Monthly Archives: August 2010

MAKING ECONOMICAL MEALS

For most of my married life, which was for 26 years, we were scrimping to get by, raising four sons on an often non-existent income. My then-husband was self employed for most of those years, and it was generally feast or famine. I tell you this only because I learned early on how to really stretch a dollar. For 12 of those years I was also a stay-at-home mom. I shopped carefully with coupons when we did have some money, and made the most of the supermarket sales. Meals were often planned around the best of those weekly sales. I also did a lot of refunding along with some of my penpals, so we often exchanged refund forms and the proofs of purchase, as well, if we had extra. Refunding was collecting proof of purchases from groceries and sending them, generally with the cash register receipt included and a form – to a manufacturer who then, in turn, sent you cash rebates or coupons good for free groceries or other premiums. I was not above taking my sons with me to dumpsters behind Laundromats to get the proofs of purchase from empty boxes of detergent and laundry softeners. I saved all the cash rebates for an entire year to pay for a trip for all of us to Cincinnati, our home town. Often there were really great rebates for things like basketballs or dolls or other toys that I’d pack away for birthday and Christmas presents. When we did have some money for groceries, I stocked up on staples—rice, beans, cereals, spaghetti, canned goods, powdered milk—things you could always make a meal out of, when there wasn’t much in the refrigerator or freezer. One of my sons says, today, that he loathes spaghetti dinners; he feels like that’s all we had when they were growing up. I’m not that crazy about spaghetti myself, anymore.

What I learned back then, though, is to make the most out of a small amount of meat which led to a lot of really good recipes such as Beef Burgundy or Pepper Steak – both made from London Broil or flank steak purchased when it was on sale. The Beef Burgundy became a favorite to serve to unexpected guests; over noodles or rice it was a very fine dinner. It really wasn’t a foreign concept; my mother raised her family in the depression and war years, and we grew up on many one-dish meals. A few years ago I read somewhere how these one dish meals are much healthier for you. Who knew?

My sons often brought friends home with them for dinner—and so did my husband. It was not unusual to have up to half a dozen unexpected guests. You can generally handle this easily with one dish meals, sometimes just by adding a few more potatoes or carrots.

There is a cookbook titled “STORIES AND RECIPES OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF THE 1930s by Rita Van Amber and one of her recipes is something called Garden Casserole, which the author says was made by the roaster full when she was growing up and there was seldom any left. The following is a reduced recipe:

GARDEN CASSEROLE

Grease a casserole very well. Slice
2 onions into it
Add: 4 potatoes, sliced thin then add
2 cups corn, canned or fresh
1 lb pork sausage, fried and drained
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Pour 2 cups canned or fresh tomatoes over all. Buttered crumbs can be added as a topping. Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover and finish baking until done and a crusty brown.

The following is ANOTHER LAYERED GARDEN CASSEROLE. Season with a little salt and pepper between each layer:

1 layer potatoes
1 layer onion rings
1 layer dry rice (3/4 cup)
1 layer peas
1 lb ground beef, fried and drained
1 quart tomatoes
3 slices bacon

Bake 2 hours in a slow oven or until done. Cover first half hour, then continue baking uncovered.

The following is my recipe for pepper steak; I think I have been making it for well over 30 years. It’s one of those recipes you know by heart and can throw together on short notice. If the meat is partially frozen, you can make very nice thin slices. This recipe makes a lot – but it reheats very well for a leftover dinner.

TO MAKE PEPPER STEAK you will need

2 – 2 ½ lbs London broil or round steak, cut into thin slices
½ cup solid shortening such as Crisco
2 cans (16 ounce total) tomatoes
2 ½ cups water*
1 chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
6 TBSP brown roux**
4 large green bell peppers (or a mixture of colored peppers if they are plentiful and inexpensive
2 cups carrot strips
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)

Brown meat in Crisco; drain off excess. Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid. Add reserved liquid, water, onion, salt and pepper to meat in skillet. Cover and simmer 1 hour or until meat is tender (if sliced very thin it will cook faster). Uncover. Add Worcestershire sauce. Stir in roux. Cook until thick and bubbly. Cut green peppers into strips and add to meat with drained tomatoes. Add partially cooked carrots (I precook them for about 5 minutes in the microwave). Simmer 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, if using. Cook a few more minutes until mushrooms are tender. Serve hot over cooked rice or noodles.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: The original recipe calls for 2 ½ cups of water. I like to replace at least half of the water with some Burgundy wine. The alcohol cooks off; it just gives your Pepper Steak a richer flavor.

