Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

soup.jpg I love making and eating soup when the weather turns cold.  Every year I just keep trying new ones.  When I am at the grocery store, I just look at all the different ingredients, grab a few and always find a recipe online that works.  It is kind of a fun challenge.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter ( I only had peanut butter with nuts, but just put it in the blender with the soup and it was great)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • 1 large Roma (plum) tomato, seeded and diced  (I only had cherry, so chopped fine and deseeded by wiping with a paper towel)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and lime zest. Set aside in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend.
  2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add sweet potatoes, and chicken stock. Season with cumin, chili flakes, and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  3. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or regular blender. If using a countertop blender, puree in small batches, filling the blender just a bit past halfway to avoid spillage. Whisk peanut butter into the soup, (I added in the blender) and heat through. Stir in lime juice, and salt.
  4. Ladle into warm bowls, and top with a dollop of the reserved sour cream, a few pieces of diced tomato, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Serve with a salad or nice piece of French Bread and it is a lunch or dinner for kings. Oh, and don’t forget to add a nice glass of wine.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Bierocks

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Made these the other night.  They are basically German Hamburgers, or as my youngest son used to say:  “Hammaburgers”.

So when I made them, I had lots of left-over hamburger filling.  I added some potatoes and mushroom, covered with grated potatoes a good amount of cheddar cheese, threw in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and had a second dinner.

Well, that was all fine and good, but there was still left over, so I put it in a pot, added chicken stock, half & half and there is the third dinner.  None of them taste the same.  How about three cheap dinners.

Ingredients

  1. Prepare dough: In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Mix in sugar, margarine, egg, salt and 1/2 of the flour. Beat until smooth; add remaining flour until dough pulls together. Place in oiled bowl. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, OR let it rise for 1 hour.
  2. In a large heavy skillet, brown meat. Add onion, cabbage, salt and simmer 30 minutes. Cool until lukewarm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.) Coat a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
  3. Punch down dough and divide into 20 pieces. Spread each piece of dough out on an un-floured surface and fill with approximately 2 tablespoons filling. fold dough over and seal edges. Place on prepared cookie sheet and let rise for 1 hour.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with butter and serve.

 

Bierocks

Here are some reasons to hire an Interior Designer

There are so many reasons to work with a qualified interior designer.  Here are a few examples of what could happen if you don’t,

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Close, but does not quite work.  Anyone want to try doing dishes?

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How about a quick jacuzzi after dinner and just fill the water bottle with wine?

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Here is where you just jump into the shower to clean up after cooking?

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And the refrigerator stands along?

 

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Can you fit a glass on wine on this “huge” island?

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Maybe you should read the instructions, or is this just art?

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How much purple is just too too much?

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And here is one of my all time favorites..  If it is good enough to eat it is good enough to be a kitchen island?

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It’s all about the color or colors in this case.  Don’t think I could cook or eat in this kitchen.

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Hello Kitty – you do not belong in a kitchen.

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It’s all about the color.  Oh no, I think I am going to be ill.  Guess this is one way to diet!

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Opps or is that child-proofing solved?

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Maybe a good installer makes a difference?

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Don’t open these all at the same time!

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Might be hard to empty this one.

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Something is just wrong here!

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Oh no, not again??

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This may not be the look you wanted; so be careful ordering IKEA?

 

 

Here are some reasons to hire an Interior Designer

Upgrade Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Recently on a trip to Leavenworth, we had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant named Sulla Vito. They served Brussell Sprouts with dried figs.  It was amazing!

Here is a recipe I found that sounds similar:

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Pancetta (small dice)
  • 2 pounds Brussels Sprouts (stems trimmed)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Onion
  • 2 cups Dried Figs
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 4 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar (or more to taste)
Directions
  • Put a large skillet over medium heat and add oil, then the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until the onion begins to color and the pancetta is medium-crisp.
  • Meanwhile, slice the sprouts as thinly as possible. Add sprouts, figs and 1/4 cup water to pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Turn heat to medium, and cook, undisturbed, until sprouts and figs are nearly tender—adding more water as needed until tenderness is achieved—about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Turn heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until any remaining water evaporates, another 5 to 10 minutes. Add vinegar, and adjust seasoning. Serve.

