Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Esther's Inspired Stuffed Peppers (makes about 14 red sweet pepper halves)


Esther is a hard working seasoned pharmacy technician whom I met at work. She and I have been eating many of our lunches together since 2008. Over the years we got to know one another well. Recently while on lunch break I was curious to know what she was eating. She explained that she made 6 stuffed bell peppers and had some leftover stuffing so she brought it in to eat. We talked about what ingredients she used for her stuffing. She normally drains and discards any liquid that comes out after cooking the stuffing. She uses Uncle Ben's rice and ground beef. She mentions that this is a very popular dish in her family. Her boyfriend's late father loved it and would ask her when she would make this again while he was still eating them! Esther prefers the colorful bell peppers such as yellow, orange or red. She would cut a small portion off the top of each pepper and chop up the tops to add to her stuffing. During the process of filling the peppers she would add cheese in the middle and top of each one. From Esther's description her stuffed peppers would look more like the green stuffed pepper (minus the top) that I have in the photo below. For my stuffed peppers I added some baby spinach for a little extra vegetable. I used thinner sweet bell peppers instead of the more round bell peppers. My husband and I prefer to eat the thinner peppers. My husband thought the stuffing and pepper ratio is more balanced in these. For the round green bell peppers the pepper added more of a crunch since they are not as cooked as the slimmer ones. If you prefer the pretty looking ones with a crunch then you may want to use the more round bell peppers. If you do then you may want to cook them a little longer. Another reason I like the thinner peppers is the faster cooking time--quicker from oven to my mouth!

stuffed round bell pepper
rice and pork stuffing

Rice and Pork Stuffing (makes about 6 cups)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup chopped)
1 small bunch of scallions, chopped (about 3/4 cup chopped)
4 garlic cloves, smashed, chopped
1.1 lbs lean ground pork (or use any type of ground meat you prefer)
2 tomatoes, de-seeded, chopped (about 2 cups chopped)
7 oz baby spinach, washed and drained well or placed in a spinner to dry (the less liquid the better)
2 cups cooked rice or leftover days old cooked rice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp soy sauce

Method:

1) Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Add oil.
2) Once the oil is hot stir in onion, scallions, and garlic. Cook for about 1-2 minutes or until the onion is soft.
3) Turn the heat to high. Add pork, break it into small pieces. Cook about 4 minutes. If the heat is too low then there will be more liquid in the pan.
4) Add tomatoes and spinach. Add a few handful of spinach at a time, add more when what you have in the pan has wilted to make room for the next batch or few handful. Cook until everything is wilted.
5) Add rice and season with salt, pepper and soy sauce. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the content is a bit dry.

*The stuffing took about 10-12 minutes to cook.

Esther's Inspired Stuffed Peppers (makes about 14 red sweet pepper halves)

Ingredients:

7 red sweet peppers (thin ones), cut in half lengthwise, seeds and the green cores removed
1 recipe of  Rice and Pork Stuffing (see above)
About 6 oz Market Basket Fancy Shredded Italian Cheese (this has a blend of mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, asiago, fontina, and romano cheese)

Method:

1) Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Stuff as much of the Rice and Pork Stuffing in each of the pepper half and place on a baking sheet. Once baked the stuffing will shrink if you do not pack it in.
3) Sprinkle the top of each stuffed pepper with cheese.
4) Bake for about 30 minutes (depending on your oven). May crisp the top by putting them on a broiler for 1-2 minutes extra. Be careful not to burn them.

*The stuffing for this recipe is enough to make 14 thin sweet pepper halves. For experimental purposes I used 5 thin sweet peppers to make 10 halves and 2 round green bell peppers. Instead of chopping up the pepper top as Esther normally does I added these to the sheet to bake. This way I can use the cooked tops to place over the peppers to make it look pretty and to keep the contents in the pepper warm. 
*The pre-shredded cheese is a mix of different cheeses, comes in an 8-oz package. It is Market Basket brand and marked for pizza or lasagna. You can choose any type of cheese that you prefer. Add as little or as much as you want.

stuffed peppers ready to bake in the oven
*Below are 2 photos that I took this week from my house. I called this Spring surprise! I believe there were about 8 inches of snow. Below is my car where I had partially cleaned some the snow off so you can see how much snow we got. Luckily it was a fairly warm day so underneath all the snow there was not a thick layer of ice. This is life in the Northeast (of the United States) where one can expect snow from September to April! :D

view from the front of my house March 21, 2016 (Seacoast New Hampshire)
my car covered in fresh fluffy snow (March 21, 2016)

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