When you were young, do you remember there being a mother who always wanted to feed you when you walked through her front door? Was there a mother whose first question as you entered was, "are you hungry?" or "have you eaten?"
Well, I am pretty sure I have become that mom. I don't know what it is, but when someone comes over, young or old, I feel the need to feed them. I don't even really think about it. It has become a natural instinct. Sometimes I don't ask any questions and just start whipping up some chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, or just a bowl of olives or almonds. I feel like there should be food offered. It makes me happy to feed people.
When it comes to dinner, I really want to make sure everyone who sits around my table has something to eat that they will enjoy. I absolutely love to cook but I think I love pleasing the appetites of my friends and family more. It's not so much that I want to hear that what I cooked was fantastic. I want my family and guests to be satisfied, full and happy.
Daphne and Rachel with their vegetarian peppers. (Photo by Wendy Monro)
Sometimes I am presented with a variety of tastes that need to be addressed. I have a daughter who is a pescatarian, friends who are vegetarians and flexitarians, my husband likes every meal to include meat, and my son really only likes cheeseburgers and Pop Tarts. I have a sister who is a vegan and doesn't eat eggs, milk or cheese. I can't even imagine living like that. I pretty much like everything, except Pop Tarts.
It can be challenging to satisfy all of these varieties of tastes in one meal; but, I am usually up for it.
Last night, our friend Rachel was over for dinner and she is a vegetarian. We were talking about what we would make for dinner. She enjoys cooking too. We always have so much fun cooking together. Somehow our conversation led to Hare Krishnas and how they eat a vegetarian diet. I remembered that I have a Hare Krishna cook book called, "The Higher Taste: a guide to gourmet vegetarian cooking and a karma-free diet." We both thought it would be fun to make a dish for dinner from this book. As we drove to New Ulm to pick up my kids from school, Rachel read aloud some of the recipes. They had recipes for stuffed tomatoes, stuffed eggplant, spring rolls, vegetable quiche, and minestrone soup (to name a few). We finally decided on stuffed peppers.
Time: 45 minutes
4 red peppers
2 C. cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 C. zucchini, chopped
1/2 C. black olives, chopped
1/3 C. almonds, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 C. ricotta cheese
1/2 C. parmesan cheese
Cook the brown rice and set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the tops off of the peppers and wash out the seeds. Steam the peppers for about ten minutes. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and saut for ten minutes. Add fennel seed and pepper and heat for five minutes. Add the zucchini, and black olives. Cook for another five minutes. Add the almonds, salt and ricotta cheese. Pour in the rice and mix everything together for one minute more. Stuff this mixture into the peppers and top with the parmesan cheese. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
I had never had vegetarian stuffed peppers and thought this was an interesting idea. I wondered if Claud would like it and I knew Jack wouldn't come near it.
There was one ingredient I didn't have. It was a plant called hing. Well, I didn't know it was a plant until I looked it up. We learned that onions and garlic could be a substitute for hing. Rachel and I didn't understand why they didn't just put onions and garlic in the recipe, so we looked further into it.
You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the alliaceous family (alliums) - along with leeks, chives and shallots. According to Ayurveda, India's classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories: sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. These are foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other alliaceous plants are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance.
Apparently, Hare Krishnas do not eat onions and garlic because they are in the mode of passion and cannot be offered to the Lord Krishna. Again, I was amazed by how much I learn from cooking.
Personally, I couldn't live without onions and garlic. So, we added them to the dish. We also changed a few other things to make the recipe our own. We used brown rice in place of white. We added almonds instead of pine nuts and baked the peppers instead of frying them.
The finished dish turned out delicious. The brown rice with vegetables and cheese combined with fennel seed was so flavorful that Claud didn't even miss the meat. Jack ate a ham sandwich. Daphne and I had a nice piece of seared salmon with the stuffed pepper. I also included a small simple salad. In the end, everyone was full and satisfied and I was pleased. You could make this same recipe and add some ground beef or ground turkey if you don't have any vegetarians eating with you and it can be a meal in itself. However you wish to prepare it, I am sure you will enjoy it.