Stuffed Pepper Soup. (GF, DF, Paleo)

A deconstructed version of traditional stuffed bell peppers–all the flavors of the original dish, but in soup form!

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I think I speak for, oh, half of the country when I say: brrrrrrr.

Snow, ice, and sub-zero wind chills? Pretty sure I’m going to turn into a human popsicle.
What better way to warm up than with this cozy bowl of stuffed pepper soup?
I grew up eating stuffed bell peppers (a lot), and I really love them.
But, did you know you can take all of the ingredients and flavors of stuffed peppers, and put them in a soup?

I was a little hesitant the first time I made this because I was skeptical that this soup could actually taste like traditional stuffed peppers. Thankfully, it did, and I’ve made it many, many times since!

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In a way, the soup version is easier because you don’t have to actually stuff the peppers and bake them. Just let the soup do it’s thing, boil some rice seperately (if you want it), and it’s ready to go!

A note on the rice: traditional peppers have rice in them. Add it if you’d like, or don’t! If you are trying to keep it paleo-friendly, you’ll want to skip the rice.

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Growing up, we always topped our stuffed peppers with sour cream, so you can do that if you’d like. Again, for dairy-free/paleo, skip the topping.

Make a big pot of this soup tonight and stay warm!!

Stuffed Pepper Soup
Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean grass-fed ground beef (or turkey, if you’d prefer)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: cooked rice

1). Heat a large pot to medium-high heat. Brown the ground meat until no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and add onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened.

2). Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, marjoram, and more salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.

3). Serve in bowls, over rice, if desired. Top with sour cream if you’d like!

Servings: 6. Serving size: 1 1/2 cups soup, 1/2 cup rice. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 261 Fat: 5g Carbs: 37.5g Fiber: 5g Protein: 17.6g Sugar: 6g Points+: 7 Recipe adapted from here. Adapted recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Paleo Italian Stuffed Peppers.

Perfect for a weeknight meal, these paleo stuffed peppers are easy and healthy!

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It’s January! Everyone is looking to clean up their diets this time of year, and this is the perfect recipe to fit any new year’s resolution that is clean-eating related. This dish is paleo, Whole30 compliant, gluten-free, and overall delicious. You won’t even miss the rice that is traditionally included in stuffed peppers.

The real star of this show is the meat. So savory! So flavorful! It was absolutely perfect. There’s a hint of Italian fare from the basil, but it is not overpowering. I added lots of chopped spinach to get as many veggies in as possible.

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Did I mention this recipe is super simple and easy? While the peppers are doing their initial bake, cook the meat and vegetables. Once the peppers are out of the oven, stuff them with the meat mixture. Then you can either put them back in the oven for a few minutes, or, if you don’t mind firmer peppers, eat them as-is. Also, if you don’t mind adding dairy, I think a sprinkle of parmesan cheese would be fabulous here! I’m already thinking of other ways I can use this meat mixture (tacos, perhaps?) because it’s soo good!

Paleo Italian Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 4 bell peppers, cut in half
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1lb grass-fed ground beef (or turkey)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, chopped (or 1/2 can diced tomatoes, or 4 small tomatoes)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1). Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Place the bell peppers, cut side down, in a large baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes.
2). While the peppers are baking, add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Season well with salt and pepper.
3). Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic to the pan. Cook for a few minutes and then add the basil and spinach. Cook until wilted. Add more salt and pepper, to taste.
4). Evenly distribute the meat mixture into each pepper half. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or eat!

Servings: 4. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 240 Carbs: 7g Fat: 15g Protein: 24g Sugar: 4g Fiber: 2g Points+: 7 Recipe adapted from here.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Chili. (GF)

A cozy fall chili recipe made in the crock pot that your whole family will love!

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Oh October.

I love you.

You’re the month of bonfires, football, plaid, boots, and scarves.

And ever-changing brightly colored leaves.

And, of course, #pumpkinallthethings! Yes, even chili!

You know what’s awesome about putting pumpkin in chili? You can’t taste it, but it thickens the chili up (yay texture!) and you get all kinds of important vitamins and nutrients (yay health!).

