It's been a while since I've done a Tasty Tuesday post, or any other post for that matter. I was away all last week at a family reunion in Park City, Utah. My parents like to go there for a week or so every summer, and last year they informed all of us kids and grandkids that this year we were all coming too. It was fun, though I mostly stayed busy helping with my 3-year-old and 2-month-old granddaughters to give their daddy and mommy a break. Park City is absolutely gorgeous, and there are lots of fun outdoors things to do. We had yummy family dinners, had a cookout with relatives I haven't seen in years, some as long as 30 years and some I've never met (my parents are both from Utah, so we have a lot of relatives there), some folks went skeet shooting, rode on the ski lifts, and went into Salt Lake City for sightseeing and to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearse, and there was a pre-wedding reception for my oldest nephew and his fiancee (who is also from that area). The wedding was the next day, Saturday; unfortunately, we had already booked our flights home first thing that morning months ago, before we knew about the wedding, so we weren't able to go. But the reception was lots of fun.
I'm home now, and recovering and trying to get back into a routine, and found myself craving hummus. I discovered several months ago that I like hummus, but it's hard to find properly made hummus in the stores. The kinds in the stores usually have soybean oil and/or citric acid, when hummus is supposed to be made with olive oil and lemon juice. The thing that was hanging me up from making it myself was I couldn't find tahini, then I realized that tahini is just sesame seeds and olive oil ground together in a paste, so I bought whole toasted sesame seeds and figured I would just blend them in with the rest of the ingredients.
So this morning I dusted off my long-unused food processor and made hummus. And yes, that's my actual hummus I made in the photo. I used this recipe: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/hummus/ with the following alterations:
*I cut the recipe in half. As written, it makes an awful lot of hummus, and since I'm the only one who eats it at my house, it would go bad before I could possibly eat it all.
*Instead of water, I reserved the liquid from the garbanzo beans and used that.
*I used 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds and a little extra olive oil in place of the tahini.
*I also added 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin.
The recipes I found talk about making your hummus very smooth and creamy, but I like texture in my foods, so I didn't bother with peeling the garbanzo beans (!) or worry about the unground-up sesame seeds.
After mixing, taste the hummus to test the seasoning. I ended up adding a little more salt, lemon juice, and cumin.
I like hummus with Crunchmaster Multi-Seed crackers, but I didn't have any today, so I tried some with some water crackers left over from Christmas (the thing to have with our Christmas brie) and some other multi-grain crackers. It tastes best with crackers that don't have a strong flavor of their own.
As far as how long this will keep, my experience with storing things made with cooked beans says a few days, or maybe almost a week. Not very long. So enjoy it while it lasts!
Finally, I have some different exciting things I've been sitting on, not ready to talk about them publicly yet, but watch for some cool stuff coming up in the next few months!
Occasionally on Tuesday, I like to share something that I make that's yummy, preferably healthy, and easy to make during a long day of writing. Today I'm featuring what has to be the world's best stuffed bell peppers. Now, I know stuffed peppers usually aren't anything to get very excited about, but these are, for one reason: bacon.
Yes, these stuffed peppers have bacon in them. And almost everything is better with bacon. These aren't necessarily easy, though since I'm only feeding the two of us (or three of us, when our younger son is home from college), I use my trick of cooking half the batch the day I make it and freezing the other half for another day. And even if it isn't easy, it's totally worth it.
Here's the original recipe, from AllRecipes Magazine. Go look at it, then come back and I'll tell you what I do differently. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/77194/bolognese-stuffed-bell-peppers/
Okay, you're back. First off, I found that the filling works for 4 whole medium-size bell peppers, or 8 half peppers sliced lengthwise, not 6 whole/12 half. When I'm dividing the batch, I put half the filling into 4 pepper halves, or 2 peppers, and freeze the other half of the filling in a freezer zipper bag. (When you freeze and cook another time, the rice does get a little mushy, but let's be honest. You're not eating this for the rice, you're eating it for the bacon.) I don't stuff the other peppers until the day of cooking. I like to get a combination of different color peppers; red and gold or orange are my favorites, because they're tasty and it makes a pretty and colorful presentation. Blanch the pepper halves in boiling water for about 30 - 60 seconds; this will help them cook better in the oven.
Also, the original recipe says you can use pancetta or bacon. I skip the fancy stuff and just use bacon. I figure one bacon strip per whole pepper (or four strips for the whole batch, to make filling for four peppers/8 halves). Of course, it probably wouldn't hurt anything if you throw in an extra strip :-D
On to the vegetables: I increase the minced carrots to about 1/4 c., skip the celery because gross, and also add about 1/4 cup finely diced bell peppers (green or red is my preference) and the same amount of finely diced zucchini. So along with the pepper halves that hold the whole thing, you're getting a bunch of good veggies. You could also add finely chopped spinach if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not, but if you are, that's ok. I won't judge you.
