Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Maybe it’s just me, but do you ever go through phases of food obsession? I mean, some food obsessions are an unchanging given, like chocolate. But others seem to come and go. My current fan favorite is red peppers. Perhaps you could tell, seeing as how this is the third recipe in two months on the blog to include red peppers. The passing fancy of my own food phases makes me think of here-today, gone-tomorrow food trends I’ve seen throughout my lifetime. Maybe today’s kale and quinoa–or in my case, red peppers–are tomorrow’s pop rocks and 1-2-3 Jell-O. (Remember 1-2-3 Jell-O? Why did that have to die? ’80s kids, let’s get a petition going!)

123 Jell-O

Bring it back! Bring it back!

The fact is, unlike the processed mystery that is 1-2-3 Jell-O, I’m new to the crunchy crimson veggie wonder that is red peppers. Up until the last couple of years, I ate red peppers only under social pressure, and even then would prod them around my plate like a picky toddler. I had the sneaking suspicion that people who claimed to enjoy bell peppers were trying to play a vile joke on the rest of us. But somehow–probably as a result of learning in my nutrition studies how fantastically healthy peppers are for you–I have gradually come around. It’s amazing how our mentality can change our feelings about food, isn’t it? (I draw the line, however, at mushrooms. Mushrooms are an eternal abomination.) Having developed a taste for red peppers, though, I’m now all over the map trying them in various combinations and permutations.

It was inevitable, then, that stuffed peppers would make their way into our family’s meal rotation.

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

This version of the classic is 100% vegetarian with a hefty dose of black beans, rice, corn, and tomatoes and a not-too-spicy Mexican flair. The rice and bean filling is delicious all on its own, but stuffing it in a tangy red pepper dripping with sharp cheddar takes it over the top. My husband–a more experienced stuffed pepper eater–says that most stuffed peppers have a softer texture than this recipe, but I for one enjoyed the not-too-squishy crunch that these peppers retained by not baking for too long. These made for a satisfying vegetarian dinner I know I’ll make again.

So how about you? Do you have a current food obsession, or a food you used to hate but have come to love? Tell me all about it!

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

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Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers
A healthy vegetarian stuffed peppers recipe with a Mexican flair!
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, then add minced garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add rice, vegetable broth or water, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 16-18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the tops of the peppers and scrape out the seeds and membranes. Place peppers snugly in the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish (or larger, depending on the size of your peppers).
  3. When rice is finished cooking, add corn and beans to the mixture and stir to combine. Spoon carefully into peppers.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheddar, and continue baking another 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Steak Chopped Salad

Steak chopped salad

Somewhere early on in my learning the German language, I read the original Grimm fairy tale of Rapunzel. It’s pretty different from the Disney movie, FYI, from the lack of catchy musical numbers to the fact that the prince who comes to rescue Rapunzel from her tower ends up blinded when he attempts suicide by leaping out her window. (Hard to imagine that fitting in a catchy musical number anyway, now that I think about it.) But the especially bizarre thing that always stood out to me about the original German version of Rapunzel is that almost the entire first half of the story, which happens before Rapunzel’s birth, has to do with her pregnant mother’s insane lust for the lettuce growing in her neighbor’s garden. The mother’s desire for a salad made of the beautiful green lettuce she sees growing in this garden is so strong that she sends her husband to steal some. The husband, dutiful man that he is, does so, only to find his wife’s cravings intensified threefold after she finally tastes the forbidden lettuce. Dang those pregnancy cravings!

Steak chopped salad

When he eventually gets caught by the neighbor (who–didja guess? happens to be a witch), he promises to hand over the baby to her at birth, so long as his wife can continue to have a supply of the lettuce for her surreptitious salads. Cause, you know, baby…lettuce…it’s all good.

