Category Archives: Homestead Recipes

Jack O’ Lantern Stuffed Bell Peppers

jack o' lantern stuffed bell peppers

jack o’ lantern stuffed bell peppers

To parents, Halloween often means that candy becomes a major part of their children’s diet.  The amount is often dependent upon the amount of booty collected during trick or treating.  But besides candy, parents can offer up a festive treat at the dinner table, and all it takes is a little creative carving on a common vegetable… bell peppers.

orange bell peppers

orange bell peppers

Get ready folks for a kid-friendly meal, that comes with its own happy face.  Jack o’ lantern stuffed  bell peppers.  And to really tie in to the jack o’ lantern theme, use orange bell peppers for this dish.  Though you can use yellow or red peppers in a pinch.

Jack O’ Lantern Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 4 orange bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1  1/2 C. diced tomatoes or pasta sauce
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 C. Colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 C. Basmati rice, cooked
  • 1/2 C. water

Preheat oven to 375F.  As the oven heats, cut the top off of each bell pepper.  Select a nice-looking side of the peppers and carve out a jack o’ lantern face (eyes, nose, and mouth) on each.  But take care not to make the opening for the face too large.  The peppers need to be able to contain ‘stuffed’ filling.  Remove the seed and white membrane from the inside of the peppers as well as the base of the ‘top’ of the pepper.

carved jack o' lantern bell pepper

carved jack o’ lantern bell pepper

Place a large skillet on the stove set to medium heat.  Add the olive oil.  Once the oil begins to ripple on the surface, add the ground beef.  Saute until no longer pink.  Add in the onion and garlic.  Saute until the onion is translucent.  Add the cumin, chili powder, and salt.  Stir to combine. Next, add the tomatoes and cook for an additional five minutes.

ground beef onion and diced tomatoes

ground beef onion and diced tomatoes

Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.  Finally, stir in the Basmati rice.

Stuff each bell pepper and top each with bell pepper ‘lid’.  (Added style points if the stem is still attached).

Pour water into a 9 x 13 pan.  (Add more water if need to completely cover the bottom of the pan).  Place each jack o’ lantern stuffed pepper into the pan.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the pepper is tender.

Now you are ready to enjoy these festive, Halloween-inspired jack o’ lantern stuffed bell peppers.  They are sure to be a hit with your little ones.

Homemade Green Pork Chile

green pork chile

green pork chile

Late summer ushers in a garden favorite… chilis!  Yes, as warm days wind to a close, these spicy peppers make an appearance at road-side stands, farmers’ markets,  CSAs, grocery stores, and even backyard gardens across the country.  You see, chilis are an important part of a southwestern fall classic; green pork chile.

Now just any chili won’t work in this luscious dish.  My personal favorite are hatch chilis.  But if you do not have access to them, Big Jim and Anaheim work well.  You could even toss in a few jalapenos or a poblanos into the pot, but just make sure they are roasted.

Green Pork Chile

  • 2 lbs. of smoked pork, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of Hatch chilis, roasted/deseeded/skins removed & chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs of potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 – 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 3/4 C. tomatillo salsa
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • water (optional)

In a large stock pot over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the cumin, chilis, oregano, and salt.  Stir to combine.

roasted Hatch chilis

roasted Hatch chilis

Next, pour in the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes and the tomatillo salsa.  Cook until the potatoes are done (about 15 – 20 minutes).

Take a stick blender and blend part of the soup, leaving some vegetables in cubes or you can completely blend the mixture to your desired consistency.  (Personally, I like a thick chile).

Now add the pork, put a lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low.  Allow the green chili to cook for another 45 minutes, lifting the lid to stir occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If mixture is a little too thick for your taste, add in some water to thin.

smoked pork butt

smoked pork butt

Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired.

Remove chile from heat and serve.

NOTE: this is great eaten as a soup.  You may also serve it over cooked rice, burritos, or thick-cut wedge fries.

Spicy Cucumber Dill Pickles

canned spicy dill pickles

canned spicy dill pickles

Summer is generous.  She unfurls her leaves and offers up a variety of fruits, herbs, and vegetables.  Yes, eating is easy and it is fresh.  But with a wary glance to the sky, I note that it won’t always be summer.  You see… for as generous as she is…. she is quick to depart.  One killing freeze and those tender plants are done producing.

Cucumbers are a staple of the garden and farmer’s market.  These plants are prolific and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.  But for canning purposes, go with a variety that are best suited for pickling.  Some varieties include, but are not limited to the following:

Pickling Cucumber Varieties

  • Adam, F-1
  • A & C Pickling
  • Boston Pickling
  • Bushy
  • Chicago Pickling
  • Corporal Shmatko
  • Dar
  • De Bourbonne
  • Delikatesse
  • Double Yield
  • Longfellow
  • Monika
  • Muncher
  • National Pickling
  • Parade
  • Russian Pickling
  • Zimmerman

So my friends, it is time to dig out your canner and gather up cucumbers.  If you buy yours from a CSA, farmer’s market, or local grocery store, and are uncertain which cucumbers to buy, ask.  The farmer or grocer will help you make the best choice for your pickling needs.

Spicy Cucumber Dill Pickles

  •  9 – 12 pickling cucumbers, approximately 3″- 4″ long
  • 2 C. white vinegar (apple cider works well in a pinch)
  • 2 C. water
  • 2 tbsp. pickling salt (please DON’T use table salt)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 heads of fresh dill
  • 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 3 small dried chili peppers, such as cayenne

Items Needed for Canning

  • 3 pint jars
  • water bath canner
  • rims & lids for the jars
  • timer
  • jar lifter
  • cloth towel

    slicing ends off cucumber

    slicing ends off cucumber

Wash the cucumbers well as there may be bits of dirt clinging to the skin.  After they are washed, slice off both the stem end and the blossom end.  Quarter each cucumber lengthwise and set aside in a clean bowl.

sliced cucumber spears

sliced cucumber spears

Add water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a pan that you place on the stove.  Use a non-reactive pan, such as enamel, Pyrex, or stainless steel.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid.

In clean, sterilized, and warm jars, place a head of dill, two cloves of garlic, and a dried chili.

sterilized jar with dill head

sterilized jar with dill head

Place the cucumbers lengthwise into the jar (so the cucumbers are standing on end).  The cucumbers should fit snugly into the jars.

Pour the hot liquid from the pan into each jar, leaving 1/2″ headspace.

Place the jars in a water bath canner  that has already been brought to a boil.  Process the pint jars for 10 minutes if your elevations is less than 1,000 feet.  If you elevation is higher, adjust based on the following:

Canning Elevation Time*

  • 1,000 – 3,000 feet: add 5 minutes
  • 3,000 – 6,000 feet: add 10 minutes
  • 6,000 – 8,000 feet; add 15 minutes
  • 8,000 – 10,000: add 20 minutes

* Elevation time via the Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.

After you have processed the jars for the appropriate length of time based on your elevation, carefully remove the hot jars using the jar lifter and place them on a cloth towel spread on a flat surface away from any breeze.  Allow the jars to cool completely before handling.  As the jars begin to cool, you may hear the “ping” sound as the lid seals to the jar.  (Sometimes the jars ping as soon as they are removed from the canner and sometimes the ping occurs after several minutes).

For best results, we like to wait for at least six weeks prior to opening a jar to enjoy the pickles.  So go ahead and give this a try.  You can turn cucumbers into a spicy dill pickle.