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Monday, January 10, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers
Well, before you know it, everyone is hungry, or they will be hungry, and you are blessed with food to put on the table.  However, you do have to get the food ready to eat.
A simple recipe is stuffed bell peppers.  I am going to give you the way I do them, but you should always think of ways you might personalize the recipe and make it a bit more suited to you own tastes and your family.
1 ½ to 2 pounds of hamburger.  Buy the best hamburger that you can afford and don’t worry about.  If you are really trying to go with grass fed beef or organic, but are finding the price too high, get the amount you can afford.  Just plan to add more quinoa or rice to the meat.  Keep in mind that that is a just an approximation.  If you have more family and less hamburger, then you will need to add more ‘stuff’ to the stretch it to fill everyone’s stomach.
1 cup cooked quinoa or rice.  Quinoa (pronounced keenwah) is my choice when available because it is supposed to have a very good balance of vitamins,, minerals, and amino acids.  Plus, I just happen to like it better than rice.  I usually cook 1 cup of quinoa, which gives me about 1 ½ cups leftover to make fried quinoa the next meal.
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce.  You can also use tomato paste or tomato puree.
5 or 6 large bell peppers
First, put the meat in the skillet to brown.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add a bit of garlic powder and basil if you happen to like the flavor they add.
Cut your green peppers in half longwise.  Cut out the stem. Next cook the peppers to semi soft. I put them in plastic in the microwave and cook them for around 7 minutes. They will be very hot, so try to let them cool long enough to be sure you won’t scald yourself when you take them up.
Put one cup of quinoa in two cups of water or chicken  stock and boil until tender – about fifteen minutes.  Really, just bring it to a boil and then lower temperature to just simmer.  
When the meat is done, add your jar of spaghetti sauce, cover the pan, lower the temperature and simmer for at least fifteen minutes.  If your quinoa is done, put in about one cup of that and see how it looks.  You can add up to the entire amount you just cooked if  you need to feed more people..  If you need to feed fewer people, add less of cooked quinoa or rice..
Arrange your peppers in an oven safe pan with a lid.  Fit them as tightly together as possible. Fill each pepper about ¾ full.  If you have left over meat, go back and distribute it evenly in the peppers so each one is about the same level of full. 
Put the lid on your skillet and put in the oven.  Cook for approximately 45 minutes. 
Then remove the lid, put parmesan cheese on each pepper to taste – or according to how much cheese is left in the jar.  I like it really think when I have plenty of cheese.  Put the lid back on the pan and cook about fifteen more minutes.  Take into account if some family members like a lot of parmesan cheese or if others don’t like any at all.  Shake on cheese accordingly.  Also, it may be that most of your family prefers cheddar cheese or mozzarella.  Go for it.  You aren’t trying to make the cover of a cooking magazine.  You are trying to please your own tummy and as many family members as possible at the same time.
Remove from oven and get ready to eat.   Because the quinoa or rice and meat are in the dish, you don’t need a lot to go with this meal.  If you have salad, that is great.  Or, just open a can of your favorite vegetable.  Or, just eat more stuffed peppers.
Garlic bread is good with it also.
Stuffed peppers are really a personal taste dish.  We like the spaghetti sauce flavor. 
Some people only use tomato paste or tomato sauce.
Some people don’t use any sauce at all.
It depends on what you personally have on hand.
Do you have an abundance of eggs?
Cool your meat entirely and stir in a few eggs before putting the meat in the peppers.  This gives a firmer set on your meat.  You really don’t have to change anything else in the dish.
Or, do you have just a few bell peppers? 
Slice peppers in rings or long slices.  Layer the pan with meat, peppers, meat, peppers until everything is in the pan.  Bake it as usual.  This works really well if you have put a few raw eggs in the mix.  It bakes up firmer and can be sliced like pie to take it out of the pan and serve it.
Remember, you are not attempting to be labeled as a gourmet cook.  You are trying to put something that tastes good and that is affordable on the table at a reasonable time.  Most people would rather eat something at a reasonable time than something very fancy after they have been hungry for an extra hour or two.  This can be prepared the previous day and just popped into the skillet and oven when you get home, or about an hour before you are ready to eat.
Remember, your body was not made just to eat or just as a fancy rack on which to hang clothes.  If you want more time for everything else you have to do and that you want to do, then getting something nutritious and affordable that your family will actually eat on the table is very important.  It is also important that you get it on the table at a reasonable hour and with as little effort as possible.  Remember, with just a little practice and effort, you can become a ‘fling it in the pan cook’.  Your life will be simpler, and your family will be happier.

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