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


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


  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!


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

Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

A grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup in which to dip that sandwich is a classic combination. I love this combo but, one day, while trying to make something different for Sunday breakfast, I came up with this dish, a deconstructed recipe that combines tomatoes, toasted bread and melted cheese with the addition of an over-easy egg! It was delicious. The yolk combines with the tomatoes, cheese and bread into something creamy and full of flavor.


A hearty, healthy breakfast I call a Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (with Egg).

Per person –
1/2 tomato, chopped or cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 slice bread of choice (I used a sprouted grain bread)
1 slice cheese of choice (I used sharp cheddar)
1 egg

1. In a toaster oven or regular toaster, lightly toast bread of choice.
2. In a skillet, melt butter and then place lightly-toasted bread in the pan and top with cheese. You will not be turning this over in the skillet, obviously, because of the cheese. Place a cover over the skillet to help the cheese melt. When done, put it on a plate to make room for the tomato and egg. Don’t cover the toast to keep it warm because it will steam and the toast will soften. The heat from the tomato and egg will create the overall heat for the meal.
3.  Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
4. Saute the tomatoes on one side of the pan, turning frequently. On the other side, crack an egg. Cover and let the egg cook for sunnyside up, or turn over for over-easy. Just make sure the yolk remains runny.
5. To serve, place the egg on top of the toast and then the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.


You could make this cheese toast in a skillet with butter for a more traditional flavor, or you can do it in a toaster oven without butter.


Saute tomato in the same skillet as the egg you are frying.

Grilled Chicken Mediterranean Bowls

This sounds (and looks) delicious! It’s like a bowl of summertime! I just had to share this post that is from Nourished Peach, a blog I really enjoy and loyally follow. You should take a look too!


Summer is officially halfway over you guys. Each year around this time I seem to begin easing into fall mindset; it’s a point of bittersweetness thinking about what’s shortly ahead.

School. Structure. Less daylight. Earlier bedtimes. More responsibility. And quite honestly, each time around this year, that all tends to sound slightly appealing to me. As much as I adore our summers here in MN, the fall brings so much wonderful newness. The scenery is impeccable. The crisp air and lack of mosquitos are like a dream. The kids getting into a new routine and their utter excitement about school is so uplifting. And schedules…you know I love a solid, predictable schedule 😉

But before all of that comes, while things are still warm and sticky and loosey-goosey, please, please, I beg you, do me a favor? Celebrate these last days of summer in your kitchen and make this dish…

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Joe’s Sloppy Joes

I have a friend named Joe who makes Sloppy Joes. I love that. But most of all, I love his Sloppy Joes, a slight variation on the tomatoey versions we are used to seeing, especially like the stuff that comes from a can. Here’s my slight variation on Joe’s meaty and messy masterwork:

Joe's Sloppy Joes - served

There’s no way you’ll be able to eat Joe’s Sloppy Joes without some of the filling falling out. That’s okay – it comes with the territory – and the name!


1/2 onion, finely chopped (but not minced)
Approximately 1 cup of shredded cheese of choice (I like cheddar and when I use cheddar, I always buy the Extra Sharp because you can use less while still getting a big flavor)
1 pound 90/10 or 80/20 (lean to fat percentage) ground beef, pork, turkey or a blend
1/4 c. ketchup
Hamburger buns

Joe's Sloppy Joes - in process

You can make these Sloppy Joes a little healthier by making them with turkey and by adding finely-diced red, yellow or orange peppers. Green peppers would change the overall flavor of the dish too much.


1. In a little olive oil, saute the onions until they are translucent.
2. Add the meat. If it’s very lean, you may need another drizzle of olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Saute, stirring often, until the meat is cooked through and the bulk of any grease has cooked away. Add the ketchup and mix thoroughly.
4. Sprinkle the cheese over the mixture, cover with a lid, lower the heat to low and simmer long enough for cheese to melt.
5. If you like, prepare the buns ahead of time by lightly buttering the cut sides and toast them slightly in the toaster or cut-side down in another skillet. The crispiness of the bread is a nice foil to the softness of the meat mixture.
6. Spoon the meat mixture into the buns and serve, making sure to provide a lot of napkins! These are SLOPPY Joe’s after all, true to their name.

Coconut Curry Chicken

Coconut Curry Chicken

I have a few picky eaters under my roof which makes it a real challenge to figure out what to make for dinner. I would be a much more adventurous cook if I could just make what I want and know that the kids would eat it. But, tra-la-la, that’s the lament of most parents, am I right? My pickiest-eater child has suddenly decided to take pity on me (after all of his ultra-picky years) and is willing to try more things. But then the kid who used to eat anything has suddenly decided he doesn’t like rice, pork, steak or chicken. Great. Swapped one for the other. Undeterred by this, and noticing I had a can of coconut milk in the pantry, I set out to create a dish everyone would at least be willing to try and came up with a great one.

Coconut Curry Chicken

A dish even my pickiest eaters loved! If I’d had some peas, I would have added them. Wouldn’t that have looked nice?