You’ll have to read the original Grimm fairy tale if you want to know how things pan out for Rapunzel and kooky family, but whenever I recall the story, I always think, DANG, that must have been one awesome salad to make her parents hand over their firstborn for it. (That or they weren’t too thrilled about having a baby in the first place?) Every time I have a great salad, I kind of chuckle to myself, like, “Could this be the one someone would relinquish their children for?” Just so you know, I have yet to find the salad I’d be willing to trade my kids in for…

Steak chopped salad

BUT…while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about this uh-may-zing Steak Chopped Salad. Thankfully, you don’t need to make a deal with your neighborhood mistress of the dark arts for a taste. Nor do you need to go hopping fences to steal magical lettuce. All you need are some pantry staples, a good piece of sirloin, and some garden-fresh red cabbage and romaine. The combination of roasted red peppers, creamy feta, marinated steak, and crunchy lettuce with a zingy Mediterranean-style dressing is sublime enough to make you think magic was involved. I couldn’t stop thinking about it after we had it a few night ago.

So I can only assume this is the salad Rapunzel’s mother made, because IF there were a salad that could make me go to crazy lengths to eat it, well, this is the one.

Steak chopped salad

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Steak Chopped Salad
A fresh, whole foods chopped salad you'll want to make again and again!
Course Beef, Main Dish
Servings
as a main course
Course Beef, Main Dish
Servings
as a main course
Instructions
Make the steak:
  1. Combine garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper in a gallon freezer bag. Add steak to the bag and let marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes-2 hours.
  2. Bring steak to room temperature by removing from refrigerator 15-30 minutes prior to cooking. Remove from marinade and pat dry. Set an oven rack 4-5 inches from broiler heating element and preheat broiler to high.
  3. Heat a small skillet over high heat. Add steak and sear 2-3 minutes per side, using tongs to flip in between. Place skillet in oven under broiler and broil on each side 2-3 minutes, again using tongs to flip.
  4. Carefully tent aluminum foil over skillet and let steak rest while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Make the salad:
  1. In a large bowl, toss chopped red cabbage, chopped romaine, red peppers, feta, and cannellini beans.
Make the dressing:
  1. In a 1-cup measuring cup, combine all ingredients. Using an immersion blender, mix until emulsified.
Put it all together:
  1. Slice steak into cubes, cutting against the grain, and add to salad. Serve with dressing on the side.
Recipe Notes

Loosely inspired by Real Simple.

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Ham and White Bean Soup

Ham and White Bean Soup

Here’s a cooking question for the ages: is it possible to take a classic, tried and true recipe and improve upon it? Is there a quintessentially perfect basic blueberry muffin, for example, or pot roast, and is it a sacrilege to modify them? Or how about a ham and bean soup? As far as I know, Americans have been making ham and bean soup since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. (Or at least once they figured out how to not starve–go read Nathaniel Philbrick’s excellent book Mayflower for a lesson on how the Pilgrims were kind of boneheads when it came to agriculture.) Anyway, if not since Plymouth Rock, ham and bean soup has been an American staple at least since the 1980s–I know because there’s a recipe for it in my very own passed-down Better Homes and Gardens “Red and White” cookbook.

BHG red and white cookbook

Which, come to find out, is now going for 90 bucks on the Internet. Sweet!

If a recipe is in the red and white cookbook, I consider it a classic. But to tell you the truth, last week when I read through the Ham and Bean Soup recipe in the BHG Bible, it just didn’t excite me. It used water instead of broth, had minimal seasonings, and called for dried navy beans when I wanted canned. The one thing that DID match my criteria was that it used a ham bone, which I had saved from our Christmas Ham-fest. Still, that wasn’t enough to give it the pizzazz I was hoping for, so I decided to tempt fate and tinker until I came up with something a bit more interesting. Adding chicken broth, carrots, dry mustard, and nutmeg gave this hearty soup enough flavor to eliminate the need for added salt–always a plus, if you ask me. And cutting out the dried bean soaking time got it from prep to table in under an hour. After two bites, my 7-year-old proclaimed it his new favorite soup of all time.

So, if I dare say it, I think our family has a new classic Ham and Bean Soup. Try it out and tell me if you feel the same.

Ham and White Bean Soup

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Ham and White Bean Soup
A hearty soup to warm you from the inside out!
Course soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large stockpot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and ham bone and saute until vegetables have softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer at least 30 minutes.
  3. Remove ham bone and bay leaves and serve.
Recipe Notes

Kinda-sorta based on this recipe from Simply Sated.

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Creamy Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup

This recipe is one of those with a name too long for my blog’s title box parameters. If I had my way, I would call it “Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Cauliflower Soup with Goat Cheese,” but that’s, like, more characters than you can even fit in a Twitter post. When you’re a food lover and recipe developer, though, it’s kind of like being in love–when you find a great recipe, you want to shout from the rooftops about all its wonderful qualities (and the various ingredients that give it its complex flavor profile). You don’t want to leave anything out. With this soup, I want to tell the world that it manages to be both creamy and chunky, that it beautifully blends the boldness of roasted red peppers with the subtler flavor of cauliflower, and that it’s a perfect bowl of healthy vegetarian comfort on a cold winter’s night. But my title box on the blog can only take so many words, so let’s just call it by the abbreviated name “Creamy Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup.” Think of it like that Fiona Apple album that everyone just calls When the Pawn, when the real title is:

When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right.”

You’re welcome for that.

Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup

At any rate, this soup is a whole food recipe you can feel good about in the midst of this season of indulgence. Make it a meal by serving with a side of crusty bread. And when you taste the mix of roasted red pepper, cauliflower, onion, garlic, spices, and goat cheese, you’ll understand what I mean about acknowledging every ingredient. Feel free to shout from your rooftop!

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Creamy Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup
This vegetarian soup is both healthy and hearty!
Instructions
  1. Heat broiler to high and place red peppers, cut side down, on a baking sheet about 4 inches from the broiler. Broil until skins are mostly blackened, checking frequently, about 5-7 minutes. Place in a sealed container and let steam for 20 minutes. Peel off skins and dice peppers.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower in 1 Tbsp. olive oil and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast 20-30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  3. Heat the other 1 Tbsp. in a stock pot over medium heat and saute the onion until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute. Add diced red peppers, roasted cauliflower, broth, paprika, and goat cheese and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Puree to desired consistency with an immersion blender, stir in lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Closet Cooking.

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Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Tell me if you’ve ever had this experience: it’s a weeknight and you’ve planned to make dinner. All best intentions–you grocery shopped, you got ingredients, you know more or less what you’re planning to make and how. But somehow you got home late from errands or got stuck on a phone call with the teacher or had to discipline whoever hit whom with a badminton racquet, and it’s suddenly 5:45 and you haven’t started a darn thing. The kids are starting to get hungry and so are you, and you think, Oh, forget it. There’s no way I can get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s go out to eat.

You pile everyone in the car. You drive to some fast-casual restaurant you think won’t take too long and won’t break the bank….and 40 bucks and 90 minutes later you’re finally home, and NOW it’s almost bedtime and no one has started their homework. You heave a sigh and roll your eyes because, really, when all is said and done, there’s a nagging voice in your head going, “Wouldn’t it have just been faster and cheaper to eat at home?”

I’ve been there many, many nights. And finally, after years, I’m starting to actually learn from the experience. So when I meal plan, if I can build in at least one dinner that’s guaranteed to come together easily and fast, I can breathe easy knowing that the nights we dip into our restaurant budget (and our limited time) will get fewer and further between. These Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo are one of my secret weapons.

I love this recipe because it doesn’t require anything to thaw or marinade or any do other activity that eats up chunks of time and requires pre-planning. Plus, most of its ingredients are things you just might have on hand at any given time. Two cans of beans? Check. Bread crumbs and spices? Check. As for the chipotle pepper in the spicy mayo, in a real dinner emergency, you could even do without it and use chili powder instead. (And if you do use the real pepper, you can always adjust the spice by cutting back to half a pepper instead of a whole.) And did I mention these burgers are a heckuva lot healthier than that In-N-Out calorie bomb you’re likely to pick up eating out? Just sayin’.

So from one busy weeknight meal maker to another, I pass the baton of these secret weapon bean burgers. Use it wisely for the triumvirate victory of time, cost, and health!

Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

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Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mash the cannellini and black beans until smooth with some chunks. Add garlic, cilantro, paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, combine egg, egg white, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and panko bread crumbs. Stir into bean mixture until well combined.
  3. With your hands, form mixture into six patties.
  4. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook 4-5 minutes per side or until browned.
  5. Meanwhile, make the chipotle mayo: using an immersion blender, combine all ingredients.
  6. Assemble burgers topped with lettuce/spring mix and chipotle mayo.
Recipe Notes

Bean Burgers adapted from How Sweet Eats; Chipotle Mayo A Love Letter to Food Original.

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