Karen’s Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes

I love holidays, all holidays and even though in Greece Thanksgiving isn’t a Greek holiday, I make sure here in Texas to include several of my favorite Greek dishes at our Thanksgiving table, along with our American favorites, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes gravy and pumpkin pie. This year is going to be my challenge; it seems two of our three daughters have embraced the healthy option of no animal protein, no dairy, no fish, no meat! They say they are vegetarians 80-90% of the time. I know a vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat any meat, poultry, game, fish or shellfish, and they embrace a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds and sometimes they include dairy, honey and eggs depending on the diet they follow. Our daughters elected to avoid the grains, beans, vegetable oils and some fruit as well. So, I think they are more vegan than vegetarian, and as vegans our daughters avoid these food products, too: dairy, casein, gelatin, honey, whey, collagen and, oh my, carmine, an insect product used in red applesauce, red lollipops, yogurt, drinks and food coloring. Knowing pretty much what our girls have in their diets and the 80-90% rule they follow, I think they are really part-time vegetarians also known as flexitarians. However, I’m up for a challenge so for our Thanksgiving feast I’m making stuffed peppers and tomatoes, dolmathes without meat stuffed with rice vegetables, herbs, seasonings, pine nuts and currants or white raisins. Also on our meze, appetizer table will be our granddaughter Alli’s skordalia, her Greek garlic potato dip, my giant beans slow baked in a highly seasoned tomato sauce, hummus and nondairy tzatziki sauce. I hope the girls like these options as I have tried them all and they work well! As for the turkey? I have visions of Debra’s turkey shaped soy Thanksgiving bird; you know the episode on the show “Everyone Loves Raymond.” But no, 1000 times no, I will not compromise on the traditional turkey. We will be having a free range, non-GMO, organic turkey with all the trimmings. As for dessert, pumpkin pie made with coconut cream, instead of milk, topped with a nondairy whipped cream. Also, there will also be traditional eggnog with rum on the side. And if I have the energy, I may make Moussaka with beyond meat and nondairy milk, cheese and eggs! So, with that “Please Join Our Table “as we enjoy our blended Thanksgiving feast!

Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes with No Meat!

These are not your typical Better Homes and Gardens stuffed peppers, these are meatless!

INGREDIENTS

3 large onions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons EVOO (I use Greek extra virgin olive oil.)

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice (preferably long grain) or 4 cups cooked rice

3 large ripe tomatoes cored and pulped, finely chopped, save the tops

3 large green bell peppers cored, save the tops

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup water

1 can stewed tomatoes, drained, save the juice

1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley

1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

1-2 medium carrots, minced

1 tablespoon sea salt or to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon seasoned lemon pepper

2 teaspoons Greek oregano, divided

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup olive oil (EVOO)

Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup), save and slice the lemons after juicing them.

*1 pound of ground meat, optional

2/3 cups toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup currants or white raisins

10 grapes leaves, blanched or jarred, drained and rinsed to remove brine

3-4 potatoes, peeled and quartered

DIRECTIONS: In a large 12-14-inch-deep pan, sauté the onion and carrots until onions are translucent (about 3 minutes), add rice, cook 3-4 more minutes. Add tomato pulp, salt, pepper, lemon pepper, cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano stewed tomatoes, water and wine. Simmer about 5 minutes or until vegetables tighten up and are not very runny. Set aside. Microwave prepared peppers (not the tops) on high for 2 minutes. Set the caps aside for later. Add oregano, pine nuts, mint, parsley dill and currants to the tomato mixture. Place tomatoes and peppers in an oven safe 9-x11 inch deep casserole dish. Sprinkle inside of each pepper and tomato with a dash of salt and sugar. Fill each tomato and pepper with the tomato rice vegetable mixture, place tops back on each. With left over mixture, roll one heaping tablespoon of filling in each grape leaf (start at the thick end of the leaf). Fold the bottom over the filling, fold the sides in, and roll up. Don't roll too tightly. The rice will expand during cooking. Place these in between the peppers and tomatoes and wedge the potatoes in along with the stuffed grape leaves. Pour the 1/2 cup of olive oil over all. Mix the tomato paste with the reserved stewed tomato juice. Pour this over the tomato and peppers and add the sliced lemons that were used to make lemon juice. Cover with aluminum foil or tight-fitting lid. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees, remove cover and cook 20- minutes more, or until potatoes are tender and rice is done. Remove from oven. Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with crumbled feta cheese. We like it with a big salad and fresh hot bread to sop up the juices!

Giant Beans Baked with Honey and Dill

This is a great meze (appetizer) or side dish. It can be made a day in advance and warmed up before serving.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound dried Greek giant beans, soaked in water overnight or 2 1-pound cans of Italian cannellini beans, drain only one can

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium-sized Vidalia 1014’s or white onions, peeled and rough chopped

3 cups peeled, seeded and chopped plum tomatoes or 2 cans stewed tomatoes, original recipe, and drain only one can

1 2-ounce can pimento peppers, drained

3-4 cloves garlic

1 cup water

1/4 cup thyme honey

1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3-5 more minutes or until onions are soft and a light golden color. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and drain the soaked beans and place in a large pot with enough water (about 1 cup) to cover them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes. (Note: If using canned beans, omit this step.) Place beans in a large baking pan with the remaining olive oil, the onions, tomatoes, water and honey. Mix well. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender and the sauce is thick. From time to time, remove foil and check beans. Add more water if needed to keep the beans from burning. Fifteen minutes before removing from oven, add dill, vinegar, tomato paste, pimento peppers, salt and pepper. Serves 6-8. Serve warm as a side dish to a meal or at room temp as a meze (appetizer).

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.

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