**Sandy’s Cooknote: To make a roux: Blend 1 cup solid shortening Crisco with 1 cup flour until smooth. Stir in 2 TBSP Kitchen Bouquet. Keep refrigerated in a covered container until needed. To use the roux, use 3 TBSP roux for each cup of liquid and cook until thickened. Roux will last indefinitely in the refrigerator. (it will keep a long time on a pantry shelf, too). A roux is one of those neat little tricks for making a good gravy every time. You’ll find it’s indispensable.
~~
Another long-time favorite main dish recipe is Beef Burgundy. Like Pepper Steak, it can be tossed together on short notice; once you have the dish mixed and cooking, you can make up a salad and get water boiling for the noodles or rice. I could generally get this meal on the table in about an hour.

TO MAKE BEEF BURGUNDY you will need

1-2 pounds of top sirloin or London broil or flank steak*
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 8-oz can Burgundy wine**
½ lb sliced raw mushrooms
salt, pepper, pinch of oregano and marjoram
Rice or noodles

Slice meat very thin (it will slice thin if you have it partially frozen). Brown the meat in a small amount of butter or oil, along with the onion. Add tomato sauce, wine, and seasonings. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Fifteen minutes before finishing, add mushrooms. Serve over rice or noodles and sprinkle with a bit of parsley, if you wish.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Watch for sales on London Broil, flank, or top sirloin. That’s when I stock up on this cut of beef.

**Burgundy wine is fairly inexpensive. I buy a big jug of it for under $10.00 and keep it on hand just for cooking. Personally, I don’t like to drink red wines but I love to cook with them.

WORLD’S EASIEST POT ROAST

You probably know this – I can’t imagine anyone not knowing how to do this simple pot roast. You just tear open a couple long sheets of heavy duty Reynolds Wrap. Set a pot roast – any kind of beef roast such as chuck or 7-bone – in the center. Pour a package of onion soup on top. Then peel and slice carrots and potatoes and put them around the meat. Bring the ends together to make a tight fitting ‘envelope” and put it on a baking sheet or set it into a large baking dish. Let it bake most of the day at a low temperature. Voila – you have dinner. But here’s where you can get really creative. It’s the main reason I like to cook a BIG pot roast, just to have the leftovers.

NEXT DAY BEEF STEW

Cut up the left over beef discarding any visible fat or bone. Put it into your crockpot. If you have some left over carrots or potatoes, cut them up and add to the pot. Pour on any leftover gravy from the roast. Add a package of frozen mixed vegetables. If you happen to have any other leftover bits of things, like corn or peas or tomatoes – almost anything can be added. If it seems too dry, add some water or even a little Burgundy wine. Cover and let it cook on low until dinner time. I have a son who thinks this smacks too much of a soup and isn’t “right” for dinner – but if I have cooked noodles to be served with it, he’s fine. The noodles make it acceptable. If the stew doesn’t seem stew-ish enough or there isn’t enough gravy, toss in a can of cream of mushroom soup. You can also thicken it a little with some Kitchen Bouquet roux.

Another recipe using leftover pot roast is

SECOND DAY BEEF MUSHROOM BURGUNDY

You will need:

1 cup beef gravy
2 cups diced leftover pot roast
¼ lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 TBSP Burgundy wine
Hot cooked noodles
Chopped parsley

Mix and heat all except noodles and parsley. Pour over noodles and sprinkle with parsley.

Another great recipe for using up some leftover meat (which can be turkey, chicken, ham or crumbled cooked pork sausage) is my

STUFFING AND “WHATEVER” CASSEROLE

You will need:

¼ cup butter or margarine
½ medium onion, chopped
¼ cup diced celery or green pepper
3 medium zucchini, cut into ¼” slices
1¾ cups water
1 (6 oz) package chicken flavor stuffing mix
¼ cup chopped nuts, optional
2 cups diced cooked turkey, chicken, ham or crumbled pork sausage

In a 2-quart microwave safe casserole, combine butter, onion and celery. Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until veggies are barely softened. Add zucchini, water and herb seasoning packet from the stuffing mix box. Microwave on high to boiling, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in stuffing mix. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Gently stir in diced cooked meat. Microwave on defrost or medium, uncovered, 12 to 15 minutes or until heated through. Makes 6 to 8 servings. To cook in a conventional oven; drizzle about 2 TBSP butter over the surface of the casserole and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Years ago, I thought I was inventing something new the first time I made what I labeled “Mexican Lasagna” using leftover taco meat, flour tortillas or leftover tortilla chips, some salsa and whatever else I had on hand at the time. Nowadays I can find a host of similar recipes, sometimes labeled as enchilada casseroles. One favorite is this simple vegetable casserole dish:

