Categories
Side Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congri
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Congri

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 11, 2022.

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

Categories
Main Dish

Seize the ‘carne’ with a summer-friendly chili recipe

Chili con carne is an easy recipe that just simmers on your stove until you’re ready for dinner. With tons of spices and several types of peppers, it’s a great meal for a crowd or one that provides plenty of leftovers.

There is an in-depth article that appeared back in 2017 in Texas Monthly by John Nova Lomax about the origins of chili con carne in the United States.

It’s a great read, if you get the chance, and apparently there’s a lot of controversy about the recipe’s origins from historians, but I did love a quoted section from a Kansas newspaper reporter who visited Texas in the late 1800s.

“Speaking of hot things, at San Antonio they have a dish called chili con carne,” he wrote. “[…] It is awful seductive looking […] They always have enough to go around, for no stranger, no matter how terrific a durned fool he is, ever calls for a second dish. He almost always calls for a big cistern full of water, and you can’t put the water in him fast enough with a steam engine hose.”

Let me assure you that although I did decide to try this Texas staple this week, it is not spicy enough to call for cisterns of water. Instead, the recipe I tried has great depth of flavor and is easy to adapt, based on your own favorite spices.

This comes from the blog “Chili Pepper Madness” by Mike Hultquist. You can find the original post at https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/chili-con-carne/. I added lots of extra spices in my version. And, yes, despite the strong opinion of many Texans, I added beans, too.

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Chili con Carne

Chili con carne is an easy recipe that just simmers on your stove until you're ready for dinner. With tons of spices and several types of peppers, it's a great meal for a crowd or one that provides plenty of leftovers.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword ancho peppers, beef, chili con carne, chuck roast, coriander, cumin, garlic, guajillo peppers, jalapeno peppers, kidney beans, oregano, paprika, Tex-Mex, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces dried guajillo peppers
  • 2 ounces dried ancho pasilla peppers
  • 4 to 6 pounds chuck roast cut into one-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers diced
  • 20 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 to 4 cups beef stock optional
  • 2 15.5- ounce cans light red kidney beans rinsed and drained

Instructions

  • Start by heating a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Drop in the dried peppers, turning them every so often, until they are warmed through.
  • Remove from the pot and remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers and submerge them in very hot water (at least three cups) in a container with a lid. Let them sit for 20 minutes. When the peppers are done, combine them with three cups of the soaking liquid in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  • While the peppers soak, place the cubed roast in a large bowl along with the paprika, smoked paprika, oregano, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and salt. Mix well to coat the meat evenly.
  • Heat the oil in your large pot over medium heat and add the meat, onions and jalapenos. Saute for around six minutes or until the meat is nicely browned and the vegetables are softened.
  • Add in the garlic and pepper sauce. If you already have a decent amount of liquid in the pot from the meat and vegetables, bring the mixture to a boil. If there isn’t much liquid or not enough to your liking, add beef stock to the pot and then bring it to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a low simmer and place the lid on the pot. Let it cook for at least two hours or until the beef is tender.
  • If desired, shred the beef at this point. Add in the beans, and add more beef stock, if desired.
  • Serve in a bowl with rice, wrapped in tortillas, with chips or however you like it.

This was extremely delicious. We ate our chili con carne with some Mexican rice along with some corn chips on the side. When we ate the leftovers, we rolled it up in tortillas and ate it like burritos.

If you like peppers, you’ll love the flavors in this chili. It was fairly mild (I did deseed my jalapenos), if you’re not into something overly spicy.

And unlike the long-ago reporter from Kansas, we did go back for second helpings when we were finished. I guess that cements us as durned fools in our house.

This piece first appeared in print on June 23, 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

Meat is ‘naan’ essential for this potato and chickpea curry

Potato and chickpea curry is spicy and full of lots of flavors from a variety of spices. It is also vegan, giving those avoiding animal products a great, quick meal to enjoy.

Quite a number of years ago, when we put our house on the market, our realtor gave us some tips for keeping our home ready for showings.

In addition to keeping things clean and organized, he encouraged us to pin back the curtains for plenty of natural light and begged us to take a break from cooking anything that would have strong, lingering smells. Specifically, he said we should stay away from curry.

I thought about that this week when I decided to try a vegan curry recipe I found online. Personally, I think the smell of spicy curry would be a selling point for a house, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.

