Saturday, April 26, 2014

Taking Shortcuts

I am a person who is always in a hurry.  I walk fast.  I take long strides when I walk.  I practically run through stores because I'm in a hurry.  I actually did run away from my daughter once in Walmart.  It was rather funny, for me at least.  She was slightly embarrassed.  My husband has to tell me before we go into stores that he doesn't want to sprint through the store.  It pains me a lot to get stuck behind slow people.  Why am I always in a hurry?  Well, for starters, I am OCD.  I am extremely efficient.  I can get more done in one day than a lot of people can in a week.  I plan the route on my errands so that I make a big circle instead of zig-zagging back and forth. I am a little impatient, and my goal is always to hurry up and be done, get home.  

I also sometimes like to take shortcuts in the kitchen.  If I can make things quicker and easier, I will certainly do that.  So I wanted to make Italian Stuffed Peppers, but they take a long time to cook.  Make the rice.  Brown the beef.  Fill the peppers and cook.  A long time to cook.  So I had a lightbulb moment.  I roast poblano peppers and jalapenos all the time in the oven.  Why can't I roast the bell peppers while I prepare the rest of the filling?  Then my cooking time in the oven should be short, right?  RIGHT!  It worked.  By the time I had the veggies chopped, the rice done, the meat cooked, the cheese shredded, and the sauce ready, the peppers were already soft.  All I had to do was fill them, top them with sauce and cheese, and cook for only about 10 more minutes! Genius!  And they were, of course, darn tasty.

5-6 bell peppers, any color
1 lb ground beef
1 C rice
1 onion
1 stalk celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 C beef stock
Chili flakes, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 C Basic Marinara Sauce (click for my recipe)
1 C shredded Mozzarella
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the tops off of the bell peppers and reserve.  Remove the stems and seeds.  If you need to, cut a little off the bottom so that they will sit upright. Brush them inside and out with a little olive oil.  Put them on a sheet pan and roast, turning occasionally, until they are soft, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 2 C water and rice to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the rice is done.  While the rice and peppers are cooking, chop the onion and celery. Cut as much off of the bell pepper tops as you can save and chop that.  Drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet and cook the veggies over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the ground beef, chili flake, salt & pepper and garlic and cook until the meat is done.  Drain if necessary.

When the rice is done, add it to the meat mixture.  Add in the beef stock and cook over medium heat until the stock is absorbed.  Remove from the heat.

Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees.  Put about half of the Marinara sauce in the bottom of a casserole pan.  Place the peppers upright in the sauce.  Fill each pepper with the meat mixture and top each with the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle the cheese over the tops of the peppers and bake for about 10 minutes to heat the sauce and melt the cheese.

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