Monday, August 18, 2008

Stuffed Peppers and Michael Phelps (a.k.a. How I Spent Last Thursday)

If y’all get the chance this afternoon, head on over to this post at Gawker. They’ve set up a Michael Phelps compliment-a-thon (a la Chuck Norris Facts), and the 1100+ comments are pretty dang funny. Some samples:

“Michael Phelps can run a marathon in four miles.”

“Sliced bread is the greatest thing since Michael Phelps.”

“Michael Phelps' original cut of Howard the Duck was widely considered the greatest film ever made.”

“Contrary to popular belief - the songwriting team of Lennon-McCartney was really Michael Phelps. In fact, he wrote the White Album while doing a leisurely backstroke.”

Like these commenters/everyone else on Earth, I’ve developed a slightly unhealthy obsession with Phelps. I mean, c’mon, man - the kid’s got it all: a duffel bag of gold medals, a physique that’d make Mae West blush, and THAT DIET. At a mind-boggling 10,000-calories PER DAY, it’s enough to feed a women’s basketball team, with a little left over dessert.

According to news sources, Phelps gets most of his meals at restaurants, since cooking on his own would consume valuable breaststroking time. Admittedly, if I was whipping up “three fried egg sandwiches … three chocolate-chip pancakes; a five-egg omelette; three sugar-coated slices of French toast and a bowl of grits,” every morning, I wouldn’t have time for much, either. (Also? By the glistening Speedo of Pieter Van den Hoogenband, that’s a lot of food.)

Yet, like Phelps, there was an era when I didn’t cook for myself. (I didn’t know how, was the problem.) Most of my days were spent in the dining hall, wondering if hot dogs went better with rice or macaroni. My first Betty Crocker cookbook (and post-adolescent fun/exciting weight fluctuations) changed that for the better. Today, cooking is my meditation, only I get lasagna at the end instead of enlightenment.

Betty’s Stuffed Pepper was one of the first non-heat-and-eat meals I ever made on my own. Flavorful, filling, healthy, and fairly basic in terms of cooking skills, it’s become one of my favorite foods for nights sans The Boyfriend. I’ve messed with the directions over the years so it’s more to my taste (subbing ground turkey for beef, altering the sauté time), but there are endless variations on this basic recipe. What's more, it’s a great way to get rid of leftovers, and you can’t ask for more than that.

(Except for Michael Phelps’ phone number. Which I assume is 867-530PECS.)

Stuffed Peppers
Makes 1 stuffed pepper
Adapted from Betty Crocker.

1 medium green bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 of a medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz ground turkey
1/3 cup cooked rice (I used brown rice. - Kris)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup your favorite pasta sauce
1 or 2 T low-fat part-skim shredded mozzarella

1) Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2) Fill medium pot about 2/3rds of the way with water. Bring to a boil. Chop off top inch or so of green bell pepper. Take out seeds and white membrane-y stuff. Parboil the pepper for 5 to 8 minutes, until it bends ever-so-slightly when you touch it. Once finished, make sure there's no water in the pepper, and put it in a glass baking dish, open side up.

3) In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until not soft, but crisp-tender. Add garlic. Cook 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add meat. Cook it until it's browned, breaking it up with the back of a spoon as you go. Add rice, oregano, and about 2/3rds of the sauce. Cook until hot/warm throughout. Salt and pepper to taste. Dance.

4) Carefully use your spoon to stuff the pepper with the meat mixture. It should exceed the top of the pepper by about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. (You can eat the leftovers in the skillet later.) Pour the rest of the tomato sauce on top of pepper. Cover dish loosely with tin foil. Bake for about 25 or 30 minutes. Uncover. Top with cheese. Bake without cover for 10 or 15 more minutes. Cheese should be melted when done.  (If you're preparing several peppers, up the initial baking to 45 minutes, and keep the uncovered baking at 15 minutes.)

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
330 calories, 12 g fat, $1.88

1 medium green bell pepper: 24 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.50
1/2 teaspoon olive oil: 20 calories, 2.2 g fat, $0.02
1/4 of a medium onion: 7 calories, 0 g fat, $0.06
1 clove garlic: 4 calories, 0 g fat, $0.02
4 oz ground turkey: 160 calories, 8 g fat, $0.83
1/3 cup cooked rice: 72 calories, 0.6 g fat, $0.04
salt and pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 teaspoon dried oregano: 3 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
1/3 cup your favorite pasta sauce: 26 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.22
1 or 2 T low-fat part-skim shredded mozzarella: 14 calories, 0.8 g fat, $0.14
TOTAL: 330 calories, 12 g fat, $1.88


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