In the Kitchen: Stuffed Bell Peppers

I don’t like to run out of things.

At this moment, there is a back up/replacement product for just about anything in my pantry, medicine cabinet and baby supply closet.

Just used the last cup of flour? No problem. Check the third shelf, behind the spaghetti noodles.

Took the last two Immodium Tuesday after that unfortunate undercooked chicken sandwich incident? There’s some at the back of the cabinet next to the year’s worth of deodorant.

Wipes? Hell, I’ve got enough wipes to clean up after a zombie invasion. Brrrraaaaiiiins are no match for the cases of Pampers Sensitive I’ve got stacked in my son’s closet.

No matter how well I plan, though, I always seem to run out of “the good meat” and am occasionally left to choose between a UMO (unidentified meaty object) and a pound of ground beef when I open the deep freeze looking for dinner.

The UMO will likely remain in the freezer forever because I’m just not brave enough to defrost it, so I end up with ground beef.

And sure, I could make tacos, or burgers or spaghetti. Again. But sometimes, I’ve got bell peppers in the crisper.

Those are always good days.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

3 large green bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes and chilis
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp seasoning salt (Lawry’s, or I use Tony Chachere’s)
¾ cup water
1 cube beef bouillon or 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon
½ cup breadcrumbs (I like panko, but you can use whatever you have)
Optional: Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brown ground beef, then add onion and garlic and cook until onion starts to become transparent. Drain well. Add rice

Combine tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Season with pepper and seasoning salt. Pour half of the mixture over the meat and rice and mix well.

Mix water and bouillon and pour into the bottom of a casserole dish.

Stuff each pepper half with the meat mixture and place in the water. (You may parboil the peppers beforehand if you would like them to turn out softer.)

Spoon out more tomato mixture on top of each pepper and sprinkle them liberally with breadcrumbs.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

*If you’d like, top with grated or sliced cheese during the last five minutes of cooking time.

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In the Kitchen: This is why fractions are important

Every year on or around the first of October my husband ventures into the kitchen to bake the one thing he knows how to make: his grandmother’s pumpkin bread.

He doesn’t just make one or two loaves though.

No, after a morning full of flour spills and fished-out eggshells, every inch of our countertops are covered with little brown rectangles. Our friends are ok with this, or at least they pretend to be, because they always smile and take the bread so lovingly offered.

So this morning I heard hubs banging around in the kitchen and at first I think he’s going to bring me coffee. I’m thrilled.

Soon, though, the questions begin.

“Where’s the mixer thingie?”

“Is pumpkin a dry measure or wet measure? Which cup do I use?”

“Where are the measuring cups?”

Damn, dude. Bring me some coffee first.

Then he really runs into a problem. He brings me the can of pumpkin.

“I need two cups of pumpkin. How much do you think this can holds?”

Really?

After we have a short tutorial on how to read labels, he’s back at work, trying to convert the whole recipe to fit the amount of pumpkin he has.

Finally, I tell him to simplify it and scoop out ½ cup of pumpkin to make it easier. A light bulb, in all its incandescent glory, suddenly appears above his fuzzy blonde head.

For all the teasing I gave him, I have to admit, that was the best damn pumpkin bread ever.

I don’t think we’ll share with anyone this year. But you can make your own – here’s the recipe.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp soda
2 tsp nutmeg
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cups water
1 tsp ginger

Mix eggs, oil, water, and pumpkin. Mix dry ingredients and add gradually to other mixture. Grease and flour three loaf pans, add mixture, and bake one hour at 350 degrees.

In the Kitchen: Chicken Spaghetti

Last year I signed up to be a part of this SAHM group here in KC. Now, it’s rare that I’m actually able to make any of the meetups, but there is one thing I can always be a part of that counts as my participation for the month and therefore saves me from getting kicked out. (Which is awesome, because you do NOT want to be ostracized from a mommy group.)

Each time someone in the group has a new baby, we all sign up for a day on the calendar to bring them a meal. I bring the same thing every time – this chicken spaghetti – and it never fails that I get an email the next day asking for the recipe.

This is a great dish to feed a crowd, it can be made using those wonderful rotisserie chickens and you can even make most of it in the microwave.

Chicken Spaghetti

1 lb spaghetti noodles
3 cooked & shredded boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 1
deboned, skinned and chopped rotisserie chicken (Speeds things
up!)
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Rotel
1 lb Velveeta, cut into cubes
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 tsp celery seed (Sometimes I add chopped celery in with the onion & garlic if I have it)
salt & pepper to taste

Boil noodles in a large pot of salted water.

While noodles are cooking, in a large saucepan, sauté onion and
garlic in butter. Add soups, Rotel, Velveeta, celery seed, salt and pepper.
Continue cooking until Velveeta is melted. Stir in chopped
chicken. (This can all be done in a microwave safe dish as well!)

Drain noodles, combine with sauce. Pour into greased 13 x 9 in
dish, sprinkle cheddar over the top. Bake @ 350 degrees until
the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.

In the Kitchen: Cheesy Chicken & Spinach Lasagna

Sometimes, I only prepare a meal as a means of a cheese delivery system.

This is one of those times.

Sure, there’s some chicken in here, and some spinach so we can call it “healthy.” But let’s be honest. This dish is all about the three cheeses that make every bite a rich, calorie-laden, scrumdiddlyumptious mouthgasm.

The original, adapted from an old Better Homes cookbook, can take awhile to prep, so I’ve included a few tips on how to make this a little easier at the bottom.

You will need:

9 lasagna noodles
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

*I usually make my own broth when I’m boiling the chicken because it’s less salty than the store bought cartons. Since I had some left over after the dish I just poured it into ice cube trays, froze it and then popped it into bags to store.


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Boil, drain and rinse the noodles.


Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour and salt, and simmer until bubbly.

Mix in the broth and milk, and boil, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Stir in half the mozzarella and parmesan. Season with the basil, oregano, and ground black pepper. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Spread a little of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer with 3 of the noodles, half the ricotta, half of the chicken, and half of the spinach. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce over the top.


Arrange 3 more of the noodles over the chicken, and layer with the rest of the ricotta, chicken and spinach. Pour another 1/3 of the sauce over the top.

Place the last three noodles over that, pour on the rest of the sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Top with the parsely.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Let it rest for several minutes on the countertop to set.

To make this easier: Buy a rotisserie chicken from the deli. Use a jarred sauce.

To make this meatless: Skip the chicken and replace with sliced mushrooms. No need to sauté them first. Just layer them in.