Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting Stuffed!

It's been a while since I've posted a new recipe, and there have been some important developments since.  Most notable, Matt's joined my epic quest to become smaller in size and healthier in life, so cooking for two people on the same page has become infinitely easier.  It's hard enough to try and eat healthy and make big changes, let alone when you have to do it by yourself with someone else ordering that entree you're just DYING to have.  So I'm pretty happy about that.

This last weekend we were in Bend though, and we had some culinary relapses (ribs and eggs benedict!!).  When we got home I was ready to get back on the bandwagon and detox from all of the heavy restaurant meals.  I thought I'd try stuffed peppers, something I've slowly been building up a craving for but haven't made before because Matt wasn't as excited about trying veggie-centric stuff.  And most of the versions have funky grains like (omg!) bulger and couscous (oh my!).  But with a young grasshopper under my wing, I figured the timing was right to get stuffed.

I read a few basic recipes for peppers to get the cooking technique and temps down, but this version was a post-vacation fridge-emptying trip.  I started with a bag of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains blend, which is an outstanding blend of Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa.  It's a good starter mix for people that might still be freaked out by things that don't come in a box with Uncle Ben on it.  I tossed that with very small slices of Granny Smith apples, some frozen mixed veggies (corn, green beans, carrots), finely grated Willamette Valley Creamery pepperjack cheese, Penzey's Arizona Seasoning, and fresh parsley and the five cherry tomatoes that have survived the great Global Cooling of the Pacific Northwest (low 60's and rain in the middle of July, HURRAY!!!).  Oh, and I topped it off with some garlic salt.  Because I can't resist adding garlic salt.  Then I cut the stems out of the top and removed the major seed membrane, while leaving most of the interior untouched.  It helps them keep their shape.  If you're going to make stuffed peppers this is the perfect time.  The bell peppers from the grocery store are especially plump and flavorful this time of year.  Topped with some more cheese, and in the oven for a spell.  Put a little water in the Pyrex to lend a little steam action to the veggie containers.

I served the peppers alongside an Olympic Provisions kielbasa sausage we split.  Perfect crunchy casing, moist and seasoned inside (spotted some delicious mustard seeds)... heavenly!  Those guys know what the hell they're doing.  I got their bacon before too and it won my market taste test.  Locals can find them at the downtown Portland PSU market, the Oregon City market and the Beaverton market.  I'm sure they're other places as well, and they have a restaurant in Portland.  It's pretty much the best sausage I've ever had.  And I love me some sausage.

Peppers went over great!  Colorful eye appeal, playful textures and flavorful insides that even the husband found appealing.  The pepper stayed firm enough to hold its shape, but was yummy to slice and eat alongside the stuffing as well.  I'd love to try different flavor profiles (Penzey's has a Southwest version in their latest catalog... along with a NEW SPICE!!!), and maybe even a meat version.  It's great to have someone to branch out with. 

Summer Stuffed Peppers
(I had tons of leftover stuffing, so I'm making this for 4)
4 bell peppers with the tops carved off like a jack-o-lantern
1/2 bag Trader Joe's Harvest Grains blend, cooked to package directions
1/2 cup finely shredded pepperjack cheese plus 1/2 cup for topping
1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetable medley
1/3 cup Granny Smith apple in a small dice
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 small tomato in a small dice
1 1/2 tsp Penzey's Arizona Dreaming Seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Toss 1/2 cup cheese, frozen veggies, apple, parsley, tomato and seasonings with the slightly cooled grains.  Stuff each pepper generously.  Place in a Pyrex dish filled with 1/4" water. 

Bake for about 35 minutes, until cheese is melty and the peppers have slightly softened.  Serve with grilled meat or the best kielbasa ever.