Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Mama's Stuffed Bell Peppers

I grew bell peppers in my garden this summer, and they did pretty well, if i do say so. I had these last four peppers and decided to make Stuffed Peppers like my Mother used to. I don't know if she had an exact recipe or if she just did made them from memory, but her stuffed peppers were always delicious! I try to make them several times a year so that I don't forget how, so I guess it's high time that I wrote the method down. That's why I started this blog anyway, to put old family recipes on paper so that I wouldn't forget them. These peppers certainly qualify as an old family recipe. So let me tell you how to make these marvelous peppers! First off, you need to brown some lean ground beef in a skillet with some onions.
Let the meat brown before turning it over and breaking it apart. Don't just stir it around until it's grey. Meat needs to brown to bring out its great flavor. To the meat mixture add the cooked rice, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and seasonings. Cut the tops off of the peppers and place in a baking pan with fairly high sides. Pack the meat into the peppers. Bake for about 50 minutes and voila! Dinner is served! You'll have nice tender peppers full of deliciously seasoned, tender meat. This is home style food at its best!

4 large bell peppers, any color
1 pound of very lean ground beef
1/2 of a large onion, diced
1 cup of cooked rice, either white or brown rice works
about 3/4 cup of tomato sauce- from an 8 ounce can
1/4 cup diced tomato, small dice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 clove of minced garlic
1 T. fresh parsley, diced, if desired
salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown the ground beef and the onion. Drain off any fat. Add the 1 cup of cooked rice, 3/4 cup of tomato sauce, diced tomato, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and simmer while preparing the peppers. Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes. Place peppers in a baking pan with fairly high sides(about 2 inches). Spoon the beef filling into the peppers, packing down somewhat, to the top. There should be a little tomato sauce left in the can, so fill the can about 3/4 full with water and pour it into the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. Check to see if the peppers are tender. If not, cover and bake another 5-10 minutes. Remove foil and add a little cheese on top of each pepper, if desired. Bake just til cheese melts. Don't let it get rubbery like I did!
I sprinkled the cheese on top, placed the pan back in the oven, and went back to playing with my granddaughter, so I over baked the cheese! At least the filling was delicious, so that made up for the rubbery tops.
My mother would sometimes add corn to the meat filling just to change it up some. It's quite good that way, plus the filling goes a bit farther. Also, It will depend on the size of the peppers as to how far the filling will go. I know there are other methods in making stuffed peppers, but this is my tried and true version. Hope you enjoy them!

POMx Iced Coffee- a product review

Recently, I was contacted by Janny, the POM Wonderful blogger, about trying their new drink, POMx Iced Coffee. Well, since we are coffee drinkers, and since my 25 year old son and 21 year old daughter often buy coffee drinks to take to work, I said yes, send them on!
These coffee drinks contain 650mg of polyphenol antioxidants from pomegranates (but there is no pomegranate taste), so they are healthy drinks.
They contain Rainforest Alliance Certified shade grown Arabica coffee beans.
It is also rBST growth hormone-free milk with organic cane sugar
Fat free or Low fat, preservative free
So, they sound healthy, but how did they taste? My kids loved them. Actually, I did too. They have a nice rich chocolate taste, and the coffee flavor comes through nicely, not too strong or too milky. We tried the Chocolate flavor, which was my daughter's favorite and the Cafe au Lait, which my son loved. There is also a Vanilla flavor. I'd take either one for a deliciously, creamy coffee break. Price wise, I don't know how this brand compares with other coffee drinks as POMx isn't available in my town yet.
My kids both said they will buy this coffee when they can find it. Look for it in the produce department of your local supermarket!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pulled Pork- done on the grill!