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It’s hard to beat a simple sheet pan of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts; it’s a fall and winter side dish that goes with basically everything. And while roasted Brussels sprouts are great served plain and simple — with just olive oil, salt, and pepper — sometimes it’s fun to play around. Start with a basic recipe like this one and add a little bit of this and that from your pantry to give this wholesome side dish an upgrade. Here’s how to do it.

1. Finish with lemon and lots of Parm.

Sometimes the simplest upgrade can feel the fanciest. Toss roasted Brussels sprouts with a big squeeze of lemon juice and lots of grated Parmesan cheese to channel your inner Ina.

2. Toss in something crunchy.

Roasted Brussels sprouts are already nice and crispy, but adding extra crunch is never a bad idea. Finish them with whatever nut or seed you have on hand (toast them first) like pepitas, sliced almonds, pistachios, or chopped walnuts.

3. Bathe them in a balsamic glaze.

Tangy balsamic vinegar is arguably the best match for earthy Brussels sprouts. Toss them in a splash or two right after you take them out of the oven so they soak up the flavor.

4. Make them spicy.

Add a little heat if that’s your thing. Toss the sprouts in a bit of Asian chili-garlic sauce or sambal oelek along with olive oil, salt, and pepper to give them a fiery slant.

5. Just add bacon.

When in doubt, reach for bacon. Its fat will latch onto the sprouts as they roast and make them restaurant-worthy. Plus, it’s a sure way to win over those who usually turn their nose up at the vegetable.

6. Embrace honey mustard.

Honey mustard works well with pretty much everything, including Brussels sprouts. Honey’s sweetness tames the sprouts’ inherent bitterness, while mustard adds tang.

7. Pile them on a plate filled with something creamy.

Here’s the move: Spread a thin-ish layer of ricotta or plain Greek yogurt on a serving platter. Once the Brussels sprouts are roasted, pile them onto said plate. Then with each scoop of the sprouts, you’ll get some creamy richness. Plus, it makes for a fancy presentation.

8. Roast them with sausage to turn them into dinner.

Might as well make a sheet pan dinner if you already have a sheet pan of sprouts roasting in the oven! Toss some precooked sausage on the sheet pan to warm and crisp up at the same time.

9. Dig around your spice drawer.

There’s plenty to play around with in your spice drawer alone. Along with salt and pepper, sprinkle the sprouts with ground cumin or smoked paprika, or go for a spice blend like curry powder, garam masala, or za’atar.

10. Add little fish sauce.

Fish sauce might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about what to use to upgrade Brussels sprouts, but trust us on this one. Add a splash or two when you’re tossing the sprouts in olive oil; it will give them a Thai-inspired, umami richness that’s both surprising and wonderful.

Upgrade Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Steak ~ 7 Best Cuts

This post is for my steak-loving husband.

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Peer into your butcher’s case or roam the frigid aisles of Costco’s meat section, and you’ll encounter a whole world of confusing steak cuts. That doesn’t mean you should let all these admittedly confounding varieties get the best of you. We’re breaking down the differences between seven of our favorite steaks, including how to cook each of them to juicy perfection. With a little practice, we guarantee you’ll be showing up your favorite steakhouse.

① Filet Mignon

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A staple of white-tablecloth steakhouses across the country, this tender muscle does barely, if any, of the heavy lifting on the cow, resulting in a soft, buttery texture that gives way in the mere presence of a steak knife. However, this cut is also nearly devoid of any fat, meaning the mild flavor has less of the lip-smacking juiciness meat eaters crave.

Can be Known As: filet de boeuf, tender steak, beef tenderloin, tenderloin steak.

When to Order: The classic Valentine’s Day offering, filets are perfect for diners who are a) more concerned with tenderness rather than flavor and b) have money to spare. Filets are also well suited for anyone on a diet who just really needs a steak.

How to Cook it: It’s versatile enough to be cooked via whichever method you prefer, from pan-roasting to grilling. There’s no fat to compensate for overcooking, so sous vide is a safe bet if you need extra security.

② Rib Eye 

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One of the most prized cuts of all, the rib eye comes boneless or with the rib bone still attached, in which case it’s frequently known as a cowboy steak. And while the bone might make it harder to navigate your knife and fork, gnawing on gristle and crispy fat is undoubtedly the best part of the steak-eating experience. Speaking of which, it’s that abundance of fat, both marbled within the meat and surrounding the edges via the white fat cap that makes rib eyes so intense and beefy in flavor. They’re not as meltingly soft as filets, but ribeyes have just enough of a chew to remind you why your experience as a vegan didn’t last.