This recipe was fantastic, and if you’re trying to cut some meat out of your diet, I highly recommend it. It was filling, extremely flavorful and very pretty, to boot. It was also on the spicy side, so if that’s not your favorite, I’d skip this one. I think it would be a bit difficult to make this one completely mild.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Well Plated” by Erin Clarke. I added extra garlic in my version.

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Potato and Chickpea Curry

Potato and chickpea curry is spicy and full of lots of flavors from a variety of spices. It is also vegan, giving those avoiding animal products a great, quick meal to enjoy.
Course Main Course
Keyword cayenne, chickpeas, coconut milk, cumin, curry, diced tomatoes, garam masala, garlic, ginger, peas, potatoes, rice, turmeric, vegan, vegetarian, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger or ginger paste minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 pounds potatoes diced (I used Russets)
  • 14 ounces canned chickpeas rinsed and drained
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes in juice
  • 14 ounce can light coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Prepared white rice for serving
  • Naan bread for serving

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the onion to the hot oil and saute until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for about 30 seconds. Add in the curry powder, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt, and continue to stir for about a minute.
  • Once the mixture smells really nice, stir in the potatoes and chickpeas to coat them with the spices.
  • Add in the diced tomatoes and coconut milk, and stir well to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a very low boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring regularly to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot, for about 15 minutes.
  • Once the potatoes are fork tender, stir in the sugar, lemon juice and peas. Let the mixture heat over low until the peas are hot.
  • Serve the curry over top of white rice and with a side of naan bread.

I absolutely loved this one. Joey was out of town for the evening, so he had to settle for leftovers later in the week, but he also gave it a thumbs up.

It does make quite a bit of food, and it stretches even further with rice, so if you want to feed a crowd on the cheap, save this one for the future.

Plus, our whole house smelled like warm, delicious spices for a couple days, so I suppose it’s a good thing we aren’t trying to sell it right now.

Of course, with the way the housing market is moving right now, I doubt it would even matter.

This piece first appeared in print on May 19, 2022.

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

Categories
Main Dish Salad Side Dish

Customizable pasta dish is worth every ‘penne’

Greek pasta salad is extremely customizable for all kinds of diets and preferences, with lots of fresh vegetables and a light, flavorful dressing.

I’ve written before that I have some random, mostly mild food allergies that make certain recipes difficult for me.

Specifically, tomatoes cause me trouble, and I have to limit how often I include them in my diet, no matter how much I love them.

Because of that, I’m sympathetic to readers who sometimes email me and ask if I’d be willing to throw something gluten free or dairy free into the paper so they can try a new recipe, too. I definitely sympathize with people who have much more serious food intolerances than I do; it’s tough to keep food interesting.

With that said, the recipe I included this week can easily be made gluten free, dairy free and vegan, if you so desire. You’ll only need to do a few quick swaps or deletions to make it happen, and it’s all ingredients that you can easily find in your local grocery store.

This comes from the blog “Strength and Sunshine” by Rebecca Pytell. You can find the original post at https://strengthandsunshine.com/gluten-free-greek-pasta-salad-vegan/. I changed up the ingredients and proportions a bit and added extra garlic, too.

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Greek Pasta Salad

Greek pasta salad is extremely customizable for all kinds of diets and preferences, with lots of fresh vegetables and a light, flavorful dressing.
Course Salad
Keyword black olives, English cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, gluten-free, green bell pepper, Kalamata olives, mozzarella, oregano, penne pasta, red bell pepper, red onion, red wine vinegar, vegan, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 English cucumber cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces black or Kalamata olives halved
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese cubed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Prepare all of the vegetables and cheese and add to a very large serving bowl.
  • While you prepare the veggies, boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain it and run cold water over the pasta.
  • Add the cold, drained pasta to the bowl and stir to combine the ingredients.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper with a fork, and then pour it over top of the pasta mixture.
  • Toss to evenly coat all of the ingredients with the oil mixture, cover, and let the salad marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Serve cold or at room temperature, and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you go to the original recipe author for this, you’ll notice that I left a pint of tomatoes out of my version (for obvious reasons). I also decided to use whole grain pasta in mine, which made me feel like it was a bit healthier, too.

This was a great lunch, and it makes a ton of food. I’ve been eating on this salad all week long for lunch, and it’s been fabulous. It is lightly dressed and has lots of different flavors with all the vegetables.

