It’s said you can’t please everyone all the time, but possibly vegan stuffed bell peppers might give that notion a good run for the money. Pleasing to the palate with satisfying flavors for all eaters, pleasing one-pot, easy-to-prepare filling for the cook, and pleasing plant-based nourishment we all need and crave. Who says you can’t please everyone? At least one in a while.
Recipes that please
Pleasing tastes and textures are certainly in the palate of the individual eater, but when it comes to serving up something that will appeal to a wider group of diners – or just for yourself, there are a few easy principles to keep at the forefront. And our vegan stuffed bell peppers provide a great context for this discussion.
Ingredients under the massive umbrella of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices that comprise the plant-based diet there are endless combinations of flavor profiles and textures all for the creating (and eating).
No matter what your approach to eating, we all fall into the food rut from time-to-time. Despite owning an average of 6 cookbooks, a survey revealed that residents in the UK rotate 9 dinner meals on average. As my kitchen table, shelves and other nooks and crannies of my house will attest, I am way over on the cookbook average and if developing new recipes was not my profession, I might also have just a few coveted recipes in my 'rotation'. In fact, I eat the same lunch, bulgur with steamed veg or a salad with beans at least 5 days a week with a breakfast average of 2.
Getting in the rotation
The idea of recipe rotation reminds me of my weights/cross-trainer routine. I faithfully exercise at home about 5 days a week because I know I'll feel better afterward because it’s such a habit that I feel guilty when I take a day off and because I need to justify all that space I’ve taken up in the guest room. But sometimes, despite the greatness of whatever series I am streaming, it's downright boring. I'm pedaling away, longingly looking at the guest bed, telling myself that there wouldn't be a media report if I just took a nap instead. That's when I have to I force myself, I make insider deals for getting it done or I convince myself that I can have something delicious to eat afterward – only to resort to one of those 2 lunch routines when it's all said and done.
Convenience. Mindless tossing into the shopping cart. Daydreaming while cooking. Headspace to predict how Homeland will end. We love the security of routine. The real challenge if we aspire to eat healthfully is how to successfully manage our routine prison break.
One thing great about barley stuffed peppers is how few ingredients you’ll need to shake up that dinner routine. It’s intentionally kept simple. Onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, barley, white beans and of course the peppers you choose, are the stars of this show. The added spices are intentionally crowd-pleasing standards of thyme and oregano. The dry mustard gives just a slight hint of tangy flavor to accentuate the other ingredients.
Proactive or reactive – it’s a choice
When I first started following a wfpb (whole food, plant-based) diet, I slipped into a food safety zone. I ate the same things over and over. I became paralyzed at the thought of introducing anything new. I didn't want to interrupt my good progress, there were issues of the time to find and follow a new recipe and gather all the necessary ingredients. Then there was knowing how to spot and to eliminate things like added oil or other ingredients that weren't on my 'list'.
My routine break wasn’t like a scene from Con Air. I quietly and thoughtfully started introducing new ingredients and a few new recipes. I decided that proactively shaking things up was better than reactively going downstairs for a pizza (I live above an Italian restaurant).
And when it came to new recipes, I went for easy and comforting first. That's where my favorites, like lentils and homemade vegan pasta or deluxe tempeh burgers, got into the mix. And yes, pizza was still on the menu, but with a sweet potato crust topped with all sorts of different combinations of veggies.
Most importantly, I learned not to overdo it. It’s especially important when it comes to particular spices and textures. In particular, if you are serving others, be aware that although you might love spicy, hot dishes, if you want to impress guests, having them sweating and drinking large glasses of water might not be the most prudent way forward.
Perhaps you aren’t bothered by the bitterness of unrinsed quinoa or tempeh that isn’t simmered, but when it comes to serving up easy to please meals, be mindful that all tolerance levels and palates are not created equal. And let’s face it – tofu has a terrible reputation for being, well, slimy. Learn to avoid that. One strategy that worked for me was cutting into smaller pieces and making it crispy.