VEGETABLE ENCHILADA CASSEROLE

You will need:

1 TBSP vegetable oil
2 cups diced zucchini
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups packed coarsely shredded spinach
1 cup frozen corn
1 jar (17.5 oz) enchilada sauce
12 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Preheat oven 350. In 10” skillet over medium high heat, heat oil. Add zucchini and onion and cook 5 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Add spinach and corn. Cook and stir until spinach wilts.

In a 3 qt shallow baking dish, spread ½ cup enchilada sauce. Place 6 tortillas, overlapping as needed, to cover the bottom of the dish. Spread with half of the remaining enchilada
Sauce. Top with vegetable mixture and half the cheese. Top with remaining tortillas and enchilada sauce. Bake 20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into 6 squares and garnish with cilantro.
~
One of my absolute favorite (and easy) dinners is roasting a small whole chicken. There is almost nothing to it – I place a whole defrosted young chicken on a large piece of foil, having washed it out and removed any giblets (which you can cook to make some chicken stock). I pat it dry and then spray it with Pam. I put a sprig or two of rosemary and a couple slices of lemon into the cavity, then sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning over the outside of the chicken. You can add peeled and cut potatoes and carrots at this time.
Wrap it all up and seal; place it on a rimmed cookie sheet or a shallow baking dish and bake it in a hot oven – I generally start at 375 degrees and lower the temp to about 350 when it’s well into becoming roasted. Or if I have a lot of time, I put it into a slow, 325 degree oven and just let it cook most of the afternoon. The last half hour, uncover the top to let the breast brown. Baste if needed. About this time I siphon off a lot of the liquid to make into gravy. You can mix it with your chicken stock and thicken it with corn starch.
It makes a nice, easy dinner – and we generally have leftovers that can be used for another meal.

Leftover cooked chicken can be used in many different ways – for enchiladas, tacos,
Taco salad, chicken salad. Another really easy recipe that uses leftover cooked chicken is:

CHICKEN & TORTILLA ENCHILADA BAKE

You will need:

1 jar (17.5 oz size jar) enchilada sauce
9 corn tortillas (6” size)
2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bottom of a 9” pie plate, spread ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce. Pour remaining enchilada sauce in a shallow dish. Dip 3 tortillas into sauce to cot. Place them into the pie plate, overlapping as necessary. Top with half of the chopped cooked chicken and ½ cup cheese. Dip 3 more tortillas into the enchilada sauce and place on top of the chicken/cheese. Top with remaining chicken and ½ cup cheese. Dip the last 3 tortillas in enchilada sauce and place on top. Spread with remaining enchilada sauce. Bake 25 minutes. Then top with remaining cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into wedges.

Don’t have any enchilada sauce where you live? Here is a simple recipe to make your own:

ENCHILADA SAUCE

¼ cup cooking oil
2 TBSP flour
¼ cup California chili powder
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 ½ cups water
¼ tsp ground cumin
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Heat oil in skillet; stir in flour and chili powder; turn down the heat and cook until slightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Gradually stir in the tomato sauce, water, and all other ingredients and cook until smooth and slightly thickened. You could easily double this.
**
Sandy’s Cooknote: I have a whole bunch more recipes for making economical and easy entrees but will have to continue this train of thought in another post. Happy Cooking!

HUNGARIAN STUFFED PEPPERS

The topic of stuffed peppers came up recently – a girlfriend said she was making them for the first time & I asked why she didn’t come to me for a recipe. Then I began searching for recipes for stuffed peppers – because I never had an actual recipe, per se, – it was just something you tossed together, often depending on what I had on hand.

My aunt has a recipe for Hungarian stuffed peppers that we put into the family cookbook and I dug around for some other recipes. Stuffed peppers, Hungarian or otherwise, is a most versatile recipe that you can make many different ways. In some recipes the peppers are parboiled first – I never did this. Ditto the rice. Why cook the rice beforehand when you don’t have to?

