Sunday, September 25, 2011

Vanilla Bean Sugar

This jar is actually full now but I snaped a photo so you could actually see the beans just hanging out in the sugar.

Vanilla Sugar.  Or the most tempting jar in my home.  I had a few extra vanilla beans and decided to split them down the center and pop them in a mason jar full of sugar.  Shake, shake, shake every few days and there you have it.  My super secret recipe.  Ha.  As you use up the sugar, feel free to just add more and shake it up.  You should be able to refill this jar over and over again for a good long while.

Adding the vanilla beans just makes this jar of sugar a jar of magic fairy dust.  Add it to any recipe but it is particularly amazing in cases where you would ordinarily top with sugar.  Like muffins, cookies, scones or pie crust.  Use in place of cinnamon sugar on toast.  Or oooh...I'm now thinking vanilla bean cinnamon sugar might be even more amazing.  It's subtle but heavenly.

I am not going to lie...sometimes I just open the jar and sniff it.  It's that yummy.  Have I just crossed the line in our bloggy friendship?  Was that TMI?  Whatever, it's totally true.  I am a total vanilla bean-aholic, y'all!

I think it might make a sweet (ha- I think I'm so funny) little hostess gift if you put it in a smaller mason jar and wrapped it up nicely.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Turkey Bean Chili

Turkey Bean Chili


* 2 tablespoons EVOO
* ground meat (I used ground turkey but any meat will do or omit if you want meatless)
* 1 teaspoon dried onion
* 1 pack chili or taco seasoning or 3-5 tablespoons homemade
* extra chili powder to taste
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
* 2 cans kidney beans, in their liquid
* 2 large cans diced tomatoes
* 1 tiny can tomato paste


* In a heavy bottom pot, heat up EVOO to high heat. Add meat and all seasonings. Brown until cooked through.
* Add beans, tomatoes and tomato paste. Go ahead and add the liquid in the bean cans. It's free, already right there and helps thicken the chili. Mix well.
* Turn down to low/simmer and cook for @30 minutes to let all the flavors incorporate. Add a can or two of water if too thick.
* Serve with a sharp cheese, sour cream, chips, onions or anything else floating around your pantry.

This makes a huge pot of chili and it freezes great if you don't feel like eating it all this week. On a cold, snowy, winter day, it's sort of awesome to heat up a dish of your homemade chili for lunch or dinner.

I know the cinnamon and nutmeg seem a little out of left field but trust me on this one. Seriously, trust me. You can't taste them specifically but they really add so much to the recipe. I actually add a few zips of freshly ground nutmeg to nearly everything savory that comes out of my kitchen. They are optional but just do me a favor and add them even if you think I am crazy. I'm not (or not today anyway) and you will love the extra subtle flavors. In're welcome!

And a final note...

If you want to make this in your crockpot, do the first step of browning off your meat in a pan and then transfer it and everything else to your crockpot. Cook low all day or high for a few hours. Is anyone else a total crockpot-aholic too? Love love that thing!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Savory Sweet Scones

I stumbled upon this recipe not that long ago and have been dreaming of the scones ever since that first read.  They looked delicious. 

But of course, I made a few changes.  Mostly because I had different ingredients on hand.  I've never actually seen a green garlic so I had to improvise on that front for sure.  And because I was dying to try a new ingredient that just arrived in the mail. 

For fun, I ordered several new gluten free flours.  Including plantain flour.  Alone, it does taste faintly of plantains.  Which by the way, are not bananas, for those who didn't grow up eating Cuban food the way NY/NJ folks eat Italian food.  I will be sharing my thoughts on the other fun new (to me) ingredients that I ordered as they get used in recipes. 

But back to the scone recipe.  It's good.  You should make it.  How's that for a review?  I ate one with dinner but then ate one the next morning for breakfast.  Even though the dough is savory with the chives, black pepper and garlic, the glaze is sweet.  It's really a perfect contrast.  And please, for the love of food, only use pure maple syrup.  Pancake syrup is not the same thing.  Actually, it's completely gross. 

