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Dinner Together: ‘Riced’ cauliflower makes a great addition in stuffed peppers

Cut carbs by stuffing riced cauliflower – instead of rice – into the belly of bell peppers. (Lorie Hutson Special to Food)
Cut carbs by stuffing riced cauliflower – instead of rice – into the belly of bell peppers. (Lorie Hutson Special to Food)

Seems like everyone is watching their carbs these days.

Gather enough friends and family around one table and there’s bound to be a few who are looking for ways to cut out any extra calorie-dense and nutrient-poor starches. It can make things tricky for a host who is trying to find a dinner that will appeal to everyone.

However, the popularity of “riced” cauliflower has opened up a whole new world of “rice” for cooks. Substitute the tiny bits of chopped cauliflower into recipes and suddenly fried rice, rice bowls and even stuffed peppers are fair game even for the carb conscious.

First, I have a confession. I don’t really like cauliflower.

I pick around it on veggie trays. I might eat some if it is steamed and smothered in just the right amount of cheese. That’s why I politely ignored all of the recipes using it until a few weeks ago. It wasn’t until my husband substituted finely chopped cauliflower for rice in stuffed sweet bell peppers that I started to pay attention.

Now, I’m a convert, and I’m eager to try it in other recipes.

Making cauliflower rice is simple. Cut cauliflower into large florets. Then, put it through the food processor using the shredding blade. Or, pulse it in the food processor with the chopping blade. It can also be made by grating it on a box grater. It is also sold in bags at Trader Joe’s stores, for convenience.

To substitute it for rice, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and sauté cauliflower until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

For the stuffed peppers, I sautéed onion, garlic and ground beef in a frying pan and then added the riced cauliflower and cooked for an additional 4-5 minutes before combining the rest of the filling ingredients.

This classic recipe is infinitely versatile. Substitute ground turkey, sausage, tofu crumbles or black beans for the meat. Pick a different cheese or skip it altogether. The recipe is already free of gluten. Let your personal preference guide you on the spices. Make it a Spanish rice with green chilies, chili powder and smoked paprika. Or try oregano, basil and garlic to make an Italian or “pizza” stuffed pepper. Add poblano peppers and taco seasoning to the filling for a Southwestern flair. There are whole cookbooks on the subject of stuffed bell peppers. Really.

Whatever you choose, you won’t need to apologize to the rice lovers around the table. They’ll hardly be able to tell the difference.

Cauliflower Rice Stuffed Sweet Bell Peppers

6 sweet bell peppers

1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 pound ground beef

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper, to taste

16 ounces “riced” cauliflower

1 (16-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon oregano

Shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare bell peppers by slicing off the tops and seeding. Pour just enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of a baking dish and place peppers in the dish.

Sauté ground beef, onion and garlic in a large frying pan. When the beef has browned and is cooked through, add the riced cauliflower to the pan. Continue to sauté until cauliflower is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chili powder, smoked paprika and oregano to the pan. Stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Spoon “rice” filling into the peppers. Bake in 375 degree oven until filling is heated through and the bell peppers are soft, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and top with a bit of cheese, if desired. Return to the oven until the cheese melts.

Peppers can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in the microwave.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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