Categories
Appetizer Side Dish

Sweet peppers are the stuff of dreams

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
Stuffed sweet peppers are a showstopper appetizer that are extremely simple to prepare and can be served warm or cold.

Joey and I tied the knot back in 2010, which meant our 10-year anniversary was pretty anticlimactic last summer with COVID in our backyard. 

No date night out on the town. No restaurant dinner.

We still enjoyed one another’s company (I mean, it’s not like we could be apart while quarantined in the same house.), but when our anniversary hit this summer, we decided we should have a night out for number 11.

We ended up going to Lola’s Bistro in Wichita, a favorite spot of Wichita food blogger “Wichita by E.B.” (Check out his site, if you never have. He does a great job and has visited a lot of mom and pop spots all over the state. It’s at wichitabyeb.com.)

The meal was fantastic, and one of the items we liked quite a bit was a palate starter our waiter brought out before our appetizer. They were bite-sized, delicious stuffed sweet peppers, and we decided the next time we needed an appetizer for a group, we were going to try to recreate the recipe.

The recipe I decided to try did not disappoint. It comes from the blog “From Which Things Grow.” You can find the original post at http://fromwhichthingsgrow.blogspot.com/2012/01/chew-on-this-stuffed-mini-sweet-peppers.html. I added extra garlic powder in my version.

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
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Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Stuffed sweet peppers are a showstopper appetizer that are extremely simple to prepare and can be served warm or cold.
Course Appetizer
Keyword bacon, cream cheese, garlic powder, seasoning salt, sharp cheddar cheese, sweet peppers

Ingredients

  • about 2 pounds mini sweet peppers
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 5-6 strips bacon cooked and crumbled

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin by spraying each well lightly with cooking spray.
  • Wash the peppers, and then cut off the tops. Scoop out the seeds and ribs to hollow them out.
  • Mix the rest of the ingredients together and fill each pepper with as much of the filling as you can (it’s OK if they’re overflowing just a bit).
  • Stand the peppers up, filling side up, in the wells of the muffin tin. The peppers can share wells to help them stand up. Crowding isn’t a problem.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, and then serve warm, or refrigerate them and serve them cold later on.

These were absolutely delicious. Our local grocery store didn’t have itty bitty sweet peppers like we tried at the restaurant, so these were more like two-bite appetizers, but they were fabulous. 

Personally, I like them better warmed up than cold, but they were good both ways, and they actually reheat out of the refrigerator pretty well, if you end up with leftovers.

I also had extra filling when I was done. It would be delicious on crackers, and I even tried it inside a quesadilla, which was pretty darn good.

I’m certainly not trying to claim that my cooking is anywhere near the quality of a fine dining restaurant, but if I can brag just a bit, I do think these stuffed peppers turned out extremely well.

Hopefully, when our 20th anniversary rolls around, Joey and I will be able to celebrate with someone else doing the cooking. But if the next decade repeats the last, at least I know what we can have for our first course.

This piece first appeared in print on Thursday, Aug. 12.

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

Categories
Appetizer Main Dish Side Dish

Grilling cheese is more than just o’queso’

Smoked queso with charcoal steaks can be made on the grill or modified to be served from your oven.

When it comes to cooking indoors, Joey and I share the load pretty evenly. We each take on lunch or dinner regularly, with both of us having our specialties.

But when it comes to cooking outside, I definitely fall far behind.

Joey has really perfected the use of his kamado-style grill, mostly opting to create delicious smoked chicken or pork, but he’s also branched out into briskets, pastrami, pizzas and more.

So I was a little nervous when I went to try my own grill creation this past weekend: smoked queso and steak nachos.

I do have to confess that Joey was still the one who got the fire started and got the temperature just right for me, but after that, it was my show, and thankfully, despite my extreme novice status with the grill, it turned out fabulous.

I didn’t use a recipe this week. Instead, I read probably 10 different versions of smoked queso that people have out there and ignored a lot of what they did, mostly because I just can’t handle the taste or texture of Velveeta cheese, and that’s what all of them used.