The original recipe notes that you should let the flax meal soak for a bit.  And I must say, this was a big ah-ha moment for me.  I've been adding flax meal to my recipes for more than a year and while I love the flavor, it leaves muffins and such rather dry and gritty.  Allowing them to soften and absorb the liquid totally changed them and I have vowed to do that every time from now on!

So this is the recipe I used with one exception.  I am noting the amount of chives I will use next time.  I used less and think it would be even better with more.  Also, don't call the foodie police, but I only ever use salted butter.  There, I admitted it!  So I adjust my salt accordingly.  If you are better than me and use unsalted butter, add in more salt than this recipes notes.  If you don't have some of the flours, just sub in what you do have on hand.  Or use all gf flour blend if that's what is in your pantry right now.  And if you live gluten full, you should be able to use normal AP flour. 

Savory Scones


* 3/4 cup sour cream (I used low-fat)
* 2 tablespoons flax meal
* 2 large eggs
* 2 egg yolks
* 6 slices cooked bacon
* 2 teaspoons minced garlic
* 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons millet flour
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plantain flour
* 1 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend (plus more for dusting)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, cold and cut in cubes
* egg wash or milk to brush on scones

Glaze Ingredients:
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
* 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

* Preheat oven to 350.

* Mix sour cream, eggs, egg yolks and flax meal in a bowl to allow flax to soak up some of the liquid.  Set aside.

* Mix flours, salt, pepper, chives, and garlic in mixing bowl with whisk or in food processor (my chosen method) until well blended.

* Add in the butter- mix until it looks like little pebbles.  (Again I did all of the in the food processor but it could easily be done by hand too.) 

* Add in egg mixture.  It will be quite sticky.

* Dump out on well-floured counter and divide in half.  Form two round disks and cut into 6-8 wedges.  Place scones on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.   Brush top of scones with egg wash or milk (I used milk).  Bake at 350 for 18-20 mins.

* When scones nearly finished baking, microwave butter and maple syrup until melted.  Mix in confectioners sugar and pepper.  You might need to pop the mixture back in the microwave for a few seconds to make sure its runny.  Top scones with mixture.

* Enjoy warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Good Thing : Ball Jar Caps

Banana blueberry jam and of course...Ball Jar caps!

I have a strange love of canning.  When I was a little girl, we would come up here to visit my grandmother and pick buckets of raspberries for jam.  This was back in the 80's when it was still thought to be OK to seal them with paraffin wax.  Which fascinated me, by the way.  But as an adult, how gross.  It's like a jam and a candle in the same jar.  Strange.

Then when I lived in DC, Little taught me to make red pepper jelly.  Only it never jelled (or is it gelled?).  So we made a huge amount of red pepper sauce.  Which I used to top chicken for a while but eventually it got thrown away.  Because really, how many jars of red pepper sauce can one single girl use?

I didn't can again until a few years ago when I became a little obsessed with making things.  The entire process fascinates me.  I know, so strange.  Especially when you know that I don't eat much that I make.  Which is why I was excited that the watermelon rind pickles turned out so well because I love them.  However my dad does love my jams.  And uses them almost daily.  But his complaint is that the tops of the Ball jars are a pain to use.  I totally agree- they are a royal pain. 

This year though, I spied a new (to me) product by Ball.  Screw on plastic jar lids.  These are for use after a jar is open- so after you have processed with the normal lids in a water bath.  To make it easier to get into- just like a regular store-bought jar. 

I know it's a small find.  But I just love when something little and inexpensive makes life easier.  I think they were @$3 a box (eight in a box) at Walmart. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Great Breakfast : Green Smoothie

I think by now everyone has heard of green smoothies.  You know, a smoothie with green veggies added to it.  I've tried lots of variations on this recipe and must tell you that broccoli is not good in a smoothie.  It tastes too much like broccoli.  Which is fine, I mean, I like broccoli and eat it often.  But not in a smoothie.

My favorite green addition is frozen spinach.  I like it better than fresh because I think it breaks up finer.  You can't taste it.  And it's packed with nutrients.

This is what I made the other day.  The vary from smoothie to smoothie based on what I have in the kitchen at the time.


