Grain Salad with Oil-Free Orange Ginger Dressing

whole foods layered salad2

Since I have been blogging, one of the areas where I have really branched out as far as food is concerned is grains. A couple years ago, I would have gone ‘huh’ at anything more exotic than brown rice. I am glad that we’ve expanded our world of grains because different variations on grain salads have become one of our favorite quick meals. Perfect for lunches or a lighter dinner.

The idea for this salad is straight from Oh She Glows. On her post, Angela mentions that she had something similar from Whole Foods and had to re-create it at home. It is completely grains, veggies, and a little bit of juice, and is quite delicious! One of the things in this salad that I had never tried before was wheat berries. I was able to find them in a regional store that sells lots of things in bulk, and they have to be my new favorite grain. In the recipe, the wheat berries are not cooked completely through. Only enough to make them chewy, and I am completely enamored with the texture they add to this salad! Try it out. Enjoy! 

Grain Salad with Oil-Free Orange Ginger Dressing


1 cup uncooked wheat berries
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup shelled edamame
1 cup diced carrots (about 2 large carrots)
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
kosher salt, to taste


2/3 cup 100% pure orange juice
1/3 cup 100% pure apple juice
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/4 tsp. Kosher saltIn a medium-sized pot, combine chicken broth and quinoa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 13-15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside. In another pot, combine the wheat berries and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the berries start to soften and become chewy. Drain any extra water and set aside.

While the grains are cooking, chop the vegetables and whisk the dressing ingredients together. Mix with the cooled grains and enjoy. Will keep in the refrigerator for 5-6 days.

Philly Cheesesteak

philly cheesestake2

One of the eating options at our undergraduate college was set-up fast-food style. It wasn’t a big name restaurant that you see at some of the big student unions, but a smaller operation ran by the same people that ran the cafeteria. You would walk up and literally write your name and order on a little slip of paper and hand it to whomever was cooking. They had you standard fast-food fare – burgers, chicken strips, mini pizzas, and Philly cheesesteaks. Those cheesesteaks were SO good. Horrible for you, I know, because they would drip grease, but how much do you care about that at 19?

To make a long story short, I haven’t had a Philly Cheesesteak in a long time because I know that it is definitely more of a splurge. You can imagine that I was really excited to find a makeover recipe in the March issue of Cooking Light!

philly cheesesteak meat options
philly cheesesteak

As I mentioned, it has been awhile since I’ve had a “real” cheesesteak, but these were pretty good in my book. The recipe came together really well. I did not include the mushrooms as they are not my cup of tea. My only note would be to be sure to make the cheese sauce just before you are ready to eat. I made mine too early, and ended up needing to reheat it. This did not go well as the sauce got really thick, but could be fixed easily enough. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Philly Cheesesteak
Adapted from Cooking Light March 2012

1 (12 oz) flank steak, trimmed 
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1-1/2 cups thinly sliced green bell pepper
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 ounce provolone cheese, torn into small pieces
2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
4 (3-inch) hoagie rolls, toasted  

Place beef in the freezer for 15 minutes. Cut beef across the grain into thin slices. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. 

Heat a large nonstick skillet over 2 minutes or until beef just loses its pink color, stirring constantly (mine took about 3-4 minutes). Remove beef from pan. Add remaining 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan. Add onion; saute 3 minutes. Add bell pepper, and garlic; saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Return beef to pan; saute 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Stir in Worcestershire and soy sauce; keep warm.

Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Divide the beef mixture evenly amongst the bottom halves of the hoagies.  

Just before ready to eat, place flour in a small saucepan; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook 1 minute or until just slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Drizzle sauce evenly over beef mixture; replace top halves.

Vegetable Soft Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream

vegetable soft tacos with chipotle sour cream

As I am sure is the case in the homes of many food bloggers, we have something new and different at some meal almost every day. This ends up being both good and bad. I definitely don’t get the “we’re having this for supper again?” comment, but in the process, I have realized that I do not really have any “go to” recipes. Want a recipe for chicken noodle soup? I probably have 10. Chocolate chip cookies? Even worse. Chicken recipes. Don’t even go there.