We've had the most beautiful weather lately, and this past weekend was gorgeous! Yes, fall is in the air, but it's still perfect grilling weather. I like to grill as long as possible, even if it's just grilled burgers and sausages. I've been wanting to try grilling a pork shoulder for pulled pork for sometime, but it is not one of those quick dishes that I normally like to make, so I've been putting it off. If my family didn't love barbecue so much, I wouldn't have tried this. But my boys are BBQ fanatics, and I have to admit that I enjoy it too. Especially when it turns out well!
Recently, I found pork shoulder on sale at our grocery store for 99 cents per pound! I just couldn't pass that up, even if I did have to buy a 9 pound roast! The wheels were turning as I drove home. Since I have Steven Raichlen's cookbook, "How to Grill", I turned to it for guidance. I also went to Epicurious for his recipe from "The Barbecue Bible", for extra help. I followed his method, but used my own rub for the meat. I must say, it turned out wonderful for my first try. And the guys in my family were thrilled. Nine pounds of meat; it's a good thing we had some company to help us eat it. And we had leftovers too. This was one smoky and juicy pork shoulder. Here's what I did. I cut that huge hunk of meat in half so that it would hopefully get done in one afternoon. Then I added a spice rub, liberally, over it.

You're supposed to cover it and let it stay in the refrigerator for several hours, but I only managed that for a couple of hours. I set up our charcoal grill for indirect heat by setting up charcoal at each end of the grill and placing a drip pan between the piles. When the coals are ready, I placed the 2 pork roasts in the center of the grill over the drip pan. These porkers cooked for 6 hours, with intervals of mopping with a mop sauce and adding more charcoal. You definitely have to plan your day if you want to try this recipe as you have to be home. Charcoal had to be added every hour and also the mop sauce. Was it worth it? YES! This Pulled Pork was deliciously smoky, with a nice spicy crust, and tender enough to pull apart easily.

After removing the roasts from the grill, I placed them in a roaster and covered it with foil for about 30-40 minutes to rest. The pork stayed plenty hot. After resting, I removed the pork to a cutting board and cut it apart into large chunks and then proceeded to shred it with my fingers. It was still hot. I was pleased to see a smoke ring, and the meat tasted so smoky and good. After shredding and removing all the fat, I took a knife and coarsely chopped the meat. At this point, you can add a Carolina Vinegar Sauce, if desired. I prefer to use a thinned down barbecue sauce to pour over the meat to keep it moist. Just my preference. Which ever you do, the meat tastes amazingly tender and smoky. This was a very delicious, enjoyable meal, even if it was time consuming. These porkers "smoked" for 6 hours until they were fall apart tender. They reached 195 degrees on a meat thermometer when I took them off the grill.
Pulled Pork- done on the grill!
You may use a purchased rub, or use my version:
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. black pepper 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 T. coarse salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
Mix ingredients in a small bowl.
Sprinkle rub over meat and gently"rub" into meat. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours if desired. Early in the day, set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a drip pan in the middle. When coals are ready, place pork roast over the drip pan and close lid of the grill. Grill for about 4-6 hours, until meat is tender and the internal temperature is about 195 degrees. Mop meat with a mop sauce every hour to keep it moist. Add about 10-12 charcoal briquettes to each side of grill at the same time. I was able to keep the grill temperature at about 250-300 degrees.
When meat is done, let it rest covered in foil for 30minutes or so. Shred meat; chop coarsely, if desired. Spoon a vinegar sauce over meat to keep it moist. I like to use a diluted BBQ sauce for this step. The meat will freeze well as long as it has the extra sauce on it. I served it with baked beans, slaw and potato wedges. When served on a bun, top it off with some slaw for an extra YUM factor! I forgot to do that for pictures! This was wonderful pulled pork! I'll be making this again, just not right away. I'm back to easier meals for awhile!
If you have any advice for my next attempt at making pulled pork this way, just let me know in the comments! Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Corn and Potato Chowder with Butternut Squash and Ham

