Lebanese Peppers

The beach is one of my favorite places in the world.  And while adore the beach in the summer, I’ve grown to love the beach during the fall more and more over the past decade.  Big Guy and I spent the past long weekend at the beach and I promise to share some of our adventures later in the week.  But while I’m soaking up the last moments of my four-day weekend {insert Drift coffee date here} let me share a dinner from last week.

{Lebanese Peppers}

Our bell peppers are still growing strong in our garden and I am not going to complain one bit.  (So are our herbs and cukes!)

While I love stuffed peppers, I haven’t made them in quite a while.  In Lebanese cooking, herbs and spices are very important as is the freshness of the ingredients.

In this particular recipe,  ground allspice, cinnamon, fresh parsley, oregano and crushed red pepper are used for flavor along with garlic and onion.

The recipe called for beef though in Lebanese cooking, red meat is typically lamb or goat.  We opted to use bison for our peppers.

The base of the sauce is crushed tomatoes and gets it’s creaminess for a last-minute addition of 2% Greek yogurt.

The flavors were so unique with a little bit of warmth from the spices and brightness from the fresh parsley and lemon juice.

These stuffed peppers are different in that there is no cheese in the recipe and I also have never made stuffed peppers where the meat goes into the peppers raw (hence the longer cooking time on these peppers).

Flavorful and filling.  The perfect fall dinner – using summer produce.

Sweet Potato, Balsamic Onion and Proscuitto Pizza

If Pizza Sunday wasn’t already our “thing” I would totally be signing up for Pizza Friday.

A bottle of Pinot and a slice of pizza while curled up on the couch sound like the perfect end to any week.  Any day, for that matter.

Pizza is such a simple thing, really, but I love trying new and unusual pizza toppings.  Each and every pizza we make and devour is different – even if it’s just changing one ingredient.  And I absolutely love that.

Our latest creation was from Food and Wine and featured mashed sweet potatoes instead of a sauce.  Genius.  Big Guy really loved this idea because we were able to use one of our homegrown sweet potatoes.  To make the mashed potatoes, I simply cleaned off the potato, poked it a few times with a knife, wrapped it loosely with a damp paper towel and microwaved for about 6 minutes or until tender.  Once cool enough to touch, I removed the fresh from the potato and mashed with a fork.  I added a little bit of whole milk to loosen it up and some salt.

For the crust we used the fool-proof recipe from Jessica’s cookbook, Seriously Delish.   (I think I may give this cookbook to everyone on my list this year just so they can have this pizza crust recipe.)  The only deviation I make from the recipe is using bread flour instead of all-purpose (but I’ve totally used all-purpose in the past and it works like a charm).

In addition to the sweet potatoes, this pizza has balsamic onions and proscuitto.  The original recipe called for soppressata but unfortunately our small town grocery store just doesn’t have that in stock.  Proscuitto is an Italian dry-cured ham and soppressata is an Italian dry salami.  I am not a huge fan of proscuitto by itself but I loved it on this pizza after the oven crisps it up a bit.

The pizza is kept simple by only using shredded mozzarella.  We always buy a ball and then place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes before shredding.  Shredding the cheese makes for optimal coverage.  And that’s important, folks.

And the perfect pairing for this pizza:  Pinot.  But not just any Pinot, a bottle of 2013 Deer Gate Pinot Noir from one of my favorite winemakers, Iron Horse Vineyards.

I savored every sip and every bite of this wine and pizza.

Pinot and pizza.  It’s my favorite.


Tailgate Thursday {fried pimiento mac ‘n cheese plus dueling ribs}

Last Saturday was a good one.  Especially for the Pirates.  As I mentioned on Monday, my youngest brother was in town visiting for the weekend.  Logan loves South Carolina football at about the same intensity as Big Guy loves East Carolina football.  Unfortunately, Logan wasn’t so happy after their noon game but thankfully he rallied and enjoyed the rest of the football-filled day.  And when I say football-filled, I mean every moment from noon until about 11 pm was filled with football.  We had quite the set-up in our living room:  we moved the t.v. from another room into the living room so there was no chance of missing anything.

{pic stolen from Big Guy’s instagram}

In addition for sharing a love of college football, Big Guy and Logan also share a love of pimiento cheese – specifically Palmetto Pimiento Cheese.  It really is the best store-bought pimiento cheese (though I disagree with their spelling of “pimento”) ever.  I was pretty darn excited to tell Logan my plans for fried pimiento mac ‘n cheese bites as an appetizer while watching all the games.

