Categories
Side Dish

Everyone will want to ‘congri’gate around your table for this dish

Congri
Congri is a beans and rice dish from Cuba. Some argue that traditional congri can’t be made with black beans, but this mixture was good enough that you probably won’t care.

An article by Eliana Rivero goes into great detail about some of the cultural dishes of Cuba, including a dish I decided to try for this week’s column, congri.

According to Rivero, “The name comes from the Creole French words congo and ris (beans and rice) to produce what today is widely consumed by Cubans in the diaspora (and in their Louisiana variation, Cajun red beans and rice).”

Except, after reading Rivero’s article, I discovered that there’s a lot of back and forth amongst Cubans about what actually constitutes congri. Some people, like her, claim it must be made with red beans, and others claim it can be made with black.

So, I’m putting it out there now that while what I made—a delicious black beans and rice dish—may not be considered congri by all Cubans, what I can promise is that it’s absolutely worth a try.

This comes from the website “Food52.” You can find the original post and a great personal story about the dish by Taryn Pire at https://food52.com/recipes/83081-congri-cuban-black-beans-and-rice. I doubled the seasonings in my version.

Congri
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Congri

Congri is a beans and rice dish from Cuba. Some argue that traditional congri can't be made with black beans, but this mixture was good enough that you probably won't care.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Keyword adobo, bay leaves, black beans, chorizo, congri, cumin, garlic, green bell pepper, white rice, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large green bell peppers diced
  • 1 medium yellow union diced
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 9 to 12 ounces chorizo
  • 4 cups white rice
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons adobo seasoning
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • The day before you cook your beans, rinse them well. Add them to a stock pot and add water until there’s about one inch covering them. Bring the pot to a boil, then remove them from heat, place a lid on the pot, and let them sit undisturbed until the next day.
  • When you’re ready to cook the beans, add more water to the pot—again, to about one inch covering them. Add the bay leaves and bring the pot to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer and place the lid on the pot. (They’ll need to cook for 45 to 70 minutes.) Check the beans every 15 minutes or so to make sure there is still plenty of water in the pot. Add more, if necessary.
  • While the beans cook, heat the olive oil in another large stock pot over medium heat. Saute the peppers and onions until they are cooked through. Add the chorizo, chopping it up as it cooks. When the chorizo is nearly cooked through, add the garlic and uncooked rice. Stir well.
  • Add in the cumin and adobo, stir well, and then remove the mixture from the heat until the beans are cooked through. (To test the beans, fish one out, let it cool, and try it. You want it to be easy to bite without being complete mush.)
  • When the beans are done, remove them from the heat. Drain the beans, but reserve six cups of the bean broth (if there isn’t enough, add water until you get six cups). Discard the bay leaves. Add the bean broth and beans to the pot with the rice.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, put the burner on low, and place a lid on the pot. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir the mixture well. If the mixture is soupy, let it cook a bit longer, with the lid off, to evaporate the liquid to your desired level. Generally, congri is a drier dish, with little to no liquid. Add salt to taste and serve.

This was flavorful and super delicious. It makes a ton, too. I made a batch and a half and couldn’t even fit all of it into my large crockpot for a group meal we had.

It’s perfect as a side dish, especially with something that has some sauce with it—like enchiladas or chili con carne. You can also eat it alone, although I’d think it would be best with a little salsa added to the mix.

I may not have actually accomplished historically accurate congri, but I did manage to create a delicious dish with plenty of leftovers for us to enjoy for the rest of the week, so I’m not going to worry too much about labels.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 11, 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

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

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.

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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

Meat is ‘naan’ essential for this potato and chickpea curry

Potato and chickpea curry is spicy and full of lots of flavors from a variety of spices. It is also vegan, giving those avoiding animal products a great, quick meal to enjoy.

Quite a number of years ago, when we put our house on the market, our realtor gave us some tips for keeping our home ready for showings.

In addition to keeping things clean and organized, he encouraged us to pin back the curtains for plenty of natural light and begged us to take a break from cooking anything that would have strong, lingering smells. Specifically, he said we should stay away from curry.

I thought about that this week when I decided to try a vegan curry recipe I found online. Personally, I think the smell of spicy curry would be a selling point for a house, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.

This recipe was fantastic, and if you’re trying to cut some meat out of your diet, I highly recommend it. It was filling, extremely flavorful and very pretty, to boot. It was also on the spicy side, so if that’s not your favorite, I’d skip this one. I think it would be a bit difficult to make this one completely mild.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Well Plated” by Erin Clarke. I added extra garlic in my version.

