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Survival Cooking: Stuffed Peppers



Oops, I really didn’t mean to take a month-long hiatus. But given that my childhood record for keeping a diary was a little over one week (and in that case, I was motivated primarily by the fact that the journal was Harry Potter-themed), I’m not really surprised – I’ll just have to work harder at keeping up. It’s not even because the past few weeks were particularly busy or anything; it’s more that my schedule has been a bit hodgepodge.

Eternity (noun) 1. the amount of time that has passed since my last post 2. One of many businesses shuttered by the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy to New York. Seeing an empty street of boarded-up storefronts was a bit eerie, to say the least.

Though I’ve been back in the States for over a month now, I haven’t actually been able to stay home for more than a week at a time.  I got back on a plane the day after getting back from China to go to St. Louis for a medical school interview; a week later, I went to DC for a few days for work related to my summer job and then tacked on an overnight trip to Philly for another interview; and a week after that, I ended up spending six days in New York after unluckily being stranded by Hurricane Sandy (and the interview that I went for didn’t even end up happening, haha). I’m certainly not complaining about having the time and opportunity to travel across the US and see friends – but it has made it a bit more difficult for me to really feel at home. I’m still kind of in that college-reinforced mindset of viewing my house as a brief but relaxing pit stop between everything else happening in my life – and as fun as Netflix and gchat are, I need to break out of that mindset so I can actually find a purpose and a routine for my next few months in Minnesota.

Unsurprisingly, the one thing that has been somewhat constant (and productive) has been my desire to cook. For example, while Hurricane  Sandy devastated the functionality of a significant portion of NYC and its citizens last week, my good friend K and I were fortunate in that we were not seriously affected at all – so for us, the storm was a great excuse to just stay in and enjoy a home-cooked meal and a movie. On a whim, I decided to make stuffed peppers, despite not having ever made them or even eaten them before.

Thankfully, it turns out that stuffed peppers are extremely forgiving: you can fill them with pretty much whatever you want, and they’ll probably turn out alright. For other stuffed-pepper neophytes out there, here’s a basic and modifiable recipe:

Very Customizable Stuffed Peppers (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 4 good-sized bell peppers (yellow and red ones have a sweeter taste)
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of meat, depending on preference (i.e. ground Italian sausage or beef)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • optional: 1/2 to 1 cup other minced vegetables (i.e. mushrooms)
  • optional: 1/2 to 1 cup uncooked rice or breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated or shredded cheese (i.e. mozzarella or Parmesan, or even feta or goat!)
  • some form of tomato sauce (anything from store-bought spaghetti sauce to tomato soup to just plain diced tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Italian seasoning, salt, pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut open the peppers (either cut off the top, or cut them in half lengthwise if they can’t stably stand upright), remove the seeds and pith, and pre-roast on a baking sheet for ~10 minutes.
  2. While peppers are roasting, warm garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat until fragrant, then add meat and saute until cooked thoroughly. Set meat aside.
  3. Saute onions with 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat until they begin to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add your preferred tomato sauce (my preference is just cooking down 1-2 diced fresh tomatoes for ~5 minutes, as I find store-bought spaghetti sauce too salty and overpowering) and any other stuffing ingredients (i.e. cooked rice, veggies, etc) and stir until cooked through.
  4. Mix meat and cheese with the rest of the stuffing until heated through, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  5. Fill peppers with the stuffing and top it off with any remaining tomato sauce. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are tender. (For a gooey cheese effect, sprinkle another layer of cheese on top of peppers before the last five minutes of baking)


The BEST holidays

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