What’s for Dinner – Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are one of my very favorite winter meals. Hearty and relatively healthy: vegetables are so much easier to eat when they’re stuffed with meat and rice and garlic.

Stuffed Peppers

6 large green (or red) bell peppers
1 lb lean ground beef
2 cups cooked rice
5 cloves garlic, diced or smooshed through a press
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup lowfat mozzarella or italian cheese blend, plus a handful for the tops
1 large 28oz can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 tbsp Oregano
Salt & pepper

Brown the ground beef, drain off excess fat, and put it in a big mixing bowl. Slice the tops off of the peppers and then chop up the usable parts of the tops, tossing them in with the meat. Remove as much of the  ribs as possible (using a knife or just picking at them with your fingers) and stand the peppers up in a big casserole dish – pick one with high sides if you can, to make sure the peppers don’t fall over. If they won’t stand up well, cut a little off the bottoms to make them flat, but don’t cut the bottoms off or you’ll end up with a leaky mess later! I personally cram them so tightly in my casserole dish that they couldn’t fall over if they tried, although it does make it harder for me to get them out when they’re done! Add everything else to the mixing bowl, except for about 1/4 cup tomato sauce and the reserved handful of cheese, and then stir it up. Here’s your filling:

Stuffing for Stuffed Peppers

This is good enough to eat without a pepper around it, honestly. Just a bowl and a spoon, and you’re good! But if you want stuffed peppers, I suppose you’ll need to be filling those peppers over there in your casserole dish. Fill them to almost-overflowing, and then spoon some tomato sauce over the top of each pepper, with a little sprinkling of cheese over that. Cook the well-stuffed peppers for about 30 min at 350 – the peppers themselves will still be crunchy, and the filling will be warm.

Stuffed Red PeppersI made red stuffed peppers for the first time tonight because I got them on sale at Costco on the weekend. Usually I use the green ones because they’re so much cheaper. I think I actually prefer the flavor of the green ones for this recipe, but my man disagrees, so I think we’ll alternate. I could also only fit 5 peppers into my casserole dish, so I’ve got leftover filling, which I stuck in the freezer for another day. Frankly, this recipe makes too much filling – it’s probably enough for 8 decent-sized peppers. But I like leftovers so I always make a huge amount!

If you make the filling ahead, reheat it in the microwave before stuffing the peppers or you’ll have to wait forever for your dinner to warm up in the oven. I speak from experience – once when I made this and waited till the next day to cook it, after 45 minutes I gave up and nuked the peppers.

This works well with turkey instead of beef, and you can use brown rice and reduce the amount of meat, adding more spinach for volume. You can also pre-cook the peppers if you like them to be mushy.

Pre-cooking the peppers

Peppers are harder to stuff when they’re soft, so when I do this I cut the peppers in half lengthwise instead of lopping off their tops and coring them. You’ll still need to remove the ribs, and the presentation will be a little less fancy, but if you want your peppers well-done this is probably your best bet. Put the halved peppers into a microwave safe dish with a lid, or one you can easily cover with cling wrap. Add about a half inch of water to the dish, and microwave the peppers until they’re soft – about 5 minutes should do for 2 peppers.

Once they’re done, take them out with tongs, let them dry a little on a paper towel, and then scoop the warm filling into them and proceed as above.

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