Stuffed Peppers

[First things first…I am so sorry for the ridiculous semi-accidental hiatus. September was M’s last month in town before he headed back to Antarctica (yes, you read that right) for three months, so I let the blog fall by the wayside. My apologies. But there’s good news! I’m going to post something every Monday in October to make up for it.]

In other news, Montana refuses to legitimately enter autumn and insists on holding onto summer as long as possible. It is in the high 60s as I write this, which personally I think is just ridiculous for October. Maybe it’s just me but I am definitely ready for cooler temperatures. Mainly because I want to run in like 40 degrees rather than almost 70 and then come home to a steaming bowl of soup, but until I get that weather machine working I’ll just be staring forlornly at the weather forecast. Shorts and tank top weather will be over soon enough (I hope) just in time for everyone to complain it’s too cold. In preparation for that glorious time of year, here is a fabulous and easy dinner recipe that’s great for a chilly fall day and conveniently includes almost all of the food groups.

Stuffed Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

As a kid I was not big on the bell peppers thing. I still don’t really care for them raw, but I love them cooked in things. Stir fry, tacos, pizza, soup, stew, etc are all improved by the addition of a bell pepper or three. Bonus: veggies are healthy. I saw a picture of stuffed peppers on Pinterest a few months ago and thought to myself “that looks like something I could maybe handle” and then promptly never made it because it was 85 degrees outside and I didn’t want to turn on the oven.

Stuffed Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

Fortunately it has cooled down a bit since then and my hypothesis was correct: they are delicious. Wild rice, Italian sausage, cheese, and a smattering of other flavors come together in a delightfully simple recipe. Although it’s not super quick, particularly if (like me) you’re not practiced at cutting things, it’s incredibly easy and hard to mess up. You could cut down on the time by preparing them the night before and popping them in the oven when you get home from work. They may need a bit longer in the oven to warm through so make sure you check that the center isn’t cold.

I did not add a lot of spices to mine because I was using hot Italian sausage and that was enough for me, but the addition of some red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, curry powder, or whatever you’re feeling that day would work beautifully. Conveniently you can taste the filling before you finish them up in the oven, so it’s easy to play around with the flavors before you stuff the peppers. Try adding zucchini or spinach for an extra veggie boost.

Stuffed Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

Bake these up, serve with homemade applesauce and a glass of milk and you’ve got all the food groups covered in a healthy and delicious meal.

Note: They reheat pretty well in the microwave but I find it works better if you cut them in half beforehand.

Stuffed Peppers

Inspired by Kalyn’s Kitchen
Makes 4 peppers

Ingredients

1 cup (uncooked) wild rice
4 large green bell peppers

12 oz Italian sausage (or ground meat of choice)
olive oil (for sauteing)

1 bell pepper (any color, I used orange)
1 small-medium onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated mozzarella

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease an 8″x8″ glass baking dish (or any glass baking dish that your peppers will all fit into.)
  2. Cook rice according to directions and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the tops off the peppers, hollow out the inside, and slice a bit off the bottom so they sit flat (if necessary).
  4. Dice the tops of the peppers (minus the stem of course), onion, garlic, and remaining pepper into small pieces.
  5. Saute meat and a little olive oil in a large pan over medium heat for a few minutes.
  6. When meat is about halfway done, add the diced veggies and continue sauteing until meat is cooked through and veggies are heated.
  7. In a large bowl, combine rice, cooked sausage mixture, and Parmesan cheese, stirring to combine thoroughly. (I found it easiest to use my hands.)
  8. Add spices to taste and stir to combine.
  9. Firmly stuff mixture into the hollowed-out peppers, filling them full and using a spoon to aid in packing it tightly. (You may have a little extra filling, I saved it and used it like a taco filling.)
  10. Bake about 30 minutes, then sprinkle (or pile) mozzarella onto the tops of the peppers and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
  11. Serve hot and refrigerate leftovers for up to one week.

