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Rice Cooker Stuffed Peppers

stuffed peppers cooked in rice cooker

I made these delicious stuffed jewels in a rice cooker.  This recipe will make 2 or 3 of the easiest stuffed peppers you’ve ever made. If you don’t have peppers you can easily turn this recipe into meatloaf or meatballs—just skip the peppers! Make it even easier by mixing the filling with chopped, frozen peppers and onions purchased at the grocery store.  Your favorite no-salt seasoning mix is the real time saver with this recipe, just make sure it’s not a salt substitute that will give the dish a chemical salty taste. A no-salt seasoning mix with garlic, onion, and parsley is my favorite. Feel free to salt the meat mixture to your taste, but remember to hold back if you’re on a low sodium diet.

Ingredients

2 – 3 small green bell peppers

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon no-salt seasoning (NOT salt substitute )

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1- 16-ounce can undrained, diced tomatoes, divided

1/2 pound ground beef 

Instructions

Wash bell peppers and slice off the tops. Reserve the tops. Scoop out seeds and veins,  turn upside down to drain. Trim the stems off the tops of the peppers and chop the useable parts to use for in the meat mixture. Chop 1/4 cup onion.  Mix the chopped pepper and onion with the oatmeal, beaten egg, and no salt seasoning and black pepper.  Add 1/2 cup diced tomatoes from the canned tomatoes and stir.  Add the ground beef. Mix well with your hands.

Stuff each pepper tightly, rounding tops with meat mixture if necessary.  Place peppers in the bottom of a rice cooker.  Stir 1/2 cup water into remaining canned tomatoes and pour over peppers.

Place the lid on the rice cooker and turn it on.  When the rice cooker turns off, check for doneness with a meat thermometer.  Peppers are done when the center temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  If the rice cooker turns off before peppers are done, add another 1/4 cup water to the rice cooker, replace the lid and turn it on. 

Easy Meals for Seniors: fast, safe, healthy

Easy meals for seniors can be prepared in a rice cooker.
Rice Cooker Stuffed Peppers

I love to cook.  I’m not a fancy cook, but I enjoy finding new ways to do things.  And I like to do things the easy way if I can.  When I work with seniors, I see how the simplest things have become more difficult for them.  I like to help simplify their lives, to help them find ways to take care of themselves in the safest, easiest way they can.  Finding new ways to cook their favorite foods is one of the things that help maintain their independence and nourish their bodies and creativity. So I’m going to start posting easy meals for seniors, including recipes, meal prep, and methods I used to create them here on the blog.

Lately, I’ve been working on recipes that can be prepared in a rice cooker.  I like the rice cooker idea because the thing shuts itself off.  A lot of folks don’t trust themselves to cook something on the stove as they get older for fear they may forget it or fall asleep and cause a fire.  But the rice cooker method takes that worry away.  It will turn off once the moisture and heat level reaches a particular stage.  The same is true for the new Instant Pot type cookers.  I believe there is a smaller version of the original Instant Pot, but generally, the original is bigger than what I’d recommend most seniors to handle just from a safety perspective.

I’ve discovered the rice cooker can make all the usual stuff: rice, quinoa, steamed veggies, boiled potatoes, eggs.  But it can also work for less traditional things like lentils, soups, scalloped potatoes, chicken and rice casseroles, eggplant parmesan, chicken spaghetti.  Lots of great food.

I hope you will find these easy meals for seniors nutritious, delicious, and safe to prepare.  Stay tuned for more recipes as the collection grows.

Virtual Dance Party…Date Night at Home

In the last few years, my hubby and I started a new family tradition.  Right around the last weekend of June or the first weekend of July, we rent a dance studio, throw together some food and make up several batches of champagne punch and invite our friends and family to our annual dance.

We always hire a dance teacher–last year we hired two dance teachers.  The first year guests learned the box foxtrot/waltz; the next year they learned east coast swing; the third year they learned the country polka.

We planned on continuing this tradition as long as we possibly could.  I thought it would be advanced age or poor health that would halt our tradition.  I figured if we got too old or too sick to carry on the tradition, we could pass the baton to the next generation.  But this year, Covid brought our tradition to a halt.  At least for now.

Last night my hubby and I had a date night at home.  We dressed up in our dance clothes and shoes, ordered dinner in, and opened our favorite wine and chilled champagne.  It has been 13 weeks since we danced and we are both out of shape.  Dancing is really good for your cardiovascular system!  We were huffin’ and a-puffin’ all over that floor!

Rhonda videoed a few of the dances and I thought I’d put them up here on the blog to share with friends and family.  We really miss our dance community and it’s sad that we don’t get to have our dance party and we’re missing all the dances we usually go to.  But this is what it takes to keep people safe. We are happy to do it, but I admit, I am lonely for them all.