While it seems that it would make supper really easy, what happens is I get information overload. It has been shown that when presented with too many options, humans take longer to make one and are more dissatisfied with their choice, and I absolutely fall into that group. One thing I do to make meal choices easier is to pick out a certain category. If I can decided that I want to make chicken lasagna or vegetarian tacos, I may narrow my choices of recipes down to only a couple. Much more manageable!

One of the themes that shows up again and again on our menus week after week is some type of Mexican. Whether it be tacos, enchiladas, burritos, or even just Mexican-flavored dips, we love it all. These tacos, from Eat, Live, Run happen to be a vegetarian version that fall right into my current theme of meatless, seafood-less meals. The recipe for these tacos happens to be from Jenna’s mom who adapted it from an Oprah recipe, and from my attempts at her meals, all that I can say is that I would love to be invited to dinner!

vegetable soft tacos with chipotle sour cream veggies

These are different from other vegetarian tacos that I’ve seen in that the pre-cooked beans are roasted in the oven to give them just a bit of a crunch in the tacos. Genius. Combine that with a roasted-pepper corn mixture and crunch from some green cabbage, and you have one heck of a taco. We ended up leaving out the radishes as I did not have any in the house when we made these, but I am sure they would up the crunch factor as well. Seeing these pictures is making me want these again. Soon. Guess I’ve solved the supper predicament for one night next week 🙂  Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Vegetable Soft Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run (originally from Oprah)

2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
2 limes, juiced
2 tsp. cumin
1-1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed and drained or cook your own 
1/2 medium green cabbage, sliced thin
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. sugar
1 avocado, diced
3 radishes, sliced thin (I left out)
1 cup low-fat sour cream
2 canned chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and diced 
2 tsp. adobo sauce
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
whole wheat tortillas

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil if desired.

Toss together corn, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, bell peppers, and onion and spread on half of the baking sheet. In a separate bowl, toss together the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and black beans. Spread on the other half the baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beans are getting crispy and the vegetables are cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine the cabbage, cilantro, vinegar, sugar, diced avocado, a pinch of salt, and radishes if using. Set aside to let marinate in the vinegar. In a separate small bowl, mix together the sour cream, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce.

Fill tortillas with the vegetable-bean mixture. Top with the cabbage mixture and a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with cheese.

Southwestern Quinoa Casserole

southwest quinoa bake

In continuing the theme of meatless recipes, I thought I’d start with one of the Mexican-themed recipes I’d promised. This may not be true for everyone, but I’ve always found Mexican dishes one of the easiest types of Cuisines to make vegetarian. With all the beans, veggies, and cheese, it is easy not to miss the meat!

This dish mixes all those above things with none other than quinoa. No meat certainly does not have to mean no protein! I have definitely caught the quinoa “bug.” What is not to love about those little curly cues it sprouts after it’s cooked? 

The idea from this recipe comes from Not Rachel Ray. She used the filling both for southwestern stuffed pepper and in casserole form. We just made the casserole variety, but I am sure stuffed-peppers would be delicious (I also seem to have a “thing” for different types of stuffed peppers). I made a few changes to Rachel’s original recipe mainly leaving out the chicken, upping the amount of beans (hate having random half cans of stuff in the refrigerator), and adding a chopped bell pepper to the mix. We just planted several of these ingredients in our garden last weekend. Can’t wait until we could make this with the goodies from our garden!

You’ll find a lot of different ways to cook quinoa. I’ve tried quite a few different ways, but the method that has worked well for me is a ratio of 2:1 liquid to grain. Any more liquid, and I find the quinoa ends up too wet even after cooking. You can use all water, a mixture of water and broth, or even all broth if you’d like. If I have it, I like using half broth, half water. I haven’t tried this, but I think you could prepare most of this dish the night before (minus adding the bread crumbs). Add the bread crumbs and bake the next day. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Southwestern Quinoa Casserole
Adapted from Not Rachel Ray

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz) black beans, rinsed
1 cup frozen corn or corn cut from 2 cobs
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
1-2 Tbsp. taco seasoning (make your own)
1-1/2 cups reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese
1/2 whole wheat Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the quinoa and shake strainer to drain off any extra liquid. Place in a medium saucepan. Add broth and/or water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 13-15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat. Let sit and remain covered for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

Combine the cooked quinoa, bell pepper, onion, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, taco seasoning, and 1 cup of cheese. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish. Combine remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and Panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the dish. Bake 45-50 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Sausage and Pepper Calzones

Can anyone else believe that it is already football season? Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy excited to spend Saturdays cheering on my Huskers, but to me, it shouldn’t be September yet. Having never lived anywhere other than Nebraska, I am finding it different that much of the football focus here is on the pros rather than college. While I still prefer college football over pro football, both types certainly have one thing in common – GAME FOOD!

