Stuffed Peppers, Four Ways

I think of stuffed peppers as the sloppy joes of the modern era. Few dinners offer up the comfort and ease of a stuffed pepper. But this new “sloppy joe” also offers up a wholesome addition of vegetables that helps moms and dads ensure their littles are at least getting some good foods.

There are endless ways to switch up stuffed peppers. The cooking methods for each a relatively similar, so I’ll go over the ingredients for each first recipe. Then I’ll discuss the cooking methods. As always, my advice is to use what you have on hand.

One note: In this recipe I call for cooked rice, but it isn’t necessary for all the dishes, especially for the Jambalaya. You just need to 1 cup of the uncooked rice, along with an appropriate amount of water or stock to the pot and let it simmer along with the other ingredients until the rice is cooked. For the ratatouille, however, start with cooked rice so your veggies don’t overcook.

Pepper Prep

These recipe works best with peppers that can stand up on their own and have a large cavity. Start by slicing off the tops of 6-8 large green, yellow, red, or orange bell peppers.

Clear seeds and ribs away from the inside of the cavity (I often just use my hands for this) and discard. Chop up any remaining edible parts from the tops and set them aside for the stuffing.

Many recipes call for coating the peppers with oil and pre-cooking them, but I find those steps unnecessary. Simply arrange them in a baking pan as close together as possible.

The Classic

1 tbl butter
1 pkg ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper, plus one additional small bell pepper chopped small
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 can tomato sauce or crushed tomato
2 cups cooked rice
Salt and pepper
1 cup grated parmesan and/or shredded mozzarella
Fresh basil to garnish

The Jambalaya

2 andouille sausages, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 chicken breast, also chopped into bite sizes
3 tbl cajun seasoning
1/2 onion, chopped small
2 stalks celery, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper, plus 1 additional bell pepper cut small
1 can tomato sauce or crushed tomato
Additional stock or water for consistency (up to 1 cup)
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup gruyere
Fresh parsley for garnish

The Ratatouille (Vegan)

1 tbl oil
1 dried bay leaf crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup mushrooms sliced
1 small eggplant, chopped small
1 zucchini sliced
1 carrot shredded
1/2 onion, chopped small
2 stalks celery, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper, plus one additional small bell pepper chopped small
1 can tomato sauce or crushed tomato
2 cups cooked rice
Vegetable stock as needed
1 cup breadcrumbs mixed with oil
Fresh basil, parsley, or tarragon to garnish

The Southwestern Turkey

1 tbl butter
1 pkg ground turkey
3 tbls taco seasoning
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper
1 cup corn kernels
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (or keep the seeds if you want it spicier)
1 can tomato sauce
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
Fresh cilantro to garnish

Cooking

Once the vegetables are all chopped, the process for cooking each of these is similar. Cook the proteins (or mushrooms) with the onions and garlic, as well as any dried herbs, spices, or seasoning mixes over medium high heat. Then add the rest of the vegetables, the tomato sauce, rice and any stock or water as needed. Let simmer on low for 20-30 minutes, until the stuffing is thick enough to spoon, but not dry (something like chili or other thick stew). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the filling into the peppers. Top them with bread crumbs or cheese and put them in a 350F oven for 30 minutes. Garnish with any fresh herbs and serve.

PREP!

Stuffed peppers make excellent meal preps! You can complete a recipe up until it is time to put them in the oven. Store them in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a month. When you are ready to cook them, defrost them in the fridge for the day and then cook them oven for 60 minutes at 350F.

Get well soon chicken soup

We’ve been ravaged by illness this week… some type of 24 hour bug that involves high fever and makes it hard to keep food down. When that happens, I make chicken soup.

Soup is the original one pan one process dish. It is really easy, although when you don’t feel good, it might seem like an insurmountable task. Trust me, the result is highly worth it. The science is with me on the benefits of chicken soup.

My recipe isn’t complex, but it does contain many powerhouse ingredients that can strengthen the immune system, including chicken, garlic, ginger, honey, cabbage, and spinach, plus a generous amount of fresh herbs.

First off, wipe off every door and toilet handle with a good cleanser. Wash your hands really well. Then get out your ingredients.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast
1/2 onion
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
3 carrots
1/4 head of green cabbage, sliced thin
1 1/2 cups of any other fresh, canned, or frozen veggies you happen have (celery, broccoli, spinach, peas, corn, water chestnuts, etc)
5-8 cups of water
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs honey
A handful of fresh or frozen herbs of your choice (parsley, basil, mint or cilantro tend to work best).
1 cup of small pasta or wild rice.
Salt and pepper
Paprika

Chop the onion fine and grate the ginger and garlic. In a large dutch oven or similar pot, put chicken and onions with some salt, pepper, and paprika, together and let them cook over high heat. You are looking for a caramel color (deep but not quite burned) on the meat. Be patient. This is where a lot of flavor comes from since we are not using chicken broth.

