Believe it or not I’m part Italian. Like many Italians, from an early age I was taught the importance of family, faith and the need to prepare an obscene amount of food for an “intimate” family dinner of 25.
My mother is an amazing cook and taught me how to make delicious dinners like lasagna, chicken parmesan and stuffed peppers. Unfortunately, these meals are traditionally cooked with full fat cheese and ground beef or are pan-fried. Not only are these meals higher in fat and calories, but they also often make me feel sluggish on the following run. So, I’ve been on a quest to try to lighten up some of my mom’s delicious meals in an effort to reduce caloric content and add nutritional value without sacrificing taste.
I started this quest with altering my mom’s original stuffed peppers recipe. Even though the original recipe called for ground beef and white rice, over time I have started to substitute ground turkey and brown rice- and now quinoa! Quinoa is any runner’s best friend: is it gluten free, high in protein and is a complex carbohydrate. It is the perfect option to help fuel your long run!
This recipe is incredibly forgiving with substitutions/additions. Don’t like carrots? Don’t add them! Prefer brown rice? Substitute it. Prefer less quinoa- don’t add as much. I’ve toyed this recipe over the years and have listed my new favorite one below! (Let me know if any other substitutions/additions come to your mind and I’d love to try them out!)
I tend to make this meal in stages throughout the day. I create the filling when I have time (ahem-toddler naptime) and then throw them in the oven about an hour or less before I want dinner to be ready!
6-7 large red bell peppers
1 lb ground turkey meat
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2-4 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 8 oz can diced tomatoes (can use two cans for more texture)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Italian seasoning and/or basil and oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa
1. Dice the onion and the carrots, cook them in a large sauté pan in a teaspoon of olive oil and water. Add in the garlic.
2. Add the turkey meat to the carrots/onion mixture. Add a quarter cup (or so) of water to prevent burning and cook the turnkey meat on medium heat for about 7-10 minutes. During this time place the lid on the pan to help steam the meat and keep it moist. While steaming the meat remove the lid and use the end of a spatula to break up the meat into smaller chunks (pictured above).
3. Once the turkey meat is thoroughly cooked, add both cans of tomatoes (crushed and diced). Cook the mixture on medium heat until it thickens.
4. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Remove the tops and the seeds from the red peppers.
6. In a separate, smaller saucepan bring one cup of quinoa and two cups of water to a boil. Once the mixture boils cook the quinoa on medium to low heat stirring occasionally until cooked.
7. Combine quinoa and turkey/tomato mixture.
8. Spoon the mixture into each pepper until full. Grate a small amount of parmesan cheese on top of each pepper.
9. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes in the middle of oven. (with lid or foil to prevent burning).