Pizza and football are something that go hand-in-hand in my mind, and these calzones are something that would make a great addition to any football party. I found them  quite a while ago on Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy and bookmarked them immediately. My husband has this categorization in his mind of game food – it has to be something that is hand-friendly and portable. These could easily fit that bill. Self-contained and stuffed with sweet and spicy sausage, peppers, and onion. Game food indeed.

While we loved the idea of these, I think I will change up the type of sausage if we make them again. In her recipe, Susan calls for whole sausages that she slices, bakes, and then finishes in a skillet on the stove. Her reasoning is that it helps decrease the fat as opposed to frying it. While that is valid point, the fat in the skillet (from the sausage) can always be drained, and I think that crumbled sausage would fit into the calzones much easier. Next time, I think I’ll try using some locally-made chicken sausages and removing the casing to get that crumbled effect. I’ll let you know 🙂  My only other complaint with these is the dough that I used. I’ve been looking for “that” pizza crust recipe, and the dough that I used for this one wasn’t it. It didn’t really brown and just wasn’t our favorite, so use your favorite homemade or purchased dough here. Trader Joe’s has a great one!

Enjoy and Go Big Red! 

(Printable Recipe)

Sausage and Pepper Calzones
From Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy

1 lb. sweet Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings
1 lb. spicy Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 bell peppers, any color, cut into strips
2 large sweet onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 pkg. or recipes of pizza dough
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place pizza stone in the oven to warm while the oven is preheating. If you do not have a pizza stone, you do not have to pre-heat it.

Place casing-free sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring to crumble until the sausage is cooked through. Drain any fat and set sausage aside.

Heat olive oil in the skillet (if dry) over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and onions and saute for about 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and saute for about 3 minutes more. Adjust the heat if needed to avoid burning. Add the sausage to the skillet with the vegetables. Pour in the chicken stock and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes more, until peppers and onions are very soft. Take the lid off and simmer a few more minutes to reduce the liquid in the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Unroll pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut out  two 5-6-inch circles of dough. Gather the scraps together and roll out the dough to make 1-2 more circles. If using a calzone press, place one dough circle on the open press. Place a generous scoop of sausage mixture in the center. Make sure to drain as much liquid out of the sausage mixture as you can, so the calzones will not be soggy. Top with mozzarella and lightly brush the outside edges with olive oil. Flip one side over the other and press to seal with the calzone press or with your fingers. Press the edge down with the tines of a fork to ensure the seal. Lightly brush the tops of the calzones with more olive oil and sprinkle a little Kosher salt on top. Place the calzones on the pizza stone or pan and bake for about 20-22 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and let cool for 3-5 minutes. 

Yield: 6-8 large calzones

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Can I get a woo hoo! I finally got my Authorization to Test (ATT) today to take my board exams! I’ve been trying to study, but it’s a little hard to concentrate without a test date looming. I have two of them now – one next week and one the week after. So, if my posting is a little less frequent, please forgive. My nose will now be to the grindstone. These should be the last tests I’ll have to take in my professional life, and I promise that I will be back after the 9th in full force. 

Outside of all that hoopla, it’s Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start to summer! Hope you all have some fabulous plans with friends and family (much better than my dates with my books). Please remember to think of our troops during our celebrations this weekend, as part of the holiday is to honor their service to this country. 

