Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stuffed Bell Peppers

   I know what you're thinking, What is she doing typing up a blog on a beautiful day like this? Well my answer to that is, I don't know!  It's a beautiful day, but I have no where to go and nothing to do, and it's all J's fault!  He called me this morning to say that he'd be headed home sometime today and that he'd call me back at noon to tell me when.  I haven't heard from him since. :-/  So, being the good wife that I am, I'm sitting around here, waiting, in case he calls to say he needs me to come get him.  That and I spent all morning baking; so now I'm tired and don't feel like doing anything.  So I'll hop on here and ramble a bit.

   Today I'm going to share one of my step-daddy's recipes: Stuffed Bell Peppers.  As I'm typing, I'm finding it a bit odd that this is the first recipe of his I've shared, especially considering that most of my love of cooking comes from years of helping him chop onions, garlic and bell pepper in the kitchen.  I guess the reason is that he's not really one to write down recipes.  He usually just throws a whole bunch of stuff into a pot and it comes out gold.  Anyone who has known me for more than a day has heard me talk about his cooking.  When asked if I like catfish, my response is always, "No; only my step-daddy's."  If I'm out enjoying a steak at a restaurant I may comment that "My step-daddy makes an awesome shrimp topping for his steaks."  And if asked about bar-b-que, the answer has never been anything short of, "Nobody does it like my step-daddy."

    What can I say?  Growing up when it came to food, we were spoiled rotten.  Jude (my step-daddy) never bought groceries in advance, he'd just grab whatever he was in the mood for from the local store and come home and invent something wonderful.  The only problem with this method is that I can't recreate any of his concoctions.  There's no method to his madness that I can see; so I'll just delight myself in these yummy bell peppers and leave it at that.

Here's what you'll need:

6-8 medium bell peppers
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 box Stove Top Cornbread Dressing
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Clean peppers and place them in a large pot filled with about 1-2 inches of water.  (The water should come about halfway up the sides of the peppers.) Bring the water to a boil, and cover with a lid.  Allow to steam until the peppers are tender.  Set in a 9x13" casserole dish.  Prepare the dressing according to directions on package; set aside.  Brown meat and onions, season to taste (I use Tony's).  Drain off excess fat.  Add soup, dressing and rice.  Mix well on low heat.  Stuff peppers with mixture and top with grated cheese. (I usually add a squirt of Ketchup on top, but that's optional.)  Bake at 325 for 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Stuffed Bell Pepper sans ketchup.

   Well my baby girl is tired of entertaining herself inside and wants to go swing, so I'm going to oblige her.  Y'all enjoy your Saturday!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Big Bang (and Cabbage Rolls)

    Here lately I haven't had much sleep.  J being gone has turned me into an insomniac, and that should mean that my house is immaculate, and all of my projects have been completed, right?  Wrong!  Instead of being productive, I've been watching re-runs of "The Big Bang Theory" every night from the time Monkey goes to bed until about midnight or later.  The result is that I currently have "Soft Kitty" stuck in my head and I've invented a new game.  It's like those drinking games you see all over Pinterest mixed with the Harry Potter Workout Game.  The result is this:

  I'm actually not doing this to get into shape.  I'm trying to wear myself out in order to attempt sleep before a new day dawns.  Aka, my husband needs to come he can play my new game with me :-)

   At any rate, I'm still cooking, and I'd like to share something new.  The other night I made Stuffed Cabbage from Paula Deen's "Southern Cooking Bible".  I've never had stuffed cabbage before, and I admit I was a little unsure, but I think the end result was rather yum.

    Before I get into the recipe, though, I must admit something.  I was extremely distracted while making this (probably because I was watching the bloopers from The Big Bang Theory season 4) and I didn't really follow Paula's instructions.  So for the sake of accuracy, I'll give you her recipe, and then I'll let you in on how I botched it.

