How was your weekend? Did you celebrate St. Paddy’s Day? I was flying cross-country all day Friday on the actual holiday, but I had a chance to celebrate the Irish holiday yesterday with my parents. I’m in Jersey this week visiting family, and went to a winery yesterday with my parents that had a live Irish band playing. It made me want to be back in Ireland hanging out at pubs with my family!
So, let’s dive into the real topic at hand today: Mediterranean Barley Stuffed Peppers – an easy Meatless Monday dinner idea!
I’ve always been a fan of stuffed peppers, and for this recipe, I wanted to do something different in terms of grains. I usually will use brown rice for stuffed peppers, but this time I decided to try barley instead and loved it.
I like to make a nice sized pot of grains at the beginning of the week to use for a few different meals, so this time, I cooked up some barley and used some for this recipe, then some another night with veggie burgers and sautéed zucchini.
You can always swap out the barley for whatever other grain you feel like – such as farro, cous cous, or rice for a gluten free option.
These peppers take a Mediterranean twist with the inclusion of crumbled feta, red onion, artichoke hearts, avocado, red onion and portobello mushroom. I always love making meals Mediterranean-style because the ingredients commonly used in this type of fare are so healthy and flavorful!
To a lot of people, including me, food is more than just what you eat to keep your body nourished. It’s also an aspect of life that brings people together, brings them joy and creates long-lasting memories.
Some eats bring me back to certain times in my life. A meal I created the other night made me think of when my hubby and I first lived together. Our first months of living together, we were temporarily located in Florida while my Marine went to a specialty school there. I remember having fun creating our first dinners as a married couple, and one of my first meals for us in Florida was stuffed peppers.
I used to stuff them with soy crumbles, veggies and cheese, so while these stuffed peppers are more inspired by Italian ingredients like bread crumbs, mozzarella, parmesan, fresh basil, and San Marzano tomatoes, the concept is the same: Halve big red sweet peppers, pack them with goodness, and bake them until lightly crispy and tender.
The pepper filling includes one of my staple kitchen ingredients: instant brown rice. Whenever I need something quick and easy, I break out this rice and cook it in 5 minutes flat, mix it with some veggies, and have a simple meal ready in a jiffy.
One of my secrets to simplify things is to add chopped veggies to the boiling water, then cook with the rice. For this recipe, I cooked zucchini with the rice.
After the rice and zucchini were done cooking, I mixed them with tomatoes, bread crumbs, basil, onion, cheese and Italian seasoning.
I stuffed the peppers with the mixture, topped with more cheese, then baked until the cheese was bubbly and the peppers were tender.
In other food news, today was a rare occasion for me: eating breakfast out. I hardly ever go out to breakfast – except when I’m in my hometown, in which case my grandma and I wind up at our favorite breakfast joint. Late morning we headed to a (very crowded) San Jose place called Bill’s Cafe. I ordered buckwheat pancakes with blueberries, and drizzled them with my favorite pancake topping, honey: