The Red Pepper

MF Tip: Red bell peppers taste best during the summer and early fall, so load up on them as much as possible during the coming months. Look for bells with the deepest, most vivid coloring; taut, unblemished skin; and healthy - looking green stems. Chuck the peppers into your fridge's crisper, rather than leaving them on the counter, and they'll keep for up to a week. Always wash peppers gently just before eating. Afraid your peppers are about to spoil? Stuff whole peppers into a ziplock-or chop them into ready-to-use pieces-and freeze them until needed.

Nutrition Facts 1 cup bell peppers contains: 39 calories 2 g protein 9 g carbs 3 g fiber 0 g fat

HOW TO GET MORE

Stick it on the grill
Cut off the top of the pepper (the stem side), and scoop out the seeds. Slice peppers lengthwise into strips, and place on the grill over an open flame until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Or broil whole peppers on a baking sheet in the oven, about 15 minutes each side. When cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin, slice the pepper, and discard the seeds. Use the cooked pepper strips in salads or on sandwiches, or eat them plain as an ultralean side.

Make a kebab
Cut 1 lb of 1-inch-thick boneless beef top sirloin steak into 1 1z2-inch pieces. Toss meat with a combination of 1 tsp each of sweet paprika and salt, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Thread beef pieces onto four 12-inch metal skewers, alternating with 1-inch pieces of red bell pepper. Grill kebabs; serve with wild rice and green salad.

Blend up a sauce
Puree prepared or home-cooked red peppers in a blender or food processor to use as a sauce over cooked meat. Add the puree to canned soups to boost their nutritional content and flavor-or mix with an equal amount of sour cream, and add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste for a quick and healthy dip.

Stuff it
Steam raw bell peppers for five minutes, then cut them open, remove the seeds, and fill them with a combination of cooked ground beef and quick-cooking brown rice. Bake at 350 degrees until hot.

Eat it raw
Throw slices of raw pepper on burgers and sandwiches, or into any cooked or cold pasta dish. (Store-bought, jarred roasted red peppers work great in these settings as well.) Or just snack on raw pepper strips by the handful. They taste great dipped into almost anything you'd eat with a potato chip or tortilla chip.

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