While this hummus may not quite be patriotic, it is “redish,” and I thought it would make a great last minute dish if you are still looking for something to take to that Monday barbecue. Hummus is always a great appetizer, and roasted red pepper has to be my favorite variation that I’ve tried. It also can make out to be healthier side because the chickpeas give it quite a bit of fiber and vegetables make great dippers (not that pita chips don’t). It doesn’t melt and transports well, so there really isn’t any excuse not to bring this along. I know I will dig in if you do 🙂 Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
From The Best Light Recipe

1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. tahini
3/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry with a paper towel
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (1/4 tsp.)
pinch cayenne pepper

Process the chickpeas, water, lemon juice, tahini, roasted red peppers, 2 teaspoons of the oil, salt, garlic, and cayenne together in a food processor until very smooth, 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the flavors meld, about 30 minutes. The hummus covered, can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature. To serve, make a well in the center of the hummus, and drizzle the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in the well (can skip this step). Serve with pita chips, crackers, or desired vegetables for dipping.

I am linking this to Mangia Mondays.

A Springy Casserole and The Secret Recipe Club

Last month as I was looking through the blogs, I noticed a couple people posting recipes from a group called The Secret Recipe Club. As members, you are assigned a blog, and your only requirement is to make one recipe from that blog some time during the month. We keep our “assigned blogs” secret until the post day where everyone reveals their blog and their chosen recipe at the same time. Fun right? I was in. 

My The Secret Recipe Club blog for May was Anne’s Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy. I ended up spending the better part of an afternoon looking through her recipes, and I really like her philosophy – healthy and nutritious recipes do not need to be expensive or complicated! I actually had a really hard time settling on a recipe, but in the end I decided on her recipe for A Springy Casserole since it is a recipe that is different from what I would typically make. It is originally a recipe from, but Anne definitely made it her own.

In her post, Anne mentions that this recipe is one that would adapt well to the inclusion of different vegetables. In fact, she made two versions – one with chopped red bell pepper, and another with shredded zucchini in place of the pepper. Red peppers are one of my favorite vegetables, so I decided to go with that version. Other swaps/changes include using Greek yogurt rather than plain yogurt, adding 1 cup chopped cooked broccoli, and including 2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard. 

Our verdict: Pretty good! The recipe made more that the two of us could eat in one sitting, and I think it got better as the flavors melded together the next day. I love that it is a great way to use up random leftovers that may be hanging around in your fridge. Not sure about anyone else, but I always seem to be one that ends up with way too much rice whenever we are using it for a recipe. This is definitely one to keep in mind for when that happens. I haven’t tried it, but this recipe also seems like it would work well to make ahead and just pop in the oven when you were ready to cook dinner. Win, win all around. Thanks Anne for a great recipe, and it was really great to stumble across your blog! Be sure to check out our blog-hop to see which recipes everyone made! Enjoy!  

(Printable Recipe)

A Springy Casserole
Adapted from Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 medium red bell peppers, chopped
1 cup frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth, divided 
1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers, broccoli, 1/4 cup of the broth, thyme, black pepper, and continue cooking until the bell pepper begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of broth, brown rice, Greek yogurt, and mustard. Add the chicken, remove from the heat, and stir until well combined. Stir in one-third of the mozzarella and the parsley. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through and the cheese has melted. 

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Can anyone else believe that it is already May? While we aren’t going to be able to go back to Nebraska for the ceremony, I graduate on Saturday. The culmination of 21 consecutive years of school. Wow! Besides graduations, May always brings thoughts of swim suits, flip flops, backyard parties. It’s almost summer, and what better way to start the party a little early than indulging in a little bit of mexican food to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. 

We love Mexican food around here and typically do not need a reason to cook up some great southwestern meals. With a reason like Cinco de Mayo quickly approaching, I can guarantee that we’ll find a way to work some spicy flavors into our diet 🙂 While this recipe is technically Cuban-based rather than from Mexico, the flavors profile is quite similar. Beans, peppers, onions, garlic, cumin. Sound familiar? If you have never cooked your own black beans, please, please do it for this recipe. The beans make this dish. In fact, plan a couple recipes that week using black beans and cook a whole bunch at one time. They were also great in our black bean stuffed peppers. Cooking the beans does require some planning ahead, but do it. I promise you will not be disappointed!

