Shortcut Teriyaki Beef Stuffed Peppers

In the early days of this blog, I was admittedly embarrassed when I wrote a post about an all-microwave-made stuffed pepper meal. Except it was AWESOME and changed the stuffed pepper game for me altogether. Traditionally, stuffed peppers are made with green peppers baked with a filling of a combination of rice, ground beef, and tomato sauce. But I find green peppers too bitter when they’re cooked and who said you have to stick with tradition, anyway? Including the traditional cooking method, right? Red peppers are sweeter to begin with – they’re tender and delicate when they’re cooked. Paired with traditionally Asian flavors, these stuffed peppers take the whole game to another level flavor-wise and time-wise. Seriously superstar weeknight dinner here, people. Trust me. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* 2 large red peppers – look for rounder, close to symmetrical peppers
* 1/2C uncooked quick cook (like Minute) white rice
* 1/2C low sodium beef broth
* 1/2lb lean ground beef
* 3 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, divided
* 1/2C shredded red cabbage
* 3T brown sugar
* 2T low sodium soy sauce
* 1T sweet chili sauce (there’s a great one at Trader Joes that I love)
* 1t garlic paste (you can get this in the produce aisle at your regular grocery store, usually near the bagged spinach and small packages of fresh herbs)
* 1/2t ginger paste (same location at the store as the garlic paste!)
* 1/2C shredded mozzarella cheese

WHAT TO DO
Cut your peppers in half and clean them of seeds and stems, leaving four small “bowls” of fresh pepper. Place them into a square baking dish and cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap. Use a fork or knife to poke a few tiny steam holes in the plastic wrap, then place the baking dish into the microwave and cook on high for 4 minutes.

Place the uncooked rice and beef broth in a bowl. Allow to sit and soak a few minutes, then cover tightly with plastic wrap, poke one or two small steam holes in the plastic, and microwave on high for 4 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

In a large skillet, cook the ground beef with two sliced green onions (leave the third for garnish) and the red cabbage, stirring occasionally, breaking up the beef and mixing everything together until the beef is cooked through. Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, chili sauce, and garlic and ginger paste, and stir to combine. Cook 2-3 minutes until most of the sauce is absorbed. Remove from heat.

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Add the rice into the beef mixture and stir to combine. Scoop the mixture evenly into the four cooked pepper halves. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese, then re-wrap the baking dish in plastic wrap, poke some steam holes, and microwave another 4 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh green onion slices for garnish and serve.

Beautiful and impressive, both in presentation and crazy awesome taste. But easy peasy lemon squeezy to make. I’m not even a little bit embarrassed. A modern day microwave dinner that’s totally legit. This technique is the new tradition!

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Chunky Salmon Patties

salmonpatty4We have been trying to incorporate more fish into our diet recently. I didn’t like fish at all (except tuna salad) until I was a full-grown, independent, out of college, out of grad school even, real actual adult, so I’m pretty fresh to this game. Conveniently, I went from totally not wanting anything to do with pretty much most seafood, to wanting every kind of sashimi and sushi in front of me at all times, and on top of that, our Tiny Sous Chef basically emerged a seafood fanatic — her father’s daughter — so *deciding* to add more fish to our routine wasn’t so hard. In reality, though, my limited experience with fish does make this a little tricky. I have to be willing to try preparing proteins I’ve literally never handled. It’s one thing to order a beautiful halibut dinner at a restaurant, it’s quite another entirely to know intuitively, or at least confidently/comfortably, how to work with it yourself. Or even to order it. Man oh man does the seafood counter intimidate me! Long story short, I figure out one preparation and I kind of stick with it for a while. Which, logically, gets boring.

My mother in-law usually eats with us on Wednesday evenings, which has become a really lovely tradition. And she loves salmon, but rarely prepares it for herself, so I frequently like to make it for her when she’s here. But it’s-another-salmon-fillet-dinner gets a little tiresome, too, so I wanted to mix things up a little. Quick side discussion – how do you like your salmon? Got any great recipes or tips you’d like to pass along? Please do!

I decided to make salmon burgers for dinner – that’s different, right?! And after scouring books and blogs for recipes, decided to try something really out of my element, a patty made with *fresh* salmon that could be whipped up on a busy weeknight. The result was, if I do say so myself, totally wonderful. Keeping the salmon a bit chunkier, rather than ground, gives such a rich and luscious texture to the burger patty. Fresh and bright, light, flaky, and herby–in spite of a little extra prep work, this patty is great, and is actually really simple to make, and you probably already most of the ingredients (maybe not the salmon and dill) at home. Plus! It got serious thumbs up from my MIL who also reminded me that if she didn’t like it she would not pretend, so, hey, you know it’s legit. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* 1lb fresh salmon, boneless and skin removed, chopped into a small dice (you can definitely make this using a canned salmon, by the way – it will still be delicious!)
* 2T Panko breadcrumbs (plus possibly a little extra)
* juice of 1/2 a lemon
* 2T red onion, diced tiny
* 1T fresh dill, chopped
* 1T mayonnaise
* 1T grainy Dijon mustard
* 1t salt
* 1/4t black pepper
* 1T olive oil
* 1 lemon cut into wedges, for serving

WHAT TO DO
Mix together your diced salmon and Panko until well combined. Add the lemon juice, red onion, dill, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper, and stir well to combine, using a large spoon. Press and crush the salmon down a bit as you mix – to help everything stick together. But allow for some larger chunks to hold up. If your consistency seems a bit loose, add a little bit more Panko, half a teaspoon at a time, until you like the texture and the mixture holds together well.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the oil glistens, form the mixture into patties (this recipe will yield 4-6 patties, depending on the size you want to make them) and place them into the pan.

