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Easy Stuffed Peppers

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Growing up, and until very recently, I always knew stuffed peppers as part of a stuffed cabbage meal.  We'd have stuffed cabbage, stuffed peppers and potatoes in a tomato-y sauce.  While I do have a good go-to stuffed cabbage/stuffed pepper recipe, this is not it.  You see, I don't have time on a weeknight to make such a labor intense meal. 


So recently I decided that stuffed peppers needed to be an easy weeknight meal.  I realized there are endless possibilities and they can be a whole different experience from the combination I mentioned above.  So I set out to create a new version that I'm sharing with you here.

Here is what you need:
  • 3 large peppers, I used 2 red and 1 green
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • 1 lb ground chicken(or any ground meat you choose)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic 
  • 8 oz. corn
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 15 oz.. can stewed tomatoes
  • shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise, remove stem, seeds and membrane.  Place skin side up on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in oven and bake until filling is finished, approximately 10 minutes.

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to nonstick skillet and bring to medium-high heat.  Add chicken and onion, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until chicken is no longer pink.  Add garlic, corn and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir and cook for 2 minutes.  Add stewed tomatoes, stir and allow to heat through.

Remove baking sheet from oven.  Fill pepper halves with meat filling.  Return baking sheet to the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from the oven, and place shredded cheddar cheese on top of peppers.  Return to the oven and allow to melt and/or brown for about 5 minutes.

Serves 3 as a meal, or serves 4-6 when served with a side of rice.

What's Baking: Mixed Berry Cobbler with Cornmeal Crust

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I recently joined What's Baking, a group of women who bake once a month based on a theme chosen by one of the group members. February's theme is Baked with Love which was chosen by Dunne' of With a Cherry on Top. I know a lot of you are thinking this was a Valentine's theme, but I decided to go another direction with it.

You see, there is a special woman in my life who happens to have a birthday in February. I met her about 6.5 years ago, but I don't think I realized how much my heart grew for her until about 2 years ago. That was when I realized how important it was for me to have her stand up in our wedding, and today I am happy to call her my sister-in-law.

Unfortunately, last year the unthinkable happened. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it absolutely broke my heart. I never let her see it, but there were many times I cried and worried for her, her husband, her children and her grandchildren. While her diagnosis is that this is treatable, and beatable, it still broke my heart to know the amount of pain and life changes she would go through, and is going through. But she is tough, and boy has she proven it through the last 9 months. 


However, one of the life changes for her means she was diagnosed with diabetes during her treatment.  So as much as I know she would love a sugar laden birthday dessert, I wanted to give her something that she could enjoy guilt-free.  So here is the Mixed Berry Cobbler I decided on, which was Baked with Love in celebration of her birthday and life!
You can check out this month's recipe roundup here.

I followed the recipe pretty close to how it is written.  I was told the filling was nice and tart, and the biscuits were buttery!

For the filling:
  • 2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Sugar Blend
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 30 oz. frozen mixed berries, thawed
For the crust:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Sugar Blend
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup cold butter, cut into chunks
  • ¾ cup fat-free buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

For the berries: 
In a mixing bowl, combine SPLENDA® Sugar Blend and cornstarch.  Add berries, including their juice.  Gently stir to combine. Pour into prepared baking dish.

For the crust:
In a small bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, SPLENDA® Sugar Blend, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a fork. Add butter and cut  into dry ingredients until pieces are pea-sized. Add buttermilk and stir until just moistened.  Drop crust batter over fruit.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until topping is golden and fruit is bubbling. Let stand 20 to 30 minutes before serving to allow sauce to thicken.  Serves 9.

Sicilian Eggplant Sauce

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I found it!  I misplaced this recipe and was so bummed out.  But wouldn't you know that I find things when I clean my office. 

