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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stuffed Peppers


Stuffed peppers are super simple to make, they freeze well, can be made ahead of time, and carry not only a big flavor explosion, but a hefty nutritional punch as well!  You could stuff them with just about anything, and have them made up and ready to pop into the oven to warm once you get home. I grew up eating these, so I associate them with being a comfort food.  Additionally, the meat "dressing" or filling is also a clever vehicle for hiding miniscule chopped veggies for your picky eaters.

                            Click for Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
This is such a touchy-feely recipe, that the measurements may be a tad sketchy.  I usually season freely, and adjust as desired. For an even lower fat version, feel free to substitute ground turkey in the is recipe... or even add some different vegetables (squash, zucchini, carrots, parsnips, etc) and seasoned breadcrumbs for a vegetarian version.

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (I used 94% lean)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
  • a few tablespoons worchestershire sauce
  • about 1 1/2 - 2 cups beef broth
  • about 1 cup red wine
  • optional - grated cheese
  • optional - seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 - 3 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 can Italian style diced tomatoes
  • mixed bell peppers - or your color of choice
Variation: You could change this recipe from an Italian flavor flavor profile to a Mexican profile really easily.  Rather than basil and oregano, use ground cumin and/or chili powder and maybe some cilantro; substitute tomatoes seasoned with typical Mexian flavors. Rather than the grated cheddar on top, use cotija or Queso Chihuahua.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream. 


Step-by-Step:
Brown lean ground beef or turkey in a pan. For very lean versions, use a nonstick pan to avoid sticking or scorching.
When ground meat is about half cooked, I add the chopped onions, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried basil and oregano and let them cook down with the meat.
After the onions have cooked a few minutes, add in a nice handful of chopped peppers.  I just used left over pieces from the pepper pack. If you have frozen peppers, these would even be better as they break down even faster.
Allow the peppers to cook down for a while until meat is basically cooked through and vegetables are soft. Then add a can of diced tomatoes.  I use the seasoned ones as they bring even more flavor to the party. 

Remember, CANNED tomatoes provide even higher levels of accessible lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) for you than fresh tomatoes! This is your family that you are in charge of keeping healthy!
Season to your taste with Worcestershire.  I am pretty liberal with it.  Several good shakes.
Add the beef broth, and about a cup of red wine. 

The red wine adds a lot of depth to the dish that beef broth alone does not. Here again, red wine contains resveratrol that is heart healthy.  Don't worry about the alcohol, as it will cook out; and when divided amongst all the peppers, each person is not getting very much.
Add in a cup of rice.  I have a handy dandy helper for things like this.
Allow everything to come to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and cooked.  You want it to initially be really soupy, as the rice will soak up a LOT of the liquid.
While the rice is cooking, we will blanch the peppers.  You can see that they have been halved and seeded.  I cut them straight through the stem, as I think they look prettier like that. 
Don't forget to add some salt to the water.  We want each component of the dish seasoned. Cook them until they are about halfway softened - maybe 10-15 minutes?  I just keep checking them.
If you notice that your rice has absorbed all the liquid and is still not soft, feel free to just add more liquid - like this beef broth. We don't want our filling to be dry and hard in the end.
When the peppers are mostly cooked, but not mushy, remove them from the water, drain them and lightly season the cavity with salt.
Turn them over on paper towels to dry out.
If you are going to add seasoned bread crumbs to your filling, add it now before filling the peppers. Add the cooked filling to the peppers in an oven safe casserole dish.
If you want to, sprinkle some shredded cheese on the top (this is a cheddar/Monterrey jack blend).
Finish them with a little more dried basil and pop them into the oven, uncovered.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes until peppers are soft, filling is hot, and cheese is all melty.

