A site for sore tastebuds and a woeful wallet

Posts tagged “life

Meat and Veggie Stuffed Bell Peppers

If you are looking for a low-carb dinner that explodes with  flavor, you could do this tonight or do-ahead for tomorrow night.  These ingredients are in a lot of our refrigerators and on our counter tops:

  • One large carrot, finely diced
  • One large rib celery, finely diced
  • One medium onion finely diced.
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • One and a half pounds lean ground beef
  • One cup shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • Five or six bell peppers cut in half pole to pole and de-seeded (it’s best to cut a bit off center, just missing the stem making each half a cup that won’t leak).
  • One slightly beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 2 tablespoons A-1 steak sauce or the steak sauce of your choice.
  • 1 tablespoon dry Italian herb mix (parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, sage).
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste thinned with a splash of red wine or apple cider vinegar.

In a large skillet pour in olive oil enough to coat the bottom well and when it’s hot cook up the Holy Trinity of carrot, celery and onion with a pinch of salt and pepper until it browns on the edges a bit and let cool.  Get your bell peppers lined up and ready to stuff because it’s going to get messy (but in a healthy way).  Did you know a bell pepper has twice the vitamin C as an orange?

Let’s build strong bodies! In a large bowl add in the meat and all the other ingredients except for the tomato paste mixture; that’s for topping at the end.  By hand (don’t forget to take off your rings), squish everything together, including the cooked and somewhat cooled vegetable mixture.

Don’t rinse off yet! Pick up a good size hunk of this meat mixture and smash it into the bell pepper half-shells.  Hopefully you come out even.  If not, you have a great burger to fry up tomorrow or you get to slice up a half-shell of bell pepper for a healthy snack.  I came out even with ten good size half-shells to stuff.  If you are doing ahead just wrap them up on a platter or shallow pan and pop them on the heat when you are ready.  They’ll keep a day or two if you work with very fresh beef.

These could be baked for about 45 minutes in a 350°F oven or better yet, get the grill fired up outside and grill for 45 minutes; lid down and with off-set flame.  The latter method adds tons more flavor.  If you can’t grill you could add a few drops liquid smoke when you’re mixing things together if you like that smokey flavor.

Once the peppers are cooked through, top them with the tomato paste mixture, shut off the flame or oven and let them hang out a while in the remaining heat.

Time to plate up.!   Each Pepper (two halves serving) is a delicious, self contained, healthy, balanced meal.   You’re going to love how easy and tasty and guilt free these stuffed peppers are!

100_1882

Advertisements

Harvest Time Black and White Bean Chili

Here we are at the end of the growing season.  The last of the tomatoes and peppers are picked, the onions are cured and the sweet potatoes dug up.  These are some of the ingredients which make a delicious, nutritious, core warming pot of chili.  This is how it is done:

  • Peel and dice a tennis ball size sweet potato in cubes no bigger than a pea.
  • Dice an onion
  • Add two tablespoons olive oil to a nice size pot (I used a wok) and get it good and hot.
  • Toss in the potato cubes and onion, let them sizzle a bit, and add a seasoning of salt and pepper
  • Toss in a heaping handful of grape tomatoes and heat them until they burst out of their skins.
  • Add a pound of lean ground beef a half packet of chili seasoning and brown the meat.
  • Drain off just the top liquid of a can of  black beans and Northern beans and add them to the pot.
  • Add a can of diced tomatoes with all the juice and stir it to pull up anything that sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  • Season further with about two tablespoons soy sauce, a teaspoon of habanero hot sauce, a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, a teaspoon of paprika and one of cumin, then toss in two bay leaves.
  • Stir all the spices in and simmer.
  • In a small pan cook off a diced medium bell pepper in a tablespoon of butter (this will add another dimension of flavor) and when the butter is nicely brown and the pepper is tender, add it all to the pot.
  • Cover and let simmer for about thirty minutes to marry together all these super flavors.

Unbutton your flannel shirt a bit because you will be warmed up to the core by this tasty bowl of harvest goodness.  Some people add sugar to chili to cut the acidity of the tomatoes but the tiny cubes of sweet potato do the job very well and help it thicken to a nice stewey consistency.  With that and the cumin there is a hint of Moroccan aroma.  The soy sauce disappears and transforms into pure umami along with the browned butter.  The black and white beans make it look so happy and the taste has as many layers as the bullet points above.

Try this when ever there is a chill in the air threatening frost.  The cold will melt away in the warmth of your kitchen …and your tummy.

