Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stuffed peppers

I'm always looking for ways to make dinner exciting. I go through phases with dinner; I enjoy cooking and I always plan my dinners for the week and shop accordingly for ingredients, so I am prepared every night. But I get bored. Every couple of months I start looking for new ideas and recipes to incorporate into my repertoire. Stuffed peppers are one of those dishes that I keep trying to get right.

This is a dish I had tried to make numerous times in the past and was always sort of okay with it but never very excited about it. I was determined to try again and made them recently with some modifications to my old recipe. I was very happy with the way they turned out! The Bears loved them too. They are definitely going into the rotation for good. They're healthy and they combine simple, inexpensive ingredients in an interesting way.

My recipe includes some meat (ground turkey breast) but I think this would be delicious made meatless as well; you could use tofu or chopped mushrooms in the rice filling. This recipe is based on the one in my Betty Crocker cookbook but I have made some modifications which I think taste better and work better too.

Ingredients (for four servings)

Four large bell peppers
One cup cooked rice
Chopped onion (about a cup)
Chopped garlic (1-2 cloves)
3/4 - 1 lb. ground beef or turkey
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Start preparing the bell peppers. You could use any color but I went with green because they're the least expensive and because they were the biggest ones at the store; all the better for stuffing. Look for bell peppers that are sort of wide and squat and which will sit fairly well on their bottoms.

I went with one big pepper per person, which worked well because the small Bears only wanted half of theirs; the other pepper made a good leftover lunch for the Bear.

Slice the tops off each pepper and pull out the seeds and membranes. You will be using the pepper as a cup for the filling, so don't make any other holes or openings in the peppers. Save your sliced-off tops though; you may need them later.


Place all your pepper cups into a large pot filled with water to cover the peppers. You are going to par-cook them now. Bring the water to a boil and let the peppers cook in the boiling water for about five minutes. You will be baking the stuffed peppers later but this helps them to become more tender.


While the peppers are boiling, you can start preparing your filling. You'll need some cooked rice; I used about a cup, cooked. You could use leftover rice or cook it now. I chose to make instant rice just to do things faster.




Continue making the filling. Chop your onion (I used half a large one) and garlic, then saute them in a little olive oil in a large skillet; you'll be adding the rest of the filling ingredients to the onion and garlic, so you want to use one that is large enough to hold everything.


Your peppers should be boiling now; they'll bob around in the water quite a bit so add more water if you need to.


When the peppers have par-cooked, remove them from the pot to a strainer and run cold water over them for a moment. Then set them aside and continue working on the filling. 

You can add your meat (or meat substitute) to the onions and garlic now; let the meat brown in the pan until all the pinkness is gone. Break up the meat to ensure small bits for your filling. I used about 12 ounces of ground turkey breast because it's what I happened to have in the freezer. This is one of my modifications; the Betty Crocker recipe used beef and more of it, a full pound. I liked the milder flavor of the turkey and we didn't miss the additional meat.



When your meat is cooked, you can stir in your cooked rice and most of your tomato sauce. Reserve about half a cup of sauce for pouring over the peppers before baking. One of my modifications to the Betty Crocker recipe was to use half plain canned tomato sauce and half Ragu mushroom pasta sauce from a jar (it was what I had on hand). A key complaint my family had about stuffed peppers was that they didn't have much flavor, so I thought the mixture of sauces would help boost the flavor and it really did. I put a cup of each type of sauce in a measuring cup and stirred to combine them.


Combine the rice and sauce with the meat mixture in the pan and heat through.


Take your skillet off the heat and bring it to wherever you're working. Spray a glass baking dish with Pam and begin arranging your peppers in it. I used an 8-inch square dish. You want the peppers to fit securely in the dish so that they don't tip over while baking. Remember your reserved sliced-off pepper tops? They can now be used to help the peppers stand up in the dish. Just insert them between the peppers to help keep them snug. I learned this trick from the "America's Test Kitchen" show.


Begin spooning your meat/rice filling evenly into the peppers, leveling the mounds on top if necessary.


Pour your remaining sauce evenly over the filling to cover it, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the sauce.


Place your baking dish in the preheated oven and bake the peppers for about 45 minutes. They will be done when the peppers themselves are soft but still holding their shape.


I put each pepper on a plate and replaced the sliced-off top. We sliced them into halves at the table.


We loved these stuffed peppers! They came out better than ever before. We will definitely be having them again soon.

8 comments:

  1. These look great, thanks for sharing your recipe. I have made stuffed peppers a few times in the past but never got them right - not enough flavour usually. But yours look really tasty. I'm going to have to try them again.

    Gillian x

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    Replies
    1. You're so welcome, Gillian. They were really good. I think the jarred pasta sauce helped a lot with the flavor but I'm sure a well-seasoned homemade sauce would work great too.

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    2. Hello again...I have nominated you for a blog award. Pop over to my blog for details. Please don't feel you have to do it unless you want to, blogging awards aren't everyone's thing, but I do like your blog very much.

      Gillian x

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    3. Hi! Thank you for nominating me! I think I will do it, it sounds like fun and I'm flattered that you nominated me. :)

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  2. Oooh I looove stuffed peppers. You follow a really similar recipe to what my husband came up with, except we only use tomato sauce, and we don't put any cheese on top (husband has cheese objections). In fact, it's really strange I stumbled upon your blog today because we're making stuffed peppers for dinner tonight. Weird. :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi there! Thanks for visiting and for commenting. I was really happy with the way these turned out. I think the cheese is a nice added touch but not really necessary if cheese isn't someone's thing. I hope you enjoy your peppers tonight! :)

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    2. The peppers are almost done here... oooh so hungry. :) Yeah, I would like to try out the cheese sometime! I guess we could just top "my" peppers with cheese but not his. Thanks for the idea! :)

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    3. Oh, you're welcome! Enjoy your dinner. I'm going to make them again really soon, maybe in a week or two. :)

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