Chile Rellenos/Pepper Poppers

This recipe is kind of a cross between chile rellenos and hot pepper poppers. But no matter what you call them, they sure are tasty! We had an abundance of Anaheim peppers this week, and so I decided to get creative. These weren't necessarily fast or easy, but they were fun to make and turned out delicious. So if you have a few extra minutes or a few extra peppers and want to mix up the same old dinner routine, try these as a fun little appetizer or side dish. I served mine with some quesadillas made from leftover pork chops, black beans, and corn, and then a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables. Yummy!

Chile Rellenos/Pepper Poppers

12-15 Anaheim peppers
1 8 oz block cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1) Fire up your grill or broiler. Wash the peppers and place them, whole, over/under the high heat, rotating every few minutes, until the skin is charred and blistered all the way around and they become very fragrant. Then move them to a paper bag and close it. Let it sit and steam for about 10 minutes. Take the peppers out and run them under cool water and gently strip away the charred skin, being as cautious as possible not to break the flesh. Cut off the tops and scrape out the seeds--again, being careful not to destroy the pepper.
2) When all your peppers are roasted, peeled and seeded, mix together the cream cheese, shredded cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
3) Stuff the peppers with the cream cheese mixture. The mixture will be quite thick, and we found we could kind of form it in our hands and then insert a little ball of the cheese into the pepper. The cheese will help hold together any breaks or tears in the flesh of the pepper.
4) Set up three bowls--one with the flour, one with the eggs (beat them with a fork), and one with the panko bread crumbs. Time to dredge! Roll each pepper in the flour first just to coat, then in the beaten egg, and then in the panko bread crumbs. Place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with a silpat or parchment paper or just sprayed with cooking spray.
5) When all the chiles are dredged, put the whole tray in the freezer for 15-30 minutes to set up the cheese.
6) Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown (but before the cheese totally melts and oozes everywhere). Enjoy!


Fried Rice

It's delicious, fast, and very easy, and a whole meal by itself (or a great side-dish). In other words, this is one of the most versatile recipes out there. I love this fried rice as a lunch, and so do my kids! I make at least a double batch every time I cook it, and we still gobble up the whole pan full. For vegetarian, substitute shrimp for the ham--or just leave it out entirely. This is meant to be a use-up for leftovers, so you can use cooked chicken or any vegetable medley you have on hand.
Ham Fried Rice

1 cup calrose rice, uncooked*
2 cups water*
2 tsp chicken bouillon (optional)*
*OR: 2 cups cooked rice
2 TBSP olive oil
1 cup cubed ham
1 cup frozen peas, frozen peas & carrots, OR frozen vegetable medley
2 eggs
2 TBSP soy sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1) Cook rice in a pot or rice cooker with water and chicken bouillon until done, according to package directions. *If using leftover cooked plain rice, omit this step, since--hey! it's already cooked.
2) Heat a large frying pan or wok over medium high heat with olive oil. Add ham and let cook for about 1 minute.
3) Add cooked rice and toss to combine, then let it sit and toast for about 3-5 minutes, turning only occasionally. You want some little brown bits to form, but don't burn it.
4) Add frozen vegetables and toss to combine. Let cook for another couple of minutes until vegetables are hot.
5) Beat eggs with soy sauce, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl.
6) Pour eggs over the cooking rice mixture and stir well for 2 minutes, or until eggs are fully cooked and incorporated (like scrambled eggs).
7) Enjoy! Makes about 4 servings, or if you've got my kids in the household, only 2. :)

Note: if you are making this for someone who needs gluten-free, make sure you check your ham, soy sauce, and bouillon for wheat in the ingredients. All of these things can easily be found GF, but you just need to double check. Also remember that you can always change out the ham for some other type of protein, like edamame or chicken or shrimp to fit your needs.


Creamy Tomato Cheese Bread

I think this one little dish contains everything you'd want in a mid-week meal: hot, creamy, crispy, golden brown, tangy, and both hearty and refreshing all in one. We had this along side a nice salad and didn't miss the meat. If you want to up your protein, you can of course serve this as a side dish to chicken or pork chops, or just add some deviled eggs to your meal. My little family cruised through a whole batch--even though we were stuffed when we got done. We just couldn't stop eating!

