7.31.2014

stuffed green peppers

Here's a dish I've been wanting to try for a while.  I love that it's so versatile and has the potential to be as healthy or unhealthy as you wish to make it.  You can make it completely meatless, put a Mexican or Italian spin on it, or add some eggs and have it for breakfast!

I couldn't really figure out why some recipes told you to boil the peppers before stuffing them and others didn't.  After I started cooking them in the oven I figured out it's probably because if your filling is already cooked then the peppers don't need to be in the oven as long so it's best to boil them beforehand.  I didn't boil my peppers because it seemed like an unnecessary step.  It turned out though that Noah and I preferred having the peppers still be a little crunchy instead of soft and mushy like they would have been had I boiled them.

A couple other things I learned:  If you're putting cheese on top of your stuffed peppers it's best to wait until they have a few minutes of baking time left rather than putting it on when you first put them in the oven.  Also, I probably should have added a little more tomato sauce because as the peppers bake in the oven the liquid gets dried up.  Not that the filling turned out really dry, but it just probably would have tasted nice with more sauce.



Stuffed Green Peppers

2 green peppers washed, cut in half, de-seeded
Olive oil
1 pound of ground turkey
4 mushrooms cut into small pieces
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
Oregano
Marjoram
1/2 cup tomato sauce (1 cup or more would probably work just fine too.)
Cheese for topping (Noah used muenster, I used Swiss.)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

I started by putting some olive oil in a pan on the stove on low heat and adding the ground turkey, mushrooms, onions, and garlic.  I waited until everything started sizzling and the turkey began browning before adding the seasonings and tomato sauce.  Simmer the mixture until the ground turkey is browned, the mushrooms are soft, and the onions translucent.  You can try to cook out the extra liquid but it really won't hurt the peppers if you leave it in there.  It'll just leak out in the pan in the oven later.

Get out a baking pan or casserole dish that will comfortably accommodate your peppers and nestle them in there open side up.  You don't have to worry about spraying the pan, the peppers won't stick.  You also don't have to worry about getting the peppers too full  of your mixture.  It's ok to heap it on there.  Once your mixture is done simmering you can start loading it into your peppers.  Pack it down into the crevices of your peppers to make sure it's taking up all of the available space.

Put your peppers in the oven and bake them for around 30 minutes.  You can bake them a little longer or shorter depending on how soft you want them to be.  If you bake them longer just make sure the filling isn't drying out.  If you want your cheese to be melted and bubbly put it on top of your peppers when they have 5-10 minutes of baking time left.  I put it on right before I first put them in the oven, which was fine, but I could have cooked the peppers longer if I didn't need to worry about the cheese burning from being in there too long.



Noah and I both really enjoyed the stuffed peppers.  They made a very delicious lunch and were a nice change from what we've been eating lately.  Noah said they reminded him of the cabbage rolls his mom has made before.  With how easy and flexible this recipe is I'm going to pick up more peppers when I find them cheap at the store (we got these at Aldi for 99 cents for two) and play around with different fillings.  I'd love to try it with different colors of bell peppers!  Now I'm wanting to make another one of my favorite vegetable recipes: stuffed tomatoes.  :)




7.29.2014

cinnamon raisin bread

I really love baking.  There is just something so cozy and comforting about whipping together ingredients and baking them into the most wonderful thing you've ever tasted which just so happens to make your home smell delicious at the same time.  Occasionally I've worked it out to where I've pulled something tasty out of the oven right before Noah gets home from work so the apartment is filled with a heavenly aroma when he arrives.  He loves it.  :)

From cookies to muffins to scrumptious chocolate cake with homemade cream cheese frosting (my most favorite frosting in the world!), baking is one of the most wonderful things you can do in the kitchen.  It's sweet, delightful, and everyone loves it.

