Thursday, July 26, 2012

 Camaros & Green Pepper Casserole

Seven ingredients to Heaven!

Since beginning this blog, an odd and alarming thing happened to me: I lost my appetite!  You should know this about me right now – I DO NOT lose my appetite.  Ever.  I adore food almost as much as I adore my little loves.  If I’m not actually eating, you could safely bet your pinky toe that I’m doing one of three things:  thinking about my next meal, cooking my next meal, or fighting myself to wait a little longer for my next meal! 
 In all honesty, it doesn’t even have to be REAL for me to appreciate the way it might taste...  
For example, there is a brand new Camaro that drives around my town, always squeaky clean and as glossy green as a Granny Smith apple.  And every single time I see that car, I have to fight the urge to lick it!  I truly must tell myself that while it might resemble a green Jolly Rancher, it is not, in fact, a green Jolly Rancher.  My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I just blame it on my penchant for seeking the good in everything.  (Some might think the car alone is the good thing, but not me; I gave my heart to the Mustang long ago.  I’ve got it so bad, this blog was one drink away from being named “Wanna Be a GT.”)

As unprecedented as this aversion to food is, it was merely a symptom of a bigger issue that I had no difficulty diagnosing.  We have already established that the fear of failure is like an old, broken-in pair of jeans to me, right?  Until now, whenever they’ve offered themselves as solace, I didn’t don them grudgingly but thrust both legs in at once, anxious for their comfortable reassurance.  I chose to believe that within them, no one could see my legs were quaking on highly unstable ground.   These are no skinny jeans, friends; these are bona fide wide legs, complete with tatters and knee-holes and a cute little smiley face patch on the bum to remind me that life is good.         
As it turns out, no matter how metaphorical these pants might be, resisting them has a very literal and physical effect on my body!  For nearly two weeks, whenever I sat down to talk with you, my stomach hiked into my throat, pitched a tent, and hunkered down for the day.  There was no reprieve till I had finished saying what I came to say, and in exactly the words I wanted to say it.    
It was my old friend, fear, lodged right there in that soft spot between my collar bones.  And it made even the most delectable foods look like a pile of jagged little rocks.  Apparently, my eyes are co-dependent and my stomach is vindictive!        
But as this blog has slowly begun to help me turn nearly a decade of neglect and one really bad day into a really great life, that lump has begun to disappear.  Then all this recent talk about exercise did what it usually does and! 
Deeply, ravenously hungry!  My stomach has packed up shop and trekked home, and has taken the vaguely ill sensation with it, thank the Good Lord.  If I’m going to feel morning sickness, I better get an adorable little baby out of the deal, damn it!
That was my first thought, but my second was far more significant and for once, I couldn’t care less about all the food I can eat again.   It means something else, something much more vital to me than just my appetite, is recovering.  
I am recovering, and becoming a helluva lot less afraid that I will fail at doing what I want to do.  It’s a baby step, but I’ll take any step that isn’t directed behind me, and I’ll find ANY reason to celebrate…
Over an impossibly delicious meal, of course ;0)    
The one I’m craving is a creative spin off of Stuffed Peppers that my oldest sister designed for a potluck.  Simply, Green Pepper Casserole.  10 minutes of prep on the stove, then let your Crockpot do its flavor-melding magic act! 
It may not be the prettiest dish you’ve ever seen, but there is a better-than-good chance it becomes the best dish you’ve ever tried!  Who needs to take the time to carefully core and stuff a pepper that just ends up looking like a pretty bowl after all the real food is consumed? 
Not me!  I’m going to chop those peppers into little bite-sized pieces and bury them in a mess of Sweet Italian Sausage and melty, gooey mozzarella cheese, so that even my man doesn’t think twice if something green ends up on his fork ;0)
Seven ingredients, ladies… seven ingredients to Heaven.  


Ingredients  (*For a family of four.  If you do it for a potluck, double the recipe size)
  •  2 green peppers, chopped into 1" squares
  • 1 pack of Sweet Italian Sausage (Regular or turkey. I use turkey because it tastes the same.)
  • 2.5 cloves minced garlic (I use a tsp. of the jarred stuff.  Don't judge!)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups cooked rice 
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce, 1/3 set aside for assembly (I use Ragu Roasted Garlic)
  • 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Extras: garlic salt, pepper, and vegetable or olive oil.

STEP 1 - Heat crockpot on High.

STEP 2 - Prepare rice and set aside.

STEP 4 -  Toss your peppers with 1 tsp. oil and enough garlic salt and pepper to coat all the pieces lightly.  Microwave for 2 minutes and set aside.

STEP 3 - Start to pan-fry your sausage in 1 tbl. oil.

STEP 4 - When your sausage is almost cooked through, make a well in the center of the pan and add onions.  Add minced garlic last and sautee everything together for another minute. 

 STEP 5 - Add rice into pan mixture.  At this point, I like to liberally sprinkle in extra garlic salt and pepper.  Do it to your taste, as everyone is different!

STEP 6 - Add 2/3 of the marinara to pan and mix well.  Set aside the remaining 1/3 for assembly.

STEP 7 - Assembly! Begin by layering half of the pan mixture onto the bottom of your crockpot.

STEP 8 - Place half the peppers on top.

STEP 9 - Pour half the reserved marinara to top off this layer.

STEP 10 - Repeat steps 7-9 with remaining ingredients.  Put the lid on that baby and let it cook on high for 1-1.5 hours. 

STEP 11 - When that time is up, sprinkle the cheese on top and let it cook for about 15 more minutes, until the cheese is melty... 

It will go from this...

To this...

And though it might look a little odd, as casseroles often do, YOU will look like this...

ESPECIALLY if you serve it with some of this...


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