Peppers Stuffed with Bacon Risotto

One of the most interesting facets of the culinary revolution is our growing fascination with culinary history. It seems the more I learn about the ethnic melting pot that makes up our dinner table, the more curious I become about regional cuisines and the origin of specific dishes.

Stuffed peppers probably go further back than the 1890’s. Many cuisines around the world have a traditional stuffed pepper that has been passed down for generations. Here’s a few I found interesting:                                             Denmark:     Fyldte Peberfrugter – Bell pepper stuffed with bulgur,  mushrooms and kale                                                                                                          Hungary:     Toltott Paprika – Bell pepper stuffed with ground meat, rice and paprika. Served with sour cream.                                                                      India:            Bharawn Shimla Mirch – Bell pepper stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes                                                                                                                   Korea:          Gochu Jeon – Chili peppers stuffed with tofu                                   Mexico:       Chili Rellenos – Poblano pepper stuffed with carnitas meat, kielbasa and topped with cheddar cheese                                                            Phillippines: Pandak na tao pinalamanan peppers – – Bell peppers stuffed with shrimp, pork and water chestnuts                                                             Romania:     Ardei Umpluti – Bell peppers stuffed with pork and rice and served in a creamy sour cream sauce                                                                         Spain:            Pimientos Rellenos de Arroz con Salsa de Tomatoes – Bell pepper stuffed with Valencia or arborio rice and saffron, then cooked in a tomato sauce                                                                                                                            Tunisia:        Fil Fil Mashsi – Bell pepper stuffed with lamb, rice and sprinkled with nutmeg, saffron and cardamom                                                              United States & Canada:  Classic Stuffed Peppers – Bell pepper stuffed with ground beef, rice and cooked in a tomato sauce

The recipe today, pairs flavorful bacon risotto with colorful sweet bell peppers. The fact that they can be frozen for up to 6 months sure makes for an easy meal on a busy day.

Peppers Stuffed with Bacon Risotto
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Peppers Stuffed with Bacon Risotto
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Lay on paper towels, reserving 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings in saucepan; set aside. Cook onion & mushrooms in drippings until tender; add rice, cook & stir 2 minutes more. Carefully stir in broth; bring to boiling & reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; stir in bacon & peas. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes. Stir in cheese. If desired, season with salt & pepper to taste.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut large peppers in half lengthwise. Remove membranes & seeds. Spoon risotto mixture into peppers. Place in a shallow baking dish. Cover with foil; bake, covered, for 30-45 minutes or until heated through. If desired sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Serve with heated zesty pasta sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • Can be chilled for up to 12 hours then baked for 50-55 minutes.
  • Can be frozen for up to 6 months then baked (frozen), covered, about 1 hour or until heated through.
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Individual Chicken Pot Pie

The humble pot pie was once the height of culinary style. During the Elizabethan era, these savory pastries — decorated with flowers, fancy designs, etc. were elaborate assertions of the chef’s skill in the royal households of France and England. Among the lower classes, pot pie were popular because the addition of a crust helped feed another mouth or two, while individual pastries, empanadas and perogies were well suited for sale by street vendors as portable meals.

Fortunately, the resurgence in so called ‘retro’ foods has brought pot pies back to the table. There is no reason why they shouldn’t do just as well in the 21st century. To some, chicken pot pie is a staple comfort food. The recipes mix of meat and vegetables in a chicken broth seasoned with herbs, produces a spectrum of flavors that’s like no other.

The trick is getting all the ingredients to the right degree of doneness at the same time. It may be these timing issues that led to the abandonment of the homemade pot pie in favor of the frozen variety. One thing for sure, is that they are definitely worth the time and effort. It makes good sense to make a big recipe, freeze them unbaked (if you choose) and there ready when you need them.