Even with my immense love of baking I have yet to master the art of baking yeast breads.  When I was still living with my parents the yeast would always have to be prepared twice when I tried to bake yeast breads.  Every time I would heat up the water too much and kill the yeast.  And every time my mother would come to the rescue and fix my mistake.  This is why I love quick breads.  They can't be used for sandwiches but they are sweet, easy, versatile, and don't require yeast!

I came across a wonderful quick bread version of cinnamon raisin bread and it is so good I made it twice!  Well, I also made it twice because I wanted to modify it a bit.



The recipe says for you to mix a half cup of raisins into the batter and then you pour the batter into your baking pan one third at a time and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture in between each layer and on the very top of the batter before putting it in the oven to bake.

While the results were super tasty, I felt like it needed more raisins and the cinnamon swirl wasn't sufficiently spread throughout the bread.  I happened to be out grocery shopping the next day and picked up some more raisins to give the recipe another shot.

This time I used one cup of raisins but I didn't mix them into the batter.  Another change I made was using both brown and white sugar in the cinnamon sugar mixture to give it another kind of sweetness and flavor.  I didn't keep track of how many layers of batter and cinnamon sugar mixture I put in the pan, but I did make sure to cover the entire bottom of the pan with batter before continuing with the rest of the layers.  I poured in some batter, sprinkled raisins over the batter, sprinkled the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of that, and kept going until everything was used up.  I made sure though that I had enough raisins and cinnamon sugar mixture to sprinkle on the very top to make the bread pretty.  :)



I was much happier with the results this time around.  The raisins and cinnamon sugar mixture were spread out much better in the bread and made it taste even more wonderful than the first time I baked it!  I'll definitely be keeping this recipe around for those frigid winter days when the apartment needs to be warmed up and smell like cinnamon.  :)



7.08.2014

opo squash?

What is an opo squash?  To be honest, I didn't really know what it was when I picked it up at the grocery store.  It was big, green, and had a funny name; so I bought it.  During the same shopping trip I bought a rutabaga which I turned into fries (the taste reminded me of sweet potatoes) and some impressive looking leeks that we used for chicken and leek casserole, a recipe from Noah's sister.  This is what happens when I go grocery shopping without my husband.  I buy weird things.

Opo squash is an oriental squash native to Southeast Asia and can also be called "calabash", "bottle gourd", or "long melon" (among many more names).  The taste is similar to summer squash and cucumber.

I wasn't really sure what to do with it.  When I googled recipes a lot of different soups came up.  I didn't really feel like making it into a soup though, and Noah isn't crazy about soup to begin with, so I continued searching.  I settled on a recipe that called for zucchini and simply used the opo squash instead.  Because what better thing is there to do on a hot summer day than roast vegetables in the oven for an hour?

Like what usually happens when I find recipes online, I didn't follow it to the letter.
Zucchini = Opo Squash
Four Medium Potatoes = About Ten Red Potatoes
Red Bell Pepper = A Bunch Of Little Sweet Peppers
I minced up the garlic clove, sliced up a lonely onion and added it to the mix, left out the paprika, sprinkled a little black pepper and salt over the top, left out the breadcrumbs, and added the olive oil sparingly because I get the feeling recipes like this call for too much oil and the vegetables turn out really slippery.

I chopped this all up the day before and stuck it in the fridge so it would be ready to pop in the oven.  This also gave the vegetables a chance to mingle and be friends.



Making big dishes like this is a gamble when there are only two people in the house.  What if one of you don't like it?  What if you both don't like it?  A big pan of funny tasting vegetables isn't going to disappear by itself.  But making big dishes is also helpful because then you don't have to cook as much and some recipes you can freeze and save for later (soup and chili are great candidates for the freezer).

The next day I popped the vegetables in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour and stirred them around every 20 minutes.  (Make sure you chop up the potatoes into small enough pieces.  I ran across a couple chunks that didn't get cooked all the way because they were too big.)  We had it for lunch with baked ziti leftover from Sunday dinner with Noah's family and a really delicious fresh mango.



