Categories
Main Dish

This Greek pasta dish ‘itsio’ good, you have to try it

Pastitsio
Pastitsio is a pasta dish that incorporates two different kinds of meat in a tomato sauce with warm spices and a delicious bechamel sauce on top.

It’s not often I can stump Joey with a recipe.

He’s the king of the spice cabinet and my go to when I know a recipe needs “something,” but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

So when I managed to completely confuse him this week, I was a little proud of myself. Well, I was actually proud of TV chef Ina Garten, but who’s counting?

The dish I put in front of my husband? A delicious, tomato-y pasta. The secret ingredient? Cinnamon.

Now, I know that sounds insane, but trust me when I say it gave this dish a deep, fall-like flavor profile that made it tough not to want seconds, and it is definitely worth a try, although I will warn you this is not a quick recipe. Be ready to have a couple hours to blow on creating this amazing dish.

While this week’s recipe is Garten’s creation, I found it on the blog “Vodka and Biscuits.” You can find the original post at http://www.vodkaandbiscuits.com/2016/10/07/ina-gartens-pastitsio/. I added extra garlic, oregano and thyme and used pork in my version.

Pastitsio
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Pastitsio

Pastitsio is a pasta dish that incorporates two different kinds of meat in a tomato sauce with warm spices and a delicious bechamel sauce on top.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Keyword cinnamon, dry red wine, garlic, ground beef, ground pork, oregano, parmesan, thyme, tomatoes, yellow onion

Ingredients

Meat Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound pork
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine I used pinot noir
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper

Bechamel Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk I used skim
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan divided
  • 5.3- ounce container plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 pound tubular pasta I used penne

Instructions

  • In a large pot or deep skillet, cook the onion, ground beef and pork (crumbling the meat as you go) until the meat is cooked through and the onions are soft. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
  • Stir in the wine and saute until it is absorbed into the mixture. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cayenne and saute another two minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, along with the salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly and squishing the tomatoes so that they break down into a sauce.
  • After the sauce has been simmering around 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • For the bechamel, start by melting the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Once it is melted, stir in the flour and cook for about two minutes. Whisk in the milk and continue stirring constantly, raising the heat to bring the mixture to a low simmer (just below boiling).
  • Continue stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper and 3/4 cup of the grated parmesan. Once the cheese melts, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the Greek yogurt.
  • While your bechamel comes together, boil your pasta according to package directions to al dente. After draining, mix it into the tomato sauce.
  • Now it’s time for assembly. In a deep nine-by-13-inch pan, spread the tomato/pasta mixture evenly. Drizzle the bechamel over the top, and then finish off with the rest of the grated parmesan. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the mixture is bubbly.
  • Serve with some crusty bread.

This does take quite awhile to come together, but it makes plenty for a big family meal, and it got rave reviews at our table. It also reheated great for leftovers. 

It may have a few surprising ingredients, but it was still a home run for dinner at our house.

Plus, if you have a spices expert, it might be fun to play your own version of “stump the chump.” Even if they lose, they’ll still win with a great meal.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 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

Potatoes and ground beef make dinner a done ‘dillo’

Picadillo con papas, or ground beef with potatoes, is a hearty, simple meal that is great for the whole family.

Not long ago, I saw a spirited discussion on Facebook about online food bloggers. 

The general consensus was that nobody wanted to read the person’s back story and long-winded tales from the kitchen—they just wanted the recipe.

Honestly, that made me a little sad. Not only because I was sure that means they are definitely not fans of anything I write but also because I tend to really like the stories that accompany food. To me, food and recipes bind us together as community—across all kinds of divides.

That’s why I really like the blog this week’s recipe comes from. It is written by Sonia Mendez Garcia, who grew up learning how to cook from her parents, who owned a taqueria in Texas. She explains on her website that the goal of her blog is to help maintain the legacy of her family recipes. It’s a very sweet tribute. Plus, if you read a bit, you find out that she has a pretty impressive resume as a cook.

The recipe I tried this week is one of her mother’s. You can find the original post on her blog, “La Pina in La Cocina,” at https://pinaenlacocina.com/moms-picadillo-con-papaground-beef-in-fresh-tomato-sauce-with-potatoes/. I added some extra seasonings to my version below.

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Picadillo con Papas

Picadillo con papas, or ground beef with potatoes, is a hearty, simple meal that is great for the whole family.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword garlic, ground beef, picadillo con papas, potatoes, Roma tomatoes, Serrano, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1 large Russet potato diced
  • 1 small onion diced (I used yellow)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes cut into chunks
  • 1-2 Serrano chiles cut into chunks

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cover the pan, stirring every five minutes or so until the outsides are crispy and the insides are fork tender.
  • Remove the potatoes from the pan and let them drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Add the onions and ground beef to the skillet. Saute until the beef is cooked through and drain off any fat from the pan.
  • Add the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and garlic, and stir to combine well.
  • While the ground beef is cooking, add the tomatoes and Serranos, along with 1/4 cup water, to a blender or food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, and then pour it into the pan with the drained beef mixture.
  • Bring the entire mixture to a boil. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary, and stir in the cooked potatoes.
  • Reduce heat to low, and allow the sauce to thicken for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve over rice or with tortillas, along with your favorite taco toppings.