Individual Chicken Pot Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Individual Chicken Pot Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add chicken, season with 1 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink on the outside but not dry, 4-6 minutes. Remove from skillet & set aside.
  2. Decrease heat & add remaining oil. When oil is hot, add onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery, garlic, remaining 1 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, dried thyme & savory; stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add margarine & melt.
  3. Stir in the flour & cook for 1-2 minutes; gradually stirring in chicken broth & milk. Bring to a simmer, continue stirring until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in peas, thyme, mustard & reserved chicken. Cover & set aside while preparing pastry.
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in white & yellow Crisco. In a measuring cup, place the egg & vinegar; add enough cold water to make 1 cup & whisk together. Make a well in flour; pour in all of the liquid & combine.
  2. Roll out pastry. For 6 individual pies, prepared in mini foil pot pie pans, cut 6 - 8" (20 cm) circles for the bottom shells & 6 - 5 1/2" (14 cm) circles for the tops. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Place pastry lined pans on a baking sheet & divide chicken filling among them. Moisten edges with milk or water; place pastry circles on top, crimping edges with a fork. Whisk together 1 egg & 1 Tbsp water; brush tops of pot pies with egg wash. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden.
Recipe Notes
  • This amount of pastry will actually make enough for a double recipe of filling or just some extra for another time. If wrapped tightly it will freezes well.
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Beef Barley Stew with Roasted Vegetables

Stews have been an important food for most of the world’s people for thousands of years. They are wonderful concoctions, savored for their flavorful combinations as well as their reminders of home and family.

Geographical location plays a big role in how beef stews are made from different regions. In areas where the cold season is longer, the stew will usually be thicker in sauce, cooked longer and have heavier or more flavorful ingredients. In areas that have a warm climate, stews will be a lot spicier in flavor for inducing perspiration to cool the body.

In the Western world, meat stews are categorized as ‘brown’ or ‘white’. This means that the meat is browned in fat before liquid is added for brown stew; meat for the white stew is not cooked in fat before liquid is added.

The culinary history of both Canada and the United States includes numerous examples of stews brought by European settlers. Beef stews have been the most popular recipes among this legacy. In addition to being versatile in their ingredients, stews can also be used as filling for pastry shells, over mashed potatoes, rice or biscuits.

Brion and I have always enjoyed the combination of beef and barley. To my knowledge, the idea originated from the ‘Scotch Broth’ soup. In today’s particular stew the vegetables are roasted, using their natural sugars to caramelize, helping to create additional flavor in the stew.

 

Beef Barley Stew with Roasted Vegetables
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Beef Barley Stew with Roasted Vegetables
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper. Add meat; toss to coat. In a Dutch oven heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add half of the meat; cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove meat from Dutch oven; set aside. Repeat with another 1 Tbsp oil & remaining meat.
  2. Add onion, garlic & thyme to Dutch oven. Cook & stir for 3 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups broth, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of the Dutch oven. Add remaining beef broth & water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a shallow roasting pan combine potatoes & carrots and/or parsnips. Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 35 - 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender & lightly browned, stirring once or twice.
  4. Stir barley into beef mixture. Cook about 35 minutes more or until barley is tender.Stir in roasted vegetables. If desired, sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Recipe Notes
  • Stew can be placed in an airtight container, covered & refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
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Corned Beef & Cabbage Quiche

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Nothing says fall better than Oktoberfest, a tradition dating back to 1810 in Munich, Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since. 

Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.

While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc..

Even if it is a little hard to admit summer has ended and fall is officially here, Oktoberfest seems like a great little celebration to ease into the coming winter months.

I came across this recipe for CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE QUICHE.  From the reviews I read it sounded pretty good so I thought it was worth a try. It seems to fit the occasion I think.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Quiche
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Corned Beef & Cabbage Quiche
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, melt butter; add onion, cabbage & garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add water, cover & cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover & cook until liquid evaporates & cabbage begins to brown, about 8-10 minutes longer. It is important to get the liquid out of the cabbage or it will cause quiche to become watery.
  2. Stir in corned beef; remove pan from heat & allow to cool for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, caraway seeds, salt & pepper until blended.
  3. Spread half of cabbage mixture in pie crust. Top with half of the Swiss cheese; repeat layers. Slowly pour egg mixture over ingredients in pie shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until quiche is puffed & golden. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing to serve.
Recipe Notes
  • This quiche is nice baked 'galette' style or using a springform pan instead of a regular pie pan.
  • Recipe inspired by busycooks.about.com
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Potato & Brussel Sprouts Gratin

