Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stuffed Peppers circa 1939

Jennifer Reese's new cookbook Make The Bread, Buy the Butter inspired us to actually open some of the vintage cookbooks we inherited years ago from Grandma Ott (a.k.a. Tutu -- grandmother in Hawaiian).

This one was published in 1939 and, honestly, I was a little afraid to crack it.  Many years ago, when the kids were young, we were guardians of one of Jason's students - a 17 year old whose parents lived in the Dominican Republic. Adding a nearly grown teenager to our house was quite an adjustment for us (curfews? dating? We were barely out of that territory ourselves!) and for Tom.

One of the most surprising challenges for Tom was food.  The first week he lived with us we made a pot roast. We sat down at the table to eat and Tom just stared at the plate. Finally, he timidly spoke up, "What is it?"

"It's a pot roast! You know, meat, potatoes, carrots, onions... Pot Roast!"

"Um... I've never had one."  He tried it. And liked it (not so much the crawfish we served a couple weeks later.)

But it got me thinking. Maybe we should try to make some Dominican food to ease the transition. I channeled my high school Spanish teachers and wrote Tom's mother a letter. I explained that he was a little homesick, and I thought that making some of her favorite dishes might help.

She wrote back and sent a small cookbook. The first chapter: How to pick and slaughter your dinner.

Um. Yeah. I wasn't going any further.

I guess I assumed Grandma's cookbooks would also take cooking to a level of DIY this former flexitarian wanted no part of. And yes, there are plenty of references to lard (sorry, I know I've lived most of my life in the south, but I just can't get on the lard boat) and too many photos of ring molds (here are some more modern versions with Coke and spinach and - wow! - look at this Hawaiian mold featuring Ahi, Avocado, and Crab. Definitely not your grandma's ring mold!).

But back to our 73 year old cookbook. We also found this gem...

Stuffed Peppers


  • 6 green peppers
  • 1 cup cooked meat, chopped fine and seasoned (the cookbook suggests that "potted meats that come in cans are excellent for this purpose". Um, yeah, we'll be using ground beef - one pound -  seasoned with a dash of salt and a liberal sprinkling of pepper)
  • 1/2 cup bread or cracker crumbs (make your own... it's easy!)
  • milk or cream (the original recipe doesn't say how much. use enough to moisten, but not soak)
A note: Jason was really skeptical. For him, stuffed peppers has always meant tomato paste and cheese and rice.  He was convinced this dish would be dry and bland. I had to bribe him with promises of Mr. Chen's if the recipe didn't work out. 

  1. Cut off tops of peppers or cut them in two lengthwise. Remove the inner fibers and seeds. Drop into boiling water, remove ("from the fire" ... says the cookbook!), let stand 10 to 12 minutes, then drain. 
  2. Meanwhile, mix the meat with the bread or cracker-crumbs and moisten with a little milk or cream. 
  3. Fill the peppers with the mixture and serve at once or cover with buttered crumbs and set in the oven (400 degrees) for ten minutes to brown. 
We did the browning route and the results were ...


The girls loved them and Jason ate his words. Thanks Grandma Ott! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rockin' Moroccan Meatballs

Hey, this is Olivia again, and I just wanted to tell you about these ladies...
The Real Housewives of New York
They took a trip recently to Morocco and that inspired me to cook a meal from Morocco for my World of Food Series.  I chose meatballs because they're my favorite thing to make!

Because Mom says recipes from some websites sometimes don't work out so well, I decided to try a recipe from Rachael Ray. She has a TV cooking show. You might have heard of her ;-)  Because I don't really like eggs, I changed her recipe a little (sorry Rachael!).


  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (we just used the nutmeg that has been in our drawer for years)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 pound ground lamb or beef (We do cow. Can't stand idea of eating a lamb.)
  • 2 slices of good quality stale bread, crusts removed, processed into fresh bread crumbs (or use box bread crumbs)
  • 5 eggs (1 for meatballs, 4 for poaching and serving, optional -- We DON'T do this. I DON'T like eggs)
  • 1 medium onion (1/4 grated and juiced and 3/4 chopped)
  • 4 large cloves of garlic (2 minced or pasted, 2 sliced -- We use garlic out of a jar in the refrigerator)
  • 1 small handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (We skip this. Dad hates mint.)
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • Few grates of nutmeg
  • kosher salt & ground pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced on an angle or chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon spice blend (Don't worry... we're making the spice blend. Remember all those spices I listed above?!?)
  • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas
  • a handful of chopped cilantro (We skip this, sort of. We use cilantro paste out of a tube in the refrigerator)
  • couscous or bread (We like Naan) to serve with it


First, make the spice blend. Combine the cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cayenne pepper and ground cloves. Store in a tight container for up to several months.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. And get a couple of things ready too. You need a wire cooling rack (the kind you cool cookies on) over a large baking sheet.  Put a large mixing bowl next to it and a smaller bowl of warm water. The water helps your hands from getting all sticky.

In the big bowl, combine the meat, bread crumbs, 1 egg lightly beaten, 2-3 tbsp of grated onion and juice (be careful grating it... I hurt my fingers doing this!), 2 cloves minced garlic, mint, pinch of cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Get your hands wet and roll little meatballs (about the size of a big bubble gum ball) and set them on the wire rack.  Roast the meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat more oil in a pan (dutch oven, if you've got one) to medium-high. Add the chopped onions, sliced garlic and zucchini. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, honey and spice blend. Let it bubble.  Drain the chickpeas and stir them into the sauce.

Remove the meatballs from the oven when they're done cooking and put them in the sauce in the pan.  Serve! (or, if you like eggs - YUCK! - and want to do the rest of the recipe - the egg part - you need to make four dents in the sauce and drop in four cracked eggs. Cover the pot and cook it until the eggs are "poached"... sort of cooked all soft and mushy - again, YUCK!)

SO GOOD! (without the eggs!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

USDA Updates Plant Hardiness Zones

Are you planning your vegetable garden already?  We are! We built a raised bed last summer, but never got it filled. Here's Peter the Cat helping with construction...

We're gonna fill it up with beans and tomatoes and herbs and maybe some okra... and ... and... and...  (what are your Must Haves?!?)

We're also planning to do some container gardening using our friend Andy's ingenious plastic tub subterranean watering system.  As you can see, it's a pretty productive!

Andy has promised a guest blog soon to explain his system.

In the meantime, it's good to note that the USDA has just updated its Plant Hardiness Zones.  They've been working on this update for about a decade.  Our zone changed. Yours may have too. You can search by zip code here.