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[Photograph: Penny De Los Santos]

Stuffed peppers are so often full of mushy rice and/or overcooked meat. Yet there's no reason why they need to have such uninspired ingredients, or even any meat at all. Shauna James Ahern's recipe for the dish in Gluten-Free Girl Every Day is, in fact, practically vegan. (Ahern uses a bit of butter in her prep.) The bulk of her stuffing is steamed quinoa enlivened with sweet caramelized onions, yellow raisins, and wholesome kale. She adds a bit of garlic and cumin for earthiness, but otherwise leaves it well enough alone. A hot oven adds char and deeper flavor to the peppers, making this cute entree worlds away from the heavy original.

Why I picked this recipe: I can't stand green bells stuffed with ground beef, so I wanted to see if Ahern's version could transform my opinion on the form.

What worked: The quinoa mixture was delightful--sweet, savory, and filling. It'd work great on its own if you're not up to stuffing peppers.

What didn't: It became clear that this recipe was written for small bell peppers. If you buy eight big ones (like I did), you'll need to double the stuffing recipe (or just save four peppers for another project). My stuffing turned much more crisp than the picture depicts--but I didn't mind it.

Suggested tweaks: Ahern suggests using brown rice or millet if quinoa isn't your thing. Likewise, you could use any small dried fruit instead of raisins here, or walnuts or pecans instead. A bit of parmesan wouldn't be out of place here either.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Gluten-Free Girl Every Day to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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