Stuffed Pepper Soup

I don’t know if I’ve had real stuffed peppers more than once in my life, but this soup purports to bring all the flavours (and contents) of a stuffed pepper to your soup bowl. However, for those of you to whom I might be married and who don’t care for bell peppers, it only actually includes one actual pepper!

The recipe comes from Frugal Bites, and the only “change” I made was one that the original recipe suggested: bumping the amount of stock up to 2 cups, rather than 1 1/3 cups – not because I need the soup to be thinner or anything, but because I don’t have homemade beef stock kicking around, and a can is 2 cups. And as to thickness or thinness of soup, this is variable by the day. Initially, when you first make it, yes, it will be more soup than stew. But the leftover situation is different because there is rice, and it’s going to absorb some more liquid, and so you’ll have a thicker soup or stew the next day.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Ingredients
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 cups beef stock
2 cups cooked brown rice (that’s about 1/2 cup uncooked)
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
grated cheese, for serving

Method
In a large soup pot over medium heat, brown the meat with the onion and green pepper.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and stock.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Stir in the rice, worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper.
Cook for another 5 minutes or so, or until everything is heated through.
Serve, garnished with cheese if you like.

It also seems like something that, minus the rice, would be a pretty decent pasta sauce – you’d probably want to adjust quantities there, so it wouldn’t be too soupy, but in general theme and flavour, it could definitely work as a sauce!

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Taco Pasta Bake

This is good. It’s a bunch of all good things mixed together with a bunch of pasta and baked in the oven. Cheese is involved (actually quite a lot of cheese), so naturally there is meltiness. There’s really nothing to complain about.

I made it a little differently from the original (from Bakeaholic Mama). For starters, I halved it. It still filled a baking pan, and the leftovers lasted us for a few days. Sure, it’s just the two of us – if you have a houseful of hungry kids I imagine it’s different – but it was still tons.

Except I didn’t just halve everything straight up. I used the whole green pepper like the original recipe, the amount of onion I used was about equivalent to the full recipe’s amount, and I used the full can of beans. But I decided this was fine, because I also, um, forgot the salsa. So I kind of made do with the vegetables that would have been in a salsa, using a bit too much so as to make up for what was missing. And I also chucked in some tomato sauce to make up for the missing sauciness. So it probably bears merely a passing resemblance to the original, but that’s fine, it’s still good.

Taco Pasta Bake

Ingredients
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 box short pasta – I used radiatore
1 green pepper, diced
1 small onion, or half a bigger one, diced
1/2 brick of cream cheese, room temperature
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sour cream
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/2 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
1 cup salsa, or reasonable facsmile
1 tbsp chipotle powder

Method
Cook and drain pasta according to package directions.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large skillet, brown the beef with the peppers and onions.
Stir in the cooked pasta and both cheeses until the cheese coats everything more or less evenly.
Stir in the sour cream, salsa, beans, and chipotle powder.
Spread evenly into a casserole dish.
Top with the crushed tortilla chips and tomatoes (we had a serious discussion over what should go on top, and we ultimately came to the decision it should be tomatoes on top, but do what you need to do).
Bake for 30 minutes.

I wish I had actual salsa to have used, but that’s my one regret about the dish. But the creaminess from the cheeses was nice to have as the defining flavour, so I suppose on balance it’s fine.

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Bean and Sausage Stew

Maybe “stew” isn’t the right word here. The original name, where it came from at Dine and Dish, was a “ragout,” which to me sounds like a sauce, but it’s actually a stew in France (a sauce in Italy). So maybe that is the right word. What it is, anyway, is thick and substantial, and it hasn’t got a great deal of liquid in it, but that which there is is thicker than soup level.

It is also, not to put too fine a point on it, delicious. It’s interesting, because you don’t use stock or anything like that, just the liquid that the beans are in and that the tomatoes are in, and the liquid that cooks out of the ingredients. Bear in mind that the bean liquid is often quite salty, so you probably won’t need to add salt at all.

I did halve the recipe, except for the single-can of Mayocoba beans – who’s going to use a half a can of anything? – and I also couldn’t find Mayocoba beans. I looked Mayocobas up and found they were a small, firm, yellowish bean, so I picked up the closest similar bean. Seemed to work out all right! And anytime someone says to use sweet Italian sausage, I swap in the hot kind, because why wouldn’t you?

