Hot “Stuffed”

Stuffed Cherry Peppers are a popular item around these parts.

These are the small, bright red peppers sometimes known as “pimiento” but usually referred to as “cherry peppers” based on their size and color. (Capsicum annuum for those who are really into it) They have a fairly low rating on the Scoville scale of heat but this doesn’t mean they don’t pack a bite of heat. For me they have an initial “prick” of heat but it subsides pretty quickly. But everyone is different so proceed with your level of caution.

Here in New England you will find these little guys pickled and served up along side platters of lamb kebobs or even more popular… as part of an Antipasto platter stuffed with a bit of salty cheese and prosciutto.

After spying fresh ones for sale at the city farm market, I recently decided that these little guys might serve as a nice vessel for a meat stuffing thereby elevating their status to “hot appetizer.” Just imagine these guys feeding the masses at your next football party or even as part of a fancy “passed hors d’oeuvres” affair.

I used a bit of ground pork (fatty butt to be specific) but a more lean cut of ground pork or beef would be good. (or lamb, yum…)  I added only seasoned salt, ground black pepper and fresh minced basil to the meat before stuffing the peppers and pushing a little hunk of Havarti cheese into the center. (Instead of stuffing the cheese in, you could add it as a topping in the last 10 mins of baking instead using Parmesan etc)

Here was my process….

remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down

Remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down.


perfect little vessels

Perfect little vessels – They can only hold barely a tablespoon.

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese.

baked for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil

Baked on an oiled sheet pan for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil.                                  Maybe top with minced, fresh basil if you are feeling fancy.

Production notes

A pound of ground meat would fill approximately 24 peppers depending on the actual size of the peppers. You would probably use about 1/2 cup of fresh minced basil per pound of ground meat. About 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt per pound of meat and some good healthy pinches of ground black pepper.  The cheese cubes were tiny at about 1/4″ x 1/4″ in size. Any cheese would be good here, but one that melts willingly would work best.

Remember When…

Who remembers the fast food chain Wendy’s® when they had the salad bar in their restaurants? They had nicer seating and real plants too back in the day. There was a time when they straddled the space between “fast-food and fast casual.”

My father loved that place and when I was little (and it was his turn to get dinner) we would go there and get the salad bar and baked potatoes with chili on top. (chili-topped baked potatoes was a menu item then – now they still serve chili and the baked potatoes but you have to order each and combine them yourself.)

As a result every time I make chili I serve it over baked potatoes. It always reminds me of those times and it makes things just a bit more hearty and filling. The potatoes offer a little more nutritional punch then corn chips or rice. The chili and the potatoes can all be done a day ahead and reheated at the time of the event. Plus if you are having folks over for a big game or even if you just want to get the kids interested you can do a topping bar of favorites like shredded cheese, green onions, cilantro, chopped red onion, sour cream…. you get the idea!

The best chili is the simplest chili – 2lbs of browned ground meat (turkey in this case – shhhh don’t tell hubby!) and 1 small can (4oz) of tomato paste, 1 large can ( 12oz) of ground, peeled tomatoes, 1/2 of a green bell pepper and 1/2 of a white onion diced. 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite chili spice blend. 1 whole lime juiced and some salt and pepper. Add a cup of hot water if it’s too thick. 1-2 hours simmering and you are ready to go!

Author’s note:

My dad passed away in March 2011 after a long and happy life, but this week is his birthday and I think he always considered the cool weather and the beautiful New England fall leaves a personal birthday gift to him. He loved everything about New England and I think of him a lot in October.


A Greek “Affair”

This time of year there are all kinds of “fairs” happening – craft sales, church penny sales, country fairs and my favorite… the Greek fair!

As fate would have it we were just too busy to even squeeze this fair in but I had to satisfy my hankering for some lamb somehow. So I carved out a few minutes to get some lamb on the grill.

