Easy Stuffed Peppers

Our weekly produce box has been so good for rounding out our meals – veggies galore! I decided to make stuffed peppers last week, something I have not made in ages. As almost always, I winged it.

I made a big pot of rice, with the intent of the leftovers being turned into fried rice on another night. Win for me and easy weeknight dinner!

I’m an absolute sucker for any sort of Tex-Mex flavoring, so I went with a pre-mixed Mexican spice for flavoring this time.

I arranged my 2 halved peppers in a casserole dish and began filling, hoping I had just the right amount of rice mixture. Somehow, my eyeballing skills haven’t failed me yet!
Just before I took them out of the oven, each pepper received a delicate sprinkling of cheese. Delicious reheated as a weekday work lunch, too, I might add.

Stuffed Peppers

1. Combine: ½ cup cooked white rice, ½ cup cooked mixed rice, 1 cup chopped kale, ½ chopped tomato, 1-2 tablespoons lime juice, salt & pepper, Mexican seasoning.

2. Cut 2 bell peppers in half, horizontally. Remove seeds and ribs. Fill with rice mixture. Bake in 375° oven for 30-35 minutes or till peppers are slightly softened and rice lightly browned. Optional: add sprinkling of cheese on top during last 5 minutes of baking.

Sweet Potato Nachos

sweetpotatonachos

Hold your horses, these are some amazing nachos.  We’ve had them for dinner a couple of times in the past month now.  I dreamed them up while playing, let’s use up what’s in the fridge and pantry.  That is one of Eric’s favorite meal-time methods – he hates hates having too much of one item around, while I am the opposite and would stockpile 15 of everything if I could.

sweet.potato

Start by roasting 1 sweet potato, at 425° for 45 – 55 minutes, or till soft.  I made a 1/2 pan, which easily fed Eric, myself, and toddler.  If you want a full size baking sheet, double the recipe.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place a layer of tortilla chips on the foil.  Tear the sweet potato into chunks and sprinkle 1/2 over the layer of chips.

nacho.cold

Cover sweet potato in 3 oz of cooked ground beef or fake beef crumbles, 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese, and a sprinkling of Mexican spice mixture.  Repeat layers once.  Top with 1-2 sliced jalapeño peppers, seeds in or removed.

qorn

I am a big fan of Quorn meatless and soy-free grounds.  I use them in all my recipes in place of ground beef.

baking

Bake nachos in oven for 8-10 minutes at 350°, or till heated and cheese melted.  I love my Breville toaster oven and use mine for baking a variety of things – Eric converted me years ago and I will never go back.  Can you catch my mistake in baking these?

table

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a choice beverage, of course.

Sweet Potato Nachos (serves 2-3)

1.  Roast 1 large sweet potato, at 425° for 45 – 55 minutes, or till soft.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place a layer of tortilla chips on the foil.  Tear the sweet potato into chunks and sprinkle 1/2 over the layer of chips.  Cover 1/2 of sweet potato in 3 oz of cooked ground beef or fake beef crumbles, 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese, and a sprinkling of Mexican spice mixture.  Repeat previous steps for second layer.  Top with 1-2 sliced jalapeño peppers, seeds in or removed.

3. Bake nachos in oven for 8-10 minutes at 350°, or till heated and cheese melted.  Serve with sour cream.

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

beet.salad

Let me preface this post by saying I am honestly not much of a salad person. Don’t get me wrong, I will eat them, order them at restaurants, but I rarely make them myself. This is for a few reasons: 1. I always seem to forget about the greens in my fridge and they turn to black sludge. 2. There are millions of others types of foods I would rather try making. 3. Salads never fill me up. 4. I’d rather make salad from during fresh from the garden season, not the grocery store.

I recently went to the Des Moines Art Center’s cafe – Baru at the Art Center – for lunch with family and a salad on the menu piqued my interest.  I liked it so much that I actually thought about it a few times since then, and decided to make my own version of it, tweaking it slightly.  I made it last week for a dinner with friends and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.  It is one I will make again once the farm-fresh home-grown produce comes in.

This recipe can be done in stages.  I roasted the beets the previous day, so they could chill in the fridge before combining them with the rest of the salad makings. I did not specify exact amounts with the goat cheese, lettuce, and pecans, as I figured these are a matter of taste.  I did use a standard-sized box of mixed greens from the grocery store, for my recipe.

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Peel and dice 2-3 medium beets into 1-inch chunks. Spread into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once.

2. Once beets are cooked, remove from pan and chill.

3. To prepare salad, combine in a large bowl: mixed greens, 1/4 – 1/2 of small red onion, thinly sliced, and roasted beets.

4. Top with crumbled goat cheesepecan halves, and honey balsamic vinegar dressing (see below).

Honey Balsamic Vinegar Dressing 

1. Combine in a jar: 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 1-2 teaspoons honey, ground black pepper.  Place lid on jar, shake thoroughly.

Southwestern Pinto Soup

pinto.soup

I made this heavenly toasty soup earlier in the week in my way too dusty slow cooker.  I need to brush it off and use it more often, it’s just too luxurious to come home to a house that smells deceivingly like a laborious meal.  The slow cooker meal feels almost magical, and I get giddy just thinking about it – when I walk into my home after work and after three trips from the car, with two hungry and exhausted kids, 3 ravenous animals, and my hangry self.  The very last thing I want to do on a weeknight is cook dinner – we’ve been surviving on multiple days of leftovers and frozen vegetables for the past 6 months.  My toddler has been known to say, “Mommy, we been having this last night.”  True.  Eat it or go hungry kiddo, sorry.  Hence the sudden drop in healthy meals on this blog.

pinto.beans

I cooked up the rest of my dried pinto beans earlier in the week for a random Monday night of nachos.  Leave it to the Bon Apetit Instagram feed to fuel that hankering.  So I had this heaping container of beans and no idea how to use them all, and so this soup was made.  I really do love this image of the beans, by the way, it makes me want to paint it on a 13 foot canvas.  My problem with the blog is this – I love to cook, I love baking, and I cannot turn off my artist eye.  So, often, I halt everything and capture the image, even if it is a container of glossy, slimy, and borderline gross container of pinto beans.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard my toddler say to me, “Mommy, what are you taking a picture of?”

soup.base

The base of this soup consists of three ways of tomatoes – canned by yours truly, paste, and fresh – and vegetable broth.  This soup is a vegetarian recipe and could easily be made vegan. Check out the recipe below.

knivesMy only other news is that we are slowly but surely organizing our lives in Iowa.  Funny how a move and a baby can throw your whole world into chaos.  😉   I love my new Ikea Magnetic Knife Strips but am still dreaming up ways to beautify gut my kitchen.

orange.kitchen

This kitchen speaks to my orange-loving soul!

Southwestern Pinto Soup with Cornbread Dumplings

Saute´ until soft:

1/2 yellow onion, diced and 3 cloves of garlic, minced.

Combine with onion mixture in slow cooker:

2 cups cooked pinto beans, 1 can diced tomatoes, 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 6 oz. can tomato paste, 2 chopped fresh tomatoes.

Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 7 hours.

30 minutes before serving, mix up dumplings.  In a small bowl combine:

2 tablespoons of water, 1 egg (to make vegan, swap egg for 1 tablespoon ground flax-seed with 3 tablespoons water), and 8 tablespoons corn flour.

Drop spoonfuls of batter into hot soup, cover and let cook 30 more minutes.

Serve with sprinkling of cheese and splash of lime juice.

Egg, Hash-brown & Sausage Breakfast Casserole

This simple 4 ingredient breakfast casserole is perfect for serving a large group or saving for leftovers.  My mother in law brought a similar one for our Christmas brunch and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Since I didn’t have her recipe, I winged it and was quite pleased with the results.  We had this delicious meal this morning with my side of the family for Easter brunch.  My mom even mentioned how great it would be to give as a food gift for new babies, illness, or deaths in the family.  She’s right – how nice to have something other than a lasagna!
I started off using the Lodge Cast Iron Wok I got for Eric’s birthday as the method of cooking the hash browns.  Thankfully, Eric quickly stepped in and took over.  I don’t know why I am so impatient when it comes to hash browns, but I always want to over stir them, flip them too soon, and just plain ruin them.  The wok was perfect for the job of browning hash browns – the heat stayed high enough and you could spread out the potatoes enough.