Creamy Tomato Cheese Bread

*There is a shortcut at the bottom, if you're not up for mixing up your crust from scratch.

Biscuit crust:
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Creamy topping:
8 oz cream cheese (1 block)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded monterrey jack cheese
1 tbsp pizza seasoning (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder + 2 tsp Italian Seasoning + 1/4 tsp salt)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1) Grease a 7x11 pan and preheat oven to 425.
2) Mix together dry ingredients for crust: flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar.
3) Using a pastry blender or forks or knives or food processor, cut in shortening until the flour resembles crumbly peas.
4) Add milk all at once and mix with a fork until a dough forms; about 30 seconds. Do not over mix. (in a food processor, just pulse until it comes together.)
5) Press dough into the bottom of the pan.
6) Soften cream cheese in a bowl for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Mix in mayonnaise, shredded monterrey jack cheese, and pizza seasoning. Spread this over the dough.
7) Drain the tomatoes and sprinkle over the cheese filling. Then sprinkle the parmesan cheese all over the top.
8) Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and top is bubbly and melty all over. Enjoy! Makes about 6 entree size servings, or 8 side dish size servings. Or 2 crazy person size servings. yes, I am a crazy person. ;)

*Note to make the crust even easier: Use 1 can biscuit dough and spread them evenly over the bottom of your pan. Top with filling and bake as directed (step 6 and on). I simply adore my homemade biscuit dough, which is why I use it. But if you're not a baker, then this might be a good direction for you.


Coconut Cream Pie

This was just one of those random things walking through the grocery store... I thought, "Hey, Coconut Cream Pie sounds Heavenly!" So I made one. Here's my recipe. Also--the coconut filling would be great between layers of cake, in a trifle, or just plain for gluten-free coconut pudding.

Coconut Cream Pie

1 (13 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup *shredded coconut

8 Graham Crackers
5 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

1) Mix coconut milk and regular milk together in a saucepan, whisking until smooth. Put over medium-low heat and swirl it occasionally just to warm it gently.
2) In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, and salt. Whisk for 2 minutes, or until light yellow and it falls in ribbons from your whisk.
3) While whisking constantly, pour in about 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture. Whisk for 10 seconds. Pour in a little more milk. Continue until all the milk is mixed in. This is called "tempering," and prevents the eggs from curdling. It will make your filling nice and smooth.
4) Return the whole mix to the saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to steam and thickens. It will truly become noticeably thicker right before it boils--you don't actually want it to boil, though.
5) Once it is thick, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and shredded coconut. Cool in an ice bath or in the refrigerator.
6) Now make the crust: Crush the graham crackers either in a bag or in a food processor until coarse crumbs. Melt the butter and mix in well, along with the spices. Pour crumbs into a pie pan and push into the bottom until it is an even layer that pushes up the sides as well.
7) Pour coconut custard into the pie pan and chill. Top with whipped cream or more shredded coconut, if desired.

*An optional step: toast your shredded coconut before mixing it in. All you have to do is put your coconut in a dry sautee pan and place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until brown edges start to appear on the coconut. It really brings out the flavor and adds a nice nuttiness.


"Thai" Peanut Noodles

Fast, easy, delicious, healthy, affordable, and unique. Seriously, what more can you ask for in a meal? (And the "Thai" is in quotes because I made up the recipe myself. It's Thai inspired, but I'm not sure how authentic it really is.)

"Thai" Peanut Noodles

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 TBSP olive oil
12 oz linguini
1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 fresh lime
1 TBSP fresh grated ginger (or dried)
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup honey
1 big handful fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

1) Cut the chicken into 1" cubes. Season with pepper and the zest from the lime (grate off the outside green part, but don't go so deep it turns white.) Heat a large skillet or wok. Add oil, and then add the chicken. Let cook for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.
2) Meanwhile, boil a big pot of water. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3) Add the vegetables to the chicken and toss to combine. Let cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, to cook vegetables.
4) Mix together remaining sauce ingredients: Soy sauce, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, lime juice, and honey. It may be a little gloppy.
5) Pour sauce over vegetables and chicken and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low and hold it there until the noodles are done cooking.
6) When noodles are done, drain them and toss them in with the peanut sauce, chicken, and vegetables. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

-For Vegetarian, use frozen, shelled Edamame or even little shrimp.
-For Gluten-Free, use a good rice pasta fettucini.
-Buy your favorite bag of stir fry mix. My favorites have carrots, snow peas, onions, peppers, water chestnuts, and mushrooms. Of course you can chop fresh veggies instead of frozen. I just like the convenience of frozen in this dish.


