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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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Italians started coming to Chicago from Italy during the 1850s and by the 1940’s there was a significant Italian population of Italian immigrants and their descendants in the city. There are some stories about U.S. soldiers of Italian descent returning from Europe after World War II and experimenting with different pizza recipes, and eventually creating a deep dish pizza. The only problem with these stories is that deep dish pizza was being sold in Chicago in the early 1940’s, before the end of the war. The one story that is probably true is about a man named Sewell who created the deep dish pizza in 1943 at his bar and grill, Pizzeria Uno. It was so popular that he soon opened another place called Pizzeria Due. Soon other restaurants were serving deep dish pizza and the dish became popular. Soon Chicago became known for creating it and everyone, not just Italians, adopted it as a ‘Chicago’ food. (source FoodReference.com)

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Ingredients

1 lb of your favorite pizza dough, at room temperature
16 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz cooked Italian sausage, sliced thin
12 oz jar Mancini Fried Peppers with sweet onions or equivalent amount of cooked onions and peppers
2 cups marinara sauce
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a deep dish pizza pan. (My pan is 10 ½ inches in diameter)
Turn the pizza dough out into the prepared pan and use the heel of your hand and your fingertips to press it into an even layer across the bottom of the pan, then about halfway up the sides of the pan.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes.

When the crust is done baking, remove the pan from the oven and keep the oven temperature on 350 degrees F.
Add the toppings in the following order:
On the bottom of the crust place an even layer of cheese slices. Then add the sausage slices in an even layer. Top it with another layer of cheese slices. Then add the cooked peppers and onions. Top with a final layer of cheese slices. Pour the sauce over the top and spread it into an even layer, making sure it is covering all of the cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until the edges are golden and the filling is firm. Allow the pizza to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Italian Chicken Bake

Serve with Italian bread to dip into the sauce and a green salad.

Ingredients

Serves 4-5

5-6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin and fat removed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage, cut into one-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, sliced thin
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin
5 jarred pickled peppers, seeded and sliced thin (1/2 cup), plus 2 tablespoons brine from the jar
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or arrowroot powder
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pa the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet, skin side down, and cook without moving until well browned about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook until browned on the second side, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the sausage pieces to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer sausage to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook until the vegetables are softened about 5 minutes. Add the pickled peppers, garlic, and oregano and cook, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook for 30 seconds. Add broth and pepper brine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits.

Remove the skillet from heat and stir in the sausage. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, in a single layer in the skillet and add any accumulated juice from the plate. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the thighs register 175 degrees F, 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven (handle will be very hot). Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve in individual bowls.


Dipping Sauce: To Accompany Wraps

Ingredients

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch granulated garlic

Directions

Mix together and let sit at room temperature for several hours to allow the flavors to combine.

Homemade Egg Rolls

6 rolls

Ingredients

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon honey
6 large wonton wrappers or medium low carb tortillas
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil

Directions

Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sesame oil, ground pork, grated ginger, and garlic.
Brown the ground pork and break it into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once the pork is mostly cooked through, stir in the shredded cabbage, bell pepper, green onions, honey, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Cook until the cabbage has softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Lay each wonton or tortilla out on a kitchen towel and scoop 1/6 of the pork filling on one end of each wrap. Brush the edges with egg to seal. Fold the edge of the egg wrap over the filling and fold the sides inward, like a burrito. Roll the wrap, tucking in the edges to fully enclose the filling. Brown on all sides in hot vegetable oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with Chinese mustard or dipping sauce.

Cabbage Pot Stickers

Serves 8

Ingredients

8 outer cabbage leaves from a medium head
1/2 pound lean ground pork
2 green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the core off each of the cabbage leaves and add to boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes, until the cabbage is soft and tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked cabbage to a plate of paper towels to drain.

Prepare the pot sticker filling by combining the ground pork, chopped green onions, sesame oil, soy sauce, and ground ginger in a skillet and cook until the pork is brown. Place ⅛ of the filling on each cabbage leal and fold in the sides and then roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling.

Brush the skillet with vegetable oil and place the cabbage rolls in the pan. Cover the pan and cook the rolls over low heat for 5 minutes. Turn the rolls over, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with a dipping sauce.

