Lighter Vegetable Stuffed Peppers (Vegetarian, Low-Carb & Gluten-Free)

FullSizeRender2Try as I might,  I often start blog posts, get distracted by something else I want to write and the original post languishes, sad and unread. NO MORE! In honor of Throwback Thursday (#TBT), I’m finishing these forgotten gems (?) and sharing them. Some are from a couple of months ago, some are from years ago (fun!). Enjoy taking a look back at some awesome travel and eats.

After two weeks in Boston visiting with family this past September, I indulged in all manner of rich home cooking, party food snacks, dessert every day and so many Bloody Marys. Oh the bloody Marys. Needless to say, I was STUFFED upon returning home to Cincinnati.

Upon filling my fridge and pantry with fresh vegetables, cheeses and lean meats,  I set about making some easy and nutrient-heavy dinners. In addition to my favorite Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs, and a lightened up Cauliflower Gratin, I had two large peppers staring at me. I hate when vegetables stare. So I showed them who was boss and stuffed them full of veggie goodness! Take that, peppers.

Rather than use a rice and meat filling as is traditional; I kept these peppers stuffed with all vegetables.  I used a ripe little eggplant which acted a perfect meat substitute and included lots of other veggies to keep this all-vegetable entree feeling hearty.

A note about eggplant: I struggle with making it GOOD. Either I roast it away to nothing or saute it too lightly and it’s rubbery. I’m proud to say, I think this version is a winner! I think marinating the vegetables not only added great flavor; but kept the eggplant from being bitter/rubbery/nasty. You’re welcome.

Adding avocado, salsa and Greek yogurt bulk up the nutrients and satiety factor here. However, you can keep this meal vegan by omitting the cheese and yogurt; and just slather on salsa and avocado instead. We heart vegetables.

Lighter Vegetable Stuffed Peppers 
(Vegetarian, Low-Carb & Gluten-Free)
Serves: 2 ~ Time: 75 minutes including chilling time

2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small to medium eggplant, peeled
1 large white onion, peeled
2 large carrots, peeled
3 cups spinach, cleaned
1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and roughly chopped
4 medium sweet peppers or 2 large sweet peppers (plus 1 extra for the filling)
2 tbs. olive oil (plus more coating the skillet)
1 packet of Simply Organic Southwestern Ranch Greek Yogurt Dip  OR use your favorite combination of Southwestern spices to taste (Adobo, Cumin, Coriander, Chili Powder, Garlic, Salt, Pepper).
4 oz Pepper Jack cheese (or Sharp Cheddar), grated
Sea Salt, Black Pepper

Toppings:
5 oz plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer)
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 c. salsa of your choice

In a large mixing bowl, trim and dice garlic, eggplant, onion and carrot and throw into the mixing bowl. Roughly chop spinach, add that to the bowl. De-seed and dice one pepper and add to the mixing bowl. Slice the tops off the stuffing peppers, de-seed and set aside.

To the mixing bowl, add olive oil and 3/4 packet of seasoning. Toss well and let marinate for 30 minutes on the counter (or in the fridge).  Meanwhile, stir remaining 1/4 seasoning packet into Greek yogurt for serving.

Pre-heat oven to 350. Spray a shallow baking dish (9×11) with cooking spray.
In a large, deep skillet, add oil. Once oil is hot, add vegetables to skillet, stirring occasionally until eggplant is soft, but not mushy (about 8-10 minutes). Add a dash of salt/pepper here, but if you’ve used the seasoning packet, taste before adding too much salt. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Stuff each pepper half with vegetable mix.* Top each half with shredded cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until peppers are soft and cheese is golden brown. Serve immediately with Southwestern greek yogurt, sliced avocado and salsa. Serves 2. *Before baking, you can allow the peppers to cool  IMG_6463 to either freeze or save for another dinner. Just add shredded cheese and bake when you’re ready! 

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