Wednesday, September 26, 2012


stuffed red peppers (2)

So hubby’s been complaining that I don’t make enough comfort food for him.  Our friend, Mary, sends him over stuffed peppers now and then, and he was wondering why I can’t make them, like I used to back in the day.  And to drive the point home,  he grew a batch of bell peppers this year that were stellar specimens.  As they turned red, I started roasting them.  But the peppers were growing faster than we could eat them.  So I decided to make him happy. 

Instead of using my old family favorite recipe, I searched the internet for a new idea.  A half batch (3 peppers) would be enough to try it out.  Look at these gorgeous peppers from our garden:

stuffed red peppers (3)
Green peppers will make a firmer shell for the stuffing, but red peppers are sweeter.  Just be sure not to overcook the peppers, whether they’re green or red. 

Now for Guy’s critique – he loved the flavor but prefers green peppers for their firmness.  He also doesn’t appreciate thick sauces, like this one, even though the taste was amazing.  I loved these and would have stopped searching, but he wanted stuffed green peppers, thin sauce, less rice.  Well we had plenty of peppers, so why not?  More posting to come.

In the meantime, if you like thick sauces, this is a great recipe, full of flavor.  I’m printing the full batch because you will want all six peppers.  And, P.S., they taste even better when reheated later in the week. 

Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef and Rice
Adapted from Southern Food
Rating:  9/10


6 sweet bell peppers, washed, tops cut off, seeds and membranes removed
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
tops from peppers, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano (not Mexican)
1-3/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1-1/2 cups cooked Jasmine rice

Turn cut peppers upside down on paper towels to drain.  Heat butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Saute onion, celery and peppers 5-10 minutes, till vegetables are tender.  Add garlic, cook 1 minute, stirring; add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, herbs, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Simmer about 10 minutes, till blended.  Cool.

In large mixing bowl, whisk egg with remaining 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and 1-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce.  Add beef, rice and 1 cup of the tomato mixture.  Mix well with hands or spoon.  Stuff peppers with meat mixture and place in a 3-quart baking dish.  Pour remaining tomato mixture over peppers.  Bake, uncovered, at 350F for 40-50 minutes, or till thermometer inserted in center of peppers registers 135 – 140F.  Don’t overcook or peppers will be too soft.  Let peppers rest 10-15 minutes before serving.  Great with mashed potatoes.  Yield:  6 servings

Sunday, September 23, 2012


It's been a little over two months since my hubby returned from his "fishing trip of a lifetime" in Grand Isle, LA, with a stellar catch of fresh tuna and red snapper.  Most of the fish went right into the freezer, in small packets convenient for a family of two.  Whoo Dat Tuna Salad continues to be a favorite way to use up the tuna, but today's very easy recipe is also absolutely delicious, especially when you don't have the time or motivation to fuss.  Leftovers are terrific cut up on a green salad, or made into -- you guessed it -- tuna salad.  Get the recipe...

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Apple chcake for 2

These little cheesecakes are perfect for up to four people (two servings per cheesecake).  If you’re a big dessert eater, you may want one all to yourself.  I cut the original Kraft recipe in half and adapted it slightly, using Neufchatel cheese instead of full-fat cream cheese, nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream and my own graham cracker crust on the sides as well as the bottom (hubby loves a thick crust).  We gobbled these up, eating cheesecake after dinner for several nights. 
Apple chcake for 2 (7)
The brown sugar used in the crust, cheesecake filling and the apple-pecan topping imparts a caramel flavor to this dessert which complements both the apples and the pecans.  If you’ve made apple cheesecakes before, but not with brown sugar, please give this a try. 
If you don’t have 4-1/2” springform pans, think about buying them.  They’re not expensive at all, about $5 each, and so worth the investment.  You can also bake cake batter in them to make those cute little Bistro cakes.

Mini Apple-Pecan Cheesecakes
Adapted from Kraft
Rating:  9 out of 10

Crust: 1 cup crushed graham crackers (about 5 crackers out of a package of 9) 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Heat oven to 350F (325F for dark or coated pans).  Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix well with fork or fingers.  Pat mixture onto two 4-1/2” springform pans, covering bottom and sides.  Bake about 10 minutes, or till set but not brown.  Cool thoroughly, in fridge if necessary, while preparing cheesecake.

