Plate of Greens–Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I realized today that it’s been a while since I ventured away from my easy dinners list. Sometimes, between seasons in the veggie garden, I fall prey to eating the same foods week after week while waiting for the garden to produce the new bounty. With a recent cold snap here, I cut a bunch of poblanos so I wouldn’t risk losing them to a possible freeze. Luckily, my yard is pretty protected, so there weren’t any freezing temps here, but I now had an abundance of peppers to use before they went bad. I gave quite a few to neighbors and family, which is one of the main reasons I grow food—not only to feed myself, but also those around me.

The poblanos have done very well since fall hit. Large and firm with a deep green, shiny coat, I knew they would hold up to a good stuffing. Stuffed peppers are a pretty easy dinner and can be easily customized to a variety of dietary preferences. Poblanos add a mini-kick and a depth of flavor that other peppers just don’t come close to. Since I had one last chicken thigh to use up, I figured a classic chicken and rice combo would be good to stuff ’em up. I also got excited to see bok choy in the grocery this weekend, so I thought I better use that before it got all wilty. My bok choy seedlings are doing well, but far from harvest time.

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So here we go with my version of a use what ya got stuffed pepper. While the rice was cooking in the cooker with coconut oil, turmeric, black pepper, and cumin, I got to chopping the veggies. Sliced yellow onion went into a saute pan with the chicken, apple cider vinegar (my way to keep meat from drying out), the juice of one limequat, olive oil, cumin and oregano. Since it was a boneless, skinless thigh, I knew it would cook quick enough so that the onion wouldn’t turn to complete mush.

img_20161212_183502.jpgThe poblanos went on the cast iron griddle with olive oil to blister. Yum. It was hard not to just eat them straight off the griddle.

Meanwhile, in a lidded pot, I steamed the rough chopped bok choy with water, butter, and a little garlic powder. Once the chicken started to brown, I threw a whole chopped shallot and two crushed garlic cloves into the pan. When the delicious scent of garlic started filling the air, I added a bit of water to pull the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and a couple scoops of the cooked rice and let all those flavors simmer together.

All of the spices and oils were melding into a hanging-open mouth moment of kitchen zen in my kitchen. It was time to stuff. My original plan was to include the bok choy in the mix for some crunch, but they had browned so beautifully, I decided to leave them on their own as a side. So I left those in the pot, pulled off the heat, while I cut the peppers and removed the seed pod. These poblanos had a massive amount of seeds, so had to remove most of them to have room for the filling. I stuffed the three peppers to overflowing and piled on the fresh grated pecorino romano, popped those babies under the broiler, and poured a glass of red wine. Since everything was pre-cooked and still hot, I just needed to get that cheese melty. Oh, yes. So melty.

I’m calling this dinner the Plate of Greens. And how about my timing with Pantone announcing the color of the year for 2017 as a vibrant shade called “Greenery”? Yep. I’m just that good. Not on purpose, mind you. Purely accidentally that good.

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Plate of Greens:

3 medium poblano peppers

1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh (you can substitute a non-meat option here easily)

1/4 medium yellow onion, sliced

1 large shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves crushed

1 small head of bok choy

Pecorino Romano (or any cheese you like), fresh grated, enough to coat

1 cup Jasmine white rice

1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil (for rice)

Olive oil (use whatever you’re comfortable with for sauteing)

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter (for the bok choy)

Spices I used:  turmeric, black pepper, and cumin in the rice. Oregano and cumin in the chicken mixture. Garlic powder for the bok choy.

 

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Meatless Monday & Friends with Benefits

Tonight, I made a simple meatless meal–an open-faced egg sandwich. Yes, it was absolutely delicious, but the best part about it was that almost all of it was created with handmade products from friends. I’ve scored big time with homegrown/made gifts in the last couple of weeks. The season of giving apparently started early and I took full advantage of those benefits tonight.

