When 5 pm rolls around, the toddler witching hour strikes. I usually have one kiddo wanting me to read/paint/build with her and another one so mad with hunger that she's either standing on my feet trying to get my attention or attempting to climb into her highchair. And while I do my best to pay attention to both of their needs, the reality is that someone has to make dinner! Thankfully, this recipe for Un-Stuffed Peppers is perfect for nights like these.
We're having a good pepper year in our garden and have been looking for ways to serve them up that the girls will enjoy. I had the idea of Stuffed Peppers in my head, but immediately said "no way" to a cooking method that involved both cooking the filling and then baking the whole dish for upwards of 45 minutes. Stuffed Peppers are totally delicious, but I just do not regularly have that kind of time!
Instead of two methods of cooking, I decided to simply make the elements of the recipe and serve them as is. I figured that the kids wouldn't know the difference, they'd probably be happier with the ingredients separated anyway, and us parents would still a dinner that tastes exactly like Stuffed Peppers. Plus: Doing it this way only takes a max of-30 minutes!
This meal would come together even faster if you chopped the peppers ahead of time because then you can just throw them into the pan with the beef. I like to use red, yellow, or orange peppers here since they tend to be sweeter than green, but use the kind that you like most. I also deliberately simplified the ingredient list and left out onions and garlic so that the little ones don't have to waste any energy picking them out of their dinner. (I did add some flavor back in with spices!)
My whole family really loved this dinner of Unstuffed Peppers! Sure, the big girl didn't want to eat more than one piece of pepper, but she ate the rest. And the little one scarfed it all down. The sweetness of the peppers pairs really nicely with the beef and the spices add just enough flavor to make things interesting for adult palettes.
Nutrition: This recipe has protein and iron from the beef, Vitamins A and C from the pepper, and fiber and complex carbohydrates from the rice.
UnStuffed Peppers and Rice
You can use whichever type of rice your family likes best. We rotate through short grain brown rice, basmati, and jasmine and I try not to fluff it too much since it's easier for little ones to eat when it's slightly stuck together. Adults may want to top their portions with shredded fresh basil and/or crushed red pepper.
Makes: 4-6 servings
Do Ahead: Chop the peppers and prepare the rice up to 3 days ahead. Store in separate airtight containers in the fridge until ready to use.
- 1 1/2 cups rice
- 1 pound ground beef
- 4 bell peppers, cored and sliced (about 4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 15 ounces crushed tomatoes
- Shredded mozzarella and basil, optional
- Prepare the rice according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, warm a large skillet over medium heat. Add the beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon, the peppers, and spices. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove lid, stir, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve over rice topped with cheese and basil, if desired.
Add 1 teaspoon dried oregano for extra flavor.
Serve over noodles or another whole grain like quinoa.
Try replacing half of the beef with ground sausage, or using ground turkey.
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