Saturday, March 28, 2015

Peppers Stuffed with Beef, Quinoa & Cheese

(6-8 servings)

I made a couple of batches of this until I realised I had to cook the quinoa first. Regardless of how "wet" I made the meat filling, the quinoa refused to expand like rice would have. Whenever possible I love skipping a step or two, but that wasn't the case here.

It always amazes me how much a dish can change just by the way it's seasoned. The smoked paprika and fried bacon gave this homestyle dish a nice twist making it a huge hit.

These stuffed peppers reheat really well and are a great candidate for freezing, in case you feel like doubling this recipe.

3 thick slices bacon, chopped
1 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 egg
2 tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp dried
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
a pinch or two, cayenne
14.5oz can pureed or whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp sweet rice flour or all purpose flour (if gluten isn't an issue)
1 lb extra lean ground beef
4 small/medium red bell peppers

Place the bacon into a cold skillet and cook over medium-low heat until the bacon is crispy. Place the crisped bacon bits into a mixing bowl along with the quinoa and set aside.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat and fry the garlic and onions until they are soft and translucent. Add this mixture to the quinoa and bacon and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, reserving 1/4 cup for later. Add the tomato paste, egg, flaxseed, if using, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, lemon pepper and cayenne. Set aside.

Stir together the pureed tomatoes, water and rice flour. If using the whole tomatoes, combine in a small blender until smooth.

Add 1/4 cup of this mixture to the stuffing mixture along with all of the ground meat. Gently mix everything together until just combined, taking care not to over mix. Set aside

Pour the remainder of the tomato sauce into a baking dish, large enough to hold the filled peppers snugly.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Wash then cut the peppers in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and membranes. Divide the meat and quinoa filling equally between the pepper halves. Mound the meat mixture without trying to pack it in too tightly, otherwise the filling might become too dense.

When all of the peppers are stuffed. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese evenly over the top.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the the dish is bubbling hot and the top has browned. Serve, with the sauce spooned over the peppers.

I like this dish even better the next day, reheated.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Refreshing Agar Agar Dessert with Fruit

(6 servings)

Agar agar, a jelling agent which is derived from seaweed is ideal for vegan or vegetarian diets. It has a texture similar to gelatin, yet different; not as "rubbery". it sets without the need for refrigeration and unlike gelatin, it holds its shape in warmer weather.

In recent years whenever I have encountered the powdered form, it has contained sugar, so I having been using the bar form instead.

1 bar/stick agar agar, (about 7 gm/.25 oz)
2 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar, (3 tbsp honey, if paleo)
2/3 cup light or regular coconut milk
1/4 tsp pure almond extract, or to taste
1 orange
2 medium mangoes

Break/rip the agar agar into small pieces and place them into a pot. Add the water and soak for about 30 minutes.

Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring until the agar agar has dissolved; about 10-12 minutes.

Add the cane sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in the coconut milk. If you see small bits of agar agar in the mixture, cook for a few more minutes until they have dissolved. Remove from heat and add the almond extract. Taste and add more almond extract if desired.

Pour the mixture through a sieve into an 8 or 9 inch  square pan. It will be set by the time it's cooled to room temperature.

When you are ready to serve. Squeeze the juice from the orange and pour into a small bowl. Peel the mangoes and cut the flesh into dice. Add the diced fruit to the juice.

Cut the set coconut milk mixture into cubes and divide between bowls. Spoon the mango cubes and orange juice mixture over each serving.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Wild Sole Stuffed with Crab, Artichokes and Cheddar Cheese

(5-6 servings)

A while back my mum treated me to lunch at a historical hotel in Port Townsend which sits right at the edge of the water. I tried her favorite dish, Baked Dover Sole; sole stuffed with a mixture of crab, onions, artichokes and cheese. They served it with a cheese sauce which was really nice. I didn't bother trying to recreate that here, and in my opinion this dish didn't suffer for it.

up to 1 tbsp butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, packed
1/3 cup cooked artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 tbsp aïoli or mayonnaise
2 tbsp grated Romano cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
a pinch or two, cayenne
1 small or medium egg
1 1/2 lb wild sole fillets, about 10-12 fillets

wooden toothpicks

Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and when that becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds or so), add the onion. Cook the onion until it's soft and translucent. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the mixture from browning.

Remove from heat, cool, then place the onion mixture into a small mixing bowl.

Add the crab meat, cheddar cheese, artichoke hearts, aïoli or mayonnaise and Romano. Toss the mixture until combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add a pinch or two cayenne pepper and toss. Add the egg last and mix into the filling until everything is evenly combined.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Lightly butter a baking dish with sides that are at least 2 inches high and set aside.

Place the sole fillets onto a surface with the dark sides facing up. Lightly sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

Divide the crab mixture evenly between the fillets, mounding the filling at the thicker end of the fillets. (see photo)

Roll up the fillets, securing the ends with a toothpick.

Place the stuffed sole rolls into the baking dish (filled ends facing up) and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the filling is hot and the fish flakes easily.

*I froze half of the sole rolls (unbaked) as a test. When I defrosted them a week later, a bunch of liquid had accumulated at the bottom of the freezer bag. I just drained off the liquid and patted the rolls dry. They baked up fine.