Here's what you'll need:

2 TBS vegetable oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs)
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup cooked rice
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 tsp salt
1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 tsp paprika

Here's what Paula says to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x9" baking dish.  In a medium skillet, heat the oil over med-high heat.  Add the onion, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Using a small, sharp knife, cut in a circle all around the stem of the cabbage and remove the core.  Place the cabbage in the boiling water.  After about 2 minutes an outside leaf will come loose.  Pull it off and our of the water using tongs.  After another minute or so another leaf will come loose.  Remove and repeat until you have 8-10 nice leaves. Pat the leaves dry with paper towels.  Cut out the thick part of the rib from the bottom of each leaf, but don't cut more than a third of the way into the leaf.  In a bowl, mix together the beef, cooled onion, rice, raisins, and salt.  With the stem side of the cabbage leaf facing you, place a scant 1/3 cup of the beef mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf.  Fold the bottom edge over the mixture and them fold the sides over and roll into a tidy packet.  Place the cabbage rolls seam-side down in the prepared baking dish.  In a bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, broth and paprika and pour over the cabbage.  Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour.  Serve the cabbage rolls with a big dollop of sour cream.

 Okay, so here's what I did differently.  First off, I wasn't reading through so I added the meat to the skillet with the onion.  Then I mixed the tomato sauce in with the beef, onion, rice, raisins, and salt.  That meant that I had no sauce to cover the cabbage with, so I improvised by mixing the beef broth and paprika with a jar of spaghetti sauce I had on hand.  The meal still managed to turn out rather well, and I had already cooked the meat which meant my cabbage only stayed in the oven for about 25 minutes instead of the full hour.  On another note, next time I will probably rule out the raisins.  They didn't taste bad, but texture kept throwing me off.  Plus mentally I kept thinking "Why am I eating raisins, mixed with meat, mixed with cabbage?"  Monkey enjoyed it, though.  She even asked for seconds, that is, once I removed the cabbage from her plate.  For a kid who likes coleslaw, she was not having that cabbage.

   Well, enough anecdotes about the cabbage, it's time for bed.  And hopefully by "bed" I mean "sleep", because I just discovered that our new pup snacked on J's power cord for his laptop, and now it's dead, and I can't watch The Big Bang Theory!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


   I recently tried these Ham and Swiss Sliders.  They were the perfect weeknight dish, simple, easy and yet with a touch of something different. 

Here's what you'll need:

24 slices Honey Ham
16 slices Swiss Cheese
16 White Dinner Style Rolls, cut in half
1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 C  Mayonnaise
8 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp onion powder
     Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  On a rimmed baking sheet place the bottom half of your dinner rolls.  Top with ham and cheese slices.  Spread about 1 tsp of mayo on top half of bread before placing on top of ham and cheese slices.  Make sure that your sliders are snuggly placed, so that they can soak up all the juice.  In a small bowl combine the mustard, melted butter, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, and brown sugar. Mix until combined and evenly pour over the assembled rolls.  Bake, covered with foil for 10 minutes, remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until tops are browned and cheese is melty.  The original poster said that if you're using these for a party or want to cook them later, you can cover them with foil after you've poured the mixture over the rolls and refrigerate them until you're ready to cook them.  
Enjoy :-)


      I'm going to keep this short and sweet, mainly because I have a child with tummy troubles who refuses to wear a diaper or a pull-up; so I'm afraid to have her out of my line of sight.  Which is also what I wanted to blog about, so here we go.  Last night was one of those nights where I was so stressed out about everything and angry with everything and nothing was going right, that I felt like I was about to snap.  Monkey was having bowel issues, and the dog apparently ate too much grass, and it was just turning into a big ole mess, literally.  That's when I decided to take Monkey to the store so that I could get some fresh air (and possibly a bottle of wine), and she needed some medicine.  As I was huffing and puffing my way through the store with Monkey in tow, I happen to see something that made all my complaints vanish.  When Monkey dragged me down the toy aisle, I saw a little girl, not more than seven, standing there with her daddy.  She was just as happy as could be, chattering away about her day.  I noticed that this child had lost all of her hair and that her little face looked like she had lost a lot of weight really fast.  I had seen pictures of children with cancer, but never one in person before, and it was all I could do not to cry.  I forced myself to smile at her before turning to Monkey to pick her up and hug her as tight as I could.  Sometimes I get so focused in on my stress and my aggravations that I forget what's important, and every now and then it's good to have your life put into perspective.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

And then, I got a dog.

