America’s Test Kitchen Cajun Stuffed Peppers

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This is a very flavorful recipe that is quite filling, but you can simply eat less of it.  It’s very good, be sure not to chop off the stems and follow the directions closely!  The microwaving of peppers saved tons of time versus boiling them!  We did not use all the olive oil because the chorizo added enough fat to the mix, we PAM’ed the baking sheet.  Eating 2 halves is too filling for me, to show you how filling these are!  (After buying the Uncle Ben’s rice pouch, we realized how bad of a deal it was, we just used already cooked rice we had on hand instead.)  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 red bell peppers, halved (step left intact), cored, and seeded
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil (estimation is fine here)
  • 8 oz. lean ground beef (can substitute ground turkey or chicken)
  • 4 oz. andouille sausage, chopped fine (I used pork chorizo)
  • (Next time I am using a milder, less fatty sausage, maybe something like mild Italian sausage or turkey sausage).
  • 1 onion, chopped fine (I used onion powder)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (I used garlic powder)
  • EITHER 1 (8.8oz) package Uncle Ben’s Original Long Grain ready rice package or 2 cups already prepared rice
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used 5 drops)
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack and heat broiler.  Microwave peppers until just tender 3-6 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 tsp. oil in large skillet over med-high heat until just smoking. 
  3. Add beef, sausage, and onion, cook until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in rice and hot sauce and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  6. Off heat, stir in 1 cup cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Pat peppers dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Carefully brush preheated baking sheet with remaining oil (we saved calories and used PAM spray). 
  8. Place peppers, cut size down, on baking sheet and broil until spotty brown, about 3 minutes.
  9. Flip peppers and fill with beef mixture.
  10. Top with remaining cheese.
  11. Broil until cheese is spotty brown, about 5 mins.  Serve. 

 

 

Lentil Soup

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This is a very healthy lentil soup that I plan on making again soon.  It can either be made with bacon or ham, either way you’ll love it!  I found I had to add additional water.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped —-(Optional, but adds a lot of flavor!)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I used onion flakes)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved, lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch half moons (or whatever you like)
  • Add a few stalks chopped celery, if you like (It’s a great addition).
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used garlic powder)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (you can definitely use more here, you can substitute 1/4 cup tomato sauce just fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3.5 to 4 cups high quality chicken broth (i.e. first ingredient should not be salt!)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 T. red-wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a Dutch oven or other 5 qt. pot with a tight-fitting lid, cook the bacon until brown and crisp, 8-10 minutes.  Pour off all but 1 T. of the fat. 
  2. Add the onion and carrots (and celery if you desire); cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  3. Stir in tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute. 
  4. Add lentils, thyme, broth, and 3.5 to 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer.
  5. Cover; cook until lentils are tender, 30-40 minutes.  If the soup becomes too thick during cooking, add up to 1 cup more water. 
  6. Stir in vinegar, 1.5 tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Serve the soup immediately. 

Chicken and Spinach Farfalle

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This is one of my favorites.  It’s flavorful and tastes gourmet.  It’s from the book “The Best Simple Recipes” by America’s Test Kitchen!  They cut back on the cream and brightened the flavors of the rich sauce with lemon.  A+!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 lb.), cut crosswise into 1/4″ thick pieces.
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (I used garlic powder here)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (no substitutions)
  • 2 tsp. grated zest and 3 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 lb. farfalle pasta (Bowtie)
  • 1 6oz bag baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the one that comes in a brick, if you can)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring 4 qts. of water to a boil in a large pot.  Meanwhile, pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Melt 1 T. butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook half of chicken until no longer pink, about 3 minutes, transfer to plate.  Repeat with remaining butter and chicken. 
  3. Add garlic to empty skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in cream, lemon zest and juice, simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover. 
  4. Meanwhile, add 1 T. salt and farfalle to boiling water and cook until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, drain pasta, return to pot.  Add sauce, spinach, Parmesan, pine nuts, and cooked chicken to pot and toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water as needed.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu In The Slow Cooker

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I have always wanted to make chicken cordon bleu myself and finally did it, this time in the slow cooker!  It is definitely not healthy for you, but I figured I’d make it about 1-2x a year and if I made it, I will have known the exact ingredients in it (no preservatives and fake chemicals) versus buying it frozen or in most restaurants.  This came out of my Crock Pot Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes Book (c) 2010.  It is really tasty.  Once I seasoned it in the bag, I added additional pepper to them.  It IS on the heavy side so just eat less of it! Makes 4 servings.  ENJOY!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
  • 4 slices ham (We used deli ham)
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag and shake well, set aside.
  2. Place flattened chicken on cutting board, skin side down.  Please 1 slice ham and 1 slice cheese on each piece.  Fold chicken up to enclose filling and secure with toothpick.  Place in bag with seasoned flour and shake gently to coat.
  3. This is where I took the chicken out of the bag and added a little more pepper.
  4. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add chicken, skin side down.  Brown on all sides.  Transfer to slow cooker.
  5. Remove skillet from heat and add wine.  Cook and stir to loosen browned bits (A.K.A. Deglazing).  Pour into slow cooker.  Add broth.  Cover and cook on LOW 2 hours. 
  6. Remove chicken with slotted spoon.  Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  7. Mix together half-and-half and cornstarch.  Add to cooking liquid.
  8. Cover, cook on LOW for 15 minutes longer or until sauce has thickened. 
  9. To serve, remove toothpicks, place chicken on plates and spoon sauce around chicken, with extra sauce if desired. 