Cooking is all about Preparation. And successful preparation is all about how easy it is to secure necessary ingredients, the time required to understand a new recipe, prepare it and cook it so that it's edible and hopefully looks somewhat like the picture that drew you in, to begin with. When you decide to broaden your rotation, these are the factors that get you to the end.
Although I love the challenge of complicated recipes, when it comes to the recipes I revisit most often, it always comes back to simple and available ingredients and ease of cooking. That isn’t necessarily a short time if it’s something that goes in the oven like vegan stuffed bell peppers or a big pot of black beans. It’s about active time. With just a few things to chop and quick-cooking barley, the filling for stuffed peppers is quick.
Plant-based eating ended my war between eating what tastes good and nourishing myself with what is good for me.
There’s no denying that daily movement is essential, but what if our daily routine becomes too routine? Turns out that there is more than just boredom or a quick nap tradeoff at stake. When it comes to exercise, we know that training splits, working different muscle groups to allow for rest is by far the most beneficial in the gym. And less scientifically, I know that if I go off hiking, I will be sore in new places because I’ve worked different muscles differently just by changing up my movement.
And when it comes to food, variety is more than a spice.
Breaking out-of-the dinner routine is a challenge to the comfort of convenience and security of knowing that what you make will be enjoyed. But changing it up doesn’t necessarily mean blowing it up. Subtle changes, like bulgur for rice, adding oregano when we’d normally just use thyme or garnishing with plentiful parsley are easy recipe makeovers that won’t result in dinner table riots.
And beyond boredom, food variety is smart. It would be counterproductive to only do bicep curls day after day. You'd look weird and you'd be off-balance. And eating the same foods can have the same impact.
No single food is a single nutrient
As much as I might believe in the healing power of blueberries, if I only ate blueberries, I’d find myself nutritionally deprived. Although this might be an extreme example, the idea of eating one particular food for one particular nutrient is pervasive in our culture. Any particular food has countless nutrients, but what matters most in nutrition is the overall nutrient profile of all the foods we eat. Whole, plant-based foods contain all our essential nutrients (except for B12 which isn't exceptional to just a wfpb diet).
Whether or not you are exclusively following a wfpb diet, the more you fill your body with a variety of good, nutritious foods, the more you reap the rewards. And even if you are a creature of habit, consider a tweak of the routine or even a full prison break from time to time. It isn’t a fall off the wagon, it’s just adding another parcel. Virginia Woolf explained the importance of food when she said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”. Peace.Print
Easy to please vegan stuffed bell peppers with quick-cooking barley and white bean filling are baked up to crowd-pleasing nutritious satisfaction.
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 ribs celery chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. thyme
- 1 ½ tsp. oregano
- 1 tomato, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp. dry mustard
- 2 cups veggie broth
- 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
- ¼ (a pinch) of cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups white beans (1- 15 oz./400 gm. can)
- 4 bell peppers, with the tops removed, seeds removed, and the core trimmed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
- In a medium pot over medium heat, simmer the onions, carrot, and celery for 5 minutes until the veggies start to soften.
- Add the garlic, thyme, and oregano and stir for another 30 seconds.
- Mix in the chopped tomato, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, and dry mustard.
- Next, add the barley, vegetable broth, cayenne and black pepper. Bring the pot to simmer and cover.
- Cook until the liquid is absorbed, and the barley is tender. About 15 minutes.
- While the barley cooks, preheat the oven to 4000 F (2000 C) and prepare the peppers by cutting off the stems and cleaning out the core.
- When the barley is done, fill the peppers, cover them with foil and bake for 35 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.
- We decided that red bell peppers go particularly well with the barley filling however, you can use any color or mix of peppers you choose.
- If you can’t get barley or want a substitution, quinoa can be used in the same amount and with the same cooking time.
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: vegan stuffed red peppers