Add the garlic and ginger, soy sauce, honey and water. Start with 5 cups of water and add as much as you desire for your soup. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes. Add any and all of pasta or rice and the veggies except delicate veggies (e.g., spinach, frozen peas) and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add any additional veggies and the herbs. Stir and season to taste.

It’s too hot to cook. Arroz con pollo in a pressure cooker.

After a pretty mild summer, temps hit the hundreds for us late last week. So cooking anything must be weighed against how much harder the AC will have to work. Time to pull out the pressure cooker.

I like the pressure cooker a lot. It is the best tool to achieve perfect steamed artichokes (I might have already said this). But it is not always ideal. First, it takes up precious counter space, or alternatively, precious cabinet space. It is also a pain to clean, particularly the lid, which is made from multiple parts that must be disassembled. My husband had to convince me to get one because I thought everything could be done in a slow cooker.

He will be astounded to hear me say, I was wrong (don’t tell him).

Despite some hassles, the pressure cooker makes food more itself, if you know what I mean. Plus, you can brown and sauté food in the same pan, with very accurate and steady temperatures. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll know I love dishes that only require a single pan, and I do my best to pay attention to temperatures.

Here is some truth: I was not prepared to make this dish. In fact, I really had no idea what I was going to make for dinner that night. So the chicken and the stock were still frozen. The pressure cooker doesn’t care. The pressure cooker laughs at your foolish frozen items. It will cook them anyway.

OK that’s enough of an intro… let’s cook:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tbs butter
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
2 cups rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas
Cilantro to garnish

Defrost the chicken enough to get it out. Set the cooker to brown and add the chicken, generously seasoning with salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken and then remove. You don’t have to worry about ensuring it cooks all the way through, because you are going to add it back in with the rice.

Switch the cook instructions to sauté. Put a pat of butter in the cooker and sauté the onions and garlic. Add the rice and sauté until the rice starts to get a little translucent around the edges, maybe 5 minutes.

Add the stock, tomato sauce, paprika, and cumin, stirring gently. Here is my trick for ensuring I have the right level of liquid to rice. I stick my pinky (very clean) into the pot and touch just the top of the rice. The water level should come just up to the first joint line on my pinky.

Place the chicken on top and close the lid. Set the pressure cooker on high pressure for 10 minutes. When the timer is up, use the quick release valve.

When the pressure is gone, remove the lid and give the rice a stir. It might look like there is too much liquid on the top at first, but after a few minutes, that liquid redistribute and the result with be a really nice velvety sauce. Add the frozen peas while you stir (don’t worry, the mixture is surface-of-the-sun hot and will defrost those peas immediately). Garnish with cilantro as you dish it out.

A few changes I would make: I did not have saffron. I would have used either yellow rice or saffron to get that rich color expected from arroz con pollo. Also, other recipes call for a small amount of tomato paste rather than a full can of tomato sauce. That would also yield a more traditional color.

Still, this was a win in my book. It was perfect for a last minute dinner plan on a sweltering day.

Eat Moar Noodles!

Although I pride myself on being willing to try new things, the truth is I tend to circle the same recipes. I guess that is good and bad. It’s good because, in life, it is better to get really good at a few things rather than endlessly try new stuff and only churn out mediocre. I do have a few dishes that I’m very proud to have developed and honed to my taste.

That said, noodles are really popular in my house. I made pasta 3 times last week. So it can get a little monotonous. I decided to get some different kinds of noodles onto the menu.

Our local Island Pacific market is fantastic, so I took a little trip. Pancit is similar to Lo Mein. Pancit noodles are also called flour sticks or rice sticks, depending on the source of the noodle. I got the pancit canton, which are long, yellow, flour noodles packaged in a big nest. Pancit is a festive dish—the long noodles symbolizing long life. It is a celebration of bounty with a variety of vegetables, shellfish, and meats both fresh and preserved.

I did not come up with this recipe, but the final dish was born out of what was in my kitchen. Here are my ingredients:

1 pkg pancit canton
1 strip steak, purchased with the intention of a grill night that did not materialize.
1/2 head of Napa cabbage, chopped into 1/2 in. pieces
2 ribs of celery, bite sized
5-6 baby carrots (cut into long quarters)
1/2 medium onion
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 bunch of cilantro chopped
2 tbls of chicken bullion (I ran out of stock)
2 cups water
1 tbls of oyster sauce
2 tbls soy sauce (divided)
1/2 tbls Sambal Oelek
2 garlic cloves crushed

Assemble the marinade using half of the garlic, the Sambal Oelek, and 1 tbls soy sauce. Slice the beef very thin. The thinner the better, To get really thin slices, consider freezing your beef for 20 minutes (Only if it was not previously frozen!). Put it in the marinade and let sit while you chop the veggies. In addition, mix the chicken bullion with water, oyster sauce, and other tablespoon of soy sauce in a separate container and set aside.

Cook the beef in a large, very hot pan or wok with some oil. This should cook very fast. Remove to a plate. In the same pan cook the onions and garlic on medium until soft. Add the celery, carrots and cabbage to the sides and let them cook for a few minutes.

