Sophisticated Stuffed Peppers

Ok, the title of this post is a little misleading but I’m a big fan of alliteration and I like to think that what I did was SLIGHTLY on the sophisticated side…you be the judge!

So, those who know me (and probably even those who don’t) know a few basic things about me:

-I like to eat

-I like good value

-I like to get a little creative (although, admittedly, procrastination and laziness have overpowered my creative side lately…creativity requires time and lots of forethought)

I made a little somethin’ somethin’ that combined the above and was fairly satisfied with the results! I present to you: Peppers stuffed with leftover quinoa salad, topped with an egg. Nom nom nom! I purposely made excess quinoa salad so I could use them for my peppers. I actually prefer it a couple days after I’ve made it because at that point the flavours have really had a chance to soak in. I LOVE how two cups of quinoa supplies you with SO MUCH FOOD. I managed to stretch out £3 of quinoa salad into two meals for two people. Not bad, eh!?

Step 1. Blanche cleaned out peppers in boiling water for one minute. I personally like using sweet peppers (yellow/orange/red) but any colour peppers will do. Just make sure you get some decently big ones so you can do some major stuffing! Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Clean out those peppers!Clean out those peppers!

Step 2. Take leftover quinoa/rice/couscous and do a quick reheat in a pan. Add some tomato sauce and grated parmesan or mozzarella to ensure your stuffed peppers are beautifully saucy and gooey.

(Just in case you’re curious, my quinoa salad consisted of halved cherry tomatoes, red onion, dill, carrots, chickpeas, zucchini, spinkled with salt and pepper)

Step 3. Fill your peppers with the leftovers, leaving a bit of space on the top for the magic ingredient…

Time to stuff these beautiesTime to stuff these beauties

Step 4. Magic ingredient time! Crack an egg into your stuffed pepper. I’ve advised you to leave space in your pepper so you don’t make the same mistake I did..I didn’t have enough room for my egg and the egg white ended up spilling over :( (Picture of red pepper not shown, I didn’t feel the need to provide evidence of my boo-boo)

Crack egg into peppersCrack egg into peppers

Step 5. Sprinkle a bit of chilli flakes and ground pepper on top then pop peppers in the oven and let bake for 10-15 minutes (20 minutes if you don’t like runny whites and would prefer the egg to be more cooked).

That’s it! I’ve made stuffed peppers before but I love the addition of the egg. Cutting the pepper and letting the egg yolk soak into the quinoa and being able to scrape the yolk with the peppers was ever so satisfying!

The final product (accompanied with smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese and alfalfa sprouts)The final product (accompanied with smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese and alfalfa sprouts)
Runny yolk, just the way I like it!Runny yolk, just the way I like it!

Bon appetit!

It’s a pie! It’s a loaf! It’s…I have no idea…

If you can take a wild guess what this dish is I’ll give you a million dollars. If you can even tell me whether it’s a meat, vegetarian, or a fruit dish, whether it’s pie, bread, or some kind of meatloaf I’ll give you $10. But you need to come to England to collect it.

I know I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. This dish, according to the recipe I followed, is a rhubarb bread and butter pudding. M’s grandma gave me a huge bunch of rhubarb the last time we went for a visit and with only 2 days left to go before leaving the country for 2 weeks I knew I needed to do something with them FAST. She had recommended boiling them in sugar and just eating them like that but I wanted to get a little creative so I looked up a recipe. While I didn’t have the EXACT ingredients they called for I figured tiny adjustments and substitutions would be alright.

Except that it didn’t turn out to be alright…

Here is the original recipe:

This is how I strayed…

I started baking at 1AM because I wanted to bring in something nice to work and I knew we wouldn’t be able to finish off a whole loaf on our own.

I checked on my loaf 45 minutes after I’d put it in the oven, as the recipe called for. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was still a liquid mess. “That’s alright, just let it bake a little longer…at some point it will solidify” was my thinking. I think I left the loaf in the oven for double the amount of time as requested but when it came out, it came out looking BEAUTIFUL. Really! Fluffy, golden, and it smelled pretty decent as well. Even M wanted a bite of it. So at 3AM I went to bed feeling pretty satisfied and happy about the fact that I’d have something good to bring into work the next morning.

