Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Stuffed Peppers

print recipe card posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Stuffed peppers are great (and easy) to make for a family meal or casual get-together. My filling for stuffed pepper starts with two simple ingredients – cooked rice and browned ground beef.

You can use leftover cooked rice (from Chinese take-out?) or make your own. Get the rice started first as it usually takes about 20 minutes to cook. Check out my video on “How to Cook White Rice” for a quick review.

Cleaning the Peppers

While the rice is cooking, get the peppers washed and remove the stem and seeds. Any color bell pepper will do. But remember, the red ones are the sweetest!

Start by slicing off the very top of the peppers.

Then,with a small paring knife, carefully slide the knife around the stem to loosen it. You should then be able to gently pull the stem out.

With a spoon scrape out any remaining seeds and “stem ribs”.

It is important that the bell peppers are able to balance upright on their own. Slice off the tiniest bit off the bottom so that the peppers can stand without rolling over.

Set the cleaned peppers snugly in a baking dish and set this dish aside for just a moment.

Making the Filling

In a large frying pan, over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef and drain off any excess fat. For a quick review, check out my video on “How to Brown Beef”.

Add one can of Rotel tomatoes…

…which are diced tomatoes with green chilies.

Using a colander, drain one can of black beans in the sink, rinse, and drain again, and add them to the frying pan as well.

Mix everything together and simmer for about 5 minutes.

At this point you could add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder if you wish.

Remove the pan from the heat and add 2 cups of cooked rice

…and 1 and 1/2 cups of pre-shredded Mexican four-cheese blend. (This is a great time-saving way to buy cheese for cooking. Most grocery stores always carry both a Mexican blend and an Italian blend.)

Stir everything together.

Filling the Peppers

(A note: Many recipes have you blanch the cleaned peppers in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes before adding the filling. I prefer the peppers to have a bit of a crunch to them, rather than being really soft. Consequently my recipe does not call for blanching the peppers before filling them.)

With a spoon, fill the peppers with the filling.

They should fit snugly in the baking dish!

Cover the baking dish with tin foil and put them in a 375 F. degree preheated oven.

Bake the covered peppers for about 40 minutes and then remove the tin foil…

…and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes until tops are slightly browned and pepper skin can be pierced easily with a fork.

I served these beautiful stuffed peppers with butternut squash and they were fantastic!

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pie for Beginners

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Store-bought pie crusts are great for someone just learning how to cook. Making your own pastry can be challenging for a beginner cook. For this Pumpkin Pie recipe, you can just purchase a ready-made pastry crust from your grocer’s freezer. Do not defrost the pie crust. We are going to make the pumpkin filling and pour it right into the frozen crust.

The pumpkins shown above are part of my centerpiece arrangement. The pie is actually made with pumpkin from a can.

For the filling you will need:

Description of the Ingredients

Canned pumpkin is already cooked and pureed (mashed) so all you have to do is open the can and it is ready to use. Be sure to buy canned pumpkin and NOT pumpkin pie filling in a can. (In the USA) canned pumpkin is not found in the canned vegetable aisle. It is actually sold with all the baking products – right near the flour, sugar, and baking soda. Who knew?

There is a HUGE difference between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. This recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk.

Evaporated milk has no added sugar and is slightly thicker and richer than regular milk. (I used it to make my Pumpkin Soup and my Stove Top Mac and Cheese.) Sweetened condensed milk is very thick and very sweet. They are not interchangeable ingredients.

Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Pumpkin Pie Spice is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. It is easier and less expensive to buy one small jar of spice blend rather than four separate jars of spices. You can mix the leftover pumpkin pie spice with some sugar and sprinkle it on toast or cottage cheese. Or you could add it to Butternut Squash instead of cinnamon.

Let’s startcooking!

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Be careful — that’s a really HOT oven! It will take about 15 minutes for your oven to get that hot. You are only going to cook your pie for 15 minutes at that temperature. You’ll then turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and continue cooking the pie for about another 30 minutes.

Crack two eggs into a medium bowl. (Check to make sure there are no shells in the bowl!)

Add to the bowl the canned pumpkin, the sweetened condensed milk, the pumpkin pie spice, and the salt.

Whisk everything together. It should get really well combined and look like the picture below when it is ready to all pour into the pie shell.

Set the unbaked, frozen pie shell on a baking sheet with sides. This is going to make it much easier to lift the pie in and out of the oven.

Pour the filling into the frozen pie shell.

The filling is going to come almost to the top edge.

Immediately put the pie into the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.

When the timer goes off, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and reset the timer for 30 minutes.

You will also need to cover the edges of the pie with tin foil. Otherwise they will get way too browned.

You can buy a pie ring or make your own out of tin foil. My post on Pie Crust – Ready Made will show you how.

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The way you check to see if the pie is ready to come out of the oven is to stick a knife into the pie about one inch in from the edge of the crust.

If the knife comes out clean, the pie is done. Depending on your oven you may need to continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Let the pie cool completely before serving it. It will deflate slightly when cooled.

A great way to serve this pie is with a big dollop of fresh whipped cream, or a nice big squirt of cream from a can!

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Soup Without the Fuss

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

The reason I call this recipe “Pumpkin Soup without the Fuss” is because it’s made from canned pumpkin which has been already cooked and mashed. Canned pumpkin tastes great and it is a huge time saver!

For this recipe you will need:

In addition to the canned pumpkin, the only other ingredient you may not be familiar with is evaporated milk. (I have used it in my “Stove-top Macaroni and Cheese” recipe.) Evaporated milk is just slightly thicker than regular milk but it is very rich. It will make this soup really creamy and very rich tasting. A low fat version is available. (Be sure not to confuse evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk. They are often sold side-by-side.)

You need to chop one medium onion. If you don’t know how to chop an onion, there is a demonstration of it here: How to Mince, Dice and Chop Onions.

Get all of remaining ingredients measured and ready to go. That really only involves measuring the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. If you are using chicken stock made from a bullion cube you will need to reconstitute the cube in boiling water.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium pot.

Add the onions and cook them until they are soft, about 7-10 minutes. Give them an occasional stir.

Now add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and applesauce and cook everything for about 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes it will look like the picture below.

Add the pumpkin and chicken stock, and stir everything together. It will be pretty thick.

Bring the pot to a boil. Turn the temperature down to simmer and cover the pot.

Set the timer for about 20 minutes. Be sure to give the soup an occasional stir.

Pour in enough evaporated milk until the soup reaches your desired thickness. I like about 8 ounces of evaporated but you may want your soup thinner or thicker.

Be sure to add a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

The really great thing about this soup is that aside from the onion, all the other ingredients needed to make this soup come straight from your food cupboard. Next time you go grocery shopping be sure to add the ingredients for this soup to your list. On a cold evening a delicious pot of pumpkin soup can be ready for dinner in no time!

I have added a special touch to my soup by topping it with some cinnamon croutons!

Enjoy!

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