Last Minute Stuffed Peppers

Baking has always come naturally to me, cooking on the other hand is a whole other ballgame. I’m always apprehensive that I will under season or worse over season things, but lately I have become a bit more confident (or maybe I should say comfortable) with my cooking abilities. There is one thing that still frustrates me though… Figuring out what to cook, especially for dinner. As such was the case one day last week. I really was at a lost as to what to make, then while picking up some produce the light bulb in my head turned on and I thought stuffed peppers…. Hence Last Minute Stuffed Peppers. Customarily for a dish like this I would turn to a recipe, but I decided to wing it and create something on my own and a bit from memory from the last time I made them.

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I began making the filling for the peppers by sautéing sliced mushrooms in olive oil. Once they cooled I chopped them up and placed them in a large bowl.

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In the same pan I used to sauté the mushrooms I then cooked a pound of ground beef which I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder and half a red onion chopped. I then added this to the bowl with the mushrooms.

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I then added in a cup and a half of cooked brown rice to the mushroom meat mixture. To cook the brown rice I opted to use the 30 Minute Cooking Method; you bring a large pot of water to boil, stir in at most 2 cups of brown rice, bring the water to a boil once again and allow the rice to cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

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And finally I added in about 1/3 cup of jarred spaghetti sauce and a 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese to the rice mixture. I mixed it together well and set it aside.

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Next I prepped the peppers. I sliced the tops off the peppers and cleaned out their insides while I brought a large pot of water to boil. I boiled each of the peppers for about 4-5 minutes. I wanted the peppers to be tender but still a bit rigid so they wouldn’t tear when I stuffed them. I placed them in an 8 x 8 baking dish that I coated with about half of the sauce I had left in the jar.

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I then filled each of the peppers with the rice-beef mixture and topped them with the rest of the sauce and sprinkled each of them with the remaining shredded mozzarella cheese. And for the final touch I topped each of the peppers with their respective sliced tops.

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I placed the dish in a 350 F preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the cheese was melted and I was sure that the filling had enough time to heat through.

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Prior to enjoying one I sliced it in half and added some of the spaghetti sauce that was in the bottom of the dish. Oh yes, and I added some extra vegetables to this dish by serving it with fresh okra on the side.

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My Last Minute Stuffed Peppers were delish! Definitely something that I will be making again. And best of all, it gave me a small boost in my cooking confidence.

 

Last Minute Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

4 large bell peppers, any color

3 cups (8 oz. package) sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

1 lb. lean ground beef (I used 80%)

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

1 jar of spaghetti sauce

1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until they are tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove them from the skillet and once they cool chop them up and place them in a large bowl.

3. In the same skillet, cook the ground beef along with onion and season with the salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder. Once the beef is cooked add it to the bowl with the mushrooms.

4. Add the brown rice to the bowl with the beef and mushrooms along with 1/3 cup of the spaghetti sauce and 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Mix the contents together and set aside.

5. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile prep the peppers by slicing off their tops (set them aside) and cleaning out their seeds. Once the water is boiling add the peppers and leave them in the water for about 5 minutes; until the peppers are softened but not to the point where they are going to tear when stuffed.

6. Pour about 1/2 of the remaining spaghetti sauce into an 8 x 8 baking dish and then place the peppers in it. Fill each of the peppers with the rice – beef mixture, filling each of the peppers to the top. Pour the remaining spaghetti sauce over the peppers and top each of the peppers with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Cover the peppers with their reserved tops and bake them in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Pesto Chicken Packets

As I mentioned in a previous post I was rained-in last week and went on a bit of a cooking binge making a Chicken Corn Chowder, a Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake and a Pesto Sauce; the latter of which I finally put to good use and made Pesto Chicken Packets – a recipe I came across in an issue of Rachael Ray Magazine a few years back. Let me take a few steps back though and go over how I made the Pesto Sauce.

To make the sauce I combined 3 cups of basil, 1/4 cup of pine nuts, a garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor.

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I pulsed the ingredients until they were combined.

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And then let the machine run while I drizzled 2/3 cup of olive oil into the mixture.

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After transferring the mixture to a bowl I stirred in a 1/4 cup of freshly grated of Parmesan cheese.

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Since I wasn’t using the Pesto Sauce immediately I stored it in an airtight container in my refrigerator. After being in the fridge for a few days I added a little more olive oil to the top of it to make sure it would stay fresh. And when I was ready to use it was perfect.

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On to the Pesto Chicken Packets…

Along with the chicken and pesto, I also needed zucchini, plum tomatoes and scallions for the recipe.

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I prepped the vegetables by slicing the zucchini, chopping the tomatoes and trimming the scallions.

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Then it was time to prep the chicken packets for the oven. I drizzled about a teaspoon of olive oil in the center of a 12-inch long sheet of aluminum foil and placed a thin-sliced chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper on top of it. I then spread about a tablespoon of the pesto over the chicken.

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Next it was time to cover the chicken with about a handful of the sliced zucchini and chopped tomatoes and a few of the scallions. Prior to closing the packets I also dolloped about two tablespoons of the pesto on top.

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I placed all of the packets on a baking sheet and baked them in a 355 F preheated oven for 40 minutes.

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And voila, they were perfectly cooked in that time. This is definitely a great recipe for chicken as the juices of the zucchini, tomatoes and of course the pesto produces a chicken breast that is perfectly juicy and flavorful. I served them with brown rice and no worries I did take the chicken along with all of its components out the aluminum packet prior to eating it. How else was I going to be able to mix all the wonderful juices in with my rice?

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Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, washed

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

1. Place the basil, pine nuts, basil, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.

2. While the machine is running drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

 

Pesto Chicken Packets

Ingredients:

Extra-Virgin olive oil, for drizzling

5 Thinly sliced skinless and boneless chicken breasts

Salt and Pepper

1 cup Pesto

2 zucchini, thinly sliced

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

10 scallions, trimmed

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 355 F. Cut five 12-inch long sheets of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil in the center of each sheet.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 1 piece of chicken in the center of each sheet and spread 1 tablespoon pesto on top.

3. Mound a handful of the zucchini and tomatoes over each chicken breast along with two pieces of scallion. Dollop a few tablespoons pesto over each mound. Fold the foil over the chicken and vegetables; pinch the edges to seal.

4. Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.