Did you know pumpkins have a large amount of vitamin A, fiber, beta-carotene (an anti-oxidant), potassium, vitamin C, and more? Now we can all feel good about our pumpkin-obsessions because they’re so good for us! Yes yes yes.

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If you have non-pumpkin loving friends and family, you should definitely still make this chili. I promise you really can’t taste the pumpkin! Pumpkin alone does not have a very strong flavor; it’s all of those strong fall spices that are usually added to pumpkin baked goods that make it stand out. Since this is a savory recipe, none of those spices are present. What does that mean for us? Nice, even flavored chili.

This recipe comes together very quickly. After you cook your meat (ground beef or turkey, whatever you prefer!), add all the other ingredients together in the crock pot. Let it cook all day, and when you come home you’ll be greeted with piping hot chili and a wonderful aroma.

Sound perfect? It pretty much is.

Then all that’s left to do is light a pumpkin candle (tell me I’m not alone), cozy up on the couch with a big bowl of this hearty stuff, and revel in autumn’s arrival!

Crock Pot Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 can low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 large can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1.5 tbsp chili powder
  • 1.5 tbsp cumin

1). Cook the ground meat and chopped onion in a large skillet until the meat is cooked through and the onion is soft.

2). Spray the crock pot with cooking spray. Add the cooked meat and all the other ingredients. Stir to combine.

3). Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Servings: 6. Serving size: 1 1/2 cups. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 434 Carbs: 57g Fat: 8g Protein: 37g Fiber: 14g Points+: 11 Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

 

Taco Stuffed Squash (or Zucchini) Boats.

Squash boats nestled in salsa, filled with zesty taco meat, and topped with cheese. A new twist on taco night!

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Everyone loves tacos, right? Right. This recipe is a new take on a taco, and a great way to get in a serving of vegetables. Same taco flavor you love and expect, just using a healthier, gluten-free alternative. I used yellow squash because I had a ton, but if you have zucchini feel free to use that instead! My husband doesn’t love yellow squash but he went back for seconds on this dish!

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The meat in the boats is really flavorful due to a low-and-slow simmer in a homemade taco seasoning. Fear not–homemade does not have to equal complicated! It’s made with just cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. There’s no need for a taco seasoning packet filled with all sorts of additives when making your own is this simple! Chances are you already have those spices sitting in your pantry right this very moment.

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To make the squash into “boats”, you have to spoon out the seeds in the middle. You can’t do this easily without cooking the squash first. Lucky for you I tried that method to see if I could skip a step and the answer is clear: NOPE! If you’re using zucchini, you might be able to do this with a melon baller while they’re raw. Regardless, you need to cook the boats before you stuff them because the final bake in the oven is not going to be long enough to cook them start to finish.

So, you have two options:

  1. Boil the squash halves in a pot of water for a few minutes.
  2. Bake the squash cut-side-down on a pan at 400F for about 12-15 minutes.

I prefer the second option for many reasons:

  • It gives me time to cook the meat mixture while they’re baking, so I don’t have to multi-task too much.
  • I actually think it enhances the flavor because you sprinkle them with oil, salt, and pepper before baking.
  • I’m going to preheat the oven to 400F anyway, so that’s not an inconvenience.
  • It reduces the final bake time because they’re more cooked through with this method.
  • And finally, covering the pan with foil = no clean up, while boiling in water = a pot to clean up.

Let’s be honest, that last point was the real reason. : )

But, if you’d rather boil the halves then go for it! Either way, let them cool before you scoop out the seeds in the middle.

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Would you try this? Does your family have a taco night? Let me know in the comment section below. I see a lot of “Taco Tuesday” posts on social media. I love experimenting in the kitchen a liiiiiiittle too much to dedicate an entire meal every week to the same dish, but I can definitely see the appeal!

Taco Stuffed Squash.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 squash or zucchini depending on size (I had a couple tiny ones so I used 6), cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2-3/4 cup mild salsa
  • 1 lb 93% lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, minced
  • 4 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions or cilantro, for topping

1). Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lightly drizzle squash with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash face down on the pan and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until fork-tender. Allow them to cool a few minutes until they aren’t too hot to touch, then use a spoon to scoop out the center of each half. Reserve this to add to the meat mixture (optional).

