You knew I wouldn’t be able to stay away from posting new quinoa recipes for very long… ; )
One of the hardest things to do when you’re down for a couple of weeks due to illness (can we say double-sided shingles?), especially when you live alone, is keeping up with the nutrition. Let’s face it: when you’re in severe pain, uncomfortable in anything you wear, and so darn exhausted by the pain and malaise, the last thing you feel like doing is cooking.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t eat when I’m sick. If I don’t, I don’t recover in a timely fashion. But for those first very difficult days, the best one can muster is scrambled eggs or a really simple soup. If I could have some warning as to when stuff like this would happen, I would totally plan out my meals and have a ton of stuff ready to just reheat and eat. But that’s not the reality of this illness. You can go down at any time.
That’s what happened two weeks into my new job at the cheese shop. Fortunately, my bosses are pretty understanding about what I’m dealing with, but it wasn’t a fun way to start off the month of March (which seems to be the worst month for me to get serious attacks. WTF, March?).
It also cements the fact that part-time work is about the best I can do anymore. And that sucks, because part-time work isn’t something I can survive on. No one can (unless you’re a member of Congress, ha). That just adds more stress, which causes more shingles, etc., etc. It’s a vicious cycle and one of the reasons it’s been so much harder for me to crawl out of this hole than it was a few years ago. I keep plugging away in the hopes that something will change for the better, though; it simply has to.
As much as I love them, scrambled eggs and simple soup can get pretty dull and boring after a while. My appetite is ready for actual meals filled with colorful, exciting foods, but as I mentioned before, the energy level doesn’t allow for much. But there comes a time when enough is enough and real food MUST be prepared, no matter how difficult it is to stay upright. That’s what chairs are for. To sit while you chop vegetables. While you chop vegetables over and over because really, what else is there to do when you’re sick and all Netflix-ed out and you need to practice your knife technique?
Fortunately, the last time I’d gone shopping, I picked up some peppers and zucchini to add to some other veggies I’d thought of having. I thought it would be a good idea to just sauté them and throw them in with some quinoa for a light dinner, but the zucchini was just so pretty and perfect that it seemed a shame to hack them into little pieces. So I hacked up – er, carefully chopped – the peppers instead, and turned the zucchini into little boats to be stuffed.
Now, usually stuffed zucchini recipes come chock full of all sorts of tasty, fatty goodness like sausage, and cheese, and breadcrumbs for days. While that all sounds pretty delicious and like something I could have made, it kinda defeats the purpose of having vegetables as the entree. Plus, heavy, fattening foods are the last thing I need when I’m in recovery mode.
I lightened these up by taking my original sauteed-veggies-and-quinoa-for-dinner idea and using that as my stuffing. For a fun flavorful twist, I also added some pesto to the mix. While the color kinda cooks off a bit if you don’t use enough (like I did), I found the pesto to be the perfect addition, as it helps tie all the flavors together while acting as a slight binding agent for your stuffing.
If you’re not a quinoa fan, A) that’s okay, we can still be friends, and B) you can certainly substitute brown rice or even cous cous in this recipe (pesto + cous cous = holy yum). But if you’d like to keep this as a meat-free entree, the high protein content in quinoa will make this a much more balanced meal. Make the stuffing ahead of time, and you have an easy-to-prepare weeknight meal. This would also go great inside some sweet peppers, in case you don’t have zucchini around to turn into little boats. Which will not be a problem for anyone come summertime! ; )
So what did I do with the rest of the quinoa I’d cooked up that night (remember 1 cup of uncooked quinoa yields 3 cups of cooked product, so there’s plenty leftover)? Find out in my next recipe, when I finally buckle down and make a concerted effort to stop being such a bad breakfast eater! But for now, we zucchini.
Pesto & Veggie Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini (makes 2-4 servings depending on appetite and size of zucchini; average cost per serving: $2.65)
Don’t let their light and healthy appearance fool you! These little stuffed zucchini can be very filling, especially because of the quinoa. Hungry crew on hand? Dig in deep to pack in as much stuffing as possible for those with slightly larger appetites.
2 medium zucchini (about 6-7″)
1 c cooked quinoa
1 T olive oil
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
1 t minced garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 T your favorite pesto (homemade or jarred is fine)
1/4 c grated Parmesan (optional for garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Slice the zucchini in half and carefully hollow out the center with a small spoon. Place zucchini halves on Reserve about half the zucchini flesh and dice. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook until fragrant and onion is slightly translucent. Add the chopped peppers and cook for about a minute or so, or until they just begin to soften (they will continue cooking in the oven so you don’t want to overcook them here).
3. Remove from heat and add the cooked quinoa. Add the pesto and mix until completely combined. Fill each zucchini half with stuffing (you may have a bit leftover, which can be used as a side). Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until zucchini is tender but still firm. Sprinkle with some fresh parmesan if you like, serve with a nice salad, and enjoy!