I made a couple of batches of this until I realised I had to cook the quinoa first. Regardless of how "wet" I made the meat filling, the quinoa refused to expand like rice would have. Whenever possible I love skipping a step or two, but that wasn't the case here.
It always amazes me how much a dish can change just by the way it's seasoned. The smoked paprika and fried bacon gave this homestyle dish a nice twist making it a huge hit.
These stuffed peppers reheat really well and are a great candidate for freezing, in case you feel like doubling this recipe.
3 thick slices bacon, chopped
1 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp dried
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
a pinch or two, cayenne
14.5oz can pureed or whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp sweet rice flour or all purpose flour (if gluten isn't an issue)
1 lb extra lean ground beef
4 small/medium red bell peppers
Place the bacon into a cold skillet and cook over medium-low heat until the bacon is crispy. Place the crisped bacon bits into a mixing bowl along with the quinoa and set aside.
Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat and fry the garlic and onions until they are soft and translucent. Add this mixture to the quinoa and bacon and leave to cool for a few minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, reserving 1/4 cup for later. Add the tomato paste, egg, flaxseed, if using, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, lemon pepper and cayenne. Set aside.
Stir together the pureed tomatoes, water and rice flour. If using the whole tomatoes, combine in a small blender until smooth.
Add 1/4 cup of this mixture to the stuffing mixture along with all of the ground meat. Gently mix everything together until just combined, taking care not to over mix. Set aside
Pour the remainder of the tomato sauce into a baking dish, large enough to hold the filled peppers snugly.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Wash then cut the peppers in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and membranes. Divide the meat and quinoa filling equally between the pepper halves. Mound the meat mixture without trying to pack it in too tightly, otherwise the filling might become too dense.
When all of the peppers are stuffed. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese evenly over the top.
Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the the dish is bubbling hot and the top has browned. Serve, with the sauce spooned over the peppers.
I like this dish even better the next day, reheated.