

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar divided
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 eggs separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling
  • fruit or chocolate sauce for topping

Instructions

  • Line the bottom of an eight-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  • Wrap the outside with two layers of aluminum foil, making sure the pan is as water tight as possible.
  • In an oven-proof pan or pot large enough to fit your springform pan in, fill it halfway (or enough that it won’t splash over the top of your springform) with water and place it in the oven. Preheat to 390 degrees.
  • In a large, microwave-safe bowl, microwave the cream cheese, stirring every 30 seconds, until it’s melted and smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup of sugar. Whisk in the milk and lemon juice and then whisk in the egg yolks.
  • Sift the flour and cornstarch into the cream cheese mixture, continuing to stir until the batter is smooth.
  • In another mixing bowl or in a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on low for about two minutes. Add in the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until the mixture starts to get foamy. Then add 1/4 cup sugar, while continuing to beat the mixture over medium or medium-high speed. Continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold the beaten egg whites until everything is well-combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and tap it on the counter to get any air bubbles out of the mixture.
  • Place the springform into the preheated water bath in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • Do not open the oven door, but just turn the heat off and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  • Finally, open the oven door a bit and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  • Serve immediately while warm or refrigerate the cheesecake before slicing and serving.
  • Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and then top the slices with your favorite fruit or with chocolate sauce.

I chose to serve my cheesecake cold with some strawberries, and it turned out really well. It was a lightly sweet dessert with a very different texture than I’ve ever tried.

And now I understand why Japanese cheesecake became such a trend online. I might have to give a few other popular dishes a try. I still don’t understand the draw to kombucha or sushi burritos, but maybe you’ll see me experiment with those in a few years, too.

This recipe first appeared in print on Jan. 27.

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

Casserole should tread care’philly’ with its cheesesteak claims

This casserole is a quick weeknight meal with lots of cheesy flavor, complimented by bell peppers and mushrooms.

There are tons of great copycat recipes out there.

I was blown away several years ago to learn that you can make a pretty convincing Butterfinger candy bar with candy corn and a few other ingredients. I also once tried a great recipe claiming to mirror Starbucks’s lemon bread.

So when I tried a casserole this week that promised to mimic the flavors of a Philly cheesesteak, I was intrigued. I have only gotten the opportunity to visit Philadelphia once, and if you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend getting one of their famous sandwiches.

Unfortunately, this week’s recipe was not a great substitute. Fortunately, though, it was just a solid, tasty casserole. So I decided to rename it and present it to you. It has great flavor, and it comes together quickly, which is something a lot of us need in our lives now that school activities are starting up again.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog, “Bowl me Over.” You can find the original post at https://bowl-me-over.com/philly-cheesesteak-baked-tortellini-recipe/. I added mushrooms, extra roast beef and seasonings to my version.

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Bell Pepper Baked Tortellini Casserole

This casserole is a quick weeknight meal with lots of cheesy flavor, complimented by bell peppers and mushrooms.
Course Main Course
Keyword Alfredo sauce, bell pepper, casserole, cheese tortellini, cream cheese, garlic powder, mushrooms, onion powder, provolone, roast beef

Ingredients

  • 19 ounces cheese tortellini
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 15 ounces frozen bell pepper strips or use fresh
  • 8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
  • 15 ounces Alfredo sauce
  • 2 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound deli roast beef sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 slices provolone cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Cook the tortellini according to package directions, then drain and set aside.
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pepper strips and mushrooms and saute until the peppers are lightly browned and soft.
  • Add the Alfredo sauce, cream cheese, seasonings and roast beef and stir.
  • Once the cream cheese is melted and everything is well combined, fold in the tortellini.
  • Dump the entire mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the slices of provolone, overlapping them as needed.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

This casserole was filling and cheesy and hit the spot for dinner. Plus, it reheated really well for lunches later in the week. 

It certainly wasn’t a good facsimile for an actual Philly cheesesteak, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I guess I’ll just have to wait for another East Coast trip to taste the real thing, but until then, at least I have a quick dinner recipe to add to my list.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 2, 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.

Categories
Dessert Snack

Love Reese’s eggs? Copy that.

Copycat Reese’s eggs are a delicious facsimile, making it almost impossible to stop at eating just one.

If you do some looking online about the best version of Reese’s candy, you’ll find quite a few articles that discuss the superiority of Reese’s eggs to the normal peanut butter cups.

Yes, I know. I need to spend my time more wisely, but I ended up down a strange rabbit hole, and I figured I’d share the gist so you don’t have to follow suit.

Apparently, the prevailing thought process is that Reese’s eggs are better than Reese’s cups, because they have a better chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio.

A 2019 piece by Chloe Bryan explains that the ridges on the cup are the problem.

“The trouble with the ridges: The thick edge they create disrupts the cup’s delicate peanut butter-chocolate balance,” she writes. “A bite including ridges will not contain as much peanut butter as a bite containing exclusively innards—and the latter is superior.”

