Look at those faces! Don’t they look happy and excited?
I want my kids to have these same happy faces when I serve Halloween dinner. I also want them to have a healthy and hearty dinner before they trapse around the neighborhood seeking sugary treats. These stuffed peppers are a really fun way of having both. I made these guys last year and I will be making them again this year.
I used my favorite meatloaf recipe below but you can literally use any stuffing you desire. Just remember to adjust cooking times accordingly.
I found I had to adjust my mini-meatloaf cooking time from 30-40 minutes to 60-75 minutes so that the center cooked through. A digital cooking thermometer comes in really handy for this.
This year I will be stuffing the center of the meatloaf with a whole black or green olive covered in mozzarella cheese. You could also just use the olive all on its own. This way, when you cut the peppers in half you will have an eyeball in the center peering out at you!
I recommend giving this recipe and directions a once-over before getting started. The raw meatloaf mixture can be made a day ahead to cut down on dinner prep time.
Rosa’s Stuffed Jack-o’-Lantern Peppers with Mini Meat Loaves Recipe
(This recipe makes 6 adult servings)
6 medium orange bell peppers (or color of choice)
1/2 pound extra lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground chicken (you can also just use chicken to lower saturated fat)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs or crushed crackers
1/2 cup medium heat chunky salsa of choice, the chunkier the better!
1/4 cup of Ketchup (cuts heat from salsa without masking flavor)
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
4 ounces cubed Mozzarella or 3-4 cheese sticks
12-24 whole green and black medium size pitted olives
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut cheese into 1 inch cubes or quarter cheese sticks and set aside to warm at room temperate. This will allow the cheese to be pliable and formed around olives without crumbling.
2. Wash and cut the tops off your peppers with a paring knife, careful to cut around seeds to remove. Cut the hole large enough to place stuffing inside. Rinse out inside and remove all seeds.
Next, pick two sides on each pepper to cut faces. Be careful to carve faces directly opposite of one another. Include the kids and have fun with it! Use kid-safe pumpkin carving tools so the kiddos can carve the faces. At the very least, little ones can choose a face for you to carve on their pepper.
Allow for extra prep time when involving the kids. The younger the kids and closer the age spans, the more prep time you will need. Basically, start at least an hour earlier than your target time. Otherwise, you will have a very late dinner and cranky kids!!! Trust me, you don’t want that. Moving along…
3. Mix salsa, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, minced garlic and bread crumbs together until well mixed, beat in egg and set aside. I like to use a large measuring cup for this job because it makes it easier to pour into the next bowl.
4. In a large bowl mix ground meat, Old Bay, onion powder, marjoram and thyme until seasonings are well distributed. Next, add your wet ingredients and mix well. The consistency should be that of a firm dough. It should hold form when you shape it with your spoon. If it is too wet just add more bread crumbs!
5. Take your cheese and place one cube in palm, mash with palms until flattened. Set aside and grab a second cube and do the same. A rolling pin may also be used with the cheese set between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. You can get more done at one time this way. It is personal preference really and I like to keep it simple. I just use my hands! I can better gauge the thickness of the cheese.
Now, take an olive and blot off any juice with a paper towel. Set the olive long-ways onto one piece of cheese, place second piece on top and mold to olive careful to keep note of orientation of the long side of olive by placing a toothpick into the pitted hole of olive. Just remember to remove the toothpick before placing into meatloaf. Repeat until all of your olives are covered.
6. Fill each pepper with only half of the filling. Place cheese covered olives with long side down and pitted ends oriented to each pepper face. You can add as many “eyes” as you would like! Fill each pepper evenly with the remaining mixture.
7. Finally, spray or lightly coat a 13 x 9 inch bakeware with olive oil. Place peppers well-spaced into dish and onto the middle rack of oven. Bake for 50-75 minutes or until thermometer inserted in center of filling (careful to avoid the olive) registers 165 degrees F. Once finished, remove from oven and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.
For presentation, place stuffed jack-o’-lantern on child’s plate and remove tops. Use a steak knife to cut down the center of pepper to reveal the “eye”! Serve with a rice or pasta side for a hearty Halloween meal.
Take top off…
Cut down center between faces
I SeE YOU!
These peppers are even better the next day. Serve half and save half for the littles the next day or for Dia de Los Muertos. That is, if you can keep them that long!
Do you have the perfect side dish to compliment this Halloween meal?
Please post it in the comments. Or, better yet, post it on your blog with a linkback to this recipe!