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Potato and Chickpea Curry

Potato and chickpea curry is spicy and full of lots of flavors from a variety of spices. It is also vegan, giving those avoiding animal products a great, quick meal to enjoy.
Course Main Course
Keyword cayenne, chickpeas, coconut milk, cumin, curry, diced tomatoes, garam masala, garlic, ginger, peas, potatoes, rice, turmeric, vegan, vegetarian, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger or ginger paste minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 pounds potatoes diced (I used Russets)
  • 14 ounces canned chickpeas rinsed and drained
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes in juice
  • 14 ounce can light coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Prepared white rice for serving
  • Naan bread for serving

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the onion to the hot oil and saute until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for about 30 seconds. Add in the curry powder, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt, and continue to stir for about a minute.
  • Once the mixture smells really nice, stir in the potatoes and chickpeas to coat them with the spices.
  • Add in the diced tomatoes and coconut milk, and stir well to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a very low boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring regularly to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot, for about 15 minutes.
  • Once the potatoes are fork tender, stir in the sugar, lemon juice and peas. Let the mixture heat over low until the peas are hot.
  • Serve the curry over top of white rice and with a side of naan bread.

I absolutely loved this one. Joey was out of town for the evening, so he had to settle for leftovers later in the week, but he also gave it a thumbs up.

It does make quite a bit of food, and it stretches even further with rice, so if you want to feed a crowd on the cheap, save this one for the future.

Plus, our whole house smelled like warm, delicious spices for a couple days, so I suppose it’s a good thing we aren’t trying to sell it right now.

Of course, with the way the housing market is moving right now, I doubt it would even matter.

This piece first appeared in print on May 19, 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

Be ready for an enchi’little’ heat with jalapenos this week

Jalapeno cream cheese chicken enchiladas are a great weeknight dinner. They’re spicy, cheesy and make for fantastic leftovers.

Sometime last summer I found a huge bag of hatch green chiles that were on clearance in our local grocery store.

I immediately threw them in my cart, visions of cheesy enchiladas with mild, roasted chiles dancing in my head.

What I created was an abomination. I quickly realized how spicy the chiles were when Joey and I each took our first bite and nearly choked from the heat. I’m sure there are people who love playing chicken with the Scoville Heat Scale who would have absolutely loved them, but at the point that they even made Joey sweat, I knew they were way too spicy for either of us to consume. They ended up being deconstructed and made into another dish with lots of other ingredients to balance out the spice.

When I told Joey I was going to try a recipe for jalapeno enchiladas this week, he looked at me with a bit of skepticism that I wasn’t going to try to kill us both again. Luckily, though, we ended up with a dinner that was just the right amount of spicy and was really delicious.

The recipe I used is from the “All Recipes” website. You can find the original post at https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/218031/jalapeno-cream-cheese-chicken-enchiladas. I added extra seasonings in my version.

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Jalapeno Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

Jalapeno cream cheese chicken enchiladas are a great weeknight dinner. They're spicy, cheesy and make for fantastic leftovers.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword cayenne, cream cheese, cumin, enchilada, garlic, garlic powder, jalapenos, Monterrey jack cheese, paprika, rotisserie chicken, shredded chicken, weeknight dinner, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken cooked and shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper divided
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2 or 3 jalapeno peppers diced (remove seeds and ribs for milder taste)
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 8 ounces cream cheese I used fat free
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 28 ounces green enchilada sauce
  • 7 to 8 flour tortillas
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese shredded

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl, combine the shredded chicken, one teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate the ingredients. Set it aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapenos, and saute until they are soft. Add in the minced garlic and saute for another couple of minutes until it just starts to brown.
  • Cut the cream cheese into one-inch cubes and add to the skillet, stirring to melt the cheese and combine the ingredients.
  • Once the cheese is melted, remove the pan from the heat, and add one-half teaspoon cayenne, one teaspoon garlic powder, paprika, cumin and the seasoned chicken. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined.
  • In a nine-by-13-inch pan, spread half of the enchilada sauce on the bottom.
  • Assemble the enchiladas by spreading a large spoonful of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Sprinkle the filling with about one tablespoon of shredded cheese, and roll the tortilla tightly, leaving the ends open. Place it seam-side down in the pan. Continue until all the filling is used, squishing the tortillas together as necessary.
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas and top with the rest of the shredded cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Let sit for five minutes before serving. Garnish with sour cream and pickled jalapenos, if desired.

These had just the right amount of heat, and it was balanced really well with the cheese, but you can also decrease the spice level a bit by leaving out the cayenne pepper. They were also fantastic leftovers, which I always appreciate on busy weeks.

