One of the most important aspects of diet I try to teach my little one is that everyone is different – Diet and what we chose to eat is up to an individual. At home we are vegetarian and at times Whole30-challenged vegetarians. I don’t eat meat but outside of the house, I feed her meat and fish, as long as it is good quality, preferably locally sourced. When she grows up, she can make conscious decisions about her diet, all I can do and lay a foundation, offer her choice and teach her that diets are personal and as a result she may eat differently depending on where she is. I also know that if we are too strict with our diets then we lose interest in food or eat that which is not good for us. As a vegetarian, the Whole30-like diet without legumes and quinoa can be a bit daunting. I have learned a lot about myself and my tendencies with regards to consuming these foods, but that does not mean I buy into Whole30/paleo mantra against it, just like I don’t believe that the amount of meat the diet suggests is environmentally or physiologically (if not sourced well) sustainable in the long-term. Nothing is wholly good and nothing is wholly bad. Everything – even water and oxygen – must be consumed in moderation. I have not eaten quinoa or legumes in months and I thought it was time to offer up a choice when making stuffed peppers – quinoa or riced cauliflower, because, well, why not. Both were tasty – so I suggest both varieties. The choice is yours.
Some people I know can’t eat quinoa – it results in them feeling bloated and in some cases, with a lot of pain in their gut. Some studies have suggested that quinoa can trigger bowel spasms in people with irritable bowel syndrome – or very mild versions of it (but other studies have suggested quinoa is safe for IBS). Quinoa does have a lot of nutritional benefits and it is not as bad to your gut and health as eating a small amount of white bread, pasta or white rice. So despite the fact that it is a seed, it has a low glycemic index, is eaten like a grain and treated like a carbohydrate which makes quinoa a good choice if you crave a carbohydrate. (And sprouting or at least soaking quinoa before it is cooked can help rid it of the IBS causing properties and unleash its nutritional content)
It comes in many varieties in Peru, but we find three varieties for the most part in the US – white, red and black – like rice. White is the most common – is softer and mushier when cooked. Red is drier, firmer and earthier and black is sweeter. All three would work well in this recipe, but I chose to go with red as the ingredients would add a lot of moisture and it would be nice to have a variety that was more firm. Especially since it was going to be paired with a similar dish using riced cauliflower which would be softer.
I cooked the quinoa in a home-made veggie stock – the flavor was rich and deep. The quinoa absorbed the flavors not only of the stock, but the other ingredients when it was baked in the peppers.
For the cauliflower, I used a locally grown orange cauliflower to introduce some variety into our diet since we eat white cauliflower often.
The cauliflower was riced and then cooked with the stock. I used less stock because the cauliflower has its own moisture. What was interesting was I needed more lemon juice to balance out the dish when using cauliflower – I think the fat in the dish is absorbed by the vegetables very differently than quinoa and the extra acid helps to cut through it.
The squash and currants add a nice sweetness. The nuts offer heartiness, flavor and protein. I topped them with sunflower seeds for extra protein and texture. Peppers can be stuffed from the top so they look nicer using the tops are decoration – I cut them in half to stuff them so I could have more surface area for sunflower seeds.
I used red, orange, yellow and green bell peppers which are just different ripeness of the green bell pepper (green is the most immature and red is the most mature). The green was fine, but added more bitterness. The other color varieties were softer and sweeter – orange was repeatedly my favorite. The choice is yours.
I served with both with a tomatillo sauce. A runny citrusy pesto would work nicely as well.
I think you’ll get with this, cause this is where it’s at.
Butternut Quinoa Currant Stuffed Peppers
Makes about 3 stuffed bell peppers
- 1/2 of a butternut squash, covered in ghee, roasted until soft peeled and cubed
- 1/2 of cauliflower, riced with a grater or in a food processor or 1 cup of quinoa (I used red)
- 1/2 cup veggie stock or 2 cups veggie stock if cooking quinoa
- 1 Tbs + 1 tsp ghee
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 leaves curly kale, de-stemed and chopped
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1/4 chopped walnuts
- 1/8 cup pine nuts
- 1 Tbs (for cauliflower) or 1 tsp (for quinoa) lemon juice
- 1 tsp nutrional yeast
- salt to taste
- handful of sunflower seeds
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Sautee cauliflower in 1/2 cup veggie stock over medium flame until tender and liquid is evaporated/absorbed – about 6-10 min. Do not overcook – it should be tender but firm, not mushy. If using Quinoa, add 2 cup veggie stock, cover, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer, and allow to cook until liquid is evaporated (covered the entire time) – about 45 min.
In a small pan over medium heat, add one table spoon ghee and shallot – sautee until tender, about 2 min and add kale. Sautee until wilted – about one to two minutes. set aside.
In a bowl, add butternut squash, currants, walnuts, pine nuts, nutrional yeast and one tsp ghee (melted). Combine and add cauliflower or quinoa and kale and mix thoroughly. Add salt to taste.
Oil a baking sheet or pan. Cut tops off the pepper and remove seeds and stem. Leave whole or cut peppers in half after deseeding them. Place in baking dish and fill with stuffing. Bake for 35 min. Top with sunflower seeds and bake for an additional 10 min.
Serve. Eat. Enjoy.