Easy Peasy Roasted Peppers

If I had to pick one vegetable to have aplenty, it would have to be peppers.  I love how versatile they are and yet they still stay true to their flavor no matter what you put them in.  Depending on what method of cooking you use, their flavor is enhanced in different, tasty ways. 
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My favorite pepper cooking method?  Roasting peppers. 
Sure the kind in a jar are delicious and convenient, but making them yourself makes you feel accomplished and you will know where your food is coming from!
Ready for a simple recipe? 
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Roasted Red Pepper Spread
You will need:
2 red peppers
1 plastic bag or brown bag
1 Tbs light mayo
1.) Begin by washing peppers.  Dry completely and place on open flame, one at a time.  I suggest only doing this if you have a gas stove because that is what I have and I’m not sure what exactly would happen if you did it on an electric stove.  You can also do this on a grill.
2.)  Turn the pepper as it becomes charred on each side.

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3.) When peppers are charred on each side, remove by the stem or use tongs because the pepper will be hot!
4.) Place in a plastic bag or a brown paper bag and seal.  Allow the pepper to sweat.
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5.) Then skin will start to come off on its own.  If it needs a little help, run it under cool water.
6.) If you are using the peppers for a recipe or just eating them on their own, cut on a cutting board and be careful because there will be hot liquid inside the pepper.  Drain liquid, take  the membrane out and remove seeds.
If you are going to make my red pepper spread, remove the membrane and the seeds but keep the liquid and put both the pepper and liquid in a food processor.  Combine with mayo and pulse until the mix is smooth.  If you would like more of a creamy spread, add more mayo.  Season with salt and pepper.

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I topped a veggie burger with the red pepper spread and caramelized onions.  It was so fresh and satisfying!

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Home Grown Stuffed Peppers

Welcome back!  I hope your weekend was relaxing and enjoyable.  Thank you to those who entered my giveaway!  I contacted everyone via Facebook so just send me your address if you haven’t yet.
As promised, I wanted to share the recipe I created using local Philadelphia products.
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The products I used were:
Stepped-In-What Tomato Sauce
North/South Meatery & Canning Co. Pancetta
PA Noble Cheese, Cave Aged Cheddar

Stuffed Peppers

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You will need:
•3 Frying peppers
•3 slices pancetta
•1 small onion, chopped
•2 oz. sharp cheese, such as an aged cheddar, cut in small cubes
•1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
•1/3 cup tomato sauce
•1 Tbs. olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375.  Begin by washing peppers.  Cut the top of the pepper off and clean seeds out.  If you want, you can cut the top off so that it is a lid for the pepper.
2. Cook pancetta in a pan at medium heat until crispy.  Remove pancetta and let cool on a paper towel.    Do not clean the pan!  Throw the onion in the pan and sauté in pancetta fat until soft and caramelized.
3.  When onions are finished cooking, put in a bowl and add pancetta, cheese, bread crumbs, and sauce.  Mix until the consistency is thick and paste-like.
4. Using a spoon, stuff each pepper with the mixture until the mixture reaches the top.  When full, place each pepper on a piece of foil and then place the foil on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle the peppers with olive oil.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until peppers are soft and lightly browned on top.
Serve over heated sauce and enjoy!

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Jersey Fresh Salad

Of all the summer months, August usually takes the heat, quite literally.  At least here in New Jersey, where it gets so hot and muggy that you don’t feel like eating anything but salads and cool drinks.
Although I didn’t have any recipes planned when I visited the farmers market this week, these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes stood out.

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I loved  how there were different colors, shapes and sizes and yet they are all tomatoes, sweet and juicy.

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I decided to make an easy, fresh and delicious salad.

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It was so easy that I feel like it is hardly a recipe, more or less  just throwing some produce together.
Jersey Fresh Salad:
•7-8 heirloom tomatoes
•3 fresh mint sprigs
•1/2  cup cantaloupe
•Sea salt to taste
1.) Cut cantaloupe into small cubes.  I like the cubes because it makes it easy to eat and it also visually appealing.
2.) Cut the tomatoes in half.
3.) Cut mint into small pieces or you could even rip the pieces.
4.) Sprinkle with salt to taste.
See, I told you it was easy!  This recipe is for a single serving so if you wanted to make it for more, you’d just have to add more of the ingredients.
If you were feeling extra interesting you could add some feta cheese or goat cheese!

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Now excuse me, it is expected to be a high of 93 today and I have a salad to eat.

Artichoke, something green. Happy Birthday, SWEET SIXTEEN!

Happy Sweet 16 to my cousin Margaux – a fun, beautiful and brilliant girl.  It is hard to believe that I can actually remember her being born and celebrating her first birthday when today it doesn’t feel like we are that many years  apart.
Our love of clothing, makeup, photography and of course, cooking, is what brings us together.  Whenever we get together we swap favorite makeup brands, latest finds and what’s cookin’ .
There is one recipe in particular that Margaux has been begging me to cook, post and share with her:
Artichoke Dip
Preheat oven to 350
You will need:
•14 oz. artichokes in water
•1/2 cup light mayo
•1/2 cup sour cream
•1/8 tsp. Tabasco Sauce
•1/3  cup grated parmesan cheese
1.) Begin by draining artichokes and finely chopping. 
2.) Next, add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly.
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3.) Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly around the edges and the dip begins to brown on top.

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As you can see this recipe is simple but the results are so delicious.   The sweet, tender artichoke hearts melt perfectly into the creamy dip that pairs well with crackers or  bread.  It is a recipe that you can whip up if company is coming unexpectedly or if it is just simply your 16th Birthday.
Happy Birthday Margaux, here’s to many, many more.