While the end result is worth it, the process of making the dish takes a fair amount of work (as seems to be typical of Cook’s Illustrated recipes). Unfortunately, I don’t own a dish that can transfer from the stove-top to the oven. When it came to that step, I poured the mixture into an oven-safe baking dish, and it seemed to work just fine. Because of the long process, we ate this as a main dish rather than as a side, and it was definitely hardy enough to subsist on its own.  My husband had never had beans and rice in this manner and was a little skeptical when it appeared on our menu. After dinner, he was bargaining with me to assure that he could have the leftovers for his lunch. I guess it was a hit? Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated March and April 2011

table salt
1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 large green bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 large onion, halved at equator and peeled, root end left intact
1 heat garlic, 5 medium cloves removed and pressed through a garlic press, remaining head halved at equator with skin left intact
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces diced pancetta, in 1/4-inch cubes (recipe calls for 6 ounces diced lean salt pork; I couldn’t find it)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves)
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 medium scallions, sliced thin
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Dissolve 1-1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

In a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, stir together drained beans, broth, water, 1 pepper half, 1 onion half (with root end), halved garlic head, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce to low. Cook until beans are just soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Drain beans in colander set over large bowl, reserving 2-1/2 cups bean cooking liquid (if you don’t have enough add water to reach 2-1/2 cups). Do not wash out Dutch oven.

Adjust oven rack to medium position and preheat to 350 degrees. Place rice in a large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, about 1-1/2 minutes. Sake strainer vigorously to remove all excess water; set rice aside. Cut remaining peppers and onion into 2-inch pieces and process in food processor until broken into rough 1/4-inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary; set vegetables aside. 

In now empty Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil and pancetta over medium-low heat; cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and rendered, 15 to 20 minutes. Add chopped peppers and onion, oregano, and cumin. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and stir to coat, about 30 seconds. 

Stir in beans, reserved bean cooking liquid, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Pour into an oven-safe dish if necessary, and cover and transfer to oven. Bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let rest, uncovered, 5 minutes. Serve, passing scallion and lime wedges separately.

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Black Beans and Corn

black bean and corn stuffed pepper close up

When I was looking through my pictures hanging out in my “to blog” folder yesterday, I realized that I have a lot more main dishes than baked goods in my queue. This surprised me a little because I typically consider myself more of a baker than a cook, but maybe I’m growing into cooking a little bit more. My husband surprised me yesterday by telling me that he thinks I’m a better cook than I give myself credit for, and I suppose he is right in a sense. I mean, we need to eat, but I suppose that we don’t necessarily NEED the cookies, bars, and popcorn creations that I end up making =) I am a lot more comfortable cooking than I used to be, and our dinner plans for the past month since I’ve been back have been pretty solid.

Speaking of good dinners, these stuffed peppers definitely fit that bill. In fact, I think my husband has told me that these were awesome no less than 15 times since we’ve had them. It should be no surprise that the recipe originates from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated in their book, The Best Light Recipe. I have not had a CI recipe fail me yet, but the one complaint I do have is that they seem to disregard where recipes land with respect to total fat, calories, sodium, etc. in a recipe. This book combines the CI taste and recipe testing with a healthy focus. Unfortunately, since it was a library find, I had to return it this week when someone else put in a request for it, but I am already looking forward to checking it out again!

black bean and corn stuffed peppers filling without rice and cheese
black bean and corn stuffed peppers

When I was making these, I actually combined it with another CI recipe that I was making later in the week so that I could make the black beans for both recipes at the same time. The original pepper recipe in the book calls for a 14.5 ounce can of black beans. I am sure that canned black beans would work in a pinch, but I beg you to take the time to cook the dried beans as I am certain this is what took these peppers from good to phenomenal. Before these peppers, I had never used dried beans, and now I am going to have a hard time going back. It does take more time, but the results are worth it. One thing to note, the cook time on the beans is a little short since you will be cooking them longer in the oven. When I took my beans off the stove, they were soft enough to eat but not quite fully cooked. While al dente is a term reserved for pasta, that seems to be the appropriate description for these beans. I’ve looked up some other recipes for cooking black beans and cook times seem to range more in the 1-2 hour time frame, so you may want to keep that in mind if you are using them for a purpose where they should be fully cooked. Another thing that I wanted to note is that I had WAY more filling than ever would have fit into 4 peppers. I probably had enough filling for more like 6-7 peppers. We just saved the extra in the refrigerator and cooked up fresh peppers each time to enjoy the leftovers.

