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Earlier this week my wife asked me if I’d ever had stuffed peppers.
I had to stop for a second, then look on my computer to see if I still had that picture of a bear relieving himself in the woods so I could answer her with a picture.
Fortunately for me I couldn’t find it and I merely answered “of course.”
She had not, so today, I prepared my version of them, and it is not only one of the easiest dishes in the world to prepare, it’s also quite easy to customize it so it’s unique to the way you make it.
My first rule of making them my way is you can pick any color of the rainbow for peppers…as long as the color is not green. My Dad ate green peppers all the time, grew them and served them with everything from pasta to eggs. In all the times we had them, I can honestly say the number of meals I enjoyed them was zero.
I bought a mixture of 5 yellow, orange and red peppers to avoid the green monster. To prep them, chop off the top, pull out all the seeds, and try to get as much of the thin membranes you find on the sides of the inside of the pepper. I run water in them and use my hand to get all that out, as the water tends to wash away every last seed. I then chopped an onion, a few cloves of garlic and put them in a frying pan with a pound of ground beef. You brown the beef and cook it all until the onions and garlic have gotten soft. Then you add rice.
There are any number of ways to make rice, but I have found a bag of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice to be perfect. It cooks in 90 seconds in the microwave, it comes in flavors with it already seasoned, and the ratio of one package of Ready Rice to one pound of ground beef seems to be a good ratio. It’s a bit on the meaty side, so if you have a bigger group to feed, add another bag of rice.
So far, you should have little time invested in this. To chop an onion and brown a pound of ground beef might take 10 minutes. The rice cooks in 90 seconds, and you can clean the peppers in 5 minutes. Since all this can run concurrently, you’ve spent 10 minutes of prep.
You then add a sauce to the meat and rice mixture before stuffing the peppers. A traditionalist would say just add tomato sauce, but I don’t want mine tasting like the sauce I use with Italian food. I get enough of that as it is, so I like to make mine a little more toward a Southwest flavor. I add chili powder, cumin and paprika, and the rice I use is the Spanish rice flavor. After mixing that all together, I open a jar of tomato sauce (the small bottle from Lidl for 79 cents works fine) and add about 1/3 of the jar to the mix.
I then add some barbecue sauce, a slight amount of hot sauce and some sugar. This makes for a smokier tomato sauce with a hint of heat and sweetness. Mix it all up and let it cook together for about 5 minutes and then you start filling the peppers, as you see above on the left. Take the rest of the jar of sauce and pour it over the peppers (at top right) and then stick it in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes wrapped in foil.
I put a little water in the bottom of the pan because the foil is to steam and soften the peppers, but the emphasis should be on “little.” Put too much liquid in and you’ll be greeted with peppers swimming in tomato soup.
After the 25 minutes, I take the foil off and add cheese to the top. I take a brick of mozzarella (versus shredded) and cut it into cubes. This way while everything is hot, I can place four cubes in the top of each pepper and make sure I actually get all the cheese in the pepper. Back in the oven everything goes for another 15 minutes, and then it is time to eat.
Since I believe you can never have enough cheese on a dish, I top the peppers with extra shredded mozzarella while they are cooling, so they look like one big gooey, tasty mess. You can see one above.
A word of caution when determining cooking times: I like mine to actually taste like peppers versus a sautéed vegetable, so these times are enough to slightly soften the pepper but still leave them firm enough to have a crunch to them. My wife often says she was raised on country cooking, which means you cook the life out of each vegetable you prepare, and even after that, you still cook it another 30 minutes just to be safe. So if you don’t like a crunchy pepper, cook it longer.
It is a surprisingly filling dish. I thought by cooking 5, we’d each have 2 and a leftover one if someone was really hungry. We barely got through 1 a piece. Keep that in mind when picking quantities or you’ll end up eating these for days.
It’s great comfort food, takes no more than 15 minutes of prep, and the rest is baking it in the oven. Plus it looks like something that can mislead people into thinking you know how to cook.
So young bucks, pay attention. This one looks good, tastes good and is so easy….well, even YOU can make it 😊