Vegan Stuffed Peppers

Late summer / early fall bring the last of the seasons fresh tomatoes and peppers. As the weather starts to turn and the first cool days arrive I start craving soups, stews, and all the warm cozy dishes that seem best served on a cloudy autumn day. Stuffed peppers is a dish that my mother would make maybe once a year or so when I was growing up. It was certainly not in the regular rotation, but it was something I enjoyed once in awhile and found myself craving as the seasons changed this year. Mom’s version was stuffed with ground beef and rice and baked in a casserole with Campbell’s tomato soup. I couldn’t decide how I would recreate the dish to meet my current dietary lifestyle; after some research decided to just keep it simple and go with what I knew I loved…beet balls.

I made a batch of beet balls and cooked 1 cup of dry brown rice. To make the peppers a little softer, I decided to roast them in the oven briefly before stuffing. I removed the tops and seeds and roasted them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping them once after 10 minutes. I’ve seen some recipes blanch the peppers in water instead of roasting but I thought roasting would bring out the flavor more. I did these steps in advance, and put everything in the refrigerator until I was ready to proceed the next day.

To prepare the stuffed peppers, crumble the beet balls by hand and mix with the brown rice. I added 1 teaspoon, granulated garlic, 1 teaspoon onion powder 1/2 teaspoon fennel, and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Instead of tomato soup, I mixed in one jar of tomato sauce to finish off the stuffing. Finally, stuff the prepared peppers.
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Line a casserole dish with some tomato sauce, add the stuffed peppers and bake for one hour at 350 degrees. To finish, I topped with nut parm

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Puttanesca Pomodoro – Ode to the Olive

I’m still catching up on posting but I assure you the cooking hasn’t slowed. This week’s post is a delayed review of Isa Does It Puttanesca Pomodoro. One of the simplest dishes I’ve made from the cookbook but also an immediate favorite. I’ve made this dish, or an inspired version, a number of times since I first tried it in August. August had busy weekends of weddings and baby showers that kept me from my usual marathon weekend meal prep and left me having to prepare dinners after work {gasp}. Flipping through Isa Does It for an easy, yet different, pasta dish led to Puttanesca Pomodoro.

This quick pasta sauce is a tomato based sauce with olives, capers, garlic, and spices.
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Olives are one of my favorite things. Growing up Mom would put olives on the holiday table to snack on while we waited for the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner to be ready, and my brother and I would make them disappear in record time. Back then they seemed to be something we only had on special occasions. Since I became plant based I find myself craving healthy fats like olives and avocados more than ever. Wegman’s Mediterranean Bar has also spoiled me with their fancy olive selection (sorry Mom, Mt. Olive just isn’t the same).
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I’ll often buy an assortment and throw together a quick pizza or pasta when I find myself unprepared and too busy for a big cooking day. Before trying Isa’s recipe I would simply heat an assortment of olives, peppers, roasted garlic and spices with some lemon juice, starchy pasta water and nutritional yeast for a quick dinner.

For Isa’s recipe, you cook down some fresh tomatoes with garlic before adding the olives, capers, and spices.
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Toss in the pasta and top with fresh basil and you’re done! A quick dinner that is so flavorful you’d think the sauce had been going all day.
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Isa Does It Recipe #22

Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oats

Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oats

Happy October! Now that pumpkin has creeped into summer much like Christmas has taken over Halloween I imagine you may already be tired of pumpkin spice everything. I do love my pumpkin though and I’d resisted pumpkin oats/pancakes/breads til Autumn’s arrival so was excited to change up my Instant Pot steel cut oats with seasonal add-ins.

I took my basic pressure cooker steel cut oats and amped them up with fall goodness.

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup almond milk
2 cups water
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 cinnamon stick

Use manual settling to set the pressure cooker to 3 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Once done remove the cinnamon stick, add 1/2 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and top with chopped pecans. Serves 3.

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A great on the go breakfast!

Fall Grain Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette

Somehow I’ve lost over a month! August ran away with Weddings, Baby Showers and late summer fun, and September is quickly slipping away into Autumn. I’m back and excited that my favorite season is upon us. I do have a recipe review from Isa Does It to write up but decided to make my return from hiatus with this grain salad all dressed up for fall and save the Isa post for next week.

This salad is very loosely inspired by something I’ve had at the Whole Foods Salad Bar. They have a grain salad I was certain was called Superfood Salad but when I tried to do some research online as to its ingredients the Superfood Salads that came up were cabbage based and most definitely not the salad I have in mind. No bother; I figured I’d create my own reminiscent of the Whole Foods version but amped up for the season.

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1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried whole cranberries
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale
Juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 green apple
1 pomegranate
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the farro and the quinoa according to package directions. I generally cook 1/2 cup of farro with 1 cup of water for about 30 minutes; the 1/2 cup quinoa, also in 1 cup of water, will cook faster (about 20 minutes) so I do cook them in separate small saucepans.

While the grains are cooking toast your pumpkin seeds slightly to enhance their nuttiness. I usually just put them on some foil in the toaster for a couple of minutes until fragrant (keep an eye on them they will toast quickly.

If your grocery has bulk bins check there for your grains and pumpkin seeds (pepitas). I rarely get to Whole Foods but my local Wegmans also has bulk bins and sometimes items are cheaper there; it’s also a good way to give a new food a try without too much commitment.

You can also prepare your kale while your grains are cooking. If you like raw kale go for it. I like to steam mine a bit; for this recipe I put the kale and the red onion in a pot with the juice of one lemon and a dash of cayenne. Turn the burner up to medium high and stir constantly until it’s nice and hot then remove from heat and cover to steam a minute or two. Alternatively, it will steam a bit if you add it directly to the hot grains once their finished (and you’ll save yourself a pot to wash).

Once the grains are cooked, add the pumpkin seeds, kale and red onion, tomatoes, and dried cranberries.

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If you can find Trader Joe’s Whole Dried Cranberries they are amazing, but I warn you that you will never be able to eat a Craisin again and will be making special trips to Trader Joe’s just for cranberries (not that I’ve done that or anything).

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I was considering making a cranberry vinaigrette but while researching I came across what seemed the perfect recipe and decided to just make that. The Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette from Oh She Glows was delicious and a great pairing. I drizzled a few spoonfuls to serve.

I garnished the salad with pomegranate, and thinly sliced apple. The dish is filling on its own but to make it an even heartier meal (or to stretch the leftovers further) you can also top with roasted squash.

1 squash (I used sweet dumpling squash)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (divided
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (divided)

Cut the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Place the squash cut side up in a roasting pan filled with about an inch of water. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the center of each squash. Cook at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Brush the squash with the maple mixture and slice to serve.

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Ranch Salad with Red Potatoes & Smoky Chickpeas

It was bound to happen.  I would eventually have to happen upon a recipe in Isa Does It that just didn’t work out for me.  The 21st recipe I’ve made since acquiring this amazing and beautiful cookbook will probably not be made again in my kitchen but it does have some awesomeness that I’ll steal for future use.

You may be wondering how a salad could be problematic.  The salad itself is quite straightforward with limited ingredients.  Hearty romain, boiled red potatoes (I used a medley of baby purple, red, and yellow potatoes because their adorableness was calling to me at the grocery), and thinly sliced red onions were the main ingredients; I added grape tomatoes for color and sweetness.  It was the avocado ranch dressing that sounded so scrumptious but never quite came together.  Of course, it was the beautifully photographed bright green avocado dressing that made me want to make this salad in the first place.

IMG_6417The dressing is a simple blend of avocado, vegetable broth, lemon, garlic, and herbs.  My avocado was ripe and a lovely green, until I made the dressing.  It turned a not so appetizing brown color as soon as I started to blend.  Is my broth too dark, my paprika??  I have no idea.  I decided to give it a taste and it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either.

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The awesomeness I promised at the beginning of this post comes from the smoky chickpeas.  The simplest thing in the world – sauté cooked chickpeas with tamari and liquid smoke – results in the most delicious chickpea that is perfect for salads.  They are smoky and salty, reminiscent of bacon.  Those little nuggets of goodness will be made again for sure.

IMG_6401I envision roasted potatoes (boiled have never been my favorite), and smoky chickpeas in future salads.   I’ll probably stick with Briny Caesar Dressing unless others have suggestions to make this dressing work out.

Isa Does It Recipes: 21

 

 

Making It Work

I’ve unintentionally continued last week’s theme of variations to not-so-old favorites with this dish of Millet and Spinach Stuffed Shells.  The plan had been to make the Forks Over Knives Eggplant Rollatini, which I’ve made a number of times now since first trying it last year for Week 2 of the 2013 Plant Strong Recipe Challenge.  However, laziness got the best of me and it just seemed easier to use up the shells leftover in the pantry from my whole food plant based stuffed shells recipe rather than process the eggplant for rollatini.

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Add some beet balls and dinner is served!

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The millet mixture is also wonderful and flavorful on it’s own if you’re looking for a new side dish to try.

Variety is the Spice of Life

There were no new recipes this week but I was a food prep master last weekend cooking up some old favorites with a twist so I thought I’d share some of the variations.

For breakfasts I went with what may be my favorite recipe from Isa Does It, scrambled chickpeas.  The recipe itself is one of the most simplistic in the cookbook, but as someone who can’t seem to like tofu the realization that smashed chickpeas make for an awesome breakfast has gotten me one step closer to letting go of eggs – the one cheat that has been difficult for me to find a suitable replacement.  I made a potato hash with a Southwest flavor profile to accompany the scramble.  For the hash, I used sweet potatoes that had been tossed in cajun seasoning and roasted, onion, a variety of bell peppers, and jalapeño for spice.  I changed up the scramble by substituting lime and cilantro for the lemon and dill in the recipe.   Topped with scallion, cilantro, and some chipotle hot sauce and this made for a very satisfying breakfast.  The components also work well in breakfast burritos.

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I could not decide between potato leek soup and corn chowder for lunches so I had both by adding corn to potato leek soup.  I made Isa Does It potato leek soup and modified it quite simply by adding a jalapeño (seeds and all) early in the cooking process, and corn (I used frozen that I had on hand) at the very end of the cooking process.  The additions made for an excellent variation of the original; the jalapeño added subtle spice that didn’t overpower the rich soup, while the corn added texture and sweetness.

To go with my soup I made a Citrus Kale Salad.  Perhaps I was dreaming of my favorite season last weekend as Tuscan kale, red onion, grape tomatoes, dried cranberries, walnuts, and orange slices may be more of a Fall salad.  I prepared a citrus dressing by juicing an orange, lemon, and lime, adding a touch of agave, red wine vinegar and chili powder.  The salad was a nice variation of my usual side salads and the hearty kale held up well leftover.

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Dinner was Roasted Red Pepper Mac, also from Isa Does It.  I’ve made this dish a few times already.  I had fresh broccoli to use up so I roasted the broccoli in the oven and stirred it into the mac before serving.  This is a variation that will likely become the standard.  I love the added flavor and texture that the roasted broccoli adds to the pasta dish.  I served with a salad dressed with briny Caesar dressing.

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These old favorites with a twist made for a delicious week!