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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Quick Side: Roasted Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Cooking seasonally is just the way to go, amiright? The flavor profile of your whole meal goes up, like, a billion, just by using fresh, in-season stuff. That’s an official statistic, I believe. We’ve had a gloriously hot and sunny week here in Chicago so far, made even more glorious by its juxtaposition against the greyest, gloomiest, rainiest weeks (months?) ever, so tonight was a grill-everything kind of a night. So while the Grill Master handled the grilling of some beautiful early-season Midwestern corn and these chicken skewers, I quickly threw together this easy side of beautifully bright and luscious zucchini and yellow squash. Just a few ingredients (5!) and a pop in the oven and you’re good to go. Perfection. ZERO leftovers. YAY! (and boo!) Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* 2 medium-sized zucchinis
* 2 medium-sized yellow squashes
* olive oil
* garlic salt
* Italian seasoning

WHAT TO DO
Preheat the oven to 350. Wash your zucchinis/squashes and cut off the ends. Cut each into approximately 1/4-inch slices on the diagonal (they’re just pretty that way). Lay out your slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over them and sprinkle with garlic salt and Italian seasoning so they all get a bit of everything.

Bake 15-30 minutes, depending on how long it takes to cook or grill the rest of the meal. They’ll be great at 15 and also great at 30 (beyond that, though, they’ll be mushy). The seasonings give them just enough punch to pull out the natural sweetness in the in-season veggies. It’s actually a perfect balance. And that’s an official statistic, too.

Serve hot or cold or anywhere in between.

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5 Ingredient Pineapple Salsa

pineappleDo you have a trick to choosing a ripe pineapple? My grandfather was a grocer and passed along some of his tricks of the trade. Picking a pineapple is one of them. First, look for one that’s a little more yellow and light green than dark green on the outside. Pull on a stem from the very center of the leafy top of the fruit. If it comes out easily – i.e., no effort – proceed. If you have to give it a hard tug or it truly resists, put it back and move onto another. Finally, flip the pineapple over and smell the “butt” end of it. If you can smell the sugar inside, that baby is ripe and ready to eat! I happen to really love pineapple – it’s my favorite fruit – and I also love that I think of my Zadie (and his heavy Boston accent on the word sugar — “shug-ah”) every single time I walk by those babies in the store.

We had fish tacos for dinner. I seasoned some fresh tilapia with cumin and smoked paprika and it came out amazing. But the real winner was this incredibly simple, 5-ingredient salsa with fresh pineapple as the centerpiece. It was so light and springy/summery – and offered the perfect amount of crunch and acidity, but also sugary sweetness, to balance out the seasoning and soft, silkiness of the fish. It would also be delicious as a salad on its own (My Tiny Sous Chef put it on her tacos AND on the side to scoop up in big spoonfuls), or with chips, or on top of grilled fish or shrimp… etc. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* a big handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
* 3 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal, dark and light green parts (but not whites)
* 1/2 an English seedless cucumber (or a couple of smaller Persian cukes), diced
* 1/4 of a ripe pineapple, cored and diced
* juice of 1/2 a lemon

WHAT TO DO
Prep the cilantro, green onions, cucumber, and pineapple and toss together in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the top and mix again. Taste and add more lemon if you think it needs it — and try not to just eat heaping spoonfuls before serving. Enjoy!

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Meatless Monday: Red Curry with Vegetables

Some of you may recall when I first made this curry dish and couldn’t stop talking about it or how crazy easy it turns out curry-making is. You could say it sent me racing down a curry-making rabbit hole. Curry-based anything – I love it. It really is unbelievably easy to make, and as a bonus, your kitchen/home almost instantly fill with amazing smells. Still, in spite of my curry fascination, I’ve mostly stuck to similar dishes that use either a yellow curry or a basic coconut curry. This introduced a new flavor profile to my at-home recipe Rolodex (extra points for outdated cultural references right?!), and is beautiful and full of color, flavor, and good smells. This recipe has a little hint of a bite to it, as red curries can, so if serving to littles like me, I strongly recommend having additional coconut milk on-hand to mix into their bowls to temper the punch. “A little spicy” aside, this was a delightful Meatless Monday victory, and you should totally try it. If the all-veg version isn’t enough for you, any protein would work beautifully with these flavors. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEEDredcurry2
* 1T coconut oil
* 1 sweet onion, rough chopped
* salt
* 1T grated fresh ginger (about an inch or so of ginger root), or ginger paste
* 2t minced garlic
* 1 bell pepper (any color), julienned
* 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
* 5oz sliced button mushrooms
* 2T red curry paste
* 14oz can coconut milk (plus extra for smaller eaters’ bowls)
* 1/2C water
* 5oz bag baby spinach
* 1 1/2t raw (aka turbinado) sugar
* 1T low-sodium soy sauce
* 1t rice vinegar (if you don’t have rice vinegar, add the juice of a second lime)
* juice of 1 lime
* for garnishing: lime wedges and a handful of fresh basil cut into thin strips

WHAT TO DO
Heat a wok or large, high-sided pan over medium heat, then add the coconut oil. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute for 3-4 minutes, mixing frequently, until they soften and become translucent. Add the ginger and the garlic and cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until all the aromatics are released (bonus perk: your sinuses are now also cleared!).

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Add the pepper, carrots, and mushrooms and cook about 4 minutes, until the crunchy veggies begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Then add the curry paste and stir through for about 2 minutes.

Now add the coconut milk, water, spinach, and sugar. Stir to combine and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.

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Remove the pan from the heat. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, and another pinch of salt. Stir to mix through, and then taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve over rice and garnish with some fresh basil and a wedge of lime. Be sure to take a moment to appreciate how amazing your home smells while you’re at it!