On Saturday morning I prepped the pimiento mac ‘n cheese so that it would be ready to fry that afternoon.  Simply cook macaroni according to the box directions then drain and set aside.  For the pimiento cheese sauce, make a roux with butter and flour and then add the milk, stirring until thick (seriously – stir continuously to avoid burning the sauce).  Once thickened, add in the pimiento cheese (I used the original pimiento cheese) and remove from the heat.  Stir and add salt and pepper, as needed.  Add in the cooked noodles and then cover and cool until you’re ready to fry up some mac ‘n cheese bites.

This is where it gets a little tricky (just being honest) and it’s also where I am really glad that Logan was in town to help.  Big Guy was no help when it came to these nuggets of deliciousness.

To make the bites, take a scoop of mac ‘n cheese and form into a ball (about the size of a golf ball).  Note:  these need to be tightly packed and this is where my brother’s strength came in handy.  Then roll in Panko.  Fry in oil at about 350 to 360 degrees.

We were able to fry two or three at a time and they don’t take long in the oil.  Under a minute each.  Some fell apart – but that’s okay.  The end result is so worth the effort.

I’m drooling just looking at that picture from Saturday.  I served the mac ‘n cheese balls with more Palmetto Pimiento Cheese (this was the jalapeno version).  To make into a sauce, simply place in the microwave until melted.  So simple – I told Logan this needs to be his new “go-to” appetizer if he ever goes to watch a game at a friends house (one ingredient = man’s best friend).

These were incredible.  Holy delicious.  The texture was perfect.  The flavors were perfect.  And they were worth every.single.calorie.

During all the football watching, Big Guy and Logan were also manning the smoker that was busy smoking ribs.  We thought it would be fun to have “dueling ribs” and tested out two different recipes.  The ribs weren’t done until about 9 pm – which worked out because well, fried pimiento man’ n cheese bites happened.  And also we were in luck because Sarah and Ryan (our travel buddies) stopped by to watch the ECU game and ate with us – there was a TON of food.

I’m going to warn you – ribs don’t take pretty pictures, especially at night.  But they were delicious.


Here are the links to both recipes that we used:

Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Root Beer BBQ Sauce (the sauce was awesome)

The Ultimate Barbecued Ribs

And since man can’t survive on ribs and fried mac n’ cheese bites alone, I whipped up a quick salad was the perfect side dish for the ribs.  The salad and dressing recipe are loosely based off these recipes from Southern Living.

harvest salad

The salad base was a mix of iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce that was topped with shredded white cheddar, feta cheese, spiced pecans, and apples.

The dressing is definitely one you should try.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find sorghum, but I subbed in molasses.  After tasting the dressing, I ended up adding a few more tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for a little more tang.

Another successful “tailgate at home” for the books.  And the Pirates are now 3 – 2 going into another away game this weekend.  On Saturday we face the BYU Cougars in Utah with a 7:30 pm kick-off.

Go Pirates!

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

With all the rain and dreary weather, comfort food was a must earlier in the week.  Mac and cheese ranks pretty high up there on my list of comfort foods.

Cheesy and cozy.  Warms the heart and soul and satisfies your hunger.

Just like this spin on traditional mac and cheese using spaghetti squash instead of noodles.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that spaghetti squash tastes like noodles.  But it is delicious.

The best part about this dish – the portion size!  This dish could be served as a side dish but it was a fabulous meatless Monday main dish.

spagh squash

I halved, removed the seeds and roasted two small(er) spaghetti squash (from our SoCo Farm to Door delivery!) at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes.  Another option – cook your spaghetti squash in the slow cooker – I saw this on a recent The Kitchen episode and thought it was brilliant.

Once cooked, scrape out the strands of squash using a fork.

The squash “noodles” are mixed with an insane cheese sauce (I used half sharp white cheddar and half habanero cheddar from our SoCo deliver) and some spinach for even more nutrients.

(to note:  I used cornstarch instead of flour to make this dish gluten free)

The mixture is then baked in a casserole dish for about 25 minutes.  You could totally make the dish ahead of time and then bake before serving.

And I lied.  The best part wasn’t the portion size – the best part is that Gina {the blogger behind SkinnyTaste} “regrammed” my photo last night on Instagram.

I felt famous for about 15 minutes.


Fiery Chicken Thighs with Persian Rice

On Instagram, I referred to this dinner as “on fleek.”  Big Guy totally had to Google what that meant.

“on fleek” – the quality of being perfect, or on point

Totally on point.

Or “on fleek.”

That’s exactly how I would refer to these Fiery Chicken Thighs with Persian Rice.  


