A Whole 30 Kid Pleaser? Bring On The Dairy, Egg, Nut & Gluten-Free Stuffed Peppers!
So, Halloween is behind us and we're headed into holiday time... or for many of us, a season of full-fledged indulgence. I love all the food of this time of year, and trust me, I will be blogging about my favorite allergy-safe sweets and treats plenty over the next few months. But, there is something to be said about balancing things out in the midst of all the holiday heaviness. That's why I want to share with you the type of recipe that I turn to as much as I can during this time of year, especially when I feel like my family needs a little of goodness thrown in to help keep us on track.
Before we talk about this particular recipe, I have a background question for you: Have you heard of the Whole 30? About a year and a half ago, I started hearing buzz about it when a couple of friends of mine were looking for a way to clean up their diets and determine whether the foods they were eating might be impacting the way they were feeling. By feeling, I mean body aches, digestive issues, breakouts... all the types of daily nuisances that so many of us have become accustomed to and simply chalk up to our busy schedules and getting older. My friends explained that they would be spending an entire month - thirty days - without eating any processed and potentially inflammatory foods (including wheat, dairy, grains, and legumes) and then slowly reintroduce these foods to pinpoint which, if any, was affecting them. What did I think about this idea initially? Honestly, I thought it sounded crazy. But, that was before I actually tried it myself and discovered how good it feels to reset and truly eat clean.
When I followed my friends' leads and got on board for thirty days, I'm telling you, it felt GOOD. And, while I was never able to zero in on a particular food group that was being unkind to me, what did become clear during my elimination experimentation was that the fewer the processed foods and preservatives in my diet, the better I felt. That means that - for me - eating whole, real food made a difference. And, because of this realization, I have to say that the Whole 30 has forever changed the way that I look at food. But,the other beneficial byproduct of discovering the Whole 30 is the fact that I was able to get my hands on some awesome recipes that not only became quick favorites of mine, but my family's, too (and YES, that includes my kids). While this program depends on some foods that my boys can't eat as protein sources - like eggs and nuts - the absence of dairy was very helpful for me when choosing dishes to make my entire family; if you are gluten-free, you are going to appreciate Whole 30 recipes for the same reason, too.
Listen, I absolutely believe that there's a place for all of the festive meals and desserts that we are all about to enjoy over the next several months, but when I'm looking for some balance during these times, this kind of recipe that I'm sharing with you today is an ideal go-to. I make these stuffed peppers regularly and they are KID APPROVED. This dish is full of so much nutrient-packed goodness that you won't believe how quickly your kids will gobble it up! So, the next time you need a holiday food breather and want to infuse some unprocessed goodness into your family's diet, please give this a try!
*Whole 30 Stuffed Peppers
4 red, yellow, orange or green bell peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (I use red)
2 cloves or 1 tsp. minced garlic
4 kale leaves or about 3 cups kale/spinach, chopped
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup finely chopped & peeled winter squash (I use butternut)
Shredded dairy-free cheese for topping (I use Daiya cheddar)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice around the top of each bell pepper and pull up the stem; discard the seeded core. Place peppers into a deep baking dish. Bake peppers for approximately 10 minutes, or until softened. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet and add onion, cooking until translucent (about 2-3 minutes). Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the chopped kale or spinach and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the ground meat and cook, stirring into vegetables and breaking up the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook until meat is browned, 7-9 minutes. Stir in the squash and cook until it's slightly softened, 2-3 minutes.
Divide the meat and squash mixture evening among the softened bell peppers. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the peppers look wrinkly and beef is slightly browned on top. If you choose, top with dairy-free cheese about 2 minutes before cooking time is complete in order to melt cheese.
For more information on the Whole 30 program, visit their website at www.whole30.com.