Lentil-Stuffed Peppers with Couscous

Last week my friend Gudrun, who happens to be the absolute best, most amazing and talented yoga teacher in all of Toronto (at least that's what she tells us lol) but also one of the most disinterested-in-food-and-cooking people I know, inspired this meal as she was pulling together stuffed peppers for her kids' Friday night dinner. I was amazed for two reasons: first, the fact that she was cooking at all and second, doesn't everyone in the world order pizza in on a Friday night? She called to ask if she had to boil the rice first before putting it in the peppers or if she could put it in directly from the bag... too funny... but we forgive her for her lack of culinary knowledge since she can do handstands in the kitchen and mix great cocktails and she doesn't laugh at us (much) when we get all pretzelly in her classes and fall over.

However, her peppers did sound delicious and healthy so I knew they were destined for our tabletop sometime this week. Since I also wanted a meat-free option, I found a lentil-stuffed version online and then adapted it for what I had in the fridge. As I was making it, I was worried that perhaps it wouldn't be a hit with the kiddies since it seemed to be so heavily slanted on the healthiness scale, but it came through in terms of flavour and texture, and all three gave it a thumbs-up.

Then on Wednesday (the big Snow Day that never was), I roasted up a huge tray of cubed butternut squash and then mixed it up with some pasta, onions, goat cheese and walnuts for a really satisfying meal, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis, who I'd seen prepare it earlier in the week on the Food Network. After this meal, I pureed the leftover squash with some chicken stock and the kids had some yummy soup with cheese toast on Thursday night.

Lentil-Stuffed Peppers

1 cup couscous
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

4 small sweet peppers
2 tbsp (45 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (500 mL) mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup (500 mL) zucchini, finely chopped
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1/2 cup (60 mL) canned lentils
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup (125 mL) crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped green onions

Bring the 2 cups of chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat, add couscous and allow to simmer for five minutes until stock has been absorbed completely. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, slice tops off peppers; core and scrape out seeds. Place peppers, cut side up, in 8-inch square glass baking dish.
In saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat; fry onion and garlic until onion is slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, zucchini and all but a pinch each of the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 6 minutes. Add lentils and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Toss the vegetable mixture into a bowl with the couscous and let cool slightly.
Mix in the marinara sauce, goat cheese and green onions with the couscous mixture.

Spoon mixture into peppers; drizzle with remaining oil and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Cover with foil; bake in 350F (180C) oven until peppers are almost tender, about 1 hour. Uncover; bake until tops are crusty, about 15 minutes.

Rest of the week

January 31 Roasted rack of lamb, smashed potatoes, salad

February 1 Lentil-stuffed peppers, roasted cauliflower and leftover beef bourguignon

February 2 Penne with butternut squash and goat cheese

February 3 Butternut squash soup with crusty cheese bread and salad