   That's right.  I finally got a dog.  For those of you who know me, know that I technically already have a dog.  Those of you who know me better know that Roux (our adopted German Shepherd mix) is not, in fact, my dog.  She belongs 100% to my husband, who spoils her as if she were of his own flesh and blood.  Although I love Roux, she and I have a bit of an estranged relationship.  To say that she's my dog is like saying that Pluto is a planet.  Most of us believe it is, but science has proven otherwise.  (Just pretend the analogy works and move on.)

   This morning when I woke up, I had no intention of getting a dog.  J had been begging for a new dog since we had to put VooDoo to sleep.  He gave me all of 48 hours to grieve that loss before he began begging for a replacement of sorts.  For those of you who don't see the connection, let me explain.  On our base, housing only allows two pets per household.  So when VooDoo passed, that freed up a slot in our home.  As I've explained to J on many an occasion, just because we have the space doesn't mean we need to fill it.  But, after a few weeks of soul searching, I decided against another cat.  As much as I love them, and as simple as they are to care for, I've decided that I want my own dog.  I've had animals all my life growing up, from hamsters to cats and dogs, even a couple of horses, but I've never had a dog that was completely mine to care for and train.  Until Roux, but as I've mentioned, her loyalties lie elsewhere.  That's what made me begin to secretly peruse the Humane Society website for potential puppies.

    As I was scanning the adoptions section earlier today, J snuck up behind me and caught me drooling over a trio of Australian Shepherd puppies that were adoptable.  Of course, he saw his chance and pounced.  He began going on and on about how Roux needed a playmate so that she's not bored while we're at work and forced to dig holes in our yard for entertainment.  When I shot that down by pointing out that a sidekick would simply mean more and/or bigger holes, he tried another angle.  Then another.  And another.  And another.  I shot them all down valiantly; then he said, "But I'll pay for everything, and you can pick out whatever dog you want.  It will be your dog."  Sold!

     We wrote up a budget and a list of everything we need (because we're responsible about our last minute decisions), and then drove over the the Humane Society.  When we got there we found out that the Australian Shepherd puppies were not up for adoption because they were just diagnosed with worms.  We decided to have a look around anyway.  While Monkey and J looked around I was busy falling in love with a 7-year-old black labrador who looked like a giant, snuggly bear.  Then I read his story.  He was beaten with a chain by his previous owner and was neglected, but he's slowly learning to trust humans again.  I was balling like a big baby in front of his cage.  I asked a worker if I could take him out, so I was allowed to walk him around.  I was so proud of him, that I practically skipped over to J, who was less than thrilled.  The volunteer let us walk him around outside.  As we were talking about his past owner, we found out that he was heartworm positive, and although they provide the funds for most of the treatment, J was looking less and less willing.  We talked it over and decided to go home and wait for the Australian puppies to become available for adoption again.  I was ready to leave, a little heartbroken and guilty that I couldn't take on such a big responsibility like Smokey, but Monkey and J decided to go into the puppy room one more time to say goodbye.  I followed suit.

    As we were walking past the various cages, I noticed one dog that I hadn't before.  He was an adorable Dachshund mix, and he looked like he just wanted someone to cuddle him.  And so I did.  And then we bought him.  :-)

How could I say no to a face like that?

