Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stuffed Peppers with a Taco Twist

Like stuffed peppers but want to try something a bit different? This delicious dish is easy to make, and since there isn't a lot of extra sauce, the peppers don't get mushy. Instead, they're tender crisp.

1 1/2 pounds 95% lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package taco seasoning
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 large green bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1 large orange bell pepper
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 1/2 cups low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1 cup salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dice onion. Brown ground beef and onion on medium heat. Add black beans, one package taco seasoning, and tomato sauce. Stir. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.

Wash peppers. Cut tops off. Slice each pepper in half, vertically, forming pepper cups.

Place pepper halves in an ungreased baking dish. Fill each pepper cup with ground beef and bean mixture. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Peppers will be tender crisp.

Sprinkle with cheese and tomatoes. Top each pepper with a teaspoon of sour cream. Serve salsa on the side.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ice Cream on the pie or IN the pie?

Growing up, fresh-baked cherry pie with a scoop of ice cream hit the spot! Even on a hot summer day, the treat was welcomed. For my birthday, my babysitter's sister would bake a lattice-crust cherry pie. Add that to the German chocolate cake my grandma brought, and oh, the day was a dessert lover's delight!

Now, thanks to ice cream superstores like Coldstone Creamery and DQ, ice cream pies are popular. Delicious ice cream mixed with add-ins chilled inside some kind of crust. I'm not sure if this is how the ice cream pie gained its popularity, or if some crafty chef realized ice cream inside the pie shell equaled a delicious treat!

In honor of National Ice Cream Pie Day, why not combine a fancy ice cream treat - the banana split - with a pie shell. You'll love the results! I prefer to make a graham cracker crust, but if convenience is necessary, a prepared graham cracker crust will suffice.

Banana Split Pie
  • 4 Tbsp. chocolate hard-shell ice cream topping
  • 1 9-inch graham cracker crust (chocolate crusts work, too)
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 t. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup pineapple ice cream topping
  • 1 quart strawberry ice cream, softened
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 maraschino cherries
  • chocolate syrup

Pour chocolate topping into crust. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Place sliced bananas in small bowl. Mix with lemon juice. Arrange bananas over chocolate topping. Layer with pineapple topping, ice cream, whipped cream, and nuts.

Cover and freeze until firm (a couple hours). Remove from freezer approximately 15 minutes prior to serving.

Garnish with chocolate syrup and maraschino cherries.

Serves: 8.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Decadency on a spoon - Chocolate Ice Cream Melts the Palette

Decadent. Sinful. And oh! so delicious. Chocolate ice cream remains a popular ice cream treat.

Forget the local dairy king imposters known as soft serve. Dish up the good stuff: the homemade indulgence that grandma and grandpa used to make.

Ice cream dates back to 4th century B.C., when Nero demanded snow and ice be brought down from the mountains. Then, the ice was mixed with fruit, creating the first-known example of ice cream.

The Tang Dynasty (AD 618 - 697) were the first to mix ice and milk products to form the creamy treat. Eventually, traders tales of the frozen cream weaved their way back to Europe, where experimentation led to the development of sherbets, ices, and milk ices.

Americans enjoyed the dessert, too. In 1782, the French envoy honored the new American republic and served the concoction to the assembly. Dolly Madison dished it in the White House.

The first mention of chocolate ice cream was in a cookbook by Jean-Pierre Buc'hoz from 1787, but it is possible that earlier experiments in the kitchen produced the chocolaty goodness first.

Try this recipe today, in honor of National Chocolate Ice Cream Day.

  • 4 oz. quality unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/4 C. milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. cream
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 C. cold milk

Melt chocolate over low heat. At the same time, heat milk over low heat in a small saucepan. Gradually stir milk into melted chocolate. It is important to slowly add the milk; otherwise, the chocolate will clump and become hard. Heat while stirring until mixture reaches a smooth consistency. The mixture will be thick.

Beat eggs with sugar. Stir in the hot chocolate and milk mixture, stirring constantly. Add cream, salt, vanilla, and 1/2 C. cold milk. Allow mix to cool. Freeze in an ice cream freezer.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Apples or Applesauce? Hand me a spoon!

Pureed and cooked apples first appeared in British cookbooks in the 18th century. Quite a few of those early recipes included pork or other meat in the sauce. Meat in applesauce?

It seems that how the applesauce is served varies from continent to continent. In the U.S., applesauce is usually served as a sidedish or dessert. Europeans prefer applesauce as a sauce on top of meats such as ham or pork chops. For Passover, applesauce is served as a side with potato pancakes.

Applesauce is a $100 million a year business for the main applesauce manufacturers: Motts, Seneca, and Musselmans.

The sauce is a fantastic substitute for oil when baking. When I made the cupcakes for my wedding, I substituted applesauce for the oil. You can't tell a difference when noshing on one. And, it seems like the consistency holds together better than if you use oil.

I also like applesauce cake. It's a good sweet treat and a good use for that jar of applesauce that is sitting in your pantry. And in honor of National Applesauce Cake Day, go ahead and whip up this delightful treat!

Caramel Applesauce Cake
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. cloves
  • 1/2 t. allspice
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda

Sift the above ingredients together in a large bowl.

  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 c. applesauce

Beat for five minutes. Add 2 large eggs. Beat for two additional minutes. Pour into a 9x13 pan or two layer pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 - 55 minutes. Cool and then top with caramel frosting.


  • 2 b. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream or light cream
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla

Combine sugar, cream and butter in saucepan. Cook slowly to the soft ball stage (234 degrees F). Add vanilla. Beat until it is at spreading consistency. If necessary, think with a few drops of cream.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Make Yourself a Dang Quesadilla for National Dairy Month

Maybe Napoleon Dynamite's grandma appreciated qualtiy dairy products.

Or maybe she just thought he could fend for himself.

June kicks of the annual Dairy Month celebration. And, as the wife of a dairy farmer, I can proudly say that we believe integrating dairy products into your diet does more than build strong bones. By incorporating the 3-a-day plan, you can meet calcium and vitamin D needs.

At our house, not only do we drink a lot of milk - sometimes using a gallon or more a day - but we eat our fair share of cheese.

One of our favorites, featuring cheese, is black bean and cheese quesadillas. Try it for a spicy snack or make several and serve as a main dish.

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 T. chopped green onion
  • 1 T. chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 tortillas
  • 1 T. butter OR butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 1 t. cumin

Mash beans. Combine with salsa, onion, cilantro, cheese, and cumin. Divide mixture on four tortillas, spreading close to the edge. Top with a tortilla.

Melt butter or spray cooking spray into skillet. Over medium low to medium heat, cook until lightly browned, approximately 2 - 3 minutes per side. Cut into wedges before serving.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mint Julep - Medicine or Cocktail?

One of the most relaxing and refreshing alcoholic drinks is the mint julep. Popular for nearly two centuries, the drink's history is not clear.

"Julep" is derived from the Persian gulab and the Arabic julab, both of which mean rosewater, and were a scented liquid made from rose petals immersed in water. North African and Middle Eastern cooking relied on its use. During medieval times, rosewater was a popular medicine in Europe.

John Davis' book Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States (1803) mentions the drink that contains a dram of liquor and mint and is consumed by Virginians in the morning. Davis' book does not say the drink contains whiskey.

The Food Chronology by James Trager reports that brandy poured over ice and garnished with mint leaves is served at White Sulphur Springs, a spa in western Virginia. Reportedly, the drink was considered as a protection against malaria.

Trager's book also mentions that in 1859, the drink was served at Old White Springs in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. The drink contains brandy, cut loaf sugar, limestone water, ice, and mint. Eventually, the brandy was replaced by bourbon whiskey.

While Henry Clay served as a U.S. senator from Kentucky, he brought the drink to the Round Robin Bar located in the Willard Hotel. Thus, a popular southern treat finds its way into political circles.

And no Kentucky Derby would be complete without its signature drink. The julep earned that title in 1938 when the cocktail was served in a souvenir glass that sold for 75 cents. The Kentucky Derby Museum estimates that over 80,000 juleps are served during the Derby.

To whip up a pitcher of the famed drink, you need the following ingredients:
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • mint leaves for garnish

Combine water and sugar in saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add mint and boil. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes. Pour mint syrup through a strainer. Allow to cool.

Combine syrup and bourbon. Pour into a container with a lid. Keep refrigerated for up to one month. Garnish with mint leaves when serving.

Servings: 4

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chocolate Chips Discovered By Accident

A favorite snack for young and old alike is the chocolate chip cookie. How did the invention of the chocolate chip come about? Thank a Massachusetts inn owner.

Ruth Wakefield graduated from Massachusetts Normal School n 1924 and worked as a dietitian. But she and her husband purchased a tourist lodge and dubbed it Toll House Inn.

Ruth earned a reputation for her fancy desserts and sweets. Her favorite cookie recipe was the Butter Drop Do cookies. Usually, baker's chocolate was a staple for the recipe, but Ruth's pantry was void on that fateful day. Instead, she substituted baker's chocolate with a semisweet bar that she cut into pieces. The bar, incidentally, was a gift from Andrew Nestle of Nestle Chocolate Company.

Ruth assumed the semisweet chunks would melt into the cookies, but once she removed the cookie sheet from the oven, she discovered that the small chunks softened, and the Toll House Inn guests loved her cookies.

As Ruth's recipe gained popularity, she and Nestle made a deal. He would print her now-famous recipe on the package and in return, Ruth received a lifetime's supply of chocolate.

My favorite chocolate chip cookies are the ones my Grandma Larson used to bake. They were oh so moist and the chips would just melt in your mouth. She would line an old metal coffee can (yes, this was in the 60s) with a bread sack and fill it full of the delectable treat.

One time, we had friends over on a Friday night. Our parents were downstairs and we girls were upstairs, but we took a can of grandma's cookies with us. I think I ate 19 of them and my friend ate about 17. I was so "not-feeling-up-to-par" the next day. But I didn't let that setback deter me.

Now when I have the chance, I make chocolate chip cookies using the Toll House recipe, but I also like to add coconut and chopped nuts. Mmmm. Delicious!!