Tag Archives: peppers

Wet and Fresh

23 May

The warm weather is coming.  Thank goodness.  I am tired of the gray rainy spring.  As much as I detest the horror of getting my jiggles and wiggles into a swim suit, I simply adore summer.  The breezy warm nights, a casual vibe,  outdoor evening concerts, dining al fresco.  Yes, the pleasures of summer are many.  But take caution.  The warm weather can increase the threat of dehydration.

If you are thirsty, you are already experiencing mild dehydration.  And did you know that dehydration is the number one cause of daytime fatigue?  Even mild dehydration can decrease endurance, slow cognitive thinking, and cause headaches.  Great reasons to stay hydrated.

Interestingly enough, studies suggest that 70-80% of daily hydration should come from fluids, and 20-30% from the water content in food.  So, it is important to drink water and healthy fluids during the day and limit sugary drinks.  But in addition to that, especially in the warm summer weather, it’s also important to eat foods that are high in water content.  Need a list?  Look no further.  This list contains fruits and vegetables with more than 90% water.

  • cucumbers
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • iceberg lettuce
  • cantaloupe
  • zucchini
  • radish
  • tomato
  • cabbage
  • bell peppers
  • strawberries

Looking at this list I hope you are not thinking of just eating these wonderful fruits and vegetables solo.  Oh no!  Lets have some fun while we eat our water!  How?  So glad you asked.

How ’bout this…a salad.  No, not a lettuce side salad.  A cucumber watermelon salad is the best!  So hydrating and refreshing in the hot summer months, not to mention beautiful.  Simply dice up watermelon and cucumber.   Toss.  Then the fun begins.

Make it more sophisticated with mint.  Or add a savory balsamic glaze.  There are a million ways to customize this fun summer salad, and it will keep you alert and ready to go to the next thing.  So this summer, don’t forget to eat your water!

Watermelon Cucumber Salad.  Delicious and refreshing.  Oh..and so pretty!

Watermelon Cucumber Salad. Delicious and refreshing. Oh..and so pretty!

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Be Flexible

1 Mar

I like options.  I like flexibility.  Especially with cooking.  I am a busy mom.  I can’t afford to fiddle fart around during the busy work/school week, and don’t want to get locked into one option.  I am going to cook one thing that will last more than one meal, and that can be used in a number of ways.

Brown some ground italian sausage.  Yum!

Brown some ground italian sausage. Yum!

That said, this is what I made on a busy week night.  I started by browning a pound of italian sausage.  Next, I added some freshly chopped peppers.  I happened to have fresh peppers that I quickly chopped, but listen…you don’t have to take the time to cut peppers yourself.  Nicely cut peppers and onions are available in the produce section of the grocers.  Don’t let the label “fajita mix” fool you.  Those peppers are not seasoned yet, so if you want to throw them into a pot of browned italian sausage, you go right ahead.

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

So after my sausage was brown, I drained most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon.  I tossed the peppers into the pot and stirred the mixture around.  That cooked for about 5 minutes, then I tossed in a can of diced tomatoes, parsley, basil, and some red pepper flakes.  I gave that a good stir.  Then I added a dash of salt and sugar.

 

Add these simple ingredients.

Add these simple ingredients.

But hey, did I mention I am busy just like you?  I don’t have time to sit in the kitchen and stir my sauce.  So into the oven it went.  I wanted it to simmer, and the oven is the perfect spot for that.  Side note.  Invest in a pot that can go from the stove top to the oven.  It will save you loads of time, and after all, time is money.

That sauce bubbled in the oven for about an hour.  Man oh man did the house smell great.  I pulled it out, removed the lid, gave it a good stir, and was pretty hungry for dinner.

Now what?  Did I mention that I like options?   Here is the beauty of this sauce.  It had protein and vegetables in it, so it was an “all in one” as far as that goes.  I did not need to make a separate vegetable.  We can go a couple of ways with this dish, depending on what is in the pantry.

We could:

1. Toss this with pasta-even throwing in a handful of spinach if available

2. Use as a pizza topping

3. Make pepper and sausage sandwiches

4. Load onto a baked potato

5. Make a quesadilla

How about that?  Love those options!  And the leftovers were divine.  Now that’s flexibility for you!

 

Quinn and I made open face sanwiches that night.  They were delicious.

Quinn and I made open face sandwiches that night. They were delicious.

No Labels Please.

22 Jun

Labels. I loathe and reject them! They are so limiting. The smart one. The athletic one. The workaholic. The baby of the family. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. That’s right. I hate labeling everything including meals. Boring! And limiting!

