Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite things to make, but one of my least favorite to eat. I’ll tell you why: No matter how you cut the peppers, or what vessel you eat them out of, they’re so impossible to eat. You can’t really cut into them with a fork without spilling the contents everywhere, so you need a knife. But, even when you have a knife, they slip-slide all over the plate. And I can never seem to get the perfect pepper-to-filling ratio for every bite.

But still, for who knows what reason, I love to make them. There’s something about stuffed items that’s just inherently comforting. And filling. And a great way to get in an extra serving of veggies.

I opted for a low-carb filling with this recipe, skipping out rice and using only protein-rich ground turkey and black beans instead. One pepper would make a great dinner for one person if served alongside a green salad.

Recipe: Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

Tex-Mex Stuffed PeppersServes 4

What You’ll Need:

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 a 15oz. can black beans
1/2 large onion
4 bell peppers (any color — I like orange and yellow)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
mexican cheese blend

What to Do: 

Prep peppers: Slice of the tops of the peppers. No need to cut too much off the top — just enough to take off the stem! Cut the good pepper part away from the seeds n’ stem stuff, chop, and set aside with the chopped onions.

Heat oil in a large, tall sided pan. Add turkey to pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until no longer pink. Add the onions and peppers, and continue cooking. Add in paprika, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and a bit more salt and pepper.

After the onion and peppers are cooked, add the corn and black beans.Cook until heated through, and set aside to cool. (Optional: Stir in a handful of shredded cheese of your choice.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the peppers opening-up  in a square baking dish — they should be pretty snug in there, but not crowing each other. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fill the peppers with the turkey and vegetable mixture, making sure they’re packed full!

Bake until heated through and pepper is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese, and return to oven until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Chicken and Rice Comforting Casserole

When I was a kid, my mom could not cook. Bless her heart, she tried, but what ended up in front of my brother and me every night for dinner was usually boiled chicken, macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, or frozen pizza (Elios, it was, I think). But there was one little gem she would throw together once a week or so that I still to this day consider a healthy option (which Kraft does not exactly qualify as…). I believe the story goes that right after she had my brother, a friend brought us this chicken and rice casserole for dinner, and I loved it so much, she asked for the recipe. I’m sure she was beyond relieved when the recipe seemed rather simple: rice pilaf, chopped up chicken, carrot, celery, and cream of mushroom soup. Stirred together, baked in a dutch oven… and boom. Done. That’s it

Chicken and RiceI have vivid memories of eating this casserole at our kitchen table, and specifically, the dish she used to bake it in (which, sadly, was tragically cracked in half at some point in the last 21 years). It was an old, white bowl with a matching lid, both covered with light blue, traditional designs. Not the style of anything else she ever used or liked, but it was so homey looking — I loved it, and it reminded me of this meal.

So, when the weather recently went from 80 degrees on Wednesday to 40 on Thursday, and I was chilled to the bone, I decided this comforting casserole needed to make a cameo in my new home. With some stealthy hunting down of gluten-free cream of mushroom soup, I was off. Here’s the recipe — I hope you can form some memories around it, too!

Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 cup dry rice
2 cups water

1-2 large, or 3-4 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 stalks celery, sliced
3-6 carrots (3 large or 6 small), sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup*
salt and pepper
shredded cheese

*Note: you can use condensed, or regular. You can also use cream of celery. Pacific makes an organic, gluten-free condensed mushroom soup that I used this time around, and it came out great — just remember to cut it with equal parts of water (or milk)!

First, cook the rice. Follow package instructions, but generally, it’s about 1 cup dry rice to 2 cups water, cooked over low heat, covered for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Slice chicken into bite-sized chunks, and add to an oven-proof dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice carrots and celery, and add to the pot with the chicken.

Next, add in the cooked rice, and stir. Season with salt and pepper again.

Add soup. Stir until evenly combined.

Stir in a handful of shredded cheese.

Cover the dish, and place in oven. Let cook for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and the mixture is bubbly. Stir halfway through.

Let cool a bit (it get’s really hot!!), and serve in bowls. Top with more shredded cheese, if you like, and some freshly ground pepper.

Enjoy!

Chipotle Chicken Chili

Aaand we’re back!

This was the first meal I cooked in our new apartment. That was an important and meaningful meal to me. It was a nice, sunny, March afternoon, and I cooked to my heart’s content while the boy was at his first day of work. I wanted to make something comforting and filling. I wanted it to make us feel how I hoped our home woud make us feel (after all the unpacking and cleaning was done!). So, I whipped this up. It comes together quickly, and it makes enough to last for lunch throughout the week!

Chipotle Chicken Chili with AvocadoNow I’ll be honest with you. I don’t measure spices. Like, ever. Even if I’m baking, really. (I know, so sue me.) So, for the purposes of this recipe, I kinda just guessed, But, depending on what you or your family or friends like, you can adjust the seasonings as you like. I like a lot of paprika, but not too much cumin or cayenne. But, everyone’s different! Play around with it!