* 1 cup yogurt (I used blueberry but any flavor or plain will do just fine.)
* A few splashes of milk (I used almond.)
* 1 tablespoon blueberry-banana jam because the jar was about empty (this is optional)
* 1 over-ripe banana
* 1/4 bag frozen spinach

Directions:* Blend everything together.  Serve over ice.

I don't always add jam.  But there was just a little bit left in the jar and I was in a clean out the fridge mood.  It adds to the sweetness but is certainly not necessary.  Especially if your banana is brown- those are sugary-sweet all on their own.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Watermelon Jelly

I must say, I used up nearly every ounce of that giant watermelon!  I wasted very very little.  Which is sort of amazing when you think about how much normally gets tossed when you eat a melon. 

Pickled Watermelon Rind

I made a second batch of pickled watermelon rind and finally got around to making a batch of watermelon jelly.  I actually have more watermelon juice saved in the freezer in case I want to make more jelly or give it to friends who are itching to make some watermelon margaritas. 

Should you find yourself with a gargantuan watermelon too, here is a very simple recipe for watermelon jelly.  And compared to the rind recipe, it's super duper speedy too.

But first some notes...
* I used two kinds of pectin.  The recipe I based mine from said to use the box pectin, a first for me.  But it didn't quite gel enough.  So I used what I had on hand, a pouch of liquid pectin.  In the end, I used both a box of powder dry and pouch .  Most who have made jellies before know that you sort of have to play the pectin thing by ear.  Sometimes things gel exactly as planned and then...well sometimes you end up with sauce. 

* I heard a tip years ago that I keep forgetting to pass along to any new canners out there.  When making jelly, towards the end to test how well it comes to a gel, keep a metal teaspoon in a glass of ice water.  Dry off the spoon and dip in the boiling jelly.  In less than a minute it should come to room temp and you will be able to see how thick you've made it.  If not thick enough, that's when I add the second thing of pectin and cross my fingers that it works. 

* Perhaps this is stating the obvious but I am going to say it anyway.  When doing any sort of canning, especially making jelly or preserves, timing is critical.  Make sure you have all of your stuff in order and ready to go.  I like to make sure my jars or all washed and starting to sterilize in the water bath before I start cooking anything on the stove.  Jars can always hang out in the boiling water longer if needed.  I also make sure I have all of my ingredients out and ready to go.  There is often just one minute between not ready and ready when making a jelly.  Don't go walking away to fold laundry or start another project until you are finished and the jars are in the water bath.

* Lids, the flat metal disk that touches the glass jar, can only be used ONCE.  Everything else, the jars and the rings, can be used for a lifetime.  But lids are a use one time only part of the process. 

OK enough ramble...  You get big bonus points if you are still reading.  Here's the very easy and tasty recipe.  I don't like watermelon but I actually think the jelly tastes really lovely.  I mean, honestly, it's like candy.

Watermelon Jelly

* 4 cups cubed watermelon
* 3 1/2 cups sugar
* 3 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 box dry no sugar needed pectin
* possible second thing of pectin*

* Place watermelon in a blender.  Blend until all liquid. 

*At this point you can either use a jelly strainer (too fussy for a girl like me but if you have one, go for it), cheese cloth (still too fussy), a colander just to make sure you get the seeds out (my chosen method) or nothing at all because you know all the seeds are for sure out.  I strained the liquid through a colander just to make sure any big chunks or seeds were taken out.  You can see from the photo that my jelly came out clear just doing this method.  This should result in two cups of juice.  That's how much you need...TWO cups.

* In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar and the box of dry pectin together.

* In a large pot, boil 2 cups watermelon juice, lemon juice and pectin/sugar mixture over medium heat.
  It should take about 5-10 minutes to come to a boil.  Make sure you stir often to prevent burning.

* Once at a full boil, add the rest of the sugar.  Bring back to a boil.  Bring to a hard boil for one full minute.

* After it hard boils for a minute, test to see if you are happy with the jelly/pectin situation.  If you are not, add more pectin now- start with part of a package if you are worried.  Bring back to a hard boil and test again.

* Funnel into sterilized jars.  Add lids.  Add rings.  Place in water bath.  Once at a boil, boil for 10 minutes (or more depending on your sea level situation).

