Mexican Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Peppers (Vegan and Gluten Free!)

When you think of stuffed peppers what comes to mind? If you’re like me, stuffed peppers weren’t one of your favorite dinners growing up. Although I always loved vegetables (yes, I was that kid), something about vegetables being stuffed with other ingredients never appealed to me. My fiancé is in agreement, and when I told him I was trying a stuffed pepper recipe he let me know his thoughts. His issue with stuffed peppers has always been about the texture, chiming in to say that something about the texture of roasted peppers never really went well with the rice/meat filling. I have to agree, but I wanted to see if I could change up a few things to make stuffed peppers more appetizing, satisfying and of course, healthy!

I looked through my fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what I could add or change to the standard stuffed pepper and found a few things. First, instead of rice, I’m using cauliflower rice (cauliflower cut up into little pieces that resembles rice). What I love about cauliflower rice is that its much lighter in texture and less dense than regular rice, so it doesn’t lead to that bloated, heavy feeling that can sometimes happen after eating rice (nothing against rice though, I love it on its own). I’m also a big fan of adding more veggies to meals in general. I used Whole Foods Market frozen cauliflower rice for this dish (found in the frozen section).

In addition to changing things up a bit with the cauli-rice, I also decided to give this dish a Mexican flavor by using taco seasoning and ingredients that are in my favorite Mexican dishes. Instead of using ground beef or a meat alternative (like impossible/beyond meat), I stuck to the basics and used black beans. Black beans are a good source of fiber and whole, unprocessed plant-based protein. For color and texture, I added corn, chopped mushrooms, onions, and zucchini. Using several different vegetables makes this dish an excellent source of antioxidants and chock-full of fiber which leads to better overall health. To give these peppers some flavor, I used my favorite taco seasoning along with tomato paste. Tomato paste can be very acidic on its own, so I always like to water mine down with 1-2 tbsp. of water. For even more flavor, feel free to add jalapeños or your favorite spicy pepper. Some like it hot, but I’m not one of those people, so I opted to not use anything too spicy in this dish. I topped the peppers with Daiya plant-based cheese, but if you’re not a fan, you can skip this step. You can always add (or omit) whatever ingredients you like. After these came out of the oven, Tom (my fiancé) was actually excited to try them, which was surprising, considering his apprehension towards stuffed peppers in general. We both loved them and I have a feeling I’ll be making this dish more often. They taste great with a side of tortilla chips & salsa, or with fresh veggies & guac. Let me know if you try the recipe and what you think.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large bell peppers
  • 2 cups frozen cauliflower rice
  • 2 oz (about 3/4 cup) chopped mushrooms (I like portobellos)
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (I only had red onion available, but yellow or white onions would also work)
  • 1 cup rinsed, drained canned black beans
  • 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned corn
  • 2 tsp. taco seasoning (I love Siete Foods brand taco seasoning)
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste + 2 tbsp. water
  • olive oil (for the pans)
  • cheese of your choice (I used Daiya brand shredded cheddar)

Directions:

  • Heat up the cauliflower rice in the microwave or stove so that it is lightly cooked
  • Remove the cauliflower rice from the microwave or stove and place with the other ingredients
  • Cut the tops off the bell peppers. Don’t worry if some of the seeds get inside, you can rinse the insides
  • Set the peppers aside for a little later
  • Preheat the oven for 370 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cut up the remaining veggies, and gather the other ingredients (beans, corn, spices, tomato paste)
  • In in large, oiled skillet or pan, heat the chopped veggies, beans, and cauliflower rice together
  • Add the taco seasoning, tomato paste and water
  • Allow to cook for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat, stir frequently
  • Grab your bell peppers, and scoop a large portion of the veggie, cauli-rice, bean mixture into each pepper
  • Top with cheese
  • Place in an oven-safe dish or pan
  • Bake @ 370 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy

-Jess

A Reintroduction (featuring a plant-filled Italian pasta salad)

