This month has brought a few articles my way about cooking, eating, and growing up with food. The first is Mark Bittman’s New York Time’s article “Getting Your Kids to Eat (or at Least Try) Everything.” The second a series on Epicurious about cooking after baby, chronicling learnings from some of my favorites, include Smitten Kitchen author and the Wednesday Chef. Even Cooking Light took time this month to touch on the relationship we have to cooking.

Which go me thinking…I’d love to hear from you. Why do you cook? What is your history with cooking? Eating? And then the proverbial question, do we eat to live or live to eat?

 

Stuffed Peppers | Kitchen Notes and other Sundries

We had a bit of a scare last night. Casey woke me up at 3:30 am, unable to find our dear sweet Lyla. The screen door to the balcony was open and she was no where in the house. Frantically, I looked over the edge of the balcony for sights I don’t even want to think of, but instead I heard her distinctive “where the hell is everyone?” meow. We found her, puffed up to double her size, on our downstairs neighbors porch. After much and continued worrying (plus one call to the 24 hour vet), we seem to be doing okay. Lyla is her joyous self, all her functions seem to be working, and she probably thinks she just went on the adventure of a lifetime. In fact, she’s currently supervising the writing of this post from her standard perch between keyboard and computer screen.

If you’ve had a similarly harrowing night, these stuffed peppers may help out. Hearty and comforting. Mostly healthy. Flavorful and packed with fresh veggies and herbs.

onions and garlic | kitchen notes and other sundries

Bell Peppers | Kitchen Notes and Other Sundries

  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 large handful (about 3/4 cup) of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • 1 lbs ground sausage (meat of your turkey, chicken, pork)
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons of goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup of shredded nutty flavored cheese, like a manchego or comte
  • 4 large, stable (able to stand on their own) red bell peppers.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In large saute pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced red onions over medium to medium high heat. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Watch the onions, stirring them as they cook. Once the onions turn translucent, about 3-5 minutes in, turn the head to medium-low and allow the onions to cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid the onions browning.

Once the onions are cooked, add the carrots, zucchini, and garlic. Stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat. The garlic should begin to become fragrant and the zucchini and carrot should start to soften. A smaller dice on the carrot means that the carrots will cook faster. Taste the veggie mix at this point. What’s missing? Consider adding some shallot pepper, red pepper flakes, etc if desired. Allow to cook together for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan in a separate bowl. Set aside the bowl for later.

In the same sauté pan, cook the sausage of your choice. In the recipe above, I used wild boar sausage from a local shop. This recipe would also work well with mild or medium spicy pork sausage, or really any chicken or turkey sausage as well. If the sausage you use is spice, you should not need to add any additional flavoring. Cook until the sausage crisps up.

Add back the veggies. If desired, add a splash of white wine or water to help scrap the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan. Add in the pre-cooked brown rice. Mix together the veggie, sausage, and rice until well combined. Taste again for any additional flavors. I found the spice from the sausage, and the small amount of salt and pepper at the beginning, when combined with the caramelization and browned bits from the cooking, made for a tasty flavor. Turn off the heat, remove pan from the hot burner, and add in the crumbled goat cheese.

Next, prep your bell peppers. Rinse all the peppers thoroughly. Using a sharp knife, cut off the top of the peppers. Scrape out the insides with either a spoon or knife. In a deep rimmed backing dish, add in about 2 to 3 good glugs of olive oil. Yes, glug is an official type of measurement. Also add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon into each of the four bell peppers.

Spoon the rice and sausage mixture into each of the bell pepper cups. Top with the grated cheese, and place into the baking dish. Bake in the oven for about 30-45 minutes. The skin of the bell peppers should start to soften, the cheese on top melt and bubble. The house will smell fantastic.

Serve whole bell peppers for a full dinner, or split in half to serve with additional items. Also makes wonderful lunch left overs. If you do have any additional rice filling mix, save that for lunch or an afternoon snack.

stuffed peppers | kitchen notes and other sundries

 

stuffed peppers | kitchen notes and other sundries

Hello from some place other than Arizona! It’s warm, rainy, humid, and it’s not Florida. But it is filled with friends old and new, and it’s just too bad to not have enough time for everyone.

Tonight, for dinner, I met up with a wonderful group of people so large, we took up at least two twelve person booths. There were spring rolls, egg rolls, dumplings, red curry, sushi. All delicious. Made of course better by the power of conversation, which you know I’m a fan of. Blame the extrovert in me!

So, here  are some recipes from across the web that I’m inspired by after this tasty evening.

Warm and spiced butternut squash curry perfect for cooler weather.

All the best of a crispy Samosa in a soup.

Pot stickers for a quick and easy meal. And I do mean quick and easy once the effort has been made in making them :)

Enjoy your mid October week!

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Granola Bars | Kitchen Notes

I’m traveling again. Three trips in one month is certainly a variance from my usual home-body habits. I don’t dislike travel; there’s a whole part of this blog that shares trips across the country and continents with you. I do dislike much of the food associated with travel (who does like it?). Airplane food, even the non complimentary kind, is all one mushy, salty texture that sits like a lump in your stomach after you’re done eating it.

When we traveling to Pennsylvania in August for our friend’s wedding, I backed us cold noodle salad with veggies and spicy peanut sauce. It felt nearly indulgent to sit in the Atlanta airport during our layover, twirling and slurping our home made deliciousness while others sat next to us with bags of fast food.

