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Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

This recipe has a secret. It may look deliciously cheesy, with all the makings of a comfort food, but hidden deep in this recipe is a nice big dose of Vitamin D. Yes, that's right! The same vitamin that your body synthesizes from sun exposure, but also comes from milk, fatty fish and eggs. Vitamin D increases calcium and phosphorous absorption which is key to keeping your bones and teeth healthy. Not today, Osteoporosis!  Runner ups in this recipe are: Potassium -  helpful to maintain strong bones & a healthy heart AND Protein.

Here in the Netherlands, the sun is reduced dramatically during the winter. Unlike Canadian winters, we don't get much sun in Amsterdam (a lot of clouds and rain) - so this recipe is great way to give us a vitamin boost. I especially like to make this recipe when it gets cold, because it is hearty, warm, filling and ticks all my yummy boxes: meat, pasta sauce and CHEESE! 

I make this recipe with red peppers (higher in vitamin C and beta-carotene), but you can use green peppers or yellow. In fact, my recipe is inspired by my grandmother's green stuffed pepper recipe, which tastes delicious but has slightly different ingredients.  Unfortunately, green peppers & my stomach are not friends, so in my recipe I stick to the red peps instead.

This recipe does take a little bit longer to make, due to requirement of cooking the peppers in the oven after filling them. You can reduce the cooking time by either steaming the peppers (when you are making the filling) or microwaving the stuffed peppers (instead of the oven). I personally to follow my original recipe (without steaming or microwaving) as I (probably naively) think that in the oven is where all the flavour meat (get it? MEET? haha) and mix up. 

These peppers freeze really well. So, don't be afraid to make a big batch and freeze them. Then, instead of having to make a full dinner, you can just pull the peppers out of the freezer, thaw and pop them in the oven (or microwave). This is also one of those recipes where the food tastes even better the second day. So, don't be afraid of leftovers! 

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Servings: 3

Prep time: 20 Minutes

Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Total time: 45 minutes


INGREDIENTS:

3 Red Bell Peppers

1/4 cup of white onion (diced)

1/4 cup of white mushrooms (sliced)

250 g of extra lean ground beef

1/2 cup of pasta sauce with herbs 

1/4 brown rice

2/3 cup of water 

1/8 teaspoon of cumin

Dash of salt (1/16 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese


​NUTRITIONAL INFO (per pepper)
Calories 307
​Fat 10.4g
​Sodium 383mg
​Carbohydrate 25.3g
Dietary Fibre 3.9g
​Protein 27.5g
​Vitamin D 22mg 
​Calcium 117mg 
​Iron 4mg 
Potassium 518mg 

PREPARATION:

Prepare all your filling ingredients ahead of time, like dicing onions, cleaning and slicing mushrooms, grating cheddar cheese, measuring out spices, ground beef and pasta sauce. The cooking of the filling process goes fairly quick, so it is good to have everything ready in advance. 

Combine water and rice in a small pot and put on medium-high heat to start cooking. Bring the rice to boil, then turn down the heat to medium. 

The rice will take about 20 minutes to cook completely, with another 5 minutes "fluff up" stage (see later in this recipe).

IMPORTANT: To make sure everything is timed well, at 10 minute mark, you should start working on cooking the rest of the filling. 

Wash your red peppers, gut them and cut off the tops. You don't  have to remove the white skin inside, it is extra fibre and doesn't influence the taste. 

TIP: If you want to shorten the overall cooking time of the peppers in the end, you can steam the red peppers LIGHTLY  now at this point. Simply put them cavity side down in a steamer and let them soften up slightly for about 5-7 minutes. 

​Once your rice has been cooking for about 10 minutes, you will start to cook the rest of the filling. 

In a large non-stick frying pan, on medium heat, start to cook the diced onions. Since there is no oil involved, you will have to stir the onions regularly.

Once your onions have started sweat'n and getting translucent (see-through), add your mushroom and mix everything up. Again, because there is no oil, ensure that you are stirring regularly.

 Once your mushrooms have started to brown up and shrink slightly, you will add the ground beef, keeping the heat on medium.

At this point, the water in your rice should have mostly cooked out and bubble paths should be forming in your rice (it looks like holes). 

Take the rice off the heat and put a lid on the pot. This will allow the rice to absorb the last little bit of water and fluff up nicely.

When the beef starts to brown slightly and glisten (it will shine because of the melting fat), then add the cumin, garlic powder, a dash of salt

You will notice that I don't add a lot of salt to the meat, even though most people cook this way. This is on purpose to keep the sodium levels down in the recipe BUT also because most pasta sauces already have a lot of salt to give the sauce flavour. So by adding salt to the meat I have discovered I am only increasing the sodium count in the recipe, rather than actually improving the taste.

 If you did not use extra ground beef, once your meat is completely browned, you will have quite a bit of fat left in the pan. To keep the dish on the healthier side, I suggest draining the fat before adding any further ingredients (they will absorb the fat and bump up the level of fat content in the recipe considerably).

If you used extra lean ground beef, you will have minimal fat, so you can simply go ahead and add the pasta sauce and the rice, mixing well.

You can also start pre-heating your oven to 220 Celsius (425 Fahrenheit) at this point, as soon you will be putting the peppers in the oven for a final cook.

Once you have mixed in the rice and pasta sauce, let the mixture cook for about 2-3 minutes.

 Then sprinkle HALF of the shredded cheddar cheese all over.

 Let the cheese melt and mix through the filling mixture. When all cheese is melted, turn off the heat.

Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, then you can start to spoon the mixture into each of the red peppers.

You want to fill them almost to the top, but not so much that they are heaping. As the red peppers cook, they will shrink slightly in height, so the filling will start to spill over, if the pepper is filled too full. 

 Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese, equally, on the top of each red pepper.

 At this point, the little red guys are ready to go in the oven to seal in all those flavours. The oven should be at the right temperature (if not, don't worry, it's probably close enough) 

if you wish to freeze the peppers for later, simply wrap each pepper tighly in aluminum foil and put in freezer-safe plastic container or plastic bag. To eat,  thaw at room temperature for about 2-3 hours and then cook as below.

To cook immediately:

Place the peppers cheese side up in a baking dish. Put them in the oven.

If you pre-steamed your peppers, set your timer to about 15 minutes. This will melt the cheese and warm everything up. NOTE: depending on your oven or your desired "crispness" of your peppers, you may need a little more time.

If you followed the original recipe (not steaming), then set your timer to 25 minutes. Again, if you like your peppers a little more soft, you may need to add a bit of extra time. 

Enjoy!

Bunny xxx

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