As a vegan, people are always asking me where I get my protein, how could I possibly be happy and/or healthy without eating meat, etc. Well look no further! Here are just one of the many examples of a protein-laden plant-based meal, no meat in sight! These are stuffed with a quinoa salad, and if you are familiar with quinoa, you know you have to cook it. Quinoa is one of my favorite grains, as it tastes amazing in salads, as a cereal, a rice substitute or just by itself as a sweet or savory snack! These quinoa stuffed peppers are one of my favorite vegan dishes, satisfying and filling! If you are eating this for a meal, you would probably eat about 2 to 3 peppers, each cut in half and stuffed individually. A meal of these stuffed peppers would give you anywhere from 20 to 30 grams of protein and 80 to 96 grams of carbs! This is also plant-based protein, easy to digest, but you also must eat more of it to get the same protein amount as you would be eating a small slice of meat. In order to prepare this meal, there are a couple steps you have to follow prior to the actual stuffing of the peppers, such as boiling the quinoa and marinating the mushrooms. Just make sure you plan this ahead of time, giving yourself about 2 to 4 hours or so. Note: For the peppers, you can use any assortment of red, green, yellow or orange bell peppers. The amount I made will stuff at least ten, maybe 15 peppers, depending on size. You can also stuff less and save the leftover quinoa salad to eat by itself or as a side dish. Step 1: for the leek and mushroom marinade, you will need: - 2 cups sliced mushrooms, crimini, shitake, or any mushroom you prefer - 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks - 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped in half - 1 thinly sliced garlic clove - 1 tbsp. hemp seeds - 1 tbsp. sesame seeds - 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast After the veggies and nutritional yeast are chopped and in a bowl, we must prepare the marinade. Add in: - 1 tbsp. olive oil - 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar - juice of 1 lemon - 1 tsp. turmeric - 1 tsp. fenugreek (optional) - 1/2 tsp. pepper - 1/2 tsp. salt Mix these ingredients in with the veggies, cover and set aside to marinate, at least 2 hours, preferably up to 4. Your mixture should look something like this: [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="470"] The juice from the tomatoes will soak into the olive oil, vinegar and lemon, creating a rich, zesty marinade.[/caption] Step 2: for the preparation the walnut basil pesto, you will need: - 1 1/2 cups of walnuts, soaked in water. This is for our walnut basil pesto later. You will want to soak the walnuts for about an hour, so do this after preparing the mushroom marinade Step 3: for the preparation of the quinoa stuffing you will need: - 3 cups quinoa, soaked for about an hour, then boiled with 6 cups water. You cooked quinoa the same way as rice, 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Quinoa is ready once you can see little sprouted tails at the end of the grains like this: Once the quinoa is cooked, set aside to cool. Step 4: Preparation for quinoa salad As you wait for the quinoa to cool, start preparing the rest of the vegetables that will be added to the salad: - 3 grated carrots - 1 handful parsley, thinly sliced - 1 handful cilantro, thinly sliced - juice of 1 lemon or lime - 1 tsp. paprika - 1 tsp. salt Combine all together in a large bowl, then mix in with the cooled quinoa. Step 5: Add the mushroom marinade and mix After the parsley, carrots and cilantro are chopped and in the bowl, throw in the mushroom leek marinade, and mix. You should now have a beautifully colored quinoa salad: You can eat this plain as a salad or side dish as well, there will be plenty for which to do so! Step 6: Walnut basil pesto In your high-powered blender, throw in: - The 1 1/2 cups of soaked walnuts - 1 chopped zucchini - 1 handful basil (or more if you prefer) - 1 handful arugula - 1 handful parsley - 1 handful cilantro - 1/2 cup pine nuts - 1 clove garlic - couple sprigs of fresh rosemary, stems removed - couple sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed - salt and pepper Pulse/blend until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy: Step 7: We are now ready to begin stuffing! Get your bell pepper assortment, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds and insides to make as much room as you can for the stuffing: Start by spooning out the quinoa salad, and stuffing it into the peppers. Pack it in tight so you can get as much stuffing in the peppers as you can. Let it overflow too, as you want to have a large feast of raw stuffed peppers to eat! Once the peppers are stuffed, we will then spoon on the walnut basil pesto, and as a final touch, add a cilantro leaf and a half of a tiny cherry tomato: Step 8: Eat! That is it! You now have beautiful stuffed peppers, that look delicious and taste even better! The fresh, sweet crunchiness of the peppers combined with the lemony quinoa stuffing and the creamy basil pesto gives a fresh, amazing taste like that mixes together perfectly! Don't even bother with a knife and fork, just pick it up and eat the whole thing like a sandwich, it's that good! Enjoy!