A Taste of South America

I know I said I would do a series on salads, but realistically I don’t eat salads for lunch every day. So I’m switching it up and giving you guys a recipe for quinoa stuffed bell peppers. This dish takes some time, but is totally worth it in the end because it’s super healthy, delicious, and filling!

What is quinoa, you ask? It’s a super grain from Peru that is extremely good for you. It’s high in magnesium and iron, unusual for a grain. For all those veg-heads out there, it also contains a good amount of protein! (well in the form of amino acids). It looks like couscous and has a nutty flavor. Sometimes it can be a bit bitter, but with plenty of seasonings and ample cooking time it’s absolutely delicious! Eat it cold as a salad or as a rice substitute.

What you’ll need for this recipe: (serves 2)
1 box of quinoa (or a quinoa/rice blend)
2 green bell peppers – try to get peppers with flat bottoms so you can stand them up while they’re in the oven
1/2 cup of zucchini
3 cloves of garlic
2 or 3 sprigs of cilantro
1 cup of broccoli
1/2 cup of white mushrooms
1 small tomato
1/2 cup of corn
1/2 cup of your favorite onion (I happen to love vidalias, so I used one of those)
*1 hot italian sausage (substitute with 1/4 lb of ground beef or chicken if you don’t eat pork)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp of paprika
1/2 tsp of cumin
lots of salt
lots of pepper
*obviously, leave this out if you don’t eat meat

Prep:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 F
2. Wash and cut off the top of your pepper, but don’t throw it out because you’ll need it later. Clean out the seeds.

I’ve had green peppers stuffed with quinoa before and definitely prefer them to red ones because they’re a little milder. I only had red peppers at home.

3. Boil water in a pot that will fit your pepper. Salt the water so that it tastes like sea water. Cook your pepper for about 4-5 minutes, then take it out to let it cool.
4. Chop up your vegetables into medium-small pieces. If adding sausage, chop them up into about 1 cm cubes.

Cooking:
1. Heat vegetable oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add your onions and let them develop a bit of color.
2. Throw in the garlic and sausage (or ground meat) and brown them with the onions.
3. Add your broccoli next and let them cook down a bit since they take more time than the other veggies.
4. Add the zucchini, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and corn. Again, let them cook down a bit before adding the spices, cilantro, a lot of salt and pepper. It’s fine if you oversalt at this point because you’ll be adding a few cups of water soon and that will wash out some of the taste. Don’t worry about cooking your vegetables all the way.
5. Now add your quinoa, letting them dry cook for a few min. To determine how much quinoa to add, go by the serving size on the box and double that (since this recipe is for two). Add about 1/4 cup of water LESS than the prescribed amount (should also be found on the box). Salt like crazy and add the lemon juice.
6. Lower heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let the quinoa cook for 15 minutes. There will probably still be some liquid in the pot after this cooking period.

After cooking your vegetables and adding quinoa + water your pot will look like some strange soup. Don’t worry; most of that liquid will disappear.

See? Looks great and NOT watery anymore!

Finishing the Peppers:
1. Season the peppers with salt and pepper
2. Stand your pepper up and fill them up with your quinoa/vegetable mix.


4. Oil a baking sheet so that your peppers don’t stick and burn when they’re in the oven.
3. Cover them back up and stick them in the oven for 20 minutes.

So being the idiot that I am, I bought a pepper with a really uneven bottom. If you make the same mistake I did, or just don’t have any even-bottomed peppers, use toothpicks to skewer the tops to the rest of the peppers. That way, if your peppers fall over while in the oven (as mine did) your quinoa won’t spill out.

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