The cooked hash browns got dumped into a glass casserole dish.

I added eggs, almond milk, salt, pepper and cut up vegetarian sausage patties to the prepared hash browns.  One could easily swap our the vegetarian sausage for real sausage and the almond milk for regular dairy milk.  I used Alexia hash browns – they are fantastic and come pre-seasoned with garlic and onion.

I cooked this casserole last night, let it cool, refrigerated it, and then simply reheated in the oven while covered in foil, at 275° for about an hour.  We served this with my mom’s hot cross buns, fresh fruit, and coffee.  It was the perfect Easter morning family brunch.  Stay tuned for more on our Easter crafts, Easter eggs, and Greta’s Easter experiences.

Egg, Hash-browns & Sausage Breakfast Casserole

1. Prepare 2 bags of frozen hash browns (2 lbs), according to package.  Transfer to greased 9 x 13″ baking dish.

2.  In a large mixing bowl beat: 9 large eggs.  Combine with the eggs: 1 cup almond milk (or dairy milk), salt and pepper to taste, and 8 oz. crumbled veggie sausage (or real sausage).

3. Pour egg mixture over the hash browns and mix to combine.  Cover in foil, bake in a 350° oven for 50 – 60 minutes or until browned and egg fully cooked.  Serve warm.

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

I first made these vegetarian and gluten-free burgers back in January when we had some friends over for dinner, and forgot about them until now.  I decided to make them again, according to my scribbled notes, I was pleasantly surprised at their end result.  It is a recipe I originally made up as I went – not always the best idea when company is coming over.  However, I did have some frozen veggie burgers on hand, as a back-up plan.
 
 
 
The second time I made these burgers, I mixed everything the night before and popped it all in the fridge overnight before cooking them.  This recipe is so easy to whip up – it will no doubt become my go-to veggie burger recipe this summer.  I can’t wait to try it on the grill!  

I used the trusty Baby Bullet to puree half the beans, half the carrot mixture, the scallions, and eggs.  If you wanted to make this recipe egg-free, you could replace the 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water, or just simply increase the amount of panko as a binder.

Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or till done.

They should be a nice golden-brown and firm all the way through.

This photo shows a buried veggie burger – just the way I like them – covered in mustard, spinach, and on a big crusty bun.  This just so happened to by a lunch at work one noon hour.  The orange dotted thing is one of those nifty reusable sandwich bags.

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

1. In a small bowl combine: 2 grated carrots, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a food processor or blender puree: 1/2 can of black beans, 4 tablespoons chopped scallions, 1/2 the carrot mixture, and 3 eggs.

3.  Transfer puree to a medium mixing bowl.  Combine with puree: remaining 1/2 can of black beans, 1 tablespoon chia seeds1 cup gluten-free or regular panko, and remaining carrot mixture.

4. Fry on griddle or pan over medium heat, 3-5 minutes per side or till done.  Serve with toppings and bun of choice.

Coconut Red Curry & Veggies

This simple and pleasing curried vegetable classic comes from a spurt of energy due to an Iowa warn-up.  Last week we actually had a a couple balmy, sunny days.  It was enough to give me hope for spring!

It actually warmed up enough to melt almost all of the snow and go without jackets a few times.

It was even nice enough to sit on the porch while we had dinner!  I can’t wait to get my summer-cabin themed porch done just right this summer.  I know we will be using it daily.  Anyway, after happy hour or chips & salsa and NA beer, I decided to make something fresh and springy to fit the mood of the afternoon.

I started by throwing a bunch of veggies into a glass 8″ baking dish – 1/2 a red onion, sliced, 3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  I tossed these veggies with sesame oil and then baked these in the oven at 425º for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  Combine 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste in a saucepan.  Stir and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies.  Stir. Serve over warm cooked rice.

I was feeling so in the mood to cook on this warm spring evening that I even whipped up a batch of cherry crisp from canned cherries from last summer‘s crop.  I will share this classic recipe at a later date, because usually when I make this, I just throw it together without measuring – that’s what happens when you make a certain recipe often enough.


Coconut Red Curry & Veggies –
makes about 4 servings

1. In a glass 8″ baking dish combine: 1/2 a red onion, sliced3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  Toss veggies with sesame oil and then baked in a 425º oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  (If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes, or till softened.)

