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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Hearty Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

  We’ve lived in our home for over 15 years, yet every time I make this recipe, I’m reminded of the day we moved our young family to our country home so many years ago.

If my memory serves me correctly…    My husband and I had moved a few basic items to our new home a few days prior to the “big” move that would take place on the weekend. On the morning of the “big” move, I made a large pot of sloppy joe meat in our new home kitchen before pouring it into a crockpot to be eaten later. I knew this would be a long day so I wanted to be sure to have plenty of food at the ready when our crew of movers finished up their job. After plugging in the crock pot, my husband and I headed back to our home in the city. There we were met by a fine group of young men that would take charge of the move. The company that we had hired employed a group of college students that were home for the summer and were trying to make a little money before returning to school in the fall. I have to say, these kids were awesome movers. They carefully wrapped furniture, lifted and carried an enormous load of boxes filled with everything from kitchen linens and cleaning supplies to garden tools and silverware. All of our heavy appliances were carefully loaded onto the trucks and carried across state lines to our new location.  
After a long drive, the cycle began again… The trucks were unloaded, hauling boxes, furniture and appliances into our new spacious home. The movers asked where we’d like things placed and willingly followed our directions as the sun fell from the sky and the crickets started to chirp.  

At the close of a long day of grueling work, I welcomed the group into our kitchen to share a meal. The guys scooped out oversized helping of sloppy joe and placed it on hearty brioche buns. A sprinkle of cheddar cheese completed the sandwich. Bags of chips, a crock of baked beans, and bowls of salad were wiped out in no time. Before leaving, one of the young men asked for my sloppy joe recipe as he wanted to share it with his mother. He also asked if there was any more meat left in the crock pot for one last sandwich. I quickly scooped out the remaining mixture with a spatula and slathered it onto a roll. “One more for the road”, he said, as he gulped down the sandwich in a few quick bites.

  
As the crew gathered up their belongings and headed for the trucks, my husband and I stood in the driveway and thanked them again for their hard work. The group happily patted their tummies and thanked us for the delicious meal.  

I look back on that day with fond memories…

This group of movers made the day fun, exciting and stress-free. I’ll always be grateful for their hard work, cooperation and expertise. It was truly a pleasure sharing this special day with such a fine group of young men.

  

  
Hearty Sloppy Joe Sandwiches   (adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook – 1988)

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 of a large onion, diced

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped green peppers

1 cup catsup

2 1/2 tablespoons A1 steak sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoonred pepper sauce

6 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Cook and stir ground beef and onion in skillet until brown; drain. Stir remaining ingredients, except buns. Cover and cook over low heat for an additional 15-30 minutes; just until vegetables are tender. Fill buns with meat mixture. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Another school year begins…

Our daughter is beginning her clinical year up in Evanston, IL.  Once again, we loaded up all of her belongings to move her into a cute little apartment, not far from the “Purple Line” in a beautiful part of town, just outside the Northwestern University campus.  The cool breezes off the shores of Lake Michigan have made for an unseasonably cooler summer.  

After settling her into the apartment, we walked into town to find a local place to eat lunch.  We spotted an adorable restaurant called The Farmhouse-Evanston.  The menu touted local foods, brews, and seasonal fare.  With a chill in the air, the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich sounded wonderful. My daughter ordered it without hesitation.  All through the meal, she raved about the creamy soup and hearty, three-cheese sandwich.  

After returning home, I was inspired to make a big pot of flavorful tomato soup for the family. What a treat.  This recipe makes enough to serve the whole clan with extras to pack into containers for weekday lunches.

…Outstanding soup!  Don’t forget to garnish with pieces of garlic toast, Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil.
Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced

1 large white onion, chopped

2 (28 oz) cans San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water

3 teaspoons chicken soup base

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup half and half

6 – 8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste

In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, don’t over cook.  Add onion; stir and cook until translucent.

Add the two can of tomatoes with juice, chicken base, water, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. Add the half & half, basil, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper.

Using an immersion blender,  puree soup until smooth. Serve immediately with a hearty grilled cheese sandwich or a fresh salad.

Homestyle Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

This post goes out to all the folks that might be suffering from the effects of this year’s harsh cold and flu season…

My week began with a trip to urgent care as I woke on Monday with the symptoms of a bad flu. My chest felt heavy and I had a low hacking cough that shook my core every time it took a hold of me. After being diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, I headed home with a supply of medication to help ease my discomfort.  I knew that a bit of rest and a pot of piping hot chicken noodle soup would certainly help me find relief.  

This is a quick and easy recipe that has become a family favorite over the years.  Chunks of onion, carrot, celery and chicken make for a hearty base while the steaming hot broth warms the throat and nestles down into the tummy.  Comfort food at its best. To save a bit of time, I often purchase a rotisserie chicken from the local grocer and shred up the juicy, well seasoned chicken before adding it to the broth.  My favorite stock base to use is L.B. Jamison’s.  I follow the directions on the back of the jar.  Perfect every time…  What a welcome recipe when you’re feeling under the weather.