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The bread is what my friends and I like call “tail bread” because one time an otherwise rustic-round loaf my friend made had a small, protruding piece that looked like a tail. I don’t know how she does it, but this bread is always spot-on with the flavor, crust, and crumb. I like to toast it on my cast iron griddle with a butter and olive oil combo.

Once the slices were toasted, I topped them with thin layer of Duke’s Mayo and then the most scrumptious zucchini relish ever. This relish and the dill pickle spear were made by another friend who grew the zucchini and cucumbers. Whenever I get my hands on a jar of this relish, I eat it every single day until it is gone. It pairs perfectly with the bread and over easy eggs, which I put on top with a handful of sliced, cherry tomatoes from my fall garden, a sprinkling of pecorino cheese, and then another friend-crafted delight–pickled jalapeños. The heat from the peppers she grew herself is balanced by a tiny hint of sweet from a dash of sugar in the pickling recipe. Absolutely delectable.

Again, this was a very simple meatless meal, but the fact that my friends shared their hard work and talent with me made it so much tastier than any ol’ regular egg sandwich. I have some seriously talented friends and I’m lucky to have them in my life. Not only do I enjoy the fruits of their labors–from breads and honey to vanilla extract and candles–but I also like to learn from them and share what I am able. My lovely friends with benefits.

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Although this was a meatless meal, it was enjoyed with the scent of bacon in the air. Another crafty friend sent me an all natural, soy-based Bacon-scented candle! It smells heavenly.

Today may be Meatless Monday, but I’m already thinking about my next baking adventure. I’m thinking it’s going to be a meat pie. MEAT PIE, Y’ALL.

Chicken & Dumplings Soup or Something

Is it really November? Here in Florida, we had about a week of fall-feeling weather before it went back to feeling like we’re living inside of a cat’s mouth. Happily, my group of girlfriends and I are heading to the north Georgia mountains for a weekend of all the foods, booze, laughter, and cool weather. So I’m making a hearty, flavorful soup to keep us warm. It’s called chicken & dumplings, but really has more of a soup consistency throughout. I first learned the recipe from a coworker/friend and have tweaked it over the years to fit my own tastes.

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Like other soups, this one starts with the holy trinity of carrots, celery, and onion. I add freshwpid-20151112_154310.jpg chopped garlic, as well. I start with some olive oil in the pot and then drop in the rough-chopped carrots. After a couple minutes, I add the onions and celery and cook over medium-high heat until the onions become a bit translucent. Then it’s garlic time.

wpid-20151112_154547.jpgOnce you smell the garlic, turn the heat down to medium and add in the spices, whole chicken, and stock. I prefer to use homemade veggie or chicken stock, but if you’re using store-bought, make sure it is low sodium and that it is stock, NOT broth. Low sodium allows you to add salt to your own taste.

Now set the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes to make sure the chicken cooks through. Once done, remove the chicken from the pot and cool it to the touch. I usually put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat off on the soup during the chicken cooling period, but leave it on the burner, covered.

wpid-20151112_173041-1.jpgWhile the chicken is cooling, it’s dumpling prep time! I just use home-style canned biscuits for the dumplings. I’ve tried making my own and, frankly, they weren’t noticeably better, so I go with convenience. Cut the biscuits into sixths and toss in flour. I season the flour with some garlic powder.

The chicken should be cool enough to handle at this time. Turn the heat back on to medium and tear the meat off the chicken, adding it to the pot. I tend to keep a little bit of the skin, but not much. Just enough to add some extra flavor.

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Once all the chicken has been added, bring the soup to a gentle simmer and then add the dumplings. I let them set for a couple of minutes before stirring. My stirring method is to put the spoon in the pot at the edge all the way to the bottom and then slowly pull it towards the center. I’ve found that the dumplings don’t break apart doing it this way.

At this time, you can add the frozen peas if you are going to eat the soup the same night. I generally make it the day before and let it sit overnight in the fridge, allowing all the flavors to meld. When I reheat it for dinner the next night, I add the frozen peas at that time.

