Tag Archives: Bell pepper

Meal Planning!

22 Jul

I really like to cook and I love to bake but sometimes dinner is hard. You know, when you’re driving home from work thinking “What am I going to make for dinner?” and the easiest thing is just stop off and pick something up. I never seem to have the groceries I want on hand or the energy to even make a decision about what I want. Last January one of my New Year’s goals was to start planning my meals and it made a huge difference. For about two weeks. I knew what I was going to have for dinner that week, went grocery shopping ahead of time, everything was perfect. Except for the meal planning part. When I sat down on Saturday morning I could never think of what meals I wanted and ended up rotating through the same seven or so.

Well, I’m trying something new this year. Totally inspired by Decor and the Dog’s Meal Planning Tips I made a list of 30 meals – things I’ve served for beer dinners, tried and true family favorites, a few randoms like breakfast for dinner and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Then, I made magnets that listed each of my 30 options. (I also included a “Dinner Out” and “Try a New Recipe” magnets to mix things up.)


Next, I wrote each recipe out on an individual card, listing the perishable vs. non-perishable ingredients separately. Each recipe got it’s own number, too, on both the magnet and card. That way, I can easily look up the ingredients for each meal and make a grocery list.


The idea is that the 30 magnets will go into my cute retro flower jar and on Saturday morning I can pull out 4-6 meals (depending on what the upcoming week looks like) and voila! meal planning done!


I made a frame to contain my magnets on the fridge. I like Decor and the Dog’s suggestion of not assigning a particular meal to a particular night so there’s flexibility. Next up, a trip to Costco to stock up on some of the non-perishables!


Meals I included:

  1. Vegetarian Chili
  2. Tortilla Soup
  3. Black Bean Sliders
  4. Lentil Soup
  5. Potato Soup
  6. Mini Tamale Pie
  7. Shrimp Creole
  8. Taco Casserole
  9. Spinach Manicotti
  10. Veggie Pasta Bake
  11. Fried Rice
  12. Enchiladas
  13. Lasagna
  14. Baked Macaroni & Cheese
  15. Stuffed Potatoes
  16. Stuffed Bell Peppers
  17. Quiche
  18. Potato Galette
  19. Baked Veggies & Rice
  20. Southwestern Egg Rolls
  21. Quinoa Patties
  22. Pizza
  23. Spaghetti or Ravioli
  24. New!
  25. Dinner out!
  26. Grilled cheese & tomato soup
  27. Breakfast for dinner
  28. Black Bean Empanadas
  29. Spaghetti Squash Casserole
  30. Shrimp Fettuccine & Asparagus

Belgian Beers – February Beer Dinner

14 Mar

Even though February was just a month ago it feels like it was so much longer – the last several weeks have been non-stop busy. Generally once a week I have to stop and ask, “What day of the week is it?” Usually it’s only Tuesday. Planning for a beer dinner is always a good mental break and I was excited for February and the Belgian beer theme. I’m actually not all that much of a fan of Belgian beers but I’m branching out a bit. Usually Belgians are too “Belgian-y” for me…maybe a little stanky…I never claimed to be good at beer descriptions!


My favorite beer of the night was probably the Spring Blonde, a Belgian style pale ale. It was very light and crisp. I also really liked the Affligem Tripel – fizzy and with just a little bit of stank. The Chimay Grande Reserve was good but very belgian-y and the La Fin Du Monde was similar. My least favorite was the Pranqster; it was very carbonated and sweeter than the others.


Now the beer tasting was good but the food was awesome, even if it did cause a few problems. I decided to start the night with some zucchini cakes made with my absolute favorite cheese:  Nicasio Valley Foggy Morning cheese. I visit the nicest woman at the Davis Farmer’s Market just about every other week to get myself a new round. All of Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s cheeses are amazing but the Foggy Morning is my favorite and I love the Basil and Garlic for special occasions.

Nicasio Valley Foggy Morning

The zucchini cakes just didn’t work out…but I improvised zucchini cake-parmesan cheese-tomato tarts. A lot of them.