We had some unseasonably cool weather early this week , so my cravings turned to thoughts of soup. Looking through my fridge, I found that I had the makings for a really good chowder. I looked through numerous recipes, all a little different, and decided on a recipe of my own making so that I could use the ingredients I had on hand. This chowder turned out to be delicious! We loved how the smokey flavor of the ham contrasted with the sweetness of the butternut squash and corn. I used unpeeled red skinned potatoes, but you could use whatever variety you like. A pinch of cayenne pepper added a subtle "kick" of flavor to this amazing soup. I made a small batch, but now wish it had been larger as my husband and I both loved it. This chowder is very satisfying and easy to make. Let me show you how.
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups of fresh or frozen corn (thawed)
1 cup diced ham
2 cups diced potatoes (I used red skinned)
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 T. corn starch or 2 T. flour
2 cans low fat, low sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
Prepare all the vegetables before starting the chowder. Heat the butter in a soup pot. When butter is melted, add the onion to the pan and cook until soft. Add the corn and ham and stir and let corn roast a minute. Mix the chicken broth and the cornstarch and add to the pan. Bring to a boil; stir in the diced potatoes,red pepper and squash. Cover pan with a lid and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash are tender. Pour in the half and half and heat through, but do not boil. Remove chowder from the heat. Adjust the seasonings. I only needed about 1/2 teaspoon of salt because the ham was salty. A couple a shakes of the pepper shaker was enough because I added a pinch of cayenne pepper. Ladle into bowls and enjoy! Makes about 7 cups of delicious chowder! The squash and the red pepper give this chowder a rich color and great flavor. Next time I will add a little more corn, but that's the only change I'll make. I'll be making this tasty chowder again and again!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Apple Spice Muffins

I had a wonderful time at our ladies retreat last weekend. The weather was perfect, not too hot, but the mornings were quite cool by the lake. Some of the maple trees already had some reddish leaves and the sumac growing along the road was brilliant with burgundy color! It has been dark and rainy here the last two days with a chill in the air, so I can say it definitely feels like fall, my favorite time of year! I have some fresh apples waiting to be used for some luscious dishes, so I'm starting with these apple muffins. I've adapted this delicious recipe from an old Woman's Day magazine that I bought when I was first married and we love these muffins as much now as then. These moist, cinnamon muffins are a great addition to breakfast or a perfect snack any time of day with a cup of hot coffee or tea. Give them a try!

1 1/2 cups flour (sometimes I use 1 cup AP flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 1/2 cup peeled, chopped apples ( I used Jonathans this time)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup melted butter ( 1 stick)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and spices. Add the chopped apples and nuts, if using and toss to coat. In a small bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk and melted butter together. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Grease muffin tins or use paper liners. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes clean when poked in the center. This will make about 15 regular sized muffins. The aroma of apples and cinnamon wafting through the house is a delicious way to enjoy fall! What's your favorite time of year?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bananas and Cream Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

There's just nothing like the aroma of banana bread baking in the oven. It has tantalized me since I was a little girl, so when I found this recipe a few months ago, I had to make it! It is everything I hoped it would be; dense, moist with sour cream, great banana flavor, and the frosting- oh the frosting! It is sinfully rich, delicious and I wanted to eat it with a spoon! I found this gem of a recipe at Bunny's Warm Oven, so please check it out. Her cake looks much nicer than mine as I almost let the frosting get too thick to drizzle over the cake, but that didn't stop it from tasting amazing! And I wanted to share this with you before I leave Thursday to go on a

retreat with some friends from church. I'll be gone until Saturday evening and I'm so looking forward to it. We're going to the lake for a few days of refreshing for body and spirit with several hundred other ladies of kindred spirit. And we are always served the best meals. As much as I love to cook, I always enjoy letting someone else do it for awhile!

So, if you need a dessert for this weekend, try this wonderful Banana Cake, or even my Four Layer Pudding Dessert. I look forward to reading all your recipes when I get back. Have a great week!

Homemade Baked Chicken Strips

When my kids were growing up they loved Chicken Strips and Chicken Nuggets, but I didn't buy them too often. Reading all the unnatural ingredients on the package was enough to leave me looking for a homemade alternative. When Panko bread crumbs became available in my store, I finally found away to make delicious, crunchy Chicken Strips at home. They are way better than those fatty cousins you find at the fast food places! And they are easy to make. My kids, who are in their 20's still love em, and so do my husband and I. After all, we can't resist fried chicken, but these healthy, tasty strips are baked, not fried and much healthier than those found in bags in the frozen food section of your store. Try them. Your kids will thank you!
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp.pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup flour
about 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, or chicken tenders (thawed,if frozen)
Place Panko and spices in a bowl. In another bow, beat the egg. Line a baking sheet will foil and spray it with Pam or oil it. This makes clean up easier.
If using chicken breasts, cut them diagonally into about 3-4 slices. Dry the chicken with paper towels. Dip each chicken strip into flour and then shake to get rid of excess. Then dip into egg, and then into the seasoned Panko crumbs. Press crumbs into the chicken. Lay each strip onto the greased baking sheet. Before placing in the oven, spary chicken lightly with Pam, or drizzle with about 1 T. melted butter. I used the butter this time. Bake in a 425 degree preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes. And there you have some really crunchy and delicious chicken strips! Or, you can cut them into nugget size, if desired. I also found that you can mix regular bread crumbs with the Panko, about half and half, and still get tasty chicken. And, if you have the time, soaking the strips or tenders in buttermilk for an hour or two before cooking, really makes for moist chicken. Just be sure to dry them off well before dredging in the flour! You can also use additional spices, if desired. Try these on your family some evening. They are perfect for week night meals. I like to serve them with oven roasted vegetables for a truly healthy meal. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Four Layer Pudding Dessert (Family Recipes)