Lettuce Wraps

4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 pound chicken tenders
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Large lettuce leaves

Directions:

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken tenders and cook until browned on both sides, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool. Then cut the tender into small pieces.
Mix together the garlic, celery, green onions, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha in the skillet the chicken was cooked in. Cook 2 minutes and then add the chopped chicken. Cook until hot.
To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf and roll up.

Asian Broccoli Salad

Side dish for Asian wraps.

2 servings

Ingredients

Half a head of broccoli cut into small florets
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup Teriyaki sauce
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the ingredients including the uncooked broccoli florets. Toss to combine.
Let sit for several hours at room temperature. Toss again before serving.


Servings 8

Ingredients

Taco Pie Filling

Ingredients

2 lbs pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons homemade (see recipe below) or store-bought taco seasoning
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
16 oz jar of salsa
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cheddar cheese or a Mexican cheese blend for the topping
1 package of cornbread mix (ex. Jiffy)

Or For Low Carb/Gluten Free Cornbread Recipe

“Cornbread” Pie Crust

Ingredients

1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon Amoretti Sweet Corn Extract

Directions

For The Filling:

In a deep skillet, heat the oil and cook the ground beef until brown.

Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno and continue to cook until the onion is tender.

Add the taco seasoning and salsa and cook for about 10 minutes or until the liquid is incorporated into the filling.

Taste and adjust seasonings per your liking and allow to cool a little.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally oil a 12-inch deep dish baking pan or cast iron skillet.

For the Cornbread:

Mix the package according to the directions. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and gently spread the batter evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

For the Low Carb/Gluten Free Mix:

Place the cheddar and cream cheese, eggs, almond flour, baking powder and extract in a food processor. Process until a thick batter forms.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and gently spread the batter evenly to the sides of the pan.

Top the batter with the taco meat and bake for 40 minutes. Add the cup of cheddar cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes more..

Let the taco bake cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, tomatoes, cilantro or black olives.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl or jar, mix all the spices together. Store in an airtight container.

Serve with a

Garden Salad With Ranch Dressing: Recipe

Or Creamy Coleslaw: Recipe


Scallops & Shrimp In Lemon Butter Sauce

Serve over rice and add a green vegetable.

Ingredients

1 pound large sea scallops
1 lb large (16-20) shrimp, shells and tails removed and deveined
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 large finely diced shallot
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Wash and pat the seafood dry with paper towels.
Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large deep skillet. When the butter has melted, add the shallot, lemon juice, and chives. Simmer for a minute. Add the shellfish in a single layer. Cook about 1-2 minutes or as soon as the bottom of the shrimp turn pink, Turn the shellfish over with tongs and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Grind fresh black pepper over the fish and serve the shellfish and sauce over rice.

Italian Sausage & Pepper Frittata

Serve with a tomato a salad and your favorite rolls.

Ingredients

1 lb sweet Italian pork sausage, cut into one-inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove
8 whole eggs whisked
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh basil for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet
Add the sausage slices and brown evenly. Add the crushed red pepper spice, onion, and garlic. Saute. Add the peppers and cook until softened. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the beaten eggs over the sausage mixture slowly to cover.
Top the egg/sausage mixture with shredded cheese.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are set and edges begin to turn golden brown.

Garnish with fresh chopped basil once the frittata has baked.
Let it sit to cool a bit, and then cut into serving pieces.

Chicken Divan

Serve with rice or buttered noodles and sautéed carrots.

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large head broccoli, stems removed and florets cut in half
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour or cornstarch or arrowroot
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool slightly.

Place the broccoli into a large pot, cover with salted water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until barely tender, 2–3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rub the inside of a deep 2-quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter; set aside.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually pour in stock and cream while whisking constantly. Cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and 1/2 cup of the cheese; stir until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Remove cheese sauce from the heat and let cool slightly.
Arrange the broccoli in the prepared dish in a single layer and place the chicken evenly over the top. Pour the white sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes.


Cauliflower Antipasto Salad

Ingredients

For the salad
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
8 ounces fresh small mozzarella balls
1-16 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into small cubes
4 ounces salami slices
4 ounces pepperoni slices
1 small red onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
8 oz pepperoncini, drained and sliced into rings
4-5 oz oil cured olives

For the dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 clove garlic minced

Directions

Place the cauliflower florets in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 3-4 minutes or until as tender as you’d like. Drain and dry on paper towels.