Bean and Sausage Stew

Ingredients
about 1 lb kielbasa, sliced
about 1 lb hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 an onion, chopped into large chunks (I happened to have the half an onion left over from the Japanese potato salad)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 1/2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp – or less! – salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can Great Northern beans, not drained
1 can Mayocoba beans if you can find them, otherwise any similar bean, not drained

Method
Preheat oven to 425.
Mix all the ingredients but the beans together in a large oven-proof pot.
Pop it in the oven for 45 min.
Take it out and stir in the beans and their liquid.
Put back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

This makes great leftovers, too, and smells good when you take it in to work for lunch and makes everyone jealous. In case that was something you were interested in.

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Japanese Potato Salad

This little potato salad got controversial beyond its import. I just made it to eat with burgers on a nice summer’s day out on the porch. And then it turned into a whole thing about family recipes. I for one do not have any family recipe for potato salad. My family’s recipe was “go to Safeway, buy Fletcher’s potato salad from the deli, the no mustard kind if possible.” And there’s nothing wrong with that – it was good! – but apparently this is weird. He asked the internet if having a family recipe for potato salad was the norm, which he assumed it was, and the results were mixed. So… I don’t know. Do you have a family recipe for potato salad?

I don’t know if this is going to be my new family recipe – I’m partial to a few other recipes as well – but it is super easy and quick. The recipe comes from Set the Table, which was previously Tokyo Terrace, so she would know from Japanese potato salad. I didn’t even know Japan was into potato salad!

Japanese Potato Salad

Ingredients
1 lb red potatoes, cut into big chunks
1 tsp salt
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
salt and pepper

Method
Place the potato pieces in a pot and cover with cold water.
Add 1 tsp salt.
Cover and bring to a boil.
Then, turn it down to medium and let them cook until easy to stab with a fork, about 20 minutes.
While the potatoes cook, put your cucumber slices in a bowl and rub a couple pinches of salt into them.
In a separate bowl, soak the onion slices in cold water for about 3 minutes.
Drain the onion and cucumber and squeeze any excess water out of them.
When the potatoes are done, drain them and put them in a bowl.
Stir them a bit, smashing some of them a little bit.
Mix in the cucumber and onion, and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the mayonnaise and mustard until smoothly blended and evenly coating everything.
You can either eat it as-is, which will be a bit warm, or throw it in the fridge for a bit to get cold first.

Now take this outside and eat it on a porch or something! Whether or not you have a family recipe – whether or not this is anything like your family recipe – it’s good anyway and you should eat it.

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Whiskey-Glazed Walnuts

We’re beginning to develop a tradition on the 4th of July, by which I mean we’ve done the same thing 2 years in a row, and that is to spend the evening next door, on our neighbours’ porch, having a few beers and enjoying one another’s company. This year I decided we should contribute more than a few bottles of beer (which this year was a saison we brewed at Hopsters for our 6th anniversary), so I threw together these nuts from Dine and Dish! Side note, I’m going to be stomping around her stomping grounds of Kansas City in about a month – US Air Guitar Nationals will be taking place there, and as you know, I live for that sport and specifically the nationals, since that’s the one time per year I get to see some of these great people. If you want a little taste, the Northeast Semifinals just took place earlier this week, and I was there and wrote up a recap on my other blog.

Whiskey-Glazed Walnuts

Ingredients
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup whiskey
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups halved walnuts

Method
Preheat oven to 350.
In a small pot, stir together honey, whiskey, salt, and sugar over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is starting to boil.
Stir in the walnuts so that they are all nicely coated.
Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid turns light brown.
Remove from the heat.
Drain the nuts through a strainer to remove any remaining liquid.
Line a rimmed baking sheet and spread the nuts out on it so that, as much as possible, they don’t touch each other.
Bake for 8 minutes.
Let cool.
Once they’re cooled, break apart any clusters with a wooden spoon.

As Kristen from Dine and Dish said, you can use these either as a straight-up munching snack, or you can use them as a topping for salads, yogurt, ice cream… the options are limited only by your tastebuds.
Once the nuts

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Brownies with Salted Caramel Glaze

This other thing that I did recently was to take really seriously an off-hand remark from a friend of mine. My office has a skeleton crew on staff in the support department outside of regular hours, and my friend was working the weekend. All it took was one reference to homemade baked goods and my plan was in motion.

These aren’t the first salted caramel brownies I’ve made, but it looks like I make them on a bit of a theme. Those were for some neighbours in our old apartment building who had been having one disaster after another, and these were to cheer up my pal stuck nearly alone at work on a gorgeous Sunday. So if you’re having a tough life, perhaps salted caramel brownies are the solution. Just let me know.

