by guest blogger Holly Walck Kostura, BSN and certified Iyengar Yoga teacher
It’s been more than five years since I (mostly) stopped eating anything with eyes. My husband and I took the vegetarian vow together in 2010. He hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back since. I, on the other hand, have joined the family in a bite or two of turkey or ham at Christmas dinner or, when my brain feels tired and dry, have indulged in a piece of salmon at my favorite restaurant.
However, when people ask if I am a vegetarian, I answer with a resounding, “Yes!” Because I am, 99.9 percent of the time—and my home kitchen is vegetarian 100 percent of the time, as well as organic as it possibly can be. Accomplishing this was not an easy task for a Pennsylvania girl raised on Shake’N Bake–coated pork chops and chicken casseroles made with “cream of whatever” Campbell’s Soup. It took countless hours of research, planning, shopping, cooking, and refining what I call “the art of becoming a vegetarian.” But these days, I think I’ve got it down pretty pat, and I wanted to share one of my favorite, go-to vegetarian recipes that, while meatless, is completely delicious!
Since it’s the middle of winter here on the East Coast, it’s the perfect time to make one of my all-time favorite comfort-food meals: my Nana’s delicious stuffed peppers. She simmered hers for hours in an electric skillet that dated from the 1960s and was the color of canned peas. I have attempted to recreate her recipe, taking just a few liberties.
Nana would have scoffed at the goat cheese and used Philadelphia Cream Cheese instead, but she also would have infused the food she was cooking with love and affection for her family and taken time to be grateful for both before eating. I hope you will, too.
Nana Holly’s Meatless Stuffed Peppers
- 1 cup organic crimini mushrooms, diced then browned in organic, extra- virgin olive oil with a dash of salt and black pepper*
- 1 cup organic long-grain brown rice, cooked according to directions and cooled to room temperature
- ½ cup organic brown lentils, parboiled and drained and cooled to room temperature
- 1 can (28 ounces) organic San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and kept in their juice
- 2 cups organic vegetable stock
- 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 generous Tablespoon fresh, chopped thyme
- ½ cup organic flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 4 organic, whole green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded
- 2 organic bay leaves
*I deglazed my pan with ¼ cup of dry, Marsala wine, making sure to cook off all the wine.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with organic, unsalted butter or olive oil.
3. Mix together the room-temperature rice and lentils with 1 cup of the tomatoes with their juice (more tomatoes than juice**), ¼ to ½ cup of the stock (you want the filling to be wet but not liquidy), the sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese, thyme, and parsley.
4. Spoon the filling into the peppers, filling them all the way to the top, making sure to shake the mixture down into the peppers once they’re filled halfway.
5. Overfill the peppers slightly, and again press the filling down into the peppers.
6. Mix the rest of the tomatoes and stock together and pour around the peppers. Tuck the bay leaves into the tomato mixture.
7. Cover the dish with foil and bake for one hour.
8. Check the peppers to see if they are done. They should be soft but not collapsed.
9. Take the peppers out of the baking dish and place them on a platter,
10. Pour the remaining tomato mixture from the dish into a saucepan. Turn heat onto medium and boil until reduced by half to serve over the stuffed peppers. Be sure to taste to see if any salt or pepper is needed. Add, to taste.
**Pull the tomatoes out of the bowl with your hands and let most of the juice run through your fingers.
Here are some suggestions for side dishes that go well with these peppers:
- Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Oil, such as this one from Ina Garten. When it’s available, use whole spinach rather than baby spinach
- Salad of organic greens served with Alice Waters’ Vinaigrette dressing
- Plain baked red potatoes or these Italian Roasted Potatoes from The New York Times
Holly Walck Kostura uses the healing practices of Ayurveda and Iyengar Yoga to secure her to the core of her being. Combining her bachelor’s degree in nursing with her certification in Iyengar Yoga gives her the ability to approach her students from a place of wholeness and infuse her yoga classes with a unique flavor. Find her online at yogawithholly.com.