Cheesecake Filling: 8 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened, cut into 6-8 chunks
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla)
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain or vanilla-flavored

In work bowl of food processor, pulse cheese with sugar till smooth.  Add egg and pulse just till combined.  Add vanilla and yogurt and pulse briefly till combined.  Pour mixture into cooled crusts.
Apple chcake for 2 (4) Apple-Pecan Topping: 1 cup chopped peeled apples (I used 1/2 of a large Rome apple.)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. chopped pecans
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in small bowl, mixing with fork or fingers till well combined.  Carefully place mixture on top of cheese fillings.
Apple chcake for 2 (5) Bake cheesecakes @350F (325F for dark or coated pans) 40-45 minutes, or till centers are almost set. 
Apple chcake for 2 (6) Cool completely, then refrigerate for several hours, or overnight for best flavor.
Yield:  2 mini cheesecakes (2-4 servings total)   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ALTON BROWN’S CARROT CAKE, adapted half recipe

alton brown carrot cake (6)

It’s carrot cake time again.  I love trying out different recipes.  Alton makes his carrot cake in a 9” x 3” round cake pan.  I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a 6” x 2” round cake pan.  The remaining batter went into two (3-1/2”) ramekins.  His flavorings are different, and not everyone liked them.  I think the allspice was the fly in the ointment.  Still, the cake was good, and we enjoyed it.  I mean, is there such a thing as a bad carrot cake?
alton brown carrot cake
At least for now, my favorite carrot cakes remain Cook’s Illustrated’s 2003 Simple Carrot Cake and Pillsbury’s Carrot Cake with Creamy Supreme Frosting.   Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake runs a close second.
Alton’s recipe, compared to Cook’s Illustrated’s, has less spice, though his spice has a sharper flavor that doesn’t go well with the carrots.  He also uses less carrots, slightly less sugar, less salt, one less egg and no pineapple.  I doubled the salt and added coconut and pecans because Food Network reviewers complained about lack of flavor. 

Maybe we’re all too used to carrot cake that has something besides carrots and spices to develop flavor.  Interestingly,  Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe relies on cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; Pillsbury’s recipe uses only vanilla, no spices; yet both are perfectly balanced and have other ingredients (coconut, nuts, pineapple) that help to develop flavor.
Alton Brown’s Carrot Cake, adapted half recipe
Rating:  8.5 out of 10


6 oz. carrots, grated on large holes of box grater, then chopped (approximately 3 medium)
6 oz. (about 1-1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. allspice (I would leave this out for a milder spice taste)
1/8 tsp. cinnamon (I would increase this to 1/2 tsp.)
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (I would increase this to 1/4 tsp.) 1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (my addition, leave out if desired)
1/4 cup dried sweetened coconut (my addition, leave out if desired) 5 oz. sugar (about 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp.) 1 oz. dark brown sugar (about 2 Tbsp. packed) 1-1/2 eggs (or 1 egg + 1 egg white)
3 oz. plain regular yogurt (or mix nonfat Greek yogurt with milk to make 3 oz.) 3 oz. vegetable oil

Heat oven to 350F.  Butter and flour a 6” x 2” round cake pan, plus two (3-1/2”) ramekins.  Line bottoms with parchment paper that has been cut to fit.  Set aside.

Place grated carrots in large bowl.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in bowl of food processor.  Pulse for 5 seconds, add to carrots and toss till carrots are coated with flour mixture.  Stir in pecans and coconut (if using). 

Combine sugars, eggs and yogurt in bowl of food processor.  Pulse 5-10 seconds to mix, then, with motor still running, add oil through feed tube.  Pour mixture over carrot/flour mixture and stir just till combined.  Pour into prepared pans.  Bake on middle rack of oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325F and bake another 10-12 minutes for ramekins, another 22-24 minutes for cake, or till internal temperatures reach 205F in centers.  Cool in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling.

Cream Cheese Frosting: 4 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel, soft
2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, soft
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder or vanilla extract
About 1 to 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, depending on your taste

Combine cheese and butter in medium bowl.  Mix on medium speed of electric mixer till smooth and well combined.  Gradually sift powdered sugar and vanilla powder (if using) into cream cheese/butter mixture while mixing on low speed.  If using vanilla extract, stir in now.  Refrigerate frosting 15-30 minutes before using to firm it up. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012


This crab salad is perfect for anyone who appreciates the delicate flavor of crab meat and doesn't like to cover it up with tons of spices and ingredients that mask it.  Four ingredients, not counting the crab meat and salt and pepper, and you're on your way to crab heaven.  Serve it as is, on lettuce or spinach, in a sandwich, or in a tomato or avocado.  It doesn't get much better than this. 

Get the recipe....

Thursday, September 6, 2012



We planted too much basil this year.  I’ve given tons away, used it in cooking and salads and made basil pesto, and I still have basil coming out my ears.  We decided to do something.  We cut off a bunch of stems, pulled off the leaves, then rinsed and dried them. 009

Hubby cut the basil in smaller pieces with kitchen shears.010
Then he laid them on a window screen that he first washed. 028

Up to the attic they went for about 2 weeks.  The result?  Dried basil that looks, smells and tastes just like the dried basil you find in a store.  Except for one thing:  this basil has not been irradiated like McCormick’s.  Now he’s drying more to give away.  037