Try gluten-free, vegan stuffed peppers for a protein boost
These stuffed peppers are gluten-free, with protein-rich quinoa and a vegan pesto sauce.
With their vibrant color 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 flavor boost. Regular pesto is delicious but is high in calories and contains cholesterol due to the cheese. 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.
Red peppers contain 11 times more beta carotene and four times more vitamin C than green bell peppers. Vitamin C helps to heal cuts and wounds and to keep teeth and gums healthy, and beta carotene benefits your immune system, vision, skin health and bone health.
Red bell peppers also contain an important phytochemical, lycopene, which could benefit prostate and heart health, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
For this recipe, be sure to select bell peppers that have a semi-flat bottom and can stand fairly upright on their own.
Quinoa is a good source of fiber with 5 grams per serving. Fiber 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.
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4 bell peppers, any color or a
combination of colors
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced shallot, from 2 to 3 large
1/2 cup diced zucchini, from 1 small
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth, plus more for
the baking dish
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black
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
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish large enough to hold the 4 peppers with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Slice off the stem and a thin portion of the top of each bell pepper. Scoop out and discard the ribs and seeds. Discard the stems, and cut the remaining pepper tops into fine dice.
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.
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 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 bit of the pesto over each pepper. Pass the remaining pesto at the table.
Nutritional information per serving (using 1/4 of the pesto): 310 calories, 8g protein, 41g carbohydrates, 14g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 490mg sodium, 5g dietary fiber, 4g sugar.