As much as I have been known to worship the pig, our family tries to practice Meatless Mondays and eat more vegetables in our over all diet. I just adore produce. I love this time of year with bountiful farmer’s markets with so many fresh and locally grown choices to bring home. What I am not a fan of is a vegan/vegetarian meal that is trying to mimic a meat meal. I was at a vegetarian restaurant recently and they had gyros, hot dogs, and burgers all made with faux meat products. Yuck. I find them to have a horrible aftertaste, no matter what spice is used to mask the flavors. You can’t tell me that this heavily processed product is better for me than organic, hormone-free piece of meat. I want a vegetarian meal that salutes the vegetable. I do like a good organic tofu quite a bit, though.
These stuffed peppers are influenced by so many Greek dishes I have had. They do wonders with vegetables. I made this in a vegetarian and a vegan variation. I cooked the rice with spinach, onions, and garlic. I stuffed the peppers with the cooked rice that I had added yogurt and feta too, then baked them in simple tomato sauce. When serving up this dish, I drizzled these luscious peppers with some toasted pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and mint dressing. Oh, it was good. Satisfying is the word that comes to mind. For my son’s dairy allergy, I used soy cream cheese to mix with the rice and seasoned with salt & pepper. Stuffed some of the peppers with that rice. It turned out great.
I served it with lots of steamed broccoli. Everyone’s plate was cleaned off empty. That speaks for itself.
I am also a huge fan of my rice cooker. You put your rice, liquid (water, stock, coconut milk), some seasonings in the pot, cover, push the button and later you have super tasty rice dish. I am not the only one that loves their rice cooker. Rodger Ebert wrote an entire cookbook dedicated to just the rice cooker! He wrote it after he had gotten throat and tongue cancer. He could no longer eat, but wrote out of vivid memories he had for the food that came out of this little kitchen appliance. I sat one day in total amazement watching Wolfgang Puck sell thousands of rice cookers on HSN. He was making all sorts of dishes that had nothing to do with rice in the Wolfgang Puck signature collection rice cooker. I fixated on the bottom of the screen where the counter represented numbers sold. He put hard uncooked pasta, cheese, salt & pepper, and some creme into the rice cooker and 20 minutes later had mac and cheese. A few more thousand sold. What? I was taken. I got mine on sale a million years ago. It looks a little worse for wear, but that puppy makes beautiful rice. I love that I can make a big batch of rice and have it that night for dinner and have lots of leftovers to use in a different recipe later. These stuffed peppers were made with leftover rice from the night before. I always try to make enough so that I have leftovers. I really like making a combination of brown rice and quinoa. Then I make a salad with what is leftover the next day.
A great feature of this recipe is that you can make it ahead. You also can make as much as you would like. Small or large amount. Whatever rice you have cooked, mix in yogurt and cheese and stuff. Place in a baking dish that has tomato sauce in the bottom. Bake and you are done.
Spinach Rice for Stuffing Peppers
1 cup white rice
3/4 cup spinach, chopped. (Using frozen is fine. Thaw, drain, squeeze out excess water)
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 2/3 cups broth or broth made from bouillon. (vegetable, chicken, or beef would work)
1. If using rice cooker, place all ingredients into rice cooker and turn on.
2. If using sauce pan, put all ingredients in pan, bring to a boil.
3. Turn down to low for 20 minutes covered.
4. Turn off heat and let stand for 10 minutes with cover still on. Fluff with fork before serving.
Baked Stuffed Mini Peppers
1 overflowing cup of cooked Spinach Rice
3 T. Greek style yogurt
2 T. Feta cheese
ground pepper to taste
approximately 18-20 mini peppers, tops cut off and insides cleaned out of seeds
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1. Place rice in bowl. Stir in yogurt, feta, and some pepper. All the rice should be coated well. Add more yogurt if necessary.
2. Coat your casserole dish with tomato sauce. Approximately a 1/4 inch deep.
3. Stuff peppers with rice mixture, then place in casserole. Fill up dish. Cover with foil.
4. At this stage you can place in fridge for a day before cooking. When ready to cook, stick covered casserole in a 350F oven for an hour.
5. Remove cover, then turn up oven to 400F and bake another 7-10 minutes to brown the top. I usually make my pine nut dressing at this point.
This is one of those dishes that I usually serve the entire casserole on the table. It is just so darn pretty. It is so healthy for you, who cares if you have seconds? Serve with Pine Nut Dressing.
Pine Nut Dressing
4 T. olive oil
2 T. pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 T. fresh mint, torn or chopped
1. Place olive oil and pine nuts in small pan and heat over med-low heat.
2. Watch carefully. When pine nuts are browned, pull from heat. Pour over a small dish that chopped garlic as been placed in. The heat of the oil will cook the garlic. Let it set for five minutes.
3. Stir in chopped mint. I usually place dressing on the table for people to dress the rice dish themselves.
Vegan Variation: Replace the yogurt with soy cream cheese or some soy sour cream. You can replace the feta with some soy cheese that you enjoy. I did not add soy cheese to my son’s version, but I did add some salt to his mixture of rice. The soy cream cheese added the right creamy texture and was super flavorful.
This will go on our Meatless Monday favorites list, without a doubt. The colors pull you in, then texture of the creamy rice with the tomato sauce and peppers are delightful. Topped with the crunch of the pine nuts fresh hint of mint. Mmmm…so good.
Pull up a chair, Elizabeth