It seems to me that Stuffed Peppers have a Hungarian or German origin so I dug through some of my Hungarian cookbooks searching for recipes. However you make them, this is a most economical recipe when bell peppers are cheap and plentiful or you have a glut of them in your vegetable garden. We have a 99c store nearby and they sometimes have yellow, green, orange, or red peppers, about 3 to a package for 99 cents–I buy all the colors and spend an afternoon dicing them with my Vidalia onion chopper to keep available in the freezer. When you aren’t dicing up the entire pepper, always cut off the tops of the peppers, remove the seeds and membranes – and then finely dice the tops. Some of this can be mixed in with your ground beef (or chicken, turkey, or pork – whatever meat you are using)—the bits of peppers will give it more flavor. I just freeze all the remaining finely diced peppers for other recipes. Keep them tightly sealed in a zip lock bag in the freezer. They are great to toss into soups, such as Mexican Tortilla Soup, or you can toss a handful into a skillet of fried potatoes. Recently, the red bell peppers were on sale so I canned a dozen small jars (4 ounce size) of the chopped red bell peppers to make my own pimientos. They are also great to add to chicken or turkey enchiladas and the different colors make a dish look more attractive.
**
Did I ever tell you my stuffed pepper story? In Cincinnati in the 40s, 50s, 60s, bell peppers were called “Mangoes” (Long story, goes back a hundred years to pickled mangoes from India – anything stuffed was considered mangoed.) Well in 1962, now living in California, we became friends with this couple named Teresa & Jim –one day Teresa, asked what things I cooked for dinners and I mentioned “Stuffed Mangoes”.

“Really?” she asked “How do you make those?” and I proceeded to explain the recipe of using ground beef, uncooked rice, egg, salt and pepper, stuffing the peppers and cooking them in a tomato sauce gravy. She was completely baffled until we figured out, somehow, that MY “mango” was a bell pepper. I had never actually eaten a MANGO and didn’t know what one was—much less that it was a fruit. I never called a bell pepper a “mango” after that. I can still visit Cincinnati and hear people refer to bell peppers as “mangoes”. Incidentally, Teresa was a fantastic cook and my first introduction to “really good” cooking.

Here are some recipes for Hungarian Stuffed Peppers:
AUNT DOLLY’S HUNGARIAN STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

6 bell peppers
2 lbs ground chuck (or ground turkey or ground chicken)
1 cup cooked rice
2 eggs
1 /2 tsp paprika
1/8 to ¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp pepper
salt to taste
¾ cup chopped onion
2 tsp garlic powder

SAUCE:

1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (18 oz) tomato paste & 1 can water equal to tomato paste
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch of ground allspice
2 tsp paprika
(If mix seems a little bitter add a small amount of sugar)

Pre cook sauce in pot on top of stove until it starts to boil; turn off and let set. Mix together ground meat, rice, eggs, onion and seasonings. Stuff the peppers. Extra meat can be used to make big meatballs. Dip the tops of the peppers in flour and sear on stove top in hot skillet with a little olive oil. Place stuffed peppers in deep casserole and pour sauce in almost to the top. Slow cook low temp 2 hours or longer at 300 degrees. These can be frozen and will keep in the freezer for up to a year. (I would cook them 3 or 4 hours on low if using a Crockpot).

Aunt Dolly’s original recipe was huge. We tried to pare it down for the family cookbook. I think you could easily halve the amounts but make the full amount of sauce (which is actually very good) and then freeze any left over sauce for another time. One of the secrets of a good Hungarian stuffed pepper sauce is paprika powdered spice. And to make it even better, make sure you buy some authentic Hungarian paprika. It makes all the difference in the world!
**

FROM AUNT BECKY’S RECIPE COLLECTION:

Sweet and Sour Stuffed Peppers

2 each sweet red and green (bell) peppers
1 pound ground chicken
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup quick cooking rice
¾ cup bottled sweet and sour sauce
¾ cup boiling water
¼ cup chopped water chestnuts

Slice off the tops of the bell peppers; reserve tops. Remove membranes, seeds and stems. Invert peppers on wax paper. Chop tops (you will need ½ cup; save rest for other use).
Saute chicken, chopped peppers, salt, ginger and black pepper in oil in saucepan 8 minutes or until no longer pink. Sprinkle in rice, add sauce and boiling water; stir; return to boiling; cover; remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in water chestnuts; turn into bowl. Wipe out pan. Add ½ cup water. Place steamer basket in pan. Divide chicken mixture among peppers. Place upright in basket. Cover; steam 10-15 minutes or until tender.
~~

CINCINNATI VERSION STUFFED PEPPERS

1 LB ground beef (or turkey or chicken)
Minute rice
4 bell peppers
Ragu sauce or undiluted tomato soup
1 chopped onion

Preheat oven 375. Cut off tops of peppers; and remove seeds. Boil peppers in salted water 8-10 minutes (until tender) Prepare rice (2-3 servings). Brown meat and onion; drain. Combine meat and rice. Heat Ragu sauce. Fill peppers with meat mixture. Put peppers in pan and pour sauce over them. You can spoon some of the sauce on top of the peppers for more flavor. Bake at 375 15 minutes or until heated through.

