Stuffed Peppers, Four Ways

I think of stuffed peppers as the sloppy joes of the modern era. Few dinners offer up the comfort and ease of a stuffed pepper. But this new “sloppy joe” also offers up a wholesome addition of vegetables that helps moms and dads ensure their littles are at least getting some good foods.

There are endless ways to switch up stuffed peppers. The cooking methods for each a relatively similar, so I’ll go over the ingredients for each first recipe. Then I’ll discuss the cooking methods. As always, my advice is to use what you have on hand.

One note: In this recipe I call for cooked rice, but it isn’t necessary for all the dishes, especially for the Jambalaya. You just need to 1 cup of the uncooked rice, along with an appropriate amount of water or stock to the pot and let it simmer along with the other ingredients until the rice is cooked. For the ratatouille, however, start with cooked rice so your veggies don’t overcook.

Pepper Prep

These recipe works best with peppers that can stand up on their own and have a large cavity. Start by slicing off the tops of 6-8 large green, yellow, red, or orange bell peppers.

Clear seeds and ribs away from the inside of the cavity (I often just use my hands for this) and discard. Chop up any remaining edible parts from the tops and set them aside for the stuffing.

Many recipes call for coating the peppers with oil and pre-cooking them, but I find those steps unnecessary. Simply arrange them in a baking pan as close together as possible.

The Classic

1 tbl butter
1 pkg ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper, plus one additional small bell pepper chopped small
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 can tomato sauce or crushed tomato
2 cups cooked rice
Salt and pepper
1 cup grated parmesan and/or shredded mozzarella
Fresh basil to garnish

The Jambalaya

2 andouille sausages, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 chicken breast, also chopped into bite sizes
3 tbl cajun seasoning
1/2 onion, chopped small
2 stalks celery, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper, plus 1 additional bell pepper cut small
1 can tomato sauce or crushed tomato
Additional stock or water for consistency (up to 1 cup)
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup gruyere
Fresh parsley for garnish

The Ratatouille (Vegan)

1 tbl oil
1 dried bay leaf crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup mushrooms sliced
1 small eggplant, chopped small
1 zucchini sliced
1 carrot shredded
1/2 onion, chopped small
2 stalks celery, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper, plus one additional small bell pepper chopped small
1 can tomato sauce or crushed tomato
2 cups cooked rice
Vegetable stock as needed
1 cup breadcrumbs mixed with oil
Fresh basil, parsley, or tarragon to garnish

The Southwestern Turkey

1 tbl butter
1 pkg ground turkey
3 tbls taco seasoning
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Cutoffs from the pepper
1 cup corn kernels
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (or keep the seeds if you want it spicier)
1 can tomato sauce
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
Fresh cilantro to garnish

Cooking

Once the vegetables are all chopped, the process for cooking each of these is similar. Cook the proteins (or mushrooms) with the onions and garlic, as well as any dried herbs, spices, or seasoning mixes over medium high heat. Then add the rest of the vegetables, the tomato sauce, rice and any stock or water as needed. Let simmer on low for 20-30 minutes, until the stuffing is thick enough to spoon, but not dry (something like chili or other thick stew). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the filling into the peppers. Top them with bread crumbs or cheese and put them in a 350F oven for 30 minutes. Garnish with any fresh herbs and serve.

PREP!

Stuffed peppers make excellent meal preps! You can complete a recipe up until it is time to put them in the oven. Store them in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a month. When you are ready to cook them, defrost them in the fridge for the day and then cook them oven for 60 minutes at 350F.

Going Low Carb? Try These Stuffed Zucchini Boat Babies

I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my daughter last year. So I got pretty good at developing meals that were delicious and could satisfy both my hungry husband and my increasingly picky son.

Incidentally, it was pretty irritating that for the 6 months we ate for my dietary plan, my husband lost the teeny tiny beer belly he had been developing. He got ripped. I stayed the same weight, which was actually the right thing for me (I mean, I was growing a wee human). But still. It is sooooo unfair.

In any case, I have since fallen off the low carb wagon, and have been feeling the need to get back on again. I felt pretty good and healthy, with lots of energy. I also know it is the diet I should be following at least 80% of the time.

For the record, I did NOT do Keto. I do not think keto is a healthy way to live. But I did focus on eating (A LOT) more salads and replacing high sugar/high carb snacks with nuts, veggies, and yogurt.

I also cut out bread– but added in quite a few mournful and angry fist shakes.

But I digress. Here is the recipe:
4 zucchini squashes halved and cored
1 lb ground beef or sweet Italian sausage
1/2 onion chopped small
2-3 garlic cloves chopped
1 package of button or porcini mushrooms chopped

1/2 can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh torn basil (for garnish)

To prep the zucchini, simply cut them lengthwise down the middle and use a spoon to scrape out the softer inner portion of the squash. Leave enough flesh on the squash to ensure the boats don’t collapse in the oven. Save the inner portions the stuffing mixture.

If you are paying attention, you’ll notice that I’m only using 3 zucchinis in this recipe, although I called for 4. I had 4 but they were from Trader Joe’s, which means that one went bad before I was able to cook it. I love TJ’s but you all know the produce has a time limit: Don’t buy any of it unless you are planning to use it within three days.

Turn the oven to 400F.

In a large skillet, over medium high heat brown the meat and add the veggies, giving everything a good seasoning with salt and pepper. Give the onions 5-10 minutes in the pan to soften and become translucent. Then stir in the tomato sauce and vinegar and let simmer on low for a few minutes. This should be rather thick, but if it is a little soupy, just let the sauce reduce.



In the meantime, rub a little olive oil on the zucchinis and lightly season them with salt. Place them open side up on a lined baking sheet.

Fill the boats with the mixture and top with parmesan cheese. Put them in the oven for 20 minutes. As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle the fresh basil over the top and serve.