Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vegetable stew with chickpeas

This is one of those awesome meals for make-ahead, because it tastes better the longer it sits.  I found the original recipe in Organic Gardening magazine, and tweaked it a bit to use what I had on hand.  That recipe suggested that it be served over bulgur or couscous, but I liked it on its own with just some good bread and butter on the side.  Next time, I'm going to try it with white beans instead of chickpeas, because I prefer those and think their creaminess will go well with the vegetable textures.

Note that this is not someting I would serve to my picky eater - I made it because it sounded good to me, and will eat it for lunch for a few days.  It is VERY filling!

1 medium eggplant, cut in 1-inch chunks
4 T. olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 bell pepper (I used orange), cut into wedges
2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. turmeric
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. tomato paste (I used ketchup because I didn't have any tomato paste - turned out just fine)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 c. water
handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
dash hot sauce, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large, nonstick deep-sided skillet or Dutch oven (I used my cast-iron chicken fryer), cook the eggplant in 1/2 of the olive oil over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown on all sides, 10 - 15 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

2.  Put the rest of the oil in the pan, and cook onion, pepper, and zucchini until just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the paprika, turmeric, and garlic and cook an additional minute or two.  Add tomato paste and water, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix up the caramelized bits.  Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and eggplant, as well as salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cilantro, parsley, and hot sauce just before serving.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Summer is the worst time in the realm of make-ahead meals.  The concept of make ahead lends itself beautifully to casseroles, roasts, and other heavier, comfort-type foods, not the lighter, quicker-cooked fare that is desired in hot weather.  Who wants to turn on an oven when it's 95 degrees outside, even if the house IS air conditioned???

It's during heat waves like the one we're having now that our menus get pretty boring.  This week, I've been lucky to have some leftovers from our 4th of July weekend of play that have gotten me through.  Tonight we had our old standby, taco salad.  I know that there will be a few times in the coming months that I'll be able to get away with a dinner salad, or a chicken pasta salad, but with my picky eater, not every week!

So, it's time to pull out the cookbooks and last year's summer menus to figure out what we'll be eating in the coming weeks.  We're fortunate to have a great garden this year, so fresh produce is right at hand. 

Stay tuned for details - and I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Menu plan July 5 - 9

Another week, another menu...this week we're able to take advantage of some leftovers we brought home from our 4th of July weekend at my sister-in-law's house.  We camped out in their barn and didn't eat everything we brought, which is very helpful when you're tired and not really feeling like menu planning!

Monday, we had grilled steak, corn, and chard.  Since it was a holiday I was able to cook at dinner time!

Tonight, we'll have burgers (leftover, just heat and eat) and potato salad

Tomorrow, we'll have fried ham and baked potatoes (not make ahead, but the ham slices I bought will fry up in about five minutes once the skillet is hot)

Thursday, we may finally eat that turkey I've had on the menu for several weeks!

Friday, we'll have taco salad.

Have a great week!  Don't forget to check out for tons of awesome menus!

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are a great make-ahead.  Everything can be cooked and assembled ahead of time, then put in the fridge until it's time to pop them in the oven to heat through.  I've heard you can easily make them in a crock pot or pressure cooker, too, though I've never tried it because it's not something I've ever needed to do.

This is also a great "make it once, eat it twice" (MIOEIT) meal -you can make a double batch of filling and put the extra in the freezer.  The next time you want to eat it, just thaw the filling, clean and parboil your peppers, shred some cheese, and voila!  Stuffed peppers ready for baking in about 15 minutes.

Stuffed Peppers
serves 4

4 green bell peppers (you want decent size ones that can stand up straight)
1 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I prefer brown, but white works, and even Minute Rice will do)
2 cans condensed tomato soup (like Campbell's)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the tops off of the bell peppers. Remove seeds and as much of the ribs as you can with your fingers. Rinse well.

2. In a large pot, bring enough water to a boil to cover the peppers. Add 1 tablespoon salt; when dissolved, add peppers. Boil for four minutes. Remove with tongs, taking care not to tear or puncture them (careful! They'll be full of hot water, drain them carefully!). Place them in an 8x8x2 baking dish.

3. Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic. Drain the fat off the beef. Add rice, soup, and salt and pepper to taste. It should be fairly loose, but not too soupy. If it's too soupy, you can add more rice or spoon some of the soup out.

4. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add one cup of cheese and stir until melted.

5. Spoon the mixture into the peppers. Top with remaining cheese.  Refrigerate.

6.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Immediately put peppers in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes.

Note:  If you're baking them right away, you only need to bake about 30 minutes, since the filling will already be hot.