Homestyle Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

8- 10 cups water

8 teaspoons chicken flavored soup base (or adjust to taste)

3 medium carrot, peeled and sliced

3 stalk celery, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 cup cooked noodles

Heat water to boiling, add soup base.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Add carrots, celery, onions, pepper, garlic, and parsley.  Simmer vegetables until tender.  Add chicken and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Keep cooked noodles separate and add a small handful to each bowl of soup before serving.  This keeps noodles al dente.

Queso Blanco Chicken and Salsa

On a recent Saturday outing, my family and I stumbled upon a quaint new restaurant in the middle of our town square featuring Mexican cuisine.  As we were seated in the festive dining room, a heaping basket of freshly made chips and salsa was delivered to the table.  Looking over the extensive menu, I was excited to find a chicken dish that seemed fresh and flavorful with simple ingredients.  I immediately requested the dish and continued to munch on the crispy chips and spicy salsa while listening to the sounds of the lively Mexican music streaming through the sound system.  

As we waited for our meal to arrive, we chatted about our desire to visit a local farmer’s market to find lots of fresh produce to make our own salsa when returning home for the day.  

Alas, our meals arrived and as the waitress placed the scrumptious looking dish in front of me, I realized how simple it would be for me to replicate the flavors at home and quickly made a note of all of the items on the plate.  After a lovely meal, we headed out to the farmer’s market located a few short blocks through the town square. We enjoyed a lovely walk through the bustling scene teaming with a variety of fresh vegetables and quickly scooped up the ingredients needed to replicate my chicken dish.  This is how I assembled my own version of the delicious meal…

Queso Blanco Chicken and Salsa

6 chicken breasts

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 (15 oz.) jar Queso Blanco Dip

1 1/2 cups Fresh (or store bought) Chunky Salsa (see recipe below)

6 ears corn, shucked and cleaned

2 avocado, sliced

Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Bake or grill for 30-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  In the meantime, place ears of corn on outdoor grill or indoor grilling skillet, roast until tender.  Slice corn off of the cob.  Season to taste with butter and salt, if desired.  In a microwave safe bowl, heat Queso Blanco Dip until warm and pourable.  To serve, place a chicken breast on each plate, drizzle with Queso Blanco Dip and garnish with fresh cilantro. Next,  add to the plate, a couple of heaping spoons of roasted corn, fresh salsa, and slices of avocado.  Simple and delicious!

Homemade Chunky Salsa

2 cups ripe plum tomatoes, diced 

1/4 cup white onion, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, bottled or fresh

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

1 small garlic clove, minced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Cover tightly and refrigerate before serving.



Beef Salami

We recently had a substantial amount of local beef delivered to our home. One of my colleagues owns a beef ranch and I decided to try the product that so many often rave about.  The delivery came with a selection of cuts including various roasts, steaks, and ground beef.  As I looked at all of the individually wrapped beef packages, I was reminded of a recipe that I first spotted in a community cookbook that I’m fond of.  It’s an ole’ time recipe for homemade beef salami and the ingredients are few and common.  I substituted Lawry’s seasoning salt for the “tender quick salt” just because I didn’t have any on hand.  The beef salami turned out just fine.





As the holiday weekend approaches, I thought this might be a fun recipe to try as I’m often assembling plates of appetizers when friends stop by and the kids open the fridge constantly looking for something to munch on.







Easy Skillet Pizza



I keep extra loaves of frozen pizza dough on hand for this Easy Skillet Pizza.  Using an old, well seasoned cast iron skillet is the secret to a crispy flavorful crust. Be creative and add your own vegetable favorites and toppings. Give this one a try… I think you’re family will love it. 

Easy Skillet Pizza

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound Italian sausage, browned and crumbled

1 pound fresh pizza dough or frozen bread dough, thawed and at room temperature

1 cup your favorite marinara sauce (or 1 1/2 cups crushed, strained San Marzano canned tomatoes)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 cups sliced red or green peppers, sliced (optional)

1/2 cup sliced pepperoni rounds (optional)

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon dried Italian seasonings

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease the inside of a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.   Place the pizza dough in the center and spread evenly across the bottom edge and 1 1/2 inches up the sides. 

Spread sauce, garlic, and oregano over crust.  Sprinkle browned sausage evenly over the sauce.  Add desired fresh, sliced vegetables and pepperoni, if desired.   Next, add the mozzarella. Sprinkle the Italian seasonings on top. Finish with the Parmesan and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.





Place the skillet pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and cook until the edge of the crust is golden brown and crusty, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.



Note: If the crust and toppings start to brown too quickly, cover with a piece of foil and continue baking until cooked through.

Enjoy!