"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." —F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Labor Day, the end of summer, was the perfect time for me to head home to Port St. Joe for a visit…tropical storm or no. Once again, I reveled in the natural beauty of “The Forgotten Coast.” How blessed we are to have such an amazing place to live or to visit, depending upon who you are. I was blessed to grow up in Port St. Joe, a Shark through and through, and I cannot seem to get home fast enough each year.

 

My sister and I discussed how, when we lived on St. Joe Beach growing up, we never took the beach, just two blocks from our home, for granted. We spent several days a week there as children, with mom, Grammy and Granddaddy, right at the end of Ponce de Leon Street. In middle school and high school, we spent numerous lazy summer afternoons lying on beach towels listening to WPFM play Journey, Foreigner, The Cure, and other great bands. There was nowhere better to discuss music, school, boys and dreams of the future.

 

The summer after my senior year, I worked as a waitress at The Fish House on Mexico Beach, which was at that time owned by Chris and Teresa King. We served the best seafood platters (complete with a horseradish aspic, green and jiggly on the salad plate!) and coldest drinks on the beach back then. After a long shift waiting tables, I’d head down to the beach to walk a couple of miles to unwind a bit. It was a place to seek some peace, for me.

 

All of those memories pleasantly fill my head each time I am back home again. And this time, after the rain from the distant tropical storm slacked off, we were able to get in some more much-needed beach time. It was a wonderful way to end the summer and get ready for the shift to fall.

 

We returned to Texas after a week to find rainy weather had moved into our area, and the temperatures were considerably cooler than when we had left. When that happens, I love to get in my kitchen to make delicious, satisfying meals for my family. Today was the kickoff of that kind of cooking for me.

 

I made a pan full of one of my favorite autumnal meals: stuffed peppers. Now, the usual stuffed peppers have rice in them, but this recipe does not. It’s lower in carbs, but the flavor packs a big punch! Basil, oregano, onion, garlic, and delicious vegetables sautéed in olive oil make this dinner one that you’ll likely get requests for again and again.

 

If you are cooking for only one or two, you’ll be thrilled to know that this recipe will give you a nice amount of leftovers to divide up among smaller containers for lunch during the week. And this is one of those recipes whose flavor develops over time; it’s even better the next day. Your co-workers will be green with bell pepper-envy.

 

Celebrate the beginning of fall with me by enjoying this recipe in your own kitchen this week.

 

Italian-Seasoned Stuffed Peppers

 

1 pound ground turkey (or use whatever ground meat you prefer)

3 bell peppers of any color, stems cut off, seeded, and then cut in half lengthwise

1 zucchini, diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 small eggplant, diced

1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (optional)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 cup marinara sauce

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

Olive Oil for sauteing

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

 

Place the peppers in a lightly oiled casserole dish; season with salt and bake for 20 minutes. Remove peppers, drain any water that has been released from the peppers and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.

 

Saute onions, zucchini, mushrooms and eggplant until golden and soft, about eight minutes. Add garlic; cook one minute more. Set aside.

 

Saute turkey until no pink is seen. Add turkey, tomato sauce and seasonings to veggies. Cook for five minutes until most of the liquid is reduced.

 

Off heat, add the ricotta cheese. Mix to combine. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon mixture into partially cooked pepper halves

 

Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

 

Depending on the size of your peppers you may have a little extra filling. If you do, place in muffin tins that you’ve sprayed with Pam, sprinkle cheese on it, and bake it alongside the peppers. It’s a great protein boost snack to keep in a container in your refrigerator.

 

Enjoy!