This was delicious, and the leftovers were awesome, too. It was a filling, flavorful meal. 

We opted to eat our picadillo on tortillas, along with some fresh spinach, but as Sonia explains on her site, you can eat it all kinds ways, so just pick your favorite (or whatever you have on hand in your pantry).

I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, I can accept that not everyone wants to read little stories about every recipe they try. I mean, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry.

But the nice thing about food—especially family recipes—is whether you know the back story or not, eating connects all of us.

This piece first appeared in print on July 29, 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

A gift of casserole is not easy to ‘spaghett’

Baked spaghetti is an easy-to-assemble casserole that can be baked right away or frozen for a future meal.

Whenever a friend or family member is under the weather or hurt or grieving, one of my first inclinations is to try to feed them. 

An article from 2016 by Adam McDaniel lays out the reasons human beings love to share food—part of it being sharing culture and part of being sociology.

“Food has a knack for bringing people together, forging bonds and creating conversation,” he wrote.

Sharing food is a way for us to help understand one another, and in the case of a sick or injured friend, I would argue that it’s one of the few ways I feel like I can nurture someone—since I’ve decided to forgo getting a medical degree.

That desire to care for someone is the reason this week’s recipe is absolutely perfect. It’s not only an easy weeknight dinner that is a true crowd pleaser, but it’s easy to toss in the freezer to enjoy later—making it a great gift when someone might need an extra meal at their house.

This comes from the blog “The Cozy Cook.” You can find the original post at https://thecozycook.com/baked-spaghetti/. I changed up some of the amounts of ingredients and the herbs and spices in my version.

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Baked Spaghetti

Baked spaghetti is an easy-to-assemble casserole that can be baked right away or frozen for a future meal.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, bell pepper, casserole, cream cheese, freezer meal, garlic, green onion, ground beef, ground sausage, marinara sauce, mozzarella, oregano, parmesan, parsley, ricotta, spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground sausage
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 32 ounces marinara sauce
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (If you’re baking this right away. It can also be prepared for the fridge or freezer.). Prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, and set it aside.
  • Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  • In a large skillet, brown the hamburger and sausage over medium heat until cooked through, crumbling as you cook. Drain any excess fat.
  • Add in the onion, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper, and saute until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the garlic and saute for about one more minute.
  • Add the marinara sauce, ricotta, parmesan and cream cheese. Reduce the heat to low, and stir constantly until the cheese is melted and all of the ingredients are well-combined.
  • Add the cooked, drained pasta and stir to coat all of the pasta with the sauce.
  • Add half of the pasta to the prepared dish, and top it with half of the mozzarella. Add the other half of the pasta, and finish with the rest of the mozzarella.
  • If refrigerating or freezing, cover the dish with a double layer of aluminum foil. If not, bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just starting to brown around the edges. Let the casserole sit for about five minutes before digging in.
  • If you’re baking it later, let it thaw in the refrigerator, and then bake for 25 to 30 minutes covered and then uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown around the edges.

This was cheesy and warm and very simple—everything I look for in a quick weeknight meal. In my case, I made a double batch, baking one for Joey and I that night and assembling another to deliver to someone I thought could use a night off from cooking.

If you decide to follow suit, I highly recommend using a large stock pot to cook in. I ended up having some trouble with fitting all the ingredients in my large skillet.

And even if you don’t have someone to deliver this to, you might make a double batch and freeze one for yourself for a future evening that you need a night off.

Sometimes a gift to yourself can be just as comforting. 

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 18, 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 Pressure Cooker

Cheesy pasta is just the thing to ‘Philly’ you up

Philly cheesesteak pasta doesn’t taste exactly like the sandwich, but it’s a good homage to the original and full of lots of cheesy goodness.

One of the spots Joey and I chose to visit for our honeymoon over a decade ago was Philadelphia, Pa. 

As one must when visiting Philadelphia, we tried Philly cheesesteaks at several restaurants around the city.

True die-hards will be sad to know that I was not brave enough to try any of my sandwiches with Cheez Whiz and opted for provolone instead, but they were absolutely delicious, and I have been chasing those flavors since that trip. That’s why I decided to try a pressure cooker casserole that promised the same taste as a Philly cheesesteak this week.

Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver in that realm, but what it did give me was a delicious, quick and easy dinner that I would definitely eat again.

This recipe comes from the blog “Taste and See.” You can find the original post at https://tasteandsee.com/instant-pot-philly-cheesesteak-pasta/. I changed up the amounts of some ingredients in this and clarified some directions in my version below. I will also note that this recipe is written for use with a pressure cooker, but you can easily make this by sauteing the meat and veggies in a large skillet, boiling the pasta normally, and then adding the ingredients together in the skillet. I would just leave out the beef broth.

