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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Somehow, not only for Christmas
But all the long year through
The joy that you give to others
Is the joy that comes back to you.

Merry Christmas to all...and to my "wonderful daughter" Kim (as she has refered to herself on this site!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cooking Tip

I prefer to use olive oil instead of butter or margarine when I can. EVOO imparts a bit of a flavor, but it's a flavor that I enjoy. In addition, it provides beneficial health effects due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants.

When buying olive oil you will want to obtain a high quality extra virgin oil. This is the oil that comes from the first "pressing" of the olive. The less the olive oil is handled, the closer to its natural state, the better the oil.

One very simple thing that I do in the kitchen is to keep one of these cheap plastic squirt bottles of olive oil right on my counter top. When it's time to saute some onions, garlic or such, the oil is within easy reach. Just a quick squirt into the pan and away we go!

I also keep another bottle with balsamic vinegar, because I use it pretty frequently. Of course you can use these for any liquid that you like.

Now I know that some of you might prefer to go to the fancy cooking store, and spend a lot of money on one of those fancy glass bottles...Go ahead. I'm gonna use these.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stuffed Banana Peppers

I love stuffed banana peppers! Around Pittsburgh, this is a staple appetizer at any decent Italian restaurant. A few years ago we moved to Mount Washington, and in an effort to "soften" our concrete deck, Stacy and I started to fill large clay pots with a variety of plants and flowers. I didn't care so much for planting flowers, so I confiscated a few pots and filled them with herbs and vegetables. Rosemary, oregano, basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a variety of peppers were planted. I decided to start them from seed, mostly because I'm not happy unless I make a simple task difficult.

Everything grew beautifully but the banana peppers really turned out nicely. They grew from tiny spots of green to beautiful adults. Heck, I wanted to name them.
After reality set in and I realized that I would not be able to keep these as my children I had to find something to do with them. The answer was obvious: Stuffed banana peppers. I headed to my favorite source for recipes, This site is nice because it not only has a large data base of recipes, but allows users to write reviews and rate them. I like to search for a recipe and then sort them by the top reviews. It's easy to sort through the duds and get to the good ones!

This basis for this recipe came from AllRecipes, but I've modified it a bit (of course) to Burghify it. Those of you that don't appreciate the fine nuance of dining in da Burgh can easily adjust it. Just take out any ingredients that are tasty or fattening, like the cheese and sausage. Better yet, you could just boil up some tofu...

I'm going to make them this way:

8 or 10 banana peppers
a little butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
3 or 4 cloves garlic, all minced up
A teaspoon of basil and oregano
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese.
2 pounds of your favorite sausage. I like to use maple sausage. Some people don't like the flavor of maple sausage, but I think the mix of slightly sweet and hot really give a great flavor.

Cut the peppers in a "T" shape, a small slice across the top and then slice down the length of the pepper. using a small spoon, remove the ribs and seeds. You can leave some of this stuff in if you want a really hot pepper.
Put the peppers in a pot of boiling water and boil until tender, 5 or 10 minutes.

To stuff the peppers:
Use a little butter or margarine, saute the onion, garlic and celery until soft, about 5 minutes.

Brown the sausage and drain the excess fat. Mix in the onion mixture and add the Worcester sauce.

For the sauce:
Mix the tomatoes and tomato sauce. At this point, I like to add a little basil and oregano to the sauce. Another clove of garlic wouldn't hurt either!

In a glass baking dish, stuff the peppers with the sausage mixture. Put some grated cheese on top of the exposed stuffing, and pour the sauce over the peppers. I like to add some more cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.