Summer is around the corner and grocery stores are bursting with new produce! A seasonal favorite, the bell pepper, comes in many varieties and is chock-full of nutrients and flavor. Perhaps the greatest characteristic of the bell pepper is its flexibility to be eaten steamed, grilled, baked or even in its natural form-raw! Whether part of a side dish or as the main entrée, these beautiful veggies are a great addition to anybody’s diet.
The Many Colors & Benefits of Bell Peppers
Walk through the supermarket on any day and you will likely see the red, green, yellow and even orange variations of the pepper. Did you know that nature has been generous enough to provide us with a purple bell pepper as well? You can truly eat the rainbow when it comes to these nutrient-dense veggies. While there are different colors to choose from, the ripe-and-ready ones are vibrant in color and may seem a little heavy for their size.
As bell peppers ripen, they may begin to wrinkle and lose the firmness in their skin or change color. Don’t be alarmed if your pepper is green one day and red the next! This indicates aging of the vegetable and is not harmful. As young peppers mature, they become sweeter and often transition from a deep green color to a bright red, yellow or orange, although sometimes retaining the original forest green hue. Different-colored peppers generally have a different phytonutrient makeup that results in the color changes but rest assured, these are not as scary as they sound. In fact, enjoying several different colors on your plate can benefit your health tremendously!
Bell peppers contain many antioxidants and phytonutrients that serve to protect our bodies. Rich in vitamins and minerals, they keep us healthy and can even improve the quality of our skin! Some say that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but bell peppers certainly deserve some credit, too.
Not only is it nearly bell pepper season, but May is Celiac Awareness Month, a great time to familiarize yourself with the needs of those with the autoimmune disease that often is aggravated by the protein gluten. Recently there has been a storm of people trialing the gluten-free diet. However, the diet is necessary only for those who have the gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Celiac Disease is a disorder of the small intestine which is often treated by avoiding foods containing gluten, which is found in barley, rye, and wheat.
As the demand for gluten-free food and drink items increases, the market has responded by creating new products that can fill the gluten-void by replacing it with other ingredients. Fortunately, fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and can be enjoyed by all! Bell peppers are a wonderful way to welcome the summer and make for a delicious, Celiac-friendly snack or part of a meal!
For a punch of nutrition and flavor, try out this Lasagna Stuffed Peppers recipe this summer after finding your favorite bell peppers. This can be easily made gluten-free, just be sure to check the ingredients of any seasonings used!
Lasagna Stuffed Peppers
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 large green bell pepper
- 1 large yellow bell pepper
- 1 large orange bell pepper
- 2 ½ cups marinara sauce
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove ribs and seeds. Place pepper halves on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack.
- Remove peppers from oven. Fill each pepper with ¼ cup marinara sauce. Next, spoon 2 tbsp of ricotta cheese on top of the marinara sauce in each pepper cup. Pour an additional 1 tbsp marinara sauce on top of the ricotta cheese.
- Top each pepper with 2 tbsp mozzarella cheese, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Bake on middle rack for 10 minutes.
- Remove peppers from oven. Serve immediately.