Lo Mein

After last month’s ice cream bonanza, I thought I might make something a bit more savory. I came across this lo mein recipe on Pinterest and liked how easy it looked. I also liked that it doesn’t really require side dishes since it already includes veggies, grains, and meat. Timing different things to all finish at the same time is my least favorite part of cooking, and the main reason I prefer making desserts over dinner. Okay, that might be a stretch, but it is a pretty big reason nonetheless.

Lo Mein {{Baking Bytes}}

I prepped ahead of time by cutting all the veggies and the meat, and this saved a lot of time when I made it the following night. Putting it together took less than thirty minutes which makes it a great weeknight dinner if you have a little bit of time the night before to cut some veggies. It is still a pretty quick meal even without the prepping, especially if you’re better at cutting things than I am.

Lo Mein {{Baking Bytes}}

I used broccoli and carrots, but it would also be great with peas (frozen or snap), bell peppers, jalapeños, mushrooms (if you’re into that sort of thing), or whatever else you’d like to throw in there. Could also leave out the meat for a vegetarian option. It makes a bunch, so it’s great for a family dinner or as leftovers. It’s delicious, filling, covers several food groups, and reheats nicely. I’m a big fan of meals I can eat for several days, whether for lunch or dinner or occasionally both. (I told you I’m not a big fan of cooking.)

Lo Mein {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re looking for an easy recipe to dip your toes into the waters of Asian entrées, this is a great one to start with.

Lo Mein

Adapted from Mom’s Dish
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 large carrots
3 cups broccoli
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic

8 oz noodles (spaghetti, angel hair, rice noodles)

1/2 cups boiling water
2 beef bouillon cubes

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
2 tsp sesame oil

1 pound beef steak (I used elk)
oil, for frying

Directions

  1. Mince the garlic, and cut the meat and remaining veggies into bite-sized pieces. Slicing them thinner than I did will help everything to cook more evenly. Pro tip: meat is easier to slice when it is still slightly frozen. If prepping ahead of time, store in the fridge until ready to cook.
  2. Bring water to boiling (scoop out 1/4 cup for your sauce) and cook pasta as directed. Drain and set aside.
  3. Add bouillon cube to boiling water and stir until dissolved. Add soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or wok, sauté oil, garlic, and onion for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add meat and fry until it’s lightly browned.
  6. Add remaining veggies and fry for another few minutes until veggies are cooked but still crisp.
  7. Add sauce and noodles, mix thoroughly, and cook briefly to ensure all ingredients are warmed through.
  8. Serve immediately.

[Slow Cooker] Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread

[Welcome to 2014! Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. I’m back from an amazing trip to Australia and looking forward to a brand new year of blogging. I haven’t had time to look through all my travel pictures yet as I just returned late Saturday night, but once I do I’ll be sure to share some with you guys, along with the some of my plans for 2014. In the mean time, enjoy an easy dinner recipe below.]

We now resume our regularly scheduled programming. I’m starting off the new year with an easy comfort food since I’m sure everyone is exhausted from all the holiday cooking and eating. (If you aren’t sugared out, I hope didn’t miss my almond roca post from two weeks ago.) This a hearty, no-frills stew is full of potatoes, peas, carrots and tender pieces of meat. Nothing fancy, just warm and filling. Other than dicing some veggies and browning the meat, you just throw it in a crock pot for a few hours and come back to a meal perfect for a cozy winter evening.

Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread {Baking Bytes}

Need a side dish? Look no further than this honey cornbread. I love this recipe because not only is it super easy (and only requires two sizes of measuring cups), it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious with the slight sweetness of honey. It’s extra delicious spread with butter and drizzled with honey. Throw this recipe in the oven 30 minutes before you want to eat, and you have the perfect companion for your stew. A hard cider rounds out the meal (or Martinelli’s, for the kids.)

Both the stew and the cornbread make great leftovers, for about a week or a few days, respectively. Keep the stew in the fridge and cornbread in an airtight container on the counter. I like to reheat the cornbread for about 30 seconds in the microwave with some butter for extra moisture. I happily eat this stew for several days, and think you’ll enjoy it too. Find the recipes for both the stew and the cornbread below.

Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread >> Baking Bytes

[Slow Cooker] Hearty Stew

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens cookbook
Makes 2.5-3 quarts

Ingredients

1 lb meat of choice (I used deer)
2 Tbsp olive oil

2 (11.5 oz) cans V-8 juice
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 tsp dried basil1
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf

2-3 large potatoes2
4-6 medium carrots2

1 cup frozen peas

Directions

  1. Add oil to a skillet and brown meat over medium-high heat. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  2. Add V-8 juice, onion, garlic, bouillon, basil, thyme, pepper and bay leaf, stirring to combine.
  3. Cube potatoes and carrots into bite-size pieces, about 1″, and carefully add to slow cooker. Add as many potatoes and carrots as you like and will fit.
  4. Cook on low for 5 hours.
  5. Add peas and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until peas are warmed through.3
  6. Serve hot with a side of cornbread (recipe below.)

Notes

1 If you don’t have basil, you can substitute oregano.
2 I love potatoes and carrots, so I added a bunch. Start with the lesser amount and add more to taste. No need to peel them unless you really want to.
3 I like to add the peas when I put the cornbread in the oven.

Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread >> Baking Bytes

Honey Cornbread

Gleefully borrowed from Tim
Makes one 8×8 or 9×9 pan

Ingredients

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder

2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey

Directions

  1. Grease a 9×9″ or 8×8″ baking pan and preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl; make a well in the center.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients and whisk gently.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into the well and stir gently until just combined. Pour into prepared baking pan.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes for a 9×9 pan, or 25-30 minutes for an 8×8 pan. Cornbread should be nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  6. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve with butter and honey, if desired.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup

Bozeman has been slow to head towards winter which makes it difficult to dive into fall cooking. The weather is a little bipolar, often jumping between 20’s one week and high 50’s the next. As someone who loves cold weather, the latter of the two makes me very upset inside. Recently, however, we had a short bout of 30’s, which led me to making this wonderful slow cooker soup.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

In addition to being incredibly fast to assemble (not including cooking time, of course) this soup is delicious and perfect for a chilly fall day. A little spicy, this soup version of a Mexican dinner is warm and hearty and goes great with a side of cornbread. (Or if you’re me, cornbread goes great with a side of this soup.) M is a hunter so I used deer steak we had in the freezer, but use whatever meat or poultry you prefer. Corn, black beans, and green beans come together for a healthy and filling meal with the spiciness of chili peppers and enchilada sauce.

As with most slow cooker recipes, this one is very easy to modify to fit your personal preferences. Add and subtract canned/frozen veggies as you like, but be mindful of the overall volume as my small crock pot barely fit this recipe. It’s also easy to tailor towards your own spice tolerance; choose mild or hot enchilada sauce and peppers as you prefer. I’m fairly wussy so I tend towards medium and mild, respectively.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

This recipe makes enough to feed a decent crowd, or an average family with leftovers for later. If your weather is guiding you to soup cravings, this one is sure to satiate you.

Enchilada Soup

Adapted from SnarkRecipes
Makes 3 quarts

Ingredients

1 lb meat/poultry of choice1

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce
1 (4 oz) can diced green chili peppers
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn2
1 can green beans (optional)
1 can black beans, rinsed

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 cans chicken broth3

cheddar cheese, grated (optional garnish)

Directions

  1. Dice meat into bite-sized cubes and brown in a skillet over medium heat. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  2. Stir in onions and garlic to distribute evenly.
  3. Layer remaining ingredients except chicken broth.
  4. Gently pour in the chicken broth, being careful not to overflow, and stir gently.
  5. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours, or on high for about 3 hours.
  6. Serve garnished with shredded cheese.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

Notes

Again, I used deer steak but use whatever you prefer. Chicken or beef would both be great.
If you buy frozen corn in bulk like I do, 10 oz is about two cups.
If you have a larger slow cooker and would prefer a more brothy soup, you may want to add an additional can of chicken broth.
If you want to come home to a lovely dinner already made, cooking this a few extra hours won’t hurt it. Throw it together the night before, store it in the fridge overnight, turn it on “low” in the morning, and have dinner ready to go when you walk in the door.