Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

One of my favorite dishes when I ate meat was stuffed bell peppers. I loved the way the rice, tomatoes, spices and meat all married together to make a delicious meal.

I made the same dish tonight, only I made them vegetarian.

In an effort to be more healthy, REB and I started cooking at home a lot more and working out together so instead of stuffing my face silly with delicious food, I can feel good about being able to eat something healthy and delicious after a work out (which, by the way, I STILL hate working out :P Hopefully my mood on that subject changes soon).

Anyway, this dish is really, really good and super easy to make. It does take some time, but there are ways to make it go faster if you’re pressed for time!

Starting line up:

•4 bell peppers – I used one red bell pepper because my sweetie loves the sweetness they have, but in the end, they all taste the same after baking. So, you can use what ever you’d like.

•1 16-oz. package Boca crumbles – this is what substitutes the ground beef for us vegetarians. It’s a great source of protein, so it’s the perfect alteration. But by all means, use your favorite ground meat: beef, turkey or whatever.

•1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice – brown rice is full of nutrients, protein and fiber. However, it takes about 30 minutes to fully cook (even in my awesome-o powah rice cooker. Of course, you can use white rice, which doesn’t take nearly as long. We wanted the health factor, so we opted for brown rice)

•1/2 cup red onion, chopped
•1/2 can diced tomatoes (or you can dice up some Roma or plum tomatoes – whatever works!)
•1/2 can corn kernels
•1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (we use a vegan kind I found at dirty Whole Foods, but it was the only place I could find it)
•1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
•S&P to taste
•1/4 cup water
•2 cloves garlic, chopped
•1 tablespoon olive oil
Not pictured: Franks Red Hot (need a couple dashes), cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes,  ground cumin — as little or as much as you’d like of each

First thing you need to do is cook the brown rice. Like I said, it’ll take about 25-30 minutes, so start this up first.
Also, boil a pot of salted water. This is for the bell peppers to blanch before baking.

While the water is boiling and the rice is finishing up, you can prepare your peppers.

Cut a thin slice off the top of your peppers and cut out the membrane and seeds. What you basically want is a hollowed out pepper so it’s like a little bowl.

Like so! Look how pretty. Mmmm bell peppers.

So do that with all the peppers.

Next, chop up your onion. This is totally optional though. I just love having the sweet crunch of red onion in almost everything I make.

The hope is by the time you’ve done this, the rice is about halfway through (if you start preparing the peppers 10 minutes into the rice-cooking process) and the water is boiling.

Put the peppers in the boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes. All you want to do is blanch them so they bring out the color and soften them a bit.

Once you’ve done that, place them in a 9 x 13 baking dish with a little water on the bottom of the dish. They can hang out while you wait for the rice to finish cooking and while you making the filling.

Preheat your oven to 350º.

Start by adding the olive oil to a hot pan and adding the onion. Let them cook 3-5 minutes or until they’ve softened or become translucent.

Next add in the Boca crumbles and a little bit of water to help soften it. At this time you can also add in the seasonings (cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes and dried oregano). You basically want to cook it until it’s warmed through.

Make a little bed and add in the garlic. Ah, garlic. It’s a necessity. It’ll immediately make your dish smell amazing.

Then you can add in the Worcestershire sauce. Again, this is totally optional, but it’s got a whole lot of things in the sauce and it’ll help salt the dish so you won’t need as much later. You can add in your freshly ground black pepper and if you need to, more salt.

Add in the tomatoes and corn. You can drain some of the liquid from the tomato, but it won’t hurt to have it – will create a sauce. If you do happen to drain it a bit too much, you can always add in a little more water to help create a sauce.

Once the rice is cooked, throw that into the pan and stir all your ingredients together. At this point, we added some of the Franks Red Hot sauce, or now that I think about it, you could add in some Siracha, Mmmmm….next time! The ground cumin can also go in, which will add a wonderful smokey flavor in the back. Cumin can be pretty expensive, so you can always leave it out and use other spices. Definitely optional, though.

Stuff the peppers almost all the way full. It will look like you have a ton of filling, but believe me, you’ll use it up. Then again, our peppers were pretty big…

Top each pepper with a little cheese. Given that so far, this isn’t such a horribly unhealthy dish, you can indulge a little and have some cheese.

Place the dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted (and a little browned) and the peppers have cooked a little (you can touch them to see if they’re softened)

When they come out, they are a bubbly and hot and smell amazing!

Now tell me that doesn’t look good. Just try. Well, I think it looks good and it tasted great, too. Having my sweetie tell me so is the icing on the cake ;-) But seriously! I don’t miss the meat when I make this. I get all the nutrients, protein and fiber I need and I cut more than half the fat.

This one’s a keeper :) Enjoy!

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