Colorful Stuffed Peppers

While gathering produce during my weekly shopping trip, I noticed an abundance of beautifully colored bell peppers piled high in the sale bin as I entered the store. I realized that it had been a very long time since I had made stuffed peppers so I went through a mental checklist of all of the ingredients I would need to make the dish for our Saturday night meal. When picking peppers for this recipe, I was careful to select large, wide, flat-bottomed peppers that would sit nicely in my baking dish. As luck would have it, ground beef was also on sale, so I purchased several pounds of the 93/7% mixture. I love to stock up on versatile meat options, bring them home and divide them into meal-sized portions for the freezer. This allows me to have plenty on-hand, when needed. Here’s how I divided things up:

2 lbs kept for the stuffed peppers

2 lbs were made into hearty hamburger patties, placed in freezer safe container

2 lbs were mixed with ingredients to make 2 meatloaf bricks and wrapped in foil

2 lbs were used to make simple chili without beans, packed into freezer safe bags

(I usually add beans to the chili meat once I reheat later.)

Carefully labeling everything, I used a permanent marker to date and identify the items enclosed. I also bought several pounds of fresh, boneless, skinless chicken for other future meals. I divided each large family pack into 4 freezer bags with 4 chicken breasts in each.

I always feel so accomplished when I have a productive day assembling meals that can be cooked with very little effort during the busy week. These delicious peppers were gobbled up quickly with a few left over for weekday lunches.

I’m ready to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Colorful Stuffed Peppers

6-8 large bell peppers

2 lbs ground beef

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (5.6 ounce) package Knorr seasoned rice and pasta blend (chicken or beef flavor)

1 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers; set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned; drain.  Mix in Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, diced tomatoes (with juice), seasoned rice package and 1 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 20-25 minutes to cook rice.  Remove lid, turn off heat and let cool slightly.  Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into each hollowed pepper.

Fill a 13X9” baking dish with about 2”of water.  Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward.  Tightly cover dish with aluminum foil.  Bake 35-40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the peppers are slightly tender. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle each pepper with sharp cheddar cheese before serving.

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Honey Granola Clusters

  
As the summer sun ripens a delicious array of fruits and vegetables, I make sure that nature’s bounty takes center stage at the kitchen table. Living in the Midwest, we have so few months during the course of the year where we can have locally grown foods literally sitting at our doorstep. Backyards, gardens and farms throughout the county have the opportunity to produce foods situated in patio pots, raised beds, trellising on garden fences and planted in rows along county roads.

As I was mowing the lawn last week, I spied the beginning of a few delicious looking pears that I can’t wait to harvest when they are ready. My grapes are coming along nicely. I have gathered and prepared several generous heads of romaine lettuce, lots of sweet peppers, and fresh herbs. Nothing compares to the flavors of fresh picked fruits and vegetables that accompany family meals carefully prepared from scratch.

   
   
We’ve also started raising bees as a hobby and as a source for our own golden delicious honey. Planting patio pots with wild flower seeds and leaving our land as natural as possible will provide them a source of food as well.  

   
   
This morning I made a batch of granola clusters to accompany many of the fruits that I grew or purchased from a local farm. A dollop or two of plain yogurt finishes off the dish. (The peaches aren’t quite in season yet so I suppose, there are a few things in the dish that I am hopelessly awaiting as the season continues to bring us an abundance of delicious and nutritious delicacies.)

Here’s to bright warm days and unpredictable summer rains… This is definitely one of my most favorite times of the year.
Honey Granola Clusters


1/2 cup canola oil 

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

5 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, whatever you prefer)

1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, whatever you prefer)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or line a 11 x 17″ baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon until sugar is dissolved and oil is well incorporated. Add in the oats, nuts and dried fruit; mixing well.

Pour the oat mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it out into an even layer, firmly packing the oat mixture into the baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through cooking. Remove from oven and let the granola cool at room temperature for at least one hour.

Use a small spoon to scoop up the granola off of the baking sheet using the spoon to break the granola into clusters. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

   

Make these ahead of time; cover them to store in the fridge for a few hours.

 

Glazed Almond Cutouts

  
Over the years, I have had a few favorite “go to” cutout cookie recipes.  Most have similar ingredients and use specific techniques for preparing a crispy, yet tender almond flavored disk. Recently, we purchased a 3 pound package of bees and placed them in a backyard hive. Since then, I have been testing recipes that have a very special ingredient in the mix…that ingredient is honey.   I recently made this recipe for a baby shower that my office hosted for a co-worker. While I don’t eat a lot of sweets, I’m told these crispy, tender morsels tasted divine.   

   
Glazed Almond Cutouts

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cups butter, softened

3/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. In a separate bowl, beat butter, sugar and salt until creamy. Beat in yolk, then honey and extracts until smooth. Carefully beat in the flour mixture until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough  to a 1/4″ thickness.  With a 2″ cookie cutter, cut shapes and place on cookie sheets. Optional: freeze for 30 minutes before placing in preheated oven. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden.

