I wanted to make a red dish last week to be festive for both Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month, so red bell peppers were a no brainer for the base of the meal. Normally when I make stuffed peppers I prepare them Italian style with rice, spinach, ground turkey and home made marinara. But this time I wanted to try something a little different. Very surprisingly, even to me, the stuffing recipe was inspired by the back of a quinoa package! I made a few changes of course.
Quinoa and Walnut Stuffed Peppers (GF, V, DF)
4 medium-large organic red bell peppers, tops carefully removed and seeded.
1 Tablespoon avocado or other cooking oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 Cup low sodium vegetable broth + 1 Cup water
1/2 Cup chopped walnut halves (you can buy walnut “pieces” to make this easier!)
1 Cup quinoa
1/4 Cup fresh or 1/8 cup dried parsely
1/4 Cup fresh or 1/8 cup dried oregano
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
-Pre-eat oven to 400 degrees
-Place peppers (with tops – they’re great for making the dish look pretty & you don’t want to waste any of the pepper) in either 1-2 loaf pans or another baking dish. What really matters here is that they won’t tip over when the quinoa is added. Place in oven while you prepare the quinoa to cut down on baking time later.
-Add the oil to a saucepan over low-medium heat. After 1 minute, add the garlic and stir.
-Just before the garlic starts to brown, add the onion, carrots and celery. Stir, then cover for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Add the 1 cup of quinoa, 1 cup of low sodium vegetable broth and 1 Cup of water and bring to a boil.
-Reduce to a simmer and cover for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is fluffy and has expanded and absorbed all of the liquid.
-Remove from heat, add walnuts and herbs.
-Stuff the peppers with equal amounts of the quinoa.
-Place back in oven for 10-20 minutes, until peppers are wrinkled and fully roasted.
-Carefully plate and dig in!
Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:
Quinoa has become my go to grain. It is considered a complete protein source for vegetarians meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. This is a big deal for vegetarians and especially vegans. While its protein powers are the key benefit of this food, you’ll also get iron, potassium, magnesium & zinc and many B vitamins in good amounts. It’s soluble fiber content means it is associated with lower cholesterol levels. Try one of my oatmeal recipes to get more soluble fiber and help get those cholesterol levels down.
Walnuts have been pinned as the most heart healthy nut by many researchers due to their high omega-3 content (discussed here at walnuts.org) and their vitamin E and antioxidant phytochemical content. Omega-3’s support heart health by helping to regulate inflammation, Vitamin E is heart protective by protecting cells and fatty substances in the body, and the phenols present are thought to support a healthy metabolism and healthy blood vessels.
Peppers are providing you with tons of Vitamin C (even more per serving than citrus!), lots of Vitamin A and fiber as well as Vitamin E, B6 and potassium. Phytochemicals include lycopene (associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer & heart disease) and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (discussed below with carrots).
Onions & garlic are part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Onions also provide Vitamins C, B6 and folate.
Carrots are most known for the role in eye health. This is because carrots have a high content of Vitamin A and other phytochemical carotenoids which not only support your eyes but also skin, hair and antioxidant systems. Carrots are also high in Vitamins C & K and the mineral potassium. Antioxidants work to keep your heart healthy and potassium is important for fluid balance and plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure. Celery contains many of the same nutrients.
Canola Oil is my go to when I am cooking. While olive oil has great flavor and a good fat profile, canola oil actually has much more omega-3 than olive oil and even less saturated fat. I don’t eat animal products on a daily basis and my fish consumption is low, so using canola oil in cooking helps me meet my daily needs of omega 3. Since most canola oil in stores is genetically modified, choose an organic brand – it will still be cheaper than conventional olive oil.
Oregano actually contains manganese, iron and Vitamins A & K. It can also benefit your immune system as its phytochemicals thymol and carvacrol are anti-bacterial.