Coconut Curry Chicken with Rosamarina Rice

Serves 6

Six boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I buy them frozen at a big box store)
1/2 a large red onion sliced top to bottom
1 small potato, diced (this just extends the meal but doesn’t add any real flavor)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of coconut milk (13.5 ounce)
1/2 t. coriander
2 T. curry powder
Salt and Pepper to taste, added just before serving
Add on: 1/2 a cup of frozen peas
Rosamarina Rice to serve it with (recipe below)

In a small pan, melt about a tablespoon of butter, then add the coconut milk, coriander and curry powder. Gently whisk until blended. Turn off the heat and set it aside.

Coconut Curry Chicken

The sauce with coconut milk, curry powder and coriander. Don’t add the salt and pepper until you are simmering the sauce and chicken together.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, drizzle some olive oil and heat up the pan. Add the onion slices and saute until they begin to be translucent. At that point, add the garlic and stir for a few seconds. Be careful because the garlic will burn quickly and become bitter.

Coconut Curry Chicken

I love the look of red onions! I sliced them the long way so that the kids who didn’t want onion could easily pick it out (turns out they didn’t!).

Add the diced chicken and turn everything over with a spatula to get the onion and garlic off the bottom of the pan and get things mixed up a bit. Do this periodically until the chicken is beige on all sides. It doesn’t have to be cooked through at this point.

Coconut Curry Chicken

The mixture will thicken as you let it simmer. Don’t cover it or the drops from the humidity that builds up on the lid will drip back down and water down the dish.

Pour the coconut/coriander/curry mixture over the chicken and stir again. Switch out your spatula for a large cooking spoon at this point because the spatula has raw chicken juice on it. Always do this when you are cooking – as soon as all sides have started to cook, ditch the raw-stuff utensil for a clean one to finish the dish to avoid cross-contamination.

Lower the heat and let the whole mixture simmer and thicken until the chicken and potatoes (if used) are cooked through and tender. In the last minute or so, add the peas, which I would have done with my dish if I’d had any. It would have added a nice bit of color and another element of flavor. Serve over the rice (or quinoa or nothing).

Rosamarina Rice

Coconut Curry Chicken

Every time I make rice, I make it this way, with rosamarina because it just tastes so darned good!

1/4 cup rosamarina, also called orzo, found in the pasta section of the store
2 cups rice
4-1/4 cups water (or chicken stock)*
3-4 bouillon cubes (if using water instead of stock)

Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot. Add the rosamarina and stir almost constantly until it starts to brown. At this point, it will burn quickly so before that can happen, pour the rice over it and stir to prevent the rosamarina from continuing to sit on the bottom of the pan. The butter that’s still in the pan will lightly coat the rice/rosamarina, adding some flavor.

Add the water/bouillon and stir. Let the mixture come to a boil. As soon as it does, cover the pot, turn the heat to low and let it sit to start absorbing the liquid. This usually takes about 20 minutes so I try to time the coordination of making rice with making the entree so they are done around the same time. Resist the urge to lift up the lid or stir the rice because it will effect how the rice turns out.

* Because the rosamarina needs to absorb the water to cook, I either lower the amount of rice I put in or add a little water/stock to compensate.

Hard Rock Cafe

Tour the Burger at Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock Café is one of those places that makes eating out as pleasurable for parents as it is for the kids. There is a variety of menu items for both, not to mention the really fun, rock ’n’ roll memorabilia atmosphere that lends itself to lots of musical education for the kids (“Son, let me tell you about a group called the Rolling Stones.”) We love that the large kids’ menu includes favorites like burgers and pasta but also chicken and broccoli and even salad. Now, for the month of June, there’s even more for parents to enjoy.

Hard Rock is showing off just how seriously they take the individuality of each city in which they settle. At each location, around the world, the Hard Rock chefs are given the freedom to create a Legendary Burger, unique to that city that captures of the local flavors the place, available only at that location. Unless you traveled the world, going from one Hard Rock Cafe to another (someone might do that!), you wouldn’t have the opportunity to test out the special burgers – until now.

Hard Rock Cafe

It’s the World Burger Tour at Hard Rock Cafe with seemingly unlikely combinations. But they totally work!

The world of Hard Rock’s Legendary Burgers were voted on by customers worldwide and narrowed down to five, including Denver’s own Rocky Burger. Here’s the international lineup:

  •      Rocky Burger– Denver’s local Legendary, created by Denver Nuggets’ mascot Rocky, features two four-ounce burger patties, two slices of pepper jack cheese, a fried egg, two strips of bacon and buttermilk fried onion strings.
  •      Java Lava Burger– this American Legendary from Seattle features a Certified Angus Beef patty grilled, dressed in a house-made espresso rub and topped with lava sauce, crunchy java onions, bacon, melted Tillamook Cheddar cheese and garnished with a fried jalapeño.
  •      Schnitzel Burger– this German Legendary features two stacks of tender pork schnitzel lightly breaded and made crispy to order, topped with crunchy sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard and savory bacon.
  •      Banh Mi Burger– this Vietnamese Legendary features a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with house-made Vietnamese glaze, pickled vegetables and cucumbers accompanied by a garnish of cilantro and green onions.
  •      Date Burger– this United Arab Emirates Legendary features a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with rich date chutney, diced fresh dates and a dollop of cream cheese.

The interesting thing among our taste-testers, was that each of us loved a different one, as opposed to one or two getting all the raves. That means, in our unofficial sampling, that there’s a burger for everyone’s tastes – but only through the end of June.