Stuffed Bell Peppers – A History of Recycling 5

Being Mom’s copilot was a big girl job. I needed to know when to be quiet and when to be helpful helpful. I developed the best ways to sleep in the car. Hint: center counsel topped with a mom sized purse and sweatshirt. I learned Seattle’s city streets and historical landmarks, often providing my friend’s moms with directions when they were lost. My Mom and I had the city down to a science. Based on our daily errands we mapped routes past the best sales.

Occasionally, my Mom and I carried something with us in the car – recycling. Before recycling became the rage, my mom collected plastic bags, milk cartons, and yogurt containers. She kept them separated until there were enough to warrant “recycling runs.” Runs were necessary because only recently have recycling centers begun separating number 2s from number 4s and 7s. Prior to this, even for those who had a recycling bin, it was a crapshoot. Most people didn’t bother to divide what could be picked up from the street and what couldn’t. Unfortunately, many still don’t. My mom always has. For the items which couldn’t be accepted streetside, she found alternate drop off points. Thus, “recycling runs” were born.

November 15, 2011 is America Recycles Day. There is a pledge to recycle and I am excited to be the 762 person to make it. My pledge is:

I am committed to finding ways to use all scraps of food. So much of edible food (and money) is wasted because people don’t pay attention and let it spoil, don’t recognize alternate uses for ingredients, or don’t know ways to extend the life of items. On my blog, Baguette Taste – Wonder Bread Budget, I am constantly playing the “nothing goes to waste game.” It’s a game my friend and I created in college, where we challenged ourselves to hunt out recipes for ingredients on their last leg or transform leftovers into totally new dishes. Not only is it an excellent way to cut back on your use of natural resources, it’s also a great way to save money!

As my Mom’s copilot, I learned recycling was a choice. With attention and planning, it was not only possible, but often simple. Having flexible recipes is one of the best ways to use all of the food you buy. These Stuffed Peppers could be filled with nearly any rice mixture for a hearty meal. Are there sad looking lemons in your bottom drawer? How about a citrus infused rice with green onions and a touch of bacon? Does that leftover chicken breast need to be eaten? Chop it up and throw it in! Need a Greek fix? Try a mix of feta, lamb, oregano, and tomatoes.

The other great part of Stuffed Peppers is they are a fantastic way to use peppers when they’re beginning to look withered. You might not want to eat a raw, slightly wrinkled pepper. A cooked one is a whole different story. While a pepper cooks, it naturally wrinkles and brings out a sweetness which it lacks when raw.

I took the 2011 challenge. Will you? What will yours be? What’s your best recycling tip? Take the pledge here. 

Stuffed Bell Peppers
Makes 12

6 bell peppers, cut in half with seeds removed (see NOTE 4 in recipe)
2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (Walla Walls are great when they’re in season, but any onion will do)
½ cup carrots, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (see NOTE 1 in recipe)
1 pound lean ground beef (ground pork, lamb, or chicken can be substituted or leftover cut-up chicken, pork, or beef)
¼ tsp chili powder (more depending on your spice tolerance)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups brown rice, cooked as directed on packaging
1 cup plus 6 TBS grated Parmesan (more if you’re a cheesy person)
1 handful breadcrumbs
NOTE 1: You could use store bought breadcrumbs, but making your own with stale bread is a great way to save and recycle food.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and carrots and season with a touch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until soft (about 3 minutes).

Add ground beef and chili powder to pan. With a wooden spoon, break up the lumps of meat and cook until no pink remains.
NOTE 2: Drain excess fat from the meat into heat safe container such as a glass jar or metal can. Don’t use plastic. It will melt.

Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup Parmesan. Taste seasonings and adjust as necessary.
NOTE 3: When adjusting seasonings, add salt and pepper a pinch at a time. Taste between each addition until it enhances the food to your liking. See more about seasonings here.

Coat a deep baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Divide mixture between the 12 halved peppers and place in baking dish.
NOTE 4: To halve peppers, cut each pepper in half so that you are also cutting the stem in half. With your hands and a small pairing knife, remove the seeds and white innards. Be careful not to break the flesh of the pepper.

Top each with ½ TBS Parmesan and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops begin to brown.

Serve warm.

Recipe in print-friendly format

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About Mikaela Cowles

I’m a food-gobbling, book-reading, aspiring photog. Born and raised in Seattle, I love dancing in the rain, bouquets of fresh basil and green grass between my toes. I like how kneading butter into flour makes my fingers soft. I’m passionate about all things sweet potato. I prefer my coffee black, my scotch on the rocks and my steak bloody. I hunt, when I have time; play basketball; and hike. I’ve been known to laugh so hard I hyperventilate. And, I’m the owner of Making Language Count, a boutique freelance writing business.

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5 thoughts on “Stuffed Bell Peppers – A History of Recycling

  • Nicole

    I have been looking for a stuffed red pepper recipe and yours look delicious! As a college student on a budget, it always helps to recycle leftovers but sometimes after a long day, my creativity lacks.

  • Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Your mom is really cool! We bring recycle to my son’s school every Friday because there is a contest which classroom has more recycling. It’s fun competition and this is great that kids are learning from young days. I love your stuffed bell pepper!

  • the good soup

    This is a great game Mikaela. I hate it when I haven’t managed to save something from the ultimate disappointment for any good piece of food: the compost bin. And I’ve got plenty of bits and pieces close to that edge in my fridge right now. AND, luckily, some lovely young peppers! Thanks for knocking me back into my creativity.

  • Hannah

    Your peppers look delicious! I always appreciate recipes that use up bits of this and that in the fridge – lovely suggestions here. And your mom is awesome for recycling before the days of curbside pick-up!