In a society overrun with artery clogging fast food chains, it is important to partake in healthy cooking practices. While “healthy” once referred to one dimensional, bland rabbit food, healthy can also denote dynamic, tasty morsels. Using fresh vegetables and alternative low fat proteins are excellent ways of combating the convenient easy-out fast food route to dinner.
One delectable dinner favorite in the New Mexican household is the stuffed bell pepper. Traditionally made with ground or shredded beef, bacon, and loaded with gooey cheese, the nutritional value of this pepper dish is lost when all the “bad fat” is stuffed in and piled on top.
By swapping out the beef for ground or shredded turkey, trading regular bacon for turkey bacon and adding fresh or frozen vegetables, you can boost the nourishment without sacrificing flavor.
- Nifty Nutritional Note: Kathleen M. Zelman, expert WebMD Weight Loss columnist and director of Nutrition, Diet and Food Information for WebMD.com, writes that bell peppers are rich in Vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps the body combat chronic diseases that attack the heart.
Here is an easy to follow recipe for the healthier take on this meal that will feed a family of four to six individuals.
4-6 bell peppers of desired color, tops and seeds removed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2½ cups cooked brown rice
½ yellow onion, finely diced
2 pounds ground turkey
8-10 oz (1can) corn
8-10 oz (1 can) carrots
1½ cup reduced fat cheese
1 pound turkey bacon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush prepared peppers with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes to soften. Set aside. Prepare brown rice and turkey bacon according to directions on packages. Keep oven on.
In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and diced bell peppers, seasoning with salt and pepper. After about 3 minutes, add garlic and continue cooking until garlic becomes aromatic and onions are translucent. Set vegetables aside.
Using the same skillet, cook ground turkey until browned. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin. Return vegetables to the skillet and stir into meat. Drain canned carrots and corn then add to skillet. Crumble bacon into bits and add to skillet.
In a large bowl or pot, combine meat and vegetables with the cooked brown rice. Sprinkle ½ cup of the shredded cheese and stir well. With remaining cheese, begin to stuff bell peppers. Alternate layering cheese with the stuffing mixture and continue until peppers are full. Reserve enough cheese to top peppers one last time. Return peppers to the baking tray and bake in 375°F oven for 15 minutes or until tops are slightly crispy.
Remove tray from oven and top bell peppers with remaining cheese. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F and return peppers to the oven for 5 minutes. When cheese is melted and bubbling, remove from the oven. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
This is only one variation of this tasty dish. Other options include substituting the turkey with chicken breast and changing up the vegetables by adding green beans, peas or even a can of mixed vegetables. Try different combinations to please your family. It is sure to become a favorite request.