Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Coming up with a meal plan can sometimes be hard. Knowing which ingredients you want to use up in your kitchen is always a great place to start! It helps keep your kitchen organized and prevents you from letting food go to waste.

So, for this meal, I knew I needed to use some of the bell peppers from our CSA sitting in the fridge. I also knew I wanted to use quinoa as the main “filler” of the dish since I didn’t have any meat defrosted or ready to use. So I looked at a few recipes online for inspiration, found a few meatless stuffed pepper ideas, improvised a set of ingredients that matched what I already had in the kitchen, and voilà! Easy stuffed peppers that are delicious, healthy, and look quite festive for fall! Happy Autumn everyone!

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. cooked tri-colored quinoa
1 Serrano pepper, finely diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 (15.25 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 t. cumin
1 T. chili powder
1 t. paprika
4-6 bell peppers, tops cut, stemmed and seeded
salsa, optional
shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish (large enough to hold all the peppers) with foil and grease. Set aside.
2. Cook the quinoa according to its packaging. For time and effort purposes, I used Success Boil-in-a-Bag quinoa. Highly recommended for this recipe – easier, quicker, and less mess!
3. When quinoa is cooked, pour into a large bowl. Add in the Serrano pepper, corn, beans, onion, and tomatoes. Mix together, then add cumin, chili powder, and paprika, and mix again. (Note: Tony suggested that I add some shredded cheese into the stuffing mix as well as on top of the peppers. I think it’s a good suggestion and you could add a 1/2 c. or so if you want the inside to be more cheesy.)
4. Stuff the mixture into the peppers, filling them as much as you can. (Optional: Add a heaping spoonful of salsa on top of each pepper.) Cover each pepper with it’s top and place them (cavity side up) in the baking dish. Put in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until peppers are heated through and tender.
5. In the last 5 minutes of baking, remove the dish, cover the peppers with shredded cheese, and put it back in the oven to melt the cheese.
6. Let cool for a few minutes before enjoying!

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Apples & Onion Pork Chops

Well… here I am, finally! As you may or may not have noticed, I have been rather “MIA” (missing-in-action) for the past few weeks. That certainly doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking, but being given the time to play catch-up on so many projects, errands, and other “need-to-dos” over the past few weeks has left me with little desire to sit down in front of a computer and write.

(Un)luckily, my mind has found a funny little way of resolving that problem by deciding to keep me up at all hours of the night – giving me more than enough time to write this post… at 5:00 am. *insert UGH emoji* How (un)kind of my mind to create this time for me. Maybe by next week I’ll have written a full book… 

But enough about me. On to the more important things in life…. food! This recipe features some of the wonderful local meats I’ve previously written about, as well as delicious Macintosh apples from Schafer’s Fruit Farm (New Kensington, PA) and fresh rosemary from our wonderful CSA, Uncle Henry’s Garden (Indiana, PA).

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Ingredients:

3-5 pork chops, or whatever fits in your pan
3/4 c. chicken stock
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. dried sage
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 1/2 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 medium apples, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

Directions:

1. Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops before adding to the pan. Sear the pork chops for at least 5-7 minutes per side, or until they are mostly done.
2. While the pork chops are cooking, prep your other ingredients. Mix together the chicken stock and mustard and set aside. Slice the apples and onions. In a small dish, mix together the sage, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper, set aside.
3. Remove the pork chops from the pan and keep warm. Add another 1 T. of olive oil to the pan, along with the apples and onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the seasoning mix. Stir to combine.
4. Pour in the stock mustard mixture and heat until liquid is hot, but not boiling.
5. Add the pork chops back into the pan, cover with apple mixture and juices. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until pork chops are thoroughly heated and fully cooked*. The liquid should reduce by about half. (*Pork should be cooked to at least 145 degrees F – 160 degrees for larger, thicker cuts.) Plate & enjoy!

Spicy Homemade Marinara Sauce

This recipe is a little creation of my own, with some inspiration from our CSA farmers! They provide us with 1-2 recipes of their own each week to accompany whatever is in the box. It comes in very handy when I’m just not sure what to do with a certain products. In this case, we were becoming overrun with tomatoes from both our garden and the CSA, so I decided to – loosely following our farmer’s family recipe – try making a homemade sauce of my own.

Full disclaimer: the method below on how to skin/seed the tomatoes is not what I originally used when I made this sauce. I tried the method recommended by our farmers, but I didn’t have the right tools – i.e. a food mill – so it didn’t work out too well. That’s why, if you look closely, you will see some tomato seeds still in my sauce. Not ideal, but I don’t think it hurt anything. When you leave the seeds in the sauce you run the risk of it turning bitter, but since I was going for a spicier version anyway I wasn’t too concerned and figured the spice would overpower any bitterness. And I believe it did.

So long story short, I’m confident the directions below are easier to follow and a better alternative to skinning and seeding the tomatoes if you don’t have a fancy food mill to help with that process. Let me know what you think! Would it be better to just give-in and invest in a food mill or does this peel & seed method below work just as well? I would love to hear your thoughts/experiences!

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Ingredients:

2 lbs. fresh, ripe tomatoes (I used about 8 medium-large sized tomatoes.)
olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 Serrano pepper, finely diced (seeds removed)
1/4 c. red cooking wine
1 T. dried oregano
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Start by blanching your tomatoes. (Here’s easy instructions if you’ve never done this before.)
2. Once tomatoes are skinned and have cores removed, cut into four quarter sections. Using your fingers, remove the seed section of the tomatoes. Chop the remaining tomatoes into large pieces and add to a large pan with a little bit of water.
3. Simmer tomatoes and water over medium-high heat until the tomatoes start to break down and dissolve.
4. When the tomatoes are mostly dissolved, remove from heat and pour into a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the remaining tomatoes until mostly liquid. (Careful! It may still be hot!) It’s ok if it’s more watery than you want – that will boil out.
5. Put the tomato sauce into another sauce pot and put on low heat to simmer while you prepare the rest of the sauce.
6. Wipe clean the original pan and put back on the stove, on medium-high heat. Add olive oil, onions, and garlic. Cook until onions are almost translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the finely diced Serrano peppers and cook 2-3 more minutes. (Add a bit more olive oil, if needed.)
7. Add the red cooking wine, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook 1-2 more minutes before adding the tomato sauce back into the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow sauce to come to a gentle simmer for 5 more minutes.
8. Right before turning off the heat, add chopped fresh basil and combine.
9. Serve over your favorite pasta and enjoy!