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Acquired Taste

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What’s better than peppers and onions?

When I was a little girl, I thought Mother was the best cook in the whole world–I’m a little more worldly now, and I know she was a great cook–with what she had to work with. There were only a few things she ever made that I found totally repulsive–lima beans, calf brains, and stuffed peppers. I still hate lima beans and calf brains, but I have come to appreciate suffed peppers.

Growing up in Oklahoma, my parents were children of the Great Depression. By necessity, they learned to be frugal and “made-do.” We always had plenty to eat–we were a meat and potatoes family. Most vegetables came canned, either canned from the garden or canned from the grocery store–I don’t remember very many fresh vegetables, except onions, iceberg lettuce, carrots, and the dreaded green peppers.

It wasn’t so much that I hated peppers, I hated the way she made them–peppers steamed till limp, then filled with ground beef mixed with Spanish rice–from a can.

Until I married and moved to Texas, I had never tasted rice except Spanish rice from a can. I know–most of the world considers it a staple, and my dad saw plenty of it while he was in the Army in WWII. When he got home, he decreed that he would never eat rice again, and he never did–nor did we! Except about twice a year, in stuffed peppers.

Fast-forward several decades–It’s 2 pm my thoughts turn to dinner. What to make, what to make–from the rest of the hamburger in the fridge and the cup of rice in the pantry. There’s a beautiful green bell pepper in the fridge. It is February in North Carolina and I can only speculate where that pepper originated, yet it will make a tasty dinner, with home-made beef and Spanish Rice.

No limp peppers, though, maybe just a few minutes in the microwave to soften slightly, then finish in the oven while the cheese is melting. And freshly made rice with tomatoes and chopped pepper and onions. Yum! Here’s the recipe.
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Filling the peppers
Spanish Rice Stuffed Peppers
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Preheat Oven 350 F.
Serves 4
1/2 to 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 poblano pepper, diced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 can (16 oz) diced tomatoes, juice drained and reserved
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup white or brown rice
1 tsp. beef bouillon paste (Better than Bouillon)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground oregano or 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
water + reserved tomato juice to make 2 cups
1 cup shredded cheese, cheddar, pepper-jack, Mexican blend
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Melty cheese–the best part!
Method:
1. Cut two of the bell peppers in half vertically, remove seeds. Place cut side down on a plate and microwave till peppers begin to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.
2. Dice the onion, poblano and remaining bell pepper.
3. In a large skillet, break ground beef into pieces and begin to brown. When about half done, add diced onion and diced peppers and saute an additional 2 minutes. Drain excess grease from skillet.
4. Add rice to mixture in skillet and saute, stirring frequently, till rice begins to toast.
5. Add drained tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings. Measure reserved tomato juice and add water to make 2 cups liquid and add to skillet. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook till rice is tender, adding more liquid if necessary.
6. Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
7. When rice is done, remove from heat. Pile the rice mixture into pepper halves and place into baking dish. Place any remaining rice around the peppers. Top with cheese and place in oven till cheese is melty and browned, 10 – 15 minutes.
8. Serve hot with cornbread or warm tortillas.
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Serve with cornbread or warm tortillas!
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