Categories
Crockpot Main Dish Soup

‘Peas’ your tastebuds with a spicy crockpot soup

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.

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.

Categories
Side Dish

How ‘yam’ I still surprised at this point?

Garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes are perfect for those who are tired of marshmallow-covered sweet potato side dishes.

I managed to hit the local grocery store at just the right time a few nights ago to score a couple huge steaks on a great sale.

I was pumped about my luck, and I decided to grab a few sweet potatoes for a side dish to go along with them for a killer meal.

When I got home, I proudly presented my purchase to Joey, who immediately looked at the sweet potatoes on the counter and said, “Oh! Are you going to make those savory sweet potatoes again?”

So, yes, in the short time since I discovered the recipe I am sharing with you this week, I have already made this twice, and since there are still two more sweet potatoes in my kitchen, I have a feeling I will be producing this a third time in the very near future—not that I’m complaining.

I have always been a huge fan of sweet potatoes in any form, and Joey likes them but tends to hate how much sugar gets dumped in for a lot of side dishes. This recipe, then, was right up his alley.

The recipe I tried, by Christina Cherrier, comes from the site “Eat Well 101.” You can find the original post at https://www.eatwell101.com/garlic-parmesan-roasted-sweet-potato-recipe. I added extra garlic and herbs, as well as more parmesan, in my version below.

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Garlic Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes are perfect for those who are tired of marshmallow-covered sweet potato side dishes.
Course Side Dish
Keyword basil, garlic, oregano, parmesan, parsley, sweet potato, thyme

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 to 6 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated or shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon thyme

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and prepare about an eight-inch baking dish (preferably one with a lid or you can cover it with aluminum foil) by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Add all of the ingredients (leave out a bit of parmesan to sprinkle over the top of the dish) to the bag, and shake to coat the potatoes as evenly as possible.
  • Arrange the slices so they just slightly overlap in a spiral pattern in your baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top.
  • Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after that to see if your potatoes are fork tender.
  • When they are done, remove from the oven and serve.

Remember that the thicker your potato slices, the longer they will take to bake. Mine ended up being done at about the 40-minute mark.

These are absolutely delicious and a nice departure from a lot of the traditional ways sweet potatoes are served. They have a ton of flavor, and they also reheat really nicely.

With our leftovers, I added in some crumbled sausage and a couple runny eggs for a delicious breakfast.

Eventually, Joey did acknowledge that I got a great deal on my steaks for dinner, and he was pretty excited about them, as well. But if I had to make a wager, I know what he would claim as his favorite part of the meal.

Well, at least he likes his veggies.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 17, 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

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.