Chipotle Chicken Chili

Chipotle Chicken Chili

What You’l Need:

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
3 chiles in adobo, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons paprika
1 onion, chopped
2 15oz. cans red beans, drained and rinsed
1 large can whole plum tomatoes in juice
Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, pickled jalapeños, avocado, lime wedges (optional/for garnish)

What to Do:

Start by browning the meat. In a large-ish (about 4 quarts) stock pot or dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Break up the meat into smalled, chopped up pieces as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper.

After it’s cooked for about 5 minutes, add the onions, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, chiles in adobo, and cayenne pepper. Mix together and continue cooking until the meat is completely browned and the onions are translucent, between 5 and 15 minutes

Once the meat is cooked, add the red beans and tomatoes. Now here’s the tomato trick: If you’re using the whole plum tomatoes in juice, when you add them to the pot, squish them between your fingers to break them up into soupy pieces.

Season with a bit more salt and pepper (and any other extra spices you want to add), cover, and simmer for at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour or two. The great thing about this easy chili is that it can be done in 30 minutes flat, or, you can let it hang out for longer to develop a stronger flavor. (Regardless, though, it’s always better the next day).

Once it’s simmered to your liking, serve in big bowls and top with your choice of flavorings. Enjoy!

Veggie-Filled Mac n’ Cheese

Veggie Mac and CheeseApparently, I’m a bad blog-runner. Life gets just a little crazy, and I go three weeks without posting. Woops. But now I’m back in a normal groove, at least for a little while.

It’s been an interesting month. A month filled with comfort food to help distract me from certain stressors that’ve been on my mind constantly. In the last 30-ish days, I decided to move out of New York and in with a boy (ew, gross). I feared not being able to keep my job due to this move (but, thank goodness, I am!). I apartment-hunted via Skype with said boy. We chose an apartment.  I took a weekend trip to help him move in. We picked out (and fought about) furniture. And I set a moving date for myself (April 26th!) and started packing my apartment. That’s a lot of decisions in very little time for someone who hates being decisive. It’s been unbelievably stressful, but also overwhelmingly exciting. And I couldn’t have made any of these decisions without my  (very patient) friends and parents. Oh, and maybe that boy. 

While this recipe (and photos) is actually over a year old, it’s basically the same thing I’ve been throwing together regularly over the last month: A healthier take on classic comfort food. Sometimes that’s been stovetop mac n’ cheese with veggies (yes, I used Velveeta — deal with it), sometimes it’s been chicken-quinoa meatballs with homemade tomato sauce, and sometimes classic rice and beans. Those are all great things to throw together in 30-minutes after work, but this one… this one’s more special. Perfect to make on a Sunday afternoon. The cheese sauce is made from scratch (but is simplified, and super easy), your choice of fresh vegetables take center stage, and you can use whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta for added fiber (super important).

Veggie Mac n’ Cheese

What You’ll Need:

1 cup broccoli
1 1/2 cups spinach
1 cup tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup chicken stock (homemade is best!)
1 pound small pasta (I used gluten-free shells, but you could use any gluten-free whole-grain, or whole-wheat short pasta)
1 1/2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

What to Do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a medium baking dish with olive oil.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add a healthy pinch of salt. Add noodles, and cook until al dente (according to package instructions), about 8–10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

In a medium frying pan, prep your veggies. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add broccoli and spinach to pan. Sautée until broccoli begins to tenderize. Add tomatoes and peas and continue cooking until heated through. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, warm milk and chicken stock over medium-high eat. Once simmering, reduce heat to medium. Add one handful of cheddar  at a time, stirring to melt in between additions. Once all cheddar is added, add ricotta and Parmesan and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Add veggies and pasta to the cheese sauce, and stir until everything is evenly combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. remove foil, and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and edges are bubbling.

Apple n’ Oatmeal Pancakes

Apple n' Oatmeal Pancakes

Sundays are my happy days. I try to sleep as late as possible, I usually have the apartment to myself, I let myself page through magazines for way too many hours, and I typically also try to cook something to have for dinner for the rest of the week. That time spent alone in the kitchen is, I think, pretty much what keeps me sane. Usually, I’ll skip breakfast on these days in favor of nibbling on whatever I’m cooking throughout the day. But then there are those Sunday mornings I just really want to settle on my couch with a big café au lait and a hearty breakfast. Last Sunday was one of those days.

Having to avoid gluten, brunch foods are pretty limited: eggs, oatmeal, yogurt. But on this day, I was sick of all the standbys. I wanted something heartier, something a bit more special. So I decided to create a little twist on the classic oatmeal. Voila — oat pancakes. Maybe this was just an excuse for me to smother oatmeal ingredients with butter, but regardless, they came out great and will definitely be on my Sunday brunch rotation regularly from here on out. I used apples here, but you can very well use any other fruit you like — I think pears, mango, banana, blueberries, peach would all work very well!