But pretty delicious. Especially paired with 21st Amendment Sneak Attack – a saison style beer.


For the main course we had Pizza Style Stuffed Peppers, paired with Mission Amber Ale.


And finally for dessert we had Beer Brownies, paired with Boulder Beer Company Shake Chocolate Porter. Another great and delicious beer dinner!


Stuffed Peppers – Pizza Style

2 Mar

I teach junior high. When I tell people that, I’m always entertained by their response. Most of the time they recoil in horror (and if I’m totally honest, some days I do, too). But my kids are amazing and in general we don’t give kids enough credit.

The longer I teach the more I think childhood doesn’t change that much. Granted, my perspective isn’t that long-lived, but I still see my kids struggle with the same crises I did at 13, 14, 15. Negotiating relationships, playing with different personalities, trying to balance school and sports, parents’ expectations. I love teaching because I literally get to watch the struggle play out and the kids handle it with such incredible grace. Awkward, stumbling , pimply grace, but grace.

Cooking is a little like that – at least it has been for me. I try new recipes, stumble a bit, try again. In life, too, honestly. There’s definitely a little adolescence in all of us. So, a grown up take on pizza for that teen in all of us – Pizza Style Stuffed Peppers!

Start by cutting and seeding the peppers. This is the first stuffed peppers recipe I’ve seen where you lay the stuffing on top of the peppers instead of inside. I think it makes it a bit easier to eat. Parboil the peppers for a few minutes.


Cook the quinoa, have a beer, cut some more peppers (especially if you’re serving 12!).

Quinoa and Peppers

Mix the quinoa together with mozzarella, pasta sauce, mushrooms, basil, and spinach or zucchini.

Stuffing Mix

Carefully spoon the stuffing mixture onto the pepper halves and top with parmesan cheese. Bake for about 45 minutes and then enjoy!


I decided to pair the stuffed peppers with an Amber. The Mission Brewery Amber was on sale and went pretty well!

Mission Amber Ale

Pizza Quinoa Stuffed Peppers – Original recipe at rachelcooks.com (Her version included pepperoni but I went veggie so left it out.)

Everything You’ll Need

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 8 ounces pearl mozzarella, drained
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (I’ve also substituted zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 5 peppers, sliced in half and seeded


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Place the pepper halves into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes; allow to cool so they can be handled.
  3. In a large bowl mix together all of the other ingredients except for the parmesan cheese.
  4. Fill the pepper halves with the quinoa mixture and place in a large baking dish. Sprinkle peppers with parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake 40-45 minutes until the cheese is melty and peppers are heated through.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

25 Feb

I don’t think I’ve ever actually had tortilla soup. As a child I was a very “willful” eater (in other wards, if it wasn’t peanut butter, grapes, or bologna on white bread I wouldn’t eat it). Even when I got older and started to outgrow those tendencies I didn’t like things too spicy. And now of course (if you haven’t caught on yet), I don’t eat meat and you never see tortilla soup in restaurants without chicken. So I managed to get to my late (…sigh…) twenties having never tried tortilla soup.

Starting out I was skeptical. Little things went wrong one after another so I was gearing up for disappointment. First, my grapeseed oil to saute in was rancid (they should really put ON THE BOTTLE that you need to refrigerate it). Then I was out of garlic. And my avocado was bad. But the soup turned out pretty good! A little more stew-like than I think tortilla soup  usually is, but satisfying.

First, you’ve got a lot of spices to throw together: cumin, paprika, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, coriander (which I didn’t have), salt, & pepper.


You start cooking by sautéing the onion and bell peppers until soft. The recipe calls for a green pepper but that’s a willful tendency I’ve held on to – I hate green bell pepper.


But there was a stow-away green pepper in my yellow one! How does that thing get there?


Anyway, next you mix up your spices with the onion and peppers.


Then you start adding cans of things.

Green chili peppers and diced tomatoes.




Vegetable broth.


