“Leftover” Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Quinoa is a power-protein seed and a favorite in our household.  But with any sort of “grain,” you can make too much of it by accident for a recipe or find that you have boring leftovers that need sprucing up.

I am a person that can’t have the same thing too many nights in a row, so when I have extra quinoa in the refrigerator, something needs to be done with it to make it interesting again.

With that in mind, below is a delicious vegan recipe I came up with to handle extra cooked quinoa. It’s also a fantastic make on its own – no need to wait for leftover quinoa.

Leave a comment with your thoughts and modifications to the recipe below.


“Leftover” Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

LeftoverQuinoaPepperspin

 

Serving Size: 6

Ingredients
3 large red peppers, sliced lengthwise and de-seeded
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if you are making low sodium)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 (14.5 ounces) can diced tomatoes, drained and juice reserved
1 Cup vegetable broth
1/2 Cup cooked quinoa
1 (16 ounces) can vegetarian refried beans
Large handful from 1 (5 ounces) package fresh spinach
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, coat the bottom of a 9 x 13-in glass baking dish and arrange the peppers with the skin down.
  2. Roast peppers in the preheated oven until tender for about 30 minutes. Dab the excess liquid that collects in the peppers with a paper towel. Leave the oven on.
  3. While the peppers are roasting, use the remaining olive oil, heat skillet over medium heat and cook the onion until translucent and softened. Add garlic, cumin, salt, black pepper, and chili powder to the onion; cook and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  4. Mix in tomatoes, vegetable broth, and cooked quinoa to the onion mixture; stirring occasionally. Cook until everything is heated through (about 6 minutes) and some of the liquid has cooked off.
  5. Stir in refried beans and cook until the beans incorporated into the mixture (about 3 minutes). You want this to have a thick consistency (not too soupy), but you also don’t want it to be too dry, so allow to simmer for a few minutes or add in reserved tomato juice to get the desired consistency.
  6. Add in spinach, stir until it just wilts. Remove from heat.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the roasted red peppers, top with nutritional yeast.
  8. Bake in the oven until the pepper gets crispy around the cut portions, about 20 minutes.

 

Notes

  • To reduce the spice level, use only 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder.
  • To increase the spice level, add a chopped, deseeded jalapeno to Step 4.
  • Add in 1 Cup of frozen sweet corn to step 5 with the refried beans to get a sweet contrast.
  • To make non-vegan version: substitute chicken broth and a shredded Mexican cheese blend for the vegetable broth and nutritional yeast respectively. Add any chopped leftover chicken as well.
  • Leftover white or brown rice will work as a nice substitute for the quinoa.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 pepper half
1 Serving: 170 Calories; Fat: 6 g; Sat. Fat: 1 g; Protein: 7 g; Fiber: 7 g

Bonus Recipe – Vegan Nachos

This recipe will leave you extra filling for 3 more peppers. If you don’t want to make another batch:

Ingredients
Leftover quinoa stuffing
1 (4.5 ounces) chopped green chilies, drained
Tortilla Chips
Vegan cheese good for melting (or shredded Mexican cheese blend)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and top with a layer of tortilla chips.
  2. Mix in green chilies to the quinoa mixture.  Just before putting into the oven, sprinkle a layer of the stuffing and top with your favorite vegan cheese.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve with your favorite salsa.

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Photo Credit: Michelle Melton Photography


Checking In: Adapting Eating Habits

One of the primary goals of this blog was to track my eating and exercise habits and see how it would help me manage my MS. I have found that some of the adjustments were easier to make, but there were other adjustments that were harder to maintain because of temptation or certain physical needs not being met.

I am still struggling with certain aspects of my diet, but after doing some research, I realized that it is more important to listen to my needs in a modified way than deny my body something it needs to refuel or heal from training.

Original Eating Intentions & What Worked

My overall intention was to drop all meats, dairy, gluten, sugar, and alcohol while maintaining a clean eating diet. The hope was it would manage my MS symptoms until I restarted my medication within the next year.

I started off strong, finding I had no problem dropping each food group week-by-week. I found that my weight would also drop because I was making healthier choices, and I was feeling somewhat better overall. MS symptoms abated and my neurologist was happy with the changes.

What worked best was dropping sugar, dairy (milk), and gluten; I found that I have issues whenever one of those items sneaks into my diet, intentionally or not. If I have cane sugar, my neck seizes up and I get a massive headache for the duration of the day; if I have milk/cheese, I find that I feel bloated and get a stiff neck; and if I have gluten, I find that my joints pop more and another stiff neck.

Clearly, my body does not like these food groups and so continuing to keep them out of my diet is to my benefit. I don’t know if it is an allergy per se, but there is a definite sensitivity correlation.