This morning I looked at the videos and wondered if our friends are feeling the same way.  Maybe they could have their own dances at home and video them.  I know I’d love to have a video of John and Missy dancing the cha-cha or Sam and Joyce with tango and LORDEEE, Stephen and Olga with their west coast swing!  Maybe I’ll try to get that on here in the coming weeks.

We’re all sacrificing in this sad summer of Covid.  Maybe a little virtual dance party will brighten things up a bit.  Stay tuned for videos!

Dancin’ With My Darlin’

My hubby and I are dancers.  No, not the professional kind. We just love to dance.  It’s an activity that came to us later in life because my husband had no confidence in his ability to dance or to learn how to dance.  I used to tell people that for the first 30 years of our marriage, he had three left Baptist feet.  He did struggle.

When we were all younger, Rhonda and I took him out to The Red Barn in Kemah, Texas and got him pretty sauced. Suddenly he could dance…well, he at least acted like he could that night.  Over the years he would attempt to dance, just to make me happy. But he was never comfortable with it and really didn’t like it. Our dancing activities were few and far between.  Occasionally we would sign up for a community ed class for ballroom or country two-step. But without practice, those skills quickly disappeared.

Then we moved to the area we now live in, which has a vibrant dance community.  Most of us are older…50s and up.  Some of the dancers in our dinner dance club are actually in their 90s, but they can still cut a rug!

The way that J and I finally learned to dance with a little confidence is going to dance classes.  Now, we didn’t just go to one or two dance classes. No, we went to LOTS of them.  I guess you could call us remedial students.  I think the first class we started with was a country two-step class.  We knew the basic step but despite having taken the class before, we were pretty rusty.  I think the first class we signed up for was a weekly class that lasted an hour and went on for four weeks.  When we finished the class after four weeks, we immediately signed up to take it again. And again. And again. I don’t even know how many times we took that first class, but we found out that taking the same class over and over again was a good way to cement the steps and rhythms into our brains and muscle memory.  And that’s pretty much how we learned all the dances we know.

Now when women tell me they can’t get their husbands to dance because he has no rhythm, or is too shy, or is too klutzy, or whatever, I tell them not to worry. If my man went from being a klutz with three left Baptist feet and is now a great pleasure to dance with, anyone can learn to dance and lead on the dance floor.

We have been married over forty years and are still learning new dances.  But now that he knows what he’s doing on the dance floor, J loves to dance!  The great thing about dancing, apart from health and social benefits, is that there is always more to learn so you won’t get bored.  It keeps your body and your mind younger.  I highly recommend it.  Besides…ain’t nothin’ like dancin’ with your sweetheart of forty years.

Dancing for Grown-ups


We have a little dance floor in our house, but through all our boredom with Covid-19 we haven’t danced one time since the world’s been shut down.  Imagine that…well, we’ve both got a long way to go before we can hope to even pretend to dance even a tiny combination of this amazing Fred and Ginger session.  But gosh, ain’t it lovely to think about it?

Well, maybe we’ll get in a little waltzin’ tonight?  Maybe…

 

Virtual Tea Party!

I’m sitting at my desk, putting on my makeup.  Although I have three hours before the tea party begins, I don’t like rushing, especially on Sundays.  This time of social distancing has been hard on everyone, but I’m here to recommend the concept of virtual get-togethers.

While this time of social distancing can be stressful, here’s a good thing: if you want to do something with your little grandchildren virtually, you can do it in ways you wouldn’t do if they were with you in the flesh. For example, if you want to add a little extra flavor to your “tea” such as a splash (or two, or three!) of spiced rum, you can do that.  They will not notice that your breath burns their little nostrils as would be the case with an in-person event.  And probably you will feel slightly less silly when they remind you to hold out your pinky finger like a proper lady.  In fact, I’m sure that’s how all proper ladies made it through such silliness.  They spiked that tea!

Anyway, that’s how I’m going to get through it.  And can I drink iced tea, instead of hot tea? As in Long Island Iced Tea? That seems more appropriate as the spring weather starts acting as it should. And as it’s the weekend, after all.

When my daughters were little we used to have tea parties all the time. I never even thought of spiking my tea back then.  But my life was about different stuff then.  My oldest daughter took the role of  Ms. Jones during those tea parties; my younger daughter was Ms. Smith, only the older daughter couldn’t say Ms. Smith and instead called her sister “Smith Smith” during those dramas.  As the girls grew a little older, they began inviting their friends for the tea parties.  We never served tea, but instead served hot chocolate with marshmallows.