Watermelon Jelly

And there you have it.  Easy peasy.  I think the jelly will be excellent over a brick of cream cheese, on toast or even on a meat such as pork or as a ham glaze. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meatloafins And A Damn Good Tomato Tart

Did y'all grow up eating meatloaf?  I didn't.  And am pretty sure I am the only person in America who didn't.  I tasted it several times and never liked it.  So it wasn't until I was an adult- a few years ago actually- that I made a meatloaf.  For my dad's birthday I believe because he looooves the stuff.

But because I didn't grow up eating meatloaf, I wasn't really sure how to make it.  I assumed it was as the name suggested.  A bunch of meat in a loaf shape.  So my meatloaf and my hamburgers are exactly the same but in different shapes.  Meat.  In this case, ground turkey.  And seasonings.  Usually chopped onions or scallions and whatever else I grab in the pantry.  I'll tell you my secret to every other thing I make...a little freshly grated nutmeg.  But shhhh!

It wasn't until fairly recently when I learned that most meatloaf recipes include some form of starch- breadcrumbs, cereal, or even potato chips.  Ew.  I'm sorry if you make it that way and I now know that is the traditional way to make it.  But it just sounds so gross to me.

But the thing is that cooking a loaf of lean, ground turkey takes a very long time.  I am rarely willing to wait that long.  And have solved the problem, thanks to seeing Rachel Ray do this first.  Meatloaf in muffin tins.  Or as I call them, meatloafins.  (Oh I just think I am so clever.  Don't just encourages me.)  I just use an ice cream scoop to divvy up the meat.  I brush on a dot of ketchup.  And bake.  But keep an eye on them.  They cook in a fraction of the time of a normal loaf.  They freeze great too if you want to make a big batch and eat them later.

In addition to my meatloafins, I made the most spectacular gluten free tomato tart.  Because all of my t'maters are suddenly ripe.  Like on the same day.  And I have to say, this was my best gluten free pie/tart crust to date.  I changed things up but it really worked and tasted amazing!  Which was a relief because as usual, I made the thing up as I went along.  The recipe should work fine for regular all purpose flour but I was adjust the liquid down- start with just a few tablespoons at first. 

Tomato Tart

Ingredients (Crust):
* 2 1/2 cups Gluten Free flour blend
* 2 sticks butter, cut in cubes and ice cold
* pinch of salt (more if your butter is unsalted)
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/4-1/2 cup ICE water

Ingredients (Tart):
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1/3 cup shredded cheese
* 1 ball fresh mozzarella
* basil leaves
* 3 large tomatoes, sliced thick
* 3 eggs
* splash of milk
* salt and pepper to taste (note that the cheese has a lot of salt)

Directions (Crust):
* In a food processor, pulse the GF flour blend, salt, and sugar a few times to incorporate.
* Add half the butter.  Pulse several times.

* Add remaining butter.  Pulse and SLOWLY add water.  Add water just until a dough ball forms.  Remember that you can always add more water but it's impossible to remove it.

* Dump out onto plastic wrap and form two flat disks.  Wrap individually and let rest in fridge. 

* You will only need one for this recipe.  Wrap well and label the other.  Pop in freezer for later use.

* After allowed to chill for at least 30 minutes, roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap.  This really helped to keep the dough from breaking apart as so many GF doughs have done to me over the past year.

* Remove top layer of plastic wrap.  Lift second layer and flip into tart or pie pan. 

Directions (Tart):
* Slice onion and place in microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for @3 minutes.  This really helps to speed up the cooking time.  Drain liquid off.  Saute on medium in shallow pan until caramelized.

* Place onions on bottom of tart crust.  Spread out evenly.

* Add shredded cheese on top of onions.

* Add basil on top of shredded cheese.

* Add sliced tomatoes.  Try to remove the seeds/watery part to so that the tart isn't too runny.  That's the one change I will make the next time around.

* Top with slices of fresh mozzarella.

* In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Pour in tart- trying not to get egg mixture on top of mozzarella cheese.

* Bake at 375 until done- about 40 minutes.

