In early October I decided I wanted to adjust my diet. Being chronically ill and having low energy levels it had become easy to skip breakfast and eat a popsicle instead. Or to eat nothing but chicken and rice for lunch and dinner for days in a row, because it was in the fridge and ready. I decided Whole30 was a good fit for me. It cuts out grains, sugar, and dairy, but not permanently. Lasting for 30 days also means I will be able to enjoy baking at the holidays.
I’ve tried cutting out certain foods in the past, trying anything to help my health, but none of them relieved symptoms. All I got from them was intense cravings and even more fatigue from withdrawals. As you can imagine this made me rather nervous going into Whole30, but I just told myself it was only thirty days. I could do it. I am now on day twenty-three and amazingly I’ve dealt with neither cravings nor extra fatigue. Sure, I’m looking forward to the foods at the holidays, but I don’t feel like I have to have it, and I’m perfectly happy eating the way I am now. When going through withdrawals I had to eat more frequently, but whenever I started to feel more fatigued or depressed than usual I’d eat a stuffed sweet potato with plenty of protein and a drizzle of olive oil and would feel much better.
All around I’m really happy with my Whole30 experience! While I would like to lose a little weight from this (you aren’t allowed to weigh yourself until after you finish the program) that isn’t my main goal. My real goal for this is to develop new healthier habits. Planning ahead to make healthy meals instead of reaching for what is easy. To not eat so many carbs, despite my love for rice. When I bake maybe make half a batch instead of a full batch, so I don’t feel like I have to eat so much to prevent it from going to waste.
While I know this diet has helped relieve symptoms for many people with chronic illness It’s not done that for me, but that’s okay. I didn’t expect it to, as none of the diets I’ve tried for that purpose in the past have been effective. I’m still going to try to keep to something similar to Whole30 as my general diet. I’ll go back to eating rice, but not daily. I’ll eat sugar, but only when it’s something I really want and not just because it’s around. I’ll try to keep to eating a diet mostly of produce with some protein and fat mixed in, because even though it hasn’t improved my illnesses I know it’s better for me, and I’m genuinely happy eating this way.
Now to the recipe! I love stuffed bell peppers, but I’ve never made them very often, until now. I mostly just waited for my sister, Hannah, to come up with a new recipe for them and then I’d eat the extras. A couple of days into my Whole30 I realized I needed to make myself a batch of food that could last for several meals, so I started thinking of stuffed peppers. I usually stuff them with rice, so for a minute I was wondering what I could stuff them with, but then I thought why not butternut squash? It’s rather appropriate for this time of year and I thought the flavors just might work. And they did!
The flavors of these peppers meld beautifully together, I don’t even miss the grains. It doesn’t leave you wanting and still hungry, the squash and beef make it feel very hearty. The onions, garlic, and tomato also add nice layers of flavors, with almonds on top for a really satisfying crunch. I love the way the slight sweetness from the pepper and squash turn into a perfect pairing with the beef and tomatoes, the sweetness is there, however it’s really mild and turns into a beautiful sweet-savory combination.
These are really easy to make! You can assemble them ahead of time and store in the fridge until you want to bake them, or you can flash freeze them (as I mentioned when I made pie crust) before or after baking. Just put the peppers in the freezer, making sure they aren’t touching, and once frozen you can place them in a bag. Freezing before putting them in the bag ensures they stay intact and you can remove one pepper if you wish instead of having to thaw the whole bag.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have!
- 6 large bell peppers, or 7 small
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
- ½ 1 large butternut squash
- 1 medium diced onion
- 2 large minced garlic cloves
- ¾lb ground beef
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 2 tsp salt
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- Roast your butternut squash in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until fork-tender, 45-60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
- Preheat oven to 345 Fahrenheit.
- In a large skillet over medium-low heat add a drizzle of oil, about a tablespoon or two, and add the diced onion. Once the onion is soft and slightly translucent add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Remove from heat, add to a large bowl.
- In the same skillet used for the onion cook the beef until it's fully cooked and you don't see any more raw pink meat. Remove from heat, with a slotted spoon scoop beef into the bowl with the onions and garlic, as to leave the cooking fat behind.
- Cut the stem end off of the butternut squash. Slice squash in half lengthwise. Remove the peel from
one half of the squash and slice the squash multiReplace" id="51" data-gr-id="51">in ½ inch cubes, add to bowl with onions and meat. Add cherry tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt. Lightly stir to combine.
- Prep the bell peppers by cutting the tops off. Once removed gently run your knife along the inside of the pepper, cutting off the membrane that attaches to the seeds but being careful not to cut the pepper. Once the membrane is cut off stick your hand in the pepper and remove the seeds. Place peppers upright in a 9x13 pan. Fill peppers with meat and vegetable filling.
- Roughly chop the slivered almonds. Add almonds to the top of the stuffed peppers. Bake for 45 minutes.
- When serving lightly drizzle the top with olive oil, if desired.