Friday, March 12, 2010

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Entertaining is a feat I take on as often as possible. I constantly look for excuses to have people over, whether for the social aspect, a reason to drink wine, or to justify elaborate menu scheming. Moving into a new house is the perfect excuse for multiple events: extended family dinner, ladies night of course, mid-week happy hour with co-workers, and finally the big bash with everyone. Our new home is cozy and spacious at the same time. The open kitchen is perfect for preparing food and socializing (my two favorite activities in the world). This week we started with family dinner – nothing too large or fancy. However, I was met with the additional challenge of making this meal gluten-free along with other allergies of sorts - no tomatoes, peanuts, or chocolate.

My favorite whole grain to cook is quinoa, hands down. It is also my favorite grain to prepare for others who are looking into wheat alternatives, less adventurous, or skeptical of how vegans get their protein. Quinoa is a complete protein which means it has all the amino acids the body cannot produce itself. When a big criticism of plant-based diets is that plants cannot give you complete proteins, I usually pull the quinoa card. It has a nutty taste and is often mistaken for couscous because of its similar shape, though it has a more pearly consistency. It can be used as a breakfast grain, in a bean and grain salad for lunch, or as a base to a warm stew. This was the first time I had used it for stuffing.

There are so many stuffed pepper recipes floating around that it’s hard to settle on any particular approach. Somewhere along the line I had decided to cook up a southwest themed dinner with two kinds of salsa, vegan nacho cheese and seasoned stuffed peppers. Growing up, my mom always made stuffed peppers with ground beef and rice. I never really cared for them, but I felt like with a good spice combo I could jazz it up. Instead of beef, I used tempeh. Much like quinoa, I often use tempeh to showcase meat alternatives to omnivores. It has an intriguing texture and will take on any flavor you lend it. I looked up a good chorizo spice mixture and read up on a few ideas of how best to cook the spices into tempeh, rather than just cooking it up in a pan with oil. This boiling/simmering technique worked really well and it took on a fabulous flavor. I topped the peppers off with Daiya cheese, the newly famous vegan cheese alternative. The Daiya didn’t add a whole lot to the peppers, but in combination with the vegan sour cream I whipped up – the condiments were lovely together. This recipes responds well to variations.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Serves 5-6
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 45


3 Large bell peppers, halved with stems in tact and seeded
4 T. Oil, canola or olive
½ Medium red onion, diced
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1 c. Red bell pepper, diced
1 c. Corn, thawed if using frozen
½ tsp Salt
1 ½ c. Quinoa, cooked
1 ½ c. Tempeh Chorizo (below)
1 T. Red wine vinegar
¼ c. Cilantro, chopped
1 c. Vegan cheese, shredded (optional)*
Vegan sour cream (optional)


Preheat oven to 450º F. Place pepper halves facing down on a glass baking dish or roasting pan. Coat pan and peppers with cooking spray. Roast in oven 10-15 minutes or until softened (but not blackened). Lower oven temperature to 400º F.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add tempeh chorizo and cook until browned, 8-10 minutes.

Add onions, garlic and bell peppers. Sauté until vegetables are nearly tender, 8-10 minutes. Add corn and salt and cook an additional 5 minutes until corn starts to brown. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, tempeh, sautéed vegetables, vinegar and cilantro. Toss well to incorporate all flavors. Fill each pepper half with about ½ cup of the filling. Bake in oven about 20 minutes. Add shredded cheese if using and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until cheese has melted. Serve with salsa and a dollop of vegan sour cream.

Tempeh Chorizo
Serves: 5-6
Cook time: 30-45 minutes


1pkg Tempeh, cut into ½ - 1 inch cubes
1 c. Vegetable broth
1 c. Water
2 T. Apple cider vinegar
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp. Cayenne pepper


Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook at a rolling boil uncovered until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 30-45 minutes. When the sauce is thick, stir tempeh and remove from heat. When tempeh has cooled slightly, transfer to food processor and pulse until tempeh is ground (but not to a complete mush).

1 comment:

  1. It was such a yummy dinner. Thanks for having us over. - Kim