Thursday, July 15, 2010

Classic Stuffed Peppers

Vegetables can be a challenge to eat for some folks... like my husband. So in an effort to encourage more vegetables in our diet, I made these Classic Stuffed Peppers overflowing with deliciousness. Oh, there was no question these were delicious, as my husband ate it all. Well, kinda. He ate all the stuffing and left behind the peppers. Ha! So much for eating more vegetables! Nonetheless, this was a great meal that you could make ahead and freeze...

When was the last time you had a stuffed pepper, if at all? For me it was ages ago and from what I remember, they weren't all that great. The peppers were either too overcooked and mushy or undercooked and crunchy. Even the rice stuffing was a challenge to cook perfectly with the peppers. However, this recipe tackled those issues. The result were peppers with the perfect firmness and a tasty filling of meat and rice cooked just right.

In this recipe, the peppers are blanched before filling, allowing the peppers to soften just a bit and finish baking in the oven. As for the filling, a mixture of cooked rice and seasoned ground beef are combined with tomatoes and cheese. The peppers are stuffed and baked, and topped with cheese for a final touch. Preparing this for the freezer or as a make ahead meal is easy too and I've included instructions as well.

Classic Stuffed Peppers
recipe adapted from Food

4 medium green bell peppers (about 6 oz. each)
1/2 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onions (about 1/2 cup)
1 (12 ounce) ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, 1/4 cup juice reserved
1 1/4 cups shredded monterey jack cheese (about 5 oz)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 to taste black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bell peppers. Cook until peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove peppers from pot, drain off excess water and place peppers cut side up in 9 inch square baking dish.

Return water to boil; add rice and boil until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain rice and transfer to large bowl; set aside. (I cooked my rice in my microwaveable rice cooker while the peppers were cooking. Feel free to cook your rice in your preferred method.)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F.

Meanwhile, heat 12 inch heavy bottomed skillet, such as a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat until hot, about 1 1/2 minutes; add oil and swirl to coat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking beef into small pieces with spoon or potato masher, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant about 30 seconds.

Transfer beef mixture to bowl with rice; stir in drained tomatoes, 1 cup cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Using soup spoon, divide filling evenly among peppers. Stir together ketchup and reserved 1/4 cup tomato juice in small bowl. Spoon 2 tablespoons ketchup mixture over each filled pepper. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over each pepper and bake in the preheated oven until cheese is browned and filling is heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

* To make ahead/freezer meal - Prepare the recipe as directed above, however place and fill the peppers in an oven- and freezer-safe container. Stir together ketchup and reserved tomato juice in small bowl. Spoon 2 tablespoons ketchup mixture over each filled pepper and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost completely. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Bake in the preheated oven until  filling is heated through, about 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle each pepper with 1 tablespoon of cheese and bake until cheese is melted (or browned if you prefer). Serve immediately.