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Add a pop of color and spice to your meals with seasonal peppers

Add a pop of color and spice to your meals with seasonal peppers

Peppers are a staple ingredient in many kitchens. But each November, they get their time in the spotlight during National Pepper Month.

Green, orange, red, yellow and sometimes even purple, peppers come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Adding peppers to a dish adds a pop of color and brightens up the plate. Hot peppers like habaneros, jalapeños and serranos can enhance flavor and spice up a mild meal.

In season mid-July through November, peppers offer healthy choices for meals or snacks. They’re great for eye health, as they protect against cataracts, and are plentiful in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid and fiber. Red peppers also contain capsanthin, which is a powerful antioxidant.

While peppers are largely considered vegetables, botanically they’re classified as fruit, the seed-bearing part of a flowering plant. Peppers are native to the Americas, and a variety are grown on Virginia farms. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, 438 farms grew 242 acres of bell peppers, and 323 farms grew 104 acres of chile peppers.

When choosing peppers, look for ones that are firm, have tight skin, are bright in color and heavy for their size. Avoid dull, shriveled or pitted peppers.

Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

15 ounces canned low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces canned low-sodium corn, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 onion, chopped
1½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cilantro
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
3 bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
¼ cup water
½ cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
nonstick cooking spray

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine black beans, corn, rice, onion, cumin, cilantro and garlic powder. Mix well.

Fill each pepper half with the bean mixture, and place in the pan. Pour water into the pan. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil, and sprinkle each pepper half with cheese. Bake uncovered for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Source: Recipe adapted from Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program

Sweet and Spicy Tomato and Pepper Chicken Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1” cubes
1 green pepper, diced
2 Spanish onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup raisins
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
14.5-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add chicken, and stir. Sauté, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until chicken is browned on all sides.

Add pepper, onions and garlic. Stir, and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6-7 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Add chili powder, garam masala, nutmeg, ginger, salt and sugar. (Garam masala can be found in Indian and international markets as well as some grocery stores.) Sauté, stirring, for another 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth, raisins and vinegar. Stir, turning heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through.

Add beans, stir, and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until beans are heated through. Serve over rice, if desired, and garnish with chopped parsley.

Source: Recipe courtesy of Chicken Roost, National Chicken Council