Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spicy Sausage Stuffed Peppers

One of my family favourites are stuffed green peppers.  I think what got me to make them was the fact that my neighbour/taste tester has been bugging me for the past 2 or 3 weeks to make stuffed peppers one of his most favourite dishes.  I don't know about you but before going grocery shopping each week I put together a menu along with my shopping list. D, my neighbor/taste tester, is always helping us with some sort of project and I had found out that his parents were going to be out-of-town for the weekend and decided that he wasn't going to be eating alone on Saturday night.  

I had dinner in the oven and asked Rambo to text D to let him know that dinner was going to be ready soon and that he should come over.  Now I should let you know that MJ and I were the only ones who knew what dinner was going to be and that was because she was with me when I went grocery shopping and told me I don't know how many times that she doesn't like green peppers or onions.  According to MJ they are gross and she doesn't want to eat them!  Thank good for Applegate Farms chicken nuggets.  I bet Rambo that I could get D to come over so I sent him a text that said "stuffed peppers will be ready in 20 minutes your invited to dinner" and not even a minute later he replied "ok thank u".  He was over about 5 minutes later ready for dinner.

The great thing about my stuffed pepper recipe was is that when I had to get rid of dairy in my diet the only change I had to make to this recipe was to remove the shredded cheese that I usually melted on top.  I've found that by skipping the cheese that I used put on food that I've been missing out on some really good flavors.  But of course on a couple of things, mostly restaurant food, I figured out why they put so much cheese on the food and that's because without it the stuff isn't edible.  Needless to say I've cut back big time on eating out!

Serves 7

7 green bell peppers
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (measurement was before it was chopped because I forgot to measure afterwards)
1 lb ground sausage
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic (have I mentioned we love garlic)
1 1/2 tsp McCormick Gourmet Chipotle Chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp grape seed oil
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups water

1.  In a saucepan add the water and rice and let soak for 20 minutes.  While rice is soaking cut the tops off of the green peppers and remove the seeds and place them in a casserole dish.  After rice is done soaking put it on high until it comes to a boil and then cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed.  

2.  Preheat oven to 375*.  While the rice is cooking you can go ahead and brown the sausage breaking it up while cooking it. In a small pan over medium heat add grapeseed oil, onions and minced garlic and cook stirring occasionally until onions are translucent.  

3.  Once rice is finished cooking mix thoroughly rice, sausage, onions, and seasonings and fill the green peppers with the rice mix.  Place them into a casserole dish and fill 1/4 of the way with water and cover with foil.

4.  Cook for about 25 minutes in the oven or until the skin starts to get that crinkly look at the top.  I know it seems like a lot of work but it is well worth it!!!!!!  These are so filling that I usually serve with a small salad and maybe some crusty bread.

Before going into oven

Come on guys let me get the picture first!!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Beef and Veggie Stir Fry

I love one pot meals and one of the easiest ones that I have come to love is stir fry.  You take meat, veggies and some seasoning and you have dinner.  Depending on my mood and what I have in the pantry I will either make some rice in the rice cooker or cook up some spaghetti.  Either way it makes an easy meal!  This is the first time that I made this one and it was great I think the only thing I will change next time is instead of using the crushed red pepper flakes I am going to get dried chilli peppers like what I use when I make General Tso's.  For those following a gluten-free diet make sure that you pick up Tamari which is a gluten-free soy sauce.  I use San-J which can be found at most health food stores or stores with a gluten-free section.  Having had regular soy sauce and tamari I think the tamari has a richer flavor than regular soy sauce.  The great thing about this stir fry is you can change out the type of meat or omit the meat or even use different veggies and it will still be good.

Beef and Veggie Stir Fry

2 cups cooked brown rice
2 lbs beef round strips for stir fry
2- 8 oz cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
2- 16 oz cans young corn, drained (cut each ear into 3 pieces and then cut each piece in half)
2 green bell peppers, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup Tamari Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Coat the inside of wok with 1 tbsp vegetable oil and cook minced garlic on medium heat for 30 seconds-1 minute.

Add green and red peppers and cook for about 7 minutes or until slightly softened.  Remove the peppers from wok and set aside.  I do this because my family doesn't like the peppers to be crunchy and I makes the whole thing cook faster.
Add stir fry meat to wok and cook for about 6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.  Return peppers to wok and add tamari.  Mix well and cook for an additional minute.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally or until vegetables are soft and meat is cooked.  Water chestnuts should be tender but not mushy or crunchy.

After cooking covered for 10 minutes.

After cooking covered for 20 minutes.

Apple Cobbler

If you haven't noticed I have a sweet tooth!  It's not a good thing especially for someone who is trying to watch her weight but I'll admit it that I love my sweets.  One desert that I have always loved but hate how time consuming that it can be to make is cobbler.  I have no problem with the filling it's just that I hate making crust.  I buy pre-made pie crust or I will make a cookie crust before you will catch me making a regular pie crust.  So for this recipe I decided to make a cobbler with a strudel consistency.  And nothing is better than serving it warm with a little non-dairy vanilla ice cream.