I often refer to dishes as not for company.  As in, they are not pretty, even if they taste amazing.  I am not sure I would serve meatloaf, regardless of shape, to anyone outside my innermost circle of family and friends.  But the tart, most definitely, is a very company worthy dish.  It's not even remotely low fat.  But it's so different and tasty.  Try it.  Everything about it was simple to make, but I think the end result is quite pretty and flavorful!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Raspberry Nectarine Tart With Fresh Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

I thought this was delicious.  But I like sweets with fruit.  I once had a friend tell me that he didn't consider it desert if it didn't include chocolate.  So I guess you have to decide if you care about chocolate that much.  As you might have noticed on this blog, I don't really like chocolate outside of a chip or a brownie. 

I made up this recipe as I went along but it's this super easy tart crust.  Fruit.  Here I used nectarines and raspberries.  And then you need some sort of sweet liquid with cornstarch.  And that's it, y'all!  Easy as pie.  Or tart in this case.

It must have been yummy because not a single slice was left.  A sign of a successful recipe.

For fun, I added the seeds of one vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract to my whipped cream.  A first for me and I thought it was extra fabulous.  Though I don't think a single person noticed the vanilla bean specs, I knew they were there!  I'm not sure you can really see them on these terrible quality blackberry photos but trust me, the seeds are there. 

Can you see the teeny tiny vanilla beans?  They're there...I promise!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Purple Pizza Eater

I do not have the most spectacular luck growing edibles in my garden.  First, it's teeny tiny.  Second, it doesn't get enough direct sun for veggies.  And third, the damn squirrels!

My city is full of parks, community veggie gardens and restaurants.  Locations where a squirrel could get a good meal and sleep like a furry king.  But instead, they live in my yard and feast on my few veggies. 

For the record, squirrels LOVE Japanese white eggplant.  Well, it appears they love all eggplant, but the long, thin white ones are their favorite.  This summer I've only eaten two.  The squirrel(s)?  Close to a dozen.  Argh!

They also love my big red ripe tomatoes.  Oooooh you do not mess with my t'maters!  I wait 11 months of the year to eat real tomatoes.  You know, that actually taste and smell like a tomato.  So I've taken to picking them early and letting them ripen on a sunny window.  Which is fine.  But annoying.  I shouldn't have to be in a veggie war with a furry rat.

All this to say that I was surprised when I went to do a pick before Irene rolled through town, to find this giant beast of a purple eggplant growing.  Actually, I was a little worried that it was too large to be flavorful.  But I took a chance and turned it into a mock pizza crust.

Teaspoon in photo to show you scale.  That eggplant was giant!


Well, success if you don't rely on this as your pizza fix.  Because even though I keep calling it pizza, it's really not even close in flavor.  I just think it sort of looks pizza-ish.  Regardless, it was mighty tasty and easy to prepare.

Purple Pizza

* 1 large eggplant or squash, sliced thick
* 1-2 large tomatoes, sliced thick
* tomato sauce (I used salsa bc that's what was in the fridge)
* cheese
* EVOO spray

Directions:* Heat oven to 350 (or somewhere near there if you are cooking something else already)
* Spritz grill pan with EVOO spray and heat it up.  Grill slices of eggplant (or squash) on both sides just to add a little flavor.  Don't cook all the way through.
* After both sides are grilled, move slices to a cookie sheet that has been spritzed to prevent sticking. 
* Add 1-2 tablespoons of your tomato sauce (I used salsa but any leftover pasta or pizza sauce would work great too) to top of eggplant.
* Add @1 tablespoon shredded cheese.  Add tomato slices (I used 1 1/2 slices per eggplant slice to cover because the eggplant was humongo).  Top with another tablespoon of cheese.
* Bake until cheese is melty and veggies are heated through.  @10 mins should be fine.

You could certainly add other toppings such as meats, grilled onions or extra seasonings.  But I found the salsa and cheese to add plenty of flavor and salt that I really didn't need to add more. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Garden Salsa

This is perfect for gameday today.  Cheers to fall ball!  And of course, goooo DAWGS!

This was the first year I've had enough extra tomatoes to both give them away and make salsa. Exciting!  I decided to just use what I already had in my garden so this is bit more like a bruschetta topping than a salsa I guess.  There's no heat in it.  But it's sooo yummy that I really didn't care.  I may or may not have gotten out of bed and stood in the kitchen at midnight eating this with a spoon.