I recently started using “Better Than Bouillon” anytime I need veggie broth. It’s quick, I can make only what I need for a given recipe, and its more flavorful than those containers of vegetable broth. Finally you add black beans and some lime juice (which I also didn’t have….hmm…maybe this is why the soup wasn’t quite what I expected).


I made the soup Sunday night and paired it with Flying Dog Brewery’s Old Scratch Amber Lager. It was good but a day later nothing stands out to me about the beer. It was an amber. And the label kind of creeped me out.


IMG_7829For dinner Monday I had the soup again (the soup that I was going to have for lunch but left in the fridge) and this time paired it with Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale from Deschutes. Now this beer was good – super piney without a lot of bitterness. The first sip made me pause and consider. I wouldn’t, though, pair it again with the Tortilla soup. The big citrusy-pineness just didn’t go with the spices for me.


I also took out a few frozen Black Bean Empanadas which I had made two weeks ago while my mom was visiting and they reheated awesomely! I had followed my earlier recipe but this time made them bigger and I was super pleased.


Do you have a favorite beer you pair with Mexican-inspired foods? A favorite (vegetarian) tortilla soup recipe I should try next?

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

The original recipe was found at The Cooking Photographer.

Everything you’ll need:

  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Oil to saute
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4-0unce can diced mild green chilies, drained
  • 2, 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1, 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 64-ounces vegetable broth
  • 2, 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime


  1. In a small bowl, mix together your spices: cumin (2 T), paprika (2 t), chili powder (2 t), garlic powder (1/2 t), onion powder (1/2 t), oregano (1/2 t), coriander (1 t), salt (1-1/2 t), and pepper (1/2 t). Put aside.
  2. In a large pot heat the oil over medium-high, then add the onions and bell peppers and saute until soft.
  3. Add the spices to the onion and peppers and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the green chile peppers, corn, and vegetable broth; cook until warmed through.
  5. Add the black beans and cook 2 more minutes before serving. Squeeze in the lime juice and serve with desired garnishes.

Quiche Co-Op Cook’s Challenge

19 Feb

My local Co-Op posted their first “Cook’s Challenge” on Valentine’s Day and I decided to give it a whirl. The challenge was for quiche – imaginary bonus points for making the crust yourself! I actually consider myself a fairly decent quiche maker already. Personally I love that you can throw basically anything in there with some cheese and eggs and it tastes delish. Usually I just toss ingredients together when I bake a quiche so this time I actually (mostly) followed the Co-Op’s “How To” guide and got some pretty good results.

I decided to make the crust the night before because 1) I already had the butter out for another cooking project and 2) I knew I’d never make the crust on a weeknight. First I cut the butter into small chunks. Oh sweet, sweet butter.


Then I blended it with the flour and salt with my pastry cutter. I like my pastry cutter – I think it beats my mom’s technique of two butter knives, but I definitely dream of a food processor someday.


After the butter was mixed in with the flour I added a few tablespoons of water until a dough formed. And let’s be honest – the dough doesn’t magically form the way recipes say. I got my hands in there and smushed that buttery-flour together. (See my new spatula? Purple! It’s the small things in life…)


I planned on using the dough the next day so I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.


I’m sorry Co-Op, your dough recipe was good but I prefer this one. Maybe it was because I prepared it ahead of time, but it was hard to roll out and didn’t really stick together.

I did manage to get the dough rolled out though.


And fit cutely into the pie pan.


But….I forgot that it would shrink down when I baked it so it was less of a pie crust and more of a pie bottom. Whatever – it worked!


For fillings I decided to go with zucchini and bell pepper. I had planned on mushrooms but the friend I was sharing dinner with isn’t a fan so I actually stopped at the Co-Op on the way home from work to get the peppers!




Next, the best part. Layer the cheese on the bottom (I went with swiss this time, although often I just use whatever I have in the fridge) and add the veggie mix.


Then, pour the egg and milk mixture on top.


