Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Using the Harvest: Stuffed Peppers

For the past several years I have started most week-days with a 45 minute walk with several girlfriends. It's been a great way to start the day, other than the ridiculously early hour we do it (due to the fact that one has to get her kids off to school and go to work and another has to get her grandson off to school too.) It is therapeutic, not just for the obvious excercise we get, but it is a great time to share what's on our minds regularly and in the gray, cold time of year to combat the winter doldrums. Unfortunately this very cold and snowy winter has really limited those walks and I miss them! I am just not a self-starter with the excercise unless it's working in the garden, so the couch potato syndrome is settling in on me altogether too much. I was given one of those Maxine daily calendars this Christmas and today's little joke expresses my situation quite well: "I was planning to go to the gym, but I got a better offer from my refrigerator." Yup, altogether too much eating going on around here.
Still, I am trying to modify my diet somewhat and limit the amount of dairy and meat I'm eating. It helps that D is a vegetarian. I thought I'd share how I used peppers from our garden to make stuffed peppers for supper the other night.
We had such an abundance of peppers this past summer and many of them grew large enough for stuffed peppers. So while most of my excess harvest was sliced up or cut into large chunks for freezing, the biggest ones were just cut in halves and frozen just that way to be used for stuffers. It worked out great and eliminated the need to par- boil the peppers before baking them.
The picture is not the most colorful, but I can assure you, they looked good as they came out of the oven. This recipe does not have to be vegetarian, in fact, the original does call for about a pound of ground beef in it, and that tastes marvelous. But I substituted chopped mushrooms for the ground beef, which worked very nicely.
I just took my frozen pepper halves and layed them out in a baking dish. Didn't bother to thaw them out. At this point I would brown the ground beef (or in this case, saute the chopped mushrooms) with chopped onion and garlic.
Add a mixture of rice (a half-cup uncooked white and half-cup uncooked brown) along with tomatoes from my garden. These were frozen, but usually I would use two pint jars of canned. I also add an undrained small can of chilis and a cup of frozen corn. Season the mixture with about a teaspoon of chili powder and a quarter teaspoon of cumin (more if you like it), some vegetable bouillon, salt and pepper to taste.
I'm still using my home-grown onions, although they are not much bigger than sets and rather annoying to peel and chop. This mixture is cooked over medium heat until the rice absorbs the liquid. Fill the pepper halves generously with the filling mixture.
Finally, sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese on top and bake, covered for about 45 minutes. I was very pleased with how these came out. I would say the only major difference in using the frozen, unthawed peppers to the par-boiled fresh ones was that there was a fair amount of liquid in the pan after baking. Maybe I should have baked them without the cheese, uncovered and added the cheese the last 15 minutes. I'll try that next time. This is a very forgiving meal as you can really adjust the recipe any way you like to change the filling. I'm feeling all healthier-than-thou having the vegetarian version, but with the hamburger they are really even tastier! But until I get into that walking habit again, I'd better pass for now!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Back In The Saddle Again

...I hope! No, I have not abandoned my blog although you'd think so when noticing that I haven't had a new post in a month. Adding the extra steps of uploading my photos to Picasa, after first shrinking them so as not to take up too much space, then finally being able to put them on the blog has really put the brakes on my posting. But I am hoping to have finally overcome my resistance to the new regime.  My patient spouse, who is so much better at working with computers than I am, has helped me to learn to do these things and even helped me to finally customize the look of the blog a little bit. Probably not for the last time!
So, what have I been up to this past month? Seed starting! At last! Onions, shallots and leeks were planted on February 10 and are just beginning to pop up. After our big blizzard this past weekend, it is amazing how much seeing the little green sprouts has lifted my spirits!

HA! And after all the trouble of learning the new regime, I now find that Blogger is allowing me to add my pix the old way again. Shall I tear my hair out now do you think? Well, live and learn. Anyway, aren't those cute little onions a beautiful sight? I have all kinds this year, because I can never resist buying new seeds and I am trying to use up last year's too. I planted Prince, which did very well for me two years ago, Copra, Stuttgarter, Pontiac, a new- to- me variety called Varsity and Ailsa Craig. I have Redwing on back order, but if it doesn't come in soon it may be too late.
For shallots, I planted Prisma and Ambition. Last summer's onions didn't do too well for me, but the shallots sure did. And I planted Tadorna and Bleu de Solaize leeks. I'm sure you can see that I do like my alliums!
I bought some cheap dollar store storage boxes and used a wonderful hint from Annie's Granny, making drainage holes in the bottom using a hot glue gun. Thank's for the idea Granny! These are great for planting alliums in. I also planted two small containers with celery yesterday, Tango and Afina cutting. I started these last year too, but never got them into the garden. This year will be different. The celery takes about ten days to sprout.
Another thing I have been busy with is turning 60. While the actual birthday was last week, about a month ago D gifted me with a new ipad mini. It has been nearly impossible to get off of that tiny little portable computer since! I can check my e-mail, my facebook, read blogs, watch Netflix, get the weather, practise German, play mah jong games and read books all in the comfort of my lazy chair. Not necessarily good for my health or weight! Birthday week a group of close girlfriends took me to a ski resort in the Massachusetts Berkshires for the day and we soaked in hot tubs, ate and did what girls do best, talked, talked, talked. And on the weekend of the big blizzard my husband took me to Newport, Rhode Island to a lovely little inn downtown and we enjoyed the storm in the coziest way, until it was time to come home to a very snowy driveway and lots of shovelling.
Yup, that's me, looking very happy and comfortable. Wish my house looked so nice! Oh, and what's that in my lap? My little ipad companion!  I'm not sure how I feel about being 60 since it seems that only yesterday I was 40, but I have plenty to be thankful for, not least of which is friends, family and health. And starting those seeds! Blogger, it's good to be back!