Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Barley-Stuffed Peppers

Now that I've made stuffed peppers more than once, I am happy to tell you that they are now a reliably delicious meal for my family and me. The head spins at the possibilities of flavor combinations, different proteins you can use, etc. However, sometimes you can truly surprise yourself and discover that you like something much more than you thought you did. This meal is a great example of this for me.

I have really come around on my aversion to mushrooms. In fact, one could even say I now embrace them, and look forward to ways I can use them! It's a huge step for me. I feel like this whole new world has been opened up to me, and it's exciting. I love it when this kind of stuff happens!

These Barley-Stuffed Peppers are a shockingly satisfying vegetarian main dish. Loaded with tender barley, mushrooms, and carrots, as well as some bread crumb, egg, and cheese to bind the filling together, they are flavorful and hearty. The peppers were perfectly cooked; succulent and juicy, while the stuffing was slightly creamy from the cheese and chewy from the grains. Oh, how we loved these peppers!

Barley-Stuffed Peppers
adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication
makes 6 stuffed peppers

2 cups water
2/3 cups pearled barley
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 of a vegetable bouillon cube
3 large red sweet peppers, halved and hollowed out (seeds removed, stems intact)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided (3 oz.)
1/2 cup shredded carrot (or chopped in small pieces)
1/3 cup soft bread crumbs (I used two slices of whole wheat bread, crusts removed)
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Several dashes bottled hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula

1. Place 2 cups water, 2/3 cup barley, and the 1/2 bouillon cube in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, lower heat and cover, and simmer for about an hour or so, until the water is absorbed and the barley is cooked and tender. Add the sliced mushrooms after an hour, remove from heat, and recover for about 15 minutes while the mushrooms soften.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the egg, tomato paste, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, carrots, bread crumbs, sage, parsley, salt, and hot pepper sauce. Stir in cooked barley mixture. Place pepper halves, cut sides up, in an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Spoon barley mixture into peppers.

3. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until filling is heated through. Sprinkle the peppers with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Note: these can be made ahead of time! I made mine two days prior by filling the peppers and then refrigerating them. When I was ready to bake them, I put them in the oven for 50 minutes, then put the cheese on and baked for another 5-10 minutes. Worked like a charm!

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