For the apple filling I used the filling that I use for apple pie as well as baked apples.  Before we sat down to dinner last night I put the cobbler in the oven and MJ asked what it was and I told her that it was her baked apples with a crust on top.  That probably wasn't a good idea because she kept asking for baked apples with her dinner.  I told her that it had to cook and she could have some later so of course the persistent 4 yr old that she is started asking if she was a good girl and ate all of her dinner could she have some baked apples?  Did I mention that one of her favorite side dishes or desserts are baked apples or homemade apple sauce?  This is a really easy dish that is great as a desert after family dinner or as a pot luck dish.  Tastes good warm or cold right out of the refrigerator.  The crust would go good with any type of fruit mix that you want to do.

1 (3 lb) bag of gala apples, peeled and cored
1 package of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (amazing thing is this is dairy-free!!)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark it is all up to your particular taste.  I used both and both are good.)
1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon (or to taste, I really like cinnamon)
1/2 tbsp Ground Nutmeg
1 egg, beaten (this is for egg wash to go on crust)

Preheat oven to 400*

Mix all ingredients except egg and puff pastry in a mixing bowl.  Pour apple mixture into a 9x9 deep baking dish. 

Unroll and put on top of mix one sheet of puff pastry and brush top of pastry with egg.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden and apples are fork tender.

I couldn't find my deep baking dish so I used a shallow casserole dish and had to use 1 1/4 sheets of puff pastry.  Found my baking dish after I put the cobbler in the oven.

One Pot Oven Beef Stew

I've never really been a fan of stew. I've always been turned off by how strong the beef taste was and how at times the meat could be so tough. I hate excluding a food without trying to find a way to fix what I don't like. Well with this recipe I think I have found a former hated dish is now a really liked dish. Stew is a easy one pot meal as long as you have an oven-proof dutch oven.  I hate doing dishes and I like the way that the different ingredients enhance each other's tastes when they are cooked together. Okay so this a mostly one pot meal since you need to pull out another pot to cook the egg noodles. But trust me it is well worth it!!

5 large red potatoes, diced
1- 16 oz bag of baby carrots
1 onion, chopped
2 1/2 lbs lean stew meat
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Emeril Essence
salt and pepper, to taste
1 bag No Yolks dutch egg noodles or GF noodles

Preheat oven to 375*.

In a oven-proof dutch on medium add live oil, stew meat, salt, pepper and Emeril Essence. Cook stew meat until no longer pink on the outside. This is searing the meat it helps to keep in the juices!

Add diced potatoes and onions and mix thoroughly.

Next add baby carrots and vegetable broth and mix thoroughly.

Cover oven-proof dutch oven an cook in oven for 1 hour until stew meat is no longer pink in the middle. If the vegetables aren't really tender don't worry because you are going to, with the cover still on, let the stew sit on top of the stove for 25-30 minutes. I did this because I forgot to turn the water on for the egg noodles and the stew sat in my cast iron dutch oven for about 30 minutes and thankfully it kept the food hot an finished cooking the vegetables which came out melt in your mouth tender.

When there are about 30 minutes remaining for the stew to cook boil the water for the egg noodles or your choice of GF noodles and cook according to package directions.

Roast Veggie Pot Roast

I believe in the concept of the traditional family Sunday dinner.  This week I am making my Roast Veggie Pot Roast.  I always try to get a pot roast that is big enough for pot roast sandwiches for lunch the next day.

3 lb boneless chuck roast
2 potatoes, cut up
1 onion, cut up
2 handfuls baby carrots
2 cups vegetable broth
Sea Salt and pepper, to taste
Emeril Essence, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350*.

I always have to trim the large chunk of fat off of the bottom of the roast otherwise I hear about it from the darling husband.

Rub roast with sea salt, pepper and Emeril Essence.

In an oven proof dutch oven on medium heat pour little olive oil and brown all sides of the roast.  (cook each side until brown 1 -2 minutes).

After you have browned the roast put the onions under the roast.

Next add potatoes, baby carrots and vegetable broth.  You can use beef broth but I find it has such a strong taste.  While vegetable broth acts in more of a complimentary role and enhances the flavor of the roast.

4.  Cook roast in oven until roast is 170*.  I usually check it after 1 hour and if it is not done continue to cook and check every 30 minutes.

Roast after 1 hour of cooking
When the roast is done remove roast and vegetables from pot and put in serving dishes.

Dinner is ready!!!
6.  In a measuring cup dissolve 1 tsp of cornstarch in 1/4 cup warm water.  Pour cornstarch mix into the dutch oven with the roast drippings and cooked vegetable stock.  Bring the mix to a simmer while wisking the gravy until it reaches desired thickness.  If you need to add more cornstarch add it slowly so that no lumps will form.

