Sunday, February 20, 2011

Clean Eating Lean Stuffed Peppers

Makes 5 servings, 1 pepper each
Oooooooohhhhh boy these are good! For some reason when I was younger, the thought of stuffed peppers never appealed to me. They always seemed greasy and flavorless. But this recipe is a real winner. Plus I love that it’s a complete meal all in one – protein, grains, and veggies – so I don’t have to cook any side dishes. Not to mention I can prepare it earlier in the day (like during naptime) and then just throw it in the oven before dinner time (instead of cooking while certain people in my house are bringing every toy they own into the kitchen).

This is one of my husband’s favorite meals and my kids love it too. They both eat it happily without me having to feed it to them so I actually get to eat mine with two hands while it’s hot. As my sister would say, “That’s very nice for Mommies.” The boys always eat the filling right away but are sometimes hesitant about the pepper. Once I cut it up and sprinkle some extra parmesan cheese on it, though, they are back to eating happily.

How I “healthified” the recipe:
  • The original recipe called for 1 lb of ground beef. I substituted 93% lean ground turkey and reduced the amount to 12oz because I am adding some extra rice.
  • The original recipe used ½ a cup of cooked white rice. I substituted cooked whole grains (like brown rice) for more nutrition and I increased the amount to yield more pepper filling. Meat is expensive so, if I can add veggies or grains to stretch my meat into more servings without compromising the flavor, it’s a win-win.
  • The original recipe used 3 cups of shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and a jar of marinara sauce. I substituted Parmesan cheese and was able to reduce the amount to 1 cup because of its stronger flavor. I felt like the sauce made the filling too sloppy and the extra liquid made the peppers fall part. I liked the tomato flavor, though, so I used a can of tomatoes instead which I drained.
  • The original recipe called for ¼ cup of parsley. Once it’s cooked, kale actually has a similar flavor and texture to parsley but is a nutrient packed super green veggie. I replaced the parsley with kale and increased the amount to ½ cup.
  • In the original recipe, the peppers were topped with plain ketchup. The ketchup was too thick and got dried out so I mixed it with a little bit of the juice from the tomatoes.
  • The original recipe used 4 large peppers. The portion size was really big so I used 5 medium bell peppers instead.
  • The results – A huge decrease in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained w/ ¼ cup juice reserved
  • 5 medium bell peppers, with tops removed, stemmed, and seeded (I use red when they’re on sale because they are slightly sweeter but green works fine too)
  • 1 cup cooked whole grains (such as brown rice or quinoa)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
  • 12 oz 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup kale, chopped fine (I use scissors, hold a handful of leaves, and snip little tiny pieces off right into my measuring cup)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
ONE: Stir ketchup and reserved ¼ cup juice together and set aside. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add peppers and 1 Tbsp salt and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes until peppers are JUST beginning to soften. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon, tip them upside down to drain the excess water, and place them cut side up on paper towels while you assemble the filling.

TWO: Combine oil, onion, and ½ tsp salt in a 12” non-stick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until onions begin to soften, 8-10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, stir in ground turkey, and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

THREE: Add garlic to skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and kale and cook until warmed, about 2 minutes. Combine with 1 cup cooked grains and parmesan and season with salt and pepper (I never do the salt and pepper part and mine are still totally scrumptious).

FOUR: Preheat oven to 350. Place peppers cut side up in a 9” square baking dish (you’re going to have to squish them together a bit. If you have really big peppers use a bigger baking dish instead but make sure they will stay upright). Divide filling evenly among peppers, packing lightly, and spoon 2 Tbsp ketchup mixture over each. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.

Freeze leftovers using the flash freeze method to feed your freezer stash.

Original Recipe: 690 Calories (451 Calories from Fat), 50g Fat, 22g Saturated Fat, 142mg Cholesterol, 1305mg Sodium, 30g Total Carbohydrates, 5g Dietary Fiber, 16g Sugars, 34g Protein, 107% DV Vitamin A, 282% DV Vitamin C, 54% DV Calcium, 20% DV Iron

New Healthier Recipe: 321 Calories (108 Calories from Fat), 12g Fat, 5g Saturated Fat, 66mg Cholesterol, 506mg Sodium, 28g Total Carbohydrates, 5g Dietary Fiber, 11g Sugars, 24g Protein, 102% DV Vitamin A, 288% DV Vitamin C, 31% DV Calcium, 15% DV Iron


  1. Easily one of the top three things I have ever tasted.....I could eat these for dinner every night for the rest of my life and die a Happy Mommy!!!!!

  2. Ok quick that I have frozen them how long do you microwave them to reheat them???

  3. Wow, this is a great recipe! Love them!!

  4. This was delicious! I ended up halving the recipe because I only had two bell peppers, but it turned out great. Didn't need any seasoning! Thank you for this!