Cook about 5 minutes, then flip and cook another 4. Serve warm with lemon wedges – on a bun or over a beautiful fresh salad.

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Baked Garlic and Feta Turkey Meatballs

Raise your hand if you like meatballs?! <shoots both hands and also feet up in the air>

There are some good standby recipes when it comes to meatballs, though. And lots of folks swear by a “best meatballs ever” recipe and don’t like to waver from the path. Know what I mean? If you’re one of those, I encourage you to open your mind (and mouth!), but I won’t judge you if you don’t try variations, because, well, I get it. I also have a tried and true go-to, but I also really like to mix it up sometimes. I’m sure that’s shocking to you if you read along with me here. But seriously, meatballs are not one thing. There is a basic formula, sure, but it’s so malleable. You can take it so many different directions with just a tweak here or there. I made this recipe up on my way to the grocery store. No, seriously, I did. It’s because once you have the formula down, it’s THAT easy to change it up! They are light easy and super quick to pull together. They can be served any number of ways – over spaghetti, rice, or zoodles (zucchini noodles), in a pita with some fresh salad, in a hoagie roll with sauce all over them, or just plain even. They are beautifully flavored and moist and delicious, so here you go.

WHAT YOU NEEDgarfetturmb1
* 1lb lean ground turkey
* 1/4C Panko breadcrumbs
* 2-4t minced garlic (depending on your garlic preference… pretty sure you know where I land on this one…)
* 1/4-1/3C crumbled feta cheese
* 1t salt
* 1/4t black pepper
* 1/2T dried parsley
* 1 egg

WHAT TO DO
Preheat your oven to 375F. Cover a baking sheet in foil, and spray the foil lightly with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Now. Super easy. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix together – careful not to overwork – until fully combined.

Form the mixture into approximately 1-inch balls and place onto the prepared baking sheet. This recipe should make 12-15 meatballs.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, then turn the broiler on high and cook another 2 minutes to brown the tops and get a little extra crisp on them.

Whoop! Amazing baked turkey meatballs packed to the gills with deliciousness ready to serve! Enjoy!garfetturmb2

Meatless Monday: Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I used to collect cookbooks and never read them. I’d flip through the beautiful photos of food, or display them to demonstrate my commitment to a legitimate food library, but I probably cooked a single recipe from one and then put it back into the display and then never opened it again. But in the last few years, I’ve begun collecting books and obsessively pouring over them, tagging recipes and dog-earing pages and planning a week’s menu around what I’d need for something I found in a new cookbook so that I could make the most out of the ingredients. It’s the same with food blogs. I might need an intervention. They are the best rabbit hole to fall down, and guess what — so many food blogs now have AMAZING cookbooks! THE RABBIT HOLE OF ALL RABBIT HOLES! How do I get anything else done anymore??

Anyway… the best thing about going through all this eye candy and reading all these fabulous recipes is that ideas beget ideas. This one is great – because I spun it off of this recipe from Dinner: A Love Story (who, as you may read, if you follow that link, spun hers off of Ina Garten’s, and Ina spun hers off of Silver Palate’s). See what I’m talking about? Food magic.

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This soup is beautiful. It’s dense and luscious and balanced and perfect for a cold day like the bitter all-of-a-sudden-it’s-the-dead-of-winter day we have going on here in Chicago. It freezes well, if you have any leftovers that is. It’s pretty kid-friendly (if your kid eats soup – mine only just realized soup is awesome recently). And it’s a great make-ahead (I actually made this yesterday, and let the flavors deepen overnight and through the day so that they were Mach 10 Awesome by the time dinner rolled around this evening). Plus, super extra bonus, I got to use my immersion blender, which just makes me goofy-nerdy-happy (you don’t need one to make this soup by the way). But I digress. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* 1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
* olive oil
* 1t salt
* 3/4t pepper
* 1 1/2-2T curry powder
* 1/4t cayenne pepper (optional)
* 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
* 2 granny smith apples (you can use another kind, but I like the bite of these green beauties against the delicate squash), peeled, cored, and cubed
* 2-3C veggie (or chicken) stock

Optional Garnishes:
* one apple (any variety), sliced into thin strips
* Greek yogurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
* fresh chopped green onion
* garlicky croutonscursqappsoup1
* shredded Parmesan
* toasted pecans or pumpkin seeds

WHAT TO DO
Heat some oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. After a few minutes, when it begins to glisten, add the onion and cook until it softens and begins to brown. Add the seasonings and mix them through. Breathe that baby in. Yeah, buddy.cursqappsoup2

Add the squash and the apple chunks, then add enough broth to cover the ingredients by about 1/4 inch. Bring the whole pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, until the squash and apples get soft and fork-tender.

Here’s the fun part. If you have an immersion blender, get that puppy out and puree until the soup is smooth and velvety (or until it looks like your preferred texture, if smooth and velvety is not your thing). Add more broth (or water’ll do, too) if necessary. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, just let the pot cool a bit, then transfer the soup in batches to a regular blender and puree until you’ve got the consistency you like.) Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve hot with any of those garnishes noted above (or any others you come up with), and with a side of warmed fresh bread while recapping your day with the family, or while reading food blogs and cookbooks for more ideas.

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