One of the supper dishes I remember my mother teaching me how to make was scalloped potatoes. The recipe read something like this:

  • Wash, pare and slice potatoes. Put a layer in a buttered baking dish, season with salt and pepper. 
  • Dredge lightly with flour, dot with small pieces of butter; repeat until dish is almost full.
  • Add hot milk until it comes almost to the top layer.
  • Cover with buttered crumbs. Bake until soft, about 1 hour. A little chopped onion is an improvement.

Gratins are very popular in Germany. Potato & brussel sprouts gratin is a typical dish during fall and winter season. There are numerous variations such as adding ham or combining it with other vegetables like cauliflower, zucchini, peas and carrots. You could also add an egg to the cream if you like.

I always enjoy looking through mom’s ‘vintage’ recipes. I notice there were definitely lots of casseroles — no wonder they still hold appeal for me. Brion is not big on brussel sprouts but I’m going to incorporate this German specialty into our supper meal and see how it goes?!

Potato & Brussel Sprouts Gratin
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Potato & Brussel Sprouts Gratin
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Instructions
  1. Clean brussel sprouts, cut in half. Peel potatoes, cut about the size of your brussel sprouts. Boil potatoes & brussel sprouts for about 10 minutes in salted water.
  2. In a skillet, add a small amount of butter & fry onions with ground beef. Combine cheese with 1/2 & 1/2 cream, (add some milk if needed) & spices to your taste.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a 9" buttered casserole dish, layer potato/brussel sprout combo & ground beef. Then pour cream/cheese mixture carefully over all. Combine bread crumbs with Parmesan cheese & sprinkle top of casserole. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven & sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese. Serve.
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Pita Pockets

From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather  simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam. 

Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.

The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.

Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.

Pita Pockets
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Pita Pockets
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.
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Chicken Fajitas

When I’m working in the yard, summer always tempts me to spend less time in the kitchen. As much as I love to cook, I find the ‘gardener’ in me takes over. I can’t simply just go out and do a bit of looking. The first thing I know, there’s a little weed that needs to be picked or a plant to prune and that does it — I’m hooked for hours. Nevertheless, one thing for sure and that is the fresh air and exercise builds an appetite which brings me to a fast-to-fix meal.

Today, I’m thinking some chicken fajitas for our evening meal. Before I even go outside, I’ll do a bit of quick prep work, that way it will be a ‘no brainer’ later when I’m tired.

Technically, only beef was used in fajitas, but the term has become ‘blurred’ and describes just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The origin of the fajita goes back to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexican border) in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as shirt steak. The first print mention of the word fajitas anywhere in the world didn’t occur until the 1970’s.

The chicken breast I’m using in this recipe is marinated for a number of hours making it nice and spicy as well as tender. This is a great little, quick and easy hand held meal.

Chicken Fajitas
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Chicken Fajitas
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsp oil, lemon juice & seasonings. Add chicken. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
  2. In a large skillet, saute peppers & onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove & keep warm. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through. Spoon filling down the center of the tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese & choice of other toppings.
Recipe Notes
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Fig & Pear Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Pairing pork with figs and pears may seem a little odd but believe me it tastes great. Pears are one of those fruits that are extremely versatile. Their subtle sweetness and juiciness makes them perfect for recipes from entrees to desserts. Figs could be considered the perfect fruit — low on calories, full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Figs have always appealed to me since the first time I tasted a ‘Fig Newton’ cookie.  Now that seems like eons ago! Figs also bring me back to a place that holds some wonderful memories for Brion & I. In 2014 we visited the eastern side of the Algarve region in Portugal. This coastline is a spectacular site, very similar to the Big Sur coastline of California, USA. 

