I finally know how it felt for my mother when I would make something for dinner and my dad would give me higher praise than she had ever received for the same meal. Looking back, I think that he just meant to encourage more kitchen productivity in me, and I can admit that there are certain things that my mom just does with matchless skill.
A few days ago, I was craving another old family favorite: stuffed peppers. My dad makes these and they are incredible! (Of course!) Wanting to work on something that I needed to finish, I asked the girls to please make the stuffed peppers in my stead. I've never had them do this before, but Morgan has proven her skill at making red sauce, and Caelyn has made really great meatballs. Applying those same concepts, they had simply to blanch the peppers, mix the meat filling, make red sauce, assemble it all and bake. The final result was a flavor symphony!
Craig Grayson, who only eats the peppers because it's required of him, announced that these were the best stuffed peppers we've ever had. (This, of course, means that he hasn't enjoyed mine as much as the ones that the girls made. I'm OK with that now, but I had to let it settle into my psyche first.)
When the girls had assembled the stuffed peppers, there were several peppers that were left without filling or sauce, so I began brainstorming ways to use them, since they had already been blanched. I started thinking that a meatless spinach concoction might work. In the grocery store yesterday, I spied abobora, and the idea was complete.
Again, I had something else that I was working on, so I had the girls bring it all together. From what I could tell, Caelyn sauteéd onions, garlic, and spinach in olive oil with herbs, salt and pepper. She added some steamed, chopped butternut squash and mixed it together. (Perhaps I should have asked her to explain...) Then, she added this mixture to the pepper "shells" and topped each with cheese (or maybe Morgan did this part -- it was a joint effort). Gabriela made one of her amazing salads, and Craig Grayson contributed drop biscuits in lieu of bread.
This was one mean meal! Still, my pride was a bit hurt when Craig offered rave reviews, elevating this version above my very own semi-original stuffed peppers. I find comfort, however, in claiming it as my brainchild and pointing out that I've taught the children everything they know. :-)
If you're interested in knowing how to make stuffed peppers, simply do this:
1. Purchase enough bell peppers (I use red, yellow, orange, and sometimes purple, but never green unless it's an accident.) -- one whole pepper yields two stuffed. Cut each in half to make tiny "bowls". Blanch until pliable, but not too soft. (They still have to bake.) Set into a baking dish (or two, depending on how many -- I make 16- 20 just for our family).
2. Mix raw ground beef, cooked rice, herbs, salt, pepper, an egg (and any other seasonings you may prefer) in a large bowl, and scoop into pepper "shells" until as full as you'd prefer. I tend to be rather generous with the filling, and if any is leftover, I bless Craig Grayson's heart by making large meatballs and adding to the dish between the peppers. That way, he gets the meat filling without the peppers (only for "seconds").
3. Pour the red sauce of your choice over the peppers, cover and bake at 350℉ until the meat is cooked through (45 minutes-1 hour). Uncover, sprinkle with cheese (mozzarella, Romano, parmesan, Fontina, feta, or whatever you prefer), and bake until cheese melts and bubbles a bit.
4. Enjoy the smiles around the table as you please your senses and engage in meaningful conversation with the people you love the most.