Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Italian Style Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Peppers

I've never considered myself particularly trendy, preferring instead to play the chameleon and attempt to blend in in most situations.  However, I will say this:  when it comes to culinary creations, I do like to stay on forefront of emerging eating and cooking trends.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I hopped online today and saw an abundance of recipes featuring quinoa on some of my favorite sites.  I have to admit, I haven't been cooking with quinoa for terribly long, but I enjoy it immensely and have SO many ideas for recipes featuring this amazing little seed!  It's nice to know I'm in good company.

Quinoa has been touted as a "superfood" and the more I work with it, the more I'm inclined to agree.  If you're a quinoa newbie, here are a few things you should know:

1. It looks like a grain, but is actually a seed.

2. It is a complete protein (containing an almost ideal balance of all 9 essential amino acids), is high in fiber, is nutrient rich (calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, vitamin E and B vitamins) and is gluten free.

3. It's a good idea to soak/rinse it before cooking. Quinoa has a coating called saponin on it's surface that can produce a bitter soapy quality when cooked.  Granted, most of what you'll find at the local grocery store has already been pre-washed and dried, but in my opinion, a little prevention never hurt anyone.

4. There are 3 color varieties: white, red and black.  I've only come across the white variety to date but you can rest assured that as soon as I see either of the others they'll be on the dinner table that very night!

5. Working with quinoa is very similar to cooking rice, and a bit like couscous. There are a couple different methods for cooking it: boiling (like pasta) vs absorption (like rice).  I'm still trying to find my preference.

6.  It's delicious!  The texture is somewhere between that of barley and couscous...light and fluffy yet with a toothsome bite and slight crunch.  The flavor has the earthy nuttiness of wild rice but, more reserved, not as aggressive.

7. It's versatile!  Breakfast, lunch or dinner , hot or cold, side dish or main course - quinoa can seamlessly integrate into almost any meal!

I'm always on the lookout for healthy (and filling) options for our dinners.  Both Doug and I have, ahem, hearty appetites (we can EAT!) and we're always trying to reign it in without feeling deprived or ravenous. I've found that quinoa has given us the option of having something nice, starchy and filling on our plates without the guilt of pasta or potatoes and with all the added nutritional benefits I mentioned above (score!) I hope if you've been quinoa curious I've managed to gently nudge you over the edge and you'll give it a try. This recipe is a great way to incorporate quinoa into your diet, and maybe even be an inspiration to try it in other creative ways (as a substitute for morning hot cereal with fresh berries and honey, perhaps?).

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 3/4 cups plus 1/2 cup fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
5 large red bell peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 links (12 oz) Italian style chicken sausage, removed from casing and rough chopped (I used the fully cooked variety)
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
pinch crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup pecorino romano
1 cup shredded fat free mozzarella

Cal: 403  Fat: 12g  Carb: 43g  Protein: 26g  Fiber: 8g  
Serves: 5 (I made 4 peppers and ate the leftover stuffing for lunch the next day...yum!)

**The nutritional information is based on 1 whole pepper per serving, however, I've found that a half a pepper with a salad is more than enough for me and makes a filling, well balanced meal.**  

Thoroughly wash and dry peppers.  Cut tops off of peppers, seed and de-vein.  Set peppers and tops aside.
Soak quinoa in a bowl with water for 15 minutes.  Drain quinoa and rinse well.  Add quinoa and 1 3/4 cups of chicken broth to a medium saucepan (reserve the additional 1/2 cup of broth for later use).  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and allow to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium saute pan.  Saute onion and garlic until transparent.  Add chopped sausage and heat until just warmed throughout.  If using uncooked sausage, cook until browned.
Add chopped spinach, wine, sage, tarragon, red pepper, salt and pepper.  Stir until thoroughly combined.
Remove from heat and stir in pecorino romano.  Transfer to bowl with quinoa.  Add mozzarella and stir until all ingredients are combined.
Fill each pepper with approximately 1 cup of the quinoa mixture.  Arrange stuffed peppers in a crock pot, cover with pepper tops.

Pour remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth into the bottom of the crock pot, cover and cook on high 3-4 hours or low for 6 hours.

Bon Appetit!

Quinoa on Foodista


  1. Here are a couple of great quinoa recipes:

  2. Thanks, Jessica! The recipes look great...can't wait to try them!

  3. Your recipe looks delicious.I followed you from the foodie blog roll and I'd love to guide Foodista readers to your site. I hope you could add this quinoa widget at the end of this post so we could add you in our list of food bloggers who blogged about quinoa recipes,Thanks!

  4. Hi Alisa! I'd be happy to add the widget to the post and be a part of Foodista! Thanks for stopping by...and for the trackback :)