Thursday, January 10, 2013

Roasted Red Bell Peppers Stuffed with Cous Cous, Turkey Sausage, Kale, Feta & Tomatoes

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, I'm sure you noticed I've been obsessed with stuffed vegetable dishes for the past several months. Especially roasted peppers (chiles) and baked acorn squash stuffed with brown rice and other goodies. 

I made today's dish about a month ago, but wanted to wait til all the sugar-plum holiday madness died down to post the recipe. Cause it's pretty darn healthy and I knew ya'll wouldn't think twice about it when you're full steam over-drive into cookie, candy and fudge-noshing. 

However, since it is now past the new year, I know many folks are wrapped up in health conscious pursuits, so it's the perfect time to share my newest stuffed veggie concoction, plus a list of ingredients to inspire your own mixtures. 

Stuffed dishes are an amazing way to combine vegetables, healthy carbs and protein all in one dish. Plus they're incredibly flexible. 

Mix together one or more things from each category (see examples below), plus some spices and extra veggies and you're bound to have a healthy, tasty meal. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Protein (try to use lean meat for less fat, but when you want fattier meats with more flavor use less of it in the dish)
grass-fed beef
free-range chicken
black beans
garbanzo beans

Healthy Carbs (less processed, plus more protein & fiber)

whole grain brown rice
whole wheat cous cous
whole grain quinoa 
pearled barley

Veggies & Fruits (To Stuff / Fill with Mixture)

poblano peppers
jalapeno peppers
sweet bell peppers
acorn squash
butternut squash

Herbs & Foods (to Add to the Filling)

fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, etc.)
spices (chile powder, crushed red pepper, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, etc.)
fire-roasted diced tomatoes, rotel, etc.
roasted green chiles (canned)
fresh roasted chiles
cheese, cheese and more cheese (I won't list them all)
nutritional yeast (a delicious cheese substitute with A LOT of protein)
diced apple
organic greens (kale, chard, spinach, mustard greens, etc.)

Healthy Fats

extra-virgin olive oil
virgin coconut oil (great substitute for butter)
olives (green, black, kalamata, etc.)

That should be enough for now. I had to stop myself. I seriously could have gone on an on...

The point of my zealous list is to show you that it's REALLY easy to assemble and bake a healthy stuffed dish to serve yourself or others. And you don't have to sacrifice flavor for healthiness. Just make good choices and eat everything in moderation! That's what I try to do. :)
Roasted Red Bell Peppers Stuffed with Whole Wheat Cous Cous, Turkey Sausage, Kale, Feta & Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
Oven-roasted bell peppers stuffed with a whole wheat cous cous mixed with lean turkey sausage, vitamin-rich organic kale, tangy feta cheese, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, lemon juice and seasonings. A lean, flavorful dish packed with protein, fiber and vitamins.  
Serves: 2 (as a meal) or 4 (if you include other side dishes)

1 cup of cooked whole wheat cous cous*
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced in half
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
--I recommend this brand since it passed the EVOO Test--
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 poblano chile (pepper), deseeded and diced (use gloves for this)
1/4 of a kielbasa turkey sausage, diced small
Garlic Powder, to taste
Organic lemon pepper seasoning, to taste (or your favorite all-purpose seasoning)
Sea Salt, to taste (I recommend Pink HimalayanCeltic or Utah sourced salt)
Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
1/2 can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
1/4 bundle of organic kale, rough stems removed
2 cups of garbanzo beans (get my homemade dried beans recipe)
1/2 cup of feta cheese 
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Shredded mozzarella cheese, for topping

*If you don't have a go-to cous cous recipe, here's what I used for this dish: 1 cup of whole wheat cous cous, 2 1/4 cup of low sodium homemade chicken stock and the following spices to taste--sea salt, white pepper (or black), crushed red pepper, oregano, rosemary, herb d' Provence, garlic powder, onion powder. Heat the chicken stock, add the cous cous and seasonings then cook according to packaged instructions! Switch up the seasonings based on the recipe, but using a stock will give it more flavor than water. 

Recommended Equipment
large rimmed baking sheet
cast-iron skillet

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the cous cous according to packaged instructions then set aside, covered to keep warm. Wash the bell peppers, dry,  then place on a flat baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the peppers are slightly charred. Remove from oven and let cool. 

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat. Peel and dice an onion, then add to the pan. Let that cook for 5-7 minutes. Using gloves (so you don't get chile oils on your hands), deseed and dice a poblano chile. Add it to the pan, discard gloves and wash the knife and cutting board under hot water. Dice 1/4 of a kielbasa turkey sausage into small pieces and add to the pan, stirring everything around. 

By now the peppers should be cooled, so cut off the tops and remove the stems. Dice only the pepper tops and add this to the pan. Then remove the seeds and innards from both peppers and slice each bell pepper in half lengthwise. Season the pan mixture with garlic powder, lemon pepper, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Add 1/2 can of drained fire-roasted diced tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of tomato paste. Stir thoroughly to distribute the paste. Wash, de-stem and chop 1/4 bundle of organic kale and add to the pan. Stir around so the leaves begin to wilt. After a few minutes, add the feta cheese and lemon juice, then fold in as much cooked cous cous as you desire. 

Remove from heat, mix everything thoroughly, taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Keeping the bell pepper halves on the same sheet you roasted them on, fill each "boat" with the cous cous mixture. Top with a shredded mozzarella cheese (if desired) and pop back in the oven (or broiler on low) for five minutes to rewarm everything. 

Notes & Tips
I used what I had on hand and loved the dish, but next time I'm going out of my way to add either dried cranberries and chopped walnuts OR chopped kalamata olives. So...if you have these on hand right now...add them! I know they'd add an extra layer of texture and flavor! 

To make this more "Greek", substitute ground lamb instead of turkey sausage for a rich, flavorful dish. I bet it'd be spectacular! Please let me know if you it this way. :)

Question for Discussion: What's your favorite way to use cous cous in dishes?

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