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!


Ready for the week ahead – and beyond!

Another fun day in the kitchen getting ready for the week ahead, putting a twist on an old favorite and sharing a nutritious breakfast cookie that’s perfect for those days you’re running out the door!

You know I’m a big fan of the versatile breaded chicken tender, so today I thought about preparing eggplant in the same way to make Eggplant Parmesan.  The original recipe shared back in 2011 starts by lightly frying the eggplant slices on the stovetop before assembling.  Today I decided to start with breaded eggplant slices that I baked in the oven before putting the layers together.  I even made some more of my favorite chicken tenders while I was at it!

Picture of breaded eggplant slices

Breaded Eggplant Slices

Picture of breaded baked chicken tenders

Breaded Chicken Tenders

 

 

 

 

As I was in and out of the refrigerator, I remembered I had some fresh basil that I bought last week to make the Basil & Goat Cheese Chicken Breasts, so in staying true to form with ‘never throwing anything away,’ in the food processor went the basil leaves and PRESTO, out come a few small containers of PESTO!

Picture of 3 small containers of basil pesto

Basil Pesto

 

 

 

 

Finally, I made another double batch of these delicious and nutritious Peanut Butter Power Cookies.  I found this recipe last August when I was looking for an ‘on the go’ breakfast treat to share as we headed out on a small group trip, and these have been a staple in our house from then on.  A double batch makes about 30 cookies, so I store them in the freezer and they are ready anytime.  I grab a couple to eat in the early morning hours on my way to the gym – feeling good about it all the way there!

Picture of Peanut Butter Power Cookies

Peanut Butter Power Cookies

 

Ready for the week ahead – and I hope you are, too!  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

 

 


Savory Tart – Ricotta and Carrot

This recipe (with slight revisions/omissions) came straight from April 2015 Bon Appetit magazine – Carrot and Ricotta Tart!

Carrot_Ricotta_Tart

Carrot_Ricotta_Tart

Start by washing and peeling 3-4 large carrots, then slice each carrot into thin coins.  Peel and thinly slice 2 large shallots (which I used instead of onion.)  Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a skillet and saute the shallot (with Kosher Salt and Black Pepper) until lightly browned (about 5 minutes) then add the carrots and continue cooking for another 2 minutes, then set aside.

Defrost/thaw one sheet frozen Puff Pastry, lightly roll out on parchment paper (just to seal the creases,) and score a one-inch border around the pastry shell.  Transfer parchment paper to baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 400F until puffy and light golden brown.  Meanwhile, whisk a 15-oz container of Ricotta Cheese with 1/2 cup Heavy Cream.  When tart comes out of the oven, spread the ricotta cheese mixture onto the tart, inside the one-inch border.  Then top with the carrot/shallot mixture – and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until pastry shell is a deep golden brown.  (Carrots will also be cooked through at this point.)  When the tart comes out of the oven, sprinkle with fresh chopped chives, and additional (Kosher or Sea) salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cool, cut, and serve!  (Note:  You end up with a thick layer of ricotta mixture on this tart.  If you prefer a thinner layer, you might be able to stretch these same ingredients into two pastry tarts.)

This served as an interesting, creative, and delicious start to our friend Christine’s birthday dinner!  Buon Appetito!


Spaghetti Squash – Twice Baked!!!

Until recently, I had never eaten spaghetti squash, let alone cook with it.  I recently shared an appetizer of Spaghetti Squash Parmesan with my friend Sylvia and I was hooked!  Check out my take on this easy, delicious, and nutritious (I’m sure) recipe:

Twice_Baked_Spaghetti_Squash

Twice_Baked_Spaghetti_Squash

Wash and cut (lengthwise) one spaghetti squash. With a tablespoon, scoop out and discard seeds and stringy interior from center of squash.  Lightly coat cut surface and interior with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.  Place cut side down on parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes to one hour at 375F.  You’ll know it’s ready when a knife can be easily inserted into the center of the squash.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes until you can comfortably handle the squash.  Using the tines of a fork, scrape along the interior (down to the skin) of the squash, peeling away ‘spaghetti-like’ strands of squash.  Remove to a bowl and toss with the red sauce of your choice and 2-3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  Once squash is well coated with sauce, scoop back into the squash shells, top with Mozzarella cheese, return to parchment lined baking sheet – and continue baking at 375F for another 10-15 minutes (until cheese is melted.)

Let stand to cool for a few minutes – and enjoy!  Pair with a mixed salad, crusty Italian bread, and a glass of red wine!  Delicioso!


Sunday, Fun Day, SOUP!!

It was anything but cold here in San Diego this past weekend, but it is winter – and with that comes the craving for delicious nutritious soup!  You know my freezer is always stocked with homemade soup selections, so it was time to restock!  Here’s what came from two chickens and a few vegetables:

4 Quarts Chicken Soup, 5 Quarts Roasted Chicken Lentil Soup, Chicken Salad, and Roasted Chicken (with sweet potatoes) for dinner!

Chicken Soup/Roasted Chicken Lentil Soup

Chicken Soup/Roasted Chicken Lentil Soup

The recipe for this lentil soup is straight from Ina Garten’s Vegetable Lentil Soup recipe, with the added deliciousness of  shredded roasted chicken!  Either way, it’ll warm you up!

Roasted!

 

 

 

 

 

Lentil and Roasted Chicken Soup
(Vegetarian – Omit the Roasted Chicken)
1 pound lentils
3 large yellow onions
2 leeks, white parts only (chopped)
3 cloves garlic – minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBSP Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp. ground cumin
8 celery stalks – ½-inch chop
6 carrots – ½-inch chop
3 quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Bone-In Roasted Chicken Breasts (shredded) – optional

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, sauté the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and shredded chicken.   Serve hot, sprinkled with grated Parmesan.
 

Versatile Chicken!  I love to make chicken salad with roasted chicken, so I cut up the two chickens, roasted the 4 breast halves with the legs and wings, used the two backs and all the thighs for the chicken soup.  Two of the roasted chicken breast halves were shredded for the Lentil soup, and the other two were chopped and combined with some chopped celery, carrots, walnuts, dried cranberries, a dash each of Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and cumin, along with a couple spoonfuls of mayo – and voila – Roasted Chicken Salad!

Treat yourself to a Sunday, Fun Day in the kitchen – and reap the reward with meal after meal!

Your freezer IS your pantry – saving money, saving time!