Stuffed peppers

One for my foodie readers (I know it’s been a lot of bike stuff lately, but that’s life!).  Anyhow, I was beginning to despair of ever having peppers, and then, voila!  Grocery bags full of gorgeous sweet peppers!

We also had a few large green bell peppers, which Matthew suggested stuffing.  I made these based on [a vegetarian adaptation of] his grandmother’s recipe.*

In the interest of not reinventing the wheel, the recipe here is adapted from the stuffed zucchini recipe I shared earlier this summer.  To make this recipe similar to Matthew’s grandmother’s recipe, simply use tomatoes for most of the veggies to make a nice amount of tomato sauce.  Thicken the sauce with a couple tablespoons of flour, which you mix in with the sauteing onions and other veg before adding the tomatoes. IMG_5805

Stuffed Peppers

Recipe by Melissa
Serves 4-6


4-6 large bell peppers, any color
1 onion
6 cloves garlic
1.5 c. uncooked grain (brown rice, quinoa, millet, farro)
1 c. cooked lentils or 1 8oz package of tempeh
4-8 c. vegetables of choice (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, kale or spinach, fennel)
fresh or dried herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley)
4-6 oz. cheese, cut into small cubes (I used Havarti and Gruyere)
olive oil and/or butter
salt and pepper


1. Prep the peppers: cut off the tops, and scoop out the seeds.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Parboil the squash for 1-2 minutes (it doesn’t take long with these guys), until slightly tender.  Drain well.

2. Prep the grain.  To up the flavor, add a bit of salt, plus some onion powder and a pinch of tumeric to this step.  If you want to conserve water and energy, use some of the already-heated water from step 1 to cook the grain.

3. Prep the veggies: You want everything fairly tender and ready to eat.  Chop everything into bite-sized pieces.  Sauté onions, then add other veggies to sauté.  I used a mix of butter and olive oil, plus about 1/2 t. of salt.  If you’re using tomatoes, you can just throw the chopped, uncooked tomatoes into the filling, or cook them down into more of a sauce.

4. Prep the tempeh, if using: I basically followed the method I use to prep tempeh for vegetarian reubens, except I crumbled it up first, instead of leaving it in a slab.

5. Combine it all: In one large pan or bowl (one of the ones that’s already dirty is fine, if it’s big enough), combine everything from steps 1-4.  Toss in any herbs.  Taste for overall salt and flavor level, and adjust as needed.

6. Stuff it and bake it: Preheat [toaster oven] to 400F.  Arrange peppers, open side up, in a baking pan (for four peppers, a bread pan worked well, and allowed me to use the toaster oven).  Sprinkle halves with salt.  Add the stuffing.  Bake for 15-20 minutes — long enough for cheese to get melty and flavors to meld a bit.

*The original recipe uses ground beef in place of the cheese and tempeh.  My MIL’s veg adaptation uses all cheese.  This version lightens it up a bit by replacing some of the cheese with lentils or tempeh.  Matthew said it was good, but he still wants the cheesy version sometime.


While I’m not taking a full summer vacation from blogging, things have been a little slow in this space, which, as usual, indicates that life is anything but slow!  Despite the craziness, life is actually pretty darn good right now, and I have lots of future post ideas stored in the drafts folder for a rainy day.  Until then, here’s a peak at foodie and bikey happenings.

We celebrated last week’s unseasonably cool weather (highs in the mid-70s) — picnicking with friends at the Botanical Gardens and a trip to the zoo, both by bike.  The cooler temps didn’t stop Gabriel from getting soaked in the raccoon fountain at MOBot.


Our return trip from the zoo marked my first time climbing the Macklind hill on Roadrunner.  I enlisted my cheer leading section to chant “Go, Mama, go!”  We were slow but steady on our climb to the top.

On Saturday, I spent a rare day at the garden, ostensibly to help dig the last of the potatoes.  That didn’t happen so much (potatoes were dug, just not by me), but I harvested edamame, gave tours to a couple of friends who will be helping with the garden (and enjoyed catching up in the process), and cleaned and sorted a boatload of carrots!


