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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers

I was never a fan of stuffed peppers when I was younger. Every stuffed pepper I ever tried was overcooked and under-seasoned. Bell peppers weren't my favorite food to begin with and it didn't help matters any to fill them with bland, grainy ground beef and mushy rice.

In recent years I've come to appreciate bell peppers more. Through Subway I learned that they're delicious on a turkey sandwich or a salad and thanks to Rachael Ray I can now enjoy them in a variety of soups and sauces. Bell peppers are one of Bailey's favorite snacks. She likes them raw and cut into chunks but she will also eat them whole with stem and seeds intact if I don't stop her in time.

Stuffed peppers were still high on my "never gonna make it, ever!" list until a few months ago when I discovered this recipe through one of the blogs I follow. It was as if a switch was flipped in my head and ideas just flooded in... or would that be out? I'm not sure, but either way I was struck by a tsunami of ideas.

The first was:

Look at that! They stuffed the peppers with chicken. I like chicken.

Followed by:

And if I used brown rice and cooked it just under done it wouldn't be as mushy.

And then:

Oh! If I can use chicken, why not substitute a little steak? Make it a steak fajita stuffed pepper! That would be so yummy!

Which of course led to these thoughts:

I bet that Philly steak stuffed pepper with the provolone would be amazing. I could leave out the onions.
Hey, while I'm at it I could do a Philly chicken pepper too.
And I could do them vegetarian too! I wonder if anyone has ever made a broccoli cheddar stuffed pepper...

You can see where this is going. It was like a blogging brainstorm party in my head. My final list totaled over twenty ideas for stuffed peppers, including a roast beef and gravy pepper (shepherd's pie style with mashed potatoes on top) and a chicken Parmesan pepper. Perhaps a few of my ideas were stretching it a bit, but they all sounded tasty to me. Who knows? I might have just thought up a new food trend.

This filling recipe is perfectly balanced. The chicken:rice:other ingredient ratio is just right. There's a little punch of heat from the green chilies in the tomatoes but it's not an overwhelming spiciness. Brown rice stands up nicely without turning mushy. The chicken is a much more pleasant texture than ground beef.

I did adjust a few things. First, I added another whole pepper. The filling recipe made more than enough for the five peppers. I also upped the cheese to two whole cups. There's nothing wrong with cutting down the amount of cheese to a tiny sprinkling on each pepper, but I like cheese... a lot! Especially on anything with chili powder.

I made these with all green peppers the first time but I preferred the flavor of the red, orange, and yellow peppers this time. Since the peppers are the expensive part of this meal I'd say just use what you can find on sale (or beg from your neighbor's garden... guilty!) and get cookin'! Cause these peppers are absolutely deeeee-lish!

Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers

Source: Cooking Classy

3/4 cup dry brown rice, cooked
6 medium bell peppers, any color
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb chicken, diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (optional)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
2/3-2 cups monterrey jack or cheddar cheese, shredded (your choice how much you want to use)
sour cream and hot sauce to serve (also optional)

Begin by starting to cook the rice. You can follow the directions on the package but I like to use the pasta method. Just fill a 2-quart pot with water (far more water than the directions call for), bring it to a boil, add the rice and some salt and cook for 45-50 minutes. When the rice is done drain and rinse in a fine mesh strainer.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.

Take your peppers and slice them all in half.

Remove the ribs and seeds but leave the stem intact.

Place the pepper halves 3-4 at a time in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.

After five minutes use a pair of tongs to remove and drain the peppers. Place them on a baking sheet (lined with foil if you remember... I forgot this time).

Meanwhile in a small bowl combine the salt, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, and pepper.

Once you've finished boiling the peppers pour the water out and place the pot back on the stove. Add the oil and heat on medium-high. Once the oil is hot add the chicken.

Add the seasoning mix and stir to combine.

Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion starts to turn translucent.

Once the onion is mostly cooked add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the diced tomatoes and green chilies, black beans, and frozen corn.

Stir to combine and cook just until the ingredients are warmed through.

Once the rice is cooked and drained add it and the lime juice and cilantro to the chicken mixture and stir to combine.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill each of your prepared peppers with the filling mixture to heaping full.

Sprinkle the cheese over the peppers and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Remove from the oven when the cheese is brown and bubbly.

Serve warm with sour cream and hot sauce if desired.

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