Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sausage Spinach Stuffed Peppers: When you follow your gut and turn the tide

At the beginning of the school year, I somehow found myself at odds with another mom at Daughters' school.  As she is also Korean, you'd think misunderstandings between us really wouldn't happen, especially at a school where there are so few Koreans.  Unfortunately a slight misunderstanding happened and suddenly there it was - a woman who couldn't stand me.  The misunderstanding was my fault and even after my honest and heartfelt apology there was a huge wall that separated us.  

I felt her ire and her dislike of me every time I walked onto the school campus.   When I explained to friends my discomfort with her dislike of me, they all said to ignore it.  But it was hard to ignore.  I saw this woman twice a day, five times a week, her child's class right next to Daughter #2's class.  RIGHT NEXT DOOR.  We would both stand outside waiting for our respective children, and I would feel the waves of dislike and I would be uncomfortable.  Every single time.

Husband told me to get over it and get thicker skin.  Friends told me to not let it bother me, with one loyal  friend going as far as to say, "Once she figures out how popular and well-liked you are, and how much influence you wield on campus (virtually none for the record), she'll want to be nice to YOU.  Wait for it."  Other friends told me that it wasn't important, that I had already apologized and that I didn't need to swallow any more pride to try and get her to like me.

Yet every single day the stab went into my side, my heart, my head, my ear - some part of my body would physically feel something when I was in her presence.  And last night, I finally decided that enough was enough.  I heard God say I could make it different; I decided to do what I wanted to do from the beginning which was break the ice and make her something to eat.  I had at the ready Pecan Rolo Pretzels  as I had made them for Son's teachers, and I simply made an extra bag for her.

In the morning, I had the bag ready in my purse and part of me worried.  What would happen if I gave it to her?  Would she throw it back in my face?  Would she ignore me?  What would she do?  Could I handle the rejection if she rejected me straight in the face?  I practiced my words, thought about what I wanted to say (it would be in Korean) and rehearsed it over and over.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to see her in the morning, but I was ready in case I did.  

As I walked onto campus, I saw her and again I felt the wave of her dislike of me.  I almost lost my nerve and  was planning on eating them myself, when I heard God whisper "Courage" to me.  I walked over to her, and said, "I made these for you" and handed her the bag.  (There were really prettily packaaged.)  She looked completely taken aback, and said, "You made these for me?  Why would you?"  

"I just wanted to say sorry for the misunderstanding we had at the beginning of the year.  I am very sorry that we started off like that.  As we're both Korean, I'm hoping that we can just get along get to know each other," I explained in Korean.  

Her eyes were big and she just had a smile and said thanks.  And in the moment, I knew.   The tide had turned.  Following what my gut wanted to do caused the tide to turn.  Am I going to be best friends with her? Perhaps.  But can we exist on the same campus without my feeling her dislike of me?  Most definitely.  And what did it cost me?  A few words and a bag of rolo pretzels.  And what did I get?  Peace of mind.  Definitely worth it.

Just as the woman's feelings towards me continually bothered and nudged me daily, a bag of unused bell peppers did the same from its place in the fridge.  Everyday I would open the fridge, see the bag of peppers and it would whisper to me, "Pick me!  It's my turn!  I wanna be cooked" but I would ignore the bag.  Finally I decided that I could ignore it no longer and decided to create something completely different and new, and use up what I had at home.  Stuffed with a mixture of sausage, rice, spinach, carrots and onions, the result is something yummy and easy to enjoy.  Daughters loved it while Son liked the filling, but refused the bell pepper.

This is one of those dishes that you can make ahead, refrigerate, and cook the next day.  (Or just later in the day.)
Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves 6

3 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange) cut in half, stem removed and seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
6 oz bag of baby spinach, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 basil leaves, chiffonade
1 cup cooked rice (I just used what was in my rice cooker)
1 lb sausages, casing removed (you want the kind of sausage that hasn’t been previously cooked or smoked)
Salt and pepper

14 oz can tomatoes, pureed OR ½ cup of tomato ketchup
Additional basil leaves, chiffonade for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat a medium fry pan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent and celery and carrots are tender, about 6 minutes. Add chopped baby spinach, garlic and an additional pinch of salt and pepper. After spinach is wilted and dark green remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together cooked rice and vegetable mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature or cooler, before adding raw sausage meat (casing removed.) Add basil and using your hand, mix together mixture until uniform and all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Place bell peppers in a large baking dish and stuff meat mixture into the peppers. Top with tomato puree and a sprinkle of salt and pepper OR spread a thin layer of ketchup on top of each bell pepper.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until peppers are tender and juices have gathered in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle with basil and serve hot.

Printable recipe


Teacher Peri said...

This sounds amazing!!! My naïveté is showing...
What is basil chiffonade? Also, would bulk chicken sausage (no casing- from whole foods) work?

Another A said...

Wow. First time at your site through a recommendation link. I am thoroughly impressed by the delicious recipes as well as the concise and clear format and writing. The printable google doc link was a touch of genius. I bookmarked your site and will be a frequent visitor now.

Joanne Choi said...

finely chopped basil is a chiffonade. I should have said chopped basil. Bulk chicken sausage from whole foods is perfect. :)

Ruth said...

I can identify with what you mean- the awkward misunderstandings that end up becoming a huge dividing wall- I am so excited about the results upon offering the treats!

Unknown said...

I've been following your blog for the last few months and I so thoroughly appreciate your honesty and humor. As I'm reading, I often say"I feel you"! Thank you for sharing so openly. Not to mention your recipes look great. I just need courage to try them myself!

Bonnie said...

It was a really sweet gesture, and really brave to make amends. Recipe looks delicious too! said...

So much helpful data for me!


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