Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I grew up eating stuffed peppers filled with ground beef and cheese. They are a serious comfort food for me.  Though they absolutely delicious and over-filling, I wanted a healthier alternative that also tasted great.  Introducing my favorite new grain – quinoa!  It soaks up the taste of everything around it and is super healthy for you.  Packed full of all sorts of veggies, these are great for a complete meal.

Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients:

4 green bell peppers
1 cup quinoa
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 can black beans, rinced
1 can corn
1/2 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2  cups vegetable broth

photo 1

Preparation:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Sautee onion in a pan until translucent.  Add corn to pan and heat for about 5 minutes.

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3.  In a saucepan, add the quinoa, tomatoes, and italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, allowing the quinoa to cook through.  You will know when the quinoa is cooked, as the little kernels will pop and become larger.

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4. While the onion and corn cooks, add the black beans and cook for about 5 minutes until warmed through.

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5. Once the quinoa is ready, add it to the onion mixture in the pan.  Mix all together and then set aside.

photo 1 (2)

6.  Cut your peppers in half and clean out the seeds from the inside.  Lay the halves down on a covered cookie sheet, inside up.

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7.  Scoop heaping spoonfuls of the quinoa mixture onto the peppers.  It will feel like you have too much – that’s ok.  Keep scooping.

photo 3 (2)

8.  Bake for about 25 minutes until the pepper is soft.

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9.  Enjoy!

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Results:

Yum!  They’re super filling, so you’ll have plenty for leftovers.  I was surprised we each had one whole pepper.

Ziti with Portobello Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese

I’m a lover of goat cheese.  It’s tangy delicious and it makes me feel grown up and sophisticated when I eat it.  This recipe goes really well with the Fall chill in the air and sometimes you just want some cheesy pasta and to curl up with a good book.

 

Ziti with Portobello Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese
(Inspiration thanks to Food and Wine Magazine)

2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved and then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 pound ziti [I used gluten free rigatoni for this recipe – more on that below]
4 ounces soft goat cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Ziti ingredients 2

(Please forgive me that the onion is pre-chopped – I always force J into chopping onions!)

1.  In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderate heat. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Ziti onions raw

Beginning

Ziti onions brown

Browned

Ziti onions caramel done
Caramelized!

2. In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown, about 8 minutes.

Ziti mushrooms

3.  Add the reserved onions,  the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper to the mushrooms and remove from heat.

Ziti onion mushroom

4.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the ziti until just done. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water and drain. Toss the ziti and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water with the mushroom mixture, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the goat cheese, and the Parmesan in the pasta pot.  After mixing, pour in the reserve water and stir until all goat cheese has melted.

Ziti mixed

5.  Serve with additional Parmesan and enjoy!

Ziti final

Results:

This worked out really nicely as a fall-tasting tangy recipe.  I think next time I would add asparagus or another vegetable to liven up the color palate.  Think of this as grown up mac-and-cheese.

Something to keep in mind – caramelizing onions takes a deceivingly long amount of time.  On the clock, it takes about 20 minutes, but it seems like it should take less.  Wait for the onions to brown and then keep browning them.  They will get darker but not burn.  This, with the combination of sugar and oil, will make them sweet.  Don’t worry if it feels like it’s taking forever.

Also, on the gluten free note – gluten free pasta is an interesting animal.  Because of its materials (the one featured above is potato based), you have to be mindful of the cooking time.  If you overcook it, it will get sticky and kind of slimy.  For regular pasta, I do a time estimate and hope for the best while checking done-ness of the noodles.  With GF pasta, I always set a timer for 10 minutes and drain it at the buzzer.  Otherwise, it can be a mess.  I will say that taste wise, with a good sauce, you can’t even tell the difference!