STUFFED PEPPERS MY WAY

1-1 ½ lbs ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)*
4-6 bell peppers (you can freeze leftover cooked stuffed peppers with sauce for another meal)
1 cup uncooked rice (about)
1 cup chopped onion (about)
1-2 eggs (depending on size. If extra large 1 should be enough)
Your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like 3 cheese but buy whatever you like). I probably used 2 jars.
Seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, a little paprika)

Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove seeds, membrane. Chop up the good part of the tops.

Mix together the finely chopped bell peppers (which can be any color you like), the uncooked rice, the chopped onion, egg and the meat. Add seasonings. Mix it up with your hands. If it seems a little dry add a little of the spaghetti sauce.

Now stuff the peppers. Put them into a deep casserole dish OR your crockpot. Pour the sauce over and around the peppers. Cover, either cook in the oven @ 350 degrees for 1-2 hours – or most of the day if you are cooking in the crockpot on low.

*this recipe works well with just about any kind of ground meat or poultry. I believe my mother made it with part ground beef, part pork. If you are counting calories, use ground chicken or turkey.

I found a great recipe for Hungarian Stuffed Peppers in a cookbook titles “COOKING WITH LOVE AND PAPRIKA, BY JOSEPH PASTERNAK. Here’s how you make

HUNGARIAN STUFFED PEPPERS IN TOMATO SAUCE (Toltott Paprika)

6-8 large green bell peppers
1 pound ground beef (should be lean)
1 pound ground pork
1 TBSP rice, boiled and drained
½ medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp paprika
2 TBSP shortening
2 TBSP flout
1 1-qt, 14-oz can tomato juice
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
2 TBSP sugar

Cut the stems from the green peppers, remove the seeds and membranes and parboil for 5 minutes in water to cover. Drain. Make a stuffing of the meat, rice, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika. Taste to be sure it is well seasoned since a well seasoned mixture is very important to good stuffed peppers. Stuff the peppers with this mixture. Make a roux of the shortening (*you need something like a solid shortening, such as Crisco) and the flour. Let it brown slightly, then stir in the tomato juice and tomato sauce. Let the sauce come to a simmer and add the sugar and a little salt. Place the stuffed peppers upright, one next to the other, in a pan or pot (or deep Corning ware dish) that can be covered and pour the sauce over. Cook and cover over low heat on top of the stove for 1 ½ – 2 hours. Arrange the peppers on a serving platter and pour the sauce over them, then serve hot.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: if you don’t have any solid Crisco shortening, use butter. A little trick I learned years ago is mixing Crisco solid shortening and flour together—you just mix flour into about half a cup of Crisco until you can’t add any more flour – then mix in some Kitchen Bouquet—about a tablespoon or two. Mix well. Then just store this in a tightly covered jar with your spices; you will have a good roux ready to use at any time. This is great for making brown gravy.

From another authentic little book titled Hungarian Cookery Book by Karoly Gundel comes a recipe called “Stuffed Paprika” – paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper.

You will need

12 green peppers
1 lb juicy pork (best part of neck)*
2 oz. rice
Tomato sauce
1 oz onions
1 clove garlic
1 egg
Salt, pepper

Cut the paprikas round the stalks with a sharp, pointed knife, and remove the stalks and seeds. Wash the paprikas and remove the inside ribs. Mince the pork and mix it with the onions and garlic which has been finely chopped and fried; to this add n egg, the rice (parboiled), pepper and salt. Stir the mixture well with a wooden spoon to distribute the ingredients evenly among the meat, and fill the paprikas with it. Put back the tops of the paprikas that were cut off with the stalks (but not the seeds) to make lids. Place the stuffed paprikas in a sauce pan; cover with tomato sauce, and let them simmer for about an hour and a half over a slow fire.

For the tomato sauce, make a delicately browned roux of 1½ ounce of lard and a tablespoon of flour. Add 10 gills** of tomato puree, stirring all the time and season with salt and a teaspoonful of sifted sugar. Serve the paprikas in a deep dish with the tomato sauce poured over them.

