Stuffed bell peppers

The finished dish!

Stuffed bell pepper recipe

1 can whole tomatoes (15 oz)

2 Tbs dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp citric acid or 2 tsp lemon juice

Mix together to form tomato mixture.

4 bell peppers (my mom prefers green. Red, orange, or yellow ones might require less baking time.)

Cut off top of pepper, enough that you will be able to fit them into a covered baking dish. Remove pith (white stuff) and seeds. Microwave in a covered container with some water (start with 5 min for all 4 peppers), boil (3 min), or steam (10 min) until somewhat cooked – the peppers should not be floppy and should not have burnt edges. They need to be stiff enough to be able to stand up and be stuffed.

Make stuffing (see below for meat and veggie versions).

Cheese (my mom uses Colby or other cheddar)

Put the peppers in the baking dish. Fill the peppers, using all of the stuffing. Put a small amount of the tomato mixture on top of the stuffing. Put sliced cheese on top. Cover the baking dish. Bake for 75 min (1 hr 15 min) at 350°F. The tomato sauce should be brown around the edges. If it isn’t, bake longer covered. Then bake uncovered for 15 min to brown the cheese and slightly thicken the tomato sauce.

Meat stuffing (for 4 peppers)

1/2 onion (about the same amount as you have of the pepper tops)

1/2 lb ground meat (my mom uses beef, pork, or Italian sausage)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 tsp salt if using Italian sausage, 3/4 tsp salt otherwise

black pepper

rounded 1/4 cup uncooked rice (my mom uses jasmine)

2 Tbs cream or milk

1/4 cup bread crumbs (my mom uses homemade; optional)

1 tomato, chopped (optional)

Dice the pepper tops. Dice onion. Cook together in oil until softened. Mix with all other ingredients.

 

Veggie stuffing (for 4 peppers)

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 onion

1/2 cup uncooked rice

2 Tbs currants or chopped raisins

4 Tbs chopped almonds

1/2 cup bread crumbs

4 Tbs cream or milk

3/4 tsp salt

black pepper

1 tomato, chopped (optional)

Dice the pepper tops. Dice onion. Cook together in oil until softened. Mix with all other ingredients.

Modifications:

Add thyme or marjoram.

Add other veggies, such as diced mushroom or zucchini (cook either along with the onion and pepper tops), cooked beans, or corn.

Add crumbled tofu, ricotta, or sour cream to the veggie stuffing.

Use other grains, such as millet, quinoa, or farro. These all cook in about the same amount of time as white rice, so the baking time shouldn’t need to be adjusted.

Use brown rice. My mom doesn’t think that you’d have to increase the baking time, but I’m doubtful. Check if the rice is done after 75 minutes. It not, bake covered for an additional 20 min.

Draining fried food

Many people rely on paper towels to drain excess fat off of fried foods, like bacon, tempura, and fried tofu (the fried things that we make!). However paper towels aren’t ideal because they’re disposable, and must be purchased again and again. Instead, J and I drain fried food on a cooling rack, like what you would use for cookies. We place the rack over a pan or a plate to catch the drips.

Our cooling rack looks a lot like this and is ~12″ across.. $2 at Goodwill! Image from bbqgrillmesh.com.

Bonus tip: The cooling rack is just the right size to fit into our wok, so we can use it as a steamer insert too! I love items that do double duty.

Ciabatta

Based on this recipe, which has two major problems: wordiness, and calling for all-purpose flour.

Ciabatta

Sponge:

1 cup flour

1/8 tsp yeast

1/2 cup water

Dough:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp yeast

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup milk

 

Combine the sponge ingredients until homogeneous. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 8-24 hours.

Combine the sponge and the dough ingredients. Knead with a stand mixer (~15 min until the dough forms a cohesive mass and is smooth and shiny) or by hand (basically using a series of cuts and folds, as detailed here). Cover dough and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Fold the dough over itself 8 times, rotating the dough a quarter turn after each fold. Cover and let rise for 30 min. Repeat the 8 folds and rise.

Divide the dough in half. One half at a time, shape the dough into a 12″x6″ rectangle. Fold the rectangle into thirds to form a squat rectangle. Let loaves rest seam-side down for 30 min on a floured baking sheet.

Using your fingertips, poke the loaf out to form a 10″x6″ rectangle. Spray the surface of the loaf with water. Bake for 25 min at 450°F.

Notes

You will get the best texture by using bread flour, however some amount of whole wheat flour can be added. In general, up to half of the flour can be whole wheat without significantly affecting the texture of a loaf. You can also add some amount of vital wheat gluten to lift the whole wheat flour.

Using a pizza stone (or unglazed tile or cast iron griddle or upside-down cast iron skillet) will improve the crust. Preheat the stone or substitute in the oven for at least 30 min. The loaves can be baked directly on a pizza stone or griddle; it is easiest to transfer the loaves on parchment paper. If using an upside-down skillet, place the baking sheet holding the loaf on top of the skillet. (This seems janky but totally works.)

Bread is best when left to cool slightly (usually for an hour) after baking. This helps the bread finish cooking, and keeps the crumb from being overly moist, which causes clumping during cutting.

Hummus

Based on this recipe.

Hummus

1/3 lb dried chickpeas, cooked or 1 can of chickpeas

3 Tbs olive oil

3 Tbs tahini

1 1/2 Tbs lemon juice

1 clove garlic

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

 

Blend chickpeas with oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Use whatever tool you have on hand – blender, food processor, food mill, mortar and pestle.

Substitutions

I hear hummus is really good with the addition of preserved lemon. You can also add pine nuts, roasted red peppers, chili peppers, extra garlic, etc. Think of all the commercial varieties for inspiration!