100_1878


A Comforting Stew

An enamel cast iron pot is the best tool in the kitchen when making a stew.  Today, looking over the canned tomatoes of last season, I thought they would make a great meal for my hubby who was sleeping to get ready for duty on the midnight shift.  I had two hours to put something together and since it would be a chilly night a comforting stew would get him through it.

In St. Louis we celebrate the pork steak it is a cut from the shoulder which in other regions is called the butt which makes no sense to me whatsoever.  If you slice this butt into steaks there you have it; the pork steak.  It is a very forgiving cut of meat which can be cooked in many ways.  Grilling is a great way to cook them but I didn’t want to go out back at night and contend with the orb weaver spiders that do fast work in the dark putting a web up always at eye level and always somewhere between the door and the grill.  So, inside. I got out the trusty enameled pot, cut up a huge steak into nice sized chunks, seasoned them with a little salt and pepper and seared them in olive oil a bit on each side.

This left a great flavorful browned place to cook off the vegetables.  I removed the meat to the side, added a bit more olive oil and dumped in some nicely diced onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, mushroom and zucchini, a hand full of fresh spinach and a clove or two of smashed garlic. A touch of Italian herb seasoning got the good smells really going.  They sizzled away in the well heated pot until they all became caramelized a bit.  To cool them down and get that browning rinsed away off the bottom I added a quart of those canned tomatoes still with their summer fresh taste and all that juice. It was easy to chunk them up with a spatula into nice pieces.  With eight different plants in one pot, this stuff has to be good for you!

Next, the meat went back in (chicken could have also been used) and I lowered the flame to a nice low simmer and let it go with a lid on until Jeff got up for work.  A bit groggy, he was slowly roused out of this state with the smells that filled the kitchen.  After suiting up for duty, he was sent on his way with a really nice to-go meal to keep him going until six a.m.

I woke up the next morning to the sweetest hugs and kisses from my favorite policeman on earth.  I know that stew was good and indeed comforting, but dang!


A Salad You’ve Never Had

I had the munchies and was poking around the kitchen for something sweet and salty and satisfying.  Then this happened:

  • I sliced a nice red delicious apple into match sticks on my fancy new Tupperware mandolin
  • I sliced one rib of celery
  • I added a blop of mayonnaise (about 2 Tbsp) thinned with a splash of apple cider vinegar.
  • Then about 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese went in
  • Sprinkled in a bit of Cajun seasoning
  • Added in about an ounce of smoked almonds
  • Mixed it all up and garnished with paprika

Stunning!  The cajun spice and smoky salty almonds were a delightful surprise.  Added with the sweetness of apples, and brightness of the apple cider mayonnaise dressing, the balance I was looking for happened in a super tasty way.

 

My husband and I feasted on this salad as our dinner. It was quite satisfying. No more munchies and best of all no heating up the kitchen on a humid 95° day.

Preparation doesn’t take very long if you have a good mandolin and the main ingredients are fresh produce.  Isn’t that what summer is about?  Earth to table dishes are the best.


Chicken Cordon Bleu Scramble

We all need something to put the steam in our engine for the entire day, so I encourage everyone to try this to give you powerful protein-filled strength tomorrow morning.

The term “cordon bleu” refers to the highest rank of knights instituted by King Henri III of France in 1578.  These knights wore a sash of blue to distinguish themselves and this simple breakfast will bolster you with all the fortitude of which those cordon bleu knights ever dreamed.

In just five minutes you can strengthen you day with these few ingredients:

  • one egg, whisked
  • 2 oz. diced grilled chicken breast
  • 2 oz. diced cooked ham
  • 1 oz. diced or shredded Swiss cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish with fresh spinach

Get a small skillet and pour a whisper of olive oil in and get the heat going until little ripples can be seen in the oil.  Add your meats.  Get them good and warm. Add the egg and the cheese and scramble it all together until the eggs are set.  Shut the flame and let the heat of the pan gently melt the Swiss cheese.  Stir in a tiny pat of butter to finish and tumble it all onto your plate and season to taste.

100_1870

This is one of those dishes with that great idiot-proof factor.  No matter your cooking skills, this one can be done on the fly with nothing but the tastiest of results.  If ham, or meat for that matter, isn’t your thing, play around.  Use mushrooms and onions.  Try beef or veal.  You can’t go wrong.  Don’t like cheese?  Use roasted peppers and garlic. What ever you choose, you will have a blue ribbon winning breakfast and the energy of the highest appointed knight to fuel your morning.