I am also happy to keep fried foods out of my diet as well, but this is mostly because of health reasons. I am still concerned about keeping high-cholesterol foods out of my diet and fried foods are unnecessary. I want to walk into my yearly physical with a low blood cholesterol level this year.

What Didn’t Work & Adaptations

I am in desperate need of protein.

I liked the idea of being plant-based for ethical and health reasons, but it was easier to maintain a vegan diet before Jai. When I was younger, I could spend a lot of time preparing high-protein foods that checked off all my nutritional needs, but between chasing Jai around the house and coping with fatigue, I really don’t have the time or energy to spend hours in the kitchen.

I found that I was sneaking meat-based proteins into my diet and when I “cheated” I didn’t cheat with “good” foods. It would be a high-fat beef dish or chicken that was smothered in salt/ high-calorie sauces.

So to stop this trend of making unhealthy choices, I’ve decided to reincorporate certain types of fish, chicken, and egg dishes back into my diet. Salmon is high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which is good for brain health and chicken/eggs for running proteins.

I have decided not to re-incorporate any red meats, beef or otherwise. I will have the occasional “cheat” day, but by removing red meat from my diet I am eliminating a major inflammatory source that could affect my MS exacerbations.

Future Eating Habits

My diet will still be mostly plant-based, but once a week I will incorporate some sort of meat-based protein that will help satisfy any nutritional cravings I am feeling and prevent me from lapsing into unhealthy choices.

I have also hit a bit of a weight plateau and I suspect not being kind to myself with my eating habits is a source of sabotage. While I am a normal weight by BMI standards, I want to lose a little more to be solidly within the normal BMI range. By being more honest and adapting my diet to my individual needs I should start seeing my weight starting to drop again to a satisfactory number.

So while I had grand intentions to be gluten-free, sugar-free vegan, I am at this point a clean eating pescapollotarian that is gluten, dairy, and sugar-free.

I definitely recommend trying the diet shift, especially going slow through it so it isn’t a complete shock, but I am finding that it didn’t work as well for me at this point in time. I think once Jai is a little older I may have more time to focus solely on a plant-based diet again.

I don’t consider this giving up or losing – I consider this a win because I am accepting myself in this moment of time and doing what works best for my current needs.


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Checking In: Dairy-Free

It was a relatively calm week. Missing out on dairy, in addition to the other things I’ve dropped, severely limits what I can eat while I am running around town with Jai. That said, I was able to make do with some alternatives and I am looking into the possibility of doing more smoothies as a meal replacement. I find that those tend to be more filling and can provide me with the opportunity to get my greens, protein, and calcium in easily.

With this in mind, I purchased a high-quality blender and some books to help inspire me with healthy smoothies in the morning. I am hoping for some success in enjoying the concoctions, especially since I have dropped sugar. I never really liked homemade smoothies that were healthy in nature and preferred using the blender to make milkshakes instead.

The issue was I never liked the taste of smoothies, either they were heavy on the healthy taste (greens) or not appealing enough. I like my smoothies to be sweet, like milkshakes. Since dropping sugar, I find that I don’t need things to taste as sweet as I once did. I even appreciate certain flavors I never used to because sugar no longer messes with my tastebuds. Smoothies will be good to increase my protein, greens, and other goodness to boost the immune system

Speaking of eating healthier for my immune system, it’s too little; too late for me by the end of the week. I caught a chest cold between Thursday and Friday and found that while trying to treat it, not being tempted by dairy helped a lot in minimizing some of my symptoms.

I have found that the more dairy I consume when I have a cold and especially a chest cold, the worse I feel. I didn’t feel really good by Saturday regardless, but I know that I wasn’t making it worse by consuming dairy. Instead, when I needed something cold to soothe my throat, I reached for some vegan ice cream I made.

It sucks being sick two weeks in a row. I don’t think it has anything to do with my diet, but because we just went through a seasonal temperature shift and I always get a cold when that happens. Hopefully by the end of this week everything will be back to normal.

Other Diet Shift Updates

Still struggling with not having fried-foods, especially after getting sick at the end of the week. I was hoping my cravings would be diminishing by now, but I still have some work to do to figure out what it is about deep-fried foods that I am so addicted to psychologically.

I had a spurt in weight loss earlier in the week. I was kind of surprised by it: 5 pounds over the course of 2 days considering I did minimal exercise in prep for my half-marathon on Sunday.

I don’t think it was dairy related, but perhaps a boost in my metabolism because of the sugar drop? It was a major confidence boost because it dropped me below an obese BMI. My L’Hermitte’s Sign is completely gone and before I got sick, I am finding that my mood is leveling out so I don’t feel as anxious. I was also noticing a drop in the mental fog, but with a chest/head cold now, it’s hard to notice. Hopefully it’s a trend towards having more mental clarity on a day-to-day basis when I am healthier.

