Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

If you’ve read any of my recipe posts before, you’ll know how much I like a quick and easy recipe. Like most families, our weeknights tend to get a bit chaotic, so anything that doesn’t take too much time but is still super tasty and can be considered healthy will always be a winner in my book.

When I was meal planning and grocery list writing for this week I was very unmotivated. Normally I have some ideas of things I want to make during the week, but not this time. This time, I was drawing a blank. I was looking at food images to try to get my creative juices flowing when I came across stuffed peppers. Perfect. Done. Put them on the list. I moved on through the rest of the week’s meals and hit up Trader Joe’s.

Often after grocery shopping and putting away the food, I don’t want to cook dinner. It is just a testament to how simple these are to make that I didn’t mind making dinner after I put the groceries away!

Stuffed peppers are pretty easy and can be totally customizable to whatever flavors you want. I went with a southwestern flavor profile for these and they were very good.

When buying your bell peppers, try to get the ones with four nodes on the bottom. The ones with three are fine, but four makes them a bit easier to stand up in the baking dish. Also, try to get round, fat ones. The longer skinny ones won’t work quite as well.

Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

serves 6-8, depending on the size of your peppers

 

6-8 bell peppers, any color (*see above for tips on buying)

1 pound ground turkey

½ yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ package taco seasoning (or the equivalent of homemade)

1 4oz can diced green chiles

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

2 tablespoons lowfat cream cheese *optional

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 cup or so shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375.

In a skillet over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Brown the turkey with the onions and garlic until the meat is cooked through and the onions and garlic are softened. Next, add the taco seasoning, green chiles, tomato paste, and corn. Stir.

If adding the cream cheese, do it now.  It is optional, but it does take the filling up a notch. It also makes it a bit creamy and less likely to dry out in the oven. It won’t seem like enough at first, but trust me. Keep stirring it in and it will cover the whole pan.

Meanwhile, cut the tops off the peppers and take out the seeds and core. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Stand up in a shallow baking dish.

Time to assemble: In the bottom quarter of each pepper, spoon in some rice. Sprinkle with a little cheese, then top with the meat filling. Pack it in and let it go over the top. Don’t be shy with the filling!  Sprinkle more cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese is all melty.

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Skinny Nachos

Other than cheeseburgers, I’m pretty obsessed with nachos. I mean, how can you beat a plate of really good nachos? The chips, the melted cheese, the chicken (or other meat), sour cream and guacamole. Beans? Yes please. It’s got it all.

My absolute favorite nachos are from Yardhouse. I could eat them at least once a week. I tell everyone about these nachos. Unfortunately, they clock in at a whopping 2,460 calories.  

Yes, I know you are supposed to share them, but even when it’s just my husband and I, that’s still 1230 calories each. Also, I’m not a huge fan of sharing food. I like my food to be my food. You can have some when I’m done. Plus, it messes up the check at the end of the night.


Anyway, I had to come up with something to get my nacho fix. The other day I was looking in my fridge planning lunch. The kids had their turkey and cheese sandwiches and I was *thisclose* to making that for the hubby and myself as well. Then I saw we had leftover turkey taco meat and the lightbulb went off.
SKINNY(ISH) NACHOS!!! They were delish. There’s not a real recipe here because that’s the beauty of nachos: Freedom. Make as much as you want, put whatever toppings you want. Just keep in mind that the ingredients I use are why I can call them skinny. Make all the substitutions you want, but be wary of whether or not you start to lose the “skinny” in the title.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out a layer of Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (I used the Trader Joe’s brand that includes quinoa, chia seeds, and sprouted amaranth). 


Top that with a layer of taco meat. I used leftover turkey taco meat, you can really use any taco/tex-mex flavored meat you like here. Top that with a layer of cheese (I used low fat three cheese blend from Trader Joe’s). 


If you wanted to add beans, you can do that at this point as well.

Bake the chips/cheese/meat mixture at 375 for about 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the meat is warmed through.

Top with whatever you want to top it with. I cut up some cherry tomatoes and added a heaping scoop of guacamole. I also used plain nonfat greek yogurt in place of sour cream.

Instant Pot Turkey Meatloaf 

When it’s 90 degrees outside, one of the last things you want to do is turn on your oven to make dinner. That’s when I will either fire up the grill outside or pull out my Instant Pot. 

I’m sure by now most of you have heard about this wonderful kitchen gadget, so I won’t go on and on, except to again how much I love it. 

Recently I wanted meatloaf, but turning my oven on for over an hour did not sound appealing. I did a little searching and decided to try it out in my Instant Pot.