*You might want to consider a good ground sausage, such as Jimmy Dean brand for the pork. My brother uses ground pork, like Jimmy Dean brand, in his Cincinnati chili.

**A gill is an old measurement that equals ¼ of a pint. That would make a gill 4 ounces. Ten gills, then, would be equal to 40 ounces or five 8-ounce cups of tomato puree.
~~

Another Hungarian stuffed pepper recipe was found in Jolie Gabor’s Family Cookbook, published in 1962. Jolie was the mother of the famous Gabor sisters.

To make Jolie’s Stuffed Green Peppers you will need:

6 medium sized green bell peppers
1 lb chopped beef
½ tsp baking powder
2 slices bread, softened in wine
1 egg
1 TBSP catsup
½ cup boiled rice
1 cup stewed tomatoes
1 cup tomato puree
¼ cup sherry wine
¼ cup water
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP brown sugar
4 to 6 gingersnaps

Wash and dry firm green peppers; cut off stems and removed seeds and pulp with a sharp knife. Parboil peppers in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.*. Remove them from water and drain well. Sponge them dry.

Place chopped beef in a mixing bowl; add baking powder**, softened bread, egg, catsup and boiled rice. Toss with a fork until completely blended. Stuff peppers with meat mixture, rounding the mixture at the top.

Heat stewed tomatoes, puree, sherry wine, water, lemon juice and brown sugar. Place stuffed peppers in an upright position into the hot tomato sauce. Cover, cook gently for an hour. Soften gingersnaps*** in a little warm water; stir them into the sauce. Spoon sauce over each pepper and serve very hot. Serves 6.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Personally, I think 10 minutes is way too long to parboil the peppers. I wouldn’t pre cook them any longer than 5 minutes.
**Sandy’s Cooknote: This is the first time I have found baking powder in a stuffed pepper recipe. I can’t imagine what the purpose is, but if you are being true to the recipe, go ahead and add it. Couldn’t hurt!
***Sandy’s Cooknote: As for the gingersnaps – a lot of European recipes have gingersnaps in the recipe to achieve a particular flavor.

No time to make stuffed peppers? Here is a recipe for UNSTUFFED PEPPERS:

2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
12 oz. lean ground beef
1 tsp olive oil
1 each red and yellow pepper, cut in strips (or use what ever colors you can find)
2 cups bottled marinara sauce
1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring 1¾ cups water to a boil in a medium size saucepan. Add rice, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand until ready to serve, at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook. Breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Remove to a plate; set aside.

Heat oil in skillet; add peppers and sauté over medium high heat 3 minutes or until lightly charred in a few places. Add sauce and fennel seeds, if using. Bring to a simmer; cover and cook 3 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Stir in beef; heat through. Spoon rice on serving plates; top with beef mixture and sprinkle with cheese.
~~

Before I finish this post, I wanted to share with you a recipe for making meatless stuff peppers. This is called

HERB STUFFED PEPPERS

4 large green or red bell peppers
1 cups cooked rice
1 small onion, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1 TBSP parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 TBSP basil
1 tsp granulated garlic
½ cup cheddar cheese, grated

Cut the stem out of the top of each pepper. Remove all seeds and core. Wash peppers. Place them into a pot of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain. Saute onions, adding tomato sauce and herbs. Simmer 10 minutes. Add cooked rice and cheddar cheese, mixing together well. Place peppers in a baking dish and stuff them with the rice mixture. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes.
~~

A final word (or two) about making stuffed peppers. If you are on a tight budget, you can make these using less meat (say half a pound of ground beef or chicken) but increase the amount of rice. Or make them with another kind of grain, such as couscous. Add more onion or other vegetables. And I have stated earlier – I never pre-cook the rice when I am making stuffed peppers. I just think that’s extra unnecessary work. When I was making stuffed peppers for a family of four sons, I wanted to get everything cooked as quickly and efficiently as possible. I might make up the peppers the night before and put them into a crockpot to cook on low, in the morning. Or, throw it all together and into a hot oven as soon as I got home from work. They could be baking while I made a salad and maybe some mashed potatoes to go with the stuffed peppers (my children loved mashed potatoes with the tomato sauce gravy). You just have to make sure the rice is well cooked before serving them—so use Minute rice; it cooks faster. Much as I enjoy cooking, I don’t believe in making extra work for myself—and I don’t have a dishwasher. I AM the dishwasher.

At a later date if you are interested, I will share some other stuffed pepper recipes that I have culled from my recipe card files.

Happy Cooking!
Sandy