I originally found this recipe in Woman's Day back in April 2001.  Oh the days gone by!  I was living with my sister in my condo and barely making it week to week and month to month.  Hence the reason this came out of the Budget Cook section of that month's magazine.  Even today, though my circumstances are much better, I still try to keep the majority of our weeknight meals with a budget in mind.  Plus, this is really easy to put together and is finished within 30 minutes so it really is a perfect weeknight meal all around.


The ingredients may seem like a strange combination, at least it did to me at first, but it works.  Trust me.  It even works if you add WAY too much cinnamon, but I wouldn't know anything about that... And if you're looking for a way to add more vegetables to your diet, or if you think you don't like eggplant, this recipe is perfect!  The eggplant picks up the flavor of the sauce while keeping a nice texture.  This could also easily made vegetarian by omitting the meat and doubling the eggplant.

I served this over whole wheat thin spaghetti, but I would suggest something bulkier like a rigatoni.

Here is the recipe including my adaptations:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz. lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4 chunks
  • 16 oz. tomato sauce 
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated lemon peel
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add beef, onion and garlic, and cook, breaking up clumps of meat with a wooden spoon, for 2 to 3 minutes until the meat is no longer pink.

Stir in remaining ingredients and 2/3 cup water.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes or until eggplant is very tender.  Serves 4.

Mini Peanut Butter Cheesecakes

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I wanted to make JR something sweet for Valentine's Day.  He loves peanut butter and cheesecake, but I didn't want to make a whole cheesecake knowing it would be too much for us.  So I thought about making peanut butter cheesecake brownies, but then I remember his dislike of bar-like desserts.  Finally I settled on these Mini Peanut Butter Cheesecakes.


I halved the original recipe and still ended up with 9, which I don't think he'll have a problem with!

The changes I made are included here:

For the crust:

  • 3/4 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 9 bite-size peanut butter cups

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. Neufch√Ętel (reduced fat cream cheese), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a cupcake liner in each cup of a standard muffin pan.

To make crust, in a bowl, add graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter and combine until crumbs are moistened. Press crumb mixture into bottom of each cupcake liner. Place 1 peanut butter cup on top of crumb crust and in the center of each cupcake liner.
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To make filling, beat cream cheese in stand mixer until fluffy. Add sugar, flour, and vanilla and continue beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Spoon cream cheese mixture over peanut butter cups and crumb crusts.

Bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.  Serves 6-9.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

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When I make steak for dinner I like to make stuffed portobello mushrooms to go with it.  Usually I make a bread filling, but tonight I opted to omit the bread and stick with a vegetable filling.


These are simple and healthy, yet tasty and filling.  Here is how I made them: 
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms (or 3 small-medium size)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 roasted pepper, sliced (I used jarred)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 box frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 5 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 Tbsp butter
Remove the stems and gills from the mushrooms by scraping them out with a spoon.

In a small frying pan, heat olive oil on medium high heat.  Add onions.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown.  Add roasted pepper and garlic, stir and continue cooking until fragrant.  Add spinach, stir, and continue cooking until heated through.  Add 2 Tbsp grated cheese and incorporate into mixture.

Spoon filling into mushrooms caps.  Top each with 1 Tbsp parmesan.

Turn heat to medium and place mushrooms back in frying pan.  Add 1/4 cup water to the bottom of the pan.  Cover and let cook/steam for 6-8 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through and cheese is melted.

Carefully drain water from pan.  Add butter to the bottom of the pan.  Cook uncovered until bottom of mushrooms are browned.  Serves 2-3.

Quinoa Corncakes

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Recently a question was discussed on an online cooking community I belong to.  Do you blog everything you make, or do you only blog foods you really like?  I definitely don't, and don't intend to, blog everything I make.  However, I began pondering this question again this morning as I was eating these Quinoa Corncakes. 


Earlier this week I saw this recipe posted by Prevention RD.  Since I've found my love for quinoa last year, and I knew I liked corncakes, I thought these were a no brainer for me and I needed to make them, soon.  So this morning I set out to make them, following the recipe she posted exactly as it is.