Breakfast does not have to be oatmeal. eggs, toast, bagel, or cold cereal. These foods can be eaten any time of the day. And if it’s last night’s leftovers for breakfast who cares? There is nothing wrong with chicken, rice, and broccoli for breakfast. If that is what sounds good, go for it.  Dinner has to be a big hunk of meat and a couple of side dishes?  Nope.  Not in my book.  Sometimes a bowl of cereal is perfect for dinner. Sometimes eggs and toast work. My youngest son’s favorite dinner is breakfast! For many years his special birthday dinner request was breakfast, or what some would label as breakfast food.

I am going to tell a story through pictures. It is the story of a meal. But I will not label it. And I will not reveal what time of day I enjoyed this meal (which, by the way, features several servings. I only had one!). I will toss a caveat in saying that it is not a story for the faint of heart. It is of adult nature….it features…dare I say it….bacon and bacon fat. Totally obscene! Outrageous! But it is moderation in the use of the fat that allows my conscience to let this dirty little secret out.

Fresh!  Beautiful!

Fresh! Beautiful!

Lucky for me I have friends who have what I lack…namely a green thumb. This bowl is full of fresh peppers and tomatoes. I was the lucky recipient of this lovely fresh bounty, and I let it inspire me. It took me to a very unexpected place.

Bacon.  Decadent!

Bacon. Decadent!

I began my homage to these fresh ingredients by frying up some bacon in my beloved old cast iron skillet. While the bacon was crisping, I started cutting up the peppers and tomatoes.  When it was done, I scooped out the bacon to drain on  paper towels and disposed of most of the bacon fat in the skillet.  I  left a bit of the grease in my skillet though. The aromas in my kitchen started deepening, layering. Man, was I hungry now!

Pepper mania!  yes!!

Pepper mania! yes!!

I tossed those fresh peppers and tomatoes into that bacon fat. Yes, that’s what I said. Right into the fat. Well here is where I kind of compounded the naughty factor. While the peppers were frying up I went to the fridge and hung on the door. Hunting. Digging. Then I popped to the pantry. Nope…nothing there…went back to the fridge. Here comes more of the naughty…I was seriously misbehaving with that bacon grease!

Peppers to the side...eggs in front!

Peppers to the side…eggs in front!

I pushed the veggies aside and tossed in eggs. Frying eggs in bacon fat. Yup…I warned you! Totally obscene! And completely delish! But my conscience would not allow this dish to be totally devoid of some sort of nutrition. So I made some whole grain toast. No butter.  Next I just  tossed eggs, peppers and tomatoes on the toast. The bacon was on the side.  Fabulous!

YUM!

YUM!

I will not label this meal, nor will I reveal the time of day that this meal was consumed. Let me just say that it was amazing! I cook with bacon grease maybe once or twice a year. I love great food cooked in different ways. And in moderation, I think that everything can be enjoyed. As I said, I only cook with bacon fat occasionally. This dish was certainly worth the wait..and totally label free.

 

FRESH SALSA!

21 Aug

It’s time to really dig into the fresh tomatoes and corn of the season.  There are a million things to do with beautiful summer vegetables.  I just love the versatility of grabbing some tomatoes and thinking of so many ways to use them.

Speaking of the summer bounty…it’s time to make some fresh salsa.  Who doesn’t  love salsa, served with corn chips-I love the low sodium baked version-Now make some super fresh salsa from scratch.  Fresh salsa is also great on meat and fish.  It packed a punch of flavor, and you can make it as zippy as you want.

It’s time

And be creative. Start with:

  • 5 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped (sometimes I use green onions instead)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 finely chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 2 T. lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Throw all these ingredients in a bowl.  Give it a quick stir.  Refrigerate.  Yup, it’s that easy!

Then add, if you so choose:

  • Fresh corn, just cook it and cut it off the cob
  • Black beans, rinsed
  • A variety of other peppers chopped-they are bountiful in the summer!
  • Chill your salsa, and serve with baked corn chips

Grab the chips and a beer.  Enjoy!

Go Orange!

15 Mar

We tend to eat familiar colors. For example, most of us are really familiar with  garden or green salads.  Many of us may even eat them on a regular basis.  Variety is critical in a well balanced diet and to wellness, and green salads can be an easy way to get a variety of vegetables.

But let’s get past the green.  I have blogged about eating 5 colors a day.  Counting colors is also a great way to get a wonderful array of vitamins and minerals.  One of the reasons that variety is so important in our diet is because the pigment, or color, in food has health benefits.  The colors in the fruit and vegetables have antioxidants, as well as fiber, potassium, vitamin c and calcium.  In other words, they are loaded with nutrients.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Here is where I will challenge you.  Stick to salads if you must, but increase variety by adding the following to your daily intake.  Here is the rub…add in an unlikely color to your intake, that color being orange and yellow.