She goes on to say that the Reese’s eggs (or the trees at Christmas time) are just like biting into those “innards” only, making them the better choice.

If I’m being honest, I’ll eat any Reese’s option without hesitation—eggs, trees, cups, pieces, mini, jumbo, etc. I love them. But I do agree that there’s something special about the seasonal varieties, which is why I was drawn to this week’s recipe to make a copycat version of the classic Reese’s eggs, and I have to say, it’s a pretty good copy.

The recipe I used comes from a post on Facebook from Tabatha Swartz on a group called “Pennsylvania Dutch Recipes.” I added a little extra peanut butter, since it helped me use the whole container, but I also included the original measurement in case you’d rather measure it out.

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Copycat Reese’s Eggs

Copycat Reese's eggs are a delicious facsimile, making it almost impossible to stop at eating just one.
Course Dessert
Keyword copycat, cream cheese, milk chocolate, peanut butter, powdered sugar, Reese’s

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 28 ounces creamy peanut butter or three cups
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 2 bags milk chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Beat all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips until well combined. When it comes together, you can turn it out onto your kitchen counter and knead it a bit to finish it out.
  • Form the peanut butter mixture into egg shapes (or whatever shape you like), and place them on a plate or cookie sheet that can fit in your freezer.
  • Freeze for about 30 minutes or until the eggs are completely frozen.
  • Before removing the eggs from the freezer, melt your chocolate by using a double boiler or a by microwaving, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chips are melted.
  • Lay out sheets of waxed paper on your work surface and then, in batches, dip each egg into the melted chocolate, and then place the coated candy on the waxed paper to harden.
  • Store the finished eggs in the refrigerator or freezer in an air-tight container.

These were amazing. They wouldn’t pass a blindfold taste test, but they were so, so good. And if you’re like the dozens of people who have taken to the Internet to talk about how great Reese’s eggs are in comparison to the cups, this might be just the treat for you now that you have to wait all the way until October for Reese’s pumpkin shapes to be on shelves again.

I would caution that these get melty pretty quickly, so I’d highly recommend keeping them refrigerated or frozen in between enjoying them. Also, the great thing about this recipe is you can make any shape you want. You could easily use cookie cutters to get creative and make all kinds of seasonal peanut butter creations.

And, of course, you could put it into some cupcake liners and get the classic ridges, too. Just don’t post online about messing up the chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio. You may not like the response.

This piece first appeared in print on May 6, 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
Cookies Dessert

‘Tassie’ together some mini pies this week

Pecan tassies are a bit quicker to accomplish than a full pecan pie, and they’re a great crowd pleaser for a dessert table.

I have said before that I actually really enjoy making pie.

I think now that I feel confident with pie crust, the idea of creating a shell and a filling that (at least in theory) comes out in whole, beautiful slices is one of my favorite things.

Joey has been a wonderful and willing participant in my pie experiments over the years, with pecan being his absolute favorite, so when I announced I was making pecan tassies, he was on board to be my taste tester.

If you’re not familiar, a “tassie” is a mini pie. An old article by Betty Rosbottom in the Los Angeles Times points out that the word really just means “cup,” but in the U.S., at least, we tend to use the term for the dessert.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Baking a Moment.” You can find the original at https://bakingamoment.com/brown-sugar-pecan-tassies/. I doubled the vanilla in my version. Also, feel free to skip the whiskey in these. You can’t taste it in the final version outside of it amplifying other flavors, but if you’re not feeling it, it won’t hurt anything to leave it out.

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Brown Sugar Pecan Tassies

Pecan tassies are a bit quicker to accomplish than a full pecan pie, and they're a great crowd pleaser for a dessert table.
Course Dessert
Keyword brown sugar, cream cheese, mini pie, pecans, tassies, vanilla, whiskey

Ingredients

Pastry Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans plus more for tops

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • For the pastry, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, and then beat in the flour and salt. If you’re using a mini-cupcake pan, divide the pastry into 24 equal balls; if using a regular cupcake pan, divide it into 12.
  • Press the pastry into the bottoms and up the sides of each well.
  • For the filling, beat the egg, brown sugar, melted butter, whiskey, vanilla and salt until it’s smooth. Fold in the pecans and evenly distribute the filling into the prepared pan.
  • Top each well with some more pecans, and bake 25 minutes for the mini-cupcake pan or 30 minutes for the regular cupcake pan.
  • Let the tassies cool, and then remove them from the pan. Store them in an airtight container.

These were awesome. I opted for the mini-cupcake pan version, and it produced cute little pies that were easy to just pop into your mouth. Especially if you wanted to create a dessert buffet table or had a gathering where people will be snacking, this is the recipe for you.

If you’re not with me on enjoying pie baking, this is a good one to try in order to dip your toe in the pool or to just avoid trying to roll out pie dough altogether. Plus, if you need him, I know a guy who makes an excellent taste tester.

This piece first appeared in print on April 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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