It turned out great! It was super moist, which is hard to achieve with turkey. My husband said it was probably the best meatloaf he’s ever had. And it cooked in half the usual time, which made me a happy woman! 

Turkey Meatloaf 

1 bell pepper, chopped (or 3-4 mini peppers) 1/2 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Olive oil 

1-1/2 pounds ground turkey 

1/2 tsp garlic powder 

1/2 tsp onion powder 

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs 

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

BBQ sauce if your choice 

In a skillet, sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic in some olive oil until soft. 

Add veggie mix to the ground turkey, garlic powder, onion powder, Parmesan, panko, and egg. Mix until well combined. 

If using an Instant Pot, add 1 cup of water and insert the grate. Form the mixture into a loaf on a piece of foil. Fold the edges up forming a bowl-like shape around the loaf. 


Place on the insert. Set timer to 20 minutes. Let natural release for 10 minutes, then quick release.


Move the meatloaf to an oven proof dish with the foil and pour BBQ sauce over the top. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes. 



Refrigerator Clean-out Turkey Patties   

You know those days where you come home and you are completely worn out? I mean, more than just the usual end-of-the-day tired. I’m talking exhausted, can barely keep your eyes open, WIPED OUT. That was me yesterday. My lovely 3-year-old isn’t much of a sharer, but last week she decided to share her strep throat with me.
 

You guys, I thought it was going to end me.

I had strep when I was in middle school. I remember it being an inconvenience. I remember going about my business of being 13 like it wasn’t that big of a deal. I remember going to the movies, for crying out loud. Nope, not this time. I guess as an adult, strep is a totally different ball game. It laid me out. I was sidelined for a week. I couldn’t do anything. I was *thisclose* to calling an attorney to get my affairs in order. And maybe a priest to read me my last rites. Bottom line: It was awful. So moms, if your child has strep throat, do yourself a favor and go get a hotel room to yourself until it clears up. I only address this to moms, because husbands are apparently made out of steel and seem to somehow resist the death disease.

Anyway, back to the food, which is why you’re actually here. My first day back to regular life went fine, but I was so worn out at the end of the day, I could just cry. And I was starving. But in that state, who has time for a recipe and all that measuring of ingredients nonsense? Not me, that’s who. Instead, I decided to raid my fridge and see what I could throw together. Hence why these are now called “Refrigerator Clean-Out” because that is literally what I did. So creative, I know.

Here’s the scoop:

Finely dice a half a red bell pepper, half a zucchini, and half a leek. Saute over medium heat with some olive oil and salt and pepper, until softened. Just before the mixture is done, add in some minced garlic and cook until done.

Let the veggie mixture cool slightly and add it to a pound of ground turkey. If you are impatient like me and add it right away, your turkey meat will be really sticky. It will still work, but you will just be making it more difficult for yourself. 


Once the veggies are mixed into the turkey, form into patties. Add a little olive oil to a skillet and cook the patties over medium heat for about 7 minutes per side (depending on how big they are). When I flipped the patties, I added a slice of cheese and let it do its melty, gooey, magical cheese thing while the patties continued cooking.

 

I served these with some brown rice and roasted rainbow carrots. (Fun fact: Carrots used to always be “rainbow” carrots, leaning mostly toward purple. Back in the 17th century, the Dutch carrot farmers created orange carrots through selection and hybridization (the Dutch sure love their orange color!). Those carrots were spread throughout the world through immigration and became the carrots known more commonly. The “rainbow” carrots we see are actually the carrots going back to their original roots… pun intended).    

Healthy, Multipurpose Turkey Meat Sauce

OK, so this is my adaptation of a recipe I found a while ago (I can’t remember where). I do remember, though, that the original recipe called this little concoction sloppy joes. I could easily see how this would work perfectly for sloppy joes. The first time I made it, I actually served it over a baked potato and that was pretty delicious. The leftovers have been eaten over pasta and even on their own as-is. That’s why I consider this a “Multipurpose” sauce.

No matter how you decide to eat this, you can know that it will be really yummy and healthy, which is the most you can ask for in a meal.

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 small onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot, chopped small

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 pounds ground turkey

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

½ cup ketchup (preferably organic. Easily found at trader joe’s)

1 8oz can tomato sauce (no added sugar or sodium, preferably)

Water

salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions, bell pepper, and carrot in olive oil until softened. Add the garlic and continue cooking until all the veggies are soft and fragrant.

Add the ground turkey to the skillet with a heavy pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook until no longer pink.  