Verdict on the opo squash?  It's good!  Neither of us were terribly hungry for lunch (probably because we stayed up too late the night before which led to sleeping in late followed by a late breakfast) but we ate enough to decide that we like it.  Noah even took some with him to work for dinner.  If he likes it enough to take it to work that's when I know I've found something good.  :)  The taste of the opo squash reminded me very much of zucchini.  I couldn't taste the peppers much, maybe they needed to be chopped up smaller so they would mix in better with the other vegetables, but the potatoes were great and the sliced onion added a nice sweetness to the mix.  You want to know what else was sweet?  The seeds from the opo squash!  In my research I didn't find anything that said the seeds needed to be removed so I left them attached to the meat of the squash and they did just fine.

Baking or roasting vegetables in the oven is a nice change from salads or warming up frozen vegetables.  It's especially handy if you do all the chopping the day before and have the pan ready to pop in the oven an hour before you're planning to eat.  I'm going to keep this in mind for the future and mix it up with different vegetables.  Carrots, tomatoes, onions, different kinds of squash.....  :)



7.01.2014

married in michigan

Hello, world!

Here I am, married and living in Michigan now.  :)

Moving to Michigan was quite an adjustment at first.  My first week living at Noah's parent's house was rough.  I moped around pretty much that whole week.  I shed many tears and spent a lot of time in Noah's arms while he comforted me.  After that first week though I felt a lot better and we got busy with the remaining wedding preparations and found out we could move our things into our apartment much sooner than we were originally told.  That was such a blessing.

Our wedding was everything we hoped it would be.  It was all so beautiful and put together so nicely.  Noah was dashingly handsome in his morning dress and I felt so pretty in my lace gown.  Our photographer was fun and professional, our bridal party was fantastic, the ceremony was full of the faith we share in Christ, our families were overjoyed, the reception was relaxed, and the food was delicious.  The entire day was perfect.  :)

We had a blast on our honeymoon in Mackinaw City and Traverse City.  It was exciting getting to go on our first vacation together as husband and wife.  We ate fudge, rode a tandem bicycle (I didn't enjoy that much), got caught in a huge downpour (while on the bicycle), watched ships go through the Soo Locks, took hundreds of photos, ate delicious pizza in Petoskey, I bought a cute teapot in Traverse City along with some fancy tea, we hiked across the Sleeping Bear Dunes (I thought I was going to die but instead I just got VERY sunburned), frequently said hello the to the alpacas at the bed and breakfast where we stayed, enjoyed the most amazing raspberry chocolate tart in the world, strolled through downtown Traverse City numerous times, and we even contemplated staying an extra night because we were enjoying ourselves so much.  We were starting to get exhausted though and my sunburn was painful, so we decided to head home as planned.

There was another adjustment period as we got settled into our apartment.  Coming to terms with how far away I live now from my family was a little difficult.  There were a few days where I was sad and feeling like I just wasn't getting the hang of cooking meals and taking care of our home.  Like the stupendous husband he is, Noah assured me over and over that I'm doing a fantastic job and how impressed he is with everything I've been accomplishing.  He's also been helping me learn how to relax and take things easy, that I don't need to be busy every day because there isn't really a whole lot that needs to be done with it being just the two of us.  The other day before he went to work Noah lovingly told me, "You're not allowed to do anything while I'm gone.  Your job today is to watch Doctor Who and crochet.  This apartment better not be clean when I get home." :)

So here we are.  Married for a month, living in our apartment, enjoying each other, running errands or being lazy together early in the day before Noah goes to work.  I clean, go grocery shopping, and do whatever else while he's working.  And then we get to spend more time together when he gets home before we go to sleep.  We're starting to fall into a routine which will get messed up when I find a job, but for now we're enjoying what we have going on.  Being married is lovely and I couldn't imagine experiencing it with anyone more wonderful.  :)