So even if this is a placebo effect, I am finding that I am feeling better than I did when I first started and that is feeding into itself which is what I ultimately wanted.

 


Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary

Dairy has its place in the Western diet. It is a valid way to consume calcium, get vitamin D, and other important vitamins and minerals. The issue is that it causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. Some people are aware that they have a sensitivity to dairy, and some are completely unaware that it might be the source of minor issues.

It may not affect everyone, but there are still some issues with consuming dairy in the recommended quantities.

The biggest problem is how addictive it is, especially in cultural consciousness. If you’ve ever gone dairy-free, considered going dairy-free, or know someone who did – the usual response is: “how will you live without ice cream/cheese/eggs?” and “I could never go without ice cream/cheese/eggs, I love them too much.”

It is possible to go dairy-free with all new options for alternatives out there, but it isn’t the same sometimes. That said, lessening one’s consumption of dairy does a body good.

Read More


Week 5: Dear Dairy…

Dairy and I have always had a love/hate relationship.

I had issues with it as a baby and have always had mild issues with it as an adult such as mucus, gas, and feeling bloated. Nothing that affected my quality of life, but just a mild annoyance every so often.

My reactions to dairy tells me that I am most likely sensitive to it, but like with sugar, when it’s in your system it’s hard to notice.

Dairy has always been that difficult mountain to cross whenever I went vegan. The thought of going without cheese never appealed to me and vegan alternatives never tasted as good as slightly burnt cheese on a grilled sandwich.

I knew that there was a chance Jai would have issues with dairy. When I was a baby, I had a hard time digesting breastmilk and at the time, mothers were told to consume a bunch of milk when breastfeeding for the baby’s health. It never crossed my pediatrician’s mind that perhaps my mom should drop dairy from her diet to help me feel better. She switched to formula and that was that.

But when more information came out over the last few decades that dairy causes issues, particularly through breast milk, we put two-and-two together. So when it came time to breastfeed Jai, I watched my dairy intake.

I did notice that when I had a dairy-heavy meal, Jai was more uncomfortable that evening. When we started putting him on solids, if he had something that had a lot of dairy, he wouldn’t stay asleep due to discomfort.

That informed me that while correlation does not mean causation, it was something to pay attention to when deciding what to feed him. It’s easier to supplement his calcium needs with fortified foods outside of breastmilk. I am not against him having dairy once in awhile, nor am I against him drinking milk. But with all possible sensitivities, we will be doing it with care because I don’t want him to have unnecessary discomfort.

Ash reminded me recently that he had stomach issues growing up, issues with really painful gas. He wasn’t able to point to anything in particular, but he suspected that it was food related. Because there’s a possible genetic factor at play for Jai, we’re going to keep a really close eye on his reactions to certain foods.

I am dropping dairy not just for personal comfort, but because this is the last of the foods I am dropping for my cholesterol. I think there were some secondary benefits for my MS when I dropped dairy because dairy is inflammatory. I will be doing more research regarding that this week.

The Plan for the Week

  • I tend to reach for snacks that have dairy when I want to mindlessly eat. Having some carrots and hummus will be a good alternative.
  • Ash bought me N’ice Cream as a means to treat myself after my half-marathon on Sunday. I bought myself a nicer blender with some smoothie books, so when I am craving something with dairy, I will grab some “ice cream” or make a smoothie as a means to help with that craving. I made a banana ice cream the other day and it’s creamy enough to satisfy that specific craving.
  • I have found that sprinkling nutritional yeast over snacks helps a lot with cheese flavor. It’s not perfect, but it reminds me of parmesan. I can air pop some popcorn and throw the nutritional yeast on top if I want to taste something dairy-like.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating in a restaurant: I am not going to stress over perfection, but opt for dishes that don’t have dairy or ask for the dairy removed. With salads, chose an oil and vinegar dressing. Still gotta avoid that fried stuff…
  • I am given something with dairy to eat/try: Defer if I can and if not, save it for later to give to Ash to try.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: Trying to see if I feel better by going without dairy for a period of time. I have also noticed Jai getting more gassy when I’ve had dairy and I want to see if this will alleviate that symptom.
  • “Won’t you miss ice cream/cheese/eggs?”: Yes. I definitely will miss all those things, but current alternatives are better than ever and after a while you forget the difference.

For Wednesday, I will be examining how dairy can affect the body and see if what I have is a sensitivity or an allergy. Obviously, getting tested is the best way to confirm this, but sometimes that’s just not feasible for insurance. I think it will be helpful to see what dairy does to the body and see if that affects my MS as well.