Oranges
Grapefruit
Lemons
Bananas
Apricots
Nectarines
Mangos
Peaches
Cantaloupe
Pineapple
Papaya
Carrots
Sweet potatoes
Pumpkin
Squash
Corn
Orange and yellow bell peppers

Just look at these exciting options!  So when you are grocery shopping next time, look for the orange and the yellow in your produce section.  Get outside of that comfort zone.  Think variety and spice up your life!  Now you have a list of great fruits and veggies to try, so go for it!

Pizza Palooza!

5 Sep

I grew up in Chicago.  That’s right…we are famous for our food, but mostly our pizza!  And it is spectacular for sure.  When I moved out of Chicago and started raising my family in the southeast, I missed my hometown pizza.  I missed the famous deep dish style, but also Chicago’s not-so-famous-but-every-bit-as-delicious thin crust pizza.  So I started creating my own.

I have made my own crust.  And I have done a lot of experimenting for that “just right” flavor and consistency.  I tried flour, cornmeal, crackers crumbs…you name it and I have tried it.  And my crust is pretty darn good. But it is a whole lot of work!  So truth be told, as a busy mother of 3, I usually buy the pizza crust dough at my local market.  Now onto the sauce.

I always make my sauce from scratch.  And usually a fairly large batch because if freezes so well.  My recipe can be easily adjusted-doubled or tripled.  So here it is:

3 T. Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic (adjust to taste, but add at least one)

2-3 T. sweet onion

1 small can tomato paste

1 large can tomato sauce

2 large cans roma or italian style tomatoes

2 T. parsley

2 T. basil

2 T. oregano, plus more to sprinkle on  top of the pizza

1 t. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in a large pan or stock pot.  Heat for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion.  Saute for 1 minute.  Add the can of tomato paste.  Gently whisk for 2-3 minutes.  Add all other ingredients.  Let this come to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Use a stick blender to blend to a smooth consistency.  Let simmer for 10 more minutes and take off heat.

Now onto the toppings.  Be creative!  Use wild abandon when choosing toppings.  Of course if you want a sausage pizza for the kids that’s fine.  But expand your palate for the adult version!  I have made everything from cheese pizza to a meat loaded one to a “gourmet” version.  My signature pizza, if you will, is made with sautéed onions, blue cheese and dried cherries.   Go crazy here! Have fun!  Use your imagination!

I have done a “taco pizza” using salsa for the sauce, taco meat for the topping, and cheddar cheese.  I have done traditional pizzas.  I have made them with mushrooms, roasted peppers, and goat cheese.  I have gone over the line and created some extravaganzas.  I always have fun, and I always end up with something delicious.

So here is my true secret to great pizza.  I have a gas oven in my kitchen.  It doesn’t mimic a pizza oven, so I have turned to grilling my pizza out side most of the year.  My grill is closer to a pizza oven as far as cooking goes, plus, the house doesn’t get so stinkin hot when hitting that 500 degrees for the pizza.  I do, however, make Chicago style deep dish pizza in the dead of winter.  The house becomes cozy and the smells are fabulous!  But back to grilling.

Grilling pizza is easy.  Contrary to what most people fear, pizza dough does not fall through the grates on the grill.  But the grill has got to be piping hot to begin the process.  Roll out the dough, brush olive oil lightly on the dough, and toss it on the grill oil side down.  Put the lid down. Use a spatula to take it off after 3-4 minutes when it has some good grill marks and looks done on the bottom.  Flip it over so that the cooked side is up and the uncooked side is down.

Now brush a bit of olive oil on the crust.  Then load up your sauce and toppings.  Toss it back on the grill, uncooked side down, and put the lid down.  It only takes a couple of more minutes for the pizza to complete the cooking process.  Keep your eye on it, and pull it off when the bottom is grilled and the toppings are hot and bubbly.

Here are the steps.  A picture tutorial.

1.

Open and decant some bold red wine! Pour yourself a glass!

2.

get your grill up to pizza oven temp…500 degrees!

3.

skewer and grill your toppings! Onions, mushrooms, bell pepper…get creative!

4.

Roll out your pizza dough! Use your muscles to make it as thin as you like!

5.

Toss the dough on the grill and get good grill marks. Pull it off, flip cooked side up, and load up your sauce and toppings!

6.

Toss that pizza back onto the grill to finish cooking. Pull them off and get ready for delicious grilled pizza perfection!

There you have it!  Let me know how your pizza turns out.  Share your successes with me.  Bon Appetite!