So this week’s recipe is an original, and it turned out great. We did this on our kamado grill, but you could also make this on a regular grill or in your oven (although you’ll want to probably cook your steaks on your stovetop, in that case).

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Smoked Queso with Charcoal Steaks

Smoked queso with charcoal steaks can be made on the grill or modified to be served from your oven.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Keyword black beans, charcoal steak, cream cheese, grilled, pepperjack cheese, queso fresco, Rotel, sharp cheddar cheese, smoked, taco seasoning

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces pepperjack cheese
  • 16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 20 ounces Rotel drained
  • 15.5 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • salt to taste
  • enough charcoal steaks to serve your guests
  • Your favorite steak seasoning

Instructions

  • Prepare your grill so that it is 250 to 300 degrees.
  • Cube the three types of cheese into about one-inch pieces. (Make sure to use blocks of cheese instead of shredded; it melts better.)
  • In a foil, eight-by-eight-inch pan, add the cheeses, Rotel, black beans, taco seasoning, garlic and salt, and stir to combine.
  • For the steaks, pound them to about one-half inch thick, and season them liberally on both sides with steak seasoning, pressing it into the meat.
  • Once your grill is ready, place your pan of queso on a lower rack (we’re going to cook the steaks above it). If you’re using a standard grill, place it so it’s getting indirect heat. Close the lid and let the queso cook for 20 minutes.
  • After the 20 minutes, stir the queso. It probably will only just be starting to melt together. Place the steaks on a grate over the queso so that the juices can add flavor to the queso. Again, close the lid.
  • Check the queso every 20 minutes, giving it a good stir, and turn the steaks when they have good grill marks on one side.
  • Once the queso is melted and the steaks are done (after about one hour), remove it all from the grill. Be careful not to let the cheese overcook; it will get lumpy and separate if you do. Let the steaks rest for five minutes, and then slice them.
  • Serve the queso and steak over chips with your favorite nacho toppings.

We went for a smaller batch of queso than I saw many people make online, and it still fed six people, so definitely plan accordingly, but if you have a crowd, you can easily double this into a nine-by-13-inch pan and feed them all.

You can also make this as spicy or as mild as you like, depending on which style of Rotel and taco seasoning you choose. You could also add a drained can of jalapenos or something spicier if you really wanted to take it up a notch. It could also be made with pre-cooked ground beef or sausage or chorizo, if you don’t want to mess with steaks.

I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a grill master yet, but Joey did seem impressed with my most recent accomplishment. That being said, I think I’ll leave the heavy lifting to him. It’s a lot nicer to be the one sitting in the Adirondack chair than the one next to the grill.

This piece first appeared in print on July 15, 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 Side Dish

Huge casserole will make you say, ‘Cheese, Louise!’

This over-the-top version of macaroni and cheese makes a huge amount of the creamy, decadent dish.

As the extremely proud aunt of a fantastic three-year-old, I have been around for quite a few meals of macaroni and cheese the past several years.

I definitely can’t argue with her taste in good food. Joey makes fun of me for ordering mac and cheese regularly, and while my niece’s dish of choice is generally a cup of the single-serving microwaveable kind, I tend to opt for a more grown up version.

After I recently saw a recipe online for a batch that claimed to be the “world’s best” and featured three types of cheese, I decided to forgo any boxes of Kraft and try my own version from scratch.

I will warn you, before we even launch into this, that this makes an absolutely huge dish of macaroni and cheese. I would highly recommend halving or even quartering the recipe if you aren’t feeding a crowd or don’t want a lot of leftovers.

The recipe I used comes from the blog “Mom on Timeout.” You can find the original post at https://www.momontimeout.com/best-homemade-baked-mac-and-cheese-recipe/. I ended up adding extra pasta to my version, because it was way too soupy for my tastes. I also added garlic powder and extra paprika.

