Jacob is entering a healthy cooking contest, brought to his attention by the chef teaching his culinary co-op. His cooking skills have taken off, and he made some delicious Italian Stuffed Peppers that I wanted to share with you. Even my daughter, who is often my harshest food critic, LOVED this recipe! The Italian spices, garlic, and basil bring so much flavor to this dish. It doesn't take too much time to prepare, and it looks so colorful and appealing on your plate. I'm so proud of my son and his culinary accomplishments! Here's chef Jacob's recipe for these Italian Stuffed Peppers:
Ingredients: 4 bell peppers in assorted colors-green, red, or yellow; 1 pound ground beef; 2 shallots; 1 clove garlic; 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning; 1 tsp. oregano; 1/2 tsp. garlic salt; 1/3 cup pasta sauce; 1 cup cooked white rice; 1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese; fresh basil for garnish
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the peppers and pat dry. Cut the tops off, cutting just below the stems. Remove the seeds. Dice the shallots and mince the garlic, using a garlic press. Place a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and cook the shallots and garlic over medium heat until tender. Add the ground beef. Use a spatula to crumble the meat and cook until it reaches 155 degrees or is no longer pink.
While meat is browning, bring a stockpot of water to a boil. Boil the peppers for 3 minutes, in order to speed up the baking time in the oven. Use tongs to remove the peppers from the pot. Drizzle olive oil in a square or small rectangular baking dish. Place the peppers in the dish. If they are wobbly, slightly trim the bottoms so they will sit level in the dish.
Cook the rice according to package directions. Mix the rice into the meat mixture. Stir in the pasta sauce. Fill each pepper with the meat mixture. If desired, add a couple tablespoons of sauce on top of the meat mixture. Top with cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and peppers are tender. Garnish with fresh basil.
Several years ago, we decided to buy a second home in Kissimmee, Florida. We were tired of our long Michigan winters and wanted to purchase a second home in a sunny city that's 10 minutes from theme parks. When Covid hit, however, we feared we made a huge mistake. The Disney parks immediately shut down and we were afraid property values would inevitably take a dive.
Surprisingly, despite the pandemic, home values in Orlando have increased, as home demand in on the rise. According to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, in 2020 Orlando home sales increased 3.8% from July to August due to low interest rates, home construction decline, and the low supply of homes in the $160,000-$400,000 range. We were relieved to hear the real estate market in Orlando was so stable, despite the catastrophic state of our economy. At the same time, we were a little lost without the hustle and bustle of the populated theme parks. Previous to the pandemic, the location of our home in relation to Disney was more valuable than the house itself. With the parks shut down, what would we do to occupy our time in Kissimmee?
Typically, on non theme parks days we would take advantage of the clubhouse pool and fitness center located within our gated community. But since the pandemic, we've found our private pool is far more relaxing and safer than our community pool. We don't have to worry about carrying hand sanitizer with us or wiping down public longe chairs. Our private spa brings us closer as a family, as it gives us time to talk and relax, without having to rush around the crowded parks. My son plays the guitar, and we enjoy hearing his classic rock tunes while we float around the pool or relax in the hot tub.
Another advantage to staying at home in Kissimmee is taking in the breath-taking scenery. My kids are taking a photography class at school and love to shoot images of picturesque palm trees, rainbows, and sunsets that are visible on our nightly strolls around the block.
Enjoying our second home in Kissimmee has given us family memories in a safe atmosphere. But of course, it's fun to venture out on occasion. We've found Kissimmee to be relatively affordable with its dining and entertainment options. Before we travel to Kissimmee, however, we use a Family Budget Planner to determine how much we should spend on food, recreation, and transportation costs. By simply plugging in our income and desired budget into a simple software program, we get instant results on how best to budget our money for our trip.
Another great way to save money is using the coupons on the site Orlandofreecoupons.com, where you can get deals on golfing, go-carts, jet ski rentals, bowling, dinner shows, and balloon rides. One of our favorite coupons is for Chocolate Kingdom in Kissimmee. First you can tour the chocolate factory and marvel at the chocolate river. Afterwards, you can purchase fun chocolate novelties, such as chocolate flip flops.
On nights we dine out, just down the street is a large Key West Style housing complex called Margaritaville that has an array of unique restaurants. Typically, they are not crowded and do not require reservations, unlike the ones near Disney. Most have outdoor seating, so it's easy to social distance ourselves. One of our favorite restaurants in this complex is Ford's Garage. The Ford theme is fun with the gas pumps and vintage Ford cars. I love their Model A burger and their Motor-jito.
Another unique dining option is Yeoman's Cask and Lion, an American/English pub. I love their shepherd's pie and their local Florida brews. Their 3 Daughter's Key Lime Cider beer really hits the spot on a hot evening in Kissimmee.
Our family's favorite place for dessert is SmallCakes. This family owned "cupcakery" and creamery serves ice cream and gourmet cupcakes in flavors such as Banana Split, Black Forest, Hummingbird, and Cream Soda.
