Chinese Style Stuffed Bell Peppers

Chinese Stuffed PeppersEver since he was a baby, my son has been a picky eater. The only way I could get him to eat any type of meatloaf is if I formed the meatloaf into meatballs or stuffed it into vegetables. And it all had to be covered in some kind of sauce or gravy. Yet, he would eat most vegetables, but not any kind of meatloaf! Don’t get me started! Thus, this recipe was born.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 stalks green onions, finely diced; plus 1 stalk regularly diced for garnish
  • 3 ounces of shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
  • 1 can (8 ounce) water chestnuts, finely diced
  • 1 egg
  • 5 teaspoons cornstarch, divided 2 teaspoons for meat; 3 teaspoons for gravy
  • 1/8 teaspoon minced ginger or ginger powder
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic or garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar divided, 1/2 tablespoon for meat; 1/2 tablespoon for gravy
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (optional)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons black bean and garlic sauce, divided 1/2 tablespoon for meat; 3 tablespoons for gravy (can be found in most International Aisles at local grocery store)
  • 2 large bell peppers (your choice of colors)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cold waterChinese Stuffed Peppers 1

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, place ground pork, green onions, mushrooms, water chestnuts, egg, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, ginger, garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, cooking wine, and 1/2 tablespoon black bean sauce. Mix well. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.Chinese Stuffed Peppers 2

Cut bell peppers in half and discard seeds and white membrane. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch bell peppers for 5 minutes. Remove bell pepper halves from boiling water and place in casserole dish.Chinese Stuffed Peppers 3

Stuff bell pepper halves with meat mixture. Be sure to pat down, so peppers are well stuffed.Chinese Stuffed Peppers 4

Add chicken stock to a small pot. Turn heat to medium high. While waiting for chicken stock to boil, make a slurry in a small cup or bowl with 3 teaspoons cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water, mix well. When stock comes to a boil, add 3 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce and 1/2 tablespoon sugar and stir. Then add slurry of cornstarch and water. Stir until gravy has thickened to consistency of syrup. Turn off heat.Chinese Stuffed Peppers 5

Pour gravy (saving 1/4 cup for garnish) over stuffed bell peppers and into casserole dish. Cover casserole dish with foil and bake in oven for 45 minutes. Carefully remove foil when done. Garnish tops of bell peppers with green onions and reserved gravy.Chinese Stuffed Peppers

Serve with rice to complete your meal.Chinese Stuffed Peppers Plated

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken CacciatoreWell, what do you know? It’s another chicken dish from me. I’m told cacciatore is Italian for “hunter’s stew.” When I think of stew, I think comfort food. This dish is exactly that. Serve it with pasta, polenta, rice or fresh warm bread and your tummy will be thanking you. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts for mine. But you are more than welcome to use skin on thighs or even a whole cut up chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and paprika for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced (you can substitute with white button mushrooms)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes with Italian spice blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Meanwhile season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper and paprika. When the oil begins to ripple, carefully place chicken breasts in the pan. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan.Chicken Cacciatore 2

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and peppers. Stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Chicken Cacciatore 3

Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms begin to brown. Then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Chicken Cacciatore 4

Add the wine and cook until it is reduced by half. Chicken Cacciatore 5

Add the diced tomatoes and juice, thyme, turmeric and red pepper flakes and stir. At this time taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Chicken Cacciatore 6

Reduce heat to low. Return the chicken breasts to the pan and let simmer in covered pan for 40 minutes. Chicken Cacciatore 7

Garnish with Italian parsley and serve with pasta or whatever you prefer. Chicken Cacciatore plated 1

Pan Seared Brined Pork Chops

Pan Seared Pork Chops PlatedI’ll be honest. I’m not much of a pork chop fan. Probably because it is not a forgiving meat. If you are not careful, it will go from moist and tender to dry and leathery rather quickly. So since I usually brine my turkeys to keep them moist, I decided to experiment and try using a brine on my pork chops. This extra step worked wonders. The pork chops came out moist and tasty. And now I will add pork chops into my meal rotation more often.

BRINE INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups water
  • ¼ cup salt (I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves slightly smashed
  • 2 cups ice cubes

BRINE DIRECTIONS:

  1. Stir together the water, salt, and sugar until dissolved.  Add thyme sprigs and garlic cloves. Stir in the ice and cool the brine to 45°F or lower.
  2. Place 4 pork chops in a zipper-lock bag. Pour in the flavor brine and seal the bag. Place the bag in a bowl in case it leaks and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours, depending on the thickness of the chops. Remove the chops, discard the flavor brine, and pat the chops dry. Proceed with the recipe, or wrap the chops in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 2 days.Brined Pork Chps

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 brined pork chops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

DIRECTIONS: 

  1. Let brined pork chops come to room temperature by setting out 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. On medium high heat,  add olive oil to sauté pan.
  3. When the oil begins to ripple, carefully add pork chops to pan.
  4. Next add butter, garlic cloves and thyme sprigs to pan.
  5. Spoon butter over pork chops to baste repeatedly. Continue to do this for 2-3 minutes then flip pork chops over.
  6. Repeat basting butter over pork chops for another 2-3 minutes. (Depending on thickness of your pork chops.)
  7. Pork chops are ready when they reach an internal temperature of 145°F. Let rest for 3 minutes before serving.

Pan Seared Pork Chops