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When Life Gives You Peppers, Stuff ‘Em

Our CSA program is quite handy. Every week we get a box of fresh organic fruits and veggies delivered to our door.  It helps us eat seasonally and locally, and actually simplifies my meal planning. This winter, with my bounty of beef and salmon in the freezer, squash in the garage, and various preserved veggies in the pantry, all I have to do is check the upcoming bin contents for the week, skim a few cookbooks, pull out the meat to thaw, and my week is good to go.

I try to work with whatever the box brings, but occasionally I make use of the ability to submit substitution requests. Green peppers are a vegetable that almost never make it into the house.  They are not a favorite of Jer’s stomach or my tastebuds. But through some technical difficulties on the website, we have had two weeks since the beginning of the year that brought us green peppers to consume, so I had to decide what to make with them.

My grandma used to love making stuffed green peppers. I remember her baking whole trays of them and then keeping them individually wrapped in the fridge for her late-night snacks. Grandma and I used to compete for who would get home the latest-her coming from a prayer meeting or healing conference, and me coming from a Bible study or church party I was running. My mom would wait up for both us, and then we would all sit around and chat, eating our preferred snacks.  Mine varied, involving toast or cereal, or a couple slices of cheese, or sometimes just an entire head of steamed broccoli with butter.  Sadly, even though grandma offered, I never ate her green peppers.

Grandma isn’t here to give me her recipe, but I remembered the basics-seasoned ground beef, cooked rice, sauteed onions, all baked in the pepper with some parmesan cheese on top.  I used some leftover quinoa and added homemade salsa to the beef. It was pretty good. Then on the second green pepper delivery, Jer looked at our box and came up with a tastier version, which ended up being grain-free and full of good fats. He still had to take some digestive enzymes, and I didn’t finish my green pepper, but the filling was delicious. Next time you get some peppers, you should try it out.

Jer’s Stuffed Peppers

This can be adapted for as many people as you need-the proportions below are for each pepper.

One sweet pepper-green, or my favorite, yellow

olive oil

1/4 lb ground beef

1-2 Tbls finely diced onion

1 Tbls salsa

half an avocado, diced

1/4 c cheese , small dice (we like Tillamook from Oregon, because the cows spend some time on pasture, so the nutrient content is higher, but it is still economical)

Slice pepper in half and clean out stem and ribs. Brush lightly with oil and roast in oven for 20 mins at 400 degrees.  While it cooks, saute ground beef and onions. When beef is cooked through and onions are soft, add salsa, and any additional seasonings you would like-salt, pepper, garlic, hot sauce, etc.  When peppers are ready, remove from oven and turn on broiler. Mix cheese and avocado into the beef, then stuff filling into the peppers. Broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve with addtional salsa and cortido.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Things Edible

 

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Carnivorous

When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of beef and bacon around. Not that we didn’t like it, or were vegetarian on principle, but between budget constraints and the lowfat diet movement that had its grip on popular wisdom at the time, we hardly ever bought it. Extra lean ground beef and the occasional boneless skinless chicken breast were the extent of our meat choices. If I ever had a steak, it was at a restaurant, and was a big deal.

This pattern has continued into my own cooking and meal planning. I chuckle at frugal menu planning tips like “try eating a meatless dinner once a week”. I have to work to incorporate meat into my planning! And I do want to incorporate more healthy, grass-fed beef and pork into our cooking. I certainly enjoy it, and I know my husband loves it. But the price can be quite prohibitive.

So over the past couple of months I have been researching different sources for our meat. I know that getting pastured or grass-fed animals are going to provide the best nutrition for us, but they are also fairly pricey. Not having a large freezer we can’t order up a whole cow for a good bulk deal. But there are some good options out there, and you can balance budget and quality. They fall into categories of Good, Better, and Best:
Good: Reasonable price, but substandard quality

Central Market: I’ll start here. Most grocery stores fall into the “Bad” category-forget grass-fed, you’re lucky if they have organic or meat not full of hormones and antibiotics. But Central Market is a local chain that has a much healthier selection. I frequently buy whole free-range, air-chilled chickens here at a very reasonable price. But while the majority of their meat is hormone free, it is grain finished, and you don’t have as much exposure to the source of your steak. I figure most major cities have grocery stores of this caliber; if you are stuck in an Albertson’s only land, I’m sorry.

S&L Quality Meats: a local butcher shop that proudly advertises natural, hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat. Prices are comparable to Central Market. They tell you where the meat comes from, but unfortunately that is a couple of states away in Montana, and the meat is grain-finished. The person we talked to there seemed to think that was perfectly fine and that grass-fed proponents were a little snobbish. Well, sorry, but I am going to be a snob when it comes to the health of my family. Still, if I needed something in a pinch, it would be an okay option.
Better: Great quality, high prices
US Wellness Meats: Known on the web for having high quality and high prices. When I first looked at this site I wondered how anyone could possibly eat grass-fed meat on a regular basis unless they had a)no kids or b)a very high salary. We don’t have kids yet but our salaries, while a blessing, won’t support those prices along with our other financial goals.

Bill the Butcher: There are multiple Bill’s locations around Seattle and all are fun small butcher shops with sassy employees and large hunks of tasty meat. They haven’t found a good supplier for sausages (Jer actually pointed out to the guy working the knife that the brand they sell has msg) but their bacon is to die for. I mean, seriously good bacon. I make little egg and bacon breakfast muffins for quck bites in the morning and they are so tasty. Prices here are better than premium retailers, but still more expensive than S&L, because their beef is actually grass-fed. They also have Wagyu beef, in case you felt like dropping a LOT of cash on a big steak.

Sea Breeze Farms: A farm on Vashon Island, these guys do it all. If I was going to farm, this is how I would do it. You’ll find them at farmer’s markets, selling meat, charcuterie, raw milk and cheese, and even wine that they make on their farm. I saw them at the U District market and bought a couple of sausages that they had made themselves, with no chemical additives. The sausages were delicious, and Jer was thrilled. These guys even have a limited seating weekend restaurant with a menu made from their foodstuffs. Great sustainability and diversity on a small farm. Wendell Berry would be proud.
Best: Good quality and good price

Thundering Hooves: Here is my new solution-a CSA for god meat. Grass-fed meat at prices comparable to the good options. Quality like US Wellness, with the local dedication of Bill’s. Unfortunately, they don’t have nitrate-free bacon or sausages (this seems to be a recurring problem, even among grass-fed proponents) but they do carry a wide selection of extras like liver, lard, and marrow bones. You have to order a couple of weeks in advance and go pick it up from a drop off center, but since I plan my meals 1-2 weeks in advance, that’s not too strenuous. Also, when you go pick up the meat they will have extras on sale for 30% off, and you can score some real deals. I just found out that my produce CSA is going to start offering THundering Hooves meat in the weekly delivery box, at a higher price, which is a good option if pickup day is far off and we need something. But if we were going to pay extra, we would likely just go to the farmer’s market or Bill’s and get a fresh cut of something fabulous.

So there you are-the options for someone not in possession of a large freezer. But now that I have done all this research and found a good solution, we have decided to buy that freezer after all. We found someone who will go in with us on the purchase of a cow from a local farm, and my parents are going to take some as well, so come July we will likely be in possession of a quarter side of beef. And the price? With the beef and the cut and wrap fees, it works out to be $2.42 a pound. Yes, that’s right. Less than $3 a pound for grass-fed, locally grown and butchered red meat. I think the freezer is the right investment.

Now I just have to find more good recipes for beef!

This post is part of Two for Tuesday

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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