Let cookies cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Glaze cookies and decorate cookies as desired.  The recipe that I use for the glaze can be found here.

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

  

We were having dinner the other night and my oldest daughter reported that she would be attending a “study session” the following day. Her class had a final exam on the horizon and a group was getting together to study. This would be an early morning session so she said she wanted to be sure to stop at the store to pick up a coffee cake before the event.

To save her time, I volunteered to make a simple pan of cinnamon rolls that I was sure the group would enjoy. I knew that I had all of the basic ingredients on hand to assemble and bake them before leaving for work in the morning. A traditional cinnamon roll recipe can be quite time consuming, but with the help of this semi-homemade recipe, it’s a jiffy of a job.

I have to be perfectly honest, when I’m in a hurry, I often don’t have the time to wait for the rolls to rise before putting them in the oven… I simply preheat the oven after I have mixed the dough and prepared the rolls. It usually takes about 20-25 minutes to preheat the oven and clean up the kitchen. Then, I pop them in the oven and let them rise while they bake.

  

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

(Adapted from the Betty Crocker Recipe; Cake-Mix Cinnamon Rolls)

1 1/4 cups warm water 

1 package regular active dry yeast

1 box white cake mix

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup store bought cream cheese frosting or glaze
Grease 2-9″ square baking pans with shortening or cooking spray.  In small bowl, mix warm water and yeast; let stand 5 minutes.

In large bowl, mix cake mix and 2 cups of the flour. Add water-yeast mixture; stir with wooden spoon until dough forms. Add remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, until it comes together in a ball. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in warm place until doubled. Meanwhile, melt butter in small bowl, and set aside to cool. In another small bowl, mix brown sugar and cinnamon.

On lightly floured surface, roll dough into large rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Brush with 1/2 melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Starting with 1 long end, tightly roll up dough into a log. Cut into 12 rolls. Brush with remaining butter.

  
Place rolls in pan(s); cover with plastic wrap. Let rise about 30 minutes while you heat oven to 375°F. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; spread with frosting or with powdered sugar glaze found here.

  
  
Here’s the original recipe…

https://www.bettycrocker.com/how-to/tipslibrary/baking-tips/cake-mix-cinnamon-rolls

Here’s another great “no-rise” recipe that I often use. Delicious!

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/241917/quick-cinnamon-rolls/

Butterscotch Blondies

  While on our annual spring break visit to Disney World, we passed many bakery style shops displaying an assortment of carefully prepared baked goods and other sweet treats. Most items were meticulously iced with a thick layer of frosting representing the familiar red, yellow, black, and white colors that Mickey and Minnie traditionally wear. For my family, this thick layer of icing is a bit too much; the “sweet” on top of the “sweet” is more than we can take. Especially when there are so many other treats that entice us throughout the parks.  
This year, as we were checking out the shops, my oldest daughter spied a scrumptious square of deliciousness that reminded her of my traditional blondie recipe. Unfortunately, a layer of icing donned the top. In a disappointed tone, she asked if I might bake some blondies when we returned home. She also requested the addition of butterscotch chips. Here is my traditional recipe with a twist of butterscotch and walnut flavors.  

Butterscotch Blondies

3/4 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup water

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9″ baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and water; beat well. In a medium bowl, Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to butter mixture, mixing well until completely combined. Stir in butterscotch chips and nuts. Batter will be thick. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and center is set. Cool completely. Cut into 1 1/2″ bars.

Moist Almond Bundt Cake

 I did a kitchen cupboard inventory yesterday.  On one of the upper shelves, I found a can of Solo Cake & Pastry Filling.  I pulled back the label of the almond flavored can and noticed a recipe for a Bundt cake.  Who doesn’t love the aroma of almonds and butter baking in a cake batter?  I immediately pulled out a few sticks of butter to soften on the counter and waited in anticipation for a beautiful baking experience.  Here’s the recipe: 

The cake turned out divine!  Just as I had suspected… A moist and flavorful mixture of goodness! 

 https://www.solofoods.com/recipes/almond-bundt-cake

Easy Pistachio Cookies

This is one of the easiest cookies you’ll ever assemble.  These little gems are melt-in-your-mouth delicious and take no time to prepare.  The festive green color makes these cookies a great addition for a spring or Easter dessert, a spring wedding or baby shower luncheon, a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, or even a Christmas holiday table. I often add a lightly drizzled glaze with lemon zest to the top of each cookie but this is completely optional. 

Easy Pistachio Cookies 

1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 ounce) sugar cookie mix

1 box (4-serving size) pistachio instant pudding and pie filling mix

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup roasted and salted pistachios, chopped

(Optional: Powdered Sugar Glaze)



Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl, stir together cookie mix, pudding mix and flour. Stir in melted butter and eggs until soft dough forms. Add pistachios and mix well. Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingers.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. 

Optional: Prepare glaze and drizzle over cookies. I often add some fresh lemon zest for a tart addition.  Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature.