Unstuffed Pepper Casserole, ready to eat.

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole, ready to eat.

I ended up using orange and yellow peppers because they were on sale and I love the flavor. This would have been super-colorful with red peppers in there too. As you know, I cook like a real person and am not into “plating” food beautifully for the family. This is likely what your meal will look like when you, a real person like me, serves it up!

My grandmother was the queen of figuring out better ways to do things. The dishes of her youth required women to be in the kitchen all day. But after decades of making these dishes the way her mother had and her grandmother, she found little shortcuts that saved time but tasted just as great. 

With her as inspiration, I found a better way to make the traditional stuffed pepper casserole by merely slicing up the peppers in my Cuisinart in about 2 seconds or by hand in about 2 minutes. This step means you no longer have to blanch the peppers to pre-cook them a bit. I take advantage of times when my produce department bags up peppers that are just past their prime (wrinkly but not moldy!) for a little budget move.

Here’s the recipe:

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

Ingredients:

4-5 medium-size peppers of your choice (green, red, yellow, orange or a combination) 

1 onion, diced

2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey, pork or sausage to your liking) – or omit for a vegetarian dish

2 cups uncooked rice

4 cups water

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar + 1/4 cup more to sprinkle over top

2 tsp. garlic powder

Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

  1. Make the rice by boiling the 4 cups of water, then adding the 2 cups of rice. You can use vegetable or chicken stock to enhance the flavor, which I highly recommend. Cook the rice according to package directions and remove from heat.

  2. At the same time, brown the ground beef and onion, adding salt and pepper to taste plus the garlic powder. Add more of the seasonings at the end if needed. You want the meat to have a lot of flavor.

  3. In a really big bowl, combine the rice and meat/onion mixture until well-blended.

  4. Bit by bit, add the cheese, stirring to incorporate before adding more, otherwise, you’ll just end up with a big cheese lump.

  5. Add the tomato sauce. It should not be soupy, just wet, kind of like oatmeal. If you don’t need all of the sauce, save it to pour over the top of the casserole once it is assembled.

  6. Slice the peppers – your food processor will do the trick but if you want to slice by hand, first, I recommend using a serrated knife because the peppers can be slippery. Slice to about 1/4 of an inch thin. You can remove the seeds and core after slicing, very easily.

  7. Assemble the casserole by first spraying an oblong pan like a Pyrex dish, with Pam or another nonstick spray. Then, spoon in a layer of the rice mixture, spreading it evenly along the bottom. But don’t press it down. Next, add a layer of the peppers. If you’ve used different colors, mix up the colors as you place them in to distribute the difference in flavors. Do another layer of meat/rice mixture and another layer of peppers, and so on, until you run out of both. That will probably amount to about 2 layers. IF you have any tomato sauce left over, you can drizzle it over the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top too.

  8. Put aluminum foil over the top, sealing the edges and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. When the timer goes off, turn the pan around and bake for another 15 minutes because most ovens have hot spots so this provides an even baking. Everything in this dish is cooked, except for the pepper slices so baking just heats it through, melts the cheese and cooks down the peppers a little.

  9. Remove the foil and bake 8 minutes more, then serve, using a spatula to “cut” portion sizes. 

This dish is even better the next day and it freezes well too. Enjoy!

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole, hot out of the oven, ready to serve.

If you have room in your freezer, this meal is easy enough to double. Just let it cool completely before putting it in the freezer. The house smelled SO good as I was cooking it!

 

Advertisements

Review: The Chef and the Slow Cooker

Please note, this review originally appeared on our sister site, RealFoodTraveler.com. Cooking enthusiasts that you all are, I knew you’d want to learn about this great cookbook. — Edan Goode, editor, E.A.T. (Everyone Around the Table)

I love my crockpot, dearly. Yes, it forces me to deal with chopping, measuring and handling ingredients I don’t want to look at first thing in the morning. But it rewards me all day long, especially as mid-afternoon hangries attack and I think “What am I going to make for dinner?” “Remember, you have dinner cooking in the crockpot,” my memory reminds me. Yes! What a treat to know that my little crockpot has been slaving away for me and my family all day, or all afternoon, as the cooking time case may be. That’s why I had to have The Chef and the Slow Cooker cookbook by Hugh Acheson.

The book, "The Chef and the Slow Cooker."

I first became aware of Acheson through his work as culinary partner of the Punch Bowl Social restaurants. His take on southern cooking is all over the menu, to rave reviews. Robert Thompson, owner of Punch Bowl Social, said Acheson’s book, A New Turn in the South, is his go-to when he’s cooking at home. That said a lot to me, so I was anxious to check out Acheson’s newest book on slow cookery. To provide some context, Acheson is a James Beard award-winning chef, restaurateur and Top Chef Judge. He is the chef owner of several restaurants in Georgia including 5&10 and Empire State South. He founded Seed Life Skills, “a living, multimedia curriculum built to serve the needs of the modern Family & Consumer Sciences (founded as Home Economics) classroom, emphasizing retainable real life skills with topics including hands-on culinary instruction, conscious consumer economics, and D.I.Y. design principles,” according to his website. What an accomplished and honorable guy!

The first thing I discovered in Acheson’s cookbook, The Chef and the Slow Cooker, is snark. Snark, wit, irreverance, humor, aaaaalll over the place. The book is a pleasure to look through, what with periodic photos of Acheson spending quality time with his crockpot such as while soaking in the tub (don’t try that at home), playing the cello, or reading in a lawn chair, in the yard with his crockpot on a loooong extension chord. Silliness, sure, but it’s all part of the vibe of the book that has a slightly retro air. I appreciated that, while beautiful, the photographs and staging aren’t too perfect which can make a cookbook feel like a coffee table book and somewhat intimidating. The photos for the stock recipes show the liquid in Mason jars with “Beef,” etc. handwritten on scotch tape labels. Yes! I would totally do that!

Sections from The Chef and the Slow Cooker include:

Foundations – stocks, broths and a theory on the long cook

Porcine Dreams

Chicken, duck and other birds…plus eggs

Jams, butters, chutneys and one and a half desserts

The only bone I have to pick with this book is that a lot of the recipes take less than a whole day. So for those hoping to utilize the book to get something going before they leave for work in the morning, your selections are fewer. OR, just wait for the weekend, get everything in the crockpot mid-day, go off and have some fun, and dinner will be waiting for you. For me, a work-from-home type, the recipes were perfect, forcing me to take a mid-day break to prep things, but then allowing me to work a little later because my faithful crockpot was making me dinner like a good crockpot should!

I tried three recipes from the book and got rave reviews from my family. As you’ll see, these are real life photos from my real life cooking, not nearly as good looking as the pictures in the book. But they sure came out tasting fantastic!

Lentil Soup with Kale & Sour Cream was enhanced by shallots, carrot and celery, smoked paprika, and coriander seeds. It was brightened by lemon zest and sherry vinegar. After spending a little sauteeing time at the beginning, the meal cooked away for about three hours. I didn’t have sour cream but did dollop on some thick, plain yogurt.

 

Lentil Soup with Kale from The Chef and the Slow Cooker.

Chicken Stew with Farro, Tomatoes, Olives & Feta, which cooked for four hours, was my favorite of the three (all of which we loved). I’d never really tried making farro, thinking it was going to take too long to cook. But when thrown in with other ingredients that are slow-cooking, it’s no big deal, with everything coming ready at the same time. The addition of olives, tomatoes and the tang of feta over the other hot ingredients made the meal a pleasure to eat.

Chicken Stew with Farro, Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

Chicken Country Captain, was the most complex of the three slow cooker dishes I made. As Acheson points out, it is “a complex dish that travels the spice route of Southern history, featuring bright flavors that were introduced through the ports of Savannah and Charleston centuries ago.” Ingredients include poblano chile, ginger, curry, coconut milk and golden raisins. This was the one recipe I had to do a little shopping for. The others contained items I typically have in my pantry. They were all easy ingredients to get though, which meant I was stocked for making this dish again and again, which I have, since.

 

Chicken Country Captain from The Chef and the Slow Cooker.

 

The Chef and the Slow Cooker, by Hugh Acheson is a great book for someone who leads a busy life but wants to make their own meals (healthy ones at that), using real and interesting ingredients. The recipes are doable, family-friendly, yet sophisticated. The book is enjoyable, approachable and means a much less stressful end-of-the-day, just when we need to be able to kick back, relax and settle into a good meal and a good evening ahead. It’s available at bookstores and on Amazon, through this link.

 

 

Please note, this site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Also, we received a copy of this cookbook to facilitiate our review. Rest assured, our opinions are our own and are true and honest reflections of our experience with this and other products. 

Have a cold glass of milk with your Mayan Mystery Cookies

Mayan Mystery Cookies

Chocolate. Cookies. Need I say more? Okay, how about allspice, cinnamon and black pepper? These three ingredients intensify the chocolate of these delicious cookies, lending some sophisitication and mega chocolatey goodness! 

Have a cold glass of milk with your Mayan Mystery Cookies

Perfect little 2-bite chocolatey cookies with just the right hint of heat.

Mayan Mystery Cookies ingredients

You probably have these ingredients in your pantry already!

Ingredients:

¾ c. butter

¾ c. sugar

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. finely ground black pepper

¼ tsp. ground allspice

The dough for Mayan Mystery Cookies will be crumbly, which is normal.

The dough will be crumbly and a little dry. This is normal! It will come together in the next step.

