When I mentioned I wanted to make Stuffed Peppers for dinner, my 89-year-old Stepmom reached into the cupboard and pulled out one of her many books of collected recipes; Pat had for or five of these books, recipes spanning generations, from friends, family, magazines and books and what a treasure they were. She settled on a small handwritten card. Pat is half Czech but as I read the card, I also recognized some of these familiar flavors from the German side of my family. I immediately dubbed these “Old World” Stuffed Peppers.
Now my folks want dinner on the table at 5:00 sharp. There’s a whole ritual prior to every meal. About 4:15, Dad gets up from his snooze on the couch, takes the big, hugely hairy beast, their golden retriever, Cody, out (along with my Gibson, who is “just” a labrador). From anywhere in the house, I can hear the walker rolling across the kitchen and dining room floor as Pat sets a full table for the three of us, placemats and everything. So that’s my cue to make sure dinner is on track! If it’s not on the table at 5:00 sharp, things get tense! And get tense fast!
About Old World Stuffed Peppers:
Now if you’ve cooked stuffed peppers, you know that they can take some time, and at this point, I was up against the clock. I glanced through the recipe card and got to work rather than taking 30 seconds to read the whole card through with care, imagining the steps I’ll need to take as I do. I highly recommend doing that with every recipe, btw!
It was very interesting to me that the peppers were microwaved for a short time before being baked, but I dutifully complied and went on with the recipe. It wasn’t until the peppers were stuffed and ready to go in the oven that I realized that what I thought was 45 minutes in the oven was 4 – 5 minutes – in the microwave. Crap, I thought! LOL! This is a MICROWAVE dish?
So you can imagine my surprise that the “Old World” Stuffed Peppers, with their special touches of raisins and allspice (it reminds me of my Cabbage Rolls) was obvs not a secret family recipe passed down the generations! But they do taste like they are! They’re a fave of Dad’s, and I noticed even Pat who will hardly touch a vegetable, ate a good portion of the green pepper. And what a win-win for me – dinner was early and these Stuffed Peppers are fab! Maybe they’ll be a win-win for you, too!
Making Old World Stuffed Peppers:
The reason my mind immediately went to thinking “crap” is that I underutilize my microwave. Because of that I was a little suspicious that anything fabulous could be made in one! That is anything fabulous other than melted chocolate, popcorn, and leftovers, and only more recently, my Poached Eggs in the Microwave, Egg in a Mug and Asparagus Standing in the Microwave. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
So let’s talk about the actual bell peppers portion of the stuffed bell peppers when they’re cooked in the microwave. First, they go in the microwave for a quick steam, then they’re stuffed. I suggest having a clean towel or hot pad to handle the peppers as you stuff them. They are hot hot hot! Beyond the whole recipe being fast, bell peppers done in the microwave are spot-on perfect when the dish is finished. They’re fork-tender with just a bit of firmness, and because they haven’t spent a long time in the oven, there is no hint of the slightly bitter note you can sometimes get when peppers are cooked a long time. Instead, they stay sweet, fresh and flavorful.
And that cheesy topping, oh my gosh, cooked in the microwave it turned out beautifully. If just melted so perfectly with all that steam. (And when I used Parmesan, it was fine, too,) One thing I’ve learned, is to take a small plastic cup, something like you might get a bit of hot sauce, barbecue sauce, or salad dressing in from take out or fast food, or might have on hand for food prep or Jello Shots. Turn it upside down in the center of the four peppers, then cover them. It keeps the plastic wrap off the cheesy topping. It’s not necessary, but if you make your peppers like this even once, if you’re like me, you’ll want to adapt ALL of your stuffed peppers recipe to this method. So if you don’t have something like that hanging around, keep your eye out.
Saving Money on Old World Stuffed Peppers:
By the way, what prompted this recipe was a great sales price on both peppers and ground beef. Normally, the green bells are far less than the colored, so if you’re budget-minded, use them. If you’re feeding anyone who’s on the fence about bell peppers, maybe children, keep in mind the colored bells, while a little pricier, are also a little sweeter, a little less “grassy” tasting. You might have better success in getting them to eat the dish. Aldi has great prices on bell peppers, too. Notice rather than each person having a whole pepper, I cooked this the old school way, halving each pepper lengthwise from top to bottom. They are still plenty filling and the cost is lowered a bit.
Ground beef regularly goes on sale and hits a rock bottom price once a quarter, so don’t be afraid to buy a larger amount, portion it out in reasonable sizes for your family and freeze.
As far as the rice goes, any rice will do, and it is actually helpful to use a small amount of leftover rice as opposed to cooking it just for the recipe. For the Stuffed Peppers in the photos, I actually used a little leftover Mexican Rice last time and it blended beautifully with the other flavors in the dish. I’ve learned to freeze small amounts of rice to have on hand for quick sides, soups, Fried Rice or dishes like this. If you have no rice on hand, think about maximizing your time. Make a little extra, portion and freeze.
And please don’t be afraid of the raisins! Trust me on this! 🙂
Old World Stuffed Peppers
- 2 bell peppers, any color, halved top to bottom, seeds removed, ribs cleaned off (see note)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup carrot, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 eight-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup cooked rice
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- dash or two of hot sauce to taste, optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese or 1/2 cup grated meltier cheese; Jack is very nice
Place peppers cut side up in a microwaveable baking dish. Add two tablespoons water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Vent wrap in one or two places. Cook three to five minutes on high. Drain and set aside. Set dish aside to use in a few minutes.
In the meantime, cook ground beef over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Add in the diced green pepper (if using, see note) carrots, onion, and garlic. Continue to cook until onion is softened. Drain of excess fat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients except cheese and spoon into peppers.
Place peppers back in cooking dish, sprinkle with cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and cook four to five minutes on high.
Note: You can use four bell peppers and remove top, then clean the ribs and cook them standing up. Use the small bit of top, chopped up, to add to the recipe with the onions and carrots.
You know I’ll be bringing Old World Stuffed Peppers to our Throwback Thursday #22 Link Party, hosted by Quinn of Dad What’s for Dinner, Meaghan of 4 Sons are Us, Alli of Tornadough, and Moi! That’s right – me! Click over to our Throwback Thursday post for rules and more info or just click on the blue leapfrog, below, to view all the posts or enter your own!
As always, to view the link party or add a link, click on the little blue button below!