Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I'm not all health all the time, I'm really not. I eat my fair share of ice cream ( like the chocolate malt I had with my kids last night at Jonny B Goods) peanut butter cookies (like the two I put away last week and then again another two this week) and let's not forget about the carmel corn (like the huge bag I ate after lunches during the course of this whole week). My point is, I have a sweet tooth. And a bad one at that. However, I feel much better eating said sweets and more free to do so if I nurish my body properly with whole foods the rest of the time. Which is why today for lunch I am making quinoa stuffed peppers. I don't know much about quinoa except it's a whole grain, and I should definitely be eating more of it. The problem is I once had quinoa plain, served like rice would be on the side of my plate and was not impressed. It had a neutral if not an ever so slight bitter after taste. If I was going to be eating quinoa it was going to have to taste good. Period. So, I present to you today this recipe that packs so much nutritional punch and yet still doesn't taste like "health food" just good fresh food.

I like to consume lots of fresh wholesome foods like healthful salads, tabbouleh's, fresh fruit, smoothies, sauteed spinach and the like. If you are trying to add healthy good for you foods to your diet, I recommend you actually try to like the food you are eating or it's not going to work. So you hate quinoa plain? Find a way you do like it, perhaps in this stuffed pepper recipe. Your vegetarian tacos are boring and bland? Figure out how to spice it up. What could you add in? What flavors could you introduce to make it taste awesome? That's mostly what I do. I try and figure out ways to eat healthy and still love it. However, every now and then you need to eat filet of beef au poivre or lemon chicken with croutons, oh, and creamy chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. And I will be posting those recipes, I promise. But for now, quinoa stuffed peppers sounds and smells pretty fantastic.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
adapted from Vegetarian Times

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 TBS olive oil
2 ribs celery. finely chopped
1 TBS ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 10-oz pkg. frozen spinach, thawde and squeezed dry
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 15-oz can black beans
3/4 cup quinoa, uncooked
3 large carrots, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups grated pepper jack cheese, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and saute 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup of cheese. Season with salt and peper, if desired.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour liquid from the tomatoes in the bottom of a baking dish.

Fill each bell pepper half with a heaping 3/4 cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 tbs remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates and drizzle with pan juices, if desired.

serves 6-8

Ok, That was the actual recipe. My version of this was a hot mess, given that I used the recipe merely as a guidline. The real way sounds delicious, but I already had cooked quinoa, so I had to improvise.

Basically I sauteed the onions and celery as directed. Then I added the garlic and cumin as directed. Then, instead of cooking the spinach seperately and adding it in, I just dumped the box of frozen spinach into the saute pan with the onions and celery and added about 1/4 cup of water, to help thaw the spinach out. Once it was thawed, I added in the black beans, tomatoes and carrots (you could also buy pre shredded carrots if you don't want to grate them yourself). Then I added in the cooked quinoa and seasoned everything with garlic salt and stuffed it in the bell peppers. I omitted the cheese in the filling, but I did top the peppers with cheese towards the end. It really seems to need more salt than the recipe calls for. Maybe if I would have put in the cheese it called for I wouldn't have needed it. Cheddar would work well if you don't like pepper jack.

If you don't read your recipe well and accidentially don't save your tomato liquid and you realize you need it for the bottom of your pan, don't fret. Just add about a cup of water to the bottom of your dish instead. All the juice is really doing is helping to steam and cook your peppers in the oven.

Also, this make A LOT of filling! bascially almost double what you need. Again, don't fret. This is actually excellent because the filling freezes very well. Just cool leftover filling and stick it in a freezer ziplock bag, freeze it, and then thaw it out when you need it for a quick dinner down the road.