Monday, March 21, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

This has got to be one of my favorite weeknight dinners. It's cheap, it's fast, and it's super filling. You'll definitely meet your 5-a-day veggie quota with this simple supper.

It's also easily adaptable to what you have in the house.

Some suggestions for substitutes:

Salsa or chutney for the marinara
Rice or millet for the quinoa
Artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, sauteed onions, corn, beans, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapenos for the olives
Any kind of melty cheese for topping- swiss, cheddar, muenster, monterey jack. Feta and goat cheese are also super tasty mixed into the filling.

You see where I'm going here- the options are endless! You could even get really crazy and try an Indian-inspired stuff pepper and add garam masala and some golden raisins the filling! Maybe mix in a little prepared korma sauce- I die!

This version is Italian-inspired with the pepper jack cheese adding some Mexican flair- bringing a little fusion to BettyCupcakes!

My latest cast of characters: yellow bell peppers, nutritional yeast, olives, quinoa, marinara sauce, basil, ground black pepper, and pepper jack cheese. Not pictured- red pepper flakes, a last minute addition. You know me- I like to keep things spicy up in here!

There's no picture of this step because it's boring, but start your quinoa over medium heat. Oh, and preheat your oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, mix your marinara sauce, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, basil, and ground black pepper. Skip the salt- the olives add plenty!

Slice up some olives or other filling items.

Stir 'em into the saucy mixture.

Grate up some cheese and toss it in, too. Set aside.

Time to hollow out those peppers. Grasp firmly and insert knife at the top, about an inch. Move the knife around in a circle creating a hole. You want to take off the stem and a bit of the ribs. Pretend it's a pumpkin.
If your bell pepper is wobbly, just slice a bit off the bottom to make things even stevens.

Place into a loaf pan.

The quinoa's cooked now. Please ignore the thermometer- we've been sharing some nasty bugs this winter! All better for now (knocking on wood as we speak).

Add two to two and a half cups of the cooked quinoa to the sauce mixture. Taste and add quinoa, if desired.

Fill up your peppers. Really get the mixture in them and then overfill by a bit. Don't skimp!

Top with more cheese. (Is anything in this world not made better by the addition of cheese? Chew on that nugget, kids.)

Bake at 400 until peppers are soft and cheese is melty and browned ~ 25 minutes. Side suggestion- roasted broccoli. Delish!

Stuffed Peppers
serves 2

2 large bell peppers
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1/2 cup marinara sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, optional
10 kalamata olives, sliced
2 oz. jalapeno pepper jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400.

Cook rinsed quinoa in the water until done- approximately 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine marinara sauce, nutritional yeast, basil, black pepper, red pepper flakes, olives, and half of the cheese. Stir well. Set the rest of the cheese aside.

Add 2 to 2 1/2 cups of the cooked quinoa to the marinara mixture and stir well to combine. Taste and add more quinoa if desired. Otherwise, save the remainder of the cooked quinoa for another recipe.

Hollow out the peppers by cutting around the stem. Remove the stem and carefully remove any large ribs inside while leaving the pepper whole. Cut a small slice off the bottom, if needed, to make your pepper level so it won't tip over while baking.

Fill peppers with quinoa mixture to the brim; overfill just a bit. Top with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, until cheese on top is browned and peppers are tender.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Whole Grain Pancakes

The whole grain movement gets some real traction in this recipe. I've always been into whole grains- love the crunch and texture they provide to breads, cookies, and pastry.

These pancakes are easy like Sunday morning. From start to nosh, it takes about 30 minutes. This makes a small batch, enough for two normal people or me. My high school boyfriend's dad noted that I have a "healthy appetite". That's a Texas-sized euphemism for "girl who eats too much".

Some things never change. Gimme pancakes or give me death!

Combine all your grains, leavening, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Try mixing up the grains- I'm sure buckwheat, cooked quinoa or brown rice, or spelt flour would be awesome in these pancakes.
Stir 'em all up. Quick note about the cornmeal- it may sound a bit kooky, but it adds an awesome crunch to these. Really crisps up on the outside. Yurm!

