Classic and Tasty Stuffed Vegetables
The September 2021 issue of Better Homes & Gardens featured updated spins on stuffed vegetables, and we're jumping on the veggie bandwagon too. We revisit classics such as stuffed sweet peppers—a 1950s staple—and have rounded up recipes for tasty fillings.
The Early Years
For decades, Better Homes & Gardens has featured recipes to turn vegetables into edible vessels to fill with everything from meat to cheesy mixtures that bake into bubbly deliciousness. To the delight of busy and frugal homemakers, stuffed vegetables were hearty enough to become the meal. "When a pepper, a potato, a squash, an onion, or an eggplant is stuffed, it's not just a vegetable, it's a moneysaving main dish," proclaimed the magazine's September 1948 "We're Stuffed" story. In addition to recipes, the story offered an easy trick for a pretty presentation with acorn squash: Simply cut squash cross-wise instead of length-wise to reveal a scalloped edge.
Yellow, red, or green, sweet peppers are the iconic stuffed veggie. As far back as the 1940s, Better Homes & Gardens food editors lauded the all-in-one meal. "You can eat the 'baking dish' because it's a green pepper," noted a story in the September 1948 magazine. The Stuffed Peppers recipe featured in that story kept things basic with tomatoes and corn mixed in with ground beef. Classic versions that became a staple on dinner tables in the 1950s and beyond often included rice in the beef filling. Over the decades, the magazine introduced twists to add zippy flavors and interest. In the May 2006 issue, "New Ways to Stuff a Pepper" featured three versions with "international flair," including Mexican-inspired peppers (see photo, above, and recipe, below).
Stuffed Peppers Mole
4 small or 2 large sweet peppers
1 8.8-oz. pouch cooked Spanish-style rice, or long grain and wild rice
10 to 12 oz. cooked ground beef crumbles, or 2 cups cooked ground beef
½ cup frozen whole kernel corn
3 Tbsp. purchased mole sauce
2 Tbsp. water
½ cup shredded Mexican cheese blend or shredded cheddar cheese (2 oz.)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh cilantro
- Cut tops off small peppers or halve large peppers length-wise. Remove membranes and seeds. In a 4-quart Dutch oven immerse peppers in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove; drain peppers, cut sides down, on paper towels.
- For filling, in a saucepan combine rice, beef, corn, mole sauce, and water. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until heated through, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Place peppers, cut sides up, on platter. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Spoon filling into peppers. Sprinkle with cilantro. Makes 4 servings.
Prepping A Pepper to Stuff
Follow these steps to turn a sweet pepper into an edible bowl for stuffing. 1. Cut the top from each pepper to create a thin lid. 2. Working over a bowl, use the tip of a small knife to cut out the membrane or rib and attached seeds. Turn the pepper over and tap it lightly until any remaining seeds fall out. 3. Before stuffing, slightly trim the bottom of the pepper, without cutting through to the inside, so it will stand evenly.
Stuffed potatoes—commonly called twice-baked potatoes—are another dish with retro appeal. Filled with flavorful cheeses, the potato boats (see photo, above, and recipe, below) are a decadent addition to any dinner. Russets are often the potato of choice. For a change, smaller Yukon Gold potatoes add richness and flavor.
Cheesy Double-Baked Potatoes
4 medium potatoes, baked and slightly cooled
½ cup shredded smoked cheddar or mozzarella cheese (2 oz.)
½ of an 8-oz. tub cream cheese with chives and onion
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
¼ cup milk
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives
- Cut lengthwise slice from top third of each potato; discard skin from slice and place pulp in medium bowl. Scoop pulp out of each potato, leaving ¼-inch shell. Add pulp to bowl.
- Mash potato pulp with potato masher. Add smoked cheese, cream cheese, and pepper; mash until smooth. Stir in milk and chives. Spoon or pipe mashed potato mixture into potato shells. Tip: For fluffy, attractive stuffed potatoes, pile the filling into the potato shells using two spoons (see photo, above right). Or if you prefer, spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip and pipe the filling into the shells.
- Place potato shells in 2-quart square baking dish. Bake in 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
For a no-bake stuffed option, grab some tomatoes. Hollowed out, they become cups that are ready to fill and eat. (Technically, tomatoes are a fruit, but they're often lumped in with vegetables.) In the July 1958 magazine, food editors filled tomatoes with egg salad to create Stuffed-Tomato Clowns that were part of a "salad circus" designed for sultry days. Ranch Deviled Eggs, featured in the November 2010 magazine, is an updated and flavorful spin that uses halved roma tomatoes. If you prefer tiny varieties that you can pop in your mouth, turn cherry tomatoes into bite-size appetizers or snacks filled with pesto (see photo, above, and recipe, below).
Avocado Pesto-Stuffed Tomatoes
30 cherry tomatoes (about 1¼ pints)
½ medium avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut up
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. homemade or purchased basil pesto
1 tsp. lemon juice
Snipped fresh basil (optional)
- Cut a thin slice from the top of each tomato. (If desired, cut a thin slice from bottoms of tomatoes so they stand upright.) With a small spoon or small melon baller, carefully hollow out the tomatoes. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Invert tomatoes on the towels. Let stand 30 minutes to drain.
- Meanwhile, for filling, in a food processor bowl combine avocado, cream cheese, pesto, and lemon juice. Cover; process until smooth. Spoon filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or open star tip.
- Place tomatoes, open sides up, on a serving platter. Pipe filling into tomato cups. Serve immediately or cover loosely and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving. Sprinkle with snipped basil before serving. Makes 30 appetizers.
—December 2009 Better Homes & Gardens, Prize Tested Recipes® $400 Winner Judy Castranova