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Crispy stuffed pepper ‘boats’ are a family-friendly meal

Stuffed Pepper ‘Bones’

Total time:40 minutes


Total time:40 minutes



I’m over five years older now and I still can’t tell you the magic formula for coming up with meals that will work 100 percent of the time. I’ve made dishes that I was sure my son would love and he didn’t. Other times I was completely surprised by what a hit with him (frozen cauliflower, really?). If taste cannot be taken into account, children’s tastes cannot be taken into account.

Sheet pancake pancakes bring the whole family to the table

But I like to think I learned at least a few things. One is that the most successful family recipes tend to be fun and flexible. That certainly applies to this Stuffed Sweet Pepper ‘Boats’, from ‘Dictator Lunches’ by cookbook author Jenny Mollen. (Yes, I nodded in recognition at the cheeky title!)

I agree with Mollen when she says that even as an adult, it can be difficult to get hold of stuffed peppers. The sides will become soft and the taste may become bitter. They can also be tricky to eat. When I saw her recipe with raw mini peppers, it made perfect sense. The fresh vegetables retain their sweet, bright flavor and provide a cool, crunchy contrast to the warm, spicy filling made with ground turkey. Plus, they stand out for their color and shape, which is why I’ve decided to label them “boats” for the kids (she calls them Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Peppers). I’m certainly not the only parent who’s been surprised at a party to see their kids attack a platter of raw food. Same idea here.

As for flexibility, this recipe has it. Turkey is actually my favorite ground beef, although beef, pork, or even lamb would be fine. For meatless options, I’ve tested and enjoyed both plant-based ground meats, which I may have even preferred slightly over the turkey, and cauliflower rice. If you have family members with varying needs, you can make full batches of one or two of the fillings – they really do come together in an instant – or start a batch of the onion and spice base in one skillet and then divide it up to finish cooking finish with separate egg whites. Likewise, feel free to adjust the spices to reduce the heat or to match whatever spice jars you have in your pantry. (See more substitution tips below.)

This becomes an interactive meal when you let everyone stuff and top their own peppers however they like. It wasn’t in Mollen’s original recipe, but I like putting down a taco bar-inspired array of shredded cheese, scallions, salsa, and sour cream.

Bring on your family favorite dinner ideas! It was great to hear about them, and I hope to have some of them in future columns.

Stuffed Pepper ‘Bones’

  • Don’t like ground turkey? >> Use another minced meat of your choice.
  • To make this dish vegan >> replace the turkey with vegetable ground beef or cauliflower rice (see VARIATIONS below).
  • Should you use less spices? >> Reduce or eliminate the chilli powder and replace it with more sweet paprika or some smoked paprika if desired.
  • If you don’t have broth at home >> use water and some extra tomato puree.
  • Not a fan of peppers? >> Put the filling in rolls, tortillas or salad leaves.

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

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  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (7 ounces), chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey, preferably 93 percent lean (can substitute ground beef; vegetable ground beef, such as Impossible Beef; or cauliflower rice; see VARIATIONS)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons no salt added chicken or vegetable stock
  • 24 mini peppers (24 to 32 ounces, depending on size), cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • Grated cheese, such as Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack, to serve (optional)
  • Sliced ​​spring onions, to serve (optional)
  • Salsa, to serve (optional)
  • Sour cream, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large, cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the turkey, salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, oregano, and cumin and stir until combined. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste until incorporated. Add stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer, adjusting if necessary. Cook until stock has reduced and mixture has reduced slightly and is not soupy, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, add more salt if necessary. Remove from heat.

Place the meat in a serving dish and the halved peppers on a platter. Serve family style, spooning about 1 tablespoon of the turkey mixture onto each pepper halved.

VARIATIONS: For a meatless option, substitute 300 grams of plant-based ground meat, such as Impossible Beef. (It doesn’t lose as much volume as conventional meat, so you can start with less.) Or try about 3 cups of cauliflower rice; start with a 1 ½ to 2 pound cauliflower and batch the florets in a food processor until finely ground, with a texture similar to rice or couscous, depending on your preference. You can also grate the cauliflower on the large holes of a grater. (If you buy cauliflower rice, you’ll need about 10 ounces.) The cooking time for both options is about the same as for the turkey.

Per serving (1/2 cup filling and 8 bell pepper halves)

Calories: 214; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 56mg; Sodium: 284mg; Carbohydrates: 12 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 17g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietician or nutritionist.

Adapted from “Dictator lunches” by Jenny Mollen (Harvest, 2022).

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to voracious@washpost.com.

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