Cut the pepperoni and salami slices into quarters.

Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the cauliflower.

To make the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, oregano, basil, rosemary, and garlic until well combined. Taste and add additional lemon, herbs, or salt as desired.

Pour the dressing over the cauliflower salad and toss to coat.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop before serving.

Pesto & Fresh Tomato Pizza

Pizza Dough
Make the dough one day ahead.
2 1’2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup warm water

Topping
1/2 cup good quality store-bought or homemade pesto (Link to my recipe)
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Place all the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients until they come to a ball around the paddle. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5 minutes. Coat the inside of a plastic ziplock bag with olive oil cooking spray. Place the dough in the bag, seal, and place in the refrigerator until the next day.
Remove the bag from the refrigerator an hour before you want to make the pizza.

Cut the tomatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the juices. Sprinkle lightly with the salt and cover with more paper towels.
Cut the mozzarella into thin slices and place on paper towels to drain, This will prevent a soggy crust.

Set an oven rack in the bottom position and preheat the oven to 500°F.
Oil a large pizza pan and spread the dough in the pan so that it touches the edges of the pan. Spread the pesto evenly over the pizza dough
Bake on the bottom rack for 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven; and then top the pizzas with the mozzarella cheese, followed by the tomato slices and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with a few grinds fresh black pepper. Place the pizzas back in the oven and bake until the crust is crisp and golden, about 10 minutes more. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Mini Cheesecakes

Makes 12 mini cheesecakes

Crust
1 cup almond flour
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar or brown sugar substitute (I use monk fruit)
1/4 cup salted butter, melted

Cake
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup granular sugar or granular sugar substitute (monk fruit)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping
Sugar-free fruit jelly or jam (I used cherry)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a standard muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the almond flour and the brown sugar. Add the melted butter to the bowl and mix until the almond flour is coated and the mixture is the texture of wet sand. Place about 1 tablespoon of the crust mixture in the bottom of each muffin cup,. Use a spoon to press the mixture down into the bottom of each muffin liner.
Bake the crusts for 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.
Add eggs, lemon extract, vanilla extract and sweetener and mix until all ingredients are well combined and smooth. Divide the cheesecake mixture evenly between all 12 wells in the muffin pan. I use an ice cream scoop to measure equally. If using a silicone muffin pan, place it on top of a baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheesecakes are set. They will still be a little jiggly in the center.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pan on the counter for 20 minutes. Place a teaspoon of jam on top of each mini cake.
Chill for up to 24 hours before serving.


Pepper Steak

Servings 6

Ingredients

Prepare the marinade 1 day ahead.

Marinade
1-1/2 pounds flank steak, skirt steak or sirloin steak, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

Sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1/2 cup low-sodium homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground coarse black pepper

Vegetables
3 green bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch squares
2 large onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch squares
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 scallions finely minced
4 tablespoons vegetable, peanut or canola oil
Kosher salt to taste

Directions

For the marinade:
Combine beef, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine in a plastic ziplock bag and toss to coat. Marinate for overnight in the refrigerator.

For the sauce:
Combine the soy sauce with cornstarch and stir with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining Shaoxing wine, chicken stock, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Set aside.

Combine peppers and onions in a bowl and set aside.

Combine garlic, ginger, and scallions in a bowl and set aside.

When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large deep skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half of the beef and cook without moving until well seared, about 1 minute. Continue cooking while stirring and tossing until lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef, adding the second batch of beef to the same bowl.

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Heat 1 more tablespoon oil and cook half of the peppers and onions. Transfer to bowl with the beef. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining peppers and onions. Place the pan over high heat and return the peppers/onions/beef to the pan and add the garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring for 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 45 seconds longer. Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Sesame Rice

You can cook the rice in a saucepan instead of the oven if you prefer.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 low sodium chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups hot water
Sesame oil

Directions

In a large saucepan, saute sesame seeds, garlic, celery and scallions in the sesame oil; add rice and saute until the rice is lightly browned.

Spoon into an ungreased baking dish. Dissolve bouillon and salt in hot water; pour over the rice mixture.

Cover and bake at 325°F for 50-60 minutes or until the rice is tender. Drizzle with a little sesame oil and serve.



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