Well, I'm not really sure how I feel about them.  They aren't bad, I ate two as I tried to figure them out, but I can't quite figure out if I like them.  They are definitely healthy, and I will finish eating the batch for breakfasts this week, but I don't know if they are something I'd make again.  The quinoa adds a nice texture, but I think the whole wheat flour is overpowering the cornmeal.  So why am I posting this you ask?  I simply say just because I don't know how I feel about them, doesn't mean you aren't looking for a new healthy breakfast idea to try.  Plus, you may really like them!

So if you do make these, let me know what you think.  I think the next time I make my regular corncakes, I will experiment with adding quinoa to it and see how I like that.

Update: Prevention RD responded to my comment about the whole wheat flouring overpowering the cornmeal.  We think this is due to the fact that I used whole wheat flour not whole wheat pastry flour as indicated in her recipe.  So I am going to give these another try and will let you know the outcome when I do.

Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie

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I've been craving chicken pot pie, seriously craving it.  I knew this was not going to be good for my weight loss efforts, so I began searching for something that would satisfy my craving without sending me off track. I found this recipe by Ellie Krieger.


The filling came together nicely, however, as I was making the biscuit topping I began second guessing the outcome.  I was wrong.  This came out great.  So great, I didn't miss the traditional pie crust, and I can't believe I'm saying that.  After all, the pie crust was always my favorite part of chicken pot pie, the frozen ones.  Now that I think about it, the pie crust was really the only good part of the frozen ones.  I realize now how much a great tasting filling can make this whole dish.


My biscuits didn't brown up like I was hoping, even after I baked it a little longer than suggested.  However, they were cooked through and tasted fine.

I used a few short cuts which I've included here
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks (I used leftover rotisserie chicken)
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I used 1 leek and 1/2 an onion)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (I used frozen corn instead)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup peas, thawed if frozen
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (I used 3/4 tsp dried thyme)

  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk

To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a large shallow casserole dish, or 6 individual casserole dishes with cooking spray. (I used my oven safe skillet.)

Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the chicken with its juices to a bowl. (Since I used rotisserie chicken, I skipped this part.)

Add olive oil to skillet and heat it over a medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the green beans, garlic and remaining salt and pepper and cook for 2 minute more. Add the milk.

Stir the flour into the broth until it is completely dissolved and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes more. Return the chicken with its juices back to the pan. Add the peas and thyme and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon the mixture into the baking dish or individual dishes. (If using oven safe skillet, you can use the same pan.)

To make the crust: Put the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse about 12 times, or until pebble sized pieces are formed.  (I mixed all by hand using a fork.)

Add the buttermilk, then oil to the food processor and pulse until just moistened. Do not over mix. (Again I mixed by hand.)

Drop the batter in 6 mounds on top of the chicken mixture (1 mound on each individual dish, if using) spreading the batter out slightly. Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuit topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serves 6.

Oatmeal Cookies

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So by now you probably think I only have one cookbook, Rosemary Brown's Big Kitchen Instruction Book.  I promise you this is not so!  I have a whole bookcase full, however, I cannot prove that to you because, well, my office is known as the disaster zone of our house.  People think I am a neat, clean, person, but that would all change if they entered my office!


In keeping with my recent unplanned theme, I'm referring to my favorite cookbook again for what has become my go-to oatmeal cookie recipe.  These are my dad's favorite, and he is probably already waiting for Father's Day knowing he will get a batch.

I usually follow the recipe as it is written, but today I used walnuts instead of pecans.  I've been working on cleaning out our freezer and pantry, so walnuts were what I had on hand to use here.  I think the cinnamon, nutmeg and coconut are such a nice combination, with the coconut making these different from other oatmeal cookie recipes. 

