Paula Recommends …Stuffed Zucchini Cups

Inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine, these zucchini ‘cups’ are filled with meat, onion, and rice and cooked in tomato sauce. In addition to offering a good balance of protein, carb, fat and fiber, this dish is a delicious, plant forward meal providing lycopene (cooked tomatoes), quercetin (a flavonoid and one category of antioxidant compounds – onion), as well as manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and selenium (garlic). – Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

3 medium zucchinis, ends trimmed
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅔ cup chopped yellow onion, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (or less/to taste)
1 28-ounce can (about 3½ cups) crushed tomatoes, divided
8 ounces 95% lean ground beef
½ cup uncooked medium-grain white rice
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

1. Cut zucchinis into 1½-2 inch rounds. Hollow out the center of each round to make it look like a cup, leaving about 1/8” flesh at the bottom of the cup.
2. Dice the removed flesh.
3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini flesh and ⅓ cup onion.
4. Sauté for 3 minutes, then add garlic and ½ teaspoon salt.
5. Sauté for 1 minute, then stir in 2½ cups tomatoes. Turn off heat.
6. In a medium mixing bowl, add remaining ⅓ cup onion, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 cup crushed tomatoes, along with ground beef or turkey*, rice, allspice and cumin. Stir to combine.
7. Spoon the filling into each zucchini cup to the top and place each cup in the tomato sauce, meat side up.
8. Cover skillet, turn heat to low and simmer for 55 to 60 minutes or until a food thermometer reads 160°F when placed in the center of the stuffed zucchinis.
9. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh mint immediately before serving.

Makes 5 servings

Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories 260; Fat 8.5g; Sat Fat 1.9g; Sodium 466mg; Carbs 34g; Fiber 5.4g; Protein 17g

*Ground turkey breast lowers the calories and fat grams as follows: Calories 246; Fat 6.6g; Sat Fat 0.9g