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

¾ c. cocoa powder

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Semi-sweet chocolate morsels

 
Instructions:

Roll up the dough into balls and get ready to bake the Mayan Mystery Cookies.

Roll the cookies into little balls. Fortunately, they won’t spread a lot so you can fit more onto one cookie sheet.

Cream the butter and sugar together.

Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and cocoa and add to the butter mixture.

Add egg and vanilla and mix.

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and spoon the dough, which will be crumbly, onto the plastic. With the help of the plastic wrap, gather the dough together, pressing it into a log. Wrap the log in the plastic to keep it together and chill the dough log for one hour.  

Form the dough into balls about the size of a ping pong ball, tucking 4-5 chocolate morsels into each as you mold it.

Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sunday Baked Chicken Supper

Sunday Roast Chicken - served

Hearty, delicious and homey – Sunday Baked Chicken Supper

When I was a child, nearly every Sunday, my Grandma made a baked chicken. It just wasn’t Sunday without those delicious smells coming from the kitchen and that pageantry of presenting that big meal. As an adult, Sundays felt a little incomplete, or not really official, if I didn’t make a baked chicken. With four children, the craziness of the weekend and just inadequate planning on my part (you do have to plan for making a baked chicken), that tradition fell by the wayside. But on a chilly weekend recently, I just had a hankering and had to make a nice chicken dinner for the family. Drawing on a variety of recipes and methods I’ve collected over the years, I came up with an easy, straightforward recipe I think you’ll love.

Sunday Roast Chicken - herbs and garlic

Herbs, garlic cloves and some lemon, inside the cavity of the chicken, will lend flavor as it bakes.

Sunday Baked Chicken Supper
Serves 6 or 4 with leftovers

Ingredients:
1 5-7 pound chicken, whole
1 onion, sliced
The cloves of one head of garlic, peeled
Roasting veggies of your choice including potatoes, carrots, beats, turnips, parsnips, celery cut into big chunks
Fresh herbs of choice but thyme and rosemary were used in this recipe
1/2 a lemon, cut in half
1 TBS butter, melted
Olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1-2 TBS flour
Salt & Pepper

Sunday Roast Chicken - raw veggies

We used turnips, beats, carrots, onion and garlic here. But you could use other root veggies of your choice like potatoes, parsnips and rutabagas. See below for why I did not cook the vegetables in the same pan as the chicken (besides space).

Method:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

1. Make sure you’ve taken out the bag of gizzards and whatnot (I call it the “bag of yuck”) from inside the chicken. Not every chicken comes this way but I didn’t check once and accidentally baked the bag right in. Don’t make that mistake!

2. Place 1/2 of the sliced onion on the bottom of your roasting pan to create a bit of a bed for the chicken. Place the other 1/2 of the onion in a separate roasting pan that will hold the vegetables (more on that in a moment).

3. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Place the fresh herbs and lemon pieces inside the bird. Brush the melted butter over the chicken, then salt and pepper the bird.

4. Place your veggies of choice in the second roasting pan. I keep the veggies separate from the chicken so that they don’t come in contact with the juices of the chicken. While the chicken and the vegetables can definitely benefit from the flavor the other yields, I like to make extra vegetables and then use them with other dishes later in the week. Because they didn’t touch the chicken, they have a longer “shelf-life” and will also go better with other dishes, like beef or pork. The only time I absolutely cook chicken and veggies together is in my Go-To One Pot Chicken and Peppers recipe  which you’ve got to try on a busy night!

5. Drizzle a little olive oil over the veggies and toss them around.

6. Put both pans in the oven, side-by-side, and put on the timer for 45 minutes. At that point, switch the pans around so they are on the other side and rotated to ensure even baking. Stick a fork in the veggies to see if they are done. If so, remove them at this point. If they are not, stir them around and put a lid, or aluminum foil over them to prevent them from drying out and to create a little steaming to hurry along the baking.

7. Depending on the size of the chicken, it will need another 45 minutes, for a total of 1 1/2 hours (maybe more). A meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh should read 165 degrees when it is done.

8. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the gravy.

9. Pour the drippings into a small pot and add the chicken broth. Add some herbs like dried basil, rosemary and thyme plus salt and pepper to taste. Make a slurry of the flour and a little cold water in a small bowl and whisk it in to the gravy, boiling the mixture until it thickens a little. Making the gravy is totally optional!

10. Slice the chicken and serve it with the roasted veggies and a drizzle of gravy if desired.

Enjoy!

 

Sunday Roast Chicken - roast chicken

Mmmm, golden brown! You can’t believe how delicious the house smells! Well, you’ll see when you make it!

Sunday Roast Chicken - roasted veggies

Roasting brings out entirely different flavors of vegetables. Onion and garlic tie all of the flavors together.

Some Saucy Sauce!

Here’s a cranberry sauce recipe from our partners at In Good Taste Denver, that takes cranberry beer!

Try saying this three times fast: Saison sauce, saison sauce, saison sauce. Better yet, just make it. Here’s a great recipe for a cranberry sauce using Lone Tree Brewing Co.’s seasonal brew, Cranberry Saison. This is the second year Lone Tree Brewing Company Cranberry Saison is being offered in 22-ounce bombers. It will be available…

via Lone Tree Brewing Co. Cranberry Saison Sauce — In Good Taste Denver

Roasted Chili Breakfast Tacos

When I was a newlywed, my husband and I grew a garden in the backyard of our first house. Cherry tomatoes and anaheim peppers grew better than anything else. One hot, late summer day, we picked some peppers and tomatoes and took them in the house to try to do something with them for lunch. The tomatoes were still warm from the sun but we sliced an onion and our peppers and sauteed them both in a skillet with olive oil. We put the peppers, onions and tomatoes in a tortilla, wrapped them up and gobbled them up! It was so delicious and so easy. Best of all, we were eating food we had picked only 15 minutes before. It made us feel very good about our new gardening skills.

Now many years later, in a new house with no gardening space, it is our annual, late summer ritual to buy bags of roasted chilies from farmstands and farmers markets. Oh, that smell means “autumn” to me! We divvy up the chilies into smaller bags and freeze them so we can have that wonderful harvest flavor throughout the year, like in our Make-Ahead Pork Green Chili Burritos. But we always keep one bag out for breakfast the next day. In a slight variation on that wonderful first-garden-lunch, we often make this delicious breakfast. Just look at this monster taco-for-two we made this past weekend!
Roasted Chilies Breakfast Taco

Roasted Chili Breakfast Tacos
Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 roasted chilies with the stem and cap cut off.
3 large eggs
1/2 an onion (white, red, or yellow – your choice)
1 diced tomato or a hand ful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 tortillas
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1. Dice or slice the onion.
2. Dice or slice the peppers.
3. Heat some olive oil in a skillet.
4. Saute the onion until it is translucent.
5. Add the chiles to heat them through (they are already cooked).
6. Add the tomatoes to heat them through – you want to retain that freshly-picked texture.
7. Break the eggs into a small bowl or small plastic cup and whisk with a fork until they are well-blended. This will make for fluffier eggs.
8. Scramble the eggs and add salt and pepper to taste.
9. If you want, lay the tortillas over the skillet as the eggs are cooking (one at a time) to soften and warm them. Or heat them briefly in another skillet for a little char.
10. Place the tortillas on a plate and fill with the egg, tomato, onion and chili mixture.
11. Fold over and enjoy!

Or, try this – prompted by some of the ingredients falling out while we ate, we also thought that you could pour the egg OVER the cooked veggies, allowing the eggs to set, almost like a frittata. That way, you’d avoid any veggies falling out. Experiment! See how you like it best.

This is a delicious way to enjoy the bounty of chilies, whether they came from your garden or off the farm.

Bacon Tomato Tart – A Guest Blog

Lynne Cobb - tomatoes and basil - bacon tomato tarte - meTo me, the best parts of a BLT sandwich are the bacon, tomato and bread. Sorry, lettuce, you just don’t thrill me. So when a fellow blogger, Lynne Cobb, shared her recipe for “My Super-Awesome Bacon Tart,” which combines those three perfect ingredients, I asked her if I could share the recipe with my E.A.T. readers. 

Lynne took advantage of the best of her garden’s tomatoes, basil and oregano when developing this recipe. If it’s too early in the season for a great harvest, try to find the best tomatoes and herbs you can from the market to make this recipe really shine. 

Lynne’s recipe calls for easy-to-find ingredients: 

(Preheat oven to 350 degrees.)

1 unbaked pie crust shell (homemade or purchased)

12 oz of bacon – cooked until crisp. (Reserve a few tablespoons of bacon drippings).

1/2 cup of chopped onion – saute in bacon drippings

6-8 oz of soft mozzarella, shredded or cubed

1 large tomato, sliced thin (Note, I didn’t have large, beautiful tomatoes from the garden so I used cherry tomatoes which worked fine)

A few leaves of basil, cut into thin strips

Crumble the bacon into pie shell. Layer it with the onions and mozzarella; add tomato and basil.

Mix together:

1 cup of milk, 4 eggs, salt, pepper and a few teaspoons of freshly chopped oregano. Pour over ingredients in pie shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then slice and enjoy. 

 

Tomato Bacon Tart - Mine - Lynne Cobb

 

 

Thank you Lynne, for sharing your recipe! My family loved it. It was the perfect meal with a nice salad on the side. The leftovers were great for breakfast too!