That’s less than half of the harvest!  Carrot harvesting was not on the list for Saturday, but, despite all of his anti-vole efforts, Matthew found evidence of vole-damaged carrots, so out they came!  Fortunately, we got to most of them before the voles.

After a couple weeks of a trickle of cherry tomatoes and a couple of other small varieties, we harvested our first big tomatoes over the weekend, which meant Caprese sandwiches on Sunday.


Plus carrots and green beans!

Our “low-key” Sunday involved picking and freezing a couple quarts of basil, pickling some cucumbers, baking a coffee cake, and making bread dough.

Weekend: Muny by bike and Sustainable Backyard Tour

Nothing like spot thunderstorms and showers to make summer outings interesting, but we didn’t let the weekend weather dampen our plans.

We kicked off the weekend at the Muny.  I biked over and arrived at the crack of dawn 5pm to get in line for free seats.  I felt a little silly when I pedaled up and saw next to no one in line, but I did achieve our goal of having a pick of the free seats, as well as a fairly shady spot to wait.  I needed the shade because it was HOT, especially after biking.  I’d finally started recovering from my ride when Matthew joined me, followed by a friend who’d planned the outing.

Our picnic dinner consisted of a little bit of this, and a little bit of that — leftovers that needed to be eaten and that worked well for chilled or room temperature dining.


Clockwise, from top left: fennel mozzarella bread salad, [homemade!] soba noodles with cooked greens, broccoli salad, and a summer fruit medley (served with whipped cream).  It felt like a ton of food for two people (we shared some with our friend), but it was none too much over the course of the evening.

By the time the seats opened at 7pm, we’d just finished our dinner, and dark clouds were threatening.  We staked our seats and went back to catch the pre-show, just a big, fat raindrops began falling.

If you’re familiar with the Muny, you know there’s not a lot of cover.  We huddled under the roof at the top of the theatre, and waited out the storm (unfortunately, there was not cover for our bikes, and it was Roadrunner’s first drenching; even though we ride in the rain, I prefer to keep the bikes dry).

The skies finally cleared about twenty minutes before show time, allowing the stage crew to make everything dry and safe for the performers.  We dried our seats as best we could, and settled in for Billy Elliot.  It was a great show, though, as always, it made for a very late night for us early-birds — worth it sometimes, but probably not a weekly occurrence.

Saturday was a standard Matthew at garden, me doing stuff around here day.  I made big batches of bean burgers and English muffins.  We’re out of our homemade bread (and bread-baking is Matthew’s bailiwick — it still intimidates me), but I can do English muffins!

Sunday brought the Sustainable Backyard Tour.  Our garden was on the first annual tour in 2011 (mentioned briefly here — I looked a little different then!), but we skipped both 2012 and 2013.  It was fun to host visitors again this year.

IMG_garden tour
(photo credit to Mackenzie — I had good intentions, but didn’t get a single photo)

Of course, the weekend and tour would not have been complete without another spot rain shower.  I dashed to rescue our sign-in sheets and roll up the car windows.  Some guests dashed for their cars, while others huddled with Matthew under a big tree and managed to stay fairly dry that way.

We had 80 people on the official sign-in sheet, and we think out total number of visitors was probably close to 100!  Most frequently asked question: “Do you eat all of that food?

Recent eats and recipe: Lentil Fennel Soup

The garden is bountiful these days: loads of red and black raspberries, bunches of greens, big bulbs of fennel, and sweet, crunchy sugar snap peas.

I love eating the sugar snap peas as-is (and so does Sir), but we have enough that I felt like experimenting, so I tried this sugar snap salad recipe.  Fortunately, I had grabbed some mint from my MIL’s yard, so I was good to go (I didn’t have shallots, so I just substituted some onion).  It was a snap to make and tasty, too!