My all-time favorite dining establishment in Kissimmee is Island Grove Winery at Formosa Gardens. They have a delicious and affordable weekend brunch with omelets (you can build your own!) Belgian berry waffles with homemade maple berry sauce and $5 Sangrias and mimosas. My husband and I love to sit on a picnic bench on their outdoor patio, where we take in views of the vineyard while we eat.
While we still enjoy the Disney attractions, we've grown accustomed to our scaled back lifestyle in Kissimmee. We've grown closer as a family and made our our vacation house a home. The Disney parks are still down in capacity due to Covid, but our family time in Kissimmee has lifted our spirits and given us some cherished memories.
Happy New Year! I'm excited to set some new goals for myself, and my daughter is anxious, as well. She wants to stay more organized with her homework and set some life goals as 2021 gets underway. It's the perfect time to team up with Cat & Bear to promote their adorable hard bound journals. With their bright colors, they look beautiful on my daughter's desk. Julianna uses her journals to write down her homework assignments and daily goals. She loves to draw, so she can doodle on the pages in her free time.
Journaling is a great way to inspire creative thoughts and get into a productive mind frame. Being home schooled, Julianna is often distracted and looses focus during the day. These Cat & Bear journals are a great way for my high school freshman to keep organized and mentally focused. The adorable illustrations are eye-catching, and they put Julianna in a whimsical mood.
I hope you're having a great start to the new year! These affordable Cat & Bear journals are a great way to write some new chapters in your kids' lives as you start some new journeys of your own. These high-quality journals can be found on the Cat & Bear website. Receive 15% off your order with code DESIGNTIMESIMPLICITY. Happy journaling!!!
Please Don't Tell Cooper He's a Dog: the perfect stocking stuffer for kids, teachers, and dog lovers!
Sometimes I swear my two pups think they are human! They remind me so much of Cooper the rescue dog in Michelle Lander Feinberg's hilarious story Please Don't Tell Cooper He's a Dog. I was so grateful to receive a complimentary copy of this book to review. I couldn't stop giggling at Cooper's all too familiar antics. Like my dogs, Cooper would rather sit in the middle of the couch than lye in the dog bed. Why eat stale dog food when you can eat spaghetti from the table? Who needs the boring dog park when you can ride in the car and do yoga with your family?
Feeling restless and in dog denial, Cooper travels to Paris for a more sophisticated lifestyle. If you have a dog that's hungry for the human life (and maybe a croissant or two!) you'll love this beautifully illustrated book. Short and sweet and funny with colorful images, Please Don't Tell Cooper He's a Dog is the perfect stocking stuffer for parents and preschool or elementary teachers. Kids will learn about rescue organizations and gain some knowledge of traveling abroad.
Please Don't Tell Cooper He's a Dog would also make a great gift for anyone who works with dogs, owns a dog, or simple adores dogs! Anyone who loves a loyal pup will appreciate Cooper's humane lifestyle! Learn more about Cooper and order your copy here!
Christmas it the best time of year for being a Taste of Home Field Editor! It affords me the opportunity to test out TOH recipes and give my opinions. This Tiger Butter Bark recipe is one of my favorite holiday recipes on their site. It's very easy to make and makes a beautiful presentation. It calls for only 3 ingredients: crunchy peanut butter, vanilla candy coating, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. So although it looks fancy it's very quick to make!
This Tiger Butter Bark recipe is a five star dessert and absolutely delicious as it is. But I like to brainstorm ways to put a fun spin on a recipe when doing a review. Here's my thoughts to jazz up this recipe if you're in a creative mood:
You could use almond butter or cashew butter in place of your ordinary crunch peanut butter brand. You could also add some almond extract to the peanut butter layer for extra flavor. When melting the chocolate chips, the recipe calls for shortening. If you don't have shortening on hand, you can use vegetable oil in its place.
The directions weren't too specific on how to do the chocolate swirl. The chocolate swirl is so gorgeous in this recipe and easy to do! Use a large spoon to drizzle the chocolate in a zig zag pattern across the top. Next, use a knife to cut through the chocolate vertically and horizontally. Don't over swirl, or the chocolate will begin to over take the peanut butter!
If you're a chocolate fanatic, you could make this into a double layer bark recipe. Instead of melting just 1/2 cup of chips as specified in the recipe, melt 2 cups of chips (the amount in 1 bag of chips). Spread the chocolate layer in the pan. Add the peanut butter/candy coating layer, and then top it off with the chocolate swirl. You may have to work fast, as semi-sweet chocolate hardens rather quickly. But it would be fun to add a chocolate layer for extra chocolate flavor!
If you're not one to go off script in a recipe, don't worry! Peanut butter nuts (he, he) will love this Tiger Butter Bark recipe. It tastes like fudge and isn't nearly as complicated to make. The gorgeous chocolate swirl makes this Tiger Butter Bark look like it came from a professional sweet shop. Check out this recipe on the TOH site here and let me know what you think! Happy Holidays and happy baking!
Hi, I'm Jennifer-the creator of What's Baking, Babycakes? Here you'll find easy to make desserts, frozen treats, healthy salads, and hearty casseroles. I love baking, and spending time with my family and two Papillions! Find out more in the "about section." Happy baking!