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Monday, October 17, 2011

bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, tomatoes, beans and cheese

Woo hoo! I got meatless Monday back on track. I got lost for a couple weeks there, but now I am back. One in a row.

For our Monday dinner, I wanted to find a way to use up some green bell peppers from the AHO box, but most recipes for stuffed peppers that I could find are made with rice and ground beef or turkey. After thinking a while about this, I decided to use one of the oldest vegetarian tricks in the book... substitute beans for meat, and therefore lose the animal, but retain the protein.

Instead of rice, I went for my new favorite grain, quinoa. (Okay, technicality police, I know it's not a grain. It's the seed from a plant related to the tumbleweed. But really? Tumbleweed? Let's just think of it as a grain. It goes down a little easier that way.)  Ever since my fist quinoa experiment, I have been using it instead of rice just about everywhere. I like it better, and supposedly it is nature's miracle. So I feel better about eating it.

Anyway, I took the quinoa and I took the beans and I saved some tomatoes from death on their vine, and I added some cheese and I stuffed the peppers. Oh my oh my. What a delicious dinner. Lucky for me, there was enough for two days of leftovers! (You may not end up with so much to eat tomorrow. I have kids who won't tough most of what I make, and that leaves more for me. This recipe should serve 4-8, depending on whether you are using it as a main dish or a side.)

This recipe is loosely based on one I found at Vegetarian Times.  I have to warn you, it takes about 2 hours from start to finish!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

4-5 tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped

3 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
pinto beans (again, I used some that my husband cooked, but you could use a can. I used about the equivalent of one can of beans)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
bell peppers (I used 9 very small peppers, because that is what I had. I imagine that 4-5 average peppers would use up this amount of stuffing. But if you have some extra stuffing leftover, lucky you! It makes a great burrito for lunch!)

First, chop the tomatoes. Reserve as much liquid as you can from the cutting board. Place a small colander into a baking dish on your counter.  Put the tomatoes into the colander and let the juice drain into the baking dish. This will help steam the peppers when you bake them, as well as keep them from sticking to the dish). Set this aside to drain while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and then the carrots, onion, garlic, and cumin. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the carrots and onions are soft. 

Add the quinoa and vegetable broth and bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Let it simmer for 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. At this point, start heating the oven to 350.

When the quinoa is done cooking, stir in the drained tomatoes, beans, and about half of the cheese.

Cut each pepper in half, and remove the ribs and seeds. Stuff each pepper with a mound of the filling, and place them in the baking dish with the tomato juice.

Cover the pan with tin foil, and bake for an hour. After the hour, remove the foil, sprinkle the rest of the cheese evenly on the peppers, and bake for another 15 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned.

Enjoy with some crusty bread and a big green salad!