Stuffed Peppers

As 2013 hit, Kurt and I decided we really want to start taking better care of ourselves. As you can see from the blog, I'm a BIG fan of comfort food (like, big big BIG fan). Unfortunately for our waistline, comfort food is not very healthy and does not aid in staying in shape. I've made a big push lately to eat healthier foods and try to use fresh ingredients.

I first saw this stuffed pepper idea pop up all over my online mom's group, like, everyone was making them! Then I saw them all over Pinterest and then my co-worker brought them in for lunch....I think you get the idea. They are everywhere and now I understand why! Stuffed peppers are delicious! After making them once, I keep thinking of new things to stuff them with. This recipe is sort of an "eyeball" type recipe as I didn't really have specific measurements so I more or less just eyeballed the ingredients.

Stuffed Peppers
Source: Adapted from Rachel, a mom friend of mine

5-7 peppers for stuffing (try to find ones with flatter bottoms)
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup white rice
1 can diced tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes with garlic and sweet onion)
1/2-1 onion, chopped
1 small jar your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Newman's Own Sockarooni)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Any add-ins you'd like

1. Cook the rice. While rice is cooking brown the ground beef and saute the onions in EVOO. 

2. When everything is cooked, mix the beef, onions, rice, and the canned tomatoes in a large bowl. Add about 1/3 of the jar of spaghetti sauce to coat the mixture.

3. Cut the tops off of the peppers and clean out the insides. I used a paring knife to cut away the membranes or used my fingers to pull them out. Stuff the peppers with the meat/rice mixture and place them in a baking dish (I used an 8x8 baking dish but you can use whatever works for you).

4. Pour the remaining spaghetti sauce over the peppers and in the bottom of the baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes add some mozzarella to the top and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until peppers are soft.

**We like our peppers with a little crunch. For softer peppers I've heard of people cutting the peppers length-wise b/c more of the pepper cooks in the sauce. I've also heard of people roasting their peppers for a little bit first.


Amped Up Goat Cheese & Asparagus Pizza

My best friend Suki lives in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in Minnesota. One glorious weekend I was able to get away, sans husband and child, and pay a visit to said BFF. It was glorious!! We went out to eat at nice restaurants, we slept in (me only until 8am of course), leisurely got ready, and even went dancing! Not to mention it was my bestie's 30th birthday!!!

As we were lounging in our pj's on Saturday we wanted to make a yummy but healthy and not too heavy lunch. Suki had suggested this Goat Cheese and Asparagus Pizza and I jumped on the chance to eat it! We ran to the grocery store and got the few ingredients needed to make the yummy pizza. We basically watched it bake and as soon as that timer went off we cut it and dove in. Unfortunately I think that meant we burnt our tongues but well worth it.

I've taken the original recipe and added a few things to up the veggie count and make it more filling. I also added a little mozzarella on top to up the cheese factor (I am a Wisconsin girl after all)! This was delicious!! Honestly, the tangy white sauce, the crisp and fresh asparagus, the woodsy mushrooms, and the sweet onions are SUCH a great combination. I would give this a 9.7 out of 10. The next time I make it I am going to add some cooked and crumbled bacon and it will be a 10 for sure! I think if you want a quick and fresh pizza, definitely just make the original Goat Cheese and Asparagus pizza. If you want to make it more of a dinner and add some extra ingredients, go with my edited version. As usual, I'd love to hear how it turned out for you and if you made any substitutions that turned out delicioso!!!

Can you say YUM-O?!!!
Amped Up Goat Cheese & Asparagus Pizza

flour for work surface
1 or 2 pre-made thin pizza crusts
4 ounces goat cheese (although more is always good too)
4 ounces sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (I didn't have fresh so I used about 1 tsp. dried)
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pint sliced mushrooms, baby bellas if possible
1 small sweet onion, chopped
bacon (optional)
1/4 cup white wine
kosher salt and black pepper

1. Heat oven to 425°F, or as directed on pizza crust.

2. Add EVOO to a pan and saute the onions so they start to sweat. As they are close to becoming translucent, add the white wine finish cooking until the wine has been absorbed/cooked off.

3. While cooking the vegetables, in a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, sour cream, salt & pepper, and thyme. Spread over the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border.

3.Top with the asparagus, mushrooms, and onions (and bacon bits).

4.Bake until golden and crisp around the edges, around 15-20 minutes.



Copycat Olive Garden's Pasta Fagioli Soup

This has to be my favorite soup at Olive Garden, hands down. As an avid Pinterest user, I saw this on Pinterest as a crockpot soup and knew it was going in the rotation. I was able to put everything in the crockpot before I left for work and by the time we got home, I just threw the (store bought) breadsticks in the oven and 15 minutes later we were eating a healthy and DELICIOUS meal! If you like soup and crockpot cooking, MAKE THIS!

Just an FYI, make sure you have a big crockpot because this make a lot of soup! I even froze half of it for another day (again, even awesomer b/c then I've got another meal made for a few weeks later with only half the work)! Also, I couldn't find ditalini pasta at the grocery store so I bought these pipette ones, I'd suggest regular macaroni if you can't find ditalini. The pipette got too big when cooked so any small pasta will work well.

Source: Favorite Familiy Recipes via Pinterest

2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots,  (I used a couple handfuls of shredded bagged carrots)
1 c. celery, chopped
2 (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (16 oz.) can white kidney beans, drained
4 cups beef stock
3 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. pepper
5 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. tabasco sauce
1 (20 oz.) jar Prego traditional spaghetti sauce
8 oz. pasta (I like using ditali pasta)

1. Brown ground beef in large skillet. Drain fat.

2. Add beef and all ingredients except the pasta into a large crock pot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

3. Before serving, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to soup.