IMG_7792I was going to pair this with New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Trippel, a totally delicious beer with crisp spices, but my friend and I drank the beer while the quiche was cooking instead. Oops.

It was kind of a lot of prep for an after-work, weeknight dinner but with the good company (thanks Katy!), good beer, and good food at the end, it was worth it!


Also, leftover pie crust….cinnamon-sugary dessert! (And yes, the corner is missing. Dessert got done before dinner so we just had to sample it!)


Davis Co-Op’s Quiche Recipe (Original recipe here)

Everything you’ll need:

For the crust-

  • 3/4 cups cold butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 Tablespoons very cold water (stick it in the freezer!)

For the quiche-

  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 1 cup veggies (you choose!)
  • 1 cup grated cheese (you choose!)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste


For the crust-

  1.  Cut the butter into small pieces and combine with the flour & salt.
  2. Use a pastry cutter, two knives, or a food processor to cut the butter into the flour. You’ll still have chunks of butter visible, but the more you cut the smaller they’ll be. (If you don’t have a pastry cutter, two butter knives work fine – literally, making a cutting or slicing motion in the mixture. You’ll feel silly because you’re not actually “cutting” anything but it works.)
  3. Add 4 Tablespoons of cold water and mix until the dough starts to stick together. Add extra water as needed.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and mush together a bit more.
  5. Roll the dough out into a circle that’s about 2-1/2 inches bigger than the top of your pie plate. The less you have to handle and roll out your dough the better. Then, put your pie plate upside down on your dough and cut around it, about 2 inches away from the rim.
  6. Put your pie crust in the pan and bake for about 7 minutes at 350 degrees.

For the quiche-

  1. Saute the onion and veggies until tender.
  2. Sprinkle the shredded cheese onto the prepared and baked pie crust. Add the veggie mixture on top.
  3. Mix together the eggs and milk in a separate bowl, season to taste, then pour over the cheese/veggie mix.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes until golden and just set. Let it cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Vegetarian Cornmeal Chili

10 Feb

IMG_7495This recipe is quick and simple for a night when you just need some good comfort food. I also love it because I always have leftovers and they make a wonderful lunch the next day.

First, chop, chop, chop – the onion, garlic, carrot, and pepper. I don’t like green bell pepper so I always choose yellow or orange but that’s up to your discretion.


Next, saute. I usually throw the carrot in there first to give it a little extra cooking time. Then simply add everything else and cook until tender.


Next, mix the spices in. Like your chili hot? Add some extra chili powder.


Finally, dump everything else into the pot and let it cook! I moved mine to a crock-pot because I made it for my February beer dinner and had doubled the recipe and needed to keep the chili warm for awhile. Right before serving mix in a 1/4 cup of cornmeal to thicken the chili. It also adds a little unexpected texture.


IMG_7533I paired the chili with Downtown Brown by Lost Coast Brewery. Its an English style brown ale so it doesn’t overpower the food flavors like some of the other beers I tried. There’s a nice roasted taste and just a tish of chocolate. I first tried Lost Coast’s Winterbraun but the flavor was too much (good beer, though). Originally I had planned on pairing the chili with Brekle’s Brown by Anchor Brewing Co. but had trouble finding it when it got closer to the dinner. Brekle’s Brown is a favorite of mine. I also served cornbread mini muffins, which were delicious!

Vegetarian Cornmeal Chili

The original recipe is found at Wholesome RD.

Everything you’ll need:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (I usually add more!)
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of cinnamon (careful about putting too much)
  • 2, 15-ounce cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1, 15-ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1, 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • Scallions, for garnish


  1. Add olive oil to a dutch oven or large pot and heat. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes, then add onion, pepper, and garlic and saute for about 10 minutes, until browned.
  2. Add the spices: chili powder (1 T), cumin (1/2 T), cayenne pepper (pinch), and cinnamon (just a pinch) and mix until combine.
  3. Add the fire roasted tomatoes and beans. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Finally, add the cornmeal (1/4 cup) to thicken the chili. Serve with scallions on top if desired.