These ones are different from the other batch, though, in that these have the caramel on top, and the others had it ribboned through the batter. The recipe for these ones came from Simply Life. I changed one main thing: I thought I had 2 eggs left, and I only had one. So I made them with one egg. If you read the blogpost that goes with the original recipe, she mentions making brownies from a boxed mix as a kid. I did that too, and I remember that the boxes would say you could either use one egg or two, depending on what kind of consistency you wanted – cakey or fudgey. I couldn’t remember which was which, except that I was pretty sure we only used one, and I was pretty happy with how those boxed mixes turned out. So I figured I’d manage with my one egg. And I did, it was fine.

Brownies with Salted Caramel Glaze

Ingredients

for the brownies
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/3 cup flour

for the glaze
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp heavy cream

Method

for the brownies
Preheat oven to 325.
Grease an 8×8 baking dish.
Whisk together the sugar, salt, and cocoa powder in a bowl.
Let butter cool slightly from melting it, then mix it in.
Next, stir in the vanilla and egg.
Stir in the flour until just smooth and combined.
Spread into the baking dish.
Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

for the glaze
While the brownies cool, make the glaze.
Melt the sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. This will take about 3 minutes. Stir frequently.
Stir constantly for 1-2 more minutes until it turns golden brown.
Remove from heat immediately when this change occurs.
Stir in the salt and butter until the butter is melted.
Return to the heat (medium) and stir in the cream for 1-2 more minutes.
Let it rest for 1 minute, then drizzle over the cooled brownies.

When I made the caramel, some chunks solidified, which is only a problem if you don’t want to eat pieces of caramel. In other words, they’ve gone to a good home.

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Southwestern Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Crock pot dinner on a hot day? Yes please.

This recipe comes from Never Enough Thyme, where it was about making sliders. We don’t go in for sliders in this house. Well, that’s a bit of a dodge. We don’t go in for sliders literally in this house. I will absolutely order sliders at a restaurant. Matt won’t, but I will for mix-and-match purposes. I understand his feeling that a slider is never enough and why not just have a regular-sized burger or whatever, and at home when you would normally just eat more of the same I’m 100% on side. If you could have 3 different things for the same fullness-cost as one regular-sized burger, though…

ANYWAY. Back to the recipe. There are orange chunks in there essentially steeping with the pork as it cooks. I didn’t think it would come out orangey, since making carnitas you use orange juice, and the acid of the citrus just helps tenderize the meat, and maybe adds a bit of brightness but not a real orange flavour. So I didn’t have much concern about throwing 2 whole oranges in this thing and then squeezing some lime over at the end.

Turns out I was wrong. It actually does taste quite orangey! I might think to go down to one orange, especially if your oranges were large, like mine. I mean, nothing’s really terrible about it tasting like oranges, it doesn’t ruin it or anything, but I wasn’t really looking for this to come out tasting fruity. So a bit of a surprise. I’m going to write it out as one orange, but you could ramp it back up to 2 if you like a fruity taste to your meat.

Southwestern Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Ingredients
3 lb boneless pork shoulder/Boston Butt (tee hee!)
1 package taco seasoning
1 orange, cut into chunks
1/2 tsp pepper
1 16-oz jar salsa
juice of 1 lime
buns
pickled jalapeno slices, sour cream, etc to garnish

Method
Rub the pork all over with the taco seasoning.
Put the pork in the slow-cooker with the orange chunks.
Sprinkle the pepper over.
Cook on low 5-6 hours or until the meat is falling apart.
Take it out and shred it with 2 forks (discard the oranges).
Return the meat to the slow-cooker and stir in the salsa and lime juice.
Heat until cooked through.
Assemble on buns with your choice of garnishes.

How’s that for a dramatic picture of meat?

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“Aurochs” Roasted with Leeks

Yet more Game of Thrones food from the feast! This is a recipe based on an animal from the books, which has the same name as a real-world extinct species from prehistoric time: the Aurochs. That animal was an ancestor of cows, so the recipe called for beef instead of, you know, time travel.

Side note, although people eat aurochs in the books and the show, and are referred to as being stupid as an aurochs in what I assume to be a similar phrase to “dumb as an ox,” you never actually see one wandering around the countryside. So, not really sure where they live. Are they wild? Are they farmed? I have no idea, but since I’m going off in a nerdy direction right now, I’m going to stop and go right back to the food.

“Aurochs” Roasted with Leeks

Ingredients
3 lbs top round of beef (or apparently bison is a possibility?)
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4″ slices
4 carrots, sliced
1 head garlic, each individual clove peeled (separate them out, obviously; you don’t have to somehow peel them while still keeping them in a head)
a few sprigs each of rosemary, thyme, sage, or any combination thereof
olive oil
salt and pepper

Method
Take the beef out of the fridge 30 min before you plan to put it in the oven.
Preheat oven to 400.
In a roasting pan, toss the vegetables, garlic, and herbs with olive oil.
Place the meat right on the vegetables.
Drizzle the meat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast for 1 hour.
Check with a meat thermometer for doneness – 145 is medium.