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Pressure Cooker Philly Cheesesteak Pasta

Philly cheesesteak pasta doesn't taste exactly like the sandwich, but it's a good homage to the original and full of lots of cheesy goodness.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword basil, bell pepper, garlic, onions, oregano, parsley, Philly cheesesteak, pressure cooker, provolone

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 3/4 cups dry macaroni pasta
  • 12 ounces provolone cheese cut into small pieces

Instructions

  • In the pressure cooker, heat the oil on the saute function (medium heat). Add the onions and green peppers, stirring regularly, until they begin to soften.
  • Add the ground beef and saute, breaking it apart as you do. Once the meat is cooked through, drain off any excess fat.
  • Add the salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire and beef stock, and stir, making sure to scrape the bottom of the crock to get any cooked-on bits.
  • Once everything is well combined, add the pasta to the pressure cooker, and stir again to submerge the noodles.
  • Seal the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Manually release the pressure, add the cheese and stir until it is melted and well combined.
  • Serve hot.

As I said, this certainly doesn’t taste exactly like a cheesesteak—probably because it’s missing the actual steak component—but it was super yummy. There was tons of cheese and lots of flavor from the onions and peppers.

It reheated really well for leftovers, too.

I’ll have to keep hunting for my white whale and probably learn to just make the traditional cheesesteaks in my kitchen instead of hoping for a casserole to fulfill my cravings. Regardless, I think I’ll stick to the provolone. It may take another decade until I’m ready for the Cheez Whiz.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 14, 2021.

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

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish

This will make you ‘patty’ yourself on the back for a dinner well done

Jamaican beef patties are full of authentic flavors without the hassle of traditional techniques.

A few weeks ago, I was a bridesmaid in a good friend’s socially distanced wedding, and in preparation for the big day, I did something I have never done before: get a manicure.

I opted for French tips—a layer of very light pink on the bottom and white for the ends of each nail. It ended up being a pretty decent experience, and I especially appreciated the level of cleanliness and mask wearing the nail salon used.

So, for the last few weeks, I’ve had fancy fingernails, something that’s definitely different for me. I’ve also been amazed at how well they’ve held up. Well, that is until this week’s recipe, when I gave them the ultimate test: exposure to turmeric.

I don’t know what the name for a manicure with light pink on the bottom and orange-ish yellow on the tips is, but I’m sure it isn’t French.

The good news? This recipe was so worth it.

This comes from the blog “Host the Toast.” You can find this recipe at https://hostthetoast.com/3-bite-jamaican-beef-patties/. I didn’t change much outside of using heaping spoonfuls of the listed spices.

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Jamaican Beef Patties

Jamaican beef patties are full of authentic flavors without the hassle of traditional techniques.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican
Keyword ground beef, habenero, onion, puff pastry, Scotch bonnet

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 green onion stalks chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper or habenero pepper finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 rounded teaspoons thyme
  • 1 rounded teaspoon all spice
  • 1 rounded teaspoon curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry thawed
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric

Instructions

  • Set the puff pastry out about an hour before you’ll need it to let it thaw.
  • In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the onions and pepper until everything is soft and cooked through.
  • Add the beef, thyme, all spice, curry powder, salt and pepper, stirring regularly until the beef is cooked through. If there is excess fat in the pan, drain it off before the next step.
  • Mix in the breadcrumbs and then pour in the beef stock. Mix to combine thoroughly. If the mixture is very wet, add more breadcrumbs, and if it is very dry, add a little more beef stock or water. The goal is for the mixture to hold together well but still be moist. Remove the beef mixture from the heat and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and prepare a muffin tin by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Place the pastry sheet on a floured surface and roll it out to expand it by a couple inches on all sides. Sprinkle the entire sheet with turmeric and rub the turmeric around on the sheet to get a good coating.
  • Cut the sheet into 12 even pieces, and place the pieces, turmeric side down, into the muffin cups. You’ll want to make sure there is some dough hanging over the edge of each cup so you can pull it around the filling and seal it.
  • Divide the meat evenly into each cup, and then seal each one by pulling the sides of the dough up and pinching them together. If it is not sticking well, try using a little water along the seams.
  • Flip the sealed beef patty over so the seam is on the bottom.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the beef patties are golden brown.

I actually opted for two habenero peppers for my version, because the ones at my local grocery store were so small, and they were a perfect amount of heat.

We loved these, and the spice combination was fantastic. To go along with our Jamaican beef patties, I decided to slice up a ripe plantain, fry it in some oil and sprinkle it with salt. It was fantastic.

So, my days of fancy nails are over, I’m afraid, although it’s a slow process for me to figure out how one removes gel nail polish, which is apparently much different than the polish I grew up with.

But at least while one set of fingers soaks in acetone, the other can be holding onto a delicious treat.

This piece first appeared in print on July 9, 2020.

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

Categories
Main Dish

Beef up your dinner menu with casserole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hamburger Casserole

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

This piece first appeared in print on March 12, 2020.

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

Categories
Main Dish

Shredded cheese, potatoes make ‘grater’ casserole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cheesy Hamburger Potato Casserole

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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