The Leftover Project: Southwestern-ish Stuffed Peppers

My ongoing goal is to stop food waste by transforming leftover ingredients into new dishes. Of course, my dishes must be made of actual food—no food-like-eating-substances allowed. (I’m looking at you, canned biscuits!) Stuffed vegetables are a great way to use up bits of leftover grains or bread, vegetables, and protein. You can go in a Middle Eastern direction with your spices, or Italian, or even Asian. Yesterday I was feeling like some Mexican food, but I had a fridge full of leftovers that needed using up.

We don’t often eat beef steak, or any other kind of beef, for that matter, but last night, after a hard day of substitute teaching—middle school band—I needed a stiff drink and a sturdy dinner. Hubs bought three lovely filet mignon steaks; why do they always come in packages of three? In the end, we weren’t as hungry as we’d thought, so there was a leftover steak. Now, it just won’t do to waste such beautiful meat.

Here’s what I had that needed using up:

The ingredients

  • Two bell peppers, one red, one yellow
  • Half a cucumber
  • Half an avocado
  • Half a bunch of cilantro
  • The steak
  • A pot of rice
  • A zucchini going soft
  • A few sad-looking mushrooms
  • Half a big onion
  • Some strips of green bell pepper left over from Superbowl crudités
  • Half a lemon
  • One canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce—I’d divided them up into little containers and froze them, because when would you ever use a whole can, unless you’re making chili?
  • Half a head of romaine lettuce
  • Some mini carrots
  • A few green onions
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes

For the stuffed peppers (serves two):

I diced up the onion, green pepper strips, half the zucchini and mushrooms, and sautéed them in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Next, I threw in two cloves of minced garlic, and seasoned it all with ground cumin, dried oregano, salt and black pepper. Next I added a big handful of chopped cilantro and the steak, which I’d diced, plus about two cups of cooked rice. (Any grain would be good here: quinoa, barley, farro, brown rice—go wild!) I moistened that with a bit of my favorite sauce for stuffed veggies: V-8 juice. Really, it works very well to moisten the stuffing without drowning it in a thick tomato sauce.

Vegetables for filling the stuffed peppers

Vegetables for filling the stuffed peppers

While those ingredients were getting acquainted, I nuked the halved bell peppers in a covered dish for three minutes to soften them, then put them in an oiled (olive, of course) glass baking dish. I filled the peppers with the mixture—there’s always a bit of extra filling that slops into the pan, but so what?

I minced up the chipotle pepper, and stirred it and its adobo sauce into the rest of the V-8 juice, about a cup. I dumped this over the now-stuffed peppers and sprinkled them with some grated cheddar cheese. Of course, it would be cool to use a more authentic Mexican cheese if you have one—I didn’t. Oh, I found about two tablespoons of sliced green olives, the pimento-stuffed kind, so I sprinkled that on top of the filled peppers too. That provided a nice contrast to the mild filling; next time I’ll add more olives.

The cooked peppers.

The cooked peppers.

While the peppers were baking at 375 degrees F for about half an hour, I made a salad with a romaine, carrots, sliced green onions, some diced zucchini (from the non-soggy end), and the cherry tomatoes.

I used this salad dressing recipe, more or less, adding a pinch of cayenne pepper. This used up the cucumber and avocado. It’s really good—light and refreshing. You should try this!

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/164771/cucumber-avocado-salad-dressing/

And here you go! A veggie-rich dinner that salvaged lots of leftovers and transformed them into something new and tasty.

peppers on the plates

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