Prepared marinara sauce: I just get the Kroger store brand. It's good. You could get fancy and expensive here, but there's really no need to.
The recipe also calls for red wine, which I skip because I don't usually cook with it, and for heavy cream, which honestly seems like overkill when you're also using bacon and parmesan cheese in the filling. This recipe is rich enough without it (I can usually only eat one pepper half, or maybe one and a half, but not two) and it adds about a zillion calories. Use it if you want, but I don't.
Like I said, this is kind of a lot of work, but you can divide the recipe (or double it) and freeze half, so it's two meals for only a little more work than one. With so many vegetables, you don't need to make an extra salad or anything. I just get some bake-at-home french bread and throw it in the oven while the peppers bake, and there's dinner.
Welcome to Tasty Tuesday! First, though, I want to announce that this week, March 6-12 is Read an eBook Week at Smashwords! Lots of titles on sale, including mine, all 50% off (except for Cure for Nel, which is free!) using the coupon code on the book pages.
And now, on with the recipe. This week, I've got another yummy and healthy soup that's easy to make and freezes well. Split the batch in half or make a double batch (depending on how many people you're feeding), cook half now and freeze the rest. This cooks either in the crockpot for half a day or just on the stove in only half an hour or so.
I don't remember where or when I got this recipe. From a magazine I read a long, long time ago (pre-internet; that long ago!), I think. I used to make it a lot, but making the meatballs by hand got to be too much work so I quit making it. Then I discovered pre-made, pre-cooked meatballs at the grocery store, so I dusted off this recipe and started making it again. Much easier now! That's it in the picture; that was actually my lunch today! It tastes great left over.
Easy Meatball Minestrone
Dump it all in a pot or the crockpot and cook until the vegetables are tender and the meatballs are cooked/heated through. If you freeze a batch, don't add the broth yet; only add the broth when you put the soup on to cook. To freeze, put the soup (minus broth) in a freezer zippy bag, press out the extra air, seal, and lay flat in the freezer. Also write on the bag what it is and when you made it, so it doesn't turn into the mystery bag that's in there for years. And that you need to add broth for cooking.
I suppose you could also add pasta to the soup. I would only do that when the soup is cooking, to cook the pasta just long enough for it to be done but not overcooked.
To serve, I like to sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese on my bowl of soup, and serve hot French bread or garlic toast on the side.
So according to my new blogging framework, Tuesdays are for Tasty Tuesday, where, sporadically, I will share things I like to cook that are good on busy days, like on a long day of writing, and other things I like. I don't actually like to cook, so these are things that are easy and tasty enough to be worth the trouble. Normally on Wednesday I would do an Author Spotlight, but I was late getting interview questions out to this week's author, so that will be later this week. Which just goes to show the futlity of blogging schedules, but at least I have prompts for writing posts more often.
For the first Tasty Tuesday feature, on Wednesday, here's probably my favorite easy dinner to make, Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup. I originally got the recipe from AllRecipes Magazine. I love this magazine, and it's interesting because most paper magazines have gone all or partly digital, but AllRecipes started as a website and branched out into a paper magazine. Which I like because I'm a messy cook and I'd rather spill on that than on my Kindle Fire or my laptop :-P
Here's the original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/89539/slow-cooker-chicken-tortilla-soup/
You start with a 10 oz. can of red enchilada sauce (here's a place where you can heat the recipe up or down by choosing mild, medium, or hot sauce), a 15 oz. can of tomatoes (I use crushed because I don't like pieces of cooked tomato in my food), and I also add a 15 oz. can of black beans, drained. Add frozen or canned corn, spices (another place where you can heat the recipe up or down; I don't use the cilantro), and chicken. The recipe calls for cooked shredded chicken breast, but I use uncooked boneless skinless breasts. You want about a pound total. They cook in the soup, which gives it a better flavor, then before serving you take them out, shred the meat, and put it back in the crockpot. The recipe also calls for a 14 oz. can of chicken broth and 2 cups of water, but I use 4 cups of chicken broth for a richer flavor. If you want a vegetarian recipe, double up on the corn and black beans, leave out the chicken, and use vegetable broth.
This makes way too much for just the two of us, so what I do is I divide the batch in half (before adding broth) and put half in the slow cooker and the other half in a freezer storage bag and freeze it. Only add the broth when you put it in the crockpot. Also, use two bay leaves, one in the batch you cook now and one in the freezer batch. And tadaa, two dinners for the work of one!
Cooks on low in about 6 hours. I put it together at lunchtime, and it's ready by the time we eat dinner at 6:30.
To serve: the recipe tells you how to make your own tortilla chips, but that kinda negates the point of an easy dinner, so I just use bagged chips from the store. Serve up the soup, crumble tortilla chips into it, and top with shredded cheese, sour cream, lime slices (as per the picture), whatever Mexican food toppings you like. Yummy and easy (and it tastes great the next day!)
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