Kitchn Love Letters

This Classic Back-to-School Dinner Recipe Makes a Perfectly Packable Lunch

published Aug 18, 2019
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Stuffed Peppers with Chicken Sausage and Quinoa
Credit: Alexe Lawrence
Stuffed Peppers with Chicken Sausage and Quinoa

I love back-to-school season: Routines start up again, the humidity finally wanes, and the city swells with folks returning from vacation. Of course, when I was actually in school, I hated the end of summer. But as an adult, the change in seasons actually excites me. I especially love having new produce to cook with.

One thing in particular that warms my heart is bell peppers. Technically September is the end of bell pepper season, but they are synonymous with love and warmth in my far-reaching food memories. The vibrant vegetable was a mainstay in my great Aunt Connie’s New Jersey kitchen. Every time I cook with them I can hear her raspy Italian accent. She would putter around the kitchen, chatting with or yelling at her husband while she cooked, keeping us kids fed and entertained at the same time. 

I can always find a use for bell peppers, but using them as an edible vessel tops my list, as in stuffed peppers. Stuffed peppers make a hearty dinner with leftovers that pack well. Aunt Connie would often make them for dinner, and send us home with the rest so we could take them to school the next day. Be still my heart!

My Favorite Stuffed Pepper Recipe

My favorite stuffed pepper recipe is on my blog, Keys to the Cucina. I make it with quinoa and better-for you chicken sausage. It’s a protein powerhouse, and can survive nearly any kind of commute. It goes from ingredients to dish in under an hour, and keeps well in the fridge for up to three days.

I start by sautéing the sausage, then use those pan drippings to cook off some onions and garlic. I should mention that the best part about cooking with sausage is the built-in flavors. There’s no need to fuss with a spice cabinet when sausage is involved. This recipe calls for a few carefully selected flavor enhancers and that, my friend, makes me a very happy cook on a busy weeknight.

Once the onions and garlic are translucent, toss in the quinoa and spices with a splash of lemon. Voilà! You’re ready to start stuffing peppers. Forty minutes in a 350-degree oven will yield a tender pepper with a piping-hot and delicious filling.

While I can’t enjoy these with my Aunt Connie any longer, I tend to take bites with my eyes closed. I can still feel the hugs she gave me, standing in her kitchen.