March 2, 2015

Mexican-Style Stuffed Peppers with Soy Chorizo & Queso Fresco


  
Just a little over three weeks ago, I began brainstorming and planned out my Meatless Monday posts for the next eight weeks! Yes, lately I've been one productive little person and I'm loving how organized that opening sentence makes me sound!  I've been really excited and motivated for months to get this string of posts started and to try some new things!

Diving into the world of vegetarian cooking has already taught me quite a lot about products I never knew existed and more about myself as a cook. Even though I've done a little legwork and research, I know that I've barely scratched the surface of this diet and lifestyle and I'll admit that I'm officially fascinated with vegetarian food! But, don't worry, I'll only share one or two, quick, self-observations or epiphanies in each post.  I mean, if I get too deep here, I could quickly sink into my Libra-driven overanalysis of everything and who needs that on a Monday?

Anyhoo...the first thing I noticed about myself in working up these recipes was how subconsciously determined I was to incorporate a meat-like component into the dishes.  But, I'm pretty sure this can be easily explained by the fact that my meatless dishes have to pass an especially agonizing quality and taste test issued by my bona fide carnivore of a husband.

Also, all of these recipes, so far, are considered simply vegetarian and not vegan. I do use animal by-products, namely eggs and cheese, in almost all of them.  

So, this recipe was inspired by my regular use of a vegetarian product at home, soy chorizo.  I love the deep flavor of real Mexican chorizo sausage, but one time, years ago, while cooking breakfast with it I made the devastating mistake of reading the ingredient label on the package.  I won't go into detail about what I read on that label, but I will tell you that I suddenly felt as though what I had in my frying pan was worthy of a segment on that old show Fear Factor!  For my taste, there were some less than appetizing items printed on that list. 

Just a few weeks later, I came across soy chorizo for the first time in the produce department of my regular grocery store. There it was, unassumingly shelved in the small refrigerated cabinet that's set aside for vegetarian products.  Not knowing what to expect, I took some home and used it the next morning to make simple breakfast tacos.  I couldn't believe how much the flavor and texture was a near perfect imitation of real chorizo. Honestly, it was a lot like the real deal, but without the mental trauma of that ingredient list!  



I was so happy to finally incorporate this amazing meat-substitute into something more meaningful than a breakfast taco.  And, I'm proud to share that my carnivorous, eye-rolling husband cleaned his plate!

Mexican-Style Stuffed Peppers with Soy Chorizo & Queso Fresco
  • 6 large green bell peppers, tops removed and seeded
  • 1 package (8 oz) soy chorizo
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 can (10 oz) original Rotel tomatoes & peppers, with liquid
  • 1 package vegetable broth (32 oz)
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas & carrots, thawed
  • 1 can (15 oz) of your favorite red enchilada sauce
  • 1 package queso fresco
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 375°.   Fill a large dutch oven or pot half way with water.  Heat the water to a rolling boil and put the bell peppers in the pot.  Blanch them for about 5-6 minutes, until just slightly tender. Drain on paper towels and set aside.


2.  In another small skillet, brown the soy chorizo for about 6-7 minutes or until it appears  firm and cooked through, set aside.

3.  In a large, deep skillet heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until the onions become translucent.  Add the rice and stir so that the rice is coated with oil.

4.  Add the Rotel tomatoes, 4 cups of broth, tomato sauce, cumin, salt and pepper.  Bring liquid to a boil, stir once and then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Adding more broth if necessary, simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. 

5.  Once the rice is done, add in the peas & carrots, and the cooked soy chorizo.  Taste rice mixture and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Place peppers in a baking dish and fill with rice mixture.  Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.  

6.  While the stuffed peppers are in the oven, heat the enchilada sauce in a small sauce pan over low heat. 

7.  Once they are all warmed through, place the peppers on serving plates, top with crumbled queso fresco and then drizzle with warm enchilada sauce.  Enjoy!

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