Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Last week the weather forecasts predicted a massive blizzard of epic proportions. Immediately, my thoughts went to last year's blizzard where we were stranded for almost a week and ran out of all basic food (not to mention had no heat or running water for a while.) Apparently, I and most of the country were still traumatized because everyone attacked the supermarkets and stocked up on food, anticipating feeding their families 3 meals a day for weeks as if the Apocalypse was coming. I freely (and sheepishly) admit that I bought enough to keep us stranded for a good two weeks. Of course, as Murphy's law has it, our blizzard turned out to be just a giant money making conspiracy by the supermarkets and we only got a measly few inches. Needless to say, I and I'm sure lots of other people were left with tons of leftover groceries. Most of what I had left could be used for a while afterwards but I had lots of peppers that were going downhill quickly and this is what became of them.
This is a vegetarian Tex-Mex take on stuffed peppers and they are truly delicious. I used quinoa instead of the traditional rice to make it healthier and added lots of black beans and spices for flavor. Instead of the spices, to make things easier you can substitute your favorite Taco seasoning blend- I personally love the one Trader Joe's makes that has no MSG and I imported a few packets with me last time I was in America. You can also add soy crumbles or your fake chopped meat of choice to this and it would be delicious as well. This recipe makes a lot but is yummy as leftovers the next day. I ate mine topped with sour cream, chopped cilantro and more sriracha and was in healthy Tex-Mex heaven. Enjoy!
5 large green or red bell peppers, either halved with half stem on or whole with tops removed
2 Tbl olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or small hot pepper, finely diced (optional)
1 small zucchini, diced
1 1/3 cups quinoa, rinsed very, very well
1 cup water
1 800 gram (28oz) can crushed tomato, divided
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin (alternatively, instead of the spices you can substitute 2 Tbl of your favorite Taco seasoning mix)
1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
pinch of oregano
1 Tablespoon sriracha (optional)
salt and pepper
3 cups grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite Mexican cheese blend), divided in half
1 1/2 cups crushed tomato (the rest of the can)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp salt
Heat a pot of lightly salted water to boiling and add the halves or whole peppers. Let cook for 4 -5 minutes until softened but still crisp. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute until the onions start to get translucent and then add the zucchini. Saute another minute until the zucchini starts to cook and then add the quinoa stirring it around with the vegetable to let it toast a little. Add the 1 cup of water, 1 1/2 cups of crushed tomato, black beans, cumin, chili powder, oregano and sriracha and season well with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the quinoa is al dente. Close the flame and let the quinoa sit another 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Cool the mixture. Once cool mix in 11/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese.
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a bowl mixed the remainder of the crushed tomato with the water and spices. Spread at the bottom of a baking dish. Nestle the peppers in the sauce and fill each with quinoa mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese on top of each pepper, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes until the cheese is nice and melted.