There comes a time for all of us when we realize that we need to start eating a healthier diet, but it can be tough when we go to Google "healthy recipes" and we come up with stuff that’s lentil-based this or tofu-based that. While these dishes undoubtedly have their fans, they can take a bit of getting used to for those of us used to meatier fare. Well, we’re here to reassure you that healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult, or involve going vegan. There are a number of easy swaps that will allow you to enjoy some of your favorite foods without having to sacrifice everything you love about them. Recipe developer Hayley MacLean makes use of a few of these swaps in her recipe for healthy stuffed peppers.
The first healthy swap — brown rice from white rice — is one that you’ll hardly even notice. "Brown rice provides more fiber and is richer in many vitamins and minerals than the white rice that is usually used," MacLean explains. She goes on to explain another beneficial swap: "Using ground turkey, instead of beef as is common, reduces the amount of saturated fat in this dish." Neither swap, though, makes the dish any less tasty. McLean calls the dish "savory and bright," with the spices and herbs adding a flavorful punch and the cheese lending some creamy goodness. The spinach, too, gives the dish what McLean describes as "a bit of freshness that is totally wonderful."
Assemble the ingredients for healthy stuffed peppers
You can’t make stuffed peppers without peppers, of course, so you’ll need some big bell peppers. You’ll also be using an onion, some garlic, a can of diced tomatoes, brown rice, baby spinach, and ground turkey for the filling, and Italian seasoning for some flavoring. You’ll also need Monterey Jack cheese as a topper, though MacLean says using pepper jack in its place "would add a great extra bit of flavor and heat" if you prefer a spicier dish. You can also add some red pepper flakes, if you wish, and use some chopped parsley as a garnish if you’d like to make these peppers pretty.
Prepare the peppers
While you’re getting ready to cook the peppers, preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease up a baking pan, as well, one large enough to fit all four peppers. Cut the stem end off each pepper, then scoop out the "guts," these being the seeds and membranes. Now put the peppers into the pan with their cut sides facing up.
Make the turkey and rice stuffing
Heat the olive oil over medium heat, then sauté the onion for 3 to 4 minutes, until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and cook it for about a minute until it becomes fragrant. At this point, add the turkey and stir to break up the bits. Keep stirring and heating until it’s cooked all the way through.
If there’s any grease in the pan, drain it out, then stir in the tomatoes, rice, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes (if you’re using this last-named ingredient, that is). Turn off the heat, then stir in ½ cup of cheese and the spinach. Stir until the spinach wilts. A brief note on the spinach — yes, you can substitute the frozen kind, but you’ll be using less of it. "I would not use 2 cups as baby spinach cooks down so much," MacLean explains, and suggests using ½ cup of the frozen kind instead. Once the spinach and cheese have been added, taste the turkey mixture and season with salt and pepper.
Stuff and bake the peppers
Stuff the peppers with the stuffing, since that’s what it’s for, of course. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops of the peppers, then pour a little water into the pan to cover the bottom so the peppers don’t stick or scorch. Cover the pan with foil, then bake the peppers for 30 minutes, or until they are tender. Remove the foil, then bake them for 5 to 10 minutes more to brown the cheese on top.
The peppers should be served warm, and may be garnished with chopped parsley if you like that sort of thing. MacLean notes that she likes to serve the peppers with corn on the cob and a green salad, calling the combo "fun and summery," but she says, "They also go great with a big side of roasted vegetables for the cooler days."
- 4 large bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 (14 ½ ounces) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 ½ cup cooked brown rice
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Lightly grease a small baking pan.
- Cut the tops off of the bell peppers and remove the seeds and membrane. Arrange the peppers in the baking pan, cut-side up.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion to the oil and sauté it until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic to the onion and sauté 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add the ground turkey to the vegetables and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned and cooked through.
- Drain any grease out of the pan and add the diced tomatoes, brown rice, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in ½ cup of cheese.
- Add the baby spinach to the pan and stir until wilted.
- Season the turkey mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill the peppers with the turkey mixture and top with the remaining cheese.
- Add just enough water to the baking pan to cover the bottom. Cover the peppers with foil and bake them for 30 minutes until the peppers are tender.
- Remove the foil and continue baking the peppers for another 5 to 10 minutes until the tops are beginning to brown.
- Serve the peppers warm and garnish, if desired, with fresh parsley.