I plan on taking a few of these for the flight on Monday. They may crumble up, but will still be good over yogurt at the hotel the next morning. For certainly, these granola bars whole or crumbled will have more dimension than the granola served at hotel continental breakfast. Another bonus is the speed to readiness. Mixing ingredients together is the hardest part!

Granola Bars, adapted from Food52

  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds, lightly salted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup roasted pepitas
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 cup salted almond butter

Line a freezer safe baking dish with parchment paper. I used a large jelly roll pan for my recipe.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, almonds, cranberries, walnuts, pepitas, coconut, and sunflower seeds together. Add the honey, apple sauce, and almond butter. Using either a wooden spoon or your fingers, combine together until it starts to clump.

Using the wooden spoon or spatula, pour the mixture into one side of the pan. Use the back of the wooden spoon to press the granola into the pan, forming an even layer. Depending on the size of your pan, you may or may not fill up the entire sheet. This was the case when I used the large jelly roll pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and freezer overnight.

When ready to eat, use a knife to cut large squares. I keep mine in the freezer, but they can also keep for a day or two in the fridge. If the granola comes apart, don’t worry…just add some yogurt and call it delicious!

Granola Bars | Kitchen Notes

Granola Bars | Kitchen Notes

I want to take this moment to sincerely apologize to my readers, because this Slate article speaks the honest truth and I know I’ve misused the term “caramelize the onions.”

Yes.

I am flawed.

I do love a good caramelized onion. I agree with this article that in truth a good caramelized onion takes at least 20 to 30 minutes, possible 45 to 60 if done over low heat. And after reading through many of my recipes, I realize that I faulted to the phrase “until caramelized” rather than better descriptors. For example, you know that point when yellow onions go from translucent to a warmer honey color? Or maybe that point when red onions start to look sorted and lighter in color? See, no reason to jump straight to using “caramelized” as a descriptor.

What do you think? After reading the article, can you recall recipes you’ve transcribed with that alluring descriptor?

onions | kitchen notes

Orzo and Meatballs | Kitchen NotesYes, it’s October. Of course it’s still close to or exactly 100 degrees. Summer lingers a tad bit longer here. To celebrate the transition, I put together a blend of autumn and summer. The meatballs from last week were a first flush of cooler weather; combined some freshly made summer tomato sauce and a last batch of summer veggies, this dinner or lunch brings lots of flavor to the table.

As I was cooking up the recipe in my head, I thought back to summer orzo salads we often had growing up: grilled veggies, with orzo and olive oil. Salt. Pepper. A sprinkle of feta and herbs. Simplicity for the season. While this dish adds a tad more complexity, all the veggies keep it light.

Orzo and Meatballs

  • 1/2 batch of the Turkey Meatballs, already cooked
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup fresh summer tomato sauce
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 ears of corn, removed from cob
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
  • Estimated 1/2 cup of parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 pound of orzo, or other small pasta.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saute pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Dice the 1/2 large red onion, add to the pan when complete. Sprinkle the onions with a 1/4 teaspoon salt. Allow the onion to cook until slightly caramelized, at least 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to stir the onion a few times (3 or 4 or more) so that it doesn’t burn. Once the onion has softened and started to caramelize, add the corn, zucchini, and peas. Add freshly ground pepper, to taste (roughly 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon). Allow the vegetables to cook, until mostly soft. Add the precooked meatballs and set over low heat.

In a large stock pot filled almost to the brim, add a generous amount of salt and bring the water to a boil. Cook orzo pasta according to the directions on the package. I recommend testing the pasta at least 2 minutes before the package says it will be done. You’ll be cooking the pasta briefly with the veggies and the tomato sauce, so a little underdone is better than overdone here. The pasta should still have some chewiness to it. Drain said pasta and add to the sauce pan.

Turn the head on the sauce pan up. Stir in the tomato sauce, allowing it to coat all of the vegetables and pasta. If you prefer more sauce, add it now. The sauce should lightly cover the pasta, but not completely cover it. We’re not trying to re-create spaghetti and marina sauce, rather give this orzo dish an additional boost of flavor.

Taste test of salt, pepper, or other spices that might be missing. Add in the freshly chopped parsley. Serve in a bowl with a big spoon or fork.

Orzo and Meatballs | Kitchen Notes

I tried to avoid commenting about big box grocery and stores putting up pumpkins and halloween decor after Labor Day weekend. Mostly, I did my best to ignore it. And then, one day, as I strolled into my closest Starbucks for my you-can-only-have-this-once-a-week indulgence, there it was: clever marketing that let me know….”PSL is here early.”

I forgot everything I ever learned from multiple marketing textbooks and professors. I fell for it. Walking up to the counter, I knew I would order a Pumpkin Spice Latte. As it was made for me, as I drank it, I knew it wasn’t going to be my forever drink. But I had to have it, in that moment. Hazelnut Latte — underwhelming when the lure of PSL is in the air. The reality: I would have preferred my good ole stand by of hazelnut.

What’s more fascinating to me is the media around Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Introduced in 2003, the PSL craze is still strong. As you’ll read in one of the links below, there’s a surprising black market for the Pumpkin Spice Syrup, and a bevy of Pumpkin Spice flavored everything in case a latte isn’t your flavor.

Not a PSL

Not a PSL

 

 

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