Monday, January 7, 2013

Stuff It: Mexican Stuffed Peppers

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was super productive while also super relaxing all at once. The condo finally is Christmas-free, the gifts are put away and I am caught up on the to-do list that had been nagging me since our return from NJ.

On Friday night, some of the gals and I got into talks about eating, drinking, losing weight and weddings. You know, things that are never on my mind these days ;) (14 weeks until the wedding and counting!!) Weight Watchers came up, and our conversations reminded me how much I really do like this program. While counting points isn't for everyone, it's the knowledge of food and portion control that you gain that is really a wonderful thing. Even on days when I am slacking on officially tracking, I can estimate a portion of meat or a serving of chips.

This is the time of year for comfort foods, though. Lasagna. Cream-based soups. Carb-loading. Thankfully, though, this is also the easiest time of year for me to refocus on WW. I am naturally craving healthier foods after the holiday binge, and vegetables and fruits can help brighten up dreary days and nights. Last week, craving something "stuffed" but also healthy, I tried out my own version of these stuffed avocados:

I stuffed my avocado halves with a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs, diced tomatoes, basil, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. They were quite tasty, and if you are an avocado lover like I am, you would enjoy them, too. Like bruschetta, but with more healthy fats and less carbs! I cooked mine at 450 for about 10 minutes to warm them through. 

As part of my (annual) New Year, New Me resolution, the grocery store is back in regular rotation. Except for this week, because I didn't go to the grocery store yesterday as planned. Fail. Now I am dipping through the (very last) of the pantry and freezer stocks for a day or two. Good thing I made a big meal on Saturday night that has since been featured in multiple leftover renditions!

While I really wanted pizza (that craving never seems to die, no matter how "healthy" I am being) as Saturday afternoon came to a close, I knew that caving to that craving so early in the year would be no good. My mind was also still on the whole "stuffed" thing, and these Mexican stuffed shells have been burning a whole in my head for the last few weeks:

Determined to lighten things up again and make a WW-worthy meal, I decided we would have Mexican Stuffed Peppers, instead! Here is how I did it.

First, I made the filling, a mixture of ground turkey breast prepared with taco seasonings, cooked whole wheat orzo, diced tomatoes, Mexican shredded cheese.

Once I mixed that all together, I prepared and lined up the peppers in a greased dish, slicing off the bottoms as needed so that they would stand up straight.

Then, I stuffed the peppers full!

We received a jar of red chile pepper sauce for Christmas from family that I chose to use all over the top of the peppers. I drenched the peppers with the entire jar of sauce and topped them with a sprinkling of shredded cheese. Then, into the oven they went for an hour. I basted the peppers once during the cook time, which helped keep the peppers moist and prevent any sauce from over-cooking.

Our peppers, thanks to the sauce, were extra spicy (yum!), so a dollop of sour cream at the end was a MUST. You can skip this on yours, if you want, but we loved the creamy and cool texture it adds.

Since it was just the two of us for dinner, we had four peppers left over. Two were used, along with the extra filling I had on hand, cut up on top of tortilla chips last night for a quickie nacho dinner. Then today, I enjoyed another one reheated for lunch!

Mexican Stuffed Shells
Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 cup of water
2/3 cup of uncooked whole wheat orzo
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. of shredded Mexican cheese
1 cup of diced tomatoes
1 jar of taco or enchilada sauce (approximately one cup)
6 bell peppers, cored and tops removed

Cook turkey breast over medium heat until done; add taco seasoning packet and water, stir to combine and let simmer for five minutes. While turkey breast is cooking, prepare orzo as directed, draining when done.

To prepare stuffing, combine cooked and seasoned turkey breast, cooked orzo, 1 cup of cheese and tomatoes in a bowl. Line peppers in a greased baking dish, cut sides facing up. Fill each pepper with stuffing, mounding up on top. Pour sauce over all peppers, and sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp. of cheese. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for one hour, basting peppers with sauce halfway through. Serve with side salad, black beans and/or tortilla chips.


I hope that you enjoy this recipe, too. It's fun to think about "other containers" for food, especially if they can add just as much flavor or texture as pasta or other carbs might. From peppers to lettuce wraps, there are lots of ideas. Here is another stuffed pepper option that sounded great - Orzo Stuffed Peppers.

What food swaps do you make in your life? Please share in the comments -- I need some other ideas to keep this momentum going!

Now ... how to low-carb/WW these ... ha!

Happy Cooking!