Also Known As: cowboy steak, tomahawk steak, Spencer steak, Delmonico steak.

When to Order: If you’re a carnivore who wants the best beef-eating experience possible, and has a supply of Lipitor on hand.

How to Cook It: Rib eyes are equally at home over charcoal flames, in a cast-iron pan or under a screaming broiler. The high-fat content means, yes, you can get away with cooking them somewhat past medium without the meat turning into a chewy football.

③ New York Strip

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It might not be as tender as it’s posh cousin (the filet) or as sumptuous as the always-fatty ribeye, but the New York strip is a solid jack-of-all-trades. A bit more chew and a little less marbling mean it’s less expensive so you won’t be picking your jaw up from the floor when it comes time to pay, making this the perfect midweek dinner for when you need a pick-me-up.

Also Known As: shell steak, Kansas City steak, sirloin steak.

When to Order: This is the all-around, crowd-pleasing steak star made specifically for Goldilocks in terms of flavor, tenderness, and price.

How to Cook It: Just like a ribeye, strip steaks are happy any way you cook them. Just be warned that some can run a little lean, making them less resilient to overcooking.

④  Porterhouse

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A porterhouse is simply a New York strip and delicate filet mignon separated by a T-shaped bone, hence another nickname, the mighty T-bone. This is the one time we suggest putting away the cast iron as meat shrinks as it cooks, meaning when seared, a porterhouse’s surface fails to make contact with the pan as the bone begins to jut out. And since the filet side is more prone to overcooking, it can be a challenge getting the entirety of the steak to finish at the same time.

Also Known As: T-bone steak.

When to Order: If you’re an experienced steak expert or part of a couple who doesn’t like to compromise (no judgment), or if you’re exceptionally hungry and prefer to spend your paycheck on steak versus rent.

How to Cook It: Grilling or broiling is your best bet. Just make sure the tenderloin side of the porterhouse is exposed to less heat, so it doesn’t overcook before the strip is finished.

⑤ Hanger

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Formerly the butcher’s hidden gem, the once-humble hanger has exploded in popularity over the years. It might not be as affordable as it used to be, but the cut, taken from the front of the cow’s belly, is still a bargain considering it’s astonishingly savory flavor and relative tenderness. When taken right off the cow, hangers tend to be covered in a blanket of tough sinew and silver skin, though most butchers will sell it already trimmed.

Also Known As: onglet, butcher’s steak, hanging tender.

When to Order: If you’re looking for maximum payoff with little effort; or a carnivore who prefers to spend only half their paycheck on steak.

How to Cook It: A loose, soft texture makes hanger steak perfect for soaking up sticky marinades and dry rubs. Keep in mind there’s a sweet spot when it comes to cooking this cut: Too rare, and it remains unpleasantly toothsome; too overdone, and it will dry out just like any other steak.

⑥ Flank

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Long, hardworking muscle fibers make flank steak relatively tough to chew on when improperly prepared. After cooking to medium rare, be sure to slice the meat thinly against the grain. (On the plus side, it’s easy to get a large number of servings from this square cut, making it perfect fodder for a summer buffet.)

Also Known As: London broil.

When to Order: Because of the flank steak’s low quality in terms of texture, you’d be wise to skip ordering this one in a restaurant.

How to Cook It: As long as it doesn’t go past medium rare, flank steak is happy whichever way you cook it. It’s one of the few “steak” cuts that do well when braised.

⑦ Skirt Steak

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The go-to choice when it comes to carne asada and fajitas, this flavorful, well-marbled cut is just as savory and succulent as a ribeye, while remaining one of the cheapest cuts behind the counter (at least, for now). You can bolster the naturally beefy flavor with a quick marinade, but the most important thing is to cook skirt steak as fast as possible and cut it thinly against the grain.

Also Known As: fajita meat, Philadelphia steak.

When to Order: Like flank steak, skirt steak is best cooked at home (and not ordered when out) if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck or just happen to be throwing a fajita party.

How to Cook It: These steaks are naturally thin, so blistering heat is required to make sure the outside is charred before the interior becomes overcooked.

 

Steak ~ 7 Best Cuts

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

 Muffins and quick bread, dips, and pies almost always start with the same instruction: “Preheat the oven to 350°F.” Why?

Why is that?

What makes 350°F the magical temperature?

Why is it that so many types of baked foods from cake to bread go in a 350°F oven and come out perfectly after a relatively brief bake?