I could always tell the quality of home life our little guests had by observing their tea party behaviors. All of them would grab one of the stuffed animals from the toybox to place on their laps while they drank their tea; some of them would be loving toward those animals and some would be quite rough and short with the compliant, silent bunnies, bears, or chibbles.  One little girl would jump up from her chair every 2 or 3 minutes, stomp over to the telephone hanging on the kitchen wall and vociferously declare, “I’m calling my attorney!”

I feel certain the tea party this afternoon will be far more boring.  But as I mentioned earlier, I’ve got it covered. I’ve set the table on the patio with a new table cloth; I’ve watered the potted hydrangeas.  I’ve set out some old cups and saucers that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. I found a teapot to match. I’m about to go find hats for me and Rhonda.  Lord, I hope I have something that will look all southern and girlie.  I really don’t think my granddaughter will be impressed with a fishing hat or my rumpled old hat with the faded Corona Beer logo on it.  I have some nice crunchy gingersnaps I can lay out, but I’d better put out some salted nuts too, for good measure.

Rhonda, great sport that she is, has accepted the invitation to join us, and even J is planning to attend.  I don’t know if my son-in-law will be there, but it will be nice to see him and to learn how he manages to get through such a festive virtual event with family.  Separated by distance, we are still enjoying our family time, any way we can.

We Are the REAL Golden Girls!

The Real Golden Girls, Rhonda and Lanore
The Real Golden Girls-Rhonda and Lanore

Way back in the 80’s when the television show, The Golden Girls first aired, I fell in love with the idea of sharing a home with my best friend when we were older. Once our kids were raised and moved off into their own lives and spaces, Rhonda and I, friends since infancy, made time to do things together: vacation trips, campouts, sleepovers. We managed to get together for meaningful life events such as weddings, birthday parties, surgeries, and graduations. The idea of living together in our Golden Girls’ house was a pleasant, but distant, and mostly forgotten fantasy. I had probably never even mentioned it to my husband, J., but it must have still lived as a vague hope somewhere in the back of my mind.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and Rhonda was one of the people who lost her job as a result of the damage left by the hurricane. She searched for over a year but could find nothing close enough to home to allow her to work. In the meantime, J. and I were scouting for a new home a hundred miles to the north. We were determined it would have sufficient room for family and friends and it had to have a room for us to continue practicing our dancing. We finally found a five-bedroom home with three full baths and a den that could be used for a dance room. We closed on the house before the end of 2017. In the meantime, Rhonda was draining her savings without a paycheck and after no job prospects for over a year, she feared she would eventually lose her home.

It began to dawn on me there was a clear solution but I would have to talk to J. He was onboard with the idea that was a dream come true for me.

Still, Rhonda had lived independently for years and was uneasy about moving in with me and J. It’s understandable. It’s always a risk to live with someone else–until you’ve tried it, you don’t know how it’s going to work out. You don’t know if you’re going to get on each other’s last nerve or if one is too noisy for the other, has too much laundry or body odor or bad language or religion. Being friends is one thing. Living together is another. And there wasn’t just one person to consider how she might tolerate. There was my husband J as well. I’m sure each of us had similar concerns because there were so many unknowns. This had just not been done by any of us before. It was a risk. But we hashed over the parts that might have given us trouble beforehand. We all agreed on the particulars and Rhonda moved in the following May.

As it turned out, it was a wonderful arrangement for all of us. For me, it is fabulous living with my best friend, knowing she has my back, no matter what. For J, he has two cooks and two housekeepers and a room he can escape to if we become more than he can tolerate. For Rhonda, she has her own suite on one side of the house while J and I live mostly on the other side of the house. We all share the kitchen, dining and patio areas. For some reason, Rhonda seldom ventures into the living room. Well, neither do I, for that matter. We all enjoy our time on the patio and working in the yard and we all enjoy our time alone. We all have jobs, we all pick up behind ourselves, and we all eat very different diets–so we all cook. Rhonda helps me keep up with the house and laundry. She’s a godsend for laundry, I tell ya. She also has pretty much taken over feeding our 2 dogs and cats. In fact, the dogs have each gained four and a half pounds since she has been here. We have regular discussions about that.

And regular discussions about anything that is on our minds is part of what it takes to make it all work. We are a very lucky trio. I’m sure our setup wouldn’t work for everyone. It helps that Rhonda and I have been friends since we were born and that Rhonda has been a friend to my husband, J. since he and I became a couple. In fact, we got married in Rhonda’s house. I stood my husband up for our first date so I could be there at the birth of Rhonda’s son. So ours is a longterm, time-tested relationship. It’s a friendship that is precious to all of us and one we do not take for granted. That fact helps us to be considerate and respectful of one another no matter how different our personalities may be. I believe it’s the secret that makes it all work so beautifully.

It would seem natural, even likely that we have our trials in living together as we do. But I have to say, not really. It’s pretty much been one joy after another. I hope we can stay like this forever.