   I'm so excited!  I can't wait to bring him home.  He has to stay until Tuesday so that he can get fixed Monday, but then he'll be all ours mine! :-D

   Feeling a bit happy and peppy after my wonderful adoption day, I decided to head to the kitchen to make some Chocolate Chip Cookies (I use a tweaked version of the one found in the Better Homes and Garden Cook Book), but I found that I wanted something a little more.  So, keeping in line with my new addiction, I created these:

     That is a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich filled with Nutella :-)  (J suggested I call them, Chocolate Nutella Awesomeness.)   I thought they were pretty great, so here's the recipe:

 3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla OR 3/4 tsp vanilla + 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (12 oz) package semisweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
1/2 jar (give or take) Nutella

Preheat oven to 375.  In a large mixing bowl, mix butter and shortening with electric mixer on high for about 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Beat until combined.  Beat in eggs and vanilla (or vanilla/almond combo).  Beat in flour.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop by spoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about 2" apart.  Bake 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before spreading a spoonful of Nutella onto flat side of one cookie.  Top with another cookie, and repeat until all the cookies have formed sandwiches.

Enjoy. :-)

Also, I wanted to share the link for the Humane society.  They are really great, and I highly recommend them for anyone who is in the area looking for a new pet to love.  Here it is:

OH!  I almost forgot the best part.  Keeping with our Louisiana/Cajun theme his name is Andouille (like the sausage).  Hehe

Thursday, March 1, 2012

And that's what I get for complaining....

   You know, Tuseday night I got on here to blog and thought to myself, “Man, I don’t have anything interesting to say. My life’s kinda boring when J’s not pulling some goofy crap like moving the car around the parking lot while I'm grocery shopping, and Monkey’s not going through any big life changes like sleeping in a big girl bed.”  Well, now I’m eating those words.
   Last night my husband and I were watching two girls who are friends with our daughter as a favor to their mother, who is our dear friend.  Things were going rather well; the girls were all outside playing with J while I was inside trying to put away the giant mass of food another friend of mine had dropped off for us.  She’s beginning a new revolutionary cooking routine that does not include processed foods, so we are the happy inheritors of all her baking goods and misc other items.  As I was putting them away I noticed a large puddle in our pantry.  Thinking Monkey had had an accident, I cleaned it up, grumbling all the way.  Then I walked myself outside to wrestle Monkey inside so I could change her pants.  When I got out there I was puzzled to find that Monkey hadn’t had an accident.  I knew it couldn’t be one of the other girls because the oldest is potty trained and the youngest is in diapers.  I then began wondering how long that puddle had been sitting there and shuddered at the thought.  Finally I shrugged it off and went back inside to cook spaghetti for the girls.  As I was collecting my ingredients from the pantry, I passed by another, larger puddle.  Confused, I looked at the dog, who looks guilty on a good day, knowing that this couldn’t possibly be her work.  She hasn’t had an accident in almost a year.  I walked myself back outside to reconfirm that Monkey was, in fact, dry.  At this point J is wondering why I keep coming outside to stare at our daughter’s butt and why I was not busy cooking.  So I explained to him, and he followed me inside, only to find a puddle right where I had just mopped up the last one.  
    Now, I have never heard of a drip pan, except for in passing, and I’ve never cleaned one or dumped one or could even locate one on our refrigerator, but never to be outdone by my husband, I immediately launched into a theory that the refrigerator must be leaking from the drip pan that I have never cleaned/dumped.  Obediently J pulled the fridge from the wall, only to reveal that my cleaning skills really are lacking.  But on a good note, we found all of Monkey’s alphabet magnets.  J mercifully began to clean the floor and diagnose the problem, while I shepherded the kids inside so that I could continue cooking dinner.  Keep in mind that these girls are now trapped in the living room after having the big backyard all to themselves, and my cooking area has now been reduced by about half thanks to the giant fridge sitting in the middle of my way.  Oh, and it was about 6:15, and the girls were getting hungry.  
   So as I was chopping onions and garlic, and browning meat, J was asking for a flashlight or a butter knife or some other tool, and I’m cringing, knowing that we live on base and if he tries to “fix” something and isn’t successful, then it would be our fault and I don’t know what that would all entail to fix correctly.  This is making me a bit snippy with J.  Then he tells me that it’s not the fridge (or my lack of fridge knowledge concerning the drip pan).  Apparently (and this is where he lost me a little) there are pipes in the wall that are setup weird and this weird setup breaks and leaks easily.  And now our tile floors are water logged where the fridge is sitting, b/c who knows how long it has been leaking before the floor couldn’t soak up anymore and it started running out into the middle of the kitchen and into the pantry.  Then I had an attack of mother’s guilt because I kept thinking “How many times were those puddles not a product of Monkey’s accidents?”  Maybe I’ve been blaming my kid for nothing, and now she’s going to have a complex that will cost me a bunch later when I pay for therapy.  And then I was angry with housing for costing me so much money on hypothetical therapy.  Meanwhile I was almost finished with dinner, and I was trying to set the table, but there was a giant fridge blocking me off from the kitchen.  This meant that I had to walk through the living room, around the hall, and into the kitchen to set the table.  Or I could squeeze through the 1/2 foot gap that was a available.  Being a sensible person, I squeezed myself through said gap.  Now, I am no skinny minnie, so it took a bit of maneuvering and a bit more time than my other route would have, but by George I got through, carrying three bowls of spaghetti too, I might add.  J looked up from what he was doing and said, “You know, I’m kind of impressed.”  