The answer to that is one part science and one part, well, human laziness.

Putting something in a hot oven sets off a series of chemical reactions that turn the gooey dough into a bouncing bread or sheets of puff pastry into flaky pastries. A temperature of around 350°F is hot enough to complete a lot of these steps quickly.

Step 1. At 90°F, fats begin to melt and combine with the gluten proteins (flour). Gases from the baking soda or baking powder are released, which helps make the baked good tender.

Step 2..At 140°F, the gluten proteins (flour) begin to swell and dry out. That’s when cake or cookies go from wet batter to dry food.

Step 3. At 300°F, sugar starts to caramelize.

Step 4. The Maillard Reaction, a point at which foods begin to brown and develop their distinctive flavor, happens around 320°F.

So why 350°F? It’s good enough to make all those necessary steps happen quickly, even if your oven runs a little cold and it’s not so hot you have to worry about burning.

But how did we decide to bake things at 350°F and not 340°F or 360°F?

That requires a trip back to the turn of the century.

Before we had ovens that could be warmed up in 5-degree increments like we do today, we had ovens that could bake at three settings: slow, moderate, or high. Recipes for baked goods often called for “moderate ovens.”

After World War II, oven manufacturers capitalized on some technological improvements from the war. Newer models of ovens gave cooks slightly more control by letting them set their gas and electric ovens in 25°F increments. Today, many modern ovens will let you set your oven in 5°F increments.

Attempting to adapt antiquated recipe instructions to match the modern day appliances, recipe writers converted a “moderate” temperature to 350°F, which was typically halfway between an oven’s lowest setting, around 200°F, and its highest, around 500°F.

Is 350°F really the best temperature for baking?

No, probably not. Ovens are notoriously unreliable, so setting your oven to 350°F promises you’ll land somewhere between 330-370°F. You’ll hit 350°F only if your oven is well-calibrated. That being said, most ovens have hot spots and cool spots, so it’s not a good bet that you’re really cooking at precisely 350°F.

Recipe writers and food marketers know that it’s better to err on the side of caution with the “moderate” temperature than to get very specific and have a failed recipe.

Some baked goods, like crusty baguettes,  benefit from baking at a higher temperature, but a too-high temp could sink it. The higher heat will help the bread rise more quickly and set the crust before the gluten in the bread has a chance to dry out and stiffen.

The same can be true for muffins: the muffin tops rise taller in the higher heat, and you can lower the temp to finish baking them and prevent them from drying out.

Likewise, many chocolate chip cookie recipes bake at a higher temp as high as 425°F or start hot and finish at a lower temp. The hot start gets the dough to the caramelization and Maillard Reaction stages faster and then slows the cooking down to keep the cookies from drying out or burning.

Until ovens become almost foolproof and manufacturers can guarantee an oven really is the temp it says, we’ll stick with the magical 350°F. It’s good enough to get the job done.

I like keeping an oven thermometer close at hand to check my oven temperature from time to time.

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Making these today and will add some work in progress photos.  Gnocchi is so easy to make and SO yummy to eat with a simple sauce.

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Here is the dough after being mixed by hand.

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I roll it right on to the parchment paper to sit and not too long before cooking.  If you let it sit it becomes sticky.  If you are not cooking it immediately put a little flour on you parchment paper.

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Ingredients

2 – 8 ounce sweet potatoes

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

Add all ingredients to list

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. (Mine took over an hour to cook)
  2. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove the peels, and mash them, or press them through a ricer into a large bowl. Blend in the garlic, salt, nutmeg, and egg. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have a soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.
  4. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out in several long snakes, and cut into 1-inch sections. Drop the pieces into the boiling water and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a serving dish. Serve with butter or cream sauce.IMG_9451.jpgI served this with a butter sauce which is quick and easy to make. Saute a couple heads of chopped garlic, add about 1/3 cup of butter.  Melt it than add basil and oregano.  The recipe calls for dried, but I used fresh from my garden.  Add a little Parmesan or Romano on top and have a lovely dinner.

You can dress up gnocchi in as many ways as you can sauce pasta, garnishing them with an unheated pesto sauce, or tossing them with foaming butter and slivered sage leaves. You can mix them with a chunky tomato sauce or smother them in a wild boar ragù.  A little olive oil added to the dough makes for a silkier consistency, but it is optional.