2). While the squash is baking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meat. Add the onion and bell pepper. When the meat is no longer pink, add the spices, leftover squash, tomato sauce, 1/4 cup salsa and water. Stir, cover, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

3). Meanwhile, spread about 1/4-1/2 cup salsa in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Arrange the squash boats in the baking dish. Add 1/3 cup of meat to each boat, then sprinkle with about 1 tbsp cheese and some fresh cilantro. Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serving size: 2 halves. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 286 Fat: 12g Carbs: 18g Fiber: 5g Protein: 28g Points+: 7
Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/07/taco-stuffed-zucchini-boats.html

 

Zucchini Lasagna (Gluten-Free!).

Thin slices of grilled zucchini take the place of traditional lasagna noodles, and are then nestled in a rich meat and cheese sauce. You won’t miss the pasta one bit!

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See that beautiful green peaking through the lasagna? That’s the zucchini. I realize many of you have got to be really skeptical at this point. Zucchini for lasagna noodles?! It sounds crazy, I know, and even I had my reservations about it. I’m pretty sure I looked at my husband at one point while assembling this and told him I had no idea if this was going to turn out well. Thankfully, it did. Not only did it turn out well, it was awesome!! He’s not a huge fan of zucchini and really loved this one too. With lots of meat and cheese, what’s not to love? Yum.

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For those of you who follow me on instagram (if you don’t, you should!), you may recall I recently had a tiiiiny kitchen incident earlier this week involving a knife and 3 of my fingers. A record, to be sure. This recipe was worth it, though. It just goes to show you everyone can have one of those days in the kitchen, and you need to be careful with sharp knives. Which, by the way, you’ll need a sharp knife or a mandoline to achieve these thin slices of zucchini you’ll use to replace the noodles. Just be careful and don’t do what I did. : )

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Once they’re thinly sliced (you’re going for about 1/8-1/4 inch slice), sprinkle some salt on ’em to draw out excess water, pat them dry, and grill them up on an indoor or outdoor grill. These slices are so thin that they’ll be ready within 1-2 minutes per side. My indoor grill took a little longer than that on some of my slightly thicker slices, but just pierce them with a fork to test if they’re done. They’ll look something like this:

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I had 3 small zucchini, and it ended up not being enough for the layers, so I did the above steps with 2 small yellow squash and added it in the middle layer, which worked out great. So, if your garden is exploding with one squash and not the other, you can certainly substitute yellow squash!

While all of that’s happening, you’ll brown your meat and make a yummy sauce. Then, in another bowl, you’ll mix together ricotta cheese with parmesan and egg. That’s what makes this sauce so creamy and rich tasting. Once everything is ready, start layering! Sauce goes in the bottom of the pan first, followed by zucchini, ricotta mixture, mozzarella cheese, and another layer of sauce. I was able to have 3 layers of zucchini total. The top layer is a little different in that you only add the remaining sauce and mozzarella, no ricotta. This is important because you now know you can use half the ricotta mixture on the first layer, and the second half on the second layer. Make sense? Then once it’s all beautifully assembled, cover it with foil and bake it for about 30 minutes.

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After 30-40 minutes, remove the foil and either let it bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown on top, or turn your broiler on high for a few minutes. This lasagna took a pretty long while to assemble and we were hungry, so I went with the broiler route. Just be sure to keep an eye on it!

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The portion sizes on mine worked out to be equivalent to about the width of 2 slices of zucchini. Pair it with a big salad and you’ve got yourself a really filling meal!

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Zucchini Lasagna (Gluten-Free!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb 96% lean beef (or ground turkey)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • salt and pepper
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3-4 large zucchini OR yellow squash, sliced 1/8″-1/4″ thick (I used 3 small zucchini + 2 small yellow squash)
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta
  • 16 oz part-skin mozzarella cheese, shredded (I did not use the whole bag but you can if you’d like!)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg

1). For the meat sauce: Heat a large pan and brown the meat, seasoning liberally with salt and pepper. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes, basil, and more salt and pepper. Simmer on low, covered, for about 30 minutes while you prepare the zucchini.

2). Sprinkle a little bit of salt on the thinly sliced zucchini to draw out any excess moisture and after 10 minutes pat them dry with a paper towel. Heat your grill and grill the zucchini slices for 1-2 minutes per side, or slightly longer for any thicker slices you may have. To test if they’re done, pierce them with a fork. They should be easily pierced when cooked through.

3). Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, and egg together well.

4). Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. Begin layering. Spoon some of the sauce on the bottom of the pan, then top with zucchini slices. Add HALF the ricotta mixture on top of this layer, then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Add more sauce, zucchini, the second half of the ricotta mixture, and more mozzarella cheese. Top with more sauce, the last layer of zucchini, more sauce, and the last of the mozzarella cheese.

5). Cover with foil and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden-brown. Alternatively, you can turn the broiler on high to achieve the golden brown look quicker (just be sure to keep an eye on it!)

6). Allow the lasagna to rest about 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Servings: 8. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 345 Carbs: 16g Fat: 17g Protein: 36g Fiber: 2g Points+: 9
Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/02/zucchini-lasagna.html 

 

 

Clean Southwestern Bowl with Turkey and Black Beans!

We’re back to our regularly scheduled programming of healthy recipes on Audrey’s Apron! This recipe is simple but has a ton of flavor! Just a few ingredients (ground turkey, black beans, onions, and a pepper) combined with lots of delicious spices and herbs make this delish. I chose to serve it over a little bit of brown rice, but you could also use spaghetti squash or even quinoa. You can add cheese, corn, or substitute ground turkey for ground beef as well. It’s completely customize-able to whatever you and your family prefers!

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You can see the specks of fresh cilantro peaking through, but what you can’t see is the perfect medley of spices in each bite: cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano ensure each bite is really flavorful. One of the most important ingredients: lime juice. It brightens up the entire dish and counters some of the heat from the other spices. This is so, so good!

This is a meal that tastes great and will keep you full without weighing you down. Plus, it’s so quick to whip up! It definitely falls under the 30 minutes or less category, especially if you have your brown rice prepared ahead of time. I plan on making this again in the coming weeks!

If you have a new year’s resolution to eat clean, unprocessed meals, this recipe is a great place to start!

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Clean Southwestern Bowl with Turkey and Black Beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (or ground beef, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red or white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper (or any color–I used orange because it’s what I had!), chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup freshly torn cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1). In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook thoroughly, breaking it up into small pieces. Add garlic, spices, and salt and pepper. Mix together.

2). Stir in black beans, cilantro, and lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or spaghetti squash.

Servings: about 5. Nutritional information per serving: Calories: 222. Carbs: 18g Fat: 4g Protein: 31g Fiber: 5g WW Points+: 5.

Recipe inspired from: http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com/2013/10/southwestern-stuffed-spaghetti-squash.html. Adapted recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

 

 

Simple Summer Chili

Chili is traditionally a cold weather favorite, but I love that this recipe incorporates in-season zucchini! This summer has been so rainy that a cozy meal like this one has been a welcomed change to grilling outside.

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I originally found this recipe from a health and fitness blog I love to read, and this may be my new favorite chili recipe (thanks, Julie!!). The best part is the spice blend–it is PERFECT. It tastes just like the chili seasoning you can purchase in packets at the grocery store, but it is so simple and easy to make yourself! And so much better for you,  too. Ground beef or ground turkey both work well in this recipe–it is completely up to you! You can also use your favorite kind of bean…I like to switch it up between black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans based on what I have in the pantry.

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Whip this up for your family tonight! It will certainly be a hit!

Simple Summer Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 can low sodium beans (kidney/pinto/black–whichever!), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added (do not drain!)
  • 1 cup beef broth, reduced-sodium and fat free
  • 1.5 tbsp chili powder
  • 1.5 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

1). In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and zucchini, stirring until tender and opaque. Add ground beef/turkey and stir until meat is browned.

2). Drain any excess fat from pan before adding remaining ingredients. Add as much/little beef broth as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until flavors are well blended.

3). Enjoy topped with low-fat cheese, light sour cream, non-fat greek yogurt, or simply as is!

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 219 Carbs: 20g Fat: 7g Protein: 22g Sugar: 4g Fiber: 6g

WW PointsPlus: 6

Recipe adapted from: http://www.pbfingers.com/2012/07/23/simple-summer-chili/