Whenever I have a little bit of lead time to make dinner, I like to pretend to be fancy. Should I do something complicated? Something in multiple dishes? Should I light the candles on the dinner table? My husband had taken the kids to swimming lessons on the night in question, so I had a little bit of time. But between you, me and the fence post, I was exhausted from work today. We’ve been grinding through a project that’s brought on some late hours, and even though I got to come home at a reasonable hour, I was still tired. So this was no time for something fancy or complicated. It called for something simple, filling, wholesome, healthy, and most importantly, something that was going to be a one-pot dinner.
I first came across the inspiration for this one-pot dinner recipe from Wellness Mama. I found her website over 5 years ago when I was convinced that I needed to go Paleo, and I spent way too much money at Whole Foods, stocking up to make recipes. Don’t get me wrong: I think eating wholesome foods is the way to go (see my own journeys with Paleo and Whole30 and Fed+Fit), and sometimes, I can get a little overwhelmed with what Paleo and Whole30 and gluten-free mean. I focus on the it’s not this, it’s not that, I can’t have this, I can’t have that… when I really need to focus on what I can have.
And what I can have is this really delicious, not overly fussy, simple and easy one-pot dinner.
This recipe is super easy and simple (I’m gonna hammer that one home until you believe me!), and it translates well across the seasons. It tastes particularly vibrant during the summer when bell peppers are in season, and I love how colorful the peppers make this one-pot dinner (quick aside: I prefer red, yellow, and orange bell peppers in this recipe, and I’m sure you could use green bell peppers just fine. I’m not a super big fan of them because they taste a little bitter to me, but seriously, any bell pepper will work just fine!).
It also translates insanely well for working moms! Because the ingredient is so low-key, I’m sure you can make it with what you have in the house, or if you want to, you can order it from Amazon Prime Now before you leave work… and be ready to roll in no time!
But before we get to the actual recipe, let’s talk about why this one-pot Paleo wonder is unstuffed rather than stuffed. The reasoning may surprise you!
What feels like a thousand years ago, I took my daughter to Chipotle for dinner, and I ordered her one of the kids’ meals. I held her up so she could pick and choose what additional sides she wanted, and just as I was about to ask her which beans she’d like, she pointed to the fajita veggies and declared she had to have them.
Y’all, that child of mine gobbled down bell peppers and red onions like none other. This is a child whose favorite vegetable is white (not potatoes… she’s just not a fan of any colorful vegetable), and she chowed down on those peppers and onions.
And as a discerning BTDT mom, I am not going to look the gift horse in the mouth, and I will continue to find ways to cook little strips of bell peppers so my child can get some modicum of nutrition that’s not derived from Nutella.
Hence the unstuffed peppers one-pot dinner.
This easy peasy recipe ends up being Paleo, Whole30-compliant, gluten-free- grain-free, dairy-free, low-carb… all of this stuff that’s buzz-worthy and Pinterest-craving! And the other thing I love about it is that it’s totally flexible! Here’s how:
- If you can tolerate dairy just fine, add some shredded cheese on top (my son calls it shaky cheese, and I’m not going to correct him).
- If you can eat grains, you can always add quinoa or basmati rice (the little guy above loves his rice!). I would note, though, that the below recipe doesn’t account for adding quinoa or basmati rice to the mix, so if I need to carb it up for my family, I cook a little on the side, but I’m sure you could add it to the one-pot dinner, add a little beef or chicken broth to it, and it would still taste just fine!
- If you need a fat bomb to round out your macros for the day, a dollop of guacamole tastes PHENOMENAL (but then again, guacamole always tastes phenomenal).
- If you need to add a little more carb but want to keep it grain-free and gluten-free, cauliflower rice goes really well. Allowing it to cook as long as it will in the oven really allows the cauliflower rice a chance to absorb the flavors.
Plus, here’s the other great thing about this one-pot dinner: it even goes great as leftovers. The flavors build up a little bit more overnight, and I actually like warming it up a little bit and adding a fried egg on top. The runny yolk heightens the flavors just the right amount… especially when topped with a little bit of hot sauce!
My last bit of advice before I send you off to the races: good equipment can make all the difference.
The first is my mandoline to thinly slice some of the veggies. Remember the aforementioned daughter who consumes practically no vegetables? I make quick use of disguise by using my mandoline for the zucchini so they are super thin… and often easily consumed!
The second, and most crucial (I believe), is using a great pot for this one-pot dinner to taste good. A kitchen staple before we even got married, I always rely on our dutch oven when I cook my unstuffed peppers. This dutch oven is made of cast iron, and it conducts heat really well and beautifully. They are sturdy, can withstand some high temps, and last what feels like forever (seriously, if you can get your hands on your grandmother’s cast iron anything, do it, and thank me later).
One-Pot Unstuffed Peppers
An easy one-pot dinner that features ground meat, bell peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and zucchini… and it’s Paleo, Whole30-compliant, gluten-free and low-carb to boot!
- 1 lb ground meat (beef or turkey is fine!)
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 2-3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 zucchini (thinly sliced; I make quick work of this by using a mandolin)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 0.5 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 bell peppers (thinly sliced)
Preheat oven to 375 and start warming your dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Once the dutch oven is heated, brown the meat, breaking it up along the way (approximately 5 minutes).
Add the onion and garlic to the meat and cook for approximately 4 minutes, until they’re tender and starting to turn a little translucent.
Add the zucchini to the dutch oven and cook for another 3 minutes.
Turn off the stove and remove the dutch oven from the heat. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, and spices. Mix well to incorporate all of the flavors!
Cover the dutch oven and bake in your regular oven for 30-45 minutes until well-heated and the peppers get a little soft.
Carefully remove from the oven. Plate. Enjoy!
I love this recipe, I love sharing this recipe, and I can’t wait to hear from you once you make it! Tell me below what you think of it!