Pork Loin Cutlets with Naked Egg Rolls

Cooking any type of cutlet is a simple process in the skillet; add a little oil, season the meat and sear on both sides until slightly firm to the touch.  I seasoned these pork loin cutlets with salt, pepper, a dash of soy sauce and mirin (a sweet white wine vinegar).  You have to be very watchful with a sweet marinate as it burns quickly.

I put four cutlets in the skillet as not to crowd the pan and get too much juice rendering and boil the meat.  You want it to brown nicely on both sides. Again, be attentive.  It only takes a few minutes to get done on high to medium high.  When the meat is nearly done be ready to deglaze with a splash of water and a lid to contain the steam.  Let the meat rest a short time to finish cooking under the lid until it feels like the middle of your out stretched palm, not squishy like the heel of your hand.  Remove the meat to finish resting aside on the counter.  That splash of water really brings the browning off the skillet and gives you a rich bit of brown broth.  I added another splash to get it all.  A little salt and pepper and another dash of soy sauce made about a third cup of sauce to cook the naked egg rolls in.

So what’s a naked egg roll?  It’s all the yummy goodness of the inside of an egg roll without the wrapper.  Here’s what you do:

  • In one big bowl, grate one half a head of cabbage.
  • Grate two medium carrots.
  • Finely dice an onion.
  • Finely dice some celery, leaves and all.  Use at least one rib; two if they are small.
  • Laugh a bit because the above sounds like something Dr. Seus would say.
  • Cook down the prepared vegetables in that third cup of juice and cover with the lid, adding a bit of water every now and then.  You want it to just scorch between water additions and bring out the sweetness of the aromatic veggies.
  • When the vegetables are quite tender and nicely caramelized around the edges lower the heat, beat one egg in a small bowl and pour it over the veggies.
  • Stir everything until the egg is set then add a few good dashes of soy sauce, some pepper, powdered ginger, and powdered garlic to taste (about half a teaspoon each).
  • Put the lid on and let it sit a while with the flame off then fluff it up here and there to distribute the seasoning.
  • Go back to the cutlets and pour the juice that will have collected on the plate into the veggies and stir that good flavor back in the skillet.
  • Plate up and enjoy a healthy, lean, low carb. delicious meal.

100_1865

Bonus:  If you don’t use all the cabbage mixture in the bowl you can add

  • about three tablespoons apple cider vinegar,
  • two tablespoons sugar
  • a teaspoon of poppy seed
  • a half teaspoon of salt
  • a healthy dollop of mayonnaise; about a quarter cup.

Stir all that together and let the ingredients marry in the fridge for a great side of coleslaw at your next meal.

100_1869


Chicken Tikka Masala the Easy Way

I love Indian food!  It is so full of flavor and aroma but I don’t always have the spices they use on hand.  I don’t know why.  I suppose I’ve been conditioned.  I suppose I’m an American used to a different set of spices.  Well, since they say, “Variety is the spice of life”, the same is true in the variety of spices.  Certain spices make foods come alive.  A little piece of chicken breast can become a masterpiece of taste with the right combination of spice in the sauce.  Places around the world have their unique flavors like Mexican cuisine, Italian, Moroccan, Chinese, Tai; but the Indian spices really are my favorite.  I found a little jar of Tikka Masala simmering sauce on an end-cap at the store and decided to try it. This is what happened.

This little chicken breast got all dressed up with just a few ingredients.

  • First I made cutlets of the chicken; little medallion size pieces seared in a skillet until just firm.  that takes about 3-4 minutes per side
  • Next, I removed the chicken, set it aside and replaced them with a bag of frozen fajita veggies; multi-colored peppers and onion and stir fried them.  That took about ten minutes
  • Then I put in half the jar of the Tikka Masala sauce (about 2/4 cup) and tossed the chicken back in for a swim.
  • Wow! the smell of India just happened!  When everything simmered together for a couple of minutes I was ready to dive in.
  • I plated up a serving and garnished it with raisins, peanuts and a sprinkle of shaved coconut.  YUUUUM!

This magic sauce is made of tomato puree, yogurt, coconut cream and those lovely curry, corriander, cardamom, and garlic spices so prevalent in the Indian cooking.  I’m not a person who goes for pre-fabbed foods and I really want to come up with my own Tikka Masala sauce some day, but this lovely dish took a mere twenty minutes start to finish.  Every bite was such an explosion of flavor!  I hope you try  it.  You won’t be disappointed.