Monday, January 14, 2013

Quinoa Stuffed "Southern" Bells

What's better than a sweet roasted red bell pepper stuffed with melty, cheesy, meaty goodness? Maybe some crumbled bacon on top... Maybe a vegetarian version with quinoa.... Wait, what?

Yes I said it: vegetarian. Don't stop reading. I promise that this recipe will offer up the most amazingly delicious stuffed peppers you've ever had. Throw out your old recipe now.

Quinoa Stuffed Red Bell Peppers.

I'm going to be honest with you right out the gate and let you know your chances of eating only one of these babies is zero to none. I've made it for my girlfriends on girls' night- gone. I've made it for my boyfriend and his friends - they ate every last bit, even after I admitted I purposefully omitted the ground beef. It's hearty. It's healthy. It's chock-full of flavor with quinoa and cheese and veggies. It's about to be on your weekly dinner menu.

George likes the peppers, too.

Garlic fingers are my least favorite thing
These stuffed "southern" bells are simple and easy to make (so long as you're good at chopping vegetables. I'm not.): Prep takes about 30 minutes (or an hour if you're anything like me with a knife), another 20-30 minutes to prepare the filling and about 50 minutes to cook the stuffed peppers in the oven. Feel free to sub or add any veggies you like. I like the "southwestern" flavor in this recipe so I stick with the ingredients you'll see listed below.
Quinoa-Veggie filling.

You can try yellow or orange peppers, too.
I'm also going to let you know that I've been known to cook and eat only the filling for dinner. I love cooking with quinoa and this is hands down my favorite way to eat it. If you're looking for new ways to eat quinoa (or just reasons to) this is a good recipe to start with.

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Pepper with Side Caesar Salad. Also, I apologize for my poor quality iPhone food porn.

OK, enough of this, here's your recipe!

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
as adapted from a recipe found at Good Life Eats as adapted from Vegetarian Times

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 poblano pepper or anaheim chili, diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
8-10 crimini mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced thin
1 – 15 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained (liquid reserved for cooking dish)
2-3 large carrots, grated 
1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups of water
1 – 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups grated pepper Jack cheese, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise with ribs removed

Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and poblano pepper/anaheim chili and cook until soft and onions are slightly translucent (about 5 minutes). Add cumin and garlic, and saute for 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

Stir in quinoa, carrots, and 1 3/4 cups water (you may want more or less water depending on how much liquid was evaporated). Cover and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Add black beans, 1 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish. If more liquid is needed, add a few tablespoons of water (the peppers will absorb flavor from the tomato juice and will also be prevented from burning n the bottom of the dish).

Fill each bell pepper to the top with quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and discard foil, and sprinkle each pepper with remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes before transferring to serving plates. Drizzle with pan juices if desired.


Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Requests? I'd love to hear your feedback.
 Please don't be shy and leave me a comment or contact me via e-mail. 
Happy cooking! :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dinner Tonight: White Bean & Kale Soup

A couple weeks ago, I got together with some girlfriends for a ladies night to prepare for the release of Les Miserables by watching the 1985 cast PBS special. Like every single time we get together, there was too much food. Wine, spiced apple cider, cheese, bruschetta, homemade cookies (there's a recipe I used that has been a hit all through the holiday season that I will have to share with you on another day)... But dinner, oh man, dinner was AH-MAZ-ING. I'm a huge soup fan. An addict. Three bowls is never enough. And with as cold as it has been lately, nothing made me feel as cozy and ready to cry my eyes out to the Les Mis soundtrack as this recipe for white bean and kale soup did. I must have bothered the chef, my friend Kaitlin, for the recipe every time I saw her since that night and I'm surprised she didn't just stab me with a fork to shut me up. She repeatedly insisted that there wasn't anything to it and it wasn't until she sent the recipe to me today via test message that I realized that there really wasn't anything to it (I mean, really, how easy can it be if the recipe can be summed up in a single text?). This is a fool proof recipe that you can experiment with and customize until you get a recipe and flavor that's all your own.

White Bean and Kale Soup
(adapted from my lady-friend Kaitlin as adapted from YouTube's Gardenfork TV. This is a vegetarian soup, but you can use chicken stock instead if you'd like!)

1/4 cup of olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 cans of white beans (with liquid reserved)
2 containers of vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch of kale, de-vained and chopped
1 block of hard cheese with rind, diced
1tsp thyme
1tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large stock pot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until golden brown/translucent.
2. Add the beans and the liquid from the can. I used Cannellini beans, but you can also use Great Northern or any other white bean that suits your fancy. Now, let's imagine I'm not broke-ass and own a pressure cooker (thanks for cooperating)... Raw beans can also be used, but you want to be sure to reserve about two cups of the cooking liquid to add to the pot-o-soup.
FYI: Organic canned beans don't have unpronounceable chemicals in the canning liquid, so I always opt for them.

3. Add vegetable broth. Reduce heat to low and simmer.
4. While the broth and beans are simmering, de-vain and chop the kale leaves into bite sized pieces and add to the broth. I used Dino kale, but you can really use whatever your little taste buds like.
Chopped Dino Kale. Have extra? Make Kale Chips or a Kale Salad with walnuts!

5. Add spices and salt and pepper to taste. I won't eat anything without garlic salt in it so I threw that in too. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Simmer on low, covered, for 45 minutes to one hour.

6. Add diced cheese and rind to soup and gently stir until melted into the soup. This will add flavor and creamy richness to the soup. Upon my friend's recommendation, I used a cheese I found at Whole Foods that after reciting the name over and over again while I cooked I of course forgot the name of it... It was a cheese similar to white cheddar with a cocoa rind and it is soooooo tasty. I almost ate the whole block before it made it to the pot. Anyway, use any hard cheese you like; Parmesan, pecorino romano, etc. But my friend insists that an interesting rind on the cheese will really add something special to the flavor of the soup.
I really really wish I could remember what the name of this cheese was because I kinda want to eat it for breakfast.

7. Serve hot with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy with your favorite loaf of bread. Please excuse my burnt garlic bread... Jeopardy got really intense and I kind of forgot about it until the smoke alarm went off.
Vegetarian White Bean and Kale Soup. Enjoy!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Requests? I'd love to hear your feedback.
 Please don't be shy and leave me a comment or contact me via e-mail. 
Happy cooking! :)
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