Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stuffed Peppers

Food has always been a huge part of our lives.  I come from a long line of farmers, and my mom cooked like we lived on one when I was a kid.  A lot of my more fond memories from growing up center around food.  The beautiful pear trees that grew on my grandparents farm for over 100 years yielded a tremendous bumper crop every other year.  My grandparents, and anyone that wanted to lend a hand, put up hundreds of quarts of pears most summers.  Everyone awaited the bushels of pears each year, and I know I asked my fair share of, "Is this the year for pears?".  To this day nothing tastes quite like a fresh, ripe Bartlett Pear.  I look forward to the fruit trees maturing that we have planted on our property.  Maybe one day our grandchildren will have similar memories to share.

Recipes are a big part of our personal history.  Food nourishes us, sustains our lives.  It connects us on a deeper level.  We connect in a special way over the gathering, preparing, and sharing of food.  It fosters relationship.  I love to share my recipes with others, and I especially love to cook for others.  I think it's in my blood.  Someone cooking for me is a rare treat.  Someone cooking for me in my own kitchen; well, that's unheard of.

The summer we celebrated my grandfather's 80th birthday my cousin and his beautiful girlfriend stayed at our home.  The day she cooked us dinner will forever be etched in my mind.  It was such a kind gesture!  She even complimented me on the organization of my kitchen AND did the dishes after.  Talk about feeling special.  It was so sweet!  And, guess what?  She actually sold me on stuffed peppers.  I hated them growing up.  Sorry, mom!  To this day I do not care for cooked green peppers, but I LOVE these cooked green peppers.  So does my family.  Now, if that isn't saying something right there!  A recipe that my whole family will eat and enjoy?  SOLD!

This is my version of her recipe.  Honestly, I make it a little different each time.  I tend to use what I have, and you can too.  It's the formula that's most important.  Green Peppers + Rice + Ground Meat (or Sauteed Veggies if you're not into meat) + Spaghetti Sauce + Cheese = Super Delicious Dinner

Now, if you're super crunchy, and you can your own pasta sauce, use it.  If you're like me, and you use the best you can afford at the time of the jarred selection at the store, use that.  Personally, I always try to purchase the best quality of products with the shortest list of ingredients that fits in my budget.  I don't use the same brand of rice or pasta sauce each time.  I don't even use the same type or amount of meat each time.  The original recipe calls for ground turkey.  I have used ground beef, ground chicken, and even left over ground beef seasoned for tacos.  All yielded equally yummy results.  I would even use ground lamb, venison, or buffalo in this recipe.  Whatever floats your boat.  If you don't eat meat, just leave it out or add your own mix of sauteed veggies or your favorite meat analog product.  There is no right or wrong way to make a recipe, and I don't think I ever follow one completely.  That's why I prefer to cook and not bake.  Cooking is much more flexible!

So, here goes:


1 pound ground beef, chicken, or turkey
2 boxes boxed rice mix (I prefer Near East Long Grain and Wild Rice)
1 jar Spaghetti Sauce (I prefer Bertolli)
6 medium to large Green Peppers, cut in half from top to bottom with stems, seeds, and veins removed.
1-8 ounce package shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (if something else is your favorite or more handy, try it!)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Fill a Dutch Oven 3/4 full with water, and bring to slow boil.

3.  Place three or four pepper halves into boiling water.  Allow to blanch for just a minute or so.  You just want to bring out the color in the pepper, not cook it through.  (This step is the secret of why these are so amazing.  Don't skip it!)

4.  Turn peppers onto a kitchen towel and allow water to drain out.

5.  Brown ground meat, and drain fat if necessary.  Add rice mix and cook per package directions.

6.  While rice and meat mixture is cooking place blanched peppers cut side up in two baking pans.

7.  When rice mixture is cooked, stir in spaghetti sauce.

8.  Generously fill each pepper half with rice mixture.

9.  Generously top each filled pepper with shredded cheese.

10.  Loosely cover filled and topped pepper with foil.

11.  Bake for 30 minutes.

12.  Remove foil, and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted as desired.

Our original feast was served with garlic bread and salad.  We've been avoiding wheat products around here, so we have it with a cooked veggie and salad.

Should you have any left over filling, I do on occasion, just put it in a container and refrigerate or freeze.  It's good to heat and eat just the way it is, or you can add it to soups, or save it for the next time you make stuffed peppers.

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