Sweet peppers
How to choose: Vibrantly colored sweet peppers, hot chilies' mild-mannered relations, range from green to orange to numerous shades of red. Good ones are wrinkle-free, firm, and glossy. Refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before eating.

Preparation tips: Stuff bell-shaped peppers by removing tops, scooping out seeds, and filling with herb-laced grains, marinated tofu, and minced nuts; bake until tender. For roasted peppers, set halves over a hot flame or under a broiler until blackened; when cool, discard skin. Add to salads and sandwiches, or purée with capers, garlic, and fruity olive oil for a delectable spread.

Health benefits: Loaded with vitamins, including more than twice the vitamin C of an orange. Red varieties offer abundant beta-carotene.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
Serves 6

6 medium bell peppers, varied colors (choose flat-bottomed ones)
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small zucchini, chopped
4 ounces spinach leaves, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese, divided

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, carefully cut around bell pepper stems to create a hole large enough to remove seeds and ribs. Cut an additional half inch or so off the top; chop these pieces and set aside.

2. When water boils, submerge bell peppers and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain in a large colander, or set upside down on paper towels.

3. Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; stir for 5 minutes. Add reserved chopped bell pepper and stir for another 5 minutes. Add pine nuts and cumin and stir for 1 minute, then add zucchini, spinach, oregano, and salt. Stir for 3 minutes, then add cooked quinoa and half the feta cheese.

5. Preheat oven to 425°. Set peppers in a large rectangular baking dish coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Fill each pepper with quinoa mixture. Sprinkle remaining feta over tops. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Make-ahead tip: Assemble and refrigerate; allow an extra 5-10 minutes for cooking.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 279 calories
% fat calories: 46
Fat: 14g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 17mg
Protein: 9g
Carbohydrate: 31g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 335mg



Recipe provided by James Rouse, ND, the creator of Optimum Wellness and The Fit Kitchen, seen weekly on NBC's KUSA television news.