If “a mother’s heart is the child’s classroom,” then my mother, Joan M. Orlando, had the biggest heart of any mother I know, for the lessons she taught me during our 48 years of being together are countless. I was proud to call her Mom, Ma, Mommy – I don’t think she consciously set out to impart her motherly prowess on me – it simply and magically transferred into my existence, readying me to sharpen my motherly skills and create that classroom for my own children. She was teaching me and readying me right up until her last hours on this earth.

My mother was a giving woman. That was her legacy. One of the ways in which she gave to others (and I didn’t know it at the time, but she was teaching me in the process) was through her cooking. Nothing made her happier than to cook a meal and then revel in the fruits of her labor by watching the people around her eat. So what better way to honor Mom since her recent passing, than to have her look down on me and watch me impart those same lessons on my children? Mom was always making new concoctions; stuffed zucchini boats, roasted peppers, veal cordon bleu Marsala (two decadent labor intensive recipes combined into one fabulous meal, which I requested on every birthday in my adult years). Here is one concoction, Smoked Gouda Stuffed Peppers, which my son and I dreamed up and which Mom would have loved:

Smoked Gouda Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 3 large peppers
  • 1 ½ cups diced chicken
  • 1 ½ cups small broccoli florets, blanched
  • ½ large Vidalia onion, diced
  • 6 slices country white bread, cubed
  • 2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated plus more for topping
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing on peppers

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice peppers in half lengthwise, keeping part of stem on each side (for presentation).
  • Remove seeds with a paring knife.
  • Wash peppers in a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, rinse with cold water. Pat dry.
  • Brush both sides of each pepper with olive oil and place face up on a cookie sheet.
  • Roast peppers on 400 degrees for 25 minutes until softened but still firm and holding their shape.
  • While the peppers are roasting, saute diced onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent.
  • In a separate large bowl, combine cubed bread, blanched broccoli, chicken, Gouda cheese, and parmesan cheese.
  • When the onions are translucent, add the remaining 5 tablespoons of olive oil and briefly heat.
  • Add the onion and oil mixture to the bowl and let sit until partially cooled. Once the mixture has cooled enough to handle, knead with hands until well mixed.
  • Remove the peppers from the oven and drain all liquid from each pepper. Dry each pepper with a towel.
  • Spoon the bread and cheese mixture evenly into each pepper, and top with parmesan cheese.
  • Bake on 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until peppers are softened.
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