I also hope it fits the bill for something new for those of you who have some food intolerances. With the weather warming up, a good pasta salad is a great recipe to have on hand, and nobody should have to miss out on a good lunch.

This piece first appeared in print on April 14, 2022.

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

Categories
Main Dish

Make a ‘rigaton’ of food with this sausage pasta bake

Sausage and cheese rigatoni is a delicious baked pasta with deep Italian flavors from marinara, roasted red peppers and plenty of cheese.

We decided to have a few friends over for dinner this past week, and I decided it was finally time for me to try this amazing-looking recipe for a baked Italian dish.

Joey was gracious enough to help me out by manning the saute pan. He was busy cooking the sausage and onion and asked, “When do I add the garlic?”

I looked at the recipe and paused.

“Well…um…you don’t,” I said.

“The garlic? What do you mean?”

“I mean, there is no garlic in the recipe.”

He looked at me, appalled, and I laughed and pointed to the large jar of minced garlic I already pulled from the refrigerator.

“Yeah, there’s no garlic in the recipe, but we’re totally adding some in anyway,” I said.

“No garlic. That’s just dumb,” he said.

You have to give the people what they want.

In this case, we ended up with a hearty, cheesy and delicious baked pasta, and it made so much that not only was I not sure it was going to actually fit in my casserole dish, but it barely looked like we even made a dent after enjoying big helpings at dinner.

This recipe comes from the blog “Foodie Crush.” You can find the original post at https://www.foodiecrush.com/baked-sausage-rigatoni/. I added garlic and some other herbs and spices to my version.

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Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni

Sausage and cheese rigatoni is a delicious baked pasta with deep Italian flavors from marinara, roasted red peppers and plenty of cheese.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, fennel seeds, garlic, Italian parsley, marinara, oregano, paprika, parmesan cheese, provolone, ricotta cheese, rigatoni pasta, roasted red peppers, sweet Italian sausage, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage ground or removed from casings
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 12 ounces roasted red bell peppers drained and diced
  • 25 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley chopped
  • 6 to 8 slices provolone cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and prepare a three-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, and set it aside.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, fennel and onion and saute until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are soft. Add in the garlic and saute for another two minutes or so.
  • Dump in the diced red peppers, marinara sauce, oregano, basil and paprika to the pan and stir to combine.
  • While the sauce is warming through, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the rigatoni for just five minutes. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, stirring to coat it.
  • In another bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and parsley. (At first, you’ll wonder how it’s going to come together with all that parmesan, but just keep stirring. It will.)
  • Pour half of the pasta/sauce mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top it with half of the ricotta, and then place a single layer of three to four slices of provolone on top.
  • Finish it off with the rest of the sauce, the rest of the ricotta, and another layer of provolone.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Let the bake sit for five minutes before serving with some garlic bread.

Holy moly, you guys, this was delicious. It had great flavor, made a ton of food, and it was almost even better as leftovers the next day. It was also really easy to put together, which was nice for feeding a group. It also reminded me how underrated fennel seeds are as an ingredient. I can’t remember the last time I used fennel in a dish; I’ll have to make sure to do it more often.

I’m still not sure why it didn’t make the cut in the original recipe, but garlic was an excellent addition to the final product. And that was a good thing, considering I’m pretty sure I would have had to tackle Joey to keep him from adding it to the pan.

This piece first appeared in print on March 3, 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 Uncategorized

Save lots of time this week with some phony pierogi

Pierogi casserole takes the flavors of the traditional dish, kicks them up a notch with some added flavor, and creates the perfect weeknight meal.

Awhile back, I stumbled on a Facebook group called “Good Ol’ Mennonite Recipes,” and of course, I had to join to see what kinds of great food people were sharing on there.

I have jealously looked at delicious loaves of bread and mounds of verenike under ham gravy, but I recently stumbled on a post that I absolutely had to try for myself: a pierogi casserole.

I have only made pierogi once. I had to look back at my column archive to see how long it had been, and it was clear back in 2015. I loved them, but they were also lots of work.

If you’re not familiar, pierogi are dumplings that are generally filled with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese. They’re boiled and then fried in butter and onions to finish them off, and a lot of people love eating them with a side of sausage.

The casserole mimics the dumplings by using lasagna noodles, cheese, potatoes and plenty of onions, but as I started putting it together, I felt like it was missing something. That “something” turned into lots of garlic and some sausage, too, and this ended up being perfect.

