Warning: I'm feeling chatty today. We're cooking with ancient grains over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week and I'm quite excited about it! There are endless products out there when it comes to ancient grains, but I'd like to tell you about some of my favorites.
I love Costco for many reasons. This Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic is one reason why. Healthy and organic grains in a microwaveable pouch? Seriously? Cut the top off and place in the microwave for 90 seconds and you have one of the tastiest side dishes ever. Truly. I buy two boxes of this every single time I go.
We love this Quinoa & Brown Rice mix served with just about anything, but namely this Ancient Grain Encrusted Cod that I buy from the Schwan man. A piece of Ancient Grain Encrusted Cod with a little of this Quinoa & Brown Rice mix and a green veggie and you are all set for one tasty (and extremely easy) dinner. This meal is my best friend on days I work. We eat this combo at least once a week!
Ancient grains add great flavor and texture when incorporated into a dish. For example, I like to mix quinoa, amaranth, chia, and millet into my homemade granola. Another way to introduce ancient grains to your family is to use them in place of rice, in a filling such as this, for these Superfood Stuffed Peppers.
In this recipe, quinoa is added to ground chicken in place of rice. Adding quinoa is a great way to up the nutrition content without anyone noticing. These Superfood Stuffed Peppers are packed with lots of protein from the chicken and the quinoa. They are also loaded with veggies: carrot, spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers.
This is something I rarely mention, but I am a careful shopper. Now by no means am I a frugal shopper, but I do pay attention to prices and cut costs where I can. This recipe just happens to be a perfect example. The recipe calls for 8 red peppers. Red peppers are $1.79 each so that's a whopping $14.32 just for the base of the recipe. No matter your financial situation, no one should spend money like that. To remedy this I decided to halve the recipe in two different ways. First by buying only 4 peppers and next by cutting them in half lengthwise so that each pepper serves 2. Four whole peppers for a total of 8 halves is more than enough for 5 people. In addition, the halved peppers are prettier, display the filling better for the blog, and are much easier to eat. Next, I only bought 1 red pepper at the hefty price of $1.79 each and then opted to sub in 1 yellow pepper and 2 green peppers at $.99 each. Not only were these substitutions more economical, but they are also more colorful and therefore nicer to present and photograph.
Another way I cut the cost on this recipe was to substitute ground chicken in place of the ground turkey. It's not that I don't like ground turkey, but rather that ground turkey has skyrocketed in price. In years past ground turkey was the same price as ground chicken, hovering around $3.99/lb. In the past few years, ground turkey has gone up in price dramatically, at the hefty price of $5.99/lb or even $6.99/lb. It seems rather silly to pay almost double for ground turkey when you can pay $3.99/lb for ground chicken. For this reason I almost always substitute ground chicken for ground turkey. Total savings for both of these changes resulted in saving $10 in peppers and $3 in meat, making this meal much more affordable, without sacrificing anything in the flavor category or the overall color and appeal of the dish. This means more money in the food budget for those higher end products!
I made a few changes to Ellie's recipe. First, I never make stuffed peppers without parboiling the peppers for at least minute. This helps to soften up the peppers and improve the overall quality of the dish. Secondly, I added garlic.You can hardly make a recipe like this without garlic! Lastly, I had some tomatoes to use up and added them to the sauce. I also sprinkled about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on top of each pepper half because you simply cannot have stuffed peppers without cheese. These peppers were really fresh and delicious and I felt good about serving them because they are packed with lots of super ingredients. Bonus: they keep well and are even better the next day! Yum!
Superfood Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from You Have It Made
by Ellie Krieger
Makes 4 servings
4 medium bell peppers*
1/2 pound lean ground chicken*
half of a (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, strained-juice reserved
5 oz.frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed of all liquid
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 medium zucchini, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
salt & pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
Optional: Parmesan cheese
Notes: I halved this recipe using 4 varying colors of peppers. I also subbed chicken for turkey because it was lower in cost, but feel free to use either. I also added garlic to the filling and fresh tomatoes to the sauce. The original recipe didn't call for cheese, but I sprinkled about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on each half.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the core, ribs, and seeds. Parboil them for 1 - 2 minutes to soften.
Place the chicken, 1/2 the 14.5 oz can of tomatoes (reserving the rest and the juice for the sauce below), spinach, quinoa, zucchini, carrot, garlic, parsley, 1 teaspoon oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Pack the turkey mixture into the peppers, then place them face up, into a large casserole dish or a Dutch oven with a lid. You will want to bake them covered.
In a small bowl, combine the reserved tomatoes and tomato liquid with the tomato sauce, remaining 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and salt and pepper. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and sides of the peppers, cover, and bake until the peppers are tender but retain their shape, about 90 minutes. Serve the peppers with their sauce.