Now that the temperatures are consistently chilly, I find myself looking for excuses to turn on my oven. Here's a great one, a modern Mediterranean and vegetarian spin on an old favorite. Add a side salad and you have a complete and healthy meal. (Yes, cheese is a healthy weight loss food!)
Stuffed Pepper – serves 4
4 red bell peppers (other colors would work as well; I use red because they're just too sexy)
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1 quart baby spinach
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese or non-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup parmesan
1/2 cup mozzarella
freshly ground black pepper
non-stick spray or olive oil
Cut the tops off the peppers, clean out the seeds and membranes, and trim the bottoms to make them flat and stable (if necessary), being careful to not cut a hole all the way through. Saute the mushrooms until just barely cooked; remove to a mixing bowl. Saute the spinach and garlic until wilted, then remove to the bowl of a food processor. Add the rice or quinoa, the scallions, the balsamic vinegar, and the freshly ground black pepper to the mushrooms. Add the ricotta or cottage cheese, parmesan, and half the mozzarella to the bowl of the food processor. Puree the contents of the food processor and add to the mushroom-grain mix. Stir well.
Using non-stick spray or olive oil applied with your hands, lightly coat the outside of the peppers. Place in a baking dish and portion a quarter of the cheesey grain mixture in each pepper, resisting the urge to pack the filling down (densely packed filling requires more cooking time).
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Add the remaining mozzarella to the tops of the peppers and cook an additional 8 minutes.