Stuffed Peppers – Turkey-Quinoa… in a Crockpot – yikes!

Okay, I admit it.  Never had, nor never wanted a crockpot.  I love to cook, so I never saw the point.  Given that, we got one this year and I did make a delicious Chicken Chili Verde.  Although that worked well for that purpose, I still couldn’t think of any reason to use, or want to use, a crockpot.  As my dad and I talk about food and cooking most every time we talk, he told me he had just made stuffed peppers in a crockpot.  (That surprised me because I never knew the crockpot to be his go-to cooking method.) . I guess I was hungry when we talked because that sounded so good to me, and I knew I’d make enough for a few to go into my freezer pantry.   Today being Father’s Day, though my father is 3,000 miles away, was the day I put crockpot stuffed peppers to the test!  Results:  AWESOME!

3.5 hours on high in the crockpot, then 20 minutes in the oven at 400F (I couldn’t help myself because to me it’s all about the golden color and added texture/taste.) . Here you have it, healthy, delicious, nutritious Turkey, Quinoa, Spinach, Feta, Crimini Mushroom, and Diced Tomato stuffed peppers!

(I had enough extra stuffing left for about 4 more peppers, so I made those directly in the oven.  Same result, but with 2+ hours with lots of checking, covering/uncovering, removing liquid, etc.)

Still not a crockpot convert, but it will be my go to cooking method the next time I’m craving stuffed peppers!  (Stuffed peppers allow you the freedom to put whatever you want in them, so get creative and have fun.  If you want more information about these peppers, let me know.)

Buon appetito!


Garden Goodness – Fresh Roasted Tomato Sauce

Nothing says summer like fresh veggies from the garden!  When the abundance of cherry/grape tomatoes is too much to eat now or even give away, why not make this quick and easy (1, 2, 3) fresh roasted tomato sauce?  You can enjoy some of it over your favorite pasta today – and freeze in small containers to enjoy when you’re yearning for a taste of summer!

  1. Wash and dry (remove stems) cherry/grape tomatoes
  2. Toss with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper on a sheet pan – roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes start to caramelize and the juices escape onto the pan.  Cool slightly after removing from oven.
  3. Blend in food processor, little by little, along with a couple of garlic cloves, a handful of Italian parsley, a few tablespoons of olive oil, and more kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

That’s it!  Enjoy over your favorite pasta and bite into summer goodness!

Truly is as easy as 1, 2, 3 – and 4 – Buon Appetito!

Bowl of Fresh Picked Heirloom Tomatoes

Fresh Picked Heirloom (Cherry) Tomatoes

Sheet Pan of Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Roasted Heirloom (Cherry) Tomatoes

Picture of Roasted Heirloom (Cherry) Tomato Sauce

Roasted Heirloom (Cherry) Tomato Sauce

Picture of spaghetti with fresh roasted tomato sauce

Voila!


Apples into Applesauce!

You’ve heard of turning lemons into lemonade, well here’s a quick and easy way of turning apples into applesauce!  Every have apples sitting on the counter long beyond their ‘shelf life’?  Or apples that were pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten?  What did you do?  Compost?  Trash? STOP!  Turn your old (or new) apples into homemade delicious applesauce!  It’s as easy as 1) Peel and chop apples, 2) Place in small sauce pan on stove top with a little water (1/4 cup?) and a dash or two or cinnamon, 3) Boil/simmer until tender.  At that point, I use a potato masher to turn them into a chunky applesauce.  (You can keep cooking and blend cooked apples to get more of a pureed consistency, but when it comes to homemade, I like the chunky style.)  Enjoy!Chopped Apples

Picture of pan on stove with chopped apples and cinnamon

Chopped Apples/Cinnamon

Picture of homemade chunky apple sauce

Homemade Apple Sauce

 

 


Christmas Eve Dinner

Light, healthy, simple, and delicious!  (Recipes compliments of Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis)  Started off with Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms (Ina-recipe in a previous post on August 17, 2013) followed by Swordfish and Pancetta kabobs (Swordfish Spiedini – Giada), Warm French Lentils (Ina Garten) and a few arugula leaves tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette.

IMG_0925

I purchased fresh swordfish from Blue Water on India Street in San Diego.  (Awesome place if you haven’t been.)  Cut swordfish into 1×1 in. cubes and toss in a bowl with a few TBSP olive oil and a couple TBSP herbs de provence.  Insert about 4 pieces onto each skewer (previously soaked in water for 30 minutes) with very thin cut pancetta threaded throughout.  When ready to cook, place on very hot grill (stove top or outdoor) and turn onto each side for about 2 minutes per side.  The fish is done perfectly and the pancetta is nicely crisped!  Rest for a minute or two, then ready to serve.

The lentils are a staple in our house, and I thought they’d pair well with the swordfish for a light (and healthy) dinner.  Saute a couple carrots (1/2-inch chopped)  and one chopped leek (white and light green parts) in olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Add one chopped garlic clove and saute for an additional minute.  Set aside.  Bring 4 cups water to a boil with 1 cup dry lentils, 1 turnip (cut in half) and one whole (peeled) onion stuck with 6 cloves.  Once boiling, add the carrots and leeks, reduce heat, and simmer about 20 minutes until lentils are tender.  Discard turnip and onion, strain lentil mixture, and toss in a bowl with 1 tsp. unsalted butter.  In a separate bowl, make a Dijon vinaigrette.  (1/4 cup olive oil, 2 TBPS red wine vinegar, 4 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 TBSP kosher salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper.  Add warm lentils to vinaigrette, toss, and let stand for about 15 minutes.  Ready to enjoy!

