Posts Tagged ‘bell pepper’

Chicken Cacciatore

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

For David’s birthday this year, we had quite a feast. Normally, we spend Wednesday nights watching Glee, (and by “we,” I mean my friends and I, not David. He’s not a fan.) which means that our dinners on Wednesdays are usually more of the quick-and-easy variety than other nights of the week.

Rather than the typical simple fare, I tried for something a little fancier. We sat at the table, for one. Opened a bottle of wine, and had this pasta dish and garlic bread. Finally, topped it all off with Coconut Cake, which you’ll be hearing more about tomorrow. All in all, I think David was happy with his birthday dinner. It did make me wish that we’d do that kind of thing more often.

Pasta was an easy choice when planning a dinner for David, but I wanted to try something new, AND pick something he’d especially like, which is how I ended up with Chicken Cacciatore. Veggies (mostly peppers and onions) and tomato sauce and pasta–I knew he would be a fan. The sauce was made with balsamic and red wine, both of which David loves. It was a natural choice.

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breast halves)
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 29 oz canned stewed tomatoes, Italian-style
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (Ours is the Little Italy NYC-Style, from the Spice House)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, snipped
  • 1 13.5 oz box whole wheat spaghetti

Directions:

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add olive oil and heat. Add chicken breasts and cook over medium heat until browned and juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.

Add onions, pepper and garlic to skillet. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes.

Stir in wine, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over cooked pasta.

Note: I thought this was good, and I’m sure we’ll make it again. I did add a tiny bit of sugar at the end, to balance out some of the acidity in the sauce. David and I liked this because we really like balsamic, but if you aren’t a fan, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe. Also, I skipped the mushrooms for David, but I think they’d be very tasty in this dish.

Chicken & Cashews

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

I pulled this recipe from a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine. I don’t really have a lot to say about this one–it was good, but not great. I prefer the Cashew Chicken Stir Fry that I made before. Really, there shouldn’t have been a lot of difference, but to me, the previous version was much better. I’ll be keeping that as my standby, as far as Cashew Chicken goes.

Chicken & Cashews
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2009

  • 3  tablespoons  low-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 2  tablespoons  dry sherry
  • 4  teaspoons  cornstarch, divided
  • 1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  tablespoons  oyster sauce
  • 1  tablespoon  honey
  • 2  teaspoons  sesame oil, divided
  • 3/4  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup  chopped celery
  • 1/2  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1  tablespoon  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2  cup  chopped green onions (about 3 green onions)
  • 1/4  cup  chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews

1. Combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sherry, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and chicken in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch, broth, oyster sauce, and honey in a small bowl.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken mixture to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in pan. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Return chicken mixture to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with green onions and cashews.

Rice pilaf: Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion and 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water, 1/2 cup long-grain rice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

Cinco De Mayo Fajitas & Guacamole

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

In honor of cinco de mayo, David and I had steak fajitas for dinner. Fajitas have long been one of David’s very favorite foods, especially when we were eating out. These days, I think he prefers the ones we make at home. As we do so often, we borrowed this fajita recipe from Alton Brown. We’ve used this recipe many times without fail.

fajitas

Alton Brown’s Skirt Steak Recipe (Steak Fajitas)
Adapted from the Good Eats Episode “Raising The Steaks

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, washed and cut in 1/2
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar or Mexican brown sugar
  • 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 green peppers, sliced

1. In a blender, put in oil, soy sauce, scallions, garlic, lime juice, red pepper, cumin, and sugar and puree. In a large heavy duty, zip top bag, put pieces of skirt steak and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Allow steak to marinate for 1 hour in refrigerator.

steak2_11

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the bottom of the pan. Remove steak from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Cook the steak pieces for about 3-4 minutes per side, until cooked to desired doneness. Remove from the pan to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil while the meat is allowed to rest for at least 10 minutes.

3. While meat is resting, add sliced onions and green peppers to the skillet and cook until tender.

4. When steak has rested for at least 10 minutes, slice thinly across the grain of the meat.  Serve with grilled peppers and onions, tortillas, beans, cheese, sour cream–whatever you like.