The rice proved to be a little tricky when it came time for me to “dump” it out of the pan but the taste, thankfully, wasn’t affected.  Cooked rice is mixed with onion that’s been sauteed with cumin and turmeric (this is where the rice gets the yellow color) and Greek yogurt before being added into a pan that’s been “seasoned” with oil and butter.  The rice is spread out on the bottom of the pan and packed down.  Then you leave it alone!  Don’t touch it.  Don’t even try to peak.  Just pray to the rice god’s and hope that it does what it’s supposed to do.

After about 30 minutes, the rice has created a golden crust on the bottom of the pan that is incredible.  So much texture.

While the rice is cooking (and to prevent you from peeking) – prepare the chicken.  It’s no surprise that prefer chicken thighs of chicken breasts.  (read:  so much flavor)  But when you keep the skin and the bone-in the flavor is even better.  I can almost 100% guarantee that you won’t have dry chicken if you use skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs.

The chicken thighs quick marinate in a mixture of oil, cumin, garlic, coriander and ground chile paste.  Use as much or as little of the chile paste as you like – but the rice really helps to balance out the heat.

The chicken is then broiled for about 12-15 minutes total.  The skin gets nice a crispy while the inside stays perfectly tender and full of flavor.

The plate was made complete with a sprinkle of parsley for some freshness and color.

I promise you’ll think this dinner is on fleek.

Mushroom, Corn and Black Bean Tacos

Can you believe that I’ve add this recipe tucked away since 2011?  I’ve pulled it out several times thinking I would put it on the dinner menu but I just never made it happen.  Until last night.

And I must say, these Mushroom, Corn and Black Bean Tacos were far better than I imagined.  The recipe is rather basic and only takes 20 minutes so I didn’t have my expectations set too high.  But the flavor and texture was phenomenal.

Mushrooms and black beans add just the right amount of “meatiness” to these meatless tacos.  And there is no lack of flavor thanks to dried oregano, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salsa verde, hot sauce and lime juice.  Instead of poblano, I used 2 chopped jalapenos with the seeds removed.  And the only other substitution I used was feta instead of queso fresco.  I find feta to be so much more flavorful.

The tacos are topped with a sprinkle of feta, a dollop of Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and a hefty dose of cilantro for lots of freshness and flavor.

The texture was perfect, the flavors were perfect and it took no time to prepare.

So if you don’t have dinner plans – make tonight taco Tuesday.

Friday Favorites {first fall friday}

Wednesday officially marked the first day of Fall so I guess I can’t tune out all the pumpkin spice this and apple that any longer.  Our first weekend of fall includes a low-key Friday night with a football-filled Saturday.  Sunday I am meeting up with one of my best friends who lives in Houston.  She’s in town visiting family and I’m so glad we’re able to squeeze in a lunch date.  The last time I saw Natalie was when she and her husband came to visit last November.  Between then and now she’s gone from a family of three to a family of four.   In the spirit of fall, my favorites this week are all fall-inspired.



Favorite Slice:  Sweet ‘n Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Cider Caramelized Onions and Bacon.  Pizza is an anytime food – summer, spring, winter or fall.  But when you put these toppings on the pizza, it becomes a fall pizza.


Favorite Crunch:  Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Granola.  The perfect yogurt topping.  And I love that there’s actually real pumpkin in the recipe.


Favorite Tips:  6 Ways to Make Instagram Both Beautiful and Bearable.   Last, it’s (just) Instagram.  More specifically it’s your Instagram.  Do what feels good to you.  Stand on a chair in a restaurant, style your friends hands just right.  Forget the photograph and just dig into those cheese fries.  Do what feels good to you. Perfection has it’s charm, but so does a real real life.  Ain’t no shame in the game.


Favorite Flavors:  Mustard Burgers with Crispy Goat Cheese and Fig-Onion Compote.  That crispy goat cheese, though…


Favorite Cheeeeese:  Roasted Green Chile Queso Dip.  This totally has nothing to do with fall except I’ll make it as a tailgate snack.  But what I really want is a bowl of dip, a platter of chips and a big margarita.  With salt.


Favorite Cozy:  Basic Rolled Turtleneck.  Summer clothes are my best friend.  But I do adore a comfy sweater or turtleneck.


Favorite In Season:  Garlic Spaghetti Squash with Herbs.  Winter Squash > Summer Squash


Favorite Tex-Mex:  Veggie Fajita Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with a Chipotle Drizzle.  These kind of “bridge the gap” between summer and fall.  And Big Guy will love ’em because, well, sweet potatoes.


Favorite Twist:  PB&J Sandwich Donut.  And because now that it’s fall and I’m not laying out at the pool, it doesn’t matter if I gain 5 pounds.


Favorite Cocktail Hour:  Blackberry and Meyer Lemon Gin and Tonics.  This may just be a drink that Big Guy and I can agree on.


Happy Fall, Y’all!!!!