July is an optimal month in North Carolina to enjoy the mighty, versatile pepper. Peppers are water-rich vegetables high in vitamin C and health-boosting antioxidants. Their nutrients promote eye health and disease-resistance. Wait! Before you stop reading and think, “My kids don’t (or won’t) like those,” consider some of the ideas below to introduce this sweet or spicy food to your family.
– Peppers come in varied hues with different flavors and can be prepared multiple ways.
– Diced: added into hot or cold pastas, scrambled into eggs or folded into omelets, tossed in for colorful salads
– Sliced: dipped into dressing or enjoyed plain for a crunchy snack, placed into wrap-style sandwiches or burritos
– Pureed: blended into homemade hummus or used as the base for a creamy soup
– Roasted: caramelized on a sheet pan with similar-sized veggies and seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper
– Stuffed: carved with a pumpkin face in fall (use orange) or simple smiley face any time of year (use any color)
One strategy is a taste test “experiment” where slices of sweet red, yellow, and green peppers are presented. Kids then sample and collect data on favorites with family and friends. They can use any age-friendly way to gather the information and present it for discussion.
Rather than waste the experiment materials, a second strategy is to chop them up for a “Traffic Light” dish. Simply use your favorite green salad or pasta salad recipe with the tri-colored peppers for the vegetable ingredients. If you do not have a recipe already, this article contains a “Traffic Light Pasta Salad” below to try.
Seasonal eating has many benefits: freshness, flavor, agricultural support, and higher nutrient yield. Think about making your next family field trip one to a local farmers’ market, and consider participating in a CSA program.
Traffic Light Pasta Salad
1 box of bowtie or rotini pasta
1 small red onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
1 container reduced-fat feta cheese crumbles
1 bottle of Italian dressing (such as Girard’s brand)
Boil and drain pasta, letting it cool while preparing other ingredients.
Dice red onion.
Toss vegetables with the slightly-cooled pasta.
Stir in the bottle of dressing, and gently fold in the cheese crumbles.
Note: This pasta salad keeps well in the refrigerator all week. For a variation, substitute the peppers with a pint of halved grape tomatoes and 1 diced cucumber. Another swap is goat cheese for the feta.