Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Stuffed Bell Peppers

My Mom-in-law, Karen,  made some delicious stuffed peppers spiced with cumin and cinnamon when we were visiting for Christmas, and they were so good it inspired me to experiment (I'm copying the quinoa, greens and mushrooms from her recipe, and I guess I'm also bragging that my Mother-in-law makes delicious vegan food for us when we visit).

The sauce I use for this recipe can be used for many other things: a marinade for roasted or grilled vegetables or tofu, salad dressing, something else? The stuffing for these peppers could also stand alone as a pilaf of sorts. In fact, my two and 6 year old daughters spooned it up like I had just given them dessert (how lovely to hear your kids ask for more quinoa with beans and vegetables!). My picky eldest daughter turned her nose up at it, however, I know she would have liked it if I could have gotten her to try it. There is enough filling for 10-12 pepper halves (5-6 peppers) depending on how full you stuff them and how large they are. I only had 4 peppers (8 halves) and so I saved the extra stuffing to eat as a salad for lunch later on.

These peppers are quite beautiful and could serve as a main dish with a vegetable side and a salad. They could also be used as a side dish for a meal with soup or pasta.You could also choose to top them with vegan cheese or some bread crumbs.

For the Peppers and Stuffing

4-6 bell peppers, a variety of colors (try to get ones that will make nice big cavities for the stuffing)
1 c. quinoa (I used a mix of red and brown this time), rinsed and drained well in a fine mesh strainer
2 c. vegetable stock, water, or a combination (I used 1 c. of each this time)
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
8 oz. crimini/baby bella mushrooms, diced
1 medium-small zucchini squash, diced
1 small bunch greens such as kale, watercress, collards, baby spinach, washed & chopped
2-3 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
1 c. cooked navy beans
1/3 c. pinenuts
1/3 c. sundried tomatoes, diced
4 dried mission figs, diced

For the Sauce

3 Tbsp. vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or less, if you want)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. shoyu or tamari
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced

1) Cook the quinoa according to package directions, but err on the shorter end of the suggested cooking time. Most quinoa suggests a 10-15 minute cooking time, I would go with around 12 minutes so that it's still a bit moist but not too soupy. Once the quinoa is done cooking, remove it from the heat and set it aside.

2) As the quinoa cooks, slice the peppers in half lengthwise to make two flat pepper "boats." I like to leave the stems on and try to cut through them because they look pretty when the stems are in tact, but you could remove them. Use a paring knife or spoon to scrape out the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper halves.

3) Preheat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the diced onion. Cook the onion until it just begins to brown (7-10 minutes) and then add the diced mushrooms and zucchini. Continue to cook the mixture until the zucchini until they are softened (about 5 more minutes). Then add the greens and saute until they are just wilted, anther 2-3 minutes, and remove the pan from the heat.

4) As the onions and other vegetables cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the minced fresh basil, cooked beans, pinenuts, diced sundried tomatoes and died figs into a large bowl.

5) Once you are done sauteing the onions, mushrooms, zucchini and greens, add them to the large bowl with the beans and other vegetables. Add the cooked quinoa. Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to mix well.

6) Use a large spoon to stuff the mixture into the hollowed out peppers, pressing the stuffing deep into the peppers. Place the stuffed peppers carefully into a large baking pan and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes while covered. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until browned on top.

This makes 8-12 bell pepper halves.

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