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Inexpensive Comfort Food: Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed bell peppers are one of those things you may have grown up eating. They're simple, inexpensive to make, a good way to use up leftover rice, and, best of all, they taste great. I don't know how many times I've taken leftover stuffed bell peppers to work for lunch and had people stop by my office to check out what I was eating. "Smells you have any more?" is the usual comment. In fact, the recipe below makes plenty of peppers for dinner and leftovers. I "nuke" the peppers in the microwave before baking them to speed the cooking process. The peppers will need about an hour in the oven--plenty of time to make a salad and mix up some brownies or cupcakes to bake alongside the peppers for a special comfort meal.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers -- Makes 8 Halves

4 large bell peppers (I use a mix of colors), halved, stem removed, and seeded

2 cups of cooked rice (preferably brown)

1 - 1 1/4 pounds of lean ground beef (93 percent lean)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of Italian herbs

1 teaspoon of basil

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 cup of chopped onion

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

3/4 cup of barbecue sauce, divided

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Parsley (optional)

Coat a large, microwave-safe baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the pepper halves in the baking pan, open pockets facing upward. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and microwave the peppers for about 5 minutes or until softened. Drain the peppers. In a large bowl, combine the rice, ground beef, eggs, Italian herbs, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion, tomato paste, half the can of crushed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce. Mix everything until well combined. Divide the meat mixture among the pepper halves, filling the cavities and mounding the meat mixture a bit if necessary. Combine the remaining crushed tomatoes and 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce and pour it over the stuffed peppers. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese, if you're using it. Bake the peppers, uncovered, for 60-75 minutes or until cooked through and browned on top. Sprinkle on some parsley, if you want, and let the peppers stand for 10-15 minutes before serving them.

Healthy Comfort Food:  Stuffed Bell Peppers

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