Next up, marinated fennel.  I started this on the same afternoon that I made the pea salad, planning to give the fennel a nice long marinade before using it for the next day’s dinner.  It just so happened that the fennel marinade in the recipe I wanted to try was almost identical to the dressing for the pea salad, so I just made extra and tossed it on the fennel.


The next night, the marinated fennel paired with fresh mozzarella and grilled bread for a satisfying, summery sandwich (recipe here), shown above in a deconstructed, bread salad version that I tossed together for a picnic dinner later in the week.

We’re awash in fennel right now, so I created a lentil soup recipe to make use of the fennel, as well as some greens.

Recipe by Melissa


One large bulb of fennel
1-2 T. butter1-2 T. olive oil
Chopped garlic scapes or minced garlic
Oregano (dried or fresh)
1/4 t. tumeric
1/2 t. onion powder
1 t. salt
1 c. dry lentils
1/2 c. wild rice
3-4 c. loosely packed fresh spinach, washed and chopped


Cover wild rice with 2 c. water.  Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer for 60 minutes.

Cook lentils in 4-5 cups water.  The extra cooking water will become part of the broth for the soup.  Once at a boil, simmer for about 15 minutes until tender, but not mushy.

Meanwhile, quarter fennel (discarding tough core, if present), then chop into bite size pieces.  Sauté fennel in butter and olive oil, with a bit of salt, about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the garlic or scapes and sauté an additional minutes, then turn off heat.

Puree about 1/3 of the cooked lentils and 1/3 of the cooked fennel with some of the extra lentil “broth.”  Combine puree and all remaining ingredients in a large pan.  Check salt and seasoning level, and adjust as desired.  Simmer 2-3 minutes to wilt spinach.


This was good the first night, but, as is the way of soups and stews, it tasted even better for lunch two days later, after the flavors had time to meld.


Full moon, fireflies, fennel

We kicked off the weekend with an evening bike ride on a gorgeous (slightly chilly!) June night.  Our plans were a bit up in the air — zoo music or no, gelato before or frozen custard after, was it too early [in the year] / too cold for fireflies?

We decided to save the frozen treat for the end of the night, and by the time we reached the park, it was after eight — too late for zoo music.  We did pause for a tiny bit of Shakespeare on our way to the firefly prairie, since it was still way to light for fireflies at that point.

We reached the prairie area around nine o’clock, and it was still pretty bright outside; the fireflies were just starting to flicker.  We walked around for thirty minutes as it grew darker, but then the full moon started to rise.

The fireflies put on a decent show, but not nearly as amazing as the first time we went, a number of years ago.  We’re thinking our first viewing was some combination of a particularly good year for fireflies, plus a darker night.

We left in time to make it to Ted Drewes before catching a small, local fireworks display, but when we arrived, the line for frozen custard was INsane.  If not for the fact that we were on bikes, I’m not sure we would have made it into the parking lot.  We decided we didn’t want frozen custard that badly, and continued on to the park . . .

. . . only to find that we were one night early for the fireworks.  Oh well, home and bed!

Saturday morning, I was in charge of delivering fennel to a neighborhood pizza place (their first time buying from us).  It looked something like this.FennelDelivery

Much easier on Roadrunner than trying to wrangle that load onto a standard bike!

Sunday morning, we were up and out early, to fulfill Matthew’s Father’s Day request — a visit to Shaw Nature Reserve for some outdoor time.


Despite being relatively close (about 45 minutes in the car), it’s been years since we’ve visited, and we found some fun new features, including the Tree-mendous Bridge (above), and some lovely gardens near the old manor house on the property.


It was a beautiful morning, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves.  We headed home for lunch before the temperature climbed too much.  (We did not envy the people sitting in the traffic jam at the Six Flags exit!)

Naps for all and a low-key afternoon and evening followed.  The garden provided much of dinner — broccoli soup, salads with shaved fennel, and pasta with carmelized fennel.  And now the week begins!