   So finally I managed to get the girls to sit down at the table and begin to eat.  Then I remembered that they needed something to drink.  One wanted milk, the other water, and the other just kept repeating what I was saying.  (She ended up with milk too.)  It took about three trips through the tiny crack.  I think my original voyage had widened it, or J had had sympathy and decided to widen when I wasn’t looking.  Either way, I was slipping through there a lot quicker.  

    At this point, J had already made his diagnoses, so I assumed this would mean he’d put the fridge back in its place and call housing in the morning to address the issue.  But   here he was, still behind the fridge.  I was getting a little nervous, thinking he was going to tear down the wall and fix the pipe himself.  When I mentioned that he shouldn’t take it upon himself, he scoffed saying, “Aundraya!  I wouldn’t do that myself!  I don’t have the right tools.”  Well, thank God for that, at least.  So then I’m standing there, waiting for the refrigerator to go back into his place, and it’s not moving.  J comes out from behind the fridge and starts cleaning!  Okay, I’m not ungrateful.  I love when my husband cleans, but not when I need him to restore order to my kitchen! Finally fed up with maneuvering through the tiny crack and getting increasingly move hungry, I finally spit out, “Would you just move the damn fridge?”  (I know, not one of my finer moments.) And my darling J, understanding man that he is, just grinned at me and said, “I love you.  You’re a good Mommy and a great wife.”  Soothed, I rolled my eyes and helped him move the fridge back into its place.  After shoving some towels under there we sat down to enjoy my tweaked spaghetti recipe, while listening to the three girls chit chat amongst themselves.  

    Then J and the girls retired to the living room for a movie while I busied myself cleaning up my kitchen and peace and normalcy was restored.  And that’s what happens when you complain that you have nothing to blog about.

   Oh, and when my dear friend came to pick up her girls, she informed me that there is a 24-hour emergency number for housing, in case of these after hours issues.  Well, imagine that.

    As I said I tweaked my spaghetti recipe, so you can check it out here.  I’m also going to share a quick and easy recipe for Blackened Tilapia Hoagies.  These were super quick, and yummy with out that heavy filling you get from hamburgers or a poboy.

 What you'll need:

4 Tilapia fillets
Old Bay Blackening Seasoning
1 Tbs Olive oil
4 Hoagie Rolls

Simply season each fillet with about 1/2 tsp blackening seasoning.  Then heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the fillets and cook about 2-3 minutes per side or until cooked through.  Meanwhile toast your bread if desired.  Serve topped with lettuce, tomato, or whatever you want.

Monkey's pink plate.

    Well I think that's enough excitement for one evening.  Y'all have a good night :-)