Sometimes—when I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed, tired, or downright cranky—it feels good to chop an onion.
A lot has been happening these past few weeks. Nothing really, really bad. And nothing too crazy either. Just—a lot. I’m realizing that the weekends aren’t enough to bring me back to normal, and so I’ve been relying on my sharpest kitchen knives and a few good recipes, as my greatest form of stress management.
Tonight I felt like making stuffed vegetarian peppers.
I’ve been wanting to make stuffed peppers for some time now. Hesitation is what has held me back for so long. Thoughts of my mom’s famous hamburg stuffed peppers, lingering in the back of my mind. Memories of a recipe that was handed down from my mom’s mom’s mom, to my mom’s mom, and then to my mom (and eventually to me.) That’s kind of a lot of pressure to put on a girl.
But I decided, after all, that I still wanted a vegetarian stuffed pepper to call my own. And if I found a recipe that was unique enough, it could become a new recipe to add to my collection. Not a replacement. Never a replacement. I’m sure the long line of French Canadian women wouldn’t mind hearing that I experimented in the kitchen (although there may be a few eyebrows raised at the idea of having a meatless meal!)
To find a well deserving recipe, I pulled out my stack of magazines. That’s when I stumbled across a Vegetarian Times Magazine, which proudly boasted pictures of stuffed peppers, smothered in a rich cheddar cheese. I had all the ingredients on hand to make such a pepper. It was obviously meant to be.
Recipe? Found. Cooking utensils? Ready. Apron? On. Stress Management Class may now commence.
By this point in the recipe, you’ll have an onion and two stalks of celery simmering in a bit of olive oil on the stove. For about 5 minutes or so. The cumin and garlic are then added for a minute more of cooking (thanks to an informative reader for letting me know that this short duration of heat upon spice really does intensify the flavors…)
Moving on. Drain the juice from 2 cans of diced tomatoes, but save it for later. You’ll see why, later on in the recipe.
Add the diced tomatoes and 10-oz. of dethawed & drained frozen spinach to your onion mixture.
(I probably failed to mention this earlier, but you’ll also want to have a pot of brown rice going at this time, unless you’re taking the quinoa route (see recipe below for the details!)
Meanwhile, grate 3 large carrots. If you’re like me, you’ll want to peel an extra one for munching.
Mix all ingredients together.
(All Ingredients = Cooked brown rice. Spinach. Tomatoes. Black beans. Carrots. Cheese.)
Stir, Stir, Stir.
I’m pretty sure that any leftover filling (because this recipe does make extra filling) will find its way into a tortilla wrap or atop a salad. The flavor is superb.
But a wrap or a salad was not meant for tonight. Tonight, I forged ahead and decided to stick completely to the written recipe, halving and coring the freshest bell peppers that I could find, and stuffing them to the gills.
After the procedure of stuffing the peppers was finished, I covered them with a tight seal of foil, popped them in a 350 degree oven, turned the timer to an hour and then I did something that I never do.
I left my mess behind.
Washing dishes is a little like brushing my teeth. I can’t not do it immediately after a meal.
But I came to the conclusion that the dishes could wait. The sunshine could not. So with an hours worth of time, I went for a walk. And I’d recommend you do the same if you have a spare 30 minutes or so before your next meal. It felt absolutely luxurious.
When I strolled back in, there was a good 15 minutes left on the timer.
Just enough time to melt a bit of cheddar cheese on top of the peppers. Just enough time to braise some brussels sprouts. Just enough time to get those dishes done and out of the way.
The meal was fabulous and earned tablewide compliments. The flavors were very complex and came together beautifully. Next time I may try adding some salsa to the mix, or a jalapeno for some x-tra spice.
Needless to say, I’ll be making these again.
(Especially since they pack up nicely for next-day-lunches!)
Vegetarian Times, February 2009—plus some minor tweaking
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 T. olive oil
2 celery stalks, finely choped
1 T. cround cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1, 10-oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2-15 oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1-15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 c. quinoa (OR, cook 1 c. dry rice as directed on package)
3 large carrots, grated
1-1/2 c. grated, reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
4 large red, green or yellow bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, cook 5 minutes or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, saute 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
2. If using quinoa: Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 c. water. Cover, bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 c. cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
If using rice: Stir in black beans, cooked rice, and carrots. Stir, reduce heat to low and stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.
4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa or rice mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 T. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.
Today’s Challenge: Do something that you really love and enjoy, as a form of “stress management.” Go for a walk. Brush your cat. Paint your nails. Bake some muffins. Look through old pictures. Make a cup of tea and do absolutely nothing for 15 minutes…(what is your favorite stress buster?)