Stuffed Peppers ♥ My Aunt's Retro Recipe

My aunt's recipe for Stuffed Peppers, tomato soup and all
Today's vegetable recipe: My aunt's recipe for green peppers stuffed with a mixture of ground meat, fresh corn and rice or another starch such as quinoa, then topped with a tomato-y sauce and melt-y cheese. Low carb. Weight Watchers 2 to 4 points, depending on size.

My 3x5 recipe box is gill-packed with 'retro' recipes that date to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Thing is, the recipes weren't 'retro' then, not back when I copied ingredients and cooking instructions onto neat 3x5 index cards. They were just the recipes that my mother, my aunts and my older cousins were cooking. They were just recipes from good cooks feeding their families. They were just my family's best recipes, the family favorites, the ones we all loved.

So it felt funny to make my dear Auntie Gloria's Stuffed Peppers again for the first time in many years. Today's 'whole food' cook in me was tempted to substitute the can of tomato soup her recipe calls for with, say, a homemade Quick Tomato Sauce or Fresh Tomato Sauce made with fresh garden-picked tomatoes. But the 'family cook' in me wanted to honor the recipes of my family's past, however 'retro' that might seem today.

And so I bought the first can of tomato soup in ages, I spooned out its gloppy goopiness, I drizzled it over top of the stuffed peppers. And was glad of it. My aunt's Stuffed Peppers really hit the spot on a coolish July evening and again warmed up for breakfast (yes, breakfast!) a day or so later. It's not fancy food but it is mine. Canned tomato soup it is. Retro it is.

But you? You may be beholden to your family but not to mine. Use the sauce of your choice!

[Note to Vegetarians about the occasional recipe on A Veggie Venture that includes meat]

STUFFED PEPPERS

Hands-on time: 45 minutes (can be prepped ahead of time and baked later)
Time to table: 75 minutes - 90 minutes
Makes enough for eight small peppers (so 16 halves) or four large peppers (so 8 halves)

PEPPERS
Boiling water
8 small bell peppers or 4 large bell peppers
Ice water

STUFFING
1 strip bacon, cut into small pieces (or 1 tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil)
1 onion, chopped small
1 pound ground meat, broken into chunks (see KITCHEN NOTES)
1/2 cup cooked starch (such as cooked rice, I used cooked quinoa)
1/2 cup corn (frozen works, this time I used 2 ears of fresh corn)
1 teaspoon chili powder or more to taste
Salt & pepper to taste

TOPPING
1 can tomato soup
1/4 cup ketchup
Grated cheddar cheese

BLANCH PEPPERS Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, wash the peppers well, especially around the stem end. If the stems are intact, trim a bit off the stem. Cut the peppers in half, cutting through the stem's center if you can, otherwise, cut a bit to the side so that the whole stem remains intact on one of the halves. (See NOTES.) Slice out the membranes and seeds and discard. Drop the peppers into the boiling water and blanch for 1 - 2 minutes. Drop into ice water to stop the cooking. Let drain, pat dry if needed.

COOK FILLING In a large skillet, cook the bacon pieces and onion until the onion is beginning to turn gold. Add the meat, letting it sear for a minute or two in the hot skillet before moving and breaking up further (the idea is to get a little 'burn' on the meat). Continue cooking until the meat is fully cooked. Add the corn, chili powder and salt and pepper (see NOTES). If making ahead, let cool to room temperature.

ASSEMBLE Pack the filling into the pepper halves and arrange in a baking dish. (If making ahead, stop here, cover and refrigerate for a day or so.)

TOPPING & BAKE If there's time, return peppers to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350F. Stir together the tomato soup and ketchup, drizzle over top of the peppers. Sprinkle with cheddar. Bake for about 30 minutes (if starting from room temperature) to about 45 minutes (if starting cold from the refrigerator) until hot and sizzly all the way through. If needed, put under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese.


KITCHEN NOTES
Any ground meat will work, ground beef (or in my case, ground elk meat), ground turkey, ground lamb would be excellent.
You might want to cook a test pepper, just to see how much time to leaving them in the boiling water. You'll want them to be fully cooked (the oven only really rewarms them, doesn't cook any longer) versus barely cooked, though not so much as to get smooshy.
When making the meat mixture, be sure that it 'tastes' good (and has enough flavor) before packing it into the peppers. I've already upped the chili powder to a full teaspoon, you might want even more.

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9 comments:

welcome back! no comments on the recipe (though it looks good) but when linking to the BlogHer conference from Lunch In A Box whose name did I see first?

Yours!

Ha, Kirsten! I met Biggie from Lunch in a Box for the first time in Chicago at BlogHer09 this weekend, she's terrific!

I love stuffed peppers. They always hit the spot!

I love stuffed peppers, especially my mothers. I need to look up her recipe, if she had one!
Your aunts recipe sounds good and yes, retro, but I sure don't want to forget all the "oldie but goodie" foods that we used to eat- it's part of who we are and what molded us! Our memories are powerful, aren't they? :)

Great minds think alike! I just made stuffed peppers on Sunday and have been eating them for the past few days. Check out my post with my recipe: http://copingwithfrugality.blogspot.com/2009/07/mexican-stuffed-peppers.html

Ah Alanna,
This was my Mom's best recipe (she was a little Polish lady that could cook like crazy). I watched her many times as she made this recipe and tried to write it down as she made it.
When I made it, hmmph! Nothing like hers! I swear there was that little, unknown secret, magical ingredient thrown in that I didn't see.
(I suspect we have to call it a healthy measure of "LOVE".)
Even though I followed the recipe exactly, it just didn't seem like the same food when I would eat it.
I will have to try yours and just enjoy yours. Thanks so much for this recipe and all the other 'retro' feasts you include here.
Huggs, Cait

HI Alanna, the stuffed peppers look mouth watering, its been long time since I had them n nowI am totally inspired

The last time I made stuffed green peppers, I didn't do the very important step of blanching the peppers, and they ended up being crunchy! It makes a big difference.

I'm tempted to try making them again with your recipe.

stuffed peppers are always the perfect dish! we like them either as a main or often as a side. love this recipe alanna thanks for sharing it!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna