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.

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30-Minute Shortcut Beef and Vegetable Ragu. (GF, DF, Paleo)

The most flavorful ragu ever! Perfect for a weeknight meal, and a great way to sneak in some veggies!

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I had NO idea how amazing this meal was going to be when I made it.
So. Much. Flavor!!
My husband proclaimed it one of his favorite meals ever. So simple, but seriously amazing.

You know it’s a winner when you genuinely look forward to the leftovers, and this sauce reheats beautifully–it’s almost better the second day! You can serve it over pasta, gluten-free pasta, or spaghetti squash (my favorite!).

Speaking of which, click here to learn how to cook spaghetti squash!

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Okay, so what makes this sauce so wonderful?

  • From start to finish, you can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. Always a win, especially on busy weeknights. Thanks, food processor, for making this so quick and easy!
  • Everyone loves spaghetti and meat sauce, right? Right. Gotta love dishes that will appeal to your entire family.
  • The ingredients are simple. Humble, even. But, when they come together, they create a rich, cozy sauce. The key is using high quality beef (grass-fed), and marinara sauce.
  • The “shortcut” in this shortcut ragu is the marinara sauce. It’s (gasp) store-bought. Normally I’m all about making everything from scratch, but sometimessssss life gets crazy and you need a quick meal. Find a high-quality marinara sauce and it will make this meat sauce taste like it has been simmering all day.
  • My favorite –> Hidden veggies! In order to sneak some vegetables into the sauce, I threw them in the food processor first until they were chopped up teeny tiny. My husband hates mushrooms but didn’t even know he was eating them!

Hooray for adding nutrition and making a meal go further in a healthy, cost-effective way! I love it.

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Quick tip: double this recipe and freeze it!

30-Minute Shortcut Beef and Vegetable Ragu

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef (I used 90/10)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (I used a handful of baby carrots!)
  • 1 rib of celery, roughly chopped
  • 4oz sliced mushrooms
  • 24 oz high quality tomato-basil marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • cooked pasta (regular or GF), or spaghetti squash
  • salt and pepper

1). Heat a large skillet or pot over medium heat and add the ground beef. While it is beginning to brown, add the onion and garlic to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper.

2). Add the carrot, celery, and mushrooms to the food processor. Pulse until minced. Add to the skillet and season with salt and pepper.

3). When the ground beef is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender, add the marinara sauce and chicken broth, stirring to combine. Reduce heat slightly and place a lid partially on top of the skillet. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4). Stir in fresh basil. Taste and re-season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve over cooked pasta or spaghetti squash.

Servings of sauce: about 6. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 203 Carbs: 16g Fat: 7g Protein: 18g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g Points+: 5 Recipe adapted from here

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.

Easy Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette.

My go-to balsamic vinaigrette recipe–quick, healthy, and easy!

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I can’t help but think about all the holidays (also: holiday food) that will be here soon, so I’m hoping this recipe will make eating salads more exciting in the meantime! Once the weather turns cold I don’t find myself craving crisp salads as much, but thankfully here in the south we’re still having highs in the 80’s, and my tomato plant is still producing lots of tomatoes, so salads are here to stay for now!

But let’s be honest…with a vinaigrette this delish we eat salads year-round.

Making a homemade vinaigrette is easy and I PROMISE it barely takes 5 minutes, but it makes a huge difference in the end result of your salad. I’m the first to admit that I don’t aaaaaaaalways make my own dressings, but I really prefer them. Not only do you have 100% control over every ingredient (goodbye crazy ingredients you can’t pronounce!), but they just have so. much. flavor!

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I like making my vinaigrettes in mason jars because I can measure straight into the jars, AND shake ’em up right in the container before serving. I also prefer using agave nectar over honey, but if you don’t have any agave nectar you can make that substitution. I also like a tart vinaigrette, but if you taste it and find it’s too tart for your liking, simply increase the olive oil by about 1/4 cup. It will dilute the balsamic vinegar for you.

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One of my favorite salad combinations? Lettuce, homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocado, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and this vinaigrette. Add some grilled chicken and you have yourself a complete meal!

Easy Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette.

  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp agave nectar (start with 1 and add more from there if it tastes too tart)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • sea salt and black pepper

1). Combine all ingredients in a jar (or bowl) and shake (or whisk) to combine.

Servings: about 12. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 90 Carbs: 2g Fat: 9g Points+: 3 Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

Roasted Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Sauce.

An easy, home-made version of my favorite jarred marinara sauce made with roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, carrots, and fresh basil!

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I’m pressing pause on the apple, cinnamon, pumpkin-everything recipes, even though we’re a few days away from the official start of fall. My garden is exploding with beautiful summer fruit (now more-so than ever!), and I bet I’m not the only one!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know this year was my first year planting a garden, and you also know I recently harvested dozens of tomatoes. Until now, I’ve been able to pick a couple tomatoes from the garden each day ad incorporate them in simple caprese or garden salads. Last weekend was a game-changer! I had two buckets full of tomatoes and I realized I was going to have to use them up in a large quantity all at once.

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I asked for your opinion on what I should make. Some said marinara, some said salsa, and some said gazpacho. Having spent time in Spain, I loooove gazpacho and was ready to make it until I realized I would be the only one in my family eating it. I was leaning toward marinara sauce, but I dreaded having to peel so many tomatoes. I know the trick about blanching them in boiling water, but it still seemed overly time-consuming. I wanted big flavor without slaving away in the kitchen all day, ya know?

Thankfully, an extended family member suggested an easier alternative to marinara sauce that included roasting the tomatoes first (hooray for not peeling tomatoes!!!). I tweaked her recipe a little bit and included carrots for some sweetness with the onion and garlic.

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Oh, and I roasted a WHOLE head of garlic for this recipe. I’m glad I did, because the garlic flavor was still subtle even with the large quantity I used! Have you ever roasted garlic before? I hadn’t either–but it is SOOOOO easy. Much faster than having to take out individual cloves. Are you ready? It’s done in 3 steps

1). Cut the top (pointy) side of the garlic bulb about 1/3 of the way down, so the tops of the garlic cloves are exposed.

2). Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3). Wrap in foil and place in the oven. Ta-da!

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I am probably going to be roasting garlic for everything now! The little garlic foil packet roasted right on the oven rack next to my giant pan of tomatoes and veggies for about 40 minutes. More room on my baking pan = more tomatoes get used!

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When the liquid in the veggies has evaporated and all the tomatoes are shriveled up (lovely imagery, no?), you know they’re ready to take out. For me, that was about 40-45 minutes at 400F. Let them cool a little bit and then get out the food processor.

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Seriously, I love my food processor. It makes fancy sauces so easy. If you don’t have one, use a blender. Scraaaaaaaaaaape all that yummyness off the pan, straight into the food processor. Don’t forget about the garlic!! The cloves are soft and easy to squeeze out, so add them all to the big roasted veggie party. Did I just call it a party? Yes I did.

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Taste and add whatever you think would be good: balsamic vinegar, more olive oil, parmesan cheese, more seasoning, a touch of sugar, fresh basil, etc. I love basil in my sauce, so I added a small handful of leaves and processed them together. My sauce was thick (which I actually like), but you can thin yours out with more olive oil if you prefer a looser sauce.

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What do you like to do with fresh tomatoes? Let me know in the comments!

Roasted Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Sauce

Yield: about 2 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1-2 dozen chopped tomatoes, depending on size. (I used cherry and regular tomatoes, enough to fill 1 large baking sheet)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Freshly cracked sea salt and pepper
  • 1 whole garlic bulb
  • Fresh basil (I used about 8 leaves)

1). Pre-heat the oven to 400F. For the roasted garlic: cut off about 1/3 of the top of the garlic bulb (pointy side). Cut enough so the tops of the garlic cloves are now exposed. Place on foil, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap up tightly and bake directly on the oven rack with the tray of tomatoes.

2). Place the chopped tomatoes, carrot, and onion on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

3). Remove the garlic and veggies. Let them cool about 15 minutes before scraping into the food processor. Add a small handful of fresh basil. Pulse until smooth. Taste and re-season, if necessary. You may need to add more olive oil for a looser sauce, balsamic vinegar for tang, sugar to sweeten, or more basil based on your preferences!

Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron. Thanks to family for the inspiration!!

 

Caprese Quinoa Salad.

A healthy, easy side dish filled with bright mediterranean flavors!

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Tomatoes + basil = perfection, am I right? I never get tired of that flavor combination.

I know adding mozzarella to the mix is the most traditional option, but I decided to use feta instead. It’s still very mediterranean, but more flavorful in my opinion. Feta is slightly more tangy and salty than mozzarella, and I think it worked great here. If you prefer mozzarella, use it!

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If you have a garden, this is the perfect way to use up a lot of fresh tomatoes and basil. It’s amazing how such simple ingredients can be so good, am I right? Complicated recipes have their time and place, but this is not one of them, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and you’re good to go!

I served this with grilled chicken breast, but this would be great with fish, pork, beef, whatever! And, if you’re vegetarian, this could become a main dish. You can eat it warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge. The leftovers were great, too!

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Do you like caprese salads? Tell me your opinion in the comments section below!

Caprese Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 10-15 basil leaves cut chiffonade
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or mozzarella)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 Tbsp lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
  • Generous amount of sea salt (about 3/4 tsp) and freshly cracked black pepper (about 1/2 tsp), to taste

1). In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and quinoa to a boil. Cook according to package directions, about 15-18 minutes or until all the broth is absorbed. Move the quinoa to a large bowl to let it cool.

2). Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl of quinoa, tossing to combine well. Taste and re-season, if necessary. Enjoy immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Servings: about 8 1-cup servings. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 157 Carbs: 17g Fat: 7g Protein: 7g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 2g Points+: 4.
Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

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