The original recipe comes from the “Good Ol’ Mennonite Recipes” Facebook group. It was posted by Marie Leigh. I added garlic, sausage and more seasoning to my version.

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Pierogi Casserole

Pierogi casserole takes the flavors of the traditional dish, kicks them up a notch with some added flavor, and creates the perfect weeknight meal.
Course Main Course
Keyword casserole, cottage cheese, garlic, ground sausage, mashed potatoes, noodles, onion powder, pierogi, sharp cheddar cheese, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 9 to 15 lasagna noodles
  • 1 small onion diced (I used yellow)
  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • 2 cups regular cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder divided
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare a deep 9-by-13-inch baking pan by spraying it with cooking spray. Set it aside.
  • Boil enough lasagna noodles to be able to cover three layers in your pan. (My local store had long, thin lasagna noodles, so I only needed about nine of them to do the trick.)
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and saute the sausage and onions, breaking apart the sausage as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • While the sausage cooks, add your cottage cheese, egg and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder to a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • In another bowl, add the mashed potatoes, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, garlic, salt and pepper, along with 1 cup shredded cheese and mix well to combine.
  • Once your sausage is cooked through, drain off any excess fat.
  • To assemble the casserole, start by spooning just a little (maybe a scant 1/4 cup) of your sausage/onion mixture into the bottom of your dish. Place a single layer of noodles on top. Spread about half of your cottage cheese mixture over the noodles, about half of the sausage, and then top with about one third of your mashed potatoes.
  • Add another layer of noodles, spread out the rest of the cottage cheese, the rest of sausage, and another third of mashed potatoes.
  • Finish with a final layer of noodles and the rest of the mashed potatoes on top.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheddar on the top, cover the dish with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another five minutes or until the cheese is melty and slightly browned.
  • Let the casserole cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

This was a great, filling dinner, and the leftovers were a breeze to reheat, too. I’m sure the original recipe would have been great, but adding the sausage and lots of garlic made it feel like more of a meal with a bit more complexity to the flavor profile.

Plus, it was so, so much easier than making pierogi, which while worth the effort, is definitely difficult to find time to do.

And now I have a new “good ol’” recipe to add to my repertoire, thanks to some neat folks on Facebook. Social media can be a horrible place, but when you’re talking food, sometimes it can be just the opposite.

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 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
Soup

Cannellini beans and garlic make a soup that’s just ‘white’

Rosemary garlic white bean soup is made with cannellini beans and herbs to create a vegetarian, flavorful dish that is best served with some crusty bread.

Last week, I knew I was going to be doing dinner on my own one evening, because Joey was going to be gone for a bowling tournament.

I immediately combed through my saved recipes on Pinterest, trying to decide what new recipe I’d try while he was away. I originally chose something I knew he wouldn’t like, but when I found myself finishing up at the office after 6 p.m., I decided I better switch gears if I wanted to eat before 8 p.m.

On a second glance of my “recipes to try” list, I found a quick and easy vegetarian soup that I knew would come together quickly and easily, and it did not disappoint.

This recipe comes from the blog “Budget Bytes.” You can find the original post at https://www.budgetbytes.com/easy-rosemary-garlic-white-bean-soup/. I added extra garlic and thyme in my version.

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Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup

Rosemary garlic white bean soup is made with cannellini beans and herbs to create a vegetarian, flavorful dish that is best served with some crusty bread.
Course Soup
Keyword cannellini beans, garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, thyme, vegetable broth, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 15- ounce cans cannellini beans
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pour one can of undrained beans into a blender or food processor and blend until they are smooth.
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about two minutes or until the garlic just starts to get some color.
  • Drain the other two cans of beans, and add them along with the bean puree, broth, rosemary, thyme red pepper flakes and pepper to the pot.
  • Stir well, and place the lid on the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high heat to bring the soup to a low boil.
  • After the soup starts boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, and stirring occasionally.
  • Add more pepper and some salt, if desired, and serve with a thick slice of bread.

If your local grocery store doesn’t have cannellini beans on the shelf, you can easily substitute great northern beans instead.

The herbs in this recipe were a great combination with the beans and garlic. My only complaint about it was that it’s probably best as more of a side dish to a sandwich or as an appetizer than as a main dish on its own. It just wasn’t as filling as I hoped it would be. But it did reheat really well and was nice to eat along with a grilled cheese later on.

