Ever since trying it for the first time a few weeks ago, we’ve been on a quinoa kick! It’s a pretty tasty, easy alternative to rice or other grains — plus, it’s (supposedly) healthier for you. You can’t beat healthy food that tastes good, right? In the last month or so, we’ve used it as a rice alternative in a few dishes. In the stuffed peppers, I found the quinoa was a better vehicle than the rice. It was more flavorful and the texture it gave to the dish as a whole was better than any stuffed pepper I’ve ever had (sorry mom!).

There are probably a million different ways to make stuffed peppers, but Billy and I usually make a fairly Italian version.
Here’s a list of what we like to use
– Sweet bell peppers (red, yellow and orange usually work best)
– Onion
– Shrimp
– Tomato Sauce and Paste
– Quinoa (or rice)

After cutting the top off the bell peppers and cleaning them out, we like to chop the meat of the pepper that won’t be used to saute it with onions as part of the stuffing. You can skip this step and probably won’t miss out on much, but we like to use it since it would just be thrown away. Anyway, I digress. We like to saute the onion with the extra bell peppers so they cook all the way through and also get a little flavor boost. Once they’ve cooked about half-way through, add about a tablespoon of tomato paste (and a little bit of water to help break it up), salt, pepper and a few red pepper flakes. Let the tomato paste reduce a little and set it aside to let it cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the stuffing, cut the shrimp into bite sized pieces and mix together with the quinoa and sauteed onions and peppers. Add about 1/3 of a small can of tomato sauce to the mixture for moisture and to help everything bind together. Stir to combine and you’re ready to stuff the peppers! Spoon the stuffing into the peppers, filling to the top. Place the peppers in a deep casserole dish and fill about 2/3 of the way with water and the rest of the tomato sauce.

Bake at 375 for about an hour, basting with the water surrounding the peppers often (every 10 or 15 minutes). The cooking time can vary based on how stuffed your peppers are and how often you baste them. Once the quinoa and shrimp are cooked, they’re ready to eat.

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After trying stuffed peppers with quinoa, I’m pretty confident that I won’t ever stuff them with rice again. Something about the taste and texture of the quinoa really made the dish. Sauteing the onions and peppers with the tomato paste and adding the tomato sauce to the mixture really gave the stuffing a great flavor. Despite the cooking time, the shrimp didn’t end up overcooked…which is a total plus! These stuffed peppers will most definitely be a repeat recipe!

By the way, until fairly recently we had never heard of quinoa, but it seems that it’s becoming more and more common. We have found it in our regular grocery store as well as in specialty stores like Wild Oats and Sunflower. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would really recommend it

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