This recipe goes back quite a few years and I'm sure that many of you have made it or eaten it before. I was given this recipe about 1980 by a friend, who actually made it with pistachio pudding instead of chocolate. I've also eaten it made with banana pudding and cut up bananas, so it can be made according to what you're craving that day! I normally use the chocolate pudding as everyone in my family will eat it and we all love chocolate. This is a delicious, addictive dessert that was always requested at family gatherings or pot luck dinners at church. The first layer is a crisp crust made of flour, butter, and chopped pecans and it adds such a nutty, flaky layer to hold the rest of the dessert.
The second layer is a yummy cream cheese layer and over that, the pudding. On top goes the rest of the whipped topping, or even whipped cream, if desired. I normally top that with some chocolate shavings, mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or some cocoa lightly sifted over the top, to give it a nice finish. It's so good and is one of my children's favorite desserts of their childhood!

FOUR LAYER PUDDING DESSERT (from Lynda's Recipe Box)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts, I use pecans
1 stick melted butter - 1/2 cup
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; scatter the crust mixture over the bottom of a 9x13 in baking pan and press together to form a crust. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Cool.
1 -8 ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces of whipped topping, thawed ( like Cool Whip)
Mix together the cream cheese and sugar; then fold in the whipped topping. Place spoonfuls of this mixture all over the cooled crust. Gently spread out the cream cheese to cover the crust, taking care to not break the crust.
2 packages of instant chocolate pudding (or other flavor of choice)
3 cups of milk
Combine pudding mixes and milk and stir until well blended and thick. Spoon pudding over cream cheese layer and carefully spread it out.
8 ounces of thawed whipped topping ( I sometimes use a little less- it's rich!)
nuts, or chocolate to put on top, if desired
Spread topping evenly over the pudding layer. Top with nuts, chocolate shavings or sifted cocoa, if desired. Refrigerate for several hours before serving. Enjoy!

I have such vivid memories of some of the delicious dishes that my Mother used to make. This dessert is a memory maker for my kids. I can remember them begging for " just one more piece, Mom"! I'm submitting this recipe to Shelby of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch, and Laura, of The Spiced Life, for this months Family Recipes roundup. What's your favorite dessert from your childhood? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Braised Chicken and Vegetable Skillet Dinner

I love making one pan meals. Everything is in one pot and there's less clean up. What's not to love? I've made this dish for years and don't remember the source- a magazine, I believe, but which one is any ones guess. I usually cut up a whole chicken for this dish, but you can buy whatever pieces you prefer. Dark meat works the best, because it doesn't dry out as quick as the white meat. But, if you watch it, you can remove the white meat a little early to prevent overcooking. I prefer about 3 pounds of chicken, so that the meal will be done in 40-45 minutes. I use the veggies that I have on hand, but my favorites are red or yellow small potatoes, carrots, green beans and onion. Add some Thyme and it's really good. Just add some good crusty bread and you've got a great comfort meal!
Begin by browning the chicken pieces in a little oil, skin side first. Turn over and repeat.

Add red potatoes, carrots, salt and pepper and some fresh Thyme. Pour in some chicken broth and cover pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook about 25-30 minutes.

Add fresh green beans the last 15 minutes of cooking. Only 45 minutes for a great comfort meal!