So just imagine the look of disappointment on my face when I saw that my lovely masterpiece had completely deflated overnight. When I went to pack up my dish to bring to work I found my loaf had completely fallen in and what had appeared to be golden the night before now just looked burnt.

To avoid any embarrassment I decided not to bring anything in to work. To punish myself I had the whole loaf for dinner, dessert that night and breakfast and dinner the next day. M played no part in helping me finish the loaf I refused to throw away…jerk.

My growing reputation

So I’ve surpassed a whole new level. One of my co-workers, who has not once read about  my cooking catastrophes has actually coined a new term related to my kitchen disasters.

I was at the office when she came in and said “Hazel, I made cookies yesterday but when they came out of the oven it was completely gooey and a complete disaster! When they came out I thought of you!”.

*Silence*…

Apparently she pulled a “Hazel”

Even though she hasn’t read a word of this blog she has experienced the misfortune of eating one of my cookies (a first and last time experience, I think). It was my first day of work and I wanted to blow everyone away (by everyone I mean the 2 people in the office) by being the lovely suckup who brings in delicious cookies on a Monday morning. Too bad my idea backfired a little…I didn’t taste-test the cookies beforehand (I baked them that morning and may have left them in the oven a tad too long) and they came out ROCK hard. I could hear her teeth breaking as she chomped down on the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie…apparently diamonds are not the toughest substance in the world. She politely said the cookies were very tasty and slyly tucked the 1/4 eaten cookie in a napkin and later slipped it into the garbage bin…she tried to do it without my noticing (bless her heart).

One day I’ll change the meaning of pulling a “Hazel”…one day…

*Tear*amisu

I just finished skyping with a near and dear friend whose name rhymes with CALM, which she ironically, is not ;). Our conversations, though infrequent, are generally quite lengthy and 2.5 hrs after of pure chatting I was FAMISHED! So into the kitchen I went to dig out the pudding (aka dessert) that M and I had made earlier today.

We followed the recipe his mum, in laymen’s terms, has called “tiramisu”. However, when I served this concoction/scientific experiment of a dessert to him he quickly renamed it “cow splat”. Why? Well, take a look at this beauty.

I suppose we could’ve used it as fertilizer but seeing as we’re lacking a vegetable garden the cow splat went into our bellies instead. And dear lord, was it ever yummy!

I’m not sure where in the process we went wrong…making tiramisu is fairly straight forward (so I thought) and the appeal of making it came from:

a)      The lack of ingredients we’d need to buy (just lady fingers and mascarpone, we already had eggs, coffee, sugar, and chocolate)

b)      The fast prep time (no baking involved! I thought I was saved this time…tiramisu just involves some whipping, stirring, and layering really)

But somewhere along the road of Italian cooking we went somewhere drastically wrong. Where egg whites should have been whipped into beautiful peaks that look like the Swiss Alps, we got something that looked like the polluted froth of Lake Ontario. Where the final mixture should have been firm like my stomach, we got something as runny as my sister’s nose the first time she saw Bambi. But I am a true believer in second chances (this is only true for food, I’m not as lenient when it comes to people) and wanted to try to salvage the remains of our disastrous creation.

So what did we do? Well there were three possible hypotheses in how to thicken up the diarrhea-like mess:

  1. Cook the mixture- I mean, usually when you heat stuff up it thickens a little, right?
  2. Add in flour or corn flour/corn starch- because again, this is the stuff you put in to give some strength and oomph to sauces…right?
  3. Throw in some bananas- it helps for milkshakes and I figured it could add a nice flavour to the dessert.

We went for option 1 and 3 and the result was a banana-flavoured custard.

Talk about a tiramisu of Titanic proportions.

