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Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish Snack

Kick football season off with a bang by making shotgun shells

Smoked Shotgun Shells
These smoked shotgun shells are made with seasoned sausage stuffed into manicotti shells and wrapped in bacon. They are a fantastic dish for a football snack table.

As soon as the weekly forecast came out, telling us that the opening weekend of football would be perfect for spending some time outside, Joey announced we were going to invite some folks to watch the games and throw some food on the smoker.

Of course, I had to stick my nose in and announce to him that I already found the perfect recipe to try, and being completely used to me regularly doing this to him, he immediately agreed—even though the name caught him off guard for a second.

I wanted to make shotgun shells.

The recipe is actually aptly named, considering it consists of stuffed manicotti shells. I suppose it sounds a little more macho than calling them stuffed tubes.

Also, I know I have given you a couple smoker recipes of late, but these can also easily be made in your oven or on a normal grill (as long as you watch your temperature).

This comes from the website “Or Whatever You Do” by Nicole Johnson. You can find the original post at https://www.orwhateveryoudo.com/2022/05/traeger-smoked-shotgun-shells.html. I added garlic and extra spices to my version and used sausage instead of ground beef.

Smoked Shotgun Shells
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Smoked Shotgun Shells

These smoked shotgun shells are made with seasoned sausage stuffed into manicotti shells and wrapped in bacon. They are a fantastic dish for a football snack table.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword bacon, barbecue rub, barbecue sauce, barrel smoker, Big Green Egg, football snack, garlic, ground sausage, Kamado Joe, manicotti, shredded cheese, smoker, Traeger

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sausage
  • 1 cup shredded cheese I used Mexican blend
  • 2-3 tablespoons barbecue seasoning
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 12 manicotti shells uncooked
  • 12 slices bacon not thick sliced
  • about 1/4 cup barbecue sauce

Instructions

  • At least six hours before you want to start cooking, prepare your shotgun shells.
  • In a large bowl, mix the sausage with the cheese, seasoning and garlic. Once it is well combined, stuff each manicotti shell with the sausage and wrap each one with a strip of bacon.
  • Place the assembled shells in an airtight container or on a plate wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours or overnight.
  • To cook them, preheat your smoker or oven to 250 degrees. Place the shells about an inch apart on the grill and let them cook with the lid closed for at least one hour before opening to check the temperature (you’re looking for 160 degrees for done sausage) and turning them on the grill to make sure they cook evenly.
  • Just before the shells are finished cooking (ours took about one and one-half hours), baste them with barbecue sauce on all sides.
  • Once the sausage in the center of the shells is cooked through and the bacon is crispy, remove them from the grill and serve.

These were absolutely fabulous. We didn’t have a single shotgun shell left by the time Sunday Night Football came on TV—and I made a double batch. It was absolutely perfect, both for lunch and for snacking during the later afternoon games.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, the manicotti cooked all the way through on the smoker. Joey and I were both really skeptical and almost par-boiled the shells just in case, but I decided to trust the process, and they were perfectly al dente by the time the sausage and bacon was done. It was a strange sort of magic that I don’t understand but definitely appreciate.

Hopefully we’ll have a few more weekends of dragging our TV outdoors for football and enjoying good food with good people in our backyard. But even if winter comes quickly and drives us indoors, I think shotgun shells will remain a regular on the menu.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 15, 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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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
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.

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