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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Hearts on Fire

Valentine’s Day week is a great time to share with students “foods that fuel their heart” – starting with the RED ones. When we are having a discussion about fruits and vegetables in our classes, I like to point out that the natural chemicals in them are responsible for their color. They give fruits and veggies vibrant, bright colors! These chemicals are known as “phytochemicals” or “phytonutrients.”  A good example is anti-oxidants, readily found in these foods. Although they do not contain nutrition, they are still responsible for helping to protect us from disease.

Although each color performs a multitude of disease-preventing functions that may cross over into other colors, I like to associate one color with one function to help students remember it.  Sooooo, the white ones protect your immune system, the orange/yellow protect your eyes and the green prevent against cancer.

So then what do the red ones do? Protects our “red” hearts of course!

The red ones contain a chemical called “lycopene” (found in tomatoes) that is responsible for its red pigment. Lycopene may inhibit the production of cholesterol and reduce LDL or the “not so good” cholesterol in your blood. Some studies have suggested too (although results are mixed) that higher concentrations of lycopene have been associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.

So what are some of the best “red” Valentine’s Day foods you could recommend to students to help melt their “beloved-ones” heart?

  •     Tomato soup
  •     Valentine’s Day salad topped with red heart tomatoes
  •     Red pepper dip
  •     Baked red snapper
  •     Spaghetti with red lentil pasta sauce
  •     Desserts with strawberries, raspberries or cherries

A simple, luxuriously sweet, “red” recipe that you can make with your students is Poached Pears in Raspberry Sauce.

Poached Pears in Raspberry Sauce  

poached-pears-in-raspberry-sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 firm Bosc or Bartlett pears
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (not from concentrate)
  • ¼ cup raspberry jam or jelly (I use jam that is fruit-juice sweetened and not from concentrate)
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh raspberries, strawberries and mint leaves for garnish

 Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Cut pears in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and core with a spoon.
  3. Place pears cut side down in a baking dish.
  4. Combine juice, jam or jelly, cinnamon or nutmeg and salt in a separate bowl.
  5. Pour sauce over pears and cover dish with foil.
  6. Place pears in the oven and bake until they are soft (about 25 minutes).
  7. To serve, place pears cut side up on serving dish. Spoon sauce from baking dish over them and garish with berries and mint.

A popular option now is instead of cutting pears in half; cook them whole and then serve  standing up dripped in raspberry sauce.