Italian Stuffed Bell Pepper

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Lately I have been on a much cleaner eating kick. Don’t get me wrong; I still indulge and make sure nights I eat out are times where I enjoy the food I am eating. But I have begun to appreciate the importance of amping up vegetables, and this dish does just that.

With no carbohydrates, and a spicy kick, you won’t miss anything from this Italian pepper. It cuts that pasta craving with the same flavors as any spicy sausage dish.

1 hot Italian sausage (not pre-cooked, go for a raw pork sausage)
2 bell peppers (any color works)
1/3 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 red onion
1 cup spinach
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup vegetable stock
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp garlic powder
2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
tomato sauce, optional

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Start by setting the oven to preheat at 375. The onions and mushrooms need a little help getting cooked down, so the first step is to get them in a pan with some olive oil. Dice up both vegetables into even small pieces.

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As for the sausage, you want the meat integrated in the pepper, but without the casing. Once the mushrooms and onions have cooked down a bit, cut the sausage, remove the casing, and add the meat to the pan. Once the meat has begun to cook, add the dried oregano, basil, rosemary, chili flakes and garlic. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

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In a bowl, add the frozen peas and spinach. Set to the side.

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When the sausage has cooked down, and the vegetables are caramelizing, add 1/3 cup vegetable stock to the pan to deglaze it. Scrape off all the delicious flavored goodies from the bottom of the pan and let the mixture reduce down a bit.

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Once everything has reduced, pour the hot mixture over the peas and spinach. Stir everything together. You should begin to see the spinach wilt.

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While the mixture is cooling, cut off the tops of the bell peppers. Gut them and remove as much of the inner membrane as you can. Set to the side.

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The mixture should cool off quite a bit as the peas counteract the hot sausage and onions. Once the mixture is warm, but not hot, dollop in the goat cheese. Stir just to incorporate everything but NOT to melt the cheese.

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Stuff those mushrooms! No seriously, get that delicious meat goodness in those peppers. As you start filling them, you may think that the mixture is too much to fit. Not so. You really want to get them as compact as possible. If you followed the above measurements, the meat mixture is exactly enough to stuff two peppers to the brim.

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Bell peppers take a bit of time to cook, but you run the risk of burning the tops of the inner ingredients. Which is why its is important to start slow and steam them at first. Place the peppers in a dish with about 1 inch of water.  Cover with a foil tent and cook for 45 minutes in the oven.

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After the 45 minutes, take the peppers out of the oven. Crank the heat up to 400. Place one ounce of Parmesan cheese on top of each pepper. Put back in the dish and bake for another 25 minutes.

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The pepper will come out soft, the top golden brown, the insides warm and delicious.

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Optional, but totally worth is and delicious. Lay down a bed of your favorite tomato sauce and place the pepper in the middle. Sprinkle with some basil. Then… dig in!

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