So you finally worked up the courage to ask that girl from the gym or the guy from the coffee shop to dinner and they said yes. Now that the euphoria has passed you are starting to panic because you remembered something. You can't cook! Don't hyperventilate on me. It's time to take your fate in your own hands and learn how to make at least one meal before you turn 40. It could be the most important meal of your life. No pressure.
Ok. Now that we have set the stage let's get down to business. If you are looking for a tasty meal that will really wow your date and at the same time won't end up with your kitchen looking like a battlefield, you've come to the right place. Stuffed bell peppers are perfect. The combine tasty ingredients in no time to form a meal that will make people think you can cook after all.
Before you start randomly combining ingredients, here's what you are going to need:
4 Bell Peppers
1 Lb of ground beef.
1 Package of Uncle Ben's Long Grain Instant Rice in the microwaveable pouch.
1/4 of An onion.
1 Fresh tomato.
1 6.5oz can of mushrooms.
1 clove of garlic.
1 can of tomato sauce.
1 small package of cheddar cheese.
Salt and Pepper.
1 large skillet
1 sharp knife.
1 Cutting board.
1 Medium sized bowl.
1 8 x 8 glass baking dish.
1 large spoon.
Access to a microwave.
Are you ready? Feeling confident? You don't want to look foolish on the first date, do you? No? Then grip that knife and let's go.
Step 1: Selecting Perfection
The most important part of making stuffed bell peppers is selecting the right peppers. You might think that all bell peppers are created equal but you'd be wrong. You have to account for interior size and stability. By interior size I mean the amount of space that is on the inside of the pepper. If you get one that is tall and skinny it isn't going to hold enough stuffing and then your date is going to be sitting there watching you eat. So make sure that the pepper is rounded in shape and that all of your peppers are as equal as possible.
You also have to make sure that the pepper is stable. You're probably making that "The author is crazy face", aren't you? Bear with me on this. When you go to the grocery store you don't usually think about how peppers stand because they are jumbled together like LEGOs. When you pick one up, hold your hand palm up and see if the pepper will stand on its own. This is important so that when you put them in the baking dish they don't fall over and spill the stuffing out. This is something you likely won't discover until it is too late and your date has arrived. Pizza is not a good first impression. Trust me.
Step 2: And Cut and Scoop
Now comes the fun part. You've got all of the ingredients in front of you, right? The first thing you want to do is wash your hands. This will ensure that your date doesn't get sick and that is a good thing. I mean, do you really want someone associating being you with being ill? I didn't think so. Wash the hands!
The next step is cutting the tops off of the pepper and scooping out those tiny, annoying little seeds. The best way to do this is similar to the way you make jack-o-lanterns. When you cut the tops, angle the blade slightly. This will create an edge that will not allow the top to fall inside the pepper. Next use the spoon to scoop out the seeds. You can also carefully cut away some of the interior pepper if needed. When you are finished you should have a wonderful looking pepper with plenty of room inside for the goodies.
Step 3: It Slices, It Dices, It Makes...
With the peppers ready to go, it is time to get to work on what goes inside. This is going to involve lots of chopping things into tiny bits. If you've been saving up some aggression, now is the time to let it out. Be careful of your fingers or else you are going to end up in the ER instead of cooking.
Now is the time that you dice your ingredients until they are as finely chopped as you want. The recipe calls for onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms. You also want to take the clove of garlic and smash it. One way to do this is to use the bottom of the spoon and simply crush the clove beneath it.
I'm going to let you in on a secret. This recipe isn't cast in iron. If there is something that you like, go ahead and add it. You could use black olives, avocado, jalapenos if you like spicy... pretty much anything.
Step 4: Where's the Beef?
Take your large skillet and put it on the burner. Turn the burner to medium. You don't want to put it on high or the meat will cook too fast and the grease will not accumulate like you need it to. The grease is the "glue" that is going to tie all of the things you just chopped up together. Once the pan is warm, which is when a drop of water is starting to dance on the pan, go ahead and place the beef inside.
Use the spatula to separate the meat and then let it sit. After 3-4 minutes, stir the meat and then let it sit. Keep doing this until the meat is totally brown. Congratulate yourself on making the best browned ground beef ever and then move on to the artistic portion of the recipe.
Step 5: Mix Your Concoction. Do It Your Way.
Now that you have the beef browned and all of the other ingredients diced, go ahead and pour the bowl full of ingredients into the skillet with the browned ground beef. Mix them together until everything is evenly dispersed and then cover the skillet with a lid.
While the ingredients are cooking take the pouch of Uncle Ben's Long Grain rice and put it into the microwave. 90 seconds later you will have perfect rice. Go ahead and add the rice to your mixture in the pan. This will give you a lot of material and it should be smelling very tasty already. Now you can mix in your can of tomato sauce and some cheddar cheese.
Use as much or as little cheese as you like. This is not an exact science. Once everything is in the pan, let it cook for 10-15 minutes.
Go ahead and turn the oven on at this point. Set it to 350 degrees.
Step 6: Put the Stuffed in Stuffed Bell Peppers
The finish line is in sight. Take your bell peppers and one at a time use your spoon to fill them with the stuffing. You probably will think you have too much stuffing for four peppers. The key here is to put a spoon full of stuffing into the pepper and then tap it down. This will allow you to put a lot more inside. Do this will all four peppers.
Take the peppers and place them inside the 8 x 8 glass baking pan. The peppers should fit just right and hopefully they won't tip over.
Step 7: Bake and Serve
The last part is the easiest. Just take the baking pan and place it inside the oven, which should be preheated to 350 degrees, for 30 minutes. What you are trying to do is to cook the green peppers enough so that the flavor from the stuffing soaks in. Cooking it for only 30 minutes means that the pepper should retain some of the crunchiness. If you prefer a softer pepper you can increase the cooking time to 40 minutes.
When it is finished, place the pepper on a plate with a nice side dish and serve. I like pineapple because the color contrast is great and the sweetness of the pineapple is good with the flavor of the stuffed pepper.
Sit back and relax because your date is going to be impressed,