Braised Chicken and Vegetable Skillet Dinner
1- 3 1/2 pound chicken cut up, or equivalent amount of chicken pieces
small red or yellow potatoes, cut in half or fourths
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in 1 inch pieces
about 1 pound of fresh green beans (or frozen)
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/2 cup chicken broth, or water
about 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
salt and pepper
Add 1 T. oil to a large, deep skillet with a tight fitting lid. Heat over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken. Add chicken pieces, skin side down and brown for about 5 minutes until golden. Turn over the chicken and brown on other side. Add the potatoes and carrots to the skillet. Pour the chicken broth in the skillet and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon thyme leaves over all. Add salt and pepper to the veggies. Cover pan with lid and simmer on low heat for about 25-30 minutes. Add green beans and onion to skillet and another teaspoon of thyme, if desired. Don't let the pan get dry, so add more broth if needed. Replace the lid and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until chicken is done and veggies are tender. Enjoy!
This delicious dish is one of my husbands favorite meals! Sometimes the easy meals taste the best, and I certainly don't mind not having a huge mess to clean up. I'd rather hold my Granddaughter than do dishes!

Monday, September 7, 2009

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Hope everyone has had a great Labor Day weekend! I haven't posted in a week because life got in the way, but I'm back with a new recipe that I tried a few days ago. I had some really huge, beautiful red bell peppers, so I decided I wanted to make dip. I love the red pepper dip made with sour cream and cream cheese, but I wanted to find a healthier dip this time. I remembered seeing a different recipe at Smitten Kitchen awhile back. I was intrigued, as it is made with white cannelini beans and jarred roasted peppers. I had some peppers to use, so I roasted them under the broiler. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it at first, but after it's refrigerated and the flavors develop, this white bean roasted pepper dip is really delicious! Very different, but so tasty with pita chips or good crackers. I had to take pictures quick before my husband devoured it! My kids were not as enthusiastic about it and said it was just ok. Can't win them all!

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip ( adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
2 large red bell peppers, roasted
1 can of cannelini beans, drained (white kidney beans)
1 clove garlic,minced or pressed
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 ounces of goat cheese
To roast the peppers: Cut peppers in half; remove membranes and seeds. Line a baking sheet with foil. Lay pepper halves on pan and flatten with you hand. I have an electric oven, so I put them under the broiler with the oven door ajar and roasted the peppers until black. Remove from oven and place peppers in a bowl and cover immediately with plastic wrap. As the peppers cool, they will sweat and you can easily peel off the skin, when ready. Coarsely chop peppers. In a blender add the drained beans, chopped red peppers, garlic, lemon juice and goat cheese. Blend well. Pour into a container and refrigerate a few hours so the flavors will marry. This dip is not as thick as one made with cream cheese, but it is very tasty. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spicy Sauteed Tilapia with Cherry Tomatoes

I found a recipe for sauteed fish recently that sounded so easy and delicious. It came in real handy this week, as I've started baby sitting with my granddaughter as of yesterday! Her momma had to go back to work, so I feel privileged to care for her. And since I haven't taken care of babies in such a long time, I thought this weeks meals had better be easy to prepare.
The hardest part of this recipe is just cutting the cherry tomatoes in half and mincing the garlic and herbs! The tilapia took about 5 minutes to saute and the tomatoes much less than that, but this dish had great fresh flavor. The original recipe called for olives, but I didn't have any, so therefore I used lemon to add a nice tang. We loved it!

Spicy Sauteed Tilapia with Cherry Tomatoes ( adapted from Epicurious)
1 pound tilapia fillets, thawed, if frozen
3 T. olive oil, more if needed
1 1/2-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. chopped fresh Greek Oregano
1/4 tsp. dried, crushed red pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
Feta cheese
In a large skillet over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper the fish fillets and lay in the skillet. Let them brown about 2 minutes, until they turn white around the edges. Carefully flip fish over with a spatula. Cook until the fish flakes, about another 2 minutes. This will depend on the thickness of the fish. Remove fish to a platter and keep warm. Add more oil to the skillet and add the minced garlic and the crushed red pepper. Stir until fragrant, but don't brown. Add the tomatoes and the herbs. Stir until heated through and then stir in the lemon juice. Pour over the fish and serve topped with Feta cheese. Enjoy this easy and flavorful dish. I will be making this one again!