Meh, to hell with it. I went on to finish my thang, dunked the lady fingers in espresso (and downed the remainders of the espresso, which gave me a nice little burst of energy), completed the layering process and stuck it in the fridge. I was hoping the frigid temperature would help in solidifying the liquid mess (I guess I’m a believer in third chances too??), but even that didn’t help. *sigh*. I served the dessert with forks, but a soup spoon probably would’ve been more fitting. There’s still a bit left. You know what? It’s going in the freezer, baby! Because tomorrow I can be guaranteed it’ll be hard as ROCK…like an ICE CREAM CAKE, and that- THAT you cannot go wrong with! Fingers crossed that 4th time’s a charm…

Baking blunders

When I moved to England and did my first big grocery shop guess what I bought? Flour! Baking powder! White AND brown sugar! You’re probably wondering what the big deal with that is. Well, the purchase of baking material is a huge milestone for me. I buy things from the bakery section. I go for cake and donut runs at Tim Hortons. The closest I ever got to baking in the past was buying the Pillsbury dough boy premade stuff and shoving it in the oven.
Things have changed though. For better? That, I’m unsure of. M, unfortunately for him, has become the test subject of my experiments. He appears to have a stomach of steel because he’s still alive!
So, as I mentioned before, the vegetable box we get comes with a lot of strange foods. And our box is advertised as feeding 2-3 people, but somehow we end up with tons of leftovers week after week. And trust me, we are eaters!!! The abundance of vegetables has forced me to get really creative and as a result, has ignited within me a passion for soup-making!!! I’ve always loved soup, and with the chilly autumn weather and winter being right around the corner I’ve found myself making soups on a bi-weekly basis. Big batches of soup. Enough to feed a family of 6. M is getting pretty sick of soup… :(
Wait, I’ve diverged. Back to baking. So my veg box came with beets. Lots of beets. More than I knew what to do with. M ended up using a bunch to make a beetroot risotto, but there were still beets leftover. I decided to take on the mission to do something a little different with what remained of the beets…and after a quick search on Foodgawker I stumbled upon a beetroot brownie recipe!! Sounds disgusting, right?!!?! Well, folks. It was!! But I don’t think the reason was because of the beets. I think it’s because I’m incapable of baking. Baking’s hard…I think I hate it.

Here are some reasons why I hate baking:

– The first thing recipes tell you to do is to preheat the oven. Ok, the oven takes MAXIMUM 7 minutes to preheat. You know how long it took me to prepare everything???? 1.5 hrs!!! Talk about a waste of energy…grrrr.
– What the heck does it mean to FOLD something?? “Fold in also flour, then walnuts and beetroots”. Do they mean DUMP in flour? If so, why can’t they just that?? Well I don’t know what it means to fold in flour so I ended up dumping it in. Maybe that’s why my brownies tasted like cow excrements. Ok, it didn’t taste that awful, but it sure LOOKED like cow excrements.
– You don’t get to taste-test. One of the things I have come to enjoy with cooking is being able to monitor the progression of my dish one step at a time. But you can’t do that with baking. I don’t care what flour mixed with egg tastes like. You can’t really taste anything until the final product is ready to come out of the oven (unless you’re one of the raw batter eater people…I’ve never been one to lick the sides of the mixing bowl), which brings me to my last point…
– If you screw up, there’s nothing you can do to fix it!!! You’ve only got one shot to get baking right because once it’s out of the oven there’s no going back. With cooking, you can virtually fix anything with a bit of added salt…chili peppers…sesame oil…but with baking all you can do is dump the mess into the garbage. Obviously, being a hater of wasted food, I’m going to finish off my brownie loaf anyway. But lucky for you I won’t bring that to the next dinner party.

I’ve posted pictures of the entire baking process below. My precious DSLR is currently undergoing some major surgery (what is it with me and messing up my electronic gadgets??) so I’ve had to resort to using my camera’s phone. When it’s back in order hopefully I’ll be able to take pictures like the brownies from www.coffeeandvanilla.com:

But right now I think it’s OK to post the pictures below, seeing as the quality of my photos matches the level of my baking skills 😉

You may be wondering where you can get the recipe for this scrumptious looking brownie loaf, but I’m sorry to inform you that I have since misplaced the recipe. But fear not, I’ve found what I believe to be a very suitable replacement! Check out this video (scroll down to the Sept 22, 2011 post “Beets in chocolate cake…really?” from the amazing recipe storage site- MyReci.com. Now that, my friends, is some sexy baking.

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