Maybe I’ll tackle one of the soup recipes from that Bon Appétit next…

Apple n’ Oatmeal Pancakes

Apple n' Oatmeal Pancakes_doubleServes 2 (3 small-ish cakes each)

What You’ll Need: 

2 cups oat flour (you can make this at home by throwing 2 cups rolled oats in a blender or food processor)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup milk
1 apple, cored and diced small
Butter, for cooking
Extra apple slices and honey  or maple syrup for serving

What to Do:

In a mixing bowl, combine oat flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, cinnamon, honey, and milk.

Stir until evenly combined.

Add in the apple chunks, and stir again to incorporate.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add butter to melt.

Once skillet is hot and butter is melted, cook the cakes in batches, 2-3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and cooked through. You’ll want to add a little more butter before each batch. (Note: If you have a cast iron skillet, use it! That’s the best way to get those perfect crispy edges!)

To serve, stack, spread with butter, top with apple slices, and drizzle with honey or maple syrup and a little sprinkle of cinnamon. Voila!

Roasted Red Pepper, Chicken, and Spinach (Easy) Bake

Chicken, Red Pepper, and Spinach Bake_longWhile I love spending time in the kitchen, I hate nothing more than being stuck in the kitchen while trying to entertain company. I want to sit back, have a few drinks, and relax with them! Naturally, recipes that require a little prep that can easily be done beforehand and thrown in the oven just before serving are super necessary when cooking for a crowd.

Or, like I did with this batch, you can throw it together on a Sunday afternoon and have it to eat for lunch or dinner throughout the week. It’s got all the necessary elements: lean protein, veggies, and a little starch. Plus, lots of flavor from a few very simple ingredients.

ChickenPepperSpinachBake_wide_2

(Note: As I’m writing this post, a few days after making the original recipe, there is a pizza in my oven topped with the last bits of chicken, peppers, and spinach (on a layer of this homemade pesto!). This is, as I’ve just discovered, also an amazing, delicious, perfect, and wonderful way to use up leftovers!) 

Roasted Red Pepper, Chicken, and Spinach Bake

Chicken, Red Pepper, and Spinach BakeServes 4 (with side)  

What You’ll Need:

1.5 pounds chicken (2 large breasts, or 4 smaller ones)
1 large jar roasted red peppers
2-3 cups fresh baby spinach
EVOO
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Dried oregano, basil, and/or parsley

For serving: 3-4 cups cooked quinoa, brown rice, cous cous, or equivalent

What to Do: 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a medium-sized baking dish with a drizzle of EVOO and set aside. Combine salt, pepper, and herbs in a small pinch bowl and set aside.

Prepare the spinach and peppers so they’re ready for assembly: Rinse and dry spinach and set aside. Remove peppers from jar and pull apart or slice into 1-inch strips if need be. Set those aside, too!

Slice chicken breasts into thin cutlets. I like to do this by simply cutting through each breast horizontally into about 3-4 thin, long, wide slices. Set aside.

Now it’s time to assemble. Alternate layers of the ingredients in the baking dish: Chicken, a sprinkle of the salt-herb mixture, a few spinach leaves, and peppers. Then start over (chicken, herbs, spinach, peppers), and repeat until you’ve used up all the ingredients.

Sprinkle the top with a bit more pepper and herbs. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.

Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Serve on top of rice, quinoa, or something similar, and garnish with some freshly-grated parmesan cheese and pepper. Enjoy!

The Savory Muffin: Butternut Squash and Feta


Butternut Squash Feta Muffins

Now, when I first came across savory muffins, I was skeptical. Muffins are supposed to be sweet, tender little treats that are acceptable to eat for breakfast, but should probably qualify as dessert.

But when I had to make and photograph these butternut squash-based muffins for work, I sucked up my preconceptions and baked up a batch. And boy were they fantastic.

This recipe is a combination of a Cheesy Butternut Squash Muffin from Food52, and a Pumpkin Feta Muffin from 101 Cookbooks. I liked elements of both, so I combined the two for my batch!

Butternut Squash and Feta Savory Muffins

Butternut Squash Feta Muffins

Makes 12

What You’ll Need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard
2 eggs
3/4 cup non-fat milk
2 cups flour (I used gluten-free flour from Bobs Red Mill)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

*Note: I often find when baking with gluten-free flour that I need to add a little extra liquid to get the batter or dough to the right consistency. So, when throwing these together, if the batter looks a little too sticky, don’t be afraid to add a little extra milk — I did (probably about 2 tablespoons). 

What to Do:

Heat the oven to 425F.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the diced squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer.

Stick in the oven, and roast until tender, about 20-30 minutes. (Be sure to stir ’em up every 5-10 minutes). They should be slightly browned, but not burnt! Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Turn down the oven to 400F, and grease a muffin tin with a bit of EVOO.

In a large bowl, combine 2/3 of the squash, the spinach, parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the feta.

In a small bowl, beat eggs. Add milk and mustard, and stir until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the larger bowl, and stir.

Add in the flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Gently stir until evenly combined (but not over mixed!)

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan. Top each muffin with the leftover squash and feta, and sprinkle with a generous grind of black pepper.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of  one muffin comes out clean.

Remove, and let cool. Enjoy alongside soup, crumbled over a salad, or as a savory breakfast or snack!