Drop your wet ingredients into a measuring cup. Whisk 'til thoroughly combined.

Add wet to dry. No curve balls here.

Stir it up real nice. Let stand for about 10-15 minutes. This lets it thicken up a bit- you'll see a few bubbles on top from the baking soda reaction.

Heat up about one tablespoon of oil in a 10 inch stainless steel skillet. Non-stick need not apply. If the oil is hot enough, these pancakes will not stick. I put the heat about 1 or 2 under medium and let it heat up while the batter sets- 8 to 10 minutes or so.

Cook about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. I make monster-sized pancakes so they take an extra minute or two. Smaller ones would need less time. Duh.

Top with butter and maple syrup.

Or serve them up, Betty-style, smeared with jam.

Whole Grain Pancakes
Serves 2 (or one really hungry lady)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
small pinch salt
3/4 buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1/4 cup plain yogurt)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 tblsp agave nectar (or honey), optional
Canola oil for frying

Measure out flour, oats, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and pinch salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. In a large measuring cup, add buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and agave nectar, if using. Whisk thoroughly to combine.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in the medium bowl. Stir gently to combine and let stand, 10-15 minutes.

Heat about 1 tblsp canola oil in a stainless steel skillet over just under medium heat. Wait for oil to shimmer slightly and add roughly half of the mixture, if you like big pancakes, or less if you'd like them small. Cook about 4 minutes each side.

If cooking for a crowd, turn on oven to about 200 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a cooling rack and stack pancakes on top of cooling rack to keep warm and crisp.

Serve with jam or maple syrup.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What I did on my winter vacation

I went home in February for my winter vacation. I was one busy lady!

I cooked! Catered my mom's 50th birthday party. Happy birthday, mom! Steak quesadillas, chicken salad sandwiches, and veggie/hummus wraps! Sister supplied the baked brie....*drool*

I painted. Mom's birthday party was a painting party, where were got to create our own masterpiece.

Check out my mad skillz!

I squealed with delight! Hadn't seen my niece since she was fresh out! Boston needs to be WAY closer to Texas. Let's just scoot CT out of the way.

Saw family and friends- hi Allie and Melanie and Mom!

Hi Aunt Laura!

I smooched.

I fed.

Bottles, too!

I snuggled.
I strolled.

I shopped- cupcake shirt for the wee one! And a swimsuit with a built-in tutu. Practical, no?

We laughed.

We danced.

And sang.

Can't wait to see those sweet cheeks again. Love you, Bella.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Prep

Just a walk down memory lane, recapping last year's Irish-themed treats to get you party-ready for this Thursday.

Perhaps you'd like a cupcake that puts hair on your chest? (Metaphorically, speaking.)

Irish Coffee Cupcakes

Or a spicy cake with a hint of brew?

Gingerbread made with Killian's

What about a wholesome loaf, just like Grandma made?

Irish Soda Bread

Don't forget to wear (or eat) green!

Brussels Sprouts

For a morning treat, try one of these muffins. Recipe adapted from a local Irish bakery- Greenhill's.

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Muffins

Whatever you do to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, make sure it includes lots of tasty treats!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Candy Bar Chocolate Chip Cookies

In February, I traveled back to the great state of Texas, land of my youth, for a quick visit. I stayed with my Aunt Laura, Uncle Dan, and cousin, Grace. They are a lovely bunch with a healthy appetite for good food and fun.

Food and fun: a case study
Cookies made from this recipe at the

My grandmother, Meeno, had a thing for trolls. Aunt Laura carries on the tradition of troll-love.

Teenagers who make cookies at 9 pm on a Sunday kick ass. I speak from experience.

Best.cookies.ever. Make them now. They remind me of a similar batch my bestie SayBay and I made in high school- chocolate chip cookies with crushed up thin mints in them. It's Girl Scout cookie time- get to baking, kids!