Try stuffed peppers for a quick dinner when you're having people over

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Let's talk about kitchen meltdowns.

We all have them. Right? I definitely do. For me, they're usually the result of not realistically planning for how long something will take to cook (that chicken is still pink inside?!), or trying to do way too much, like making four different entrees when my family comes over.

My brother and his girlfriend are vegans (and I, pretty avowedly, am not). My husband’s still on that keto diet. And then there’s just general pickiness. Cooking for everyone at once can be trying. It's like a math equation: What can I add here that will please everyone? What do I need to subtract to make the dish vegan friendly? What nondairy products can I add to my own pantry that I will actually use again?

This recipe below is a perfect example of those culinary acrobatics, inspired by a recent dinner with my brother and his girlfriend.

I started with the concept: stuffed peppers. For the filling, I knew I wanted to make one with the oddly large amount of ground chicken I had in my freezer. But the rest could easily be vegan, especially when paired with protein-packed quinoa. I would have happily eaten this version, were it not for the need to clear out that ground chicken.

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Stuffed Peppers With Avocado Crema

3 or 4 bell or poblano peppers
Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1 jalapeno, minced
Half of a yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 ear corn, kernels cut off the cob
½ cup slivered, toasted almonds
2 ounces goat cheese
Sriracha

For the Avocado Crema:
1 avocado
½ cup Greek yogurt, or sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Cut the tops off the peppers, then carefully remove the seeds and ribs from inside. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a separate skillet over medium heat and coat it with olive oil. Add ground chicken, season with salt and pepper and break up with a spoon. Cook until thoroughly browned, at least 10 minutes.

To the skillet with onion and garlic, add jalapeno, bell pepper and corn. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, season with more salt and pepper and stir well. Cook for 7 minutes or so, until veggies are browned. Add almonds and goat cheese and stir. Turn off heat. Season with a squiggle of sriracha sauce, to taste.

When chicken is done, add to veggie mixture and gently stir to combine. Scoop mixture into prepared bell peppers, dividing it evenly among the peppers.

Roast stuffed peppers in the oven for 15 minutes. Check peppers; they are ready when the skin is wilted but not yet brown.

While the peppers roast, make the Avocado Crema: Cut avocado in half, then remove the pit and scoop flesh into a medium bowl. Add yogurt and lime juice, season with salt and pepper and stir well.

Serve peppers with Avocado Crema and a flurry of chopped fresh cilantro on top.

Make it vegan: Instead of mixing the veggie mixture with ground chicken, mix it with 1 cup cooked quinoa. Skip the goat cheese and instead of avocado crema, simply serve with sliced avocado and cilantro.

Serves 3 or 4.