Cooking around the world: A new cookbook, a new vegetarian recipe

When I was in college, I spent a summer studying in Japan. While I was there, a Japanese man asked me about my favorite American foods. When I stopped and thought about it, I found that all of my favorite foods were from other places--Greece, Italy, France. The best truly American food I could come up with, and it is pretty good, was grilled corn on the cob.

With some time, I learned that my response wasn't such a bad thing. It means that I eat and cook much more than just the traditional standbys. I'm willing to try something new anytime hunger strikes, and I'm willing to look around the world for inspiration.

Because of that, I can appreciate the latest cookbook I received to review. It's "The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook" by Cherie Mercer Twohy. The concept is that Trader Joe's has foods from all over the globe, and it's fun to try something that might be a little foreign in your house. She offers up dishes like potsticker soup, Moroccan sweet potato stew, salsa verde shrimp cocktail and yogurt-slathered grilled lab--just to name a very few.

The one that caught my eye was the stuffed bell peppers from Eastern Europe. (Actually, I kinda swooned over everything in this section, including the green beans with pears and bacon, and the beets with orange. Yum.) Twohy calls the bell pepper recipe a template, and I agreed, and added a few things that the pre-hubs and I love. Here's how it went down, with my adaptations in italics:

Stuffed Bell Peppers
3 medium bell peppers
salt and pepper
1 16-ounce bag of frozen Quinoa Duo (I used leftover Spanish rice.)
1 c chicken broth
1 c shredded cheese
1 package ground tofu
1 c halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 c frozen corn 

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the peppers in half from stem to bottom and scrape out the seeds and membranes. I left the peppers whole, cuz that's the way my Dad used to make it. Place peppers in an oven proof dish in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.

Since I added a few extras, I'm going to depart from the recipe a little here. Next, I heated up the ground tofu, and broke it up as much as possible. I tossed in the Spanish rice and veggies. Once they were thoroughly mixed, I filled the peppers, and topped with cheese.

Drizzle a little broth over the pepper, and pour the rest into the bottom of the pan. Cover with foil and bake until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes.

This was a ridiculously big hit in my house. We like to keep things veggie-based for the most part, and this definitely qualifies. I think I counted five servings of fruits and veggies in this meal alone. And the best part is that it's delish and makes a real presence on the plate.


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