Note: We also had chips and guacamole. You will not be surprised to learn that we often use Alton Brown’s recipe for guacamole. I know you will not be surprised to hear that. We’ve made it many times, and it always turns out delicious–and much better than anything you’ll find pre-made at your grocery store. Definitely worth the extra trouble. I’ve included the recipe below, because if you want to make guacamole 100% from scratch, this is an excellent place to start.

Alton Brown’s Guacamole

  • 3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

That being said…

I also want to mention our favorite substitute for “from scratch” guacamole, because it’s another excellent alternative to the pre-made tubs at your grocery store: Frontera Grill Guacamole Mix. This blend of tomatillos, tomatoes, chiles, garlic, and spices comes in a jar, and it couldn’t be easier to turn it into tasty guacamole—just mash 3 avocados with the contents of the jar. It’s a nice work-around if you find yourself in a hurry to make fresh guacamole. We’ve bought three packs of the mix at Costco, but you can also buy individual jars at your grocery store.

guacamolemix

Cooking Light’s Sweet & Sour Chicken

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

I really, really enjoyed this Sweet & Sour Chicken recipe, and so did Leah and David. The sauce made with pineapple juice was much tastier than any sweet and sour sauce I’ve had at home. The water chestnuts and bell pepper added a satisfying crunch to the mixture, but the pineapple chunks were my favorite. This was very good with canned pineapple, but I imagine fresh pineapple could take it to a whole new level. I think I’ll try that next time.

Sweet & Sour Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1  tablespoon  bottled minced garlic
  • 1  teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2  pounds  skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 small can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1  (15 1/4-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
  • 1/3  cup  reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  cornstarch
  • 2  teaspoons  brown sugar
  • 1/4  cup  dry-roasted chopped cashews
  • 1 batch of prepared Baked Brown Rice, recipe follows

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, red pepper, and chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken mixture from pan; set aside.

Add onion, celery, water chestnuts, and bell pepper to pan, and sauté 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Add 1 cup pineapple chunks to pan; cook 30 seconds. Reserve remaining pineapple for another use. Combine the reserved 1/2 cup juice, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, and sugar in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Return chicken mixture to pan. Stir in juice mixture; bring to boil. Cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with cashews. Serve over rice.

Note: Sweet & Sour Chicken is one of my favorite Chinese dishes to order. Normally, the take-out version is made by deep frying the chunks of chicken in a thick batter before adding them to a thick, syrupy sauce. Though this dish was a little different than that version, I didn’t miss the breading one bit. I will definitely make this one again.

Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice

This is by far the easiest and best brown rice recipe I’ve come across. It’s literally fool-proof, and after you taste the chewy, nutty texture, you’ll never go back to Minute Rice again.

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice, medium or short grain
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
  • Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil in a kettle or covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Bell peppers are not my favorite vegetable. I’ve gone most of my life avoiding them completely. No peppers, no onions was a kind of motto of mine.

Then, while visiting David’s family in Wisconsin, I was tricked (TRICKED!!!) into eating bell peppers on a salad. They were red peppers, and they were diced like tomatoes, and I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late. Only…I kind of liked them! Go figure.

Roasted red peppers followed, first in a dish at the Olive Garden, then in the form of hummus. And once in this roasted red pepper aioli I made, but I guess that’s another story. Even though I’ve eaten Pepper Steak for a long time, I’ve picked around the peppers themselves for as long as I can remember. But as it turns out, David likes peppers a lot, and sometimes, you learn to like things for someone you love. I guess.

