Stuff 'Em If Ya Got 'Em Banana Peppers

or the neglect prevention pepper grill plan

So, this is the result of a hostile takeover by the banana pepper plants in my garden (the green, yellow, and orange peppers never even saw it coming).  I have walked past those poor plants day after day thinking, with only the best of intentions of course, that I'd make Italian Pepper Rings from them once I had time to pull out my canning supplies.  But, as things seem to go more and more often lately, time passed and the peppers just hung there, staring at me each time I went by with their sad little pepper eyes.  Ok I know,  peppers don't have eyes, but the feeling was still there - neglect - and I could only ignore it for so long.

I remembered a post I saw online about someone trying to stuff banana peppers with ground beef so I finally harvested a few from my garden and headed inside where my husband was browning beef for dinner.  I stole about 1/2 cup of browned ground beef and settled down at the cutting board to play.  Much to my delight, this actually turned out very good, even my pepper hesitant husband liked them!  The recipe doesn't make a lot, since I could only wrangle 1/2 cup of beef from my husband last night, but it could easily be doubled for a larger meal plan.  And now, with that said, I bring them here to you.  I hope you enjoy.

Let's see, what did I use....
3 sweet banana peppers
1/2 cup browned ground beef (still warm)
2 tbsp low fat cream cheese
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp house spice blend
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp paprika (Ok, so I was actually out of paprika, but it seemed like it would be delicious in these and was part of the conceptual plan so I kept it in the list and will definitely be trying it next time.  Feel free to leave out if you like.)

1. The first thing you need to do is to prepare the banana peppers.  You could really use any type of banana peppers but I much prefer the sweet ones with this recipe, I think the hint of sweetness is a nice contrast to the savory filling.  You'll want to remove the tops and very carefully, using a parring knife, remove the seed line from inside while maintaining the tube-like shape.  If you break the natural shape of the pepper it won't hold up to the stuffing, so be careful or you'll end up with a bowl of stuffing and plate of chopped peppers (which I'm sure would still be good, just not quite what we're going for here).

2. In a small bowl combine the browned ground beef, spices, dried minced onions, and cream cheese.  Stir together well, there's no need to be gentle it can handle it.  The warmth of the ground beef will help to soften the cream cheese so it becomes a little more willing to join the party.

3. Now you're ready.  Line up your peppers and let's get down to work.  Use a butter knife to scoop up small amounts of the stuffing and press gently into the center of the pepper.  The tip of the knife is dull so it works particularly well for the firm but gentle pressure that's needed to ease that stuffing all the way to the bottom.  It will take a few minutes for each one at first, but trust me the care you take with this part is worth it and it goes faster once you get in the swing of things.  You want to make sure that each one is tightly packed before the next step.

4. I used a grill pan for this but you could just as easily toss them on the grill outside or use a cast iron skillet, just whatever you have laying around that is clean.  Brush the outside with some olive oil and cook the stuffed peppers over medium-high heat until they start to soften just a touch and get those nice grill marks.

You'll want to allow them to set just a couple minutes before diving in so that the stuffing doesn't escape prematurely.  These work great as either a side dish, kind of a fun way to get those veggies in, or as a main dish with rice or potatoes.  Personally I like to cut them into bite sized pieces but the option of serving them whole as a hand held appetizer is very tempting (and may work well with kids too now that I think about it).  Who knows, maybe you'll be able to convert a few pepper-phobic family members of you own.  Regardless of how you serve them, I hope you find them as tasty as I do!

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