I forgot to take a picture so pretend there isn’t tomato sauce in the skillet already. 🙂


 

Mix in the garlic and onion powders, ketchup, and tomato sauce. Fill up the tomato sauce can with some water and add that.

Bring the mixture to a boil for a minute or so, then cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Serve in whatever way makes your taste buds dance with joy!

Veggie-Full Turkey Meatloaf Cups

I always know when my husband gets a certain look on his face after taking a bit of something new I made for him. I know in that first bite that I found a winner of a recipe. That’s what happened with these meatloaf cups.

I know what you’re thinking. Meatloaf? What’s so great about meatloaf? And with turkey? Oh, just wait until you try these. My husband immediately requested they get entered into the regular dinner rotation.

Meatloaf can easily become dried out, especially when it’s made of turkey, but these little cups were so tender and so moist. Totally the opposite of dried out meatloaf. They were full of flavor and healthy veggies, and they were super easy. It’s perfect for a weeknight because when you make them in the little cups, you cut down on the cooking time.

Do you need even more reasons to try these? You can make them ahead of time and they are freezer friendly. Boom. Done. Make them.

Now, for the recipe. This is an adaptation of a Bobby Flay recipe I came across randomly on Food Network.

Veggie-Full Turkey Meatloaf Cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 zucchini, diced small

4 or 5 mini sweet peppers, diced small

½ onion, diced small

3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

1 ½ pounds lean ground turkey

1 egg

2 teaspoons ground thyme

1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

4 oz can of mild green chiles

¾ cup ketchup

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Then saute the zucchini, peppers, garlic, and onion until soft. Add a pinch or so of salt and the red pepper flakes while sauteeing. Remove from the heat and set aside to start to cool slightly.

 

In a bowl, add your turkey, egg, thyme, panko, cheese, chiles, ½ cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and the sautéed veggies. Add another heavy pinch of salt and some pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are combined evenly.

 

Divide the meat mixture evenly into the cups of a muffin pan. I didn’t spray the cups first and each one came out perfectly fine. You can also make this as a big loaf, but you will need to increase your cooking time to about an hour and fifteen minutes or so.

Once the meat is divided up, brush on a coat of the balsamic glaze, which is just the remaining ¼ cup of ketchup and ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar whisked together.

Bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes. I checked one at 20 minutes to make sure it was done and it was perfect.

 

Let them sit for a few minutes; it will make it easier to take them out of the cups.

 

These reheat really well, so I could easily see making a big batch of these for premade lunches and dinners. You could even make a bunch and freeze them and just pull out however many you need at a time. They are proportioned, which is really nice.

The Perfectly Roasted Turkey

Let’s talk turkey!

I meant to post this back on Thanksgiving, but I got a little busy. It’s ok, you can save it for next year. Or even if you want to do a turkey for Christmas.

Roasting a turkey seems really intimidating because turkey meat tends to dry out. It really isn’t that hard though and ever since I’ve done it this way, I’ve had a perfectly roasted turkey every year.

Start with a dry brine. You can buy one, like this great one from Williams-Sonoma, or you can make your own, which is what I did this year:

1-1/2 cups of kosher salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

About 4 tablespoons poultry seasoning (it was ½ of the small McCormick container of the poultry seasoning)

Mix together. Clean out your turkey (remove the neck and giblets bag) and dry the outside. Cover the whole bird with your brine. It’s OK to put it on really thick.


Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, make your herb compound butter:

Take 1 stick of room temperature butter (you’ll want it really soft), and mix in:

2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

Heavy pinch of salt

 

Put the butter in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use. The day you need it, take it out of the fridge and bring it back to room temperature. This butter could really be used on just about anything.

 

When you are ready to roast your turkey, unwrap it and rinse off all the brine. Dry it off and rub the whole thing with your compound butter. Make sure you get under the skin. This is pretty easy to do.

 

Put the bird in the roasting bag with some flour (see instructions on the roasting bags). I’ve also tried it where I put the bird in the bag and then put the butter on it. Either way works. I found them both to be about the same level of difficulty.

Put half an onion and all the herbs from one of those plastic packages at the grocery store of the Poultry blend in the cavity. Close the bag and cut a few slits in the top of the bag.

 

Roast at 350 degrees for about 2-3 hours or so depending on the size of your turkey. The roasting bag box will give you the correct instructions.

 

These roasting bags will help you immensely! You don’t have to worry about basting or anything. You just put the bird in the oven and set your timer.

Let the turkey sit for about 30 minutes before you start to carve it.

 

Now pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your Thanksgiving or Christmas or holiday or really any day. Where is the rule that you can’t just roast a turkey whenever you feel like it? 😊