Categories
Main Dish

Spicy, wing-inspired casserole is ‘Buffalo’-key delicious

Buffalo Chicken Casserole
Buffalo chicken casserole combines alfredo sauce and pasta with Buffalo wing sauce and chicken to create a cheesy, spicy dish that comes together quickly for dinner.

I was gone for a few days last week, and while Joey and I were catching up on our respective adventures from when we were apart, I learned that he made homemade Buffalo wings. Without me.

Now, I’ll forgive him his betrayal, because in his defense, I am normally not a huge fan of eating meat off the bone. But chicken wings tend to be a bit of an exception.

I love the spiciness of Buffalo sauce along with some crispy celery or some cool ranch dipping sauce. Wings are just pretty darn great all the way around.

I kept thinking about how I missed out, when I remembered I had a recipe featuring Buffalo sauce that I’ve been meaning to try. I hoped it would be just the trick to finally kick my craving.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Back For Seconds.” You can find the original post at https://backforseconds.com/buffalo-chicken-alfredo-bake/2/. I changed up the amounts of several ingredients and used breaded chicken instead of rotisserie in my version.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole
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Buffalo Chicken Casserole

Buffalo chicken casserole combines alfredo sauce and pasta with Buffalo wing sauce and chicken to create a cheesy, spicy dish that comes together quickly for dinner.
Course Main Course
Keyword Alfredo sauce, Buffalo sauce, chicken, easy dinner, mozzarella, penne pasta, quick dinner

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces pasta cooked (I used penne)
  • 1/3 cup buffalo sauce plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cups cooked chicken diced (I used frozen chicken patties)
  • 16 ounces alfredo sauce
  • 12 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • While you boil your pasta, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a three-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • When draining your pasta, reserve about one-third cup of the cooking liquid.
  • In a bowl, combine the buffalo sauce and chicken and stir to coat evenly.
  • In another bowl, combine the alfredo sauce, pasta and about one-fourth of the cheese. Pour the reserved pasta water into the empty alfredo jar, put on the lid, and shake it to loosen any leftover sauce in the jar. Pour it into the bowl, as well. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Stir to mix it well.
  • Spread half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Evenly spread the chicken over that, and then finish off with the other half of the pasta mixture.
  • Top with the remaining cheese.
  • Cover the baking dish with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the covering and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.
  • Let the casserole sit for about five minutes, drizzle with a little Buffalo sauce, and serve.

I was really happy with how this turned out. It was a bit spicy with lots of good cheesy flavors mixed in. I also was happy with my decision to cut up chicken patties to use in this instead of deboning a rotisserie chicken. It took way less time, and I liked the added flavor of the breading in the casserole.

It’s not quite a complete substitute for Buffalo wings, but it definitely did a good job of featuring the main flavors.

Joey will probably still have to make it up to me by cooking some wings again sometime in the near future, but I think this will hold me over for now.

This piece first appeared in print on June 30, 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

‘Poutine’ all this in a taco is a little crazy

Poutine tacos are a strange twist on the Canadian classic but don’t skimp in the calories the dish normally presents.

I have had several people over the years tell me that this column is promoting bad eating.

I mean, yeah, I agree at least somewhat. If you eat many of the recipes I write about every day of the week, you’re probably not making your doctor or your bathroom scale all that happy.

But I also think reading about decadent desserts or calorie-laden meals is kind of fun. There’s a reason the Food Network doesn’t have a full slate of salad shows in its line up.

It’s not that I’m against eating healthy. Actually, Joey and I try hard to eat well regularly. I have a big bunch of asparagus in my fridge right now, along with some other fresh greens, ready to be cooked for dinner this week.

But sometimes I like to try out the dark side of the cookbook, and if you didn’t see it coming, this week’s recipe is way, way on the caloric dark side.

This recipe, a twist on the classic Canadian dish of poutine, which features cheese curds, French fries and brown gravy, comes from the website “Recipe Champions” by Josh Elkin. If you haven’t ever heard of his website, check it out sometime. He has some truly crazy recipes on there. You can find the original post at https://recipechampions.com/recipe/poutine-tacos/. I took out some steps in my version. Also, I used yellow cheese curds, although the classic uses white. I’d recommend just using what is available in your local grocery store.

