A vegetarian light lunch
Stuffed peppers are a classic vegetarian meal and it’s no wonder they’re popular with so many variations available! In this version, the sweet peppers are filled with brown rice, zucchini, and tomatoes, spiced up with fiery chili and topped with melted cheese. The options for stuffing peppers are endless – just take care not to over stuff them!
This is very easy to make and works well served as a stand-alone dish with a salad, or as a colorful accompaniment to grilled meat or fish.
The big debate – Is brown rice healthier than white?
There is much disagreement around this question, but what’s clear is that brown rice certainly pulls its weight in the nutritional department. In this recipe, the nutty flavor and firmer texture contrast with the soft, sweet roasted peppers, but it’s also an excellent choice from a nutritional standpoint:
- Brown rice is a whole grain, which means it’s less processed than white rice. It still has its husk, which gives it the unique flavor and is where most of the nutrients are found. This is also why brown rice takes a little longer to cook.
- Brown rice contains higher levels of essential nutrients such as manganese and selenium. Manganese boosts the metabolism and helps promote bone and heart health, while selenium is beneficial for the immune system and fertility in both men and women. Both are thought to support healthy thyroid function.
- The high fiber content in brown rice is great for the digestive system and helps prevent bowel cancer. It also makes you feel full and releases energy slowly, which is great for stabilizing blood sugar levels and supporting weight loss efforts.
White rice isn’t an unhealthy option, but as it’s had the most nutritious elements of the grain removed it contains fewer essential vitamins and minerals. Still, many people choose it for its flavor or speedy cooking time. It’s an easy substitute in this recipe, as is cous cous or bulgur wheat.
Zucchini and brown rice stuffed peppers (serves 2)
½ cup cooked brown basmati rice
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 large bell peppers, cut in half from top to bottom with seeds removed
6 cherry tomatoes
½ of a zucchini
1 tsp hot chili powder
Juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 Tbsp grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 400º F.
- If you haven’t already cooked the rice, do so now as per package instructions. Brown basmati rice takes around 20-30 minutes to cook.
- Place the pepper halves on a baking tray and drizzle with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Put the peppers in the oven to roast for 10 minutes. You don’t want them to soften too much or they won’t hold the stuffing. They’ll be going back in so don’t switch off the oven.
- While the peppers are roasting, prepare the other ingredients. Chop the zucchini into 1/2 inch cubes and slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters. Finely chop the shallot.
- In a small pan, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil and stir fry the shallot until soft. Add the tomatoes and zucchini with the chili powder and lemon juice and fry for another 5 minutes, adding the crushed garlic about half way through.
- When the rice is cooked, tip it in to the pan with the stir fried vegetables and mix thoroughly. Season well.
- Spoon the mixture into the peppers and press firmly to pack it in. If you are using cheese, grate a little over the top of the rice in each half pepper.
- Put the peppers back in the oven and bake for around 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted to your satisfaction.
- Crushed garlic tends to burn easily, so take care to keep it moving.
- Zucchini can be swapped for mushrooms or eggplant.
- Instead of hot chilli, you could try other flavourings such as oregano, cilantro, or basil.
- Omit the cheese for a vegan version and replace with a spoonful of cashew butter or some pine nuts.
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