Recipe: Quinoa-stuffed peppers

Last updated 16:03 04/10/2012
Stuffed peppers

TASTY: These stuffed peppers are gluten-free and vegan, with protein-rich quinoa and a vegan pesto sauce.

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With their vibrant colour and unusual shape, stuffed peppers can provide a stunning presentation for your main course.

This recipe is completely gluten-free and vegan, with protein-rich quinoa and a vegan pesto sauce drizzled on top for a flavour boost.

Regular pesto is delicious but is high in calories and contains cholesterol. This sauce contains heart-healthy fats from walnuts and has zero cholesterol and much lower saturated fat than a classic pesto recipe. Extra pesto can be frozen for later use with whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or even fresh fish.

All about capsicum (or peppers)

Capsicum, also know as peppers or bell peppers, range in colour and flavour based on how ripe they are. A red  pepper is riper and therefore sweeter and milder than a green pepper.

Red peppers contain 11 times more beta carotene and four times more vitamin C than green peppers. Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keep teeth and gums healthy, and beta carotene benefits your immune system, vision, skin health and bone health.

Red peppers also contain an important phytochemical, lycopene, which could benefit prostate and heart health, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Select peppers that are brightly collared and firm with tight skin. You can store peppers for up to five days in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

All about quinoa

Quinoa is considered an ancient whole grain, but it's actually a seed.

Quinoa is a good source of fibre with five grams of fibre per serving. Fibre keeps you fuller longer and aids in digestion and overall heart health.

According to the American Dietetic Association, quinoa is a complete protein with all eight essential amino acids - great for vegetarians and vegans.

In addition to containing more protein than many grains, this powerful seed also contains more nutrients, including important minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron.

Quinoa is widely available and can be found in most grocery stores, typically near rice and other grains.

Recipe: Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Serves 4

Most stuffed pepper recipes are heavy on cheese. This one gets its heartiness from diced vegetables and a zesty pesto sauce. Be sure to select peppers that have a semi-flat bottom and can stand fairly upright on their own.

Ingredients

For the stuffed peppers

4 peppers, any colour or a combination of colours

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup diced shallot, from 2 to 3 large shallots

1/2 cup diced zucchini, from 1 small zucchini

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups vegetable broth, plus more for the baking dish

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto

2 cups basil leaves, rinsed and dried

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 to 4 medium cloves garlic

2 tablespoons walnuts

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Steps

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish large enough to hold the four peppers with non-stick cooking oil spray.

Slice off the stem and a thin portion of the top of each pepper. Scoop out and discard the ribs and seeds. Discard the stems, and cut the remaining pepper tops into fine dice.

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Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallot, diced pepper tops and zucchini; stir to combine. Add the quinoa and stir for about 2 minutes or until the quinoa is lightly toasted. Add the broth, bring it to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low or medium low and cook, adjusting the heat so that the liquid is barely bubbling around the edges and stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the black pepper and stir to combine.

Spoon the filling into the peppers. Transfer the stuffed peppers to the prepared baking dish and pour a thin layer of broth into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic (to taste) and the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube and puree into a smooth sauce.

To serve, drizzle a little of the pesto over each pepper. Pass the remaining pesto at the table.

NUTRITION Per serving (using 1/4 of the pesto): 310 calories, 8 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 490 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fibre, 4 g sugar

- Washington Post

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