Stuffed Peppers seemed like something David would really like, and that’s ultimately why I started making them. I mean, I’m happy with the insides, and when it’s a whole pepper, it’s easy enough to pick around the pepper. Even Leah, who shares my general dislike of all things pepper has become a fan of these. I find myself liking the peppers a little more each time, though, so I suppose eventually, I’ll eat the pepper themselves, instead of treating them like a bowl or wrapper. Probably not just yet, though.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 large bell peppers, cleaned, with the tops cut off and the seed pod removed. (We usually use green, but red was on sale this time around)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup of rice, prepared according to package directions (Brown rice is what I prefer, but use what you like, even if that’s instant)
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 6-8 ounces of cheese, either shredded or thinly sliced (think white, Italian, and melty, like provolone, mozzarella, or fontina. Again, use what you like.)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bell peppers and cook until peppers soften at the very edges but are still firm and crisp throughout, about 3 minutes. Remove from water and place into a baking dish with deep sides.

2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef over medium high heat. Drain beef and return to skillet. Add spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, italian seasoning, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble.

3. Turn heat to low and add prepared rice. Stir to combine. Scoop the beef & rice mixture into the bell peppers, filling them completely. When we have extra of the filling, I put it into the baking dish around the stuffed peppers, but the amount left over depends on the size of the peppers I use.

4. Once in the baking dish, cover the peppers and any remaining filling with the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, until the filling is hot all the way through.

Note: I like the cheese to get crispy, but if you don’t, you can bake the peppers without cheese, and add the cheese for just the last 10 minutes. If you want to go crazy with the cheese, you can sprinkle parmesan over the top as well. I call these Italian Stuffed Peppers, because those are clearly the flavors I use, but I’ve heard of Stuffed Peppers being made more like meatloaf (think breadcrumbs and ketchup) or with cheddar cheese. All I can say is I like them this way, and so do David and Leah. If you like green peppers on your pizza, I’m sure you’d like this dish as well.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

This “recipe” for hummus is my own creation, though to be fair, hummus is pretty simple to throw together, and no cooking is required. Just mixing. This recipe makes awesome use of my food processor, though, the lack of which had been holding me back from making my own hummus. I limited the amount of oil I used to keep this bean dip on the healthy side of things. You can serve it with veggies (think baby carrots, bell pepper strips), chips, or pieces of bread (pita or otherwise), but my favorite is baked pita chips.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

  • 1 large can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 2-3 roasted red peppers, packed in water (from a jar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons light sesame oil

1. Add first 6 ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 or 4 times to move the mixture around in the bowl, then turn on the food processor.

2. While the processor is running, drizzle the olive oil and sesame oil into the mixture through the lid of the food processor.

3. Enjoy!

Note: Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for about a week. You may want to add additional salt or even black pepper to taste. Go easy on the salt to start with, though, since the canned beans can sometimes be salty depending on which kind you buy. I like it as a dip, but it would be good as a sandwich spread also.

Crockpot Chinese Pepper Steak

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

This one is a classic family recipe of ours. I grew up eating this pepper steak, before I even really knew that I liked Chinese food. This is also the recipe that taught David that he likes Chinese food. Now he happily eats at P.F. Chang’s, Opera, and of course, my Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry and Chicken & Broccoli Fried Rice. I’ve also got him hooked on these potstickers from Costco, but that’s another story.

This doesn’t have to be made in a crockpot, of course, but I’ve always had good luck making it that way. Taking advantage of the crockpot lets you use less tender cuts of beef. I make this dish as outlined below, but for those who like them, onions or mushrooms would be a welcome addition. You probably aren’t surprised to learn that we serve this dish with Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice, but white instant rice would be just fine, if that’s what you prefer. David skips the chow mein noodles, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re a necessity!

Crock-Pot Chinese Pepper Steak

  • 2 cans beef gravy
  • 1 pound of stew beef or roundsteak, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 large green peppers, seeded & chopped
  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained
  • 2 cups rice, cooked
  • 2 TBSP hoisin sauce
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup tomato juice or vegetable juice (like V8)
  • 1 Cup chow mein noodles

1. Add Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and EVOO to a skillet, over medium high heat. Add beef and green peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until beef begins to caramelize.

2. Add gravy, water chestnuts, tomato juice, and contents of skillet to a crockpot; stir together. Cover and heat on low approximately 6 hours.

3. Serve over rice, garnished with chow mein noodles. If the sauce is too thin, it can be thickend wtih slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed into 2 tablepoons of cold water.