I volunteer to cook at a local shelter once a month with a group from church. I’ve typically signed up for side dishes and desserts, but this time I signed up to make the main dish. After almost running out of time with my roasted potatoes last time, I wanted to make something that would be reasonably easy to assemble. These were fairly easy to make, and I was able to make 86 of them by myself in 2 hours (including all prep work of halving and gutting 43 peppers).
When I was thinking about what to stuff the peppers with, I was thinking about ground beef. I knew I needed something else to mix with the beef. I thought about rice, but ultimately ended up with quinoa because I thought it would have a good texture to go with the ground beef. The peppers were a hit, and lots of people came back for seconds. I will definitely be making these again at home, and I will probably add spinach to the filling.
This is a good low-cost meal because the quinoa makes a good filler to go with the beef. It’s filling, has a good texture, but isn’t as expensive as ground beef. Excluding the salt-free all purpose seasoning, garlic powder, and salt, this recipe was less than $1.50 per serving. I calculated this price based on ingredients to make 6 whole peppers, not the mega-sized recipe where I saved for buying ingredients in bulk.
4-6 bell peppers
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 x 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil, chiffonade cut (or use 1 tbsp dried)
1 tbsp salt-free all purpose seasoning (McCormick Perfect Pinch or similar)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste (reduce if using garlic salt instead of garlic powder)
1 x 8oz package shredded mozzarella, or 8-12 mozzarella slices (do not recommend using fresh because of the water content)
2 cups water, plus more for filling bottom of pan
This recipe is in my blog’s gluten free category, but check the all-purpose seasoning you’re using to make sure it’s gluten free. If it’s not, substitute your preferred combo of any of the following: oregano, thyme, parsley, celery seed, paprika).
Preheat oven to 375. You can also use convection for this – just preheat to 350 instead.
Dice onion. Place in a large mixing bowl, and stir in basil, salt-free all purpose seasoning, and garlic powder. Set aside.
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a large pot.
Meanwhile, begin cooking ground beef over medium heat. When the beef is fully browned, remove it from the pan and let it sit in a bowl with paper towels to absorb the extra fat.
The water should be boiling by now. Add the quinoa to the water. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
While the quinoa is simmering, prep the pepper halves by cutting them in half, removing the stems, and scooping out the remaining seeds and membrane with a spoon. Set peppers aside.
Remove the ground beef from its bowl (blot with more paper towels if needed) and add it to the bowl with the onions. Stir to combine. Stir in the can of tomatoes.
When the quinoa is done, add it to the bowl and stir. It can be a bit clumpy, so make sure to mix it well. Add salt.
Taste the filling and adjust seasonings if needed.
Use a spoon to fill each pepper half with filling. Line peppers up in a baking dish. Fill the dish with a little bit of water (enough to cover the bottom of the pan).
Cover with foil and cook for about 20 minutes (15 minutes for convection). Remove foil and cook until cheese begins to brown, about another 10 minutes.