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.

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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.

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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.

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Spicy Peanut Noodles

This recipe is one of my favorites when I don’t know what else to make.  There are a bunch of ingredients, but a little goes a long way, so even though you’re buying a lot of new things up front, they will last you a long while.

This one is a quick meal, but also super customizable.  In the recipe below, I used red and green peppers, but you can really throw in any fresh vegetables you have laying around (I sometimes use a cucumber or some green onions, but anything with a crunch will succeed here).   The original recipe is for shrimp, but I opt for some precooked chicken strips.  You could also forgo the meat all together and make this a vegetarian option.  Totally up to you!

Spicy Peanut Noodles

(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients:

Peanut sauce:

1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons chile paste [Find this in the international foods aisle]

Noodles:

4 cups cooked spaghetti or linguine noodles(8 ounces uncooked)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green pepper cut into strips.

1 box pre-cooked chicken strips

photo 1

Preparation:

1.  Boil a pot of water and add noodles.  Boil until noodles are ready, about 10 minutes.  Drain noodles.

2.  To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients; stir until smooth (There will be chunks due to the peanuts, but the rest of the mix should be combined well)

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2.  To prepare the chicken, sauté in nonstick skillet coat ed with cooking spray over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side or until crispy on the edges.

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3.  Slice peppers into strips.  Set aside.

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4.  Combine chicken, noodles, and peppers in pasta pot.  Stir together.

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5.  Add peanut sauce and stir.

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6.  Serve and enjoy!

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Results:

The sauce is sweet and yummy and this one throws together in about 10-15 minutes.  It’s great when you don’t know what to prepare or you need to whip a lot of food up quickly.  This one is consistently in my meal rotation, especially on busy weeks.

Mongolian Beef

Another one of my favorite take-out go-to’s is Chinese food.  As we’ve discussed, it can be a pain on both the wallet and the waistline to order in take-out all the time.  I enjoy finding alternatives to favorite meals that are usually healthier and often more delicious.

Mongolian Beef
(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients
1 lb flank steak, trimmed and cut into thin slices
Butter-flavored cooking spray
1/3 cup hoisin sauce [Find this in the international food aisle]
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger [I used this crazy ginger paste as seen in the photo and it worked out pretty well and saved the headache that is fresh ginger]
1 teaspoon bottled minced roasted garlic
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil [Also in the international food aisle]
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 green onions
Snap Peas
Rice
Ingredients

Preparation:

1. Cut steak into bite-size pieces and chop onion in preparation.

Chopped beef and onions
2.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Cook steak in pan over medium-high heat until browned, stirring occasionally.
Meat in pan

3.  While steak cooks, combine hoisin sauce, water, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl.

Sauce

4.  Once steak is cooked through but not too ‘well done’, pour in the sauce and the snap peas into the pan and mix together.

5.  Serve over rice and enjoy!

Finished

Results:

This is definitely a lighter, healthier version than you’d find at the Chinese take-out place.  The sauce is SUPER delish, too.  Add a little extra hoisin for sweetness and adjust the red pepper for your preferred level of spicy.

The best steak to use is flank steak.  It is often the most expensive in the meat counter and, depending on your grocery store, they may not even carry it.  Alternatives are skirt steak or “London Broil”.  You can really use any cut of steak you’d like, but make sure it’s not too too fatty, or else you’ll get a lot of grease in the pan and it’ll affect the flavor.  Just make sure it’s a thin cut of meat.

I love using the snap peas as the vegetable in this one.  They add a nice crunch to each bite.

Thai Cashew Chicken

One of my favorite things to do is order take out.  Really, restaurants are so much fun and it is so easy to call up delivery after a long day of working.  What’s not so fun is the costs can add up from ordering out every night.  Also, it’s not the healthiest and goodness knows we’re not living on college metabolisms anymore.  Is there a way to find that same deliciousness while also being easy to prepare?  You bet there is!

Thai food is one of my favorites to order.  In DC, there’s not a lot of Chinese take out that isn’t greasy, so Thai food is the next best bet.  Last night, I whipped together a Thai ‘fake-out’ dish that was equally (if not better) than my usual order at the place around the corner.

I present to you…Cashew Chicken

(Original inspiration found here)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into pieces

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup mushrooms

1 red pepper, sliced thin

1 green pepper, sliced thin

3 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup shelled edamame [Find in the frozen aisle at the grocery store]

2 cloves garlic, minced [I use the jar kind out of laziness]

1/2 cup unsalted cashews

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

Cashew chicken ingredients

1.  Heat a skillet on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add mushrooms and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet.

Cashew Chicken mushrooms

2.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, then coat each piece in cornstarch.

Cashew chicken in pan

3.  Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and add chicken. Brown on both sides until cooked, about 5 minutes per side.

Cashew chicken browned

 

4.  Add garlic, red pepper, edamame, green onions and cashews and stir for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and mix in.  Turn heat to medium low.

Cashew chicken veg in pan

5.  In a small bowl, mix soy sauce and honey. Pour into skillet, coating chicken and vegetables.

6.  Serve over rice.

cashew chicken final

Result:

I was surprised at how much I liked the cornstarch-coated chicken.  It absorbed the honey/soy mix really well and left a really sweet taste.  I always like a lot of veggies in my meals so I went a little overboard on this one.  Feel free to use as many or as little fit your needs.  The edamame, red pepper, and mushroom are a must, though.

I used an Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice for this recipe to cut down on time, but you could use whatever rice you want.  This time, I used brown rice, but I bet long grain would also be a good choice.

Also, for those of you who doubt the ‘cozy’ factor of this kitchen, I present the following evidence:

Cashew chicken cozy

Halfway through preparation, and you’ll notice that most of the ingredients are resting on the stove top (turned off – of course!).  You make it work with what you got!