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6 small-to-medium-squat, round peppers, washed, with very tops, seeds and membranes removed

3 cups tomato sauce

½ cup water from peppers cooking pot

Juice of 1 lemon juice

1 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

1 pound ground beef

½ small onion, minced

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1½ cups cooked rice

Salt and pepper

Olive oil, as needed

Place peppers in enough boiling salted water to just cover peppers and boil for 5 minutes. Drain bottom-sides up, and set them aside while you make the sauce and filling. For the sauce: in a medium saucepan, mix tomato sauce with pepper cooking pot water, lemon juice, sugar, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce; season with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. While sauce is simmering, make the filling. For the filling: in a large skillet, over medium heat, brown beef slightly. (If the meat is lean, add a little olive oil. Conversely, if there’s a lot of excess fat in the skillet, remove it.) Add onion, celery and thyme, cooking until vegetables are soft. Add rice and season with salt and pepper, moistening with some of the sauce. Place peppers in a shallow baking pan containing a small amount of water. (The pan should be just large enough to hold the peppers in place so that do not topple over.) Divide the meat mixture among the peppers, then pour sauce over peppers. (Do not drench peppers in sauce. If you have extra sauce, spoon the peppers with the sauce during baking time, if needed.) Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned, basting with the sauce in the baking dish. Makes 6 servings.

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