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Poutine Tacos

Poutine tacos are a strange twist on the Canadian classic but don't skimp in the calories the dish normally presents.
Course Main Course
Keyword bacon, brown gravy, cheese curds, French fries, mozzarella, poutine, tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 12 ounces frozen French fries
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cheese curds
  • 6 strips bacon cooked and chopped

Instructions

  • Start by making the taco shells. Set out a taco holder or a cupcake pan, turned upside down. Heat a small skillet (about five inches wide) over medium heat. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese evenly into the bottom of the pan. Let it cook, undisturbed, for about three minutes. Then turn the heat to medium high, and when you notice the edges starting to turn brown, check to see if you can move the cheese, if it can move, it’s ready. Remove the circle of cheese from the heat.
  • While the cheese is still hot, carefully place it in the taco holder to create a taco shape or place it in a taco shape between two of the cups on the cupcake tin.
  • Repeat the process with the rest of the mozzarella.
  • As the shells cool and harden, cook the French fries in your preferred method.
  • Create a brown gravy by bringing the beef broth to a boil in a small saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup cold water. Once the broth is boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and whisk in the garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire, dissolved corn starch mixture and salt and pepper. Let the gravy thicken, stirring regularly, and add more salt and pepper if desired.
  • To assemble the tacos, start with a layer of fries in the mozzarella shell, top with cheese curds, and then add gravy and bacon pieces. Serve immediately.

These were ridiculous. They were delicious, with lots of great texture, but they felt ridiculous to eat because of how bad for us they were. It was kind of like when you get something fried and delicious at the state fair.

I can’t say that we’ll be making them again any time soon, but it was definitely worth eating once, feeling bad about it, and ticking this off the life experience list.

I’m sure I’ll wound the egos of some Canadians for putting out this non-traditional version, and I’m also certain I’ll have some health professionals wagging their finger at me, but this was so, so good, and it was fun to make, too.

And to all my naysayers, don’t worry. I promise my asparagus will be made with no frying or bacon involved. I’m just not making any commitments for next week’s column.

This piece first appeared in print on May 13, 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

Spring is time to come out of your shell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

This piece first appeared in print April 1, 2021.

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

Categories
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

Let’s embrace the ‘pasta’bilities this week

Ziti pasta bake is full of lots of cheese and Italian herbs. It’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal.

Until I began this column, I had no idea how many variations of pasta there are.

I used to think I was pretty knowledgeable until I continued to discover new types that often were tough to find in small-town Kansas grocery stores.

My recipe this week called for ziti, a tube-shaped pasta I’m definitely familiar with, but my local store didn’t have any in stock, so I opted for some penne instead.

That got me to thinking that there are at least three tubular pastas I could think of: ziti, penne and rigatoni, and I decided to do some digging to figure out what the real difference is.

An article online by Brette Warshaw went into great detail about the minuscule differences between the three—most notably, the length. Standard penne is 2.12 inches long, ziti is 2 inches, and rigatoni is 1.8. Other than that, there are small differences in end cut and ridges, but that’s really about it from a visual standpoint. So, when I made this week’s recipe for a ziti pasta bake, I just grabbed what was available as far as tube-shaped pasta and hoped I wasn’t making a mistake.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Together as Family.” You can find the original at https://togetherasfamily.com/cheesy-ziti-pasta-bake/. I added lots more herbs in my version.

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Ziti Pasta Bake

Ziti pasta bake is full of lots of cheese and Italian herbs. It's perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword basil, cheese, cream cheese, garlic, Greek yogurt, marinara, mozzarella, oregano, parsley, sour cream, spaghetti sauce, ziti

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces ziti
  • 24 ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 14.5 ounces petite diced tomatoes undrained
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the sauce, diced tomatoes, cream cheese, basil, parsley, oregano, garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  • Once the pasta is done, drain it (don’t rinse it) and add it to the mixing bowl and stir.
  • Pour half of the pasta mixture into the baking dish and then spread the sour cream over the top. Sprinkle on about half of the mozzarella, spread the remaining pasta on top, and then finish with the rest of the cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until the top of the cheese is melted fully and slightly browned.
  • Serve with some garlic bread.

This was creamy and cheesy and really yummy. It was also meatless, and I didn’t miss the protein at all. You could easily use a meat sauce in this, though, if you would like to.

And despite the use of penne, it was pretty good. I will warn you, though, that apparently my substitution is not without controversy. Chef Paula Ghosh wrote a blog post about ziti vs. penne, and she notes that despite the two pastas having similar origins, ziti is meant to be used in baked dishes, and penne is meant to be mixed in with sauce.

She claims that even seemingly insignificant differences in pastas can change the entire flavor profile of a dish. Since she’s the expert, I suppose I’ll have to take her word for it, but I can tell you this was great even with the penne. It might be even better if you followed the pasta rules.

This piece first appeared in print on Thursday, Aug. 20, 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.

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