Red Pepper Tortellini salad

This pasta salad is unique and delicious--a great way to mix up your summertime barbeque recipes. And because there's no mayonnaise, it can be outside for just a little longer than typical Summer salads (a little... not a lot...).

Red Pepper Tortellini Salad

2 large red peppers (*see note)
3 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 package frozen cheese tortellini (about 1 pound)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
8 oz mozzarella cheese
4 green onions
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1) Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and put in the fridge to cool.
2) Roast the red peppers:
2a) On a hot grill, place washed red peppers. Cook over direct, high heat about 1-2 minutes per side, until the skin blisters and turns black. Cook all sides, so the skin is all black. You might think you burned it, but it is okay.
2b) Place peppers immediately in a paper bag or in a bowl with a lid. Let sit for 10 minutes to steam.
2c) Run peppers under cool water and peel off the blackened skin with your fingers.
2d) using a paring knife, cut the top and seeds out of the peppers.
3) In a blender or food processor, Puree together: roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar, oil, and seasonings (not the cheese, green onion, or basil).
4) Cube the cheese into small little blocks. Chop green onion and tear basil into pieces.
5) Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (Tortellini, sauce, cheese, onion, and basil). Chill and serve. Makes about 6 servings.

*Note on roasted red peppers: Roasted red peppers can be found jarred in the condiments and olives section of the grocery store. You can use those in this recipe if you don't want to go to the trouble of roasting your own. Also, roasted red peppers on their own are delicious! Try them on hamburgers or along side steak. Chopped, they pair nicely with just about any pasta sauce. Get brave and try them today!

*Another note. This pasta dish could also be served warm, but the cheese cubes may start to melt a bit. You could also add big chunks of cooked sausage or sliced pepperoni and make it a meal. Other things that would go well in this salad: sliced olives, fresh spinach leaves, capers, cherry tomatoes, or sliced radishes. If you don't have enough sauce to cover all your additions, add some extra balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Get creative!

Photo above is salad made with yellow peppers instead of red, and with chopped black olives and Italian Sausage added.


Corn Dogs

I've been working on this recipe for a couple years (don't be too impressed--I only make homemade corn dogs once every six months or so) and last night it finally worked out the way I want it to! The breading stayed on the dog and they were very tasty. Here's the final draft.

Corn Dogs

1 lb (8 count) hot dogs
about 1/2 cup plain flour or cornstarch
either bamboo chopsticks or kebab skewers
about 1/2 gallon peanut or canola oil, for deep frying

1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or 1 tsp hot sauce)
1 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup corn meal

1) In a shallow pan or plate, sprinkle the 1/2 cup flour or cornstarch. Roll hot dogs in the flour and shake off excess. Insert skewers/chopsticks a few inches in.
2) Heat oil in a deep fryer or in a deep, heavy pot (dutch oven) until about 350 degrees. If you don't have a fry thermometer, put the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. It's ready when a copious amount of bubbles comes out of the wood.
3) Meanwhile, mix the sour cream, egg, milk together in a bowl. Add other ingredients and mix just to combine. It should be VERY thick. Pour batter into a tall, narrow glass.
4) Dip dredged hot dogs into the batter. You may have to spoon it up around the sides to get it to stick all the way around. Gently shake or scrape off excess batter.
5) Deep fry corn dogs for about 2 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown and looking "done."
6) Drain on a cooling rack over paper towels. Let cool for a few minutes before eating. Enjoy!
7) A note on clean-up: don't save any leftover batter or flour dredge. Just throw it away. Oil can be cooled, strained, and saved for another fry session, but should be discarded after about 3 fry sessions.