I happen to prefer my salsas to be chunky monkey.  But if you like yours to be more like they serve in restaurants, simply run half or all of it through a blender or food processor.  And like many things, this is best served the next day after the flavors have had time to meld together.

Also, if cooking/doing things in a kitchen intimidates you, a salsa is a good place to start.  I get a lot of comments and emails about how you can't cook.  Well in this case, you don't have to cook anything.  You can mix and match ingredients.  And there is little effort involved.  If you like a little heat, add one jalapeno, seeds removed.  If you like a lot, don't remove the seeds.  If you like a hint, use just half.  If you like the hot and sweet combo (my personal fav), add both the jalapeno and either an orange or a peach or a mango.  If your cilantro grew well this year, add it.  If yours did not (like me!), add whatever did grow well.  Again, it's so forgiving that you really can use whatever you have on hand.

My only other note is to not omit the salt.  That is a pet peeve of mine, when people omit salt from healthy homemade recipes because they are trying to cut back.  Cut back on processed foods and potato chips.  Not on a dash of salt in a garden salsa. 

My Basic Garden Salsa

* 6 large tomatoes
* 1 medium onion or a handful of scallions (because that's what I had on hand)
* a few basil leaves
* salt and pepper to taste (be generous)

* Core and chop the tomatoes as large or small as you like them.  Add to bowl. 
* Cut white and green parts of scallions or onion.  I use kitchen scissors to chop scallions.  Add to bowl.
* Cut up any herbs you want to add.  In my case I added some basil.  Add to bowl.
* Add fresh pepper and kosher salt to taste.  You will need more than you might think.
* You can serve immediately but it is going to be better they next day after sitting in the fridge overnight.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

I've been wanting to try making something like this for a while but as I've never actually tasted a stuffed pepper, I wasn't sure where to start.  Yup, it's true.  I did not grow up eating much Italian food outside of the occasional bowl of spaghetti or pastry.  Once in a while my mom would make lasagna but then when I stopped eating beef in high school, I stopped eating lasagna too.  (It was the early 90's and before ground everything else was easy to find.)

I only have one bestie who vigorously claims an Italian heritage (hey Belle!) and we didn't meet until college.  So what I am trying to say is that while my food palate was fairly diverse as a child, I didn't really know much about Italian food. 

So if you've been here long enough, you know that I don't much care for chocolate, high heels or pasta.  Girl card...gone.  I know.

But then I saw two of my favorite bloggers making something similar this week and knew I had to pull up my big girl britches and just make something up.

So I did.  And it was ridiculously easy.  And sooo yummy.  Probably not even remotely authentic.  But seeing as how it is the only brush with a stuffed pepper in my life...I'm not complaining.  Now my mind is spinning with what else I can stuff into a pepper in the future. 

Probably Not Authentic But Definitely Yummy Stuffed Peppers

* green peppers (I made five for this recipe and had some leftover filling.)
* rice (I used this brown rice)
* cooked meat (I used 4 chipotle chicken sausage cut up)
* veggies (I added peas but spinach would be yum too)
* 1/2 - 1 cup cheese
* tomato sauce or paste (I used @ 1/3 jar sauce)
* salt and pepper to taste

Directions:* Mix everything together.  Reserving a bit of the cheese to top each pepper.
* Slice off the tippy top of the peppers.  Take a paring knife and run it down the four sides to disconnect the ribs.  Remove the seeds.
* Stuff peppers with mixture.  Top with cheese.
* Bake at 350 until tender (@30 mins)

* This is a great way to use up leftovers.  Leftover rice from Chinese take-out, leftover shredded chicken or pork, etc.
* Want to make it vegetarian?  Don't add meat.  Ha- it's that simple.  Want more protein?  Add in a can of drained chick peas instead of meat.
* I think I might try adding some Italian dressing instead of red sauce one time too.
* I used a muffin tin to bake the peppers so they wouldn't fall down.  Which worked out perfectly!

Did y'all grow up eating stuffed peppers and other classic Italian dishes?  Is there something basic like this (Italian or otherwise) that you didn't try until you were in your 20's or 30's or later?