Mmm, delicious fictional meat!

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“Game of Thrones” Bread

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Or have you read the books? We do, or have done, both things, and because we enjoy it so much, Matt got me a Game of Thrones cookbook. And, because it was the season finale, we decided to use that cookbook to make a feast!

I started off by baking some bread – any excuse – and made this bread which was called a “black bread” in the book, but it wasn’t that black in real life – plus I didn’t use a mixture of different flours like the cookbook recipe suggested; I didn’t have an assortment of flours on hand. So that may have gone into its regular-brown-ness rather than blackness as well.

One thing that happened, though, is that I halved the recipe since the original made 2 loaves. We got a tiny little loaflet out of it. Seriously. I could hold it in my hand. So I’m going to put the full recipe here and say make one loaf out of it.

“Game of Thrones” Bread

Ingredients
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 12-oz bottle porter or stout, warm (mine was kind of room temperature when I needed it; I actually heated it up just a little deliberately to get it to “warm”)
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
4-5 cups flour, whatever kind or kinds you like. I used whole wheat, but you could do a mixture like the original recipe suggests, if you’d like

Method
In a large bowl, add the yeast and honey to the beer and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.
Stir in the salt and egg.
Add the flour a cup at a time.
Stir until it comes together in a ball.
Flour your work surface and your hands and turn out the ball of dough.
Knead for 5 minutes or until it bounces back when poked.
Put back in the bowl and cover with a cloth to rise for 1 hour.
Punch it down.
Now, you can either let it rise again for another 2 hours out on the counter, or in the fridge overnight. The latter suited my schedule better so that’s how I did it, and it actually worked!
Preheat oven to 450.
Form into a loaf or put into a loaf pan.
Dust the top with flour and slash with a sharp knife.
Bake 25-30 min or until nicely browned.
Let stand for 15 min before slicing.

I was really surprised about letting it rise in the fridge! I thought warmth was an integral part of bread rising. But it worked out and the crumb is nice and solid, and now I wonder if I can do that with other bread, too.

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Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes in a Tarragon Cream Sauce

This one is on the best-of list, you guys. So much delicious stuff is packed into it, and everything plays well together. I may have rigged the game a bit because the sundried tomatoes I used had herbs added in the jar, but I’m not complaining. Maybe I’ll just have to make it again with plain sundried tomatoes to find out. I would definitely like to make it again; I didn’t get to take any leftovers to work for lunch.

The recipe comes from Savory Moments, and I didn’t change it at all except that I forgot to reserve pasta water. One thing I should change, though, is using less oil since the sundried tomatoes were packed in oil, so I felt like there was a bit much in there. Also, it took quite a while for it to thicken, which would probably have been briefer if I had used half and half like she recommended rather than milk (and I didn’t even use whole milk! Rebellious 2%!), but there we are. And when you add in the pasta, it coats it nicely and it doesn’t seem too soupy after all. So trust in your sauce.

Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes in a Tarragon Cream Sauce

Ingredients
12 oz short pasta; I used cavatappi since that’s what I had around (and it was rather less than 12 oz, too, I’m pretty sure)
2 tbsp olive oil, or 1 if your sundried tomatoes are packed in oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup sun-dried tomato halves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
parmesan to garnish

Ingredients
Start the pasta cooking according to package directions. Maybe take it out a titch before it’s quite ready, but I wouldn’t get too excited one way or the other.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
When the oil is heated, add the chicken and pepper, as well as some salt.
Cook the chicken all the way through, turning to cook all sides evenly, about 10 minutes or however long it takes to be cooked.
Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Push the chicken to the edges of the pan, leaving room in the middle where the pan is exposed, and drop the flour in there.
Whisk the flour into the pan grease for 2 minutes.
Whisk in the chicken broth, being sure to destroy any lumps and deglaze the pan.
Whisk in the milk as well.
Stir in the sundried tomatoes.
Allow to come up to a low boil.
Simmer until the sauce thickens to your satisfaction, stirring occasionally.
When you’re happy with the sauce consistency (or you’re just tired of waiting and want to eat dinner), stir in the tarragon.
Then, mix in the (by-now cooked and drained) pasta and cook for 1 more minute to make sure everything is heated through.
Serve garnished with parmesan cheese.

I was worried about the tarragon! I thought its licoriceness would be overwhelming! And that little twinge is there, but it doesn’t override anything – the creamy sauce calms it down, the pepper brings bite, and the sun-dried tomatoes are as strong a flavour as the tarragon and can hold their own. You really should make this one.

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