Friday, March 11, 2016

one food, five ways : bell peppers!

I shared on Instagram earlier this week that I didn't grow up as this kid that loved vegetables.  I realize that children like that do exist.  In fact, I believe my own kids like veggies a hundredfold more than I did! (Which is to say they tolerate them and even like a few!)   My hubby is a huge veggie-lover.  Eating them raw, unseasoned, undipped, as a snack.  I was (and still am) more of a bread and cheese kinda gal!
However, I've been branching out over the past year in an effort to dramatically increase my veggie intake.  I started with green smoothies - putting loads of spinach or kale into my concoctions - and more recently have been challenging myself to find more ways to enjoy them raw or in healthy recipes.

In recent months I have fallen in love with the bell pepper.  Any color!  Some recipes call for specific colors but I've found that I can make pretty much any color work if that what I've got.

Here is what I do : 

1) Buy a whole bunch of bell peppers at once, all colors!  (Or those fun little bags of mini sweet peppers will work, too!)

2) Slice a bunch up and keep the slices in a container in your fridge to use during the week.  The best tip for healthy eating is to have healthy options ready to eat immediately!  Pick one day (I do Sundays right after grocery shopping) when you set aside time to wash, cut, portion out and prep anything you might be eating during the week.

3) Slice the rest of the bell peppers (or chop for specific recipes!) and stock up your freezer!  I will have one bag of peppers sliced for general use, and smaller bags portioned for specific recipes, with the recipe/amount written on the outside of the bag.

These three steps will set you up for an easy transition to making the following five healthy and delicious recipes below (and whatever others you can come up with!)

Here are my five go-to recipes for using those colorful peppers...

#1 Egg White Burrito 
image source : team beachbody
We use a lot of eggs and egg whites for our breakfasts, to pack in the protein without a ton of calories.  I like to mix it up when it comes to the recipes, so as not to get burned out on a particular one, and this is one I found I found a while ago and really like!  I omit the turkey bacon, as I don't really like breakfast meats - but I promise, it is still super yummy sans bacon.  I will finely chop the peppers and onion and put it in a freezer bag portioned out to make two burritos - one for me and one for Hubby!  I also find it is really good to have a bunch of whole wheat tortillas in your freezer.  They thaw quickly and can be used for all kinds of wraps, as well as the flatbread pizzas in the recipe below!  Get the recipe here!
#2 Mediterranean Pepper Sandwich
You will need:
  • one whole wheat sandwich thin (or bagel thin - again, have a bunch of these in your freezer to use when needed!)
  • 2 TB hummus (any flavor will do)
  • 3 slices of pepper
  • 1 TB of reduced fat feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup of spinach
To make: 
Simply spread the hummus on one half of the sandwich thin, top with feta, peppers and spinach.  This is such an easy lunch!  

#3 Philly Cheesesteak Bake
(get full recipe at Skinny Mom here)
When I participated in the Skinny Mom 21-Day Shred a few months ago (and then again almost immediately after) this amazing recipe really stuck out to me as one of my favorites!  It is colorful and yummy!  I make it as a bake, but the original recipe has it as stuffed peppers.  Either way tastes AMAZING!  To make it as a bake, simple chop up all the peppers (including the green) and saute together, separately from your flank steak.  Another tip : to save money look for packages of thinly sliced flank steak in your meat department.  This is usually cheaper and in smaller amounts.  I have made the recipe with only 3/4 lb of thinly sliced steak and it was still great - and I saved cash!

#4 Bell Pepper and Pesto Flatbreads
This is a recipe I throw together whenever I am craving pizza but not wanting to totally blow my healthy eating plan.  Hubby loves them, too!  It makes a good "fast food" when you've had a couple glasses of wine at a happy hour, but don't want to get crazy and order an entire pizza or beg your hubby to go get you takeout! (Not that that happens in our house. Ever.)

You will need :
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla 
  • 2 TB basil pesto (or any kind of green pesto -- I like the skinny version found here!)
  • sliced peppers (of course!)
  • any other veggies you have lying around - I've used broccoli, tomatoes,  and even pineapple!
  • 1/4 cup of finely shredded mozzarella cheese
To make :
Preheat oven to 400F.  Simply put your tortilla(s) on a cookie sheet, spread with the pesto, arrange toppings, and bake for 8-10 minutes

#5 Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas 
(get the full recipe here)
image source : Skinny Mom
This is another Skinny Mom recipe and will just make your life easier during the week!  I will have the peppers for this already sliced, frozen and ready to throw in the crockpot.  The other ingredients are ones you hopefully already have on hand as well.  Healthy staples like cans of Ro-Tel or simply diced tomatoes, frozen chicken breasts, lime juice, onions, and low sodium taco seasoning (homemade or the packets) are all things I typically buy in bulk to have on-hand because they fit in with so many healthy recipes.

There it is!  Five yummy and healthful ideas for a bunch of bell peppers.  Buy em, slice em, freeze em and you always have some healthy options!

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What veggies do you love that can do double or triple duty throughout the week? 
 I love to hear about healthy eats that can be used in a wide variety of ways!

I hope everyone has a beautiful weekend!