I coated the meat in some olive oil, lemon juice and Greek seasoning from Penzeys. The blend is perfect not only on lamb but beef too! (And Penzeys – if your reading this feel free to send me a year’s supply for my free advertising! )

Grill until done to your liking – I like mine medium to medium well and served with a Greek pasta salad with feta cheese. Since the grill was on I tossed on  sliced zucchini and yellow squash too. You can use the spice blend to make up a light salad dressing, use your favorite bottle or simply use an olive oil, red wine vinegar mix with salt, pepper and dried oregano.

Served family style "ompah!"

Served family style “ompah!”


Note: use gluten-free pasta if desired!

Unusual “Pear-ings’

My mother has a pear tree in her yard and in the last few years it has really started producing. Each year we get bushels of pears off of it. This year I tried a classic savory tart involving blue cheese and pears.

I compared two kinds of blue cheese I had in my refrigerator. The one on the left was a “St. Clemens” which is traditional version imported from Denmark. The one on the right was a domestic raw-milk version from Wisconsin. I choose the domestic version because it was smoother, sweeter and had less of the that “blue cheese bite.”

I used a refrigerated puff pastry dough from the store and the whole thing took very little time and came out kinda fancy!

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Slit the dough (try not to cut all the way through) to form a border and dock the middle before pre-baking about 10 mins in a 400 degree oven.

Pull it out and lay thinly sliced ripe pear slices in the middle. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to give it that savory seasoning. Dice a couple of tablespoons of salted butter and nestle them among the pear slices. Bake in the oven about 10-12 mins more until the pears just start to brown a bit and the crust is fully puffed and brown. Be careful that the crust doesn’t  burn.

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter




When it comes out of the oven, crumble the room temperature blue cheese over the hot pears and drizzle honey generously over the all and serve.

Pretty to look at...

Pretty to look at…

...yummy to eat.

…yummy to eat.


Brunch On The Porch

If you have been reading along perhaps you already know about the most beautiful dining room in New Hampshire.  If not… well that’s okay too, but you can see it here and here.

This particular weekend we had stopped for bagels on the way up and I spotted some “French toast” bagels and grabbed a couple of those along with a honey wheat and a couple of cinnamon raisin to bring up to my mothers. I was already forming inspiration with those French toast bagels in mind but I hadn’t quite nailed it down yet.

While reviewing my “potluck” cookbook for an upcoming event I stumbled across the perfect use for those leftover bagels. A “French toast casserole!”

But of course I had to improvise partly because that is what I do and partly because I was in my mother’s kitchen with some limitations on ingredients. I also cut back on the sugar – preferring instead to bump up the sweetness with addition of maple syrup served at the table on the side.

The recipe

Start with either a regular loaf of bread (16oz) or as I did – 3 large bagels. Break up your bread of choice into large chunks and toast by baking it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven until dry, light and slightly browned.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with non-stick baking spray and pack the bread in. Next: make the custard.

Whisk together: 6 large eggs, 2 1/2 cups half and half, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Pour this mix over the bread (bagels) pushing down any bread that doesn’t get totally coated with liquid. At this point cover it with plastic wrap tightly and store overnight in the refrigerator.

bread and custard ready

The “golden” colored bagel pieces are the “French toast” ones.

In the morning, take the dish out of the refrigerator to get the chill off while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and make your topping.

The topping consists of: 1 stick of salted butter, softened. 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. 1 cup of chopped nuts (measure pre-chopped) – I used walnuts but pecans would be divine! Mix it all and spread as evenly as you can in clumps on top of bread/custard. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top to give it a bit of a sweet crunch on top.

ready for the oven

The next morning, with the topping (light-colored clumps) spread on top. Ready for the oven!

Bake on middle rack, uncovered for 1 hour. It should be puffy and golden brown and firm to the touch in the middle. Pull it out- let cool for 10 mins and serve with warm maple syrup to taste. And bacon.




So far this summer in New England it seems to be nice on Saturdays and rainy on Sundays. And since my day off is Saturday I am not complaining.

But rainy Sundays call for casseroles and slow-cookers and things that warm you up on a day not fit for man or beast!