It’s been almost a full year since I wrote a blog post, for many reasons. As some of my readers may know, when I’m not blogging about delicious recipes, creating delectable desserts, and talking non-stop about my love for plant-filled plates, I work in two busy hospitals. Over the past (almost) year I’ve worked on the frontlines to help deal with the pandemic that shall not be named, so coming home each night and trying to be creative in the kitchen definitely took a backseat to other priorities. Everyone I know has in some way been affected by the events in the past year, but recently I realized that NOT engaging in activities like blogging, cooking, baking, and connecting with others about food has made life harder than it has to be. I’m excited to hopefully share my recipes with you more consistently.

On another personal note, this past year has made me reevaluate the advice I give to clients/patients and how I can best support people in their individual health journeys. In the past, I really enjoyed working with people who eat mainly plant-based or identify themselves as vegans/vegetarians. But many of the patients that I talk to daily may not be able to follow a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons (access to food, personal preference, stage of life, specific nutrient needs). Over the past few years, I’ve realized that there is no one way of eating that’s perfect for everyone, and as someone who has recovered from disordered eating in the past, labeling ones diet may feel restrictive for some (I’ll likely be sharing more about this in the future). It’s important to keep in mind that although I love recipe blogging, I’m a registered dietitian with a psych degree, and a master’s degree, so to me it’s more important to understand people and share recipes, tips, and advice that isn’t triggering or restrictive. With this being said, I’ll continue to share vegan/vegetarian recipes, with additional suggestions for people who eat “everything”. Also know that you can make any adjustments to the recipes as you see fit while you’re cooking (IMO, that’s how the best dishes are created!). On another personal note/professional note outside of blogging, I’ve started a private nutrition practice where I’ll be focusing specifically on women’s health and nutrition. I’m super excited about it, and although it’s still in the beginning stages, you can follow me on instagram @ whole.woman.nutrition to learn more info.

Despite not spending as much time creating new recipes and ingredients, one of my favorite, easy, quick meals that I’ve been making these past few months is a delicious, easy pasta salad that all eaters will enjoy. You can enjoy this dish for a healthy lunch or a quick dinner, and I’ve found that all ages will appreciate the textures and flavors. It’s a spin on a classic Italian pasta salad recipe, which has always been a favorite of mine. I love the mixture of crunchy, raw vegetables and soft colorful pasta. The addition of protein and fiber from chickpeas makes this meal more hearty, healthy, and satisfying than a typical pasta salad. Another delicious, healthy perk of this recipe is using a homemade dressing of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian herbs. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat–a fat that has been shown to have heart health benefits and may reduce inflammation. Feel free to make any changes to this recipe that suit your taste and needs and let me know if you try it!

Healthy Italian Pasta Salad (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box tri-color rotini
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion (about 1/3 of a whole, medium red onion)
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I like using green and yellow for the colors)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 3/4 cup rinsed, canned chickpeas
  • 2-3 plant-based or regular sausage of your choice
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar + 1 tsp. dried basil + 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast, non-dairy or regular parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Boil water in a large pot and pour rotini into pot when the water comes to a rolling boil
  • Boil pasta for ~8 minutes, drain pasta, and set aside (I recommend putting it into the fridge, you can add a little olive oil so that it won’t stick together)
  • Cut up veggies (peppers, tomatoes, and onions) and set aside
  • Cut up sausages into cubes or thin slices and heat in a pan over medium heat for ~10 minutes. If you’re using uncooked sausage, your cooking time will be greater. Remove from heat when cooked
  • Drain and rinse canned chickpeas, and set aside
  • To create the dressing, mix EVOO, basalmic vinegar, and herbs together in a jar with a top. Shake well
  • Mix pasta, vegetables, sausage, and chickpeas together
  • Mix in dressing
  • Add a tbsp or so of nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese
  • Mix well, refrigerate, or enjoy now!

-Jess