Kitchen adventures: A cook's dilemma

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Food column by Becca Owsley

By Becca Owsley

Today’s adventure is something yummy that landed on the cheap side thanks to a couple sales at the grocery store. But it also fell victim to a common cooks dilemma.

Some week’s dinner becomes the same-old-same-old. As I tried to decide what to prepare one night I thought back to some delicious stuffed peppers my sister-in-law once made. She’s one of those cooks who can throw a bunch of things together from her fridge or pantry and come up with something delicious. I usually need a recipe.

So after an Internet search I found a recipe for Beef and Mozzarella Stuffed Peppers. I think she used sausage in her stuffed peppers but this recipe sounded perfect because I already had meat, which I bought on sale, in the freezer. I always keep parmesan on hand, so two of the ingredients were ready to go.

At the grocery, bell peppers were on sale — major score. To make a lovely presentation I got one of each color: red, yellow, orange and green.

Cheese and tomato sauce were on sale, too.

This meal was looking better and better.

One item, however, was left out. The recipe called for coconut oil to coat the baking dish. I left this out because coconut oil is expensive. The cheapest jar was $6. For me, cooking spray would work just fine, so I left the expensive coconut oil on the shelf.

Happily, I went home with my discount dinner items ready to prepare stuffed peppers.

The combination of ingredients left a wonderful smell of seasonings in my house and made my stomach rumble.

The peppers looked colorful as I filled and placed them in the oven.

While they baked I boiled small potatoes with the skin still on to mash with onions and cheese for a side.

I waited and waited for the peppers to come out of the oven. Finally, they were ready and smelled delicious.

But, as often is the case, after I plated the dish I wasn’t hungry. This is sometimes a very disappointing aspect of cooking. You spend so much time preparing a dish and smelling it, but when it’s done you’re not hungry. It’s sad when you are looking forward to eating. It was good, but after a few bites I was finished.

Admittedly, the peppers were not as good as my sister-in-law’s, but her cooking is hard to match.

There are three more stuffed peppers in the fridge. If I don’t eat them for dinner this weekend maybe I can use them in a chili.

Repurposing leftovers is something else my sister-in-law is good at. I’ll have to see if I can do similar magic with the peppers in chili.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270- 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Beef and Mozzarella Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 large bell peppers, any color
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • Favorite seasonings for beef, such as 1 teaspoon fennel seed, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon basil, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and a dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced small (from the cut-off tops of the peppers)
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus a little more for sprinkling the tops
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat a square baking dish, preferably glass or ceramic, with coconut oil. Set aside.

Wash and dry peppers. Cut off tops of peppers, dice tops and throw away stem. Set aside diced pepper for later use. Scrape out inside of the peppers, rinse and dry. Set peppers in prepared baking dish. Peppers should fit well in baking dish and be touching each other. If peppers aren’t level you can trim bottom. Only take off a sliver; this should help.

Coat large skillet with olive oil, heat over medium heat. Add ground beef, seasonings, onions and diced peppers to skillet. Cook until beef is cooked through, no longer pink. Add 3/4 to 1 cup of the canned tomato sauce to the skillet with the beef, use just enough to coat meat well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the mixture cool slightly, five to 10 minutes. Add the mozzarella and parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Fill peppers with beef-cheese mixture, packing filling down tightly. If you have extra filling, spoon it around outside of peppers in the bottom of the baking dish. Drizzle the tops of stuffed peppers with as much of remaining canned tomato sauce as you wish.

Bake, covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle tops of peppers with extra parmesan cheese and continue to bake for 15 to 20 more minutes. Peppers will be tender, cheese should be melted and tops will be lightly browned.

Source: www.cookinggodsway.com