If these still sound too spicy for you but you’re in the mood for enchiladas, I’d encourage you to search for “queso fresco enchiladas” on my website (spiceupkitchen.net). Those would easily fit the bill.

But if you decide to make up your own recipe, just be careful not to blindly trust mystery peppers at the grocery store. And if you do, let me suggest purchasing some good anti-perspirant, a big box of tissues and a gallon of milk to help you recover.

This piece first appeared in print on March 24, 2022.

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

Categories
Main Dish

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
Main Dish Uncategorized

Save lots of time this week with some phony pierogi

Pierogi casserole takes the flavors of the traditional dish, kicks them up a notch with some added flavor, and creates the perfect weeknight meal.

Awhile back, I stumbled on a Facebook group called “Good Ol’ Mennonite Recipes,” and of course, I had to join to see what kinds of great food people were sharing on there.

I have jealously looked at delicious loaves of bread and mounds of verenike under ham gravy, but I recently stumbled on a post that I absolutely had to try for myself: a pierogi casserole.

I have only made pierogi once. I had to look back at my column archive to see how long it had been, and it was clear back in 2015. I loved them, but they were also lots of work.

If you’re not familiar, pierogi are dumplings that are generally filled with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese. They’re boiled and then fried in butter and onions to finish them off, and a lot of people love eating them with a side of sausage.

The casserole mimics the dumplings by using lasagna noodles, cheese, potatoes and plenty of onions, but as I started putting it together, I felt like it was missing something. That “something” turned into lots of garlic and some sausage, too, and this ended up being perfect.

The original recipe comes from the “Good Ol’ Mennonite Recipes” Facebook group. It was posted by Marie Leigh. I added garlic, sausage and more seasoning to my version.

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Pierogi Casserole

Pierogi casserole takes the flavors of the traditional dish, kicks them up a notch with some added flavor, and creates the perfect weeknight meal.
Course Main Course
Keyword casserole, cottage cheese, garlic, ground sausage, mashed potatoes, noodles, onion powder, pierogi, sharp cheddar cheese, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 9 to 15 lasagna noodles
  • 1 small onion diced (I used yellow)
  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • 2 cups regular cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder divided
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare a deep 9-by-13-inch baking pan by spraying it with cooking spray. Set it aside.
  • Boil enough lasagna noodles to be able to cover three layers in your pan. (My local store had long, thin lasagna noodles, so I only needed about nine of them to do the trick.)
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and saute the sausage and onions, breaking apart the sausage as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • While the sausage cooks, add your cottage cheese, egg and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder to a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • In another bowl, add the mashed potatoes, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, garlic, salt and pepper, along with 1 cup shredded cheese and mix well to combine.
  • Once your sausage is cooked through, drain off any excess fat.
  • To assemble the casserole, start by spooning just a little (maybe a scant 1/4 cup) of your sausage/onion mixture into the bottom of your dish. Place a single layer of noodles on top. Spread about half of your cottage cheese mixture over the noodles, about half of the sausage, and then top with about one third of your mashed potatoes.
  • Add another layer of noodles, spread out the rest of the cottage cheese, the rest of sausage, and another third of mashed potatoes.
  • Finish with a final layer of noodles and the rest of the mashed potatoes on top.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheddar on the top, cover the dish with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another five minutes or until the cheese is melty and slightly browned.
  • Let the casserole cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

This was a great, filling dinner, and the leftovers were a breeze to reheat, too. I’m sure the original recipe would have been great, but adding the sausage and lots of garlic made it feel like more of a meal with a bit more complexity to the flavor profile.

Plus, it was so, so much easier than making pierogi, which while worth the effort, is definitely difficult to find time to do.

And now I have a new “good ol’” recipe to add to my repertoire, thanks to some neat folks on Facebook. Social media can be a horrible place, but when you’re talking food, sometimes it can be just the opposite.

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 24, 2022.

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

Categories
Main Dish

Sprinkle in something new with peppered beef

Peppered beef is lightly spiced with black pepper and complemented with Asian seasonings and fresh vegetables.

When my sister and I were growing up, my mom always joked she was going to open a restaurant called “I don’t care,” thanks to the number of times we uttered the phrase when the family was choosing where to eat.

On the occasions when we did care, there were certain places that turned into a bit of a debate for us in the back seat.

I, for one, loved going to a good Chinese buffet. My sister, not so much.

On the rare occasions I would convince her that, yes, she would find plenty to eat that suited her tastes, one of my favorite food items to grab was some peppered beef. The combination of steak with sauteed peppers and onions was (and still is) one of my favorites.