Either way with the beans, I would encourage you to make these peppers. I seem to have a thing with stuffed peppers as I have two other recipes here and here. They are all good, but if you are craving a taste of summer, give these a shot. Enjoy!

This is linked to Melt in Your Mouth Mondays

(Printable Recipe)

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Black Beans and Corn
Adapted from The Best Light Recipe by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Illustrated, March – April 2011

For the beans:
1 cup dry black beans, rinsed and picked over
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 large onion, halved at equator and peeled, root end left intact
1/2 head of garlic, halved at equator with skin left intact
2 bay leaves 

For the peppers:
 4-6 medium red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (6 oz each), 1/2-inch trimmed off tops, stemmed and seeded
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and minced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
6 ounces Pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 1-1/4 cup)
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
ground black pepper

Dissolve 1-1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large bowl. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot with a tight fitting lid, stir together drained beans, broth, water, pepper half, onion half with the root end, halved garlic head, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until beans are just soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard the pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Drain beans in colander.

For the peppers, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the bell peppers. Cook until the peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water, and place the peppers cut-side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil, stir in the rice, and boil unit tender, about 13 minutes. Drain the rice and transfer it to a large bowl; set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the oil, onion, jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the onion is softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, black beans, and corn and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the rice. Stir in 1 cup Pepper jack cheese and the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the peppers cut-side up in a 9-inch square baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the peppers, packing the filling lightly. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining shredded Pepper jack cheese. Bake until the filling is heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

The filling mixture will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. To prepare new peppers, boil the peppers for 3 minutes as directed. Fill with the extra filling and sprinkle with cheese if desired. Bake, as directed, for 30 minutes until the filling is hot. 

Yield: 4-6 servings 

Yellow Bell Peppers on FoodistaYellow Bell Peppers

Jack-o-lantern Stuffed Bell Peppers


I hope you are all having a great Halloween! I know these are a little late for anyone to really enjoy this year, but I thought they were way too cute to wait a whole year to post! The family I’m staying with in Nebraska has a 6-year old boy, so we enjoyed these for our Halloween feast tonight before he left to go trick-or-treating. The only thing that I’m a little disappointed about was the lack of orange bell peppers at the store today. Nevertheless, it’s kind of fun to have a child around as a reason to be festive =)

I didn’t really follow a recipe in making these. The basic idea for a jack-o-lantern came from a recipe I saw yesterday on However, I modified it because the filling in this recipe called for bread crumbs, and I was really looking for a rice-based filling. In the end, I ended up using pieces of recipes from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, epicurious, and Delicious Living. My end recipe isn’t close to any of them, so I’m just going to call it my own. That’s one thing I love about stuffed peppers. You can really change them up however you want, and you’ll still end up with something delicious!

Keep these bookmarked for next year! I know that we had tons of fun with them tonight, and I’m definitely going to keep these in mind for future Halloween’s at our house!

(Printable Recipe)

Jack-o-lantern Stuffed Bell Peppers
The Cookin’ Chemist original

6 bell peppers, orange or other colors (that will stand on their own)
2 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 c. chopped red onion
6 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. cooked rice, cooled
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. allspice
2-1/2 c. canned tomato sauce
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 lb. 93% lean ground beef
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cook the rice according to package directions. Set aside. 

Cut of the top 1/2-inch of each bell pepper. Scoop the seeds from the cavities. Cut around the stem to save the edible top of the pepper. Discard the stems and chop the pepper tops. Using a small knife, cut jack-o-lantern faces into one side of each pepper. Add enough water to a large stockpot to cover all of the peppers; bring the water to a boil. Add the peppers and let simmer for 5 minutes to pre-cook the peppers. Carefully drain so as not to disturb the faces on the peppers and set the peppers in an 8×8-inch baking dish.

Heat the oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the chopped bell pepper pieces, onion, garlic, and parsley for 2-3 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until the meat is cooked through. 

While the meat is cooking, add the Worcestershire sauce to the tomato sauce and mix well. After the meat is cooked through, mix in 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce, the paprika, the allspice, the salt and pepper, and the rice. Fill pepper cavities with the beef mixture. Pour remaining tomato sauce around the bottom of the peppers in the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top of each of the peppers and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve over the tomato sauce to make it look like it is coming out of the jack-o-lantern’s mouth. Enjoy!