Pick a Peck of Peppers – Stuffed!

What bell pepper is the most nutritious?   Well the quick and simple answer is – it depends.

Many will say that the red are the most nutritious, because they are on the vine the longest.  A red pepper starts out green, but then the longer it is on the vine it may transition to either the color red or to white, then purple and then red. Longer vine times mean a greater amount of Vitamin C.  Plus the peppers taste sweeter!

NUTRITION BY THE COLORS:

1 large RED bell pepper provides 103% of our recommended daily amount of Vitamin A, 349% of Vitamin C, 10% potassium, 24% Vitamin B6 and is a really good source of fiber.

However, the YELLOW ones do give the red ones a run for their money.  1 large yellow pepper provides more Vitamin C (569%) and potassium (11%) and is a good source of Vit A, B6, potassium and fiber.

Don’t discount the GREEN ones yet, as 1 large one still provides 220% of our daily recommended amount of Vitamin C, 12% Vitamin A, 8% potassium, 18% Vitamin B6 and are a good source of fiber. Plus, they generally cost less as they are harvested quicker and are at less risk for spoilage in the field.

Most growers will tell you too that the nutritional content is dependent on the soil they are grown in, the varietal or type of pepper, how long they are kept on the vine before harvesting among many other factors.

Peppers come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, hotness and colors! This includes, green, orange, yellow, red, purple, pink, blue, white, black and brown and even rainbow ones (the transition stage from one color to the next). Bell peppers are great in the fall because they are most likely in season and so naturally taste sweet. And baby bells are some of student’s favorites!

Plus, they have really cool names like “Golden Summer”, “Purple Beauty”, “Chocolate Brown or Mulato.”

One of the cooking activities you can do with students is to give their typical bell pepper recipe a makeover by replacing higher calorie, fat and saturated fat ingredients with healthier ones. This recipe takes a little longer to make then most of our recipes, but well-worth the time and effort. If you don’t have enough class time to make it, you can prep the ingredients one day and make the recipe the next. Students can work in teams of 2-4 to complete it.

NUTRITIONALLY SPEAKING:

Peppers by themselves are pretty low in calories. A large pepper contains less than 50 calories for the whole pepper.  Plus they are naturally low in fat and saturated fat.

However, what you stuff in it can have a huge impact on its nutritional value. For example, a typical Italian stuffed bell pepper is generally packed with meats, cheeses and salt. On average one serving contains almost 1,000 calories, 46% of your daily recommended amount of fat, 64% saturated fat and 157% of daily recommended sodium or salt.

To give it a healthy makeover, we replaced the meat with red lentils and dried green split peas (our favorite healthy protein!) and the cheese with omega-3 packed walnuts and black olives.  One serving of the recipe below contains only 389 calories, 22% of your daily recommended amount of fat, 13% saturated fat and 38% of daily recommended sodium or salt. It also is an excellent source of fiber (10 grams!), Vitamin A and C and iron, plus a great source of potassium and contains calcium.

Here’s the made-over recipe:

Bell Peppers

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Serves: 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1 24-oz. jar of marinara spaghetti sauce – I like to use the spicy kind!
  • 4 large different colored bell peppers – cut off about an inch from the top and scoop out the inside flesh and wash to remove the seeds.  Keep both the tops and bottoms for baking.
  • 2/3rd cups dried green split peas, rinsed
  • 1/3rd cup dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup wild rice blend
  • Water for rice steamer
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 regular size shallot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup baby broccoli or broccolini
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 each chopped kale leaves
  • ¼ cups walnuts
  • ¼ cup whole black olives
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper
  • Sprinkle of no-salt granulated garlic
  • 3 each chopped Italian parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400º.  Oven temperatures vary and you may need to raise or lower this temperature depending on whether or not you are in altitude.
  2. Cook wild rice, split peas and lentils together in a rice cooker until soft.
  3. Prepare peppers.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add peppers and cook for about 1 ½ minutes. Remove peppers from water and let cool.
  4. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot, celery and garlic to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Next add the baby broccoli and cook for another 3 minutes.
  6. Add in the zucchini and kale and cook for 5 minutes more until zucchini is soft and kale is wilted. Add a sprinkle of granulated garlic and another sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  7. Lastly, add the walnuts and black olives and cook for another minute.  Remove from heat.
  8. In a large bowl, combine the vegetable mixture with the rice and peas/lentils, ½ jar of spaghetti sauce and the chopped parsley.

Assemble the peppers: 

  1. Add a layer of the spaghetti sauce to the bottom of glass cookware or any other baking pan.  I like to also add ¼ can of fire-roasted tomatoes (drained) to the sauce, but this is optional.
  2. Place the peppers in the cookware cut-side up and then using a tablespoon, stuff the peppers with the combined mixture.
  3. Top each pepper with some spaghetti sauce, leaving some aside for serving. Add pepper top to each pepper and then cover glass cookware with lid or foil.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes until peppers are tender.
  5. Serve on a plate with additional spaghetti sauce and a variety of fresh or dried Italian herbs. 