2.  While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  In a small saucepan combine: 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste.  Stir until well combined and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

3. Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies and stir. Serve over warm, cooked rice.

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie

I made one of these bad boys on Saturday morning – it was the perfect addition to my usual toast and peanut butter for breakfast.  The berry and banana flavors mixed with oats made it taste like a blueberry muffin in a cup.  

I’ve been using the single serving cups that came with our Ninja – they are too easy.  You just throw your ingredients into the cup, attach the blade, stick on the blender, blend for a perfect single serving, then remove and add the drinking lid.  When done, throw it in the dishwasher!
The three of us headed over to the Des Moines Art Center on Saturday morning for a 2-4 year olds art class.  It was snowing and we needed to get out of the house.  Greta loved the different methods of painting – brushes attached to long sticks, cars rolled in paint, tempera sticks, and stamping methods.  Of course, mommy was collecting ideas for her classroom as well.  

After the art center, we made a quick stop at La Mie Bakery for pastries, bread, and coffee.  Eric let me run in and pick out pastries…can you tell?  So much for the healthy smoothie and toast I had for breakfast earlier in the day.  

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie – makes 1 serving 
1. In a blender combine: 1 banana, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, 2-3 ice cubes, and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk.  
2.  Blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.  

Butternut Squash & Chick Pea Soup with Quinoa Noodles

This soup rocked our weeknight meals this week.  The pureed butternut squash makes a fantastic flavorful base without being loaded up with dairy.  The celery and carrots complement the chick peas perfectly.  The only thing I might consider doing differently in the future, is adding actual chunks of butternut squash as well.

Surprisingly this soup was comprised of pantry items that I already had on hand.  I love to play soup roulette and make a soup based on already stocked items.

I have always loved the quinoa pasta as a twist in the normal pasta routine.  While my immediate family isn’t gluten-free, we do like to mix things up and stay out of food ruts.  This pasta will turn to mush if it is overcooked.  If you are not planning on eating all the soup at once, I would only add pasta into the individual serving bowls of soup.  This will prevent your soup from turning into an oatmeal consistency – which happened to my leftover container I took for lunch the following day.  


Butternut Squash & Chick Pea Soup with Quinoa Noodles

1. In a small sauce pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, saute: 1/2 medium red onion, diced and 2 cloves minced garlic until soft.

2. In a slow cooker combine: 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 can chick peas, 1 can pureed butternut squash, 5 stalks sliced celery, 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  Just before serving, cook 1-1/2 cups Quinoa pasta according to directions.  Add to soup, turn off heat and serve immediately.  Do NOT overcook quinoa pasta, they will disintegrate.  

Mango, Blood Orange & Avocado Salad

It has been so snowy, blustery, and plain old cold around here lately.  I have been dreaming of warmer climates and watching the weather of all my favorite warmer places –  SavannahKey West, Ocracoke, and Greensboro.  Sigh.  It is a little torturous at times.  To beat the winter blues, I made this salad over the weekend – it has three of my favorite fruits in it with just a smidge of lime juice and cinnamon.  It is a perfect healthy side salad, breakfast, or snack. 

First, peel 1 mango.  Slice off wedges.  Put into a bowl.

Next, slice the ends off of 1 blood orange.

Cut off peel and pith and then slice to create supreme wedges.  Hopefully yours looks neater than mine did.  Place in bowl with mango.

Slice 1 avocado and remove pit.  Use knife to cut vertical and horizontal slices in the halves (see above).  Use a spoon to remove slices and add to bowl with mango and blood oranges.

Toss with 1 teaspoon lime juice and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Enjoy!

Mango, Blood Orange, and Avocado Salad

1. Peel 1 mango.  Slice wedges.  Put into a bowl.  Next, slice the ends off of 1 blood orange.  Cut off peel and pith and then slice to create supreme wedges.  Place in bowl with mango.  Slice 1 avocado and remove pit.  Use knife to cut vertical and horizontal slices in the halves.  Use a spoon to remove slices and add to bowl with mango and blood oranges.

2.  Toss with 1 teaspoon lime juice and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Serve immediately.