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Here are some bonus recipes:
Tomato Basil Chicken

Bananas Foster Cake

Creamy Italian Sausage and Tortellini

Black Pepper Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Spinach Artichoke Dip-Stuffed Chicken

Toasted Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes

Toasted Coconut Martinis 

Food Nerd Notes:
Let's talk briefly about the health benefits of these "colored" bell peppers - especially the red ones.  Red bell peppers are an impressive source of vitamin A and vitamin C, with nearly double the vitamin C of citrus fruits! In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is important in wound healing and also enahnces the absorption of iron and calcium. These red peppers are also great sources of lycopene and beta carotene, both of which have antioxidant properties. These peppers are also a good source of tryptophan. L-tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which can help combat the symptoms of depression with improved mood, appetite, sleep and impulse control.  Finally, there are a lot of folks out there who don't care for (green) "bell peppers" because they can have a bitterness to them.  Well if this is you, give the red and yellow peppers a try.  They are very sweet without that characteristic bitterness, and definitely give you a healthy boost!

Written Method:
Brown lean ground beef or turkey in a pan. For very lean versions, use a nonstick pan to avoid sticking or scorching.  When ground meat is about half cooked, I add the chopped onions, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried basil and oregano and let them cook down with the meat.  After the onions have cooked a few minutes, add in a nice handful of chopped peppers.  I just used left over pieces from the pepper pack. If you have frozen peppers, these would even be better as they break down even faster.  Allow the peppers to cook down for a while until meat is basically cooked through and vegetables are soft. Then add a can of diced tomatoes.  I use the seasoned ones as they bring even more flavor to the party.  Season to your taste with Worcestershire.  I am pretty liberal with it.  Several good shakes.   Add about a cup of red wine.  Add in a cup of rice. 

Allow everything to come to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and cooked.  You want it to initially be really soupy, as the rice will soak up a LOT of the liquid.   While the rice is cooking, we will blanch the peppers.  You can see that they have been halved and seeded.  I cut them straight through the stem, as I think they look prettier like that. Don't forget to add some salt to the water.  We want each component of the dish seasoned. Cook them until they are about halfway softened - maybe 10-15 minutes?  I just keep checking them.

If you notice that your rice has absorbed all the liquid and is still not soft, feel free to just add more liquid - like this beef broth. We don't want our filling to be dry and hard in the end.  When the peppers are mostly cooked, but not mushy, remove them from the water, drain them and lightly season the cavity with salt.  Turn them over on paper towels to dry out.

If you are going to add seasoned bread crumbs to your filling, add it now before filling the peppers. Add the cooked filling to the peppers in an oven safe casserole dish.  If you want to, sprinkle some shredded cheese on the top (this is a cheddar/Monterrey jack blend).  Finish them with a little more dried basil and pop them into the oven, uncovered.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes until peppers are soft, filling is hot, and cheese is all melty.

11 comments:

  1. you mentioned they freeze well, at what point do you freeze them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can freeze them after stuffing them (prior to baking), or even after baking (if you have leftovers). They reheat very well!

      Delete
  2. At what temperature do you cook them in the oven? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really doesn't matter that much.. everything is cooked already. You are just making sure it's all hot and melty. Probably around 350-375.

      Delete
  3. Where does the 11/2 to 2 cups of beef broth come in?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OOPS! Type - add the broth and the wine at the same time.

      Delete
  4. thank you for the step-by-step. I never knew you had to cook the rice beforehand and i've tried making these twice only to have to throw everything out! i've been craving stuffed peppers and now i know how to do it - these will be on the dinner rotation menu! thank you, thank you, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. The recipe shows the rice being added to the meat mixture uncooked, right? Sorry but Renee's comment confused me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debbie -

      I can see how those two things could be confusing together. I do add raw rice to my meat mixture. But then I allow it ALL to simmer together on the stove top until the rice is pretty much done before filling the cavity of the peppers. I get the feeling that Renee may have added her raw rice to the meat and then baked them immediately without allowing time for the rice to cook on the stove top first.

      I hope you'll give the recipe a shot. Give me a shout if you have any further questions.

      Julie

      Delete
  6. What can you substitute for the red wine?

    ReplyDelete

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