Category Archives: Main Dish

Jack O’ Lantern Stuffed Bell Peppers

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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.

Easy Asian Saute

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I think about this all day.   It fills my thoughts as I do chores and run errands.  But yet I smile as dinner time approaches.  Is it because someone is picking up fast food?  No.  Perhaps there is a ready-to-eat processed meal waiting for the microwave?  No.  Did elves magically appear and create a meal?  Nope.  What has me smiling is that one of my favorite meals can be made from scratch and tastes as though you spent all day cooking.

My favorite go to meal?  Easy Asian Saute.

During my childhood, I grew up on instant rice.  I honestly thought that is how rice is supposed to taste and that is what its texture was like…. until I went to college and had rice that needed to cook longer than just 10 minutes.  The texture light and it had a slightly nutty flavor.  And the aroma… oh… the aroma was heady.  Yes, this is what rice is supposed to be.

cooked rice

cooked rice

One of my time savers is a rice cooker.  This countertop appliance takes the guess-work out of making rice.  My unit has settings for a wide variety of rice:  brown rice, sushi rice, white rice, etc…  It takes the guess-work out of making rice on the stove top.  Plus, it has a timer so I can put the rice and water in the cooker, set the time when I want the rice to be done (say 6:00pm for dinner) and leave for work or go do errands.

Easy Asian Saute

  • 4 C. rice, cooked
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 C. broccoli florets
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • salt to taste

Place a large pan over medium heat.   Saute onion until translucent.  Add carrot, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Now add red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and broccoli.  Cook until the broccoli turns a bright green color, then remove pan from heat.  Taste and add salt if needed.

sautéed vegetables

sautéed vegetables

Place 1 C. of  into 4 bowls.  Top with the sautéed vegetables.  Enjoy while hot!

NOTE: the rice can be cooking (whichever method you prefer) while you prepare and saute the vegetables.

This recipe is a great way to enjoy fresh produce from your garden, CSA share, or farmers’ market.  Feel free to try different vegetables such as green beans, sugar peas, zucchini, and eggplant.

Easy Asian Saute is quick and easy to prepare.  Enjoy the flavors of summer for dinner tonight!

Easy Asian Saute

Easy Asian Saute

Mushroom Pizza: Better than Delivery

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Pizza.  Oh that word conjures up images of hot, heavenly slices.  Melting cheeses.  Fresh ingredients.  Fabulous crust.  Does any other food have the mystic quality that can bring everyone to the table?

slice of mushroom pizza

slice of mushroom pizza

But before you hit the speed dial for delivery, take heart.  You can make great tasting pizza at home.  With a little planning ahead and prepping of ingredients, you can be serving crave-worthy pizza to your family.

The basis of any great pizza is the crust.  While ready made crusts exit in the grocery stores, opt for making it fresh at home.  And as a helpful hint, I tend to make a double recipe so I have plenty of dough that I can freeze for later.

One of my favorite pizza crust recipes is from the magazine Pizza on the Grill: 75 Fire-Roasted Recipes for Pizza and More from the publishers of Fine Cooking.

Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 1 C. lukewarm water (plus little extra)
  • 1/4 C. olive oil (plus a little extra)
  • 1 tsp. sugar or honey
  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 3 C. unbleached flour  (plus a little extra)
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Place the water, olive oil, and sugar in a container. ( NOTE: lukewarm is typically between 85F and 100F.  Be sure that the temperature is not too high or you run the risk of killing the yeast when it is added.)  Sprinkle the yeast across the top of the liquid mixture.  It should ‘bloom’ and look foamy.  This process will take about 5 minutes.

While the yeast is blooming, combine the flour and salt in a separate container.  Next, add the water/yeast mixture  to it 1/2 C. at a time.  Stir until the wet ingredients are well incorporated into the dry ingredients.

If the resulting dough feels stiff, add a little bit of water (1/2 – 1 tsp.)  If the dough is sticky, sprinkle a little extra flour across the top (starting with 1 tbsp.)  Weather and the time of year can effect the dough.  For example: during the summer, it tends to be a little sticky due to the humidity.  Just make the adjustments and your final dough will be fine.

Continue to mix the dough until it begins to feel elastic.  Sprinkle a little flour on work surface such as a large cutting board, pastry cloth, or kitchen counter.  Place the dough on the flour and knead for at least 1 – 2 minutes.  The dough should feel smooth and elastic.

pizza dough rising

pizza dough rising

Place a little olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl.  Add the ball of dough and roll it around in the bowl to coat with oil.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm location.  (During the winter, I place the bowl on the hearth of our fireplace and that works quite well.)  Allow the dough to rise until double in size.  This may take 1 – 2 hours.

After the dough has risen.  Place it on a floured surface and knead for 1 – 2 minutes.  Divide the dough into 2, equal sized balls.

The rest of the pizza making process is based on my equipment and preferences and no longer refers to the magazine.

Roll out 1 ball of dough to approximately 12″.  Sprinkle corn meal on a pizza pan or pizza stone.  (The corn meal helps ensure that the pizza dough does not stick to the pan or stone.)  Place the wheel of dough on the pan or stone.   Dock the dough with a fork.  Now drizzle 1 1/2 tsp. of olive oil across the dough.  Place the pizza dough in an oven pre-heated to 425F.  Bake the pizza crust for 7 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  (By pre-baking the crust, you are helping to ensure a crisp crust.)

Mushroom Pizza Topping

  • 3 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 oz. shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/3 C. yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tblsp. olive oil, plus 1 1/2 tsp.
  • 1/2 C. mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/3 C. Parmesan, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • corn meal
sauted mushrooms, onions, and garlic

sauted mushrooms, onions, and garlic

Place a pan over medium heat.  Add 2 tbsp. olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion.  Saute for 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent, then added the mushrooms, garlic, and dried thyme.  Continue to cook for another 5 – 7 minutes.  The mushrooms should be cooked long enough that they release their moisture and reduce in volume.  Stir periodically to ensure that the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan.  Continue to saute until the liquid that has been released from the mushrooms has cooked off.

Remove the pan from heat.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste.  Top the pizza crust with the mushroom mixture and spread evenly across the crust, leaving about a 1″ around the edge of the crust plain.  Next,  sprinkle the Parmesan across the mushrooms and finally top with the mozzarella.

pizza hot out of the oven

pizza hot out of the oven

Bake the pizza at 425F for 7 – 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden in color.  NOTE: the crust should also have a golden color.

Now you are ready to slice and enjoy!

So pizza fans, with a little advance planning, you too can be enjoying homemade pizza at home.  Make the dough in advance, let it rise, pre-bake the crust, use fresh ingredients (stay away from canned mushrooms), and perhaps your friends and family will be placing your number on speed dial for great tasting pizza.