How to Make It

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread a 1-inch layer of salt in a small roasting pan. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and arrange them on the salt in a single layer. Bake until fork-tender, about 11/2 hours. Remove them from the oven and slit them lengthwise to release their steam.

 

Working over a medium bowl, sift the all-purpose and cake flours with a large pinch of salt. Measure out 4 lightly packed cups of the riced potatoes (1 pound), and transfer the potatoes to a work surface. Sprinkle the sifted flour mixture over the potatoes and drizzle with the olive oil. Gently form the dough into a firm ball.

Test the gnocchi dough: Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Using your hands, form one 3/4-inch round (a single gnocco). Boil the gnocco until it floats to the surface, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocco to a plate and let cool. It should be light and tender but still hold together. If the gnocco breaks apart in the boiling water, the dough has too little flour; add more. If the gnocco is tough and chewy, the dough has too much flour; cut in a little more of the reserved riced potatoes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters. Working with one piece at a time, gently roll the dough into a long rope about 1/2 inch wide. Using a sharp knife, cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces.

Roll each piece against the tines of a fork to make light ridges. Transfer the gnocchi to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Let the gnocchi stand at room temperature for 1 hour to dry. I use a gnocchi board shown here.

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If you are not going to eat your gnocchi immediately, which I suggest then bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add half of the gnocchi at a time and boil over high heat until they rise to the surface, then cook for 15 seconds longer. Using a wire skimmer, transfer the gnocchi to the bowl of ice water.

Drain on paper towels and pat dry. Toss with oil and refrigerate for up to 3 hours or freeze the gnocchi on baking sheets in a single layer. Transfer them to an airtight container or resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to six weeks.

I like to plan serving gnocchi right out of the boiling water, draining it well, adding a little EVOO and whatever sauce sounds good for the meal.

but if you did freeze them, then to serve, sauté them in butter until heated through before proceeding.

For Chestnut Gnocchi, substitute 1/3 cup chestnut flour for the cake flour before forming the gnocchi dough.

 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Tricolor Beet-and-Carrot Salad

 

Here is my version of the salad.  It is interesting if you actually put it together with the way they suggest, you don’t see the carrots, which are very pretty.

Tricolor Beet-and-Carrot Salad

FOOD SNOBS: RANKED BY OBNOXIOUSNESS

This is an article I captured from Thrillist and rewrote a bit.

FOOD SNOBS: RANKED BY OBNOXIOUSNESS

I do not like Stuffed Bell Peppers

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This photo is nowhere near as bad as what my mother used to make on a weekly basis.  She used only hamburger and rice and put it in the green bell pepper.  The gook from the hamburger sat on top and it was hard to look at, let alone eat.  To this day, the thought of it takes away my appetite.

Here is the problem.  My husband loves it and has fond memories of eating it when younger.

So I thought about it and came up with my own version of Stuffed Bell Peppers

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Ingredients

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove and discard the stems, then finely chop the tops; set aside. Scoop out the seeds and as much of the membrane as you can. Place the peppers cut-side up in a baking dish just large enough to hold them upright.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up the lumps, until the meat is cooked through and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of the fat.

Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and chopped peppers and cook until beginning to soften (3 to 4 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and a pinch or 2 of red pepper flakes. Cook until everything is heated through, then stir in the beef and rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in 4 oz of the cheese.

Fill the peppers with the rice mixture and top each with a sprinkle of the remaining cheese. Pour a small amount of water into the bottom of the baking dish and drizzle the peppers with a little olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted and lightly browned, another 15 to 20 minutes.

Since I still could not get my head around the “bell pepper” part of this, I put a little in miniature pie plates and just baked.  I actually liked it. It is not as pretty, but it was yummy.

 

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The other thing that I actually did, was use leftovers.  I had made mushroom and onion risotto the previous night so I just used it in place of the rice, onion, and garlic.  The risotto was a good way to use a bottle of white wine that I did not like the taste, but if you added a bit of butter to the risotto, it was DELICIOUS!   I used Romano cheese, so the risotto was dairy free.  But the pepper jack was not.  It is amazing how much different Pepper Jack cheese tastes when cooked, as it is not one of the cheeses I would normally buy.

The original recipe was from Lee Drummond, but she added zucchini, and even though I have it over-growing in my garden, it did not appeal to me in this dish.

BTW my husband loved it.  I served it with baby carrots, so he was a happy husband.

I do not like Stuffed Bell Peppers