Rookie Chef: Quinoa stuffed bell peppers
blog by Kathryn Przybyla • August 23, 2013 @ 10:49am
When out for dinner, I’m a fan of trying new appetizers to start my meal.
As much as I love adventurous new foods, the stuffed banana peppers always catch my eye. So cheesy and spicy and delicious, I wanted to find a dinner alternative to that was a bit healthier.
My sister and I got to work and gathered all sorts of ingredients, some from the recipe, some left out and some fabulous additions. What’s great about recipes, my dad always says is that they are a great guideline to your meal. If you love garlic, don’t be afraid to add some right in. You know what you like and getting creative with your dish can make the meal even better.
What else I loved about these peppers was that you can really plan ahead, chop the ingredients the night before and get cooking when you get home from work the next day. Stuff the peppers, pop them in the oven and in 25 to 30 minutes, have a great dinner ready to go.
Total time: 50 minutes (20 minutes prep, 30 minutes to cook)
To begin, start by cooking the 1.5 cups of quinoa in boiling water on the stove and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
3 cups cooked quinoa (remember, 1 cup of uncooked quinoa = 2 cups of cooked quinoa)
1 (4 ounce) can of Ro-Tel (canned tomatoes and green chili)
1 package of breakfast sausage links (optional)
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 bell peppers, tops cut, stemmed and seeded
While your quinoa is cooking, start by combining the filling ingredients for the stuffed bell peppers. Instead of buying a full can of green chili peppers, we found Ro-Tel which was a great alternative of canned tomatoes and peppers with a little kick.
Next we added the black beans and shredded cheese to the mix. Feel free to add whichever kind of beans or cheese you would like. The original recipe called for corn kernals and feta, but we replaced that with extra shredded cheese and more black beans.
At this point, we defrosted the breakfast sausage links in the microwave and then chopped them up into small pieces to add to the bell pepper filling. We added all of the desired spices at this step too—garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, chili powder and cilantro.
Keep an eye on the quinoa cooking on the stove. Once that is fully cooked and there is no water left in the pot, take it off the heat. You can now slice your bell peppers. Cut a straight line across the top of the pepper (to be used as a “hat” later) and gut out all the seeds.
Once the quinoa is cooked and your bell peppers are ready, combing the quinoa into your already prepared bell pepper filling ingredients.
Mix this up well, this will be the delicious filling for your bell peppers once you bake them. Your finished product should look similar to this. Give it a taste (don’t worry everything is cooked or a raw veggie/bean). If you would like, add what you think its missing—a little salt, pepper or maybe some more chili powder.
Now is the fun part. Line a backing sheet with aluminum (to avoid a mess) and lay the bell peppers accordingly. Spoon out your pepper filling into each cup and don’t pack too tightly, you want to make sure they are filled and have room to cook evenly.
Once the peppers have been stuffed, take some extra cheese and go to town with topping. Once you cover up the pepper again with the sliced top, the cheese will act like glue to seal the deal and (hopefully) ooze out a bit to make it even tastier.
Place the sliced tops of the peppers back on top of the filled bottoms. It’s suggested to line them up perfectly as they were cut, but you don’t need to be that meticulous. Throw them on however you would like.
All you have left to do now is to place them in the oven. My sister so nicely demonstrates this in the photo above. At this point we were pretty starving and super excited to get these pepper cooked!
With the oven set at 350 degrees already, pop the bell peppers into the oven for between 25 and 30 minutes, keep an eye on them towards the end to make sure they are all cooked evenly. Once they are done, they should be a bit wrinkled and tender.
Plate them, serve them and enjoy a great meal with a whole lot of flavor packed into one little pepper. We were huge fans of the results from this dish. The only thing we might have added later with a splash of Frank’s Hot Sauce on the finished product because you really can put that stuff on everything.
One pepper with a side salad was very filling and we got to take the other two for lunch the following day. Home cooked leftovers, especially ones where flavors are combined almost always taste better the next day.
Overall, this dish would be a great one to adjust and tamper with for different flavors and tastes. You can also make it a fully loaded vegetarian dish without adding the sausage or any meat. Try an Indian inspired alternative or maybe a meat lovers one with even more sausage—honestly your options are endless.
Quinoa stuffed bell peppers: a very good dinner.