I figure that any time I want to improv something I meant to blog (but got too carried away on something else during prep time), and any time I spend the majority of the meal making things up as I go, I should just do an Improv is Fun post. Because you don’t always have to follow a recipe, and sometimes it’s better to just use up what you have instead of run out to the store to buy XY or Z. Especially if you’re a college student like myself, where money is tight – I love what I do in the kitchen, but there are just times I don’t want to run out and buy a whole slew of ingredients on a long grocery list..and I can’t always afford to, either. To me, it’s better to buy staples and always have them on hand to make a large variety of meals without having an exotic variety of ingredients.
A number of the things I keep in my house most of the time are bell peppers, onions, and tomato paste/sauce/puree, and bouillon. Why? Because tomato bases are cheap and they’re handy in pretty much any situation. Bouillons can flavor stuff and be used in many sauces and soups. Onions are amazing for flavor, and the Ryan and I love to toss bell peppers in stir fries or pastas. I also try to keep at least a pound of ground <insert meat kind here, I normally have a bunch> for pastas, meatballs, whatever.
So last night I decided that instead of doing my normal bell peppers in a stir fry routine, I’d switch it up a bit and make stuffed bell peppers to use up the rest of the mozzarella cheese that was hanging out in our fridge and use up the ground beef we’ve had hanging out in the freezer for a while.
I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com and was sold – it had beautiful ingredients and sounded much less boring than the traditional “rice and beef and tomato sauce” I was seeing everywhere.
Sadly, in the midst of baking cookies, the Ryan texted me that he was on his way home from work and I realized I hadn’t even worked on dinner at all apart from thawing out the ground beef. So I hurriedly started working and then went “D’oh! I didn’t prep this or take pictures!” With dinner and cookies going on, I didn’t really have the counter space for it anyway.
Here, you can see I topped the bell peppers and scooped them out. I minced some celery and carrots and the tops of the bell peppers, which is what you see in that little white dish. I also had some fresh parsley. For the list of ingredients, I would recommend using the recipe I linked above to make your own bell peppers, as I scaled mine dramatically to fit only two peppers.
I cubed four slices of bacon and sauteed it, half a pound of ground beef, and the peppers, celery and carrots in a sauce pan until the veggies were soft and the meat was brown. I also pressed four cloves of garlic into the mixture for extra aroma and taste.
At the same time, I cooked a quarter cup of rice.
And I par boiled my hollowed out bell peppers for three minutes before removing to a shallow baking dish to cool and wait for the stuffing.
Next, I poured a cup of tomato sauce into the pan. The recipe called for marinara sauce, but since I didn’t have any, I added a quarter cup of wine, minced onion, garlic powder, two bay leaves, some smoked paprika (for shiggles), salt and pepper to the mix. It also called for you to melt in Parmesan cheese, but since I didn’t have any, I instead melted in a couple handfuls of mozzarella.
Next, I added a generous heaping of chopped fresh parsley and about 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes.
Finally, I added my cooked rice, stirred it all to combine, and let the mixture simmer until the moisture was almost fully absorbed.
In the baking dish I’d set aside with the peppers, I stuffed the mixture into the hollow shell of the peppers until it was almost overflowing.
I then topped them with the remaining mozzarella cheese and drizzled a little bit of olive oil on top.
I baked them at 375 for half an hour (30 min) and then removed them from the oven and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Look at that lovely golden brown of the cheese!! /swoon.
And that was last night’s dinner. It was deeeeelicious and the Ryan ended up eating some of mine to boot! As well as about 15 cookies! I recommend you make these soon! ❤