I was reminded of those trips this week when I decided to try making some peppered beef in my own kitchen, and I have to say that it turned out great.

This comes from the blog “Kitchen Sanctuary” by Nicky Corbishley. You can find the original post at https://www.kitchensanctuary.com/black-pepper-beef/. I added extra garlic to my version.

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Peppered Beef

Peppered beef is lightly spiced with black pepper and complemented with Asian seasonings and fresh vegetables.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword bell pepper, black pepper, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, steak, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound steak sliced thinly (I used charcoal steak)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper or more, to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons oil I used canola
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 large onion cut into quarter-inch strips
  • 2 large bell peppers cut into quarter-inch strips (any color)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup beef stock or broth
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
  • rice for serving

Instructions

  • Season the sliced steak with the black pepper and salt.
  • In a wok or deep frying pan, heat the canola and sesame oils over high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the steak and fry for a couple minutes, until it is browned, stirring constantly.
  • Remove the steak from the pan and turn the heat to medium. If there isn’t much oil left in the pan, add another tablespoon of canola oil and toss in the onions and peppers.
  • Saute for several minutes until they reach your desired level of tenderness.
  • While the vegetables cook, combine the cornstarch, soy sauce, fish/oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, beef stock and more black pepper (to taste) in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
  • Once your vegetables are cooked through, add the garlic and ginger to the pan and saute for about two minutes.
  • Add the sauce from the bowl, along with the steak (and any accumulated juices) to the pan, and stir to coat the vegetables and meat with the sauce. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for another couple of minutes until the sauce thickens and everything is heated through.
  • Serve over rice.

Joey raved about how good this meal was all during dinner. It was peppery without being overly spicy, and the sauce was fantastic. I ended up doubling the recipe for plenty of leftovers later in the week, which was a great move. Who doesn’t like leftover Chinese food?

Actually, I can tell you one person who isn’t a fan of Chinese food—fresh or left over. Or at least that was true. After we were both adults, my sister and I were spending an afternoon together, and when it came time for us to decide what to grab for lunch, she suggested a nearby Chinese restaurant.

“I thought you hated Chinese food?!” I told her, remembering all of our backseat battles.

She just shrugged.

“I guess I got over it,” she said.

Sisters…am I right?

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 20, 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 Soup

Soup recipe lets me tell counter leftovers ‘see you tater’

Potato poblano corn chowder is creamy and filling, especially with the addition of shredded chicken and extra potatoes.

They’ve just been staring at me.

Four potatoes have been sitting on my kitchen counter since Thanksgiving, and as the days passed, they literally were growing some eyes to look at me with.

So I knew I needed to make something to use them up, and with the weather finally hitting a dreaded cold snap, I decided to pull out a chowder recipe I’ve been meaning to try.

Of course, I had to do some tweaking, including making it a bit heartier by adding chicken and increasing the spices and vegetables, too.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian recipe, just leave out the chicken, use some vegetable broth and throw in even more potatoes. It’ll still be delicious.

The recipe I tried, by Ivy Manning, appeared in “Fine Cooking” magazine in 2018. You can find it on their website at https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/potato-poblano-corn-chowder.

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Potato Poblano Corn Chowder

Potato poblano corn chowder is creamy and filling, especially with the addition of shredded chicken and extra potatoes.
Course Main Course
Keyword baked potatoes, broth, carrots, celery, chicken, chowder, coriander, corn, cumin, mashed potatoes, poblano peppers, soup, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 poblano peppers diced
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery diced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk I used skim
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes diced
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 2 cups corn kernels I used frozen
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, peppers, carrots and celery and saute until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add the coriander, cumin, thyme, salt and pepper and flour, and stir to combine. Saute for a couple minutes to cook out the flour taste. Stir in the tomato paste, and then add the broth, milk, potatoes, chicken and corn to the pot.
  • Bring the mixture to a low boil, and then turn the heat down to low and simmer, with a lid on the pot, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and cayenne pepper and then serve immediately.

Add as much or as little cayenne as you want to this to control the spice level. Poblano peppers tend to be on the milder side, but if you’re nervous, make sure you remove the ribs and seeds when you dice them up, too.

This had a creamy taste and was a good belly warmer. I actually ended up doubling the recipe so I could store the leftovers as quick weeknight dinners in our freezer.

I was glad to finally get some of my counter space back just in time for all my holiday baking. But I have a feeling that when I’m staring down a mountain of treat containers over the next few weeks, I’ll really miss those potatoes.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 23, 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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