Meet challenge with easy, tasty veggie dishes
Penne with garbanzo beans: Eliminating some animal proteins and fats are a good way to achieve healthy eating goals. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
So when my daughter requests meatless mains every now and then, I'm happy for the challenge. Plus, eliminating some animal proteins and fats might be the simplest way to achieve our healthy eating goals and cut calories.
The first time I made meatless stuffed peppers was decades ago as a newlywed. I smothered beautiful cheese-stuffed peppers in white rice and heavy cream. Unforgettable — as much for the richness as the too-crunchy peppers. These days, I roast the peppers to render them tender and replace the hunks of cheese with a mixture of corn and edamame flavored with some shredded cheese. I also swap brown rice for the white for its nutty texture and nutritive value.
As much as I like cream, I can't bring myself to pour a cup over anything anymore, so I use chicken broth to moisten the whole dish. A drizzle of thinned sour cream makes an elegant garnish.
The only tricky part to this recipe is preparing the peppers. Select elongated peppers that look nice and straight for easy stuffing. I like to use peppers with pretty stems for an attractive plate. Red or yellow bell peppers make sweet alternatives to the oft-zesty poblano.
Another mainstay in our meatless repertoire combines whole grain pasta, beans, cheese and tomatoes. Take note: Leftovers make great lunches.
Cheesy stuffed peppers with brown rice
Prep: 35 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Note: You can substitute half of a 16-ounce bag of frozen succotash for the corn, edamame and diced bell pepper.
4 poblano peppers or medium red or yellow bell peppers with nice stems, about 1 pound total
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup shelled edamame, baby lima beans or green peas, thawed if frozen
¼ cup diced roasted red bell peppers, bottled is fine
¼ cup each, chopped fresh cilantro, green onions
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded cheese, such as brick or Monterey jack
2 packages (10.5 ounces each) fully cooked brown rice (or 4 cups cooked brown rice)
1 cup homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup sour cream thinned with a little milk, optional
1. Roast peppers directly over a gas flame, turning often, until skin is nicely charred on all sides but flesh remains somewhat firm. (Alternatively, roast over a gas grill or under the broiler.) Cover with a towel; let cool. Gently rub blackened skin off peppers. Cut a slit in the peppers; gently work out the seeds with your fingers.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. For filling, mix corn, edamame, diced roasted red peppers, half of the cilantro and green onions and salt in a bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cheese.
3. Put half the rice over the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch buttered baking dish. Gently pack corn mixture into peppers. Arrange peppers, seam side down, over the rice in the dish. Cover peppers with remaining rice. (Recipe can be made to this point a day in advance; refrigerate covered.)
4. Pour chicken broth over all. Cover tightly with lid or foil. Bake until very hot, about 30 minutes (add 10 minutes if peppers were made in advance and chilled). Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese; bake uncovered until cheese melts, about 15 minutes.
5. Let stand a few minutes before serving sprinkled with remaining herbs and drizzle of thinned sour cream.
Per serving: 552 calories, 21 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 66 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 980 mg sodium, 8 g fiber.
Penne with garbanzo beans, arugula and spicy tomatoes
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained
4 large ripe plum tomatoes diced
½ large seedless cucumber, diced
1/3 cup finely diced red onion, well rinsed
Roasted tomato vinaigrette, see recipe
12 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
½ to 3/4 cup shredded Italian four cheese blend (Parmesan, asiago, fontina, provolone)
2 cups baby arugula leaves
½ cup finely sliced fresh basil leaves
1. Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, mix beans, tomatoes, cucumber and onion in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette; toss to mix well.
2. When water is boiling, add pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente (a little toothsome in the center), about 10 minutes. Drain pasta. Add to bowl with bean mixture; toss to mix well.
3. Stir in cheese, arugula and basil. Serve warm.
Roasted tomato vinaigrette: Put 1/4 cup olive oil, half of a 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes into a blender. Process until smooth.
Per serving: 574 calories, 19 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 84 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 782 mg sodium, 12 g fiber.