By Kara Kimbrough
Just like almost everything in popular culture, positive and negative features arise. This applies to social media. In fact, one particular platform with Chinese owners is on the verge of extinction, at least in the U.S. As I recently told a group of impressionable students, it's important to be a responsible social media user. Sharing every thought in your head or detail of your life online is never a good thing.
I primarily use social media to discover and enjoy the "good stuff"...not the bad. I'm referring to tons of new DIY ideas and techniques, home decor inspirational ideas from experts, cleaning and organization tips and best of all, original recipes not found in any cookbook I've ever seen.
My favorite social media platforms are Instagram and Pinterest. And don't judge...but I do occasionally scroll through the one owned by China - ignoring the bad, of course. For those who prefer to err on the side of caution and avoid social media, I thought this would be a good time to share a few of the "good stuff" I've found:
1. Smashed, Locked and Loaded Potatoes - sure, nachos topped with ground beef, cheese, chopped vegetables, salsa and sour cream are delicious, but let's face it, they've been around for a while. A new version - in fact, one that I took to a Super Bowl gathering to rave reviews, is a similar dish with cooked, "smashed" potatoes as the base instead of tortilla chips.
Boil or microwave two pounds of baby potatoes until tender, then set aside. Fry 5 slices of bacon, drain and crumble. In a separate bowl, combine/mix 5 tablespoons olive oil, teaspoon each of dried parsley and rosemary leaves, 1/2 teaspoon each of smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Add potatoes to the bowl and coat well. Then pour potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and using the bottom of a glass, mash (but don't totally break apart) potatoes. In a 425-degree oven, roast potatoes for 15 minutes, flip and roast another 15 minutes. Watch carefully so potatoes don't burn. Remove from oven and sprinkle with a cup of Mexican cheese. Return to oven for another minute or two until cheese melts. Remove and top with crumble bacon, chopped chives and sour cream.
2. 20 Minute Pasta - My love of pasta is well-documented, including in this column. So when I find a recipe that'll get my favorite meal on the table in no time, I have to try it.
Boil frozen or fresh ravioli (substitute another variety if you like) according to package directions. While the pasta is boiling, coat a skillet with olive oil and brown three cloves of chopped garlic, a diced onion, half of a chopped green pepper and a teaspoon of chili flakes. Let this brown, then add a little oregano and basil (to taste). Finally, add a cup of crushed tomatoes, cup of milk and 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese. Combine well and heat through on medium-high heat. Drain and add the cooked pasta, stir and cook on medium heat for a couple more minutes until pasta is thoroughly coated.
3. Loaded seafood bread - Nothing goes better with pasta than garlic bread. When it's loaded with shrimp, cheese, butter and olive oil, pasta dinner is elevated to an entirely new hemisphere.
Boil a pound of peeled shrimp in a sauce pan with Tony Chachere's seasoning for 3-4 minutes until pink. Drain and set aside. In another bowl, combined two sticks of room temperature butter, two cloves of chopped garlic, a sprinkle of onion powder and chopped fresh parsley. Stir well to combine. Cut a loaf of French bread in half length-wide and brush both sides with olive oil. Use a knife or spatula or spread butter mixture on both sides of the bread. Place under the oven broiler set on high until bread is crispy (just a few minutes; watch closely so it doesn't burn). Coarsely chop shrimp and add to both sides of the bread, then top with shredded mozzarella or your favorite cheese. Place back under the broiler for a couple of minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
4. Addictive snack mix - Finding a new recipe for a quick snack mix was the social media find of the week.
Melt two sticks of butter in a skillet, then add a cup of brown sugar. stir well and cook over low heat until butter and sugar are well blended. Bring to a boil in a large sauce pan and cook for two minutes to make a butterscotch-type sauce. Add a teaspoon on vanilla extract and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir well until mixture is well blended. Remove pan from heat and pour in a box of oyster crackers; stir to coat well. Pour mixture onto a foil-covered baking sheet and place in a 300-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. While this is baking, combine a cup of sugar with a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon and some salt (to desired taste). When crackers are removed from oven, sprinkle with the sugar-salt-cinnamon mixture and toss.
Last, I love homemade pizza - just not the time-consuming process of making the dough. And store-bought crusts leave something to be desired. Not only did I find a pizza recipe for two of my favorite things - burgers and a loaded salad with Thousand Island dressing - but I discovered that refrigerated Pillsbury Pizza Dough is easy, quick and really delicious.
And best of all, who can feel guilty about indulging in pizza when it's topped with salad? Just consider it a fun way to get your recommended vegetable serving - enjoy!
Burger and Salad Pizza
Can of Pillsbury Pizza Crust (found in the dairy case)
Cup of Parmesan cheese
Cup of mozzarella cheese
Pound of ground chuck, cooked, drained and crumbled
4 cups of chopped lettuce, chopped tomatoes, green peppers and other favorite salad ingredients
Thousand Island salad dressing, to taste
Spread pizza dough into a prepared pizza pan, brush with olive oil and bake in a 400-degree oven for 8 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of both cheeses and half of ground beef crumbles.
Place back in oven and bake for another 6-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove and top with salad mixture, remaining ground beef and cheeses and drizzle with Thousand Island dressing (or your favorite).
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel columnist from Mississippi. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.