We highly suggest that you take pictures of students with their finished peppers as they are so colorful and your network will adore them.   And/or we would love it if you shared your favorite bell pepper shots on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AnOunceofNutrition/ , so that other teachers can enjoy!

 

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“Netted Gems”

The orange ones protect your eyes!  Yep, that’s right, the orange colored fruits and vegetables are rich in beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in our bodies to help protect our eyes. And the orange flesh-colored cantaloupes are no exception to this rule. 1 cup of cantaloupe provides 120% of our daily recommended amount of Vitamin A.

Why do we need Vitamin A? When we eat foods rich in Vitamin A, they become part of a protein known as Rhodopsin. This protein converts light into a signal that is sent to our brain to create an image, which allows us to see in dim light or at night. It also helps our eyes adjust to darkness – think dark movie theatre!

Vitamin A Deficiency: So knowing that Vitamin A helps us see in the dark, it makes perfect sense that a deficiency in this important nutrient could make it difficult for us to see at in the evening, a condition known as night blindness. This ailment makes it extremely challenging for drivers to see at night!

Vitamin A also strengthens our eyesight by nourishing our corneas and helps prevent xerophthalmia or dry eyes.

History: I like to give students a little bit of history on foods grown locally, so that they have a better idea of where their food is coming from. For example, the burpee company introduced these “netted gems” in the 1880’s and Colorado has been growing them since that time. Although cantaloupe is grown all over the state, the majority are grown in the Rocky Ford region (about an hour southeast of Pueblo). This area has been coined the “sweet melon capital of the world,” because they also grow another extremely popular summer melon – watermelon. Consider doing some research on locally grown cantaloupe in your area (if applicable) and share with your students.

Now is a great time to have students prepare recipes using these netted gems as they are in-season right now and taste so sweet and juicy – yum!

Personally, I just like to cut up cantaloupe and eat as is (I could literally eat a whole cantaloupe in one sitting – it tastes so sweet!), blend it by itself to make cantaloupe juice or even freeze it to make a cantaloupe sorbet. However if you want to introduce students to new and different ways to use cantaloupe, here are a couple of recipes to try.

Cantaloupe Creamsicle Smoothie

 Cantaloupe Creamsicle Smoothie

Image courtesy of: http://www.kitchenfrau.com/creamsicle-smoothie/

Servings:  3

Ingredients:

  • ½ medium cantaloupe
  • ¼ cup plant-powered milk (I prefer soymilk because it makes it creamier, but you can also use almond milk.)
  • ¼ cup fresh pressed orange juice – no sugar added and not from concentrate.

Directions:

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry (if possible use a fruit and vegetable wash) the cantaloupe rind before cutting it. This may help reduce your risk of food poisoning.
  2. Then cut and dice your cantaloupe. This article does a good job of explaining the necessary steps to cut a cantaloupe http://www.onceuponachef.com/how-to/how-to-cut-a-melon.html.
  3. Add diced cantaloupe to a blender and then add plant milk, and orange juice. Blend until desired smoothness. Some like it smooth and even juice-like, while others like it a little thicker.

Nutrition Facts: Here is the nutrition label for this recipe.  As you can see, per serving this recipe provides 104% of your daily recommended amount for Vitamin A and as an added bonus, it provides 85% of your daily recommended amount for Vitamin C. Plus it is a good source of potassium and contains iron.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories 52
Total Fat 0.6g 1%
Saturated Fat 0.1g 1%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 25mg 1%
Potassium 311mg 7%
Total Carb 10.9g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 9.8g
Protein 1.6g
Vitamin A 104% · Vitamin C 85%
Calcium 1% · Iron 3%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Recipe analyzed by  Very Well

If you have a little bit more time, here is another fun, simple recipe to make with students.

Cantaloupe Sorbet

Cantaloupe-Sorbet-4-527x794

Image courtesy of: http://thekitchenmccabe.com/2014/06/23/cantaloupe-melon-sorbet/

Servings:  4-5

Ingredients:

  • ½ medium cantaloupe (approximately 2 cups)
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry (if possible use a fruit and vegetable wash) the cantaloupe rind before cutting it. This may help reduce your risk of food poisoning.
  2. Then cut and dice your cantaloupe. This article does a good job of explaining the necessary steps to cut a cantaloupe http://www.onceuponachef.com/how-to/how-to-cut-a-melon.html.
  3. Place diced cantaloupe onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place in freezer. Freeze for a few hours to overnight.
  4. Place frozen cantaloupe, lemon juice, honey and water into a food processor. Blend until it has a sorbet or ice-cream-like texture.
  5. Serve immediately.

I use this recipe as a starting point and then add other ingredients to make it even more spectacular. Try replacing the water with 6 ounces of blueberries or check out an additional recipe at the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/CFVGA/