The cool fall temperatures have arrived which means that it is time for some great casserole dinners at our house. My Grandma's Stuffed Peppers are always a winner anytime of year, but we especially love them in the fall or winter. When cooked with lean ground beef and colorful bell peppers, they not only have a beautiful presentation, but they are also pretty healthy.
There are many stuffed pepper recipes around with unique ingredients like pepperoni, chiles, and more. But no matter how many different recipes I've tried over the years, I always come back to this classic stuffed recipe passed down to my family from my Grandma Alma to my Mom to me.
I hope that you enjoy it as much as my family has over the years!
Unfortunately, I never really got to know my Grandma Alma because she died of cancer when I was just 2 years old. I have very few memories of her and those that I do have are of her in the hospital hooked up to tubes. Fortunately, my mother took lots of photos of me with my grandmother when I was a baby... that happens when you are the oldest child in a family (I swear my youngest brother has no photos). At any rate, I really wish that I had been able to get to know her because she was one tough cookie who had overcome lots of tragedies in her life including the deaths of two of her children. Cancer just happened to be the one thing she just couldn't beat.
But my grandmother lives on in my family mostly through our food. My mom has all of her old recipe books and a box full of yellowed recipe cards. Many of my mother's childhood favorites are now favorites of her own children and grandchildren. So this recipe for stuffed peppers has been in our family for years. I can remember all us kids begging mom to make it and 30 years later nothing has changed. Even today, mom calls up my husband and I to come over for stuffed peppers and as sure as the sky is blue, we say 'yes' without hesitation.
So it is with great love that I pass this family recipe on to you!
Brightly-colored bell peppers (green,red, orange, yellow) are excellent sources of both Vitamin A and Vitamin C. In fact, just one cup of bell peppers provides 291% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin C and 105% of your recommended DV of Vitamin A. They are also a great source of B6 and dietary fiber.
6 - 8 large red, yellow or green bell peppers
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 to 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef (I personally use 1 lb)
3/4 cup uncooked white rice
1 can peeled chopped tomatoes
2 1/2 tsp salt (I use slightly less)
3/4 tsp. pepper
1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Bell peppers are most abundant in late August and during the month of September when the largest harvest occurs in fields and gardens across America. When choosing bell peppers at your local farmers market or grocery store, look for peppers with vivid coloring and taut skin (wrinkles mean that the pepper is not fresh). The skin should be free of blemishes, dark spots, or soft areas that could indicate deterioration. If you press on the outside of a pepper, it should give slightly. Unwashed bell peppers can normally be stored up to a week in the refrigerator before using them.
Although the shape and size of a pepper will not affect the taste, for stuffed pepper dishes it is best to choose peppers that are large and have a shape that will stand up in a baking dish. That way you don't end up wasting a bunch of the pepper that could otherwise be eaten.
Rinse the peppers well under running water (if they have a waxy finish, you should scrub them as well). To core the pepper, use a paring knife to cut around the stem. Remove the stem and scoop out the pepper's insides including the seeds and fibers.
Boil the peppers in salted water for 5 to 8 minutes (or steam them). Drain well and set aside to cool a bit.
Cook the rice according to package directions.
In a large frying pan, brown the onion and beef together adding a little oil if necessary. Once it is cooked, drain it.
Then either in the large frying pan or in a separate bowl, add the cooked rice, tomatoes, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper to the cooked onion and hamburger.
Stir well until all the ingredients are distributed evenly.
In a 9 x 13 baking dish or similar sized oval dish, arrange (stand up) the bell peppers and stuff them full of the hamburger/rice mixture. If you still have any hamburger/rice mixture left after stuffing all the peppers, just pour it next to the peppers in the baking dish.
In a small glass bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, remaining salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the stuffed peppers (and any excess rice mixture that you placed outside the peppers in the baking dish).
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. Baste tops of peppers frequently with juices in the baking dish. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 1/2 more. Top should be slightly brown and bubbly.
Serve the individual stuffed peppers by placing them on plates along with some sort of side dish (see recommendations below).
In my family, we always serve our stuffed peppers with either garlic bread or those ready-to-bake biscuits that you can buy in the refrigerator section at the grocery store. Our favorite garlic bread is the boxed Texas Toast that can be found in the freezer section... although this is NOT a good choice if you are trying to keep this meal full of only healthy food gifts.
In the summer, I will also serve fresh from the garden green beans and/or a leafy green salad.
At my house, no meal is complete without a delectable dessert. Some of our favorites include gourmet cookies like white chocolate macadamia nut or monster cookies with large chocolate chunks. My entire family (nieces and nephews included) love gourmet cheesecake so for this particular meal which is usually served in the fall and winter, we opt for a traditional New York style cheesecake or a pumpkin cheesecake with a ginger snap crust. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
Grandma's Stuffed Pepper Recipe serves about 4 people. The cost varies based on time of year (peppers are cheaper in summer when you can get them 2 for $1 on sale), but on average, I would say the stuffed pepper casserole costs $12 - $14.
You can save A LOT of money by growing your own bell peppers. It is pretty easy to do even in a pot on your deck/patio. Below you can find one of my favorite pepper growing books and some bell pepper seed resources.