Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bell Pepper Brilliance

Before going to the grocery store on Saturday, I asked my husband if he had any dinner requests.  He thought for a minute and said, "Stuffed Peppers!"  My face probably fell.  I don't like peppers unless they are raw on a veggie platter - cooked, I can definitely do without them.  He so rarely offers suggestions, though, that I felt like I had to just take one for the team and make them.  I started to think about perhaps why I don't like stuffed peppers.  I realized that I am actually fine with peppers in salsa, fajitas, those sorts of southwest/mexican preparations.  What grosses me out about stuffed peppers is the weird tomato sauce/rice/hamburger thing.  While I was wandering the grocery store with my very patient smallest cherub, I had this genius idea to create fajita-style stuffed peppers.  It would be a grand experiment and if it turned out, I would feel incredible satisfaction.  You see, since I'm not working, I find that I use dinner experimentation to fulfill my need to be creative/inventive and to problem-solve.  To up the ante a little bit, I decided to try out quinoa for the first time too.  If you've never tried quinoa, you should!  It is a whole grain that is gluten free and very nutritious.  It can be prepared the same as rice with a 1:2 ratio of grains to liquid.  I hear it can also be used as a hot cereal.
The results were pretty amazing.  I don't even like peppers and I LOVED this dinner.  I would absolutely make it again.  It was also one of the more beautiful meals I have made and the bonus is that it contains 5 vegetable colors, which is one benchmark of a healthy meal.  The even more amazing part was that after presenting the kids with their deconstructed, much-simplified version, our 3.5 year old didn't want his dinner, he wanted to try out a pepper just like ours - specifically, he wanted to eat the green one (his favorite color).  In a relative sense, he was pretty brave.  He actually ate quite a bit of it.  This is just another reason to make this again.  It also occurs to me that with gluten-free soy sauce, this is easily a gluten-free meal.
So, without further ado, here is the recipe for my outstanding creation:
Danielle's Fajita-Style Stuffed Peppers
Marinade (do this 3-4 hours before cooking-time):
1/4 c lime juice
1/4 c red wine vinegar
2 Tbls soy sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chipotle chile powder
3 large cloves garlic minced
1 Tbls finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 red onion chopped
1/2 white onion chopped
1/2 lb lean stir-fry steak cut into small pieces (cut them about the same size as the onion pieces)
In a ziploc freezer bag or appropriately-sized bowl, mix marinade ingredients.  Add onions and steak to mixture, mix until well-coated, seal and place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
3-4 hours later...
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare quinoa:
1 cup uncooked quinoa of any color (I used red because it was all that was available, the other varieties are much cheaper)
2 cups water
salt to taste
Pour quinoa, salt and water into pot, bring to boil.  When boiling, reduce heat to low and cover until all water is absorbed - about 15-20 minutes.
Preparing Peppers to Stuff:
Cut the tops off of 4 bell peppers, any color.  Scoop out the insides and discard.  Set into baking dish.
Chop the usable parts of the tops of the peppers into pieces the same size as the onion.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbls oil on high.  Add marinade mixture (remove as much of the extra liquid as possible before pouring meat and onions into the pan) to the skillet.  Add peppers and cook quickly on high, moving ingredients around so they don't burn, just until the onions and peppers soften slightly and the meat is cooked through: about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine:
1 cup prepared black beans
1 cup corn (frozen or canned)
1-1/2 cups prepared quinoa
Stir-fried meat and veggies
Fill peppers with mixture, placing extra in the baking dish between the peppers.  
Top with 1 Tbls of fresh, finely chopped cilantro.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until peppers are slightly curled on the tops and softened but not mushy (my husband actually liked this dish largely for the fact that it was fairly minimally baked and therefore fresh-tasting).
Serve with fresh diced avocados and tomatoes.  Top with sour cream.  
I highly recommend mixing the tomatoes, avocados and sour cream into the pepper stuffing.  It was SO delicious that way.

1 comment:

  1. These look soooo good! I'm definitely going to try them. Theron did research on quinoa during his BYU undergrad days - once we went to a department Christmas party and all the food (and beverages) were made with it. It was pretty interesting, but I haven't eaten it again since then. This sounds like the perfect opportunity to give it a try. Your culinary experiments are totally paying off for me :)