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Over-the-Top Macaroni and Cheese

This over-the-top version of macaroni and cheese makes a huge amount of the creamy, decadent dish.
Course Main Course
Keyword garlic, gruyere, macaroni, panko, parmesan, sharp cheddar cheese

Ingredients

  • 24 ounces elbow macaroni cooked al dente
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar shredded
  • 2 cups gruyere shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/2 cup parmesan shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a three- or four-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  • While the pasta cooks, combine the shredded cheddar and Gruyere in a large bowl and set it aside.
  • When the pasta is finished and drained, add it to another bowl and drizzle it with the olive oil and mix to combine. Set it aside.
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt six tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and continue to stir for one minute. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream until the mixture is smooth. Continue stirring regularly until small bubbles start to form on the surface. Whisk in the salt, pepper and garlic powder and continue cooking, stirring regularly, for about two more minutes. Reserve two cups of the combined cheddar and gruyere, and add the rest to the pot, a handful at a time, whisking in between additions until the sauce is smooth. Once all of the cheese is melted into the sauce, add the pasta. Stir to fully coat the pasta and dump half of it into the prepared baking dish.
  • Add the rest of the cheddar and gruyere in an even layer and then top with the rest of the macaroni mixture.
  • In a bowl, combine the panko, parmesan, four tablespoons melted butter and paprika, and stir until all of the bread crumbs are moistened.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on the top of the dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is browned and the cheese is bubbling.

This was so rich and really delicious, and while gruyere is not a cheap cheese to buy, it really did add some complex flavors I wouldn’t have been able to get with just the sharp cheddar.

Two things I would add as tips are, first, you might want to bake this on a baking sheet in case it spills over. My baking dish was just over three quarts in size, and I could barely fit the entire batch into it.

Second, if you want the best results, shred the cheddar and gruyere yourself. Pre-packaged shredded cheese often doesn’t melt as easily because of additives put in to keep it from clumping together.

I was amazed at the size of this batch of macaroni and cheese by the time I was done. I ended up giving away quite a few helpings so that it would all get eaten.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy this one with my niece. We’ll have to have a mac and cheese date sometime soon; although, I suspect that my use of “fancy” cheese won’t impress her too much and with her three-year-old appetite, we’re bound to have a lot of leftovers.

This piece first appeared in print on April 22, 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

Don’t get cheesed by too many leftovers

Cheesy mashed potatoes is a great way to elevate leftover mashed potatoes after a big meal.

I’ve heard a lot of folks complain over the years that they never know how many spaghetti noodles to cook when making pasta.

A friend of mine literally just throws in an entire box every time she makes spaghetti and ends up with leftovers that last forever.

That hasn’t been an issue for me, now that I figured out how to use the holes on my spaghetti server to measure it out, but I still have a major portion control problem for another dish: mashed potatoes.

I never know how many potatoes to toss into the pot when I make mashed potatoes. It doesn’t matter if I’m just making them for Joey and myself or a crowd, I never manage to make the amount I need. Instead, I end up with loads and loads of leftovers.

For Christmas this year, Joey and I cooked enough food for a small army when we had his folks and aunt over to our house to celebrate the holiday. When we were all finished feasting, the serving plates all still looked full—especially my big bowl of mashed potatoes.

Over the years, I have transformed leftover taters into everything from fried potato cakes to potato soup, but this week, I tried something completely different that I absolutely have to share with you.

This recipe comes from “Taste of Home” magazine, and you can find the original recipe on their website at https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cheesy-mashed-potatoes/. I added garlic and onion powder to my version, and of course, I used leftover mashed potatoes instead of making some fresh for this dish, but you can do it either way.