This casserole is adapted from a recipe by the red-headed lady who lives on a cattle ranch and cooks on TV. You know the one, she considers herself a “pioneer.”

Behold my version of “chicken and spaghetti” ( get it “chick-n-sketti) casserole!

This dish is great as a make ahead for a pot-luck, freezes beautifully and leftovers can be portioned out for lunches!

The Recipe

1.25-1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

12 cups water (or enough water to cover and freely boil the chicken/pasta in your pot)

1 low sodium chicken bouillon cube

couple dashes of poultry seasoning ( I like “Bells”)

1/2 med white onion cut into fine dice

1 large green bell pepper cut into fine dice ( I used 2 medium size ‘cubanelles’ cause that is what I had)

1 40z jar diced pimentos, drained.

1 can ( 10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup

1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup

1 12oz box of spaghetti (broken up into small, aprox 1″ -2″ long pieces)

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese ( separated into 2 cups)

1-2 tsp seasoned salt

1-2 tsp garlic powder

dashes of hot sauce to taste ( I like frank!)

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup of the water/broth reserved from cooking chicken/pasta ( may use less – depends on thickness of soup*)

Combine the water, bouillon, poultry seasoning and bring to a rolling boil. Add chicken and boil for 5 minutes, turn down heat to simmer and cover and cook 20 -25 mins more. Remove chicken and set aside to be shredded. Add pasta to same broth/water and cook till just al dente – don’t overcook. Cook about 2-3 mins under package recommendations for al dente. Remove pasta and retain at least a cup of the cooking broth/water. Lightly saute the onions in a tablespoon of butteror oil till they are just soft and a little golden. Combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, sauteed onions, diced peppers and pimentos, soups, broth/water*, seasoned salt, garlic powder, peppers, hot sauce and 1 cup of the cheddar till mixed and turn into a sprayed  baking dish. You will need at least a 2 quart size. You can taste for seasoning at this point because your ingredients/chicken should be fully cooked. Adjust as needed. (more salt, more hot sauce etc) Sprinkle the other cup of cheese on top and bake uncovered in a 350 degree preheated oven for 35-40 mins until cheese is brown and bubbly on top.

*use enough of the cooking water/broth to get the mix creamy but not too liquid. However the baking in the oven will help dry/thicken up things up -so err on the side of creamy rather than too “tight’

Full disclosure… I used Gluten Free Pasta and Gluten free canned soup…. shhh don’t tell the hubby!


A Visit To The “Onion Patch”

I have returned from vacation refreshed, renewed and perhaps 5 lbs heavier!

I highly recommend Bermuda as a vacation spot. Located about 650 miles out to sea approximately “across the pond” from the state of North Carolina, it is a small subtropical island and a British territory rich in maritime heritage, crystal blue water and beautiful views.

It received its nickname “the onion patch” from the fact that the famous Bermuda onions (more colors than just red too!) were the island’s primary export from the mid 1800’s till the early 1920’s when Texas took over as the largest exporter of onions. The onions were not native but they were brought to island as early as 1616 and quickly became a staple crop. Something about the “terrior” and sea climate that sets them apart creating a mild but bold, yet sweet taste.

In fact many famous people have weighed in on the topic…

“The onion is the pride and joy of Bermuda. It is her jewel, her gem of gems. In her conversation, her pulpit, her literature, it is her most frequent and eloquent figure.”
– Mark Twain, 1877

Bermudian people (affectionately referred to as ‘onions’) are often described the same way… bold, strong but yet mild and sweet. We experienced nothing but incredible hospitality on the island and will plan to return in the future.

Pulled Pork, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, Purple Slaw and of course plenty of fresh Red Bermuda Onions on this delicious pizza at "The Pickled Onion" restaurant in Hamilton Bermuda

Pulled Pork, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, Purple Slaw and of course plenty of fresh Red Bermuda Onions on this delicious pizza at “The Pickled Onion” restaurant in Hamilton.