Last week I realized that I had never made stuffed peppers before. This was somewhat surprising, considering that, growing up-at least from what I recall-we had stuffed peppers at least once or twice a month. It was one of our standard dinners. I also learned that my husband had never even had them before! Evidence of yet more “cultural differences. “
My husband grew up in south Texas and, while he clearly grew up in the U.S. there was so much Mexican/Southwest influence and culture that he sometimes misses pop culture references, has not had certain foods that were commonplace in other areas, and does not share my love of seasons or seasonal nostalgia, to name a few differences between us. A non-white Christmas doesn’t really phase him. Anyway, so whenever we are discussing a nostalgic childhood memory, whether it be food, a television show, a song, and it is not a shared memory, I jokingly refer to that as one of our many “cultural differences.”
Back to the stuffed peppers.
The night before was a delicious yet heavy night of BBQ and beer, so we were craving something vegetarian and healthy (I probably use the term “we” loosely here, but Jose did say that a meal without meat sounded good to him that night). I decided to use quinoa as the grain to add more protein and it worked quite well.
I cooked the quinoa with vegetable broth and a can of Rotel, to give it a bit of a kick and added spices for additional heat and flavor, sautéed some kale and mushrooms, and added the quinoa to the kale-mushroom mixture once cooked.
The flavors and texture worked really well with this combination; I loved the addition of the kale and mushrooms with the “southwest” flavors of the tomatoes, peppers, chili powder, and cumin.
It’s a beautiful thing when meals are thrown together without an actual recipe and it all seems to work. Definitely doesn’t always happen like that.
I recommend topping them with cheese while still warm. Queso fresco, smoked gouda, a sharp cheddar….so many possibilities. Let’s be honest though-it’s not possible to go wrong with cheese. Or avocado, Greek yogurt, hot sauce….
I already need to make these again.
Quinoa, Kale, and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers
- 3-4 bell peppers
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable broth, plus ½ cup reserved
- 1 can Rotel (or diced tomatoes and diced green chilies)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Light sprinkling of salt (I rarely measure salt and tend to know how much we prefer-it’s best to add a little bit and add more to taste later)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3-4 handfuls fresh kale
- ½ cup-2/3 baby bella mushrooms
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut peppers lengthwise and remove stem, ribs, and seeds. Set aside.
Add quinoa to a medium saucepan and combine with 2 cups vegetable, Rotel, cumin, and chili powder. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed.
While quinoa is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil, chopped onion, and garlic. Saute until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Add kale with 1/8-1/4 cup water, depending on how much you use, mix together, and cover until mushrooms are soft and kale is wilted, about 5 minutes.
When kale and mushrooms are cooked, add quinoa to skillet and stir to combine.
Add peppers to baking dish and fill with quinoa mixture. Pour ½ cup reserved vegetable broth into the bottom of the pan, cover with foil, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, and then serve with optional toppings.
Depending on how many peppers you use, you may have leftover quinoa-we did, which says something because leftovers are rare in our house. Make any judgments you’d like with that.
I also remember eating all of the cheesy covered filling and skipping the pepper altogether. I’m so grown up now.
After talking about this with my mother, I learned that instead of cooking them in the oven, she used to microwave them! I did not remember that part and always just assumed she baked them, like most recipes I’ve found. Funny how you remember childhood memories differently-perhaps that’s a shortcut I should test out next time!