Halloween is almost here and while costumes and candy distribution get top priority, don’t forget to have fun at meal time! I make stuffed peppers every year, and love to carve Jack O’ Lantern faces into each pepper. It takes only a few extra minutes and turns an everyday meal into a Halloween treat. Spooky good!
For a meal as iconic as stuffed peppers, I turn to a trusted source: Betty Crocker. Betty tells us to make our stuffing from one pound of ground beef, one cup of rice, a garlic clove and tomato sauce. When the peppers are stuffed and placed in a baking pan, additional tomato sauce is poured on top and they are baked and then sprinkled with cheese before serving.
Sometimes, I take Betty’s guidelines and tailor them to my needs. I prefer all the filling to have an equal amount of “tomato” flavor, so I mix all the tomato sauce with the stuffing instead of pouring some on top.
And let’s talk about the cheese. A sprinkle of cheese? Puh-leez. They don’t call my state “America’s Dairy Land” for nothing. Besides, you need a strategy for serving stuffed peppers. You know the kids will only eat the top layer of cheese, right? So, I mix shredded cheese into the filling. That way, it’s evenly distributed to provide a tasty bit of cheese in every bite.
For the rice, I’m pretty sure Betty used white rice, but I always try to use brown rice for a healthier alternative. It works great in this recipe. And this time, to boost the health factor, I tried riced cauliflower in place of the rice. It worked great! It’s a nice low-carb alternative that ups the “veggie” factor for this meal.
Before stuffing the peppers, you need to par-cook them. Kind of a fancy term. Par-cooking means what it sounds like: partial cooking. In this case, the peppers are par-cooked for 2 minutes in boiling water. To make the Jack O’ Lanterns, carve the faces either before or right after the par-cook step. It works best when the pepper is still rigid rather than soft and mushy. Since the stuffing is made of small pieces, I always try for small cutouts to prevent “the guts” from pouring out during the baking step (although that sounds creepy cool).
Once baked, let the peppers cool a few minutes before taking out of the pan.
Super cute Halloween food that is a nice break from all the sugary treats!
- 4 bell peppers green or color of choice
- 2 TB chopped onion
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 cup cooked rice riced cauliflower can be substituted
- 8 oz tomato sauce double if you like it very tomato-y
- ¾ cup shredded cheese mozzarella or Italian blend
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Cut top off each pepper and remove seeds and membranes (Retain tops if making Jack O’ Lanterns).
- Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Immerse peppers in the water and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove and drain.
- In a large skillet, cook the beef and onion for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beef is browned. Drain any excess grease.
- Stir in rice, garlic powder, and tomato sauce and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- If making Jack O’ Lanterns, carefully cut faces into the cooled peppers and stand them upright in a baking dish. If needed, cut a very thin slice off the bottom of the peppers to help them stay upright. Otherwise, just lean them against each other.
- Add shredded cheese to the cooled filling and mix to distribute.
- Spoon the filling into the peppers.
- Cover the baking dish (use foil if a cover is not availabland bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15 additional minutes or until the peppers are tender. Sprinkle the tops with a little more cheese if desired.