I love to use my slow cooker. It makes my day so much easier when I can prepare dinner the night before, or in the morning, or mid-afternoon instead of being pressed for time at the end of my day.
One of my favorite slow cooker meals is my Mom’s slow cooker stuffed peppers. Today I am going to give you a step by step walk-through of that recipe, with my own little tweaks, of course.
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1/4 Cup instant rice
- 1/4 Cup bread crumbs (I am using Panko, because I like it’s consistency, but you could use regular or Italian seasoned bread crumbs as well.)
- 1/2-1 onion finely chopped
- 1-3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 egg
- chili powder
- onion powder
- Italian Seasoning
- Dried Basil
- Ground Thyme
- Red Pepper Flake (optional)
- 2-4 medium to large bell peppers, any color
To begin you want to wash your peppers and dry them, then cut off their tops. I don’t discard the tops but instead remove the stems and chop them finely and us them for the stuffing. Once the tops are chopped just set in a medium size bowl that will hold all of your ingredients. As you perform each step you can add your ingredients to the bowl.
You will want to remove the core and seeds from the rest of the peppers. I also pull out any of the extra membrane that was holding the core inside of the pepper. You should give the insides of these peppers a good rinse and let dry while you prepare the rest of the stuffing.
I love the aroma that the garlic releases as you chop it and am a big believer that you can never use too much. But, to each his own; use as much or as little as you like. I am going to use three cloves.
I find the easiest way to get rid of the peel is to lay the clove flat on your cutting board and using the flat side of the knife press down on the clove until you feel it crack. The peel should come right off and this will also flatten the clove for easy chopping. You can also grate the garlic into the bowl if you like. Do whatever you feel comfortable with.
Time to move on to chopping the onion.
I suggest you get a pair of glasses to protect your eyes. If you don’ t have protective eye-wear in a pinch you can use sunglasses, but be extremely careful and use a lot of light. Don’t use them if they are so dark that you can’t see what you are chopping! I have some really light shaded sunglasses that are more for looks than for sun protection and I sometimes will use those, but I can not stress enough that you need to be able to see exactly where your fingers are in relation to the blade of your knife at all times.
Chop your onion finely. You don’t have to mince them, but I like them in pretty small pieces, because they are easier to mix in with the rest of the stuffing mixture. Also, I only use about half an onion per pound of meat and add a little onion powder into the stuffing to make up the difference.
I suggest using these spices to taste. You can add other spices to the mix or remove spices, but I have found that my blend works very well with the meat and the sauce. I use a ramekin and add in my salt, pepper, Italian seasoning (If you used seasoned breadcrumbs, you should adjust the amount of spices you add to the mix), chili powder, dried chopped basil, onion powder, ground thyme and red pepper flake. Be careful with that red pepper flake, a little bit goes a long way.
Once I have my spice mix combined I simply pour it into the mixing bowl with my minced and chopped veggies.
Add your rice, bread crumbs, egg and meat to the bowl. I usually beat my egg with a fork before adding for more consistent product, but you will be mixing this well so it shouldn’t matter too much.
Once everything is in the bowl you are going to start blending by using your hands. It’s time to get dirty folks so dive in and blend well trying to get an even blend of all the ingredients.When your ingredients are well blended you will stuff your peppers. Don’t fill them too full or they will come out too dry and tough. I find just a little pressure will do. I also let them mound up on the top.
If you have leftover filling simply roll into meatballs. When I was growing up my mom used to make half stuffed peppers and half meatballs for us picky kids who wouldn’t eat the peppers. Funny how your tastes change as you get older.
Place your peppers and meatballs into your slow cooker then cover with sauce. I am sure that some of you out there are a little leery of letting the raw beef sit in the pot, but I have never had a problem with it. If the raw meat bothers you, you can sear the outsides of the meatballs in a pan right quick then place them in the pot, but I find that makes them really tough on the outside. It’s your call.
I turn on my slow cooker and set it to low and let it go. I have a pot that has a built-in heat probe that you can preset to a certain temperature. Once the meat reaches that temperature the probe resets the cooker to warming mode, which is perfect for those who are starting your cookers before work and won’t be home in time to shut them off. I love that setting for this recipe because I just set the probe into the deepest part of the largest pepper and set the temperature for beef and just let it cook for as long as it needs without having to worry that it will over-cook.
If you don’t have a probe you can check your temperature every couple of hours with a meat thermometer. I find that when set to low power with 3/4 or 1 lb of beef it takes about four hours to reach 160 degrees.
Once your peppers are done I suggest you let them cool a little before eating. Perhaps take that time to make your side dish. Some people use rice, some use pasta. I am in the pasta camp. Once your side is ready all you have to do is plate it up and serve.I hope you enjoy this recipe! Happy Eating!