Simple ingredients: Artichokes

You aren’t aware that something is unusual until someone else declares it is.
Growing up, my family’s rituals and eating habits were the only way that I knew.  Drinking iced tea each night with dinner was what everyone else did.  And eating elbow noodles with butter and parmesan cheese was and still is, breakfast.
It was my Dad’s birthday and I gushed to my cousin Brian that we were having crab legs to celebrate.  Sweet, juicy crab legs that my Dad would crack open for me and pull out all the tender meat that I’d dunk in a pool of rich butter.  The concerned look on Brian’s face confused me.  Did he not enjoy crab legs?  That night as I stood on my chair, reaching for another leg, Old Bay seasoning dripping down my arms, I proclaimed, “Brian doesn’t believe me! I eat crabs!”
I was five.  And the pivotal moment when I realized that no, everyone does not eat the same thing.  While food does not define who we are, it helps tell our story.  Food allows us to express our memories, culture and tradition.
Artichokes are a food that even as an adult, seem unusual to others.  They are a versatile vegetable and unique in every way.  So when I pull out a container that holds an artichoke, I tend to get some looks.
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My first memories of eating an artichoke is at my Grandmother’s house.  The bright green leaves, stuffed with aromatic bread crumbs and cheese filled up orange rimmed ceramic bowls.  Sometimes she would squeeze lemon juice over the leaves for an added sensorial experience.  As I pulled each leaf between my teeth, the stack of “clean” leaves became higher and higher until it was time to eat the heart.  If you have ever ate a fresh artichoke you understand how treasured the heart is.  It is the softest part of the artichoke, located in the middle under the thick leaves, thin leaves, and hairy fibers.  And like any heart, it is worth protecting.  Its meat is sweet and soft.  With a little touch of salt, the heart is perfectly seasoned and a treat worth eating your way to.

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Here is my simple rendition of a family favorite and treasured food.
1.) Begin by thoroughly washing the artichoke.
2.) Use a knife or kitchen scissors to  snip the tops of the leaves.

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3.) Slice off the top portion of the artichoke, exposing the leaves.  Slice the bottom of the artichoke stem so that it is about 2 inches long and flat on the bottom.

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4.) There are many methods of cooking the artichoke but the one I like best is simply steaming them.  If you have a steamer that would make the process that much easier, but I simply put the artichoke in a ramekin so that it is steady and not submerged in the water.

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5.) The next part can be controversial but you can use whichever method works best for you.  I take about 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs, a few TBS parmesan cheese, salt and peppers and mix together.  I then spread the leaves and sprinkle the mixture in.  Lastly, I drizzle the artichoke with some extra virgin olive oil.  The oil will add a ton of flavor and make it taste extra special.  Simmer the water before adding the artichoke.  I make sure the water does not surpass the top of the ramekin and cover the pot with a lid so that it can steam properly.  Allow to steam for 45-60 minutes or until leaves are tender enough to pull off.
6.) To remove, use tongs because it will be very hot.  Place in a bowl and make sure you have a spare bowl for the leaves.

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To eat:  Begin by grabbing a leaf off of the artichoke.  The bottom of the leaf will be the thinner part.  Bite down on the top of leaf, making sure to eat the bread crumb mixture and scrape the artichoke meat off of the leaf by pulling the leaf through your teeth from top to bottom.  Continue to do this for each leaf.  As you get closer to the heart the leaves will become more soft and easier to eat.
For the heart, remove any remaining leaves.  Use a spoon to scrape out fuzzy parts.  Cut the heart up in pieces (because everyone will want a try) sprinkle a little salt on, and enjoy.
And while I can’t promise that you will love artichokes, though I can’t see why not, I think they are definitely worth trying.  You never know what may become a part of your food story.  And before you know it, your children will be eating artichokes  at dinner thinking that everyone else in the world is doing the exact same thing.

Spinach & Bacon Salad

Whether you’re barbecuing, relaxing or working this Memorial Day weekend, one thing is for sure… this weekend kicks off summer eating!  Ok, so maybe you already started eating caprese salads and fresh watermelon, I am guilty  too.  But, prior to this weekend it wasn’t official.
I  have a salad for you that will make you the star of any barbecue, work picnic or family reunion.  It is simple, fresh, and an explosion of flavor with each bite!
Strawberry Spinach Salad
You will need:
For salad:
•2 bags of baby spinach
•1 pint of strawberries, sliced
•3/4 pound of grapes, cut in halves
•1 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled
For dressing:
•1 cup olive oil
•1 cup sugar
•1/2 cup wine vinegar
•1 tsp salt
•1 tsp minced onion
•1 tsp worcestershire sauce
The hardest part of this recipe is just prepping everything.  Make sure  you wash your spinach well and dry it even better.  Mix together the ingredients for the dressing well.  The dressing will tend to separate so make sure you keep stirring.  Combine all of the salad components and you’re finished!
I always serve the dressing on the side because it will become extremely soggy if you put it over the salad ahead of time.  And if you have vegetarians you can obviously put the bacon on the side as well.  Feel free to substitute  the bacon for turkey bacon too!
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And you might want to print this recipe out because everyone is going to  want it.  Oh, and you might as well get used to making it because not only will your friends and family be asking you to make it…but you’ll probably have a stash of it waiting in your fridge all summer long.  Yup, it  is that good.
And if you haven’t entered my GIVEAWAY yet, make sure you do!