I'm a baker. I'm sure you know that by the looks of my blog here, but it's something I've ascribed to myself for some time now. Over the years, I've mastered my fears and perfected everything from cupcakes, to cookies to even bread. I've never been a cook. If I was a cook, it was merely just me trying on the title of 'cook' for the moment - following step by step directions for a recipe.
As a baker, you rely on science, exact measurements. Cooks experiment, they rely on their instincts. I've never been one good with instincts. It's always a constant battle of heart versus head for me. Past internal conversations usually involved my heart longing for this, that and this while my head disagreed and said this, that and this are not possible, will not work, will fail. Recently though, it's been gratifying just to play around and end up with something good once in a while. Sometimes things don't work out, and that's okay.
It's times when things do work out, and work out splendidly I might add, that make you want to try and try again. These stuffed peppers are an actualization to this fact. I didn't follow a recipe, I improvised, I let my heart guide me:
Heart: I want some mushrooms in my stuffed pepper.
Head: Mushrooms are too watery for the filling!
Heart: To hell with you head! Mushrooms it is!
Mushrooms won and I won in the end. These stuffed peppers are delicious, healthy, and an incredibly satisfying meal if not, an incredibly satisfying life lesson :)
Yields: 6 - 7 stuffed peppers
6 - 7 bell peppers (I used green because they had a nice shape for stuffing)
1 tbsn. olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1 lb. lean ground beef (I used 80% lean)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 tbsn. dried parsley or 1 tbsn. fresh
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tbsn. Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the seeds and ribs. Save the tops and dice them; set aside. If your peppers do not stand well on their own, you can slice off a small sliver on their bottoms to even the base - but be sure not to cut through to the inside. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and 2/3 of the garlic and cook for 2 - 4 minutes, or until semi-translucent. Add the ground beef and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and the Worcestershire sauce. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 - 7 minutes. Drain this mixture using a fine sieve and then place into a large bowl.
In the same saucepan, add the chopped bell peppers that you had set aside earlier, along with the mushrooms. Dry saute this over high heat to give some 'sear' to them and so that they just lose their 'crispness.' Once done, throw on top of the ground beef mixture, then add the cooked rice on top. In a small bowl, combine the egg, parsley, Parmesan and remaining salt and pepper; mix to combine, then pour into your bowl. Mix everything to combine, then stuff as much of this mixture as you can into your peppers. Place the peppers into a baking dish. Mix the water and tomato sauce together, then pour around the peppers. Bake for 45 minutes and enjoy!
As a side dish to these, I decided to throw some brown rice and corn together. Seasoned it simply with some salt and pepper and it was splendid.