MJ's Great Nana's French Toast

When I was a kid and when we visited my grandmother there was no greater breakfast treat than when she would make french toast.  Even though my dad knew the recipe and would make it every once in a while it just didn't taste the same as when my Nana would make it.  Thankfully my dad taught me the recipe and I now make it for MJ whenever I get a chance and I am proud to say that she loves much as I did as a kid.  You tell her that she is getting french toast and the singing starts and the proclamations that you are the best ever or that this is the best day ever starts.  Hum, might need to make some this weekend.

1/2 loaf wheat bread
4 eggs or egg substitute
1/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
2 twists of pepper grinder
2 twists of the salt grinder
1/4 stick of Earth Balance non-dairy butter melted
Plus more Earth Balance to grease pan

Preheat electric griddle to 350*.  In a bowl mix together egg, non-dairy milk, pepper, salt, and melted Earth Balance.  Dip bread in egg mix and place on griddle.  Cook each side for approximately 2 mins each or until egg is cooked and bread is golden.

I like to sprinkle each slice with some ground cinnamon and then top with a little pure maple syrup.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Another victory mama!!

I love brownies and in my quest to make the perfect brownie and I love, but can't have any more, Reese's peanut butter cups.  While going through the pantry looking for some cupcake liners I found a bag of Reese's peanut butter chips.  

I don't know about you but a bag of peanut butter chips just begs to be baked into something with chocolate.  So I decided to make a pan of brownies and instead of adding coconut I added the peanut butter chips.  They were really really good and didn't even last 24 hours!  It was a good thing that I made them when my assistant chef was in bed because I at least got to have two pieces before she got to them. 

If I had any left I would be heating one up and then topping with a scoop of Vanilla Bean Hempmilk ice cream and some coconut milk whipped cream.  Yeah I know, my sweet tooth is acting up big time!  Unfortunately I don't have any hempmilk ice cream or brownies but I do have some chocolate coconut milk ice cream and a can of coconut milk in the fridge.  So I think I'll have some ice cream tonight.

These brownies are easy and very delicious.  Enjoy!!


1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Reese's peanut butter chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease a baking pan, couldn't find my round cake pan so I used a loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper.

2.  In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla.

3.  In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

4.  Gradually combine the flour mix into the egg mixture until well blended and then fold in peanut butter chips.

mmmm!! peanut butter & chocolate!!

5.  Pour into the greased pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from edges of pan.  Let cool on wire rack before cutting into squares.



Natural Peanut Butter

Homemade Peanut Butter

Some of my greatest childhood memories involve peanut butter.  I remember when my dad was in the navy and on deployment or as we called it then on "cruise" we were always baking stuff for him to go in his care packages.  One of my most favorite baked goods that we would send to my dad were peanut butter cookies.  They are soooo amazing especially when they are still hot and are just cool enough to handle.  Of course I remember that it was still during the time before we found out that it isn't good to eat raw cookie dough or cake mix.  I think those were some of my favorite memories.  Helping my mom make a cake or cookies and getting to lick the spoon or beaters.

I remember throughout most of my school career and even into college lunch was usually a banana, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a juice box.  I still indulge in that wonderful treat even today.  It is something wonderful that I have passed onto MJ.  She loves, or should I say adore, peanut butter and jelly on a slice of toast.  I love peanut butter so much that I can eat it right out of the jar and be really really happy.

Jif is my favorite but I also love organic peanut butter but the only thing that I don't like is that the good stuff has to be kept in the fridge after opening and that makes it so hard to spread and it is sooo expensive.  I came across a recipe for nut butters and it didn't look hard so I figured I would try it.  I mixed some roasted peanuts and a little bit of raw sugar and it was amazing!!!  I only made about a cups worth and MJ loved it so much that it was gone within 3 or 4 days.  The below recipe is good for any type of nut that you wish to use.  Just make sure they are ROASTED otherwise they will turn to peanut dust and no amount of mixing in the food processor will turn it into peanut butter!

Makes enough for 1 half pint canning jar
2 cups roasted peanuts*
2 tsp raw sugar

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached.  When you first start to process the nuts you will need to stop every couple of minutes to scrape the sides of your food processor.  At this stage it won't look like peanut butter but like a thick powder.

After about processing it for about 10 minutes it will start to thicken and look like peanut butter.  Since my daughter likes her peanut butter smooth I usually have to process the nuts for about 15 minutes.  So if you like your peanut butter a little thicker then process for less time.

Once you have reached the desired thickness scrape into a half pint jar and refrigerate.

*If you aren't using roasted peanuts simply place your raw peanuts on a parchment or foil lined cookie sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent burning.