Coleslaw

Recipe

Green cabbage

White vinegar

Mayonnaise

Sugar

Salt and pepper

I used a quarter of a green cabbage. That’s an Old Hickory knife.
I shredded it.
My mom thought it was too coarse, so I had to chop it more.
Here’s the dressing! It is a mix of 2 Tbsp white vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.
Throw the dressing on the cabbage and mix it together! The coleslaw might look like it has too little dressing, but liquid will come out of the cabbage as it sits. If there really is too little dressing, add more mayonnaise.

Speaking of food waste…

If you have food that’s going to go bad or that you think you won’t use, what do you do with it?

If you want to eat the food yourself:

  • Eat it before it goes bad, quick!
  • Ignore expiration dates! They are unregulated except on medication and baby food (and even then don’t mean much. 90% of medications retain nearly their entire efficacy 10 years after the expiration date. Even the military ignores expiration dates to save loads of money!). If it looks fine, smells fine, and, finally, tastes fine, then it is probably fine.
  • Freeze it. Many things can be frozen without harm to their taste or texture. This includes raw and cooked meat, purportedly hard cheeses (never tried this myself!), tomato sauce, broth, cooked beans, whole and sliced bread and other baked goods, dry goods (flour, dry beans, spices, etc if you’re worried about rancidity or loss of flavor), and more! Many veggies can be blanched and then frozen.
  • Preserve it. There are many preservation methods to try! You can can, dehydrate, salt, ferment, smoke, or pickle. For example, turn milk into kefir or yogurt. Ferment cabbage into kimchi or sauerkraut. Smoke fish. Make jam.

If you are sick and tired of a particular food:

  • Take it to work to share with colleagues! Alternatively, share with friends and neighbors. This works especially well if you’re trying to get rid of desserts and snack foods.
  • On a similar note, have a potluck.
  • Give it away! You can do this on Freecycle or Craigslist (there is an area for free things under the sale section). There is also Olio, a food-sharing app for smart phones, soon to have a web app as well. Unfortunately, it isn’t as widely-used as Freecycle and Craigslist. I believe Olio is European in origin, so it is widespread in Europe. Amazingly, people also use it in Northern California! Lucky!
  • Feed it to pets. My grandparents always fed their cats table scraps.
  • Feed it to animals you’re going to eat (e.g. pigs or chickens).
  • Feed it to wild animals. Although not good to do frequently, at least some living being gets to eat it.
  • Compost it and use the compost to grow something else!

Cheesecake brownies

Another recipe from my mom. I haven’t tried this one yet, so let me know how it is!

Cheesecake Brownies

Brownies:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cheesecake batter:

2 Tbs butter, room temperature

3 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 Tbs flour

1/2 tsp vanilla

To make brownies: Sift together flour and cocoa. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together the flour and butter mixtures. Add nuts

To make cheesecake batter: Blend butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and beat well. Add egg, flour and vanilla.

Spread about a third of the brownie batter in a greased 8-inch square pan. Spread cheese batter on top. Drop spoonfuls of remaining brownie batter on top and swirl with spatula. Bake at 350°F for 30 min. Store cooled leftovers in fridge.

Substitutions

Use your own favorite brownie recipe instead. Top with cream cheese mixture and swirl.

Brownies

We have a lot of cocoa powder, so we’ve been making brownies. In an effort to make them healthier, they’ve turned out kinda …odd. Definitely edible, but not especially brownie-like. This is the original, pre-substitution recipe, from my mom’s 4-H days.

This one had too much bean in it. The texture was almost custard-like.

4-H Brownies

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Sift together flour and cocoa. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix flour and butter mixtures. Add nuts. Place in greased 8-inch square pan. Bake at 350°F for 30 min.

Substitutions:

Use whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour, or any other kind of flour. Because brownies are a type of quick bread (not leavened by yeast), they don’t require gluten. When substituting whole grain flour for white flour, however, you usually need to increase the amount of liquid.

Add mashed beans to make the brownies fudgier. If you add enough, the texture gets lighter and almost sponge-like, although the pores are very small. At that point, it isn’t much like a brownie, but it still tastes good!

Make cheesecake brownies by swirling a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla into the brownie batter. I’ll post a recipe for this in the future.

Tomatoes!

One of the vendors at the farmers’ market was selling “sauce boxes” of tomatoes for $20 each. Each box was about 20 lb, so it was quite the bulk discount! I also got 10 lb exra (for no extra cost) when I asked if I could add overripe and ugly tomatoes!! The vendor seemed to think they were worthless :<

Unfortunately, I forgot to account for the trip back home, about a mile. The 20-lb box seemed doable, but I got greedy with the overripe ones. J only agreed to buy the box of tomatoes on the condition that he wouldn’t need to help carry it… but that promise totally fell through. We ended up each holding an end of the box.

Dry-farmed (un-irrigated) Early Girl tomatoes. They might’ve been organic too.

But! We’ll have so much tomato sauce! And maybe salsa too.

We also got reject fancy apples for $1/lb. The plan is to make apple pie.

Pad thai

J and I made pad thai the other day. It’s pretty simple, but requires a few special ingredients that can’t be substituted for: fish sauce, tamarind paste, and rice noodles.

We followed a not-so-stellar Serious Eats recipe. It made too much sauce for the amount of noodles and veggies- we actually doubled or tripled the amount of noodles and still had too much sauce. Besides, the sauce wasn’t quite right. First of all, there was too much fish sauce, so it was too salty. The recipe called for honey in place of palm sugar in an attempt to make the recipe more accessible, which is a noble effort. Unfortunately, the honey added too much water, so there was a puddle of water at the bottom of the pan…

These changes should be easy to incorporate next time.

Pad thai plus pork “stew” (shoulder) that definitely needs to be pressure-cooked.