Portugal has an excellent climate for cultivating figs. In the Mediterranean region as well as the Algarve, you can see fig trees almost everywhere. From August until about the end of September, there are plenty of fresh figs ripening on the trees. The only thing, is they have a short harvest time and will go bad quickly once picked. After the season ends you can buy dried figs. Fig jam is a product of fresh figs whereas dried are used for cooking, baking and even in fig liquor.

Portugal possesses great charm in its medieval villages, walled towns and glorious monuments while at the same time embracing progress and modernity with a style all of its own. It was such a memorable experience that will not be forgotten for sure.

There’s very little fuss to preparing today’s recipe and the meat turns out extremely tender.

Fig & Pear Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
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Servings
2-3
Servings
2-3
Fig & Pear Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
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Servings
2-3
Servings
2-3
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine first 8 ingredients; set aside.
  2. Make a lengthwise cut 3/4 of the way through the tenderloin; open and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness. Brush meat with Fig Balsamic dressing & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Spread pear mixture over tenderloin. Roll up from long side; tuck in ends. Secure with toothpicks.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place tenderloin on a large piece of foil on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Nestle remaining filling around tenderloin, pulling up foil to make sides to keep it close to meat. Brush with Fig Balsamic dressing. Bake, uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into pork reads 160-170 F. Remove from oven & brush with apricot preserves. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with the additional roasted filling.
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Chicken Wings Risotto

A popular and versatile dish, risotto is served extensively in the kitchens and restaurants of the world. The history of risotto is naturally tied to the history of rice in Italy. Rice was first introduced to Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the middle ages. The humidity of the Mediterranean was perfect for growing shorter-grained rices.

A hearty rice dish, risotto is rich with the flavors of the stock used in its making, as well as saffron, and any of the hundreds of ingredients that pair so perfectly with it.

The key components of this simple but elegant dish are: rice, stock (usually chicken), onions, butter, wine, parmesan and saffron. It can be served by itself or as an accompaniment to other dishes. The starchy component of the dry grain mixed with the stock creates a thick, creamy sauce.

Brion is a ‘wing’ man. He LOVES chicken wings and rice so it seems quite fitting to make a CHICKEN WING RISOTTO.

Chicken Wings Risotto
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chicken Wings Risotto
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat butter & oil; add wings, cook until golden brown on both sides; Remove from skillet to paper towels & drain skillet.
  2. In skillet, melt extra butter; add onion & garlic; cook until tender. Add pepper, shallots, zucchini, celery & saffron, cook another minute. Add wine, rice, water, chicken bouillon cube & chicken wings, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat & simmer for 20-25 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in parsley.
Recipe Notes
  • Saffron is extremely expensive to buy in our part of the country. A good trade off would be turmeric or just use the spices that appeal to you.
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Roasted Pepper & Corn Chowder

Soups have represented cultural traditions while showcasing regional foods and cuisines long before recorded history. To give a few examples for instance — Russia makes borscht, Italy has minestrone, France with its vichyssoise, Spain has gazpacho and so on.

Food historians generally agree that recipes dubbed ‘chowder’, as we know them today, were named for the primitive cavernous iron pots they were cooked in. Each simmering pot is a season’s herald: hearty chowders are comfort food during winter; garden fresh vegetable soups in the spring; refreshing chilled gazpacho or fruit soups during the summer and pumpkin and squash from autumn’s bounty.

Today’s ROASTED PEPPER & CORN CHOWDER  is an easy choice to prepare in that it uses bottled roasted red peppers. Nothing says you can’t roast some fresh peppers instead if you prefer. Some people serve corn chowder as a vegetarian alternative to clam chowder. Brion and I enjoy this soup accompanied with some warm garlic bread sticks.  

Roasted Pepper & Corn Chowder
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Roasted Pepper & Corn Chowder
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat margarine & saute onion until translucent. Add flour, cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Gradually stir in chicken broth. Add potatoes & cook until tender.
  2. Stir in milk or cream, peppers, corn & bacon; heat through. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Ladle into bowls & garnish if desired with chopped chives & cilantro.
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