Meatless dinner series: week one

For the first installment of our alternative-protein recipe series, Lauren Blake suggests stuffed peppers.

If you've eaten enough grilled chicken and salmon to last you a lifetime, chances are your healthy dinners could use a main-dish refresh. Thankfully, you can get the lean protein and nutrients you need while still cutting back on the four-legged or winged parts of your diet—proof positive are the athletes who've done it, such as Texans running back Arian Foster and decorated ultrarunner and vegetarian advocate Scott Jurek.

A counter-argument prevalent among meat-eaters? It's delicious. Frankly, that's hard to argue with. But that doesn't mean you can't make savory, hearty plant-based dishes that provide the same helping of protein without relying on the standard sources. Try replacing one dinner a week with a plant-based one, like this stuffed pepper. For a more flavorful dish, cook the quinoa with low-sodium vegetable broth instead of water.

Moroccan-Spiced Lentil Stuffed Peppers
Serves 2

4 large bell peppers, cut lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons coconut or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce package button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
2 cups spinach
1 cup black beluga lentils, cooked according to package directions
1 cup tricolored quinoa, cooked according to package directions
½ cup raw cashews
1/3 cup golden raisins

Heat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Cook onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until onions begin to soften, 5 minutes; add mushrooms until they soften and water in pan cooks off, 8 minutes. Season mushroom mixture with cumin, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne, then stir in spinach, lentils, quinoa, cashews and raisins. In a glass baking dish, arrange peppers cut side up. Divide lentil mixture evenly among peppers, cover with foil, and bake, 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until top crisps, 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe by Lauren Blake, R.D.