Stuffed Poblano Chili Peppers

Hunting isn’t always about killing animals. It’s also about the majesty of Mother Nature — and a whole lot more.

One of the most important things to me about hunting is the friendships that I have made with people who otherwise would have been strangers.

I recently returned from an elk hunting trip to Colorado with two good friends from Grand Forks — Mark Young and Jim Litzinger. We were met at Owl Mountain near Rand, Colo., by Jim Butzien and Duane Pauna of Park Rapids, Minn. We soon were joined by Colorado brothers Tuffy and Ray Hardy and Ray’s son, Colton.

I have know the Hardys and Butzien for about five years and consider them friends.  Pauna is new to the group, but his cousin, Darrel Koehler, is a close friend and former co-worker of mine. All of these fellows are knowledgeable about hunting and very personable as well.

And this year, I also met a couple of more guys from the Denver area who are white water rafting buddies of Tuffy. One of them, Steven Barnhill, is a technology teacher with the Jefferson County Public Schools, with whom I immediately made a connection.

Steven is an avid gardener — like me — who likes to preserve his bounty, some of which he shared with our hunting party. One of his specialties is growing peppers of all kinds, including poblano chilies.

I’ve never grown poblanos but plan on doing so next year after sampling some of Steven’s. (He also shared some jalapeno jelly, tomatillo salsa and green salsa that he had made with his wife this fall.

Steven shared some ideas about using the poblanos, one of which ways is to stuff them.  And that got me to thinking about making some stuffed peppers other than the classic American bell peppers that are filled with ground beef, rice, onions, tomatoes.

Here is one of the poblano recipes that I came across. It’s a take-off on a Mexican favorite — chili rellenos — which consists of a roasted green Pasilla or poblano chili pepper stuffed with cheese (traditionally queso fresco), and/or (occasionally) minced meat, covered in an egg batter and fried. (It is often served covered with a sauce, although the type of sauce varies widely. It sometimes also is served in a taco with rice, salsa and other toppings.)

Stuffed Poblano Chili Peppers
Nonstick cooking spray
6 poblano chilies
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 1-ounce package taco seasoning mix
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 11-ounce can Mexicorn (whole-kernel corn, red and green peppers, drained
8 ounces shredded light Mexican cheese blend
1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes, undrained, chopped
1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chilies
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cut opening in one side of each chile. Carefully remove seeds and membranes, leaving top stem intact; rinse and drain well.
Spray large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add ground meat; cook over medium-high heat for 7 minutes or until no longer pink and thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Add taco seasoning mix; mix well. Add beans, corn and 1 cup of the cheese; mix well. With small spoon, stuff chiles with turkey mixture. Place in sprayed baking dish. Lightly spray tops of chilies with cooking spray.
In small bowl, combine tomatoes and green chilies; mix well. Pour over stuffed chilies in baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until chilies are tender. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake an additional 3 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutrition analysis per serving (using turkey): 400 calories, 15 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 1,390 milligrams sodium, 33 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams sugars, 32 grams protein.

Stuffed Green Peppers

Jack Frost has claimed most gardens, which means some people have an overabundance of fresh veggies in their refrigerators, and that includes me.

One of the vegetables that I have to deal with is peppers. I must have 10 to 15 nice green bells in the crisper drawer of our refrigerator that need to be either cooked or frozen. Either way, some are going to be stuffed.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed green peppers that features 96 percent lean ground beef, making it a lighter version of the old favorite.

Stuffed Green Peppers
4 medium green or red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), ½ inch trimmed off the tops and cores and seeds discarded
2/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 ounces 96 percent lean ground beef
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
¾ cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend made with 2 percent milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the bell peppers and cook until the peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water and place the peppers cut-side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil, add the rice and boil for about 13 minutes, or until tender. Drain the rice and transfer it to a large bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
While draining the can of tomatoes, reserve ¼ cup of the juice and discard the remaining juice.
While the rice is cooking, in a skillet, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat until it’s crumbly and browned. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the rice. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved juice, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
Place the peppers cut-side up in a 9-inch square baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the peppers and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is heated through. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 343 calories, 7.6 grams fat, 642 milligrams sodium, 36 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 28 grams protein, 64 milligrams cholesterol.

