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Italian Lentil Stuffed Peppers + A Birthday!

in Entrees, Other

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Before this meal, I had only ever heard of stuffed peppers.  I saw them on menus at restaurants, in recipes in health and cooking magazines, and on television cooking shows.  Despite their frequent appearance in the food world, I must admit that the idea of eating a whole pepper was somewhat strange to me.  But when I realized that I could stuff a pepper with amazingly delicious ingredients like lentils and vegetables, I was suddenly intrigued with the idea of stuffing my peppers! 😉  And stuff, I did!

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Italian Lentil Stuffed Peppers

Servings: Makes 4 peppers

Ingredients

EVOO cooking spray
water, for cooking
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can Italian-style diced tomatoes (I only used 3/4 of the can)
2 cups lentils, cooked
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp onion powder
black pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
4 bell peppers

1. Spray slow cooker with EVOO cooking spray.

2. Line a large pan with a thin layer of water.  Heat over medium-high heat until very hot.  Once hot, lower the heat to medium and add garlic, onion, and zucchini to the pan.  Cook for approximately 6-8 minutes, or until softened.

3. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, cooked lentils, and seasonings to the pan.  Stir until well-combined, and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Lower the heat to medium-low.  Add spinach and simmer an additional 3 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.

5. While the lentil and veggie mixture is cooking, cut the top off of each pepper (reserve) and remove the seeds and veins of each pepper.

6. Stuff each pepper with one-quarter of the lentil and veggie mixture.  Top with the top of the pepper and place into the slow cooker.

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7. Cook the peppers on low heat for eight hours.

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And to make your meal even more veggie-rich, you can serve your stuffed peppers with a side of vegetables, like I did ;).

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Trust me when I say that these peppers are most definitely tasty!  The idea of eating a whole pepper may have scared me at first, but after eating these I am now convinced that when cooked right, eating an entire pepper is most definitely the way to go!  The sweet and spicy flavor of the peppers combined with the meatiness of the lentils and the flavorful Italian-styled veggies was a fantastic combination.

I do have one recommendation for those who give these stuffed peppers a try: I recommend using only red bell peppers, unless you really enjoy the spicier flavors of green and yellow bell peppers.  I bought a 4-pack of multi-colored peppers, but enjoyed the red bell peppers the most, as they have a slightly sweeter flavor.  So, I say…go red!

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Oh, and one more thing…

Today just so happens to be March 24th…my birthday!! 🙂

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I already celebrated my special day a bit on Friday with coworkers.  They so kindly decorated my pod, sung “happy birthday” to me, and gave me a great birthday card and Target gift card.  And the best and most thoughtful part of the day of celebration?

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That would be the amazingly delicious vegan carrot cake cupcakes that my very thoughtful coworker made for me.  These babies were AWESOME!  So much so that it was very difficult for me to eat just one!

My coworker so kindly provided me with the recipe, too.  You really must make these.

Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/ Fluffy Almond “Buttercream” Frosting

Ingredients

For cupcakes:

2/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped raisins

For frosting:

1/2 cup Earth balance
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 to 2 TB non-dairy milk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, mix together soy milk and apple cider vinegar.  Let this sit for a few minutes to thicken up.

3. Add in sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla, and stir until well-combined.

4. In a second bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

5. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until well-combined.

6. Stir in carrots and raisins.

7. Fill paper liners 3/4 of the way full and bake 22-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool.

8. Once the cupcakes are cool, beat the Earth Balance with an electric mixer in a large bowl.  Add in soy milk, almond extract, and salt and mix.

9. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beginning with one cup and mixing slowly until fully combined.

10. Top each cupcake with frosting.

I am not kidding when I say that these cupcakes are to die for!  The frosting was absolutely delicious and you really cannot go wrong with carrot cake.  It is one of my favorites!  My coworkers were all very impressed and completely surprised with how delicious vegan cupcakes can be.  I think that I am slowly convincing them that vegan food is darn good! 😉

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