Whether you enjoy it the same night or wait, you will not be disappointed. This is a simple and scrumptious soup for the cool weather months. Dumpling-mania!

Ingredients

3 quarts veggie or chicken stock

5 pound whole chicken

6 carrots

6 celery stalks

1 large yellow onion

2 large cloves garlic

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

salt & pepper to taste

1 can 8-count biscuits

flour to coat

1 small bag frozen peas

Not. Even. Once. …instant eggplant addiction happens.

Pretty sure I just accidentally cooked meth…with eggplant and bacon and goat cheese. And some other stuffs too. We’ve all seen the commercial and I think it just happened in my kitchen. Here’s what happened–

I was starving. This is how these things always start. Scavenged through my fridge and garden and pulled together a grouping that looked nice together. Yes, I do put together foods like other people put together outfits.

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The color combo pleased me, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with what I had in front of me. I thought about ditching the bread because I didn’t want a sandwich for dinner, but I hadn’t had a good baguette in so long, I decided to work it in somehow. Going through a few options in my head, I started with chopping up the eggplant and bacon, tossing them in olive oil, and roasting them. While those were cooking, I bit off the butt of the bread and decided I’d do an open-faced type sandwich after all. I sliced up the red pepper along with white onion and caramelized them on my cast iron griddle with some of the now rendered bacon grease from the roasting sheet poured on top.

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If you think you don’t like eggplant, roast it on a pan with bacon. You’ll change your mind. The eggplant soaks up all that smokey, salty flavor and gets crispy on the outside while staying soft on the inside. The bacon turns into morsels of perfection.

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While all of that worked itself into what would become the meat of the meal, I mixed together the goat cheese with some olive oil and fresh English thyme, making a spread for the bread slices. When the red pepper and onions were almost done, I threw on some chunky pieces of one big garlic clove until it was ever so slightly browned. Moving that to a bowl, I used the leftover bacon grease and flavors on the griddle to toast the baguette slices.

Cooking is much easier for me than baking. I can time everything and this meal came together all at once, just like it needed to. The bread was heavily slathered with the goat cheese spread, covered with the eggplant and bacon, topped with the onions and peppers, and garnished with sliced fresh basil and scallions. The deep purple skin of the eggplant with the bold red of the pepper, the bright green of the herbs, and the cream of the cheese all came together into a thing of beauty. It was stunning. It was like the “whatever is a high-end brand of clothing” of the dinner plate world.

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I mean, really? Yes.

And then I took a bite and realized it was, in fact, crack. Worse. I had cooked meth. I wanted this meal every damn day. The flavors, the textures, the colors…I couldn’t handle it. I’m telling you, if you think you don’t like eggplant, you’re wrong. This meal right here will become an instant eggplant addiction for you. I’m warning you though, like the commercials, if you don’t want to spiral into a world of fiending for your next eggplant fix…NOT. EVEN. ONCE. Close out of this page right now and never look back. Or stay and try it and cry on your shower floor this winter because eggplant isn’t in season anymore. Either way.

Ingredients and such:

one medium eggplant, chopped with skin left on

3 slices of uncured bacon, chopped

half a large red pepper sliced

half a white onion sliced

one large garlic clove cut thick

1-2 ounces goat cheese

olive oil

about a tablespoon each of fresh thyme, basil, scallions

baguette

Toss the eggplant and bacon with about one tablespoon of olive oil and roast on the middle rack at 425 for a total of 25 mins. turning about every 7-10 mins.

Slice the pepper and onions and use some of the poured off bacon grease from the roasting pan to caramelize them. Add the chunky garlic near the end.

Mix the goat cheese with a tablespoon of olive oil and the fresh thyme until it is easily spreadable.

Toast the bread on the griddle with the leftover bacon grease.

Slice the basil and scallions as a garnish.

Stack and serve immediately. This is one you’ll need to time right so nothing gets mushy.