Christmas Eve dinner was light and satisfying, with the extra indulgence of Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms and homemade Christmas cookies for dessert!


Got Basil?

Make Pesto!  I love having ready-made pesto on hand in the freezer.  You can add a couple of tablespoons to cooked pasta for a fast and delicious mid-week meal, or I use it regularly as the “sauce” on my pizza.  Pesto might seem like a big undertaking, but it couldn’t be easier – and you can take all the credit for making it!  There are a variety of ways to make pesto, but I usually make mine with the basics:  basil, garlic, toasted pine nuts or walnuts, lemon juice, grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and a little salt and pepper.  Mix all that up in food processor – and you’ve got pesto.  (You can also add in some fresh cut Italian parsley, if you wish, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes add a nice kick!)

I don’t use exact measurements, as much of the flavor and taste is to your liking, but I use a generous amount of basil leaves, maybe enough to loosely fill a standard-sized food processor, a couple of garlic cloves (roughly chopped), the juice from 1/2 to 1 lemon, a handful of the toasted nuts, a couple of handfuls of grated cheese, and a little salt and pepper.  After you get that going in the food processor, add in the olive oil as the food processor is doing it’s thing.  You’ll want to keep adding the olive oil until you get a nice creamy texture.  Shouldn’t be too “soupy”, but you don’t want it too pasty, either.  You’ll find the consistency that works for you.  You might use 1/2-3/4 cup of olive oil.

Try it!  You really can’t go wrong!  (Don’t forget the dash of red pepper flakes for the extra something something!)

I use an ice cube tray to freeze the pesto into cubes (about a heaping tablespoon each).  After they are frozen, you can put them into a freezer bag for easy access, a couple at a time.  They defrost in a small dish on the countertop in no time!  Buon Appetito!

Pesto

Pesto Penne with Italian Sausage


Tasty Accompaniments

Try these tasty accompaniments to add flavor to a variety of dishes:  Balsamic Vinegar Reduction and Hot Chili Oil – Both incredibly easy to prepare and very versatile!

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction:  Use any amount of basic grocery store balsamic vinegar (I buy the small jug at Trader Joe’s).   Simmer over medium heat until the liquid is reduced to about half the amount and the end result is a free-flowing balsamic syrup.  Adds great flavor to caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil), sandwiches, roasted chicken and meats, salad dressing, and a variety of other uses where you want to add a little tang!  I use a wooden skewer or chop stick as a measuring device (before and during the simmer process) to figure the reduction in liquid to half the amount I start with.  It doesn’t matter how much balsamic you start with, the end result is about half that much!

Let it cool – then store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a couple of months or more.  Best if it sits out a few minutes before each use to take the chill off and bring out the flavor.

Hot  Chili Oil:  2 cups of olive oil and a 1/4-1/2 cup red pepper flakes.  Simmer over medium heat until it reaches 180F on a thermometer.  Let it cool and strain it into a decorative (or not) bottle.  Mine keeps on the countertop in a clear olive oil bottle with pour spout.  I use it as a starter for mushrooms and most anything I’m going to saute in a little olive oil.  Adds great heat to any dish.  (I make mine with 1/2 cup red pepper flakes, but my mother always thought it was hot/spicy enough with 1/4 cup flakes to 2 cups olive oil.)  Make yours to your liking – and enjoy!


Sunday Cooking

Today was a pretty typical Sunday with food preparations for the week – and beyond.  In about 2.5 hours, I made several dishes that will be enjoyed for lunch and dinner throughout the week – with a lot left over to freeze for use later this month.  Here’s what I made today:

Breaded Chicken Cutlet Tenders (that I “tendered” myself from 4 boneless/skinless breasts that were on sale).  I probably ended up with 25 pieces of crispy golden chicken.

Breaded Chicken Cutlets - So versatile!

Stuffed Artichokes

Sauce and Meatballs

The great thing about prepping items such as these is the chicken, artichokes, and meatballs have basically the same ingredients in them:  bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, italian parsley, kosher salt, pepper, and a little extra virgin olive oil.  As I was prepping the stuffing for the artichokes, I was also prepping the breading for the chicken and mixing the meatballs.  These versatile ingredients are absolute staples that I always have on hand.

… and finally, some fresh-made Cavatelli (Italian pasta, similar to gnocchi, but made with ricotta cheese instead of potato).  Sounds like a big undertaking, but really couldn’t be easier.  3 Ingredients to make this hearty delicious pasta:  Small container of Ricotta Cheese, 1 egg, and about a cup and a half of flour (added to the mixer bit by bit until the dough forms and is dry enough to work with).

The following pictures show the progression in making the Cavatelli.

Step 1 – Pasta Dough Ready to Roll

Step 2 – Roll it Out

Step 3 – Ready to Cook or Freeze

Step 4 – Cavatelli – Ready to Eat!

What we ended up eating for dinner was the Cavatelli and Meatballs, along with some crusty bread and a salad, and the other items will be enjoyed during the week as lunch and a variety of dinner entrees.