For once, Joey actually got to enjoy one of the recipes I tried while he was away, and he was happy that he came home to the lingering smell of garlic instead of broccoli, which is normally the case.

Next time he’s out for the evening, I’ll have to make sure to get my work done earlier so I can try something a little more interesting—and something that will ensure I get all the leftovers to myself.

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 17, 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

Sprinkle in something new with peppered beef

Peppered beef is lightly spiced with black pepper and complemented with Asian seasonings and fresh vegetables.

When my sister and I were growing up, my mom always joked she was going to open a restaurant called “I don’t care,” thanks to the number of times we uttered the phrase when the family was choosing where to eat.

On the occasions when we did care, there were certain places that turned into a bit of a debate for us in the back seat.

I, for one, loved going to a good Chinese buffet. My sister, not so much.

On the rare occasions I would convince her that, yes, she would find plenty to eat that suited her tastes, one of my favorite food items to grab was some peppered beef. The combination of steak with sauteed peppers and onions was (and still is) one of my favorites.

I was reminded of those trips this week when I decided to try making some peppered beef in my own kitchen, and I have to say that it turned out great.

This comes from the blog “Kitchen Sanctuary” by Nicky Corbishley. You can find the original post at https://www.kitchensanctuary.com/black-pepper-beef/. I added extra garlic to my version.

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Peppered Beef

Peppered beef is lightly spiced with black pepper and complemented with Asian seasonings and fresh vegetables.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword bell pepper, black pepper, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, steak, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound steak sliced thinly (I used charcoal steak)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper or more, to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons oil I used canola
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 large onion cut into quarter-inch strips
  • 2 large bell peppers cut into quarter-inch strips (any color)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup beef stock or broth
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
  • rice for serving

Instructions

  • Season the sliced steak with the black pepper and salt.
  • In a wok or deep frying pan, heat the canola and sesame oils over high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the steak and fry for a couple minutes, until it is browned, stirring constantly.
  • Remove the steak from the pan and turn the heat to medium. If there isn’t much oil left in the pan, add another tablespoon of canola oil and toss in the onions and peppers.
  • Saute for several minutes until they reach your desired level of tenderness.
  • While the vegetables cook, combine the cornstarch, soy sauce, fish/oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, beef stock and more black pepper (to taste) in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
  • Once your vegetables are cooked through, add the garlic and ginger to the pan and saute for about two minutes.
  • Add the sauce from the bowl, along with the steak (and any accumulated juices) to the pan, and stir to coat the vegetables and meat with the sauce. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for another couple of minutes until the sauce thickens and everything is heated through.
  • Serve over rice.

Joey raved about how good this meal was all during dinner. It was peppery without being overly spicy, and the sauce was fantastic. I ended up doubling the recipe for plenty of leftovers later in the week, which was a great move. Who doesn’t like leftover Chinese food?

Actually, I can tell you one person who isn’t a fan of Chinese food—fresh or left over. Or at least that was true. After we were both adults, my sister and I were spending an afternoon together, and when it came time for us to decide what to grab for lunch, she suggested a nearby Chinese restaurant.

“I thought you hated Chinese food?!” I told her, remembering all of our backseat battles.

She just shrugged.

“I guess I got over it,” she said.

Sisters…am I right?

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 20, 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
Crockpot Main Dish Soup

‘Peas’ your tastebuds with a spicy crockpot soup

Spicy black-eyed peas are a great way to warm up on a cold day and are even better with some fresh cornbread on the side.

There is enough debate about black-eyed peas that there’s actually an article about them on the Library of Congress website.

It starts out very simply, asking, “Are black-eyed peas really peas?”

The answer is simple: “No.”

The article then goes into a very technical, scientific explanation of how peas, beans and legumes are classified and named. It’s great reading if you want to take a nap.

But I suppose no matter what their official classification, their presence in our house every New Year’s Day is a constant, as they are supposed to create good luck in the coming year.

Obviously, with all the craziness over the past year, I must have not cooked them quite right in 2021, so I’m hoping this year’s recipe was a better one.

I decided to go with a spicy version of black-eyed peas this year, mostly because I had some jalapeno peppers languishing in my crisper drawer already. You can leave those out and just add another bell pepper and cut out the cayenne if you want to try this recipe and you’re not much of a spice person, but if you like a little heat, you’re really going to like this one.