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Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Cheesy mashed potatoes is a great way to elevate leftover mashed potatoes after a big meal.
Course Side Dish
Keyword cream cheese, garlic, Greek yogurt, mashed potatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream

Ingredients

  • 6 large potatoes cut into one-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese plus more for topping
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 6 to 8 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Boil your potatoes until they are fork tender, drain them, and then mash with a potato masher until nice and fluffy. (Or skip this step if you already made mashed potatoes and are using leftovers. Just heat them up in the microwave.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a two-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • Stir the rest of the ingredients into the potatoes until everything is well combined.
  • Spread the mixture into your prepared dish, cover it with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the dish is heated through and the potatoes are a little browned around the edges.
  • Top with more cheese, and if desired, pop it under the broiler for a couple minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is nice and bubbly.
  • Serve while it’s nice and hot.

I mixed this up for our New Year’s Eve meal, and it was like I made a completely new dish, even though it started with leftovers. These were phenomenal with tons of cheesy flavor, and the added garlic was awesome.

Also, since we ended up with leftovers of these, I can tell you they reheat really well, and they go nicely with leftover ham, too.

Unfortunately, this probably hasn’t taught me any lessons about overdoing it with my mashed potatoes in the future, especially since I can’t say no to cheese, but at least it makes our leftovers a little less boring.

Now, if we can figure out what to do with my friend’s spaghetti problems, we’ll be in business.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 7, 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 Soup

Let’s ‘brocc’ and roll with soup this summer

Cream of broccoli soup uses fresh broccoli and carrots, along with some great melty cheese.

A few years ago, we met a young newspaper editor from Kentucky while we were at a conference. She’s one of those “do it all” folks and in addition to being a managing editor, she runs a small farm.

I’m friends with her on Facebook, and now that summer is in full swing, I enjoy seeing the photos of her fresh vegetables when she sets up at her local farmer’s market.

Recently, she posted a photo of some gorgeous stalks of broccoli, and it gave me a major craving. Joey isn’t much of a broccoli fan, so I waited for an evening when he wouldn’t be home and made myself a big batch of soup.

I know it’s July and it’s hot, but I will eat soup any time of the year—especially if it has some fresh veggies in it. Plus, the recipe’s author says it freezes well, so I was able to fill up some freezer containers for later, too.

The recipe I used is from the website “Happy Money Saver.” You can find it at https://happymoneysaver.com/homemade-creamy-cheesy-broccoli-soup/. I used more garlic and also swapped skim milk into the recipe instead of half and half. The original also used gouda in addition to cheddar.

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Cream of Broccoli Soup

Cream of broccoli soup uses fresh broccoli and carrots, along with some great melty cheese.
Course Main Course, Soup
Keyword broccoli, carrots, garlic, sharp cheddar cheese

Ingredients

  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 4 cups fresh broccoli chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup carrots grated
  • 4-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • garlic salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk I used skim
  • 1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar shredded

Instructions

  • In a pot with a lid, combine the broth, onion, broccoli, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and some garlic salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and place the lid on the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the broccoli is nearly cooked through.
  • When the veggies are nearly done, melt the butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Whisk in the flour and let it cook for a couple minutes. Once the broccoli mixture is cooked, begin adding the liquid you cooked the vegetables in to the Dutch oven with a ladle, whisking as you do to incorporate the flour roux.
  • Once the liquid thickens a bit, toss in the vegetables (remove the bay leaf), milk and more garlic salt and pepper, if desired.
  • After the mixture is heated through, remove it from the stove and stir in the cheese until it’s melted.
  • Serve with some crusty bread and a fresh salad to really bring in the garden-fresh deliciousness.

I was really excited about this soup, and I liked that it wasn’t made with heavy cream, too, so I didn’t feel quite as badly about enjoying a big bowl of it.

Plus, I’m pumped to have several containers of this waiting in my freezer to go to work with me for lunch in the coming weeks.

I won’t be making it to Kentucky for my friend’s fresh broccoli any time soon, but I think it’s time to do some visiting to our local farmer’s markets. It looks like the gardens are starting to overflow with some amazing veggies, so it’s time for my table to overflow with them, too.

This piece first appeared in print on July 5, 2018.

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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