I was a super picky eater as a child. I was also abnormally tiny so my mom and doctors were pretty obsessed with my eating habits. I was one of those kids who was not allowed to leave the table until I had eaten “five bites of chicken, five spoons of potatoes and five green beans.” Being the resourceful child I was, I would often offer to clear the table. My secret was that I would spit food into my napkin and then throw away the evidence. Until I got busted. Then all bets were off and I was supervised pretty closely at meal times.
My pickiness meant I missed out on a lot of good stuff because I was just too much of a chicken to try certain things. One of my childhood food nemeses was stuffed peppers. I remember HATING them but honestly it may have been because my mom usually used green bell peppers from our garden and, even today, I’m not a huge fan of green peppers. But I keep seeing stuffed peppers in photos and last year, our sometimes meal service (HelloFresh) sent a kit for stuffed peppers. They were actually pretty good and used gorgeous yellow and red bell peppers. I wanted them again but theirs were a little meat-centric, so wanted to come up with something of my own.
I used lean ground beef, quinoa and lots of veggies, herbs and spices. Plus a topping of cheese which pretty much makes everything better. It’s a fairly low carb, not completely unhealthy dinner and pretty easily knocked out on a weeknight. You can easily scale this up or down based on how many you are serving. The filling is so rich, I can typically only eat one half of a pepper and still feel satisfied (plus they reheat really well for lunch the next day).
This is an infinitely adaptable recipe. You could go vegetarian, vegan or kosher with this by just mixing up the fillings to your liking. I’ve gone kind of Mexican-ish with mine, but you could go Greek or Italian very easily by using lamb or Italian sausage and switching up your seasonings and cheeses.
As always, read the whole recipe before you begin as the steps overlap each other a bit.
Stuffed Peppers (serves 4-8)
- 4 Red, Yellow or Orange bell peppers
- 2-3 T olive oil, divided
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large carrot peeled and diced
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
- 4 oz mushrooms, chopped
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 t each onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, dried oregano, salt, pepper, chili powder and paprika
- 2 C chopped kale
- 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 14 oz. can low sodium beef broth
- 1 C quinoa
- 1/2 C queso fresco, crumbled
- 1/2 C grated Monterrey jack cheese
- salt and pepper
Bring beef broth and quinoa to a boil in small pot with a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed.
While quinoa is cooking, start preparing the beef filling. Add beef to skillet and break into small pieces, cooking until most pink is gone, about 5-10 minutes. Drain any excess fat. Add onion, carrot, poblano pepper and mushrooms. Saute until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in spices and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. If needed, add 1 T olive oil. Add scallions, kale and diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer until slightly reduced. Turn off heat and stir in cooked quinoa until well combined. Fold in queso fresco. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
While beef mixture is cooking, prepare your peppers. Preheat oven to 375F. Cut peppers in half vertically and remove seeds and white membranes. Rub inside and out with olive oil. Salt and pepper both sides and place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and turn cut side up. Fill with quinoa-beef filling – heap it up but don’t let it spill over (you’ll will likely have some filling left over – excellent in a wrap later!). If peppers are a little tippy, you can shore them up with little wads of aluminum foil. When all of them are filled, top with Monterrey jack cheese and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melty and beginning to get brown and bubbly.
Serve with a big green salad for a full healthy and satisfying meal! Big eaters may want two halves but one will likely be enough for most folks.
This is also something you could make ahead and freeze. Just put the peppers together fully including stuffing them and topping with cheese then wrap up the pan and stick in the freezer for another time. Take them out of the freezer the night before you want to serve to thaw in the refrigerator and bake off for dinner the next night. Voila! The texture won’t be quite the same as fresh but still gorgeous and delicious.