Go Red On Valentine’s Day

February is American Heart Month, a time of the year when volunteers visit their friends and neighbors with a goal of raising funds for research and education and to pass along information about heart disease and stroke.

As many of you know, heart disease has probably touched you or someone you know and love.

I’m no exception. In November 1993, I had a stroke. Luckily, I’ve made a good recovery, but not without working hard at it. I quit smoking (no easy task), lost 30 to 40 pounds and have been exercising regularly since.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the American Heart Association chose February as American Heart Month, since the color red is often associated with Valentine’s Day.

With that in mind, I’ve chosen a heart-healthy red recipe to share with readers today. It’s for stuffed red bell peppers. The peppers are stuffed with nutrient-rich brown rice and low-fat ground turkey. The nicest thing about the recipe is you can be eating within a half-hour of starting the preparation.

Stuffed Red Bell Pepper

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cored
½ cup cooked brown rice
¼ cup red onion, diced
¼ cup ground turkey
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
Brown the turkey and cook the rice per the instructions on package.
Mix the turkey, rice, onion and parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Stuff the pepper with the mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until pepper is heated through.
Yield: Serves 1.

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Stuffed Peppers with a Twist

People aren’t born being good cooks. That comes with a lot of practice. And it starts with the little things. For me, I think, it was making that first fried egg sandwich. After that, I knew anything was possible.

But I believe the biggest reason for my success, besides loving to cook, is a penchant for not being afraid to try something new. Sure, I have a lot of favorites that we have on a weekly basis. But I like to throw in a new recipe at least once or twice every week or two.

Sometimes, that means just changing one or two of the ingredients in an old standby. For example, now when making stuffed grape leaves or cabbage rolls, I like to use brown rice instead of white. I do this not only because of the nutritional value of the brown rice but also its taste.

Another example is mashed potatoes and mashed rutabagas. I always loved them separately, but now my favorite way to have them is mixed together, in the same pot.

Speaking of the brown rice, my next venture with it is going to be in stuffed bell peppers. Not only did we get several nice green ones from one of Therese’s co-workers, Holly Cronquist, I have quite a few in my own garden, including about six or eight nice red ones.

So, of course, I’ve been looking for new recipes for stuffed peppers to try, and in one of my searches, came across the following that has one of the most unusual combinations. Not only do the stuffed peppers contain onion, potato, cabbage and nuts assertively seasoned with spices and cheese, they’re also cooked on the grill.

The recipe comes from barbecue guru Steven Raichlen and can be found in "The Barbecue Bible." One of the peppers looks like a meal in itself.

Stuffed Tandoori Peppers
4 large green, red or yellow bell peppers
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, one coarsley chopped, one minced
1 piece (1/3-inch long) fresh ginger root
½ teaspoon salt
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon each: cumin seeds, ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 small head green cabbage, cored, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon raisins
8 cashews, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, peeled, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tomato, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup grated Gouda or mild Cheddar cheese
Cut stem ends from peppers to form caps; set aside. Scrape veins and seeds from peppers with a spoon or melon baller; set peppers aside. Combine the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the coarsely chopped garlic, ginger and the salt in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Brush interiors of the peppers and caps with this mixture; set aside.
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling using high heat. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat on stovetop. Add the minced garlic, onion, cumin seeds, turmeric and red pepper. Cook until the onion just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, raisins, cashews, potato and tomato. Cook 2 minutes; reduce heat to low. Cover; cook the vegetables until soft, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes; if the vegetables look wet, uncover the pan for the last 5 minutes to evaporate excess liquid.) Stir in the cilantro; cook 1 minute. Stir in cheese; remove from heat.
Spoon the filling into the peppers; top with pepper caps. Place the peppers in the center of the hot grate away from the heat source. Cover grill; cook until the peppers are nicely browned and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Place peppers directly over the flames to lightly char skins before removing from heat. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 305 calories, 46 percent calories from fat, 17 grams fat (4.2 grams saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 430 milligrams sodium, 35 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 7 grams fiber.