Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stuffed Green Peppers

A "cleaning out my fridge meal" and nothing more.  I found these beautiful, cavernous green peppers on sale at Schnuck's for 2/$1. They were screaming "stuff me".

So I did.

Saturday morning was the Ground Hog Day Brunch and I took about 2 lbs of sausage.  I had about a half pound of crumbled sausage left and I decided to put it to use here.

Did you know that breakfast sausage is incredibly fattening?  I KNOW!  Who'da thunk it?  Oh well.  There are many, many ways to make stuffed peppers and I've tried a number of recipes over the years, but for some reason, my tastes tend to gravitate toward just-a-little-bit-spicy and let-the-peppers-shine.  So, I try not to overdo the spices in this dish.  Also, since I tend to make it once a year when it's cold and wet and crappy outside and when it seems spring will never come again.  This is comfort food, plain and simple.  You just want something that makes you warm and happy.  And has sausage in it.

6 large bell peppers
2.5 cups calrose rice (uncooked)
1/2 lb. cooked breakfast sausage
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 zucchini, diced
2 small cans or 1 large can original Rotel tomatoes and peppers
1 jar spaghetti sauce

Cook rice according to package instructions.  In my case, I used 2.5 cups of rice in 4 cups water.  When cooked, set aside to cool.  Cut the tops off the green peppers and remove the seeds and membrane inside.  Remove the stem from the top, but retain the top.  Place the rice in a large mixing bowl.  Add the ground beef, sausage, zucchini, and Rotel (do not drain) to the rice and mix well.  Scoop the rice mixture into the green peppers.  Stuff them well and place the top of the pepper on top of the rice mixture.  Place all peppers in a baking dish.  Pour the spaghetti sauce into the dish and bake the peppers in a 325 degree oven 35-40 minutes.  The peppers should be cooked but still firm.

Servings: 6
Kcals: 516
Fat: 27g
Carbs: 44g  Dietary fiber: 5g
Protein 24g
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 16

Yowza.  That's a lotta points for one bell pepper.  So when I made it, I left out the ground beef.  Because really.  You thought I was gonna leave out sausage?  Hahahahahaha!  Anyway, sans ground beef, we're down to 13 PointsPlus, but 3 points is a big savings.  What the hell.  They don't call it comfort food for nothing.

Post script:  You can't eat a whole one of these peppers.  I ate 3/4 of one and thought I was going to have to lay down for a bit.  A half of one is plenty for an adult's main meal.  This cheap little meal is going to last me  LONG time!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Well, I'm a little tardy for PB Day, but here is an awesome recipe for peanut butter cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen
by Leanne D

Preheat gas oven to 350 degrees (325 for electric).

1/2 cup butter flavor Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
-cream the above together

1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanut butter (I use smooth Jif)

sift or whisk in separate bowl:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture. Wrap in plastic and chill. Roll into 1 inch balls and press lightly onto ungreased cookie sheet. With a fork dipped in flour, make a criss-cross design into top of cookies and flatten.

Bake in preheated oven for 9 min. Let cool for a minute or two on baking sheet then transfer to wire rack or wax paper to cool.

Meal Planning

I'm taking a stab this week at actual meal planning.  As part of my diet, food control is fairly important.  As a poverty stricken graduate student, not wasting food is, too.  I also need to consider that I'll probably be moving in May (to a location to be determined), so I need to clean out my freezer.  So, I'm taking stock of my current food situation and trying to see if I can't swing an entire week without a substantial grocery trip.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beef Bourguignon

Wow. This was a lot of work. But the sauce is so worth it. I followed the recipe published by Macheesmo. Since I've given you the link, I'm not going to the trouble of re-posting the recipe myself. I did make some modifications as I couldn't find pearl onions despite trying three different grocery stores. Not frozen. Not canned. Not fresh. I also used a rump roast instead of a chuck roast, but beware. I'll clue you in on why you might not want to do that.

I started the meat on to braise and while things were heating up in the pan over by the stove, I got to chopping. All in all, not too much prep involved in that. What we have here is onions, carrot, garlic, and parsley.

The meat had to brown on four sides.

Then you just dump it in your dutch oven.

Now you get the aromatics going in all that fat and butter. Add a little tomato sauce and it really starts to smell wonderful.

Deglaze the pan with a half cup of brandy and add that to the beef in the pot.

Then you add the better part of a bottle of wine and just enough beef broth to cover the meat. Throw in your parsley, some thyme, a few cloves of, well, cloves, couple of bay leaves and let it simmer for an hour.

After an hour, it starts to look like this.

You add some chunks of carrot and let it simmer for another hour. At this point, I sauteed some button mushrooms and because I couldn't find any pearl onions, I skipped that part.

And here it is. This sauce is beyond wonderful. It is every thing that was promised in a 3-hour sauce and then some. Only there was one problem. The beef was dry. Not just a little dry. Like, holy moly, did my mother cook this thing? In any event, I think it was the cut of meat. I had a rump roast and I think I should have used a chuck roast, a cheaper piece of meat. I think cooking some pieces of meat that long works and with others it just dries them out. The rump roast I used was one of the latter.

So I'm thinking I'll just save this sauce--maybe freeze it-- and when summer comes and I have a taste for a steak, I'm ready to go. Or maybe I'll just warm this sauce up in the microwave and drink it from a coffee mug to warm me up.

Really. It's that good.

Oh, Weight Watchers PointsPlus:  14 per cup.  Don't even think about it.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

National Peanut Butter Lover's Day

At last, it is here! National Peanut Butter Lover's Day! January 24!!!

Peanut butter is my favorite food.

Of. All. Time.

Popcorn is a close second, but it is second.

In honor of the most fabulous food day of the year, I will list my top 10 list of Best Ways to Enjoy Peanut Butter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Southwestern Rub

A very simple rub for chicken and pork. Made it up myself. I make a large batch of this and just have it on hand for Mexican food emergencies.


1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt or seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
pinch of ground cayenne pepper

You can go less or more on the cayenne, depending upon your heat tolerance.

Store in an airtight jar and use liberally to rub on meat. Get creative!

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Avgolemono Soup

Backstory on this dish is this. In Chicago, almost every neighborhood diner is owned by a Greek family.  And every special on the menu usually has a soup course.  And almost every soup course has no selection, it just IS Avgolemono or lemon-egg soup.  Man, does this ever spell comfort food for me.  It also makes my heart ache for Chicago.

At least I can have a little bit of Chicago right here in southern Illinois with this recipe.  Added bonus:  it's not too bad on the ol' waistline.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


 In the town where I grew up, there were two grocery stores:  IGA and Gateway.  And sometimes, if you were very, very lucky, Gateway sold freshly baked bread.  It was right there on the counter in this miniscule bakery they had right by the meat section.  And when we smelled that heavenly smell, my sister and I made a bee line to see if there was any bread left.  Maybe that's where I first fell in love with homemade bread.  If so, thus began a lifelong love affair.  Since I fell in love with cooking and eating, I naturally decided to master bread baking.  I'm still working on that mastery.

Baking bread is an art.  It takes knowledge and skill, imagination and faith.  Ciabatta is a prime example.  The dough is so wet that you are certain there is no way that is every going to make anything other than a re-creation of Jabba the Hut.  Well, I'm here to tell you that ciabatta is possible, if you just have faith.

Ciabatta (from America's Text Kitchen Television Show 10th Anniversary Best Recipes 2001-2010)

1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water, room temperature

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the dough and work surface
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
3/4 cup water, room temperature

Number of servings:  2 loaves x 8 slices per loaf (this is a generously sized slice!  so 16 servings)
KCal:  88
Total fat: 0g
Carbs: 18g Dietary fiber: 1g
Protein: 3g
Weight Watchers Points Plus:  2

Mix the sponge in a medium bowl until a uniform mass forms, about 1 minute.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours but up to 24 hours.  Over this 24 hours, the yeast will begin to ferment the bread, bubbles will form on the surface, and the sponge will begin to look very wet.  Like so.

Honestly, it reminds me of a pancake ready to flip.  When the sponge is done, ready the dry ingredients.

Then the wet ingredients.  A little tip: if you are lactose intolerant, you needn't worry about that these days.  This stuff will do.

Put the sponge and the wet and dry ingredients in the Kitchenaid mixer and using the paddle, let her rip.  Did I mention that sponge would be VERY wet?

Takes about 6-8 minutes til the dough comes together as a single mass.  You must have faith.  It takes that long for the gluten to develop.  You will doubt yourself at this point because SURELY no bread dough was ever this wet.

Then you switch to the dough hook.  Another 10 minutes.  I just set a timer and let it go.  Sometimes the dough will come together as a mass.  Today, mine never did.  I was fearless.

Now you must let the dough rise.  (Cover with plastic.)  When it has doubled in size, you take a bench scraper to the sides of the bowl and draw the dough over onto itself 8 times (turning the bowl a quarter turn as you work).  Cover again with the plastic wrap and let it rise again until doubled or tripled in size.  My kitchen was cold, so this took a while.  Maybe two hours.

Lots o' bubbles at this point.  Now, you want to cut out two pieces of parchment about 6"x12".  Dust them liberally with flour and spill out that very wet dough onto them. You will want to liberally dust all sides of the dough right away so you can work with it because it is seriously very Jabba-the-Hut-like at this point.  Take your bench knife and divide it in two, putting each piece on its own parchment. Do not forget to liberally dust the parchment before you attempt this.  You'll spend the next 20 minute of your life trying to detach the bread from the paper.  When you can handle it, stretch each dough piece into a very long rectangle.  You want to pick the dough up (with well floured hands), stretching it to about 3 feet in length and fold it like a business letter in thirds.  It will shrink up a little bit.  Then form it into a rough rectangle and let it rise for at least 30 minutes while your oven preheats to 450 degrees.

Although they are hard to see in this pic, there will be little air bubbles forming all over the surface of the dough.  This is good. 

Bake 22-27 minutes on a baking stone (opening oven to spray dough with water twice during the first 5 minutes.  So, ok.  I don't have a water sprayer or an oil sprayer.  So I flick a generous amount of water onto the dough.  It doesn't seem to matter.  Because look!  Voila!  Perfect ciabatta!

I can't even describe the smell, but you are going to have a hard time holding off from slicing it right away.  The crust is chewy, the airy interior is tender.  This stuff is dangerous.  Dogs must be locked in another room.  I take this bread and I slather it with a lovely jalapeno-infused honey that I made back in the summer.

Man, life is good.  Isn't it?

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Soup Addiction

I've been on a soup kick lately.  I've been gathering recipes for soups to get us through this long, cold winter.  Then, I went visiting Liv and she made me soup. A Schmale Favorite soup.  Chicken and Wild Rice.  It was great.  So great, that I was back less than 24 hours and I had to make it for myself.  So, without further ado, my version of Schmale's Chicken and Wild Rice.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ho hum Vegetable Lasagna and Kick Ass Eggplant Dip

I made a Weight Watchers recipe of roasted vegetable lasagna for New Year's Day at Bek's.  Spoiler alert:  I'm not impressed.