Pumpkin Cookies

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These are a great pumpkin treat for this time of year AND they get a vegetable in you and/or your children.  What is interesting is that they are not overly sugary, they almost taste a little too healthy without the icing, but they are great!  Baking on parchment paper is always something I recommend.  I froze the remainder since it made 2 dozen cookies.  This is from the book “The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book” by Kelly Rudnicki.

 

COOKIE INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • One 15 OZ. can pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Classic icing recipe below

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, thoroughly combine the shortening, sugar, applesauce, and pumpkin.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt with a wire whisk.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the shortening mixture and stir until just combined.
  5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Use a cookie scoop to place batter onto the prepared sheets. 
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. 
  8. Frost with icing recipe below.

ICING RECIPE:

  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk, as needed to thin icing.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Blend all ingredients together in a small bowl with a wire whisk.
  2. Drizzle over cookies or dip each cookie into icing bowl. 

Raspberry and Apple Crisp

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This is a wonderful recipe I adapted, it just comes out perfectly and is healthier (even though it’s still a dessert) than a traditional apple pie because it is lacking the caloric crusts.  Galas or honey crisp work especially well here.  ENJOY!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups sliced apples
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar (You can get away with 3/4 cup here to reduce the sugar; I’ve done it successfully).
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (You can do a half all-purpose and half whole wheat mixture)
  • 1/2 cup quick oats, optional but healthier! 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F. Grease a 8×8″ to a 10×7″ (approximately) pan.  The size doesn’t matter, it just may take longer to cook in a smaller pan.  (I used a glass pan).
  2. Place apples in prepared dish.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Pour water over the entire thing.
  3. In a bowl, cream sugar and butter together.  You can use a mixer or your clean hands.
  4. Gently blend in flour and quick oats.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over apples.
  5. Bake in preheated oven 30-40 minutes until apples are tender and crust is golden.  Mine usually takes 40 minutes.   

Asian Beef With Broccoli (or Snow Peas)

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This was a recipe from an All Recipes magazine that I don’t subscribe to, but got free in the mail.  I didn’t have, and couldn’t find, snow peas, so I used broccoli.  The sauce is the biggest winner in this recipe.  Most commenters double the sauce and so did I.  The following recipe has doubled sauce ingredients.  It would have been great on a bed of rice, but it was a LONG day.  It calls for fresh ginger root but I hate wasting the remainder whenever I buy it, so I just used a few dashes of powdered ginger.  I hate the way round steak usually turns out so I used a higher quality cut of beef.  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce (I only use low sodium)
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used 1 T.; it was fine).
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil, as desired.
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root (I used a few dashes of powdered ginger)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used a few dashes of powdered)
  • 1 pound beef round steak, cut into thin strips
  • 8 ounces snow peas (or broccoli)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat.
  3. Stirfry ginger and garlic for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the steak and stirfry for 2 minutes or until evenly browned. 
  5. Add the snowpeas and stirfry for an additional 3 minutes. 
  6. Add the soy sauce mixture; bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  7. Lower heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Serve immediately. 

 

Homemade Red Pasta Sauce

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I finally found a pasta sauce recipe that didn’t fail me, thanks to a recipe from my friend, Albert.  (Thanks, Albert!)  A few months ago I tried another from-scratch pasta recipe and sadly, it all ended up in the garbage disposal, it was inedible after all those hours of work!  This recipe involves the blender and simple simmering and reduction.  You can change up the spices as you like.  I used fresh oregano and basil from the garden.  I added garlic and onion powder and some generic Italian type seasoning.  For not having any preservatives or chemicals, this is a WIN!  Mix with some whole wheat pasta and you have a healthy side to your meal.    

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 medium tomatoes
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh or dried spices, as desired (such as oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, garlic/onion powder, etc)

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Begin by cutting out a tiny amount of the tomato: cut out the top woody party of the tomato and a thin layer including the stem.
  2. Roughly chop remaining tomatoes and put in blender.
  3. Add salt/pepper and basic spices that you chose. 
  4. Pulverize in blender until smooth.
  5. Transfer to skillet and reduce this pink, liquidy mixture until it turns into a pasta sauce consistency, watching not to let it burn, about 20-30 minutes.