Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Don’t.

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I’ve been juicing baby bok choy thinking it was an exotic, German variation of kale.

[Insert nervous laugh here]

Though it’s an incredibly embarrassing blow to my ego (not only did I TELL others about my discovery, but I also BLOGGED about it), at least I was giving it a try. And that’s got to be worth something. 

I’d like to blame my mother for raising me on the typical Midwest diet of ground beef and mac & cheese, with the rare roasteneer in summer; but when you approach 40, you really can’t blame your parents for stuff anymore. If I had spent less time during my young adulthood in the Buy-It-In-Frozen-Bulk-Store and more time learning about living, green things, I would have known the difference.

I do, however, have just cause to complain about babelfish, the online language translator. I’ve learned through embarrassing hands-on experience that kale is not baby bok choy–no matter what language you use.

I’ve also been buying something called ‘Wirsing’ thinking it was collards–and that issue remains unclear. Babelfish insists the plants are the same, but the pictures I found online bear little resemblance to each other.

So, until I can find a German who is fluent in American Southern cooking, I’ll have to keep juicing the dark, leafy greens, whether they are properly named or not.

I could just make up my own names, but that’s not helpful in the supermarket.

Despite the setbacks due to language barriers and my own organic ignorance, I do enjoy creating vegan menus for the family.

I used to think veggies came in three colors: white being the yummiest, especially when mashed with margarine and hormone-laden milk; yellow, a close second, also with butter-flavored plastic and heaps of salt; and green, which came from a can, had a grayish tint and were quietly scraped into the garbage after Mom left the table.

Salads in the Midwest would gloriously appear for holidays, picnics and family reunions. No matter which so-called fruit or vegetable was used as a base, salads always arrived encased in some type of alien substance, such as jello, marshmallows or ranch dressing.

With this rich heritage, you will now pardon my current nutritional ignorance.

This week, I was inspired to make artichokes for the first time.

Eschewing any help from my husband (who HAD been a cook in a previous life) and piecing together bits of information from a variety of questionable sources, I carved up the plants, drizzled them with lemon, and tossed them in a hot oven.

They came out looking like pinecones.

We painfully tried them–even forcing my poor children to take bites.

*Disclaimer: no children were harmed in the artichoke sampling

Before you rat me out to Child Protective Services, let me assure you, a kind Italian friend has promised to provide artichoke counseling and special education for my remedial cooking skills.

I will conquer artichokes eventually.

And that is this week’s lesson.

No matter how you were raised, it’s never too late to learn (usually the hard way for me) how to cook and enjoy food that will nourish you, rather than kill you.

While the artichokes bombed in a big way, the quinoa stuffed peppers were fantastic. Even the youngest of my household skeptics cleaned their plates, as the saying goes, and not into the bio bin (I didn’t leave the table until they finished).

Though I may have inadvertently ruined their concepts of ‘artichoke’ forever, my hope is that my children will have broader views of cuisine and more nutritional knowledge than I ever did.

Sometimes you do actually win.

Recipe of the Week: Quinoa-Chickpea Stuffed Peppers

Being an English major, recovering grad assistant, and homeschooling mom, I have that geeky flaw of loving BOOKS. And now that I am learning to cook, I have a particular fondness for cookbooks.

So when an anonymous donor gave me Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, I held it lovingly in my arms, kissed it, and put it to work right away. This cookbook is great because it walks you through basics (like putting veggies in an oven) which seem obvious to most people, but are scary for novices like me.

Becoming emboldened, I combined two recipes, took out some ingredients that my husband and I are currently avoiding, such as salt and oil, and added some things of my own.

The best cookbook (like the best pair of running shoes) is the one that gets messy; and I’m pleased to say that page 33 now has a red pepper thumbprint on the corner.

Enjoy!

The Raw Materials

Red Peppers, as many as you need, (I used 4 for our family of 6) halved and seeded

1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped (apx 1 cup)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 or 2 stalks of green onion, sliced into edible green O’s

1/4 cup (or more) fresh baby spinach, finely chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup (or more) fresh mushrooms, chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin (more if you want it spicier)

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup quinoa

2 cups cooked or 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained & rinsed

2 cups low salt vegetable broth or water

water, as needed during cooking

The Method

Send your oven on its way to 425 degrees.

In your enamel-coated, cast iron dutch oven (which I know you have by now), water sauté the yellow onion about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 more minutes, adding a little water as necessary, to keep from sticking to the pot.

Add chopped tomatoes and mushrooms, sautéing 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, and black pepper; sautéing for another minute.

Add the uncooked quinoa and sauté for 2 more minutes, adding a little water to keep from sticking.

Add chickpeas and broth, cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, put on very low heat, cover and cook for about 18 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Add baby spinach and chopped green onion for the last 3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Fluff the quinoa-chickpea mixture with a fork.

Place the halved red peppers on a baking sheet and fill peppers with the quinoa mixture, being careful to NOT overstuff them.

Bake in your 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to blacken.

Serve while steaming hot and enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth, zero cholesterol goodness of your quinoa-stuffed sweet red peppers.

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