Categories
Main Dish

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

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.

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.

Chili Con Carne
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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
Side Dish

Roasted vegetables will be the ‘bell’ of the ball this summer

Southwest potatoes combines potatoes, bell peppers and onion with plenty of herbs and spices for a delicious summer side dish that’s easy to make and looks pretty on the table.

Even though I try not to heat up the house with my oven too often in the summer, I am definitely willing to make an exception for the right recipe.

Last week, that exception came when I decided I didn’t want one of the typical cold summer sides like coleslaw, potato salad or a green salad to go with our dinner, and I stumbled on a delicious-looking recipe that combined potatoes and bell peppers. It sounded like a fantastic summer side, especially with all the brightly colored peppers included.

It fit the bill perfectly, and not only was I happy with the flavors but it also ended up being a great meal for leftovers later on.

This comes from the blog “Will Cook for Smiles.” You can find the original post at https://www.willcookforsmiles.com/southwest-roasted-potatoes. I added extra spices and vegetables in my version.

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Southwest Potatoes

Southwest potatoes combines potatoes, bell peppers and onion with plenty of herbs and spices for a delicious summer side dish that's easy to make and looks pretty on the table.
Course Side Dish
Keyword bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, potatoes, summer side dish, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 large Russet potatoes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 large yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil.
  • Cut potatoes and onion into about one-half-inch pieces. Cut the peppers into about one-inch pieces.
  • Add all of the vegetables to a large bowl or directly onto the baking sheet to combine with the other ingredients.
  • Add the oil, herbs and spices to your vegetables and mix well until they are evenly coated in the mixture.
  • Evenly spread out the coated vegetables on your prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Serve hot.

If you’re into something a bit spicier, you could easily toss in some hot peppers or maybe some cayenne pepper in the mix for this. But I will say this combination of spices was definitely flavorful while still being a crowd pleaser.

It was also super gorgeous on the table. I would highly recommend this one for a gathering if you need a good side dish this summer. We really enjoyed it.

And, in the grand scheme of things, heating up the kitchen was very much worth it. There’s something about roasted bell peppers that I absolutely love, even if I have to sweat just a bit to get them.

This piece first appeared in print on June 9, 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
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
Main Dish

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

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.

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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

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 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.

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