JR really liked these.  He is very pleased that he has gotten homemade cookies two weekends in a row.  You see, I don't like to bake cookies.  I'm lazy, so I like to make cookie bars.  The problem is, JR won't eat cookie bars, because he is lazy and doesn't like to cut them.  I've found a way to meet in the middle.  Parchment paper.  I still have multiple batches, but I don't have so much to clean up.


Here is the recipe as it is written:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter with both sugars until fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Sift flour with baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix well with butter mixture.  Stir together oatmeal, pecans, coconut, and raisins, and fold into cookie batter. 

Using a small cookie scoop, drop the dough onto parchament lined baking sheets.  Bake for 11 minutes.  Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 6 dozen.

Chicago Dogs

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Today is the SuperBowl.  I don't get excited over it, except for the fact that it represents the beginning of the next ball season to come - BASEBALL!  You see, JR and I have 2 main interests in common, baseball and travel.  We often combine the two and have been known to book a vacation around which ballpark we'd like to visit next.  Last spring we visited AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants, and watched them play the Houston Astros.  It was freezing a great game, but I think my favorite part was the food!  I woofed down ate my first Chicago dog, and boy, have there been many times since then that  JR has heard how much I NEED to have another one soon!

I ran across this photo slideshow of hot dogs recently while searching Food Network's website and immediately I thought this is how we would celebrate the upcoming baseball season on SuperBowl Sunday!  I know, all my Boston fans are having anxiety thinking, "What about Fenway Franks?!"  Sorry, but these blow Fenway Franks away!  And man, are these a big bite!


Remember how I earlier mentioned we've been known to book a vacation around which ballpark we'd like to visit?  Yeah, this fall we're planning a trip to Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, to watch them play the Atlanta Braves.  I have a feeling beer is in my future, but if you have any recommendations of what else I should try leave me a comment.  Oh, maybe we can fly through Chicago and I can have a...nevermind!

I'm not calling this a "recipe" as much as I'm listing what you'll need:

  • Poppy Seed Hot Dog Rolls
  • Hot Dog
  • Sliced Tomato
  • Sliced Cucumber
  • Sliced Pickle
  • Pickled Pepper
  • Diced Onion
  • Relish
  • Mustard
  • Celery Seed
If you can't find poppy seed rolls they are easy to make.  Just brush the tops of regular hot dog rolls with egg white, sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes.  While these are baking you can cook your hot dogs using whichever method you prefer.  I like to boil them, then give them a quick pay fry in a little oil.

Then start assembling making sure each hot dog has a little of each topping listed above.

    Peach French Toast Bake

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    I knew our weekend was going to be jammed packed, so I wanted to be sure we started our days off with a good breakfast.  JR suggested we stop for breakfast on our way out of town, but I really wanted to eat at home since I knew we'd be eating lunch out.  I remembered making overnight french toast before and decided that would be a perfect start to our day!

     

    Ellie Krieger's Peach French Toast Bake is both easy to put together the night before and healthy.  I've made this with other fruits, and it has always come out delicious! And bonus, I now have breakfast ready, with just a little warming needed, for a few work days this week!  This is one of the most filling breakfasts I've eaten in a while. I'm finding a serving of this with 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt keeps me satisfied until lunch.

    I noted the changes I made to the recipe here:
    • Cooking spray
    • 1 large whole-wheat baguette, about 8 oz (I used 8 oz day old ciabatta)
    • 4 whole eggs
    • 4 egg whites (I used 3/4 cup egg whites from the carton)
    • 1 cup low fat milk(I use 15)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 5 cups sliced peaches, fresh or frozen
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced about 1 1/2 Tbsp
    • 3 Tbsp brown sugar (I used 4 Tbsp)
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I used 1/2 tsp)
    Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Slice the baguette into 1/2-inch slices and arrange the slices in a single layer in the baking pan.  Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the pan.

    In a medium bowl, toss peaches with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar. Scatter the peach slices evenly on top of the bread. Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover and bake for 40 minutes.  Serves 8.