Then add the steak back in and nestle the noodles among the other ingredients. Add the cooking liquid (bullion, water, oyster sauce, and the rest of the soy sauce)

Cover the pot to let the noodles steam for about 5 minutes. Lift the lid, add the cilantro, and gently toss the noodles in with the veggies and meat.

Chicken kabob veggie bowls

A yogurt marinade makes for juicy delicious chicken, without the hassle of finding those kabob sticks you know you put somewhere…

NOTE: I had some gorgeous pictures of my kebab bowl, but they are lost to the tech gods due to an old phone that won’t update. Please enjoy images of these beautiful fruits and veggies from our local farmers market.

There’s a reason we usually do kabobs this on the grill. They spatter like crazy. But sometimes you can’t remember where those dang kabob sticks are. So you decide to improvise. I wanted mediterranean style kabobs and I went for the stove top. They still taste amazing because, although you miss the smoke flavor, this recipe is all about the marinade. Reserve 1/4 cup to drizzle over the bowl once it is assembled (warning, it has raw garlic, so vampires beware!)

Here is the recipe:

1 pkg boneless skinless chicken thighs (cut to bite sizes)
1 onion, cut large
1 pgk sliced mushrooms
1 zucchini sliced into half moons
Any other veggies you might have that are good in a stir fry. Broccoli, carrots, green beans, cabbage, etc.
Golden buttered rice, (cook 1 cup rice with 1 cup chicken stock, 1 cup water, 1 tbl butter, and 1 tsp turmeric)

Chicken Marinade:
1 cup plain greek yogurt
5 cloves of garlic crushed
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp paprika (I like smoked)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

Let the chicken sit in the marinade for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, heat a large skillet on high with a tablespoon of oil or butter. When skillet is hot add onion and mushroom into skillet and season with salt and pepper. Let the vegetables cook on high, flipping mushrooms and onions occasionally, to golden brown (add any long-cooking veggies to this step, e.g., carrots) as well. Add other veggies and cook to desired doneness.

Remove vegetables from skillet and set aside.

Add another tablespoon to the skillet and gently lay chicken in one layer, in batches if necessary. Allow to brown over medium high heat, making sure chicken is cooked thoroughly (no longer pink). Serve with golden buttered rice and veggies in a bowl.

Crockpot Chicken Chili 2 Ways

Two basic basic chili recipes are made more flavorful with fresh chili powder made from scratch.

Ok, there are three different recipes in this post so hold on to your hats! We have chili often at our house. It’s easy and pretty healthy. Serve chili with shredded cheese, green onions, chocolate chips, sour cream, avocado, and/or chopped tomatoes.

First up: the chili seasoning.

Make your own chili seasoning

3 dried ancho chiles
3 dried Pasilla chiles
3 dried Guajillo chiles

1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Choose some dried chiles from the market. I like a mix of Ancho, Pasilla, and Guajillo, for a sweet/smokey combo that isn’t too hot. Use a combo that makes sense to you, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

To prep the chiles, stem and seed them by cutting off the tops with kitchen shears and shaking or scraping out the seeds (SAFETY: Use gloves and be sure not to touch your eyes). Cut the chiles into small pieces and toast them in a dry pan over medium heat for 5 minutes until they become fragrant.

When the chilis are toasted, put them in a blender and grind them finely. Don’t open the container, and be sure to let the contents settle for a minute once they are done. Transfer the powder to a spice container and add the rest of the ingredients.

Note about the sugar: Not everyone adds sugar, but I like to play with salty sweet in my food. In addition, this makes an epic dry rub for tri-tip meant for the grill.

Fast and Easy Chicken Chili

1 lb of chicken tenders or breast
1/4 cup chili powder or chili seasoning (see below to make your own)
1 medium chopped onion
1 12 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
6-12 oz. water or broth
1 1/2 cups (1 can) pinto, navy, or black beans rinsed and drained
Optional: 1 bell pepper

Stew the chicken with onion chili seasoning, onion, bell pepper, sauce, and water for at least 4 hours on low. Add the beans 20 minutes before serving.

You can easily adapt this recipe for the stove top. Brown the chicken with the onions. After the chicken is cooked, add the seasoning and stir on high for 2-5 minutes. Add the other ingredients except the beans and cook on low for at least 1/2 hour. Be sure it comes to a strong simmer. Add the beans 5 minutes before serving.

All Day Bean and Bacon Chicken Chili

1/2 package of bacon cooked, drained, and chopped
1/1/2 cups (15 oz) dry beans of your choice
7 cups chicken broth or water
1 lb chicken breast
1 small/medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped.
1/4 cup chili seasoning, divided into 2 portions
1 can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce

Pour rinsed beans into slow cooker. Add the chicken, bacon, onion, green pepper, garlic, and half of the chili seasoning.

Add 7 cups of broth or water and put lid on slow cooker. Cook on high for 4-5 hours (or low for 8-9 hours). When beans are tender, add tomatoes and remainder of chili seasoning. Cook on low for an another hour.