This recipe from Trisha Haas comes from the blog “Salty Side Dish.” You can find the original post at https://www.saltysidedish.com/slow-cooker-black-eyed-peas/. I added extra spices in my version.

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Crockpot Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

Spicy black-eyed peas are a great way to warm up on a cold day and are even better with some fresh cornbread on the side.
Course Main Course
Keyword bacon, bell pepper, black-eyed peas, cayenne, crockpot, cumin, garlic, ham, jalapeno, oregano, slow cooker, soup, spicy, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces dry black-eyed peas
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bell pepper diced (any color)
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers diced (remove the seeds for less kick)
  • 1 cup ham chopped
  • 6 slices bacon chopped
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Add the beef bouillon cubes to about 1 cup of hot water. Smash the cubes before adding them to a large crockpot along with five more cups of water, and then add all of the rest of the ingredients, as well. You do not have to do anything to prep the peas. Just dump them in.
  • Give the mixture a good stir and then cook on high for six hours or until the peas are cooked through.
  • This is fantastic served with fresh cornbread.

The photos on the recipe’s website show a mushier-looking soup without a lot of broth. I had a decent amount of broth with mine, so it’s really more about what you prefer with yours if you let it cook down even longer to really get the liquid thinned out. Personally, I love having broth with soups like this so I have something to soak up with my cornbread.

This was so, so easy, since it was as simple as just dumping everything in the crockpot. It literally took no cooking skills whatsoever, which I appreciate sometimes.

Now, with our bellies warmed, supposedly Joey and I are covered for 2022 and all the luck life can bring us. I’m not sure if it worked, but I have some leftovers in my freezer just in case we need a boost in the coming weeks.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 13, 2022.

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

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Snack

Don’t let delicious sandwiches slide by you

Turkey cheese sliders are easy and cheap to make with a package of Hawaiian rolls.

Being the good aunt that I am, when my niece came to spend the night with us this past week, I made sure to have a bag of chocolate mini donuts ready for breakfast.

When my sister and brother-in-law came to pick her up, I asked her if she wanted me to send the leftovers with her, and of course, she happily took them home.

Joey just shook his head.

“You’re such a pusher,” he said.

That’s when I held up the package of Hawaiian dinner rolls my mother had somehow weaseled us into taking back to our house on a recent visit.

“I learned from the best.”

So, what’s there to do with leftover Hawaiian rolls? Well, you could work yourself into a carb-induced food coma, or you can do what we did and make some delicious turkey and cheese sliders.

The recipe I used came from the blog “The Novice Chef.” You can find the original post at https://thenovicechefblog.com/cheesy-turkey-sliders/. I changed the ingredients and removed the sugar, figuring I’ve had enough sweets over the past couple months.

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Turkey Cheese Sliders

Turkey cheese sliders are easy and cheap to make with a package of Hawaiian rolls.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Keyword baked, butter, cheese, deli turkey, dijon mustard, garlic, Hawaiian rolls, onion powder, sandwich, sliders, spinach, Worcestershire

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound deli turkey
  • 12 Hawaiian rolls
  • 6 to 8 slices cheese I used pepperjack
  • about 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  • 4 tablespoons butter melted
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • garlic salt and pepper to taste
  • sesame seeds to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a nine-by-nine-inch pan (or whatever size you have that can fit the entire package of Hawaiian rolls in it) by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Leave the rolls all connected, and using bread knife, cut the Hawaiian rolls in half to create a top and bottom.
  • Place the bottom part into the prepared pan. Place the turkey evenly over the rolls, add the cheese, and then finish off with a layer of spinach leaves. Place the top layer of buns on top, and poke just a few holes in the buns with a sharp knife.
  • In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, dijon, onion powder, Worcestershire, garlic salt and pepper, and pour it evenly over top of the rolls, spreading it out with a spoon, if necessary to evenly coat the rolls.
  • Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 14 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and bake for another two minutes or until the tops brown.
  • Cut the sliders apart and serve immediately.

These were excellent. Joey and I ate them on New Year’s Eve while we played a board game, and it was the perfect, low-key night.

We recreated the recipe a couple days later (my mom actually gave us two packages of rolls) with deli-sliced pastrami, and it was excellent that way, too. I’m going to keep track of this one for when we’ll inevitably have folks over for the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. It would be great for the snack table.

And now we know what to do with leftover Hawaiian rolls. As far as mini donuts, find yourself a willing 4-year-old.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 6, 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.

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