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Get healthy and stuff veggies with veggies

One of the phrases you hear most often during the last weeks of winter, before it’s time to try on the bathing suits, is the phrase “I’m stuffed.”

Whether it’s from the 12 weeks of fried chicken take-out, the box of doughnuts and bacon you have for breakfast every day, or the six cans of Diet Coke that go with the pretzels and chips as you watch the Final Four, it’s an uncomfortable feeling.

The advice I’m about to give, though not profound, will hold you in good stead if you’re tempted to overindulge – I say stuff a vegetable instead of yourself.

You can stuff most any vegetable, and I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest you stuff your vegetables with other vegetables. Use fresh vegetables if possible and keep the cheese and meats to a minimum. Too often we think of spring as a time when we have to do without, but think of it as a time to be creative and keep meals light.

Fresh Herbed and Mushroom Stuffed Tomatoes

1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms (a mix is nice)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced green onions

1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

4 large tomatoes

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Spring salad greens

Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup vinegar

3/4 cup oil

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

3 tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste

For vinaigrette: In a jar with a tight lid combine all the ingredients and shake to combine. Set aside.

For stuffing: In a medium bowl, combine the mushrooms with the olive oil, minced onions, rosemary and thyme. Mix well and let rest for 15 minutes. Sauté the mushrooms for 2 or 3 minutes and set then let them cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Using a sharp knife, slice the tops off the tomatoes. Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out the insides and then set the shells aside. Place the tomatoes into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake until the skins start to wrinkle, about 15 minutes.

When the tomatoes are finished, stuff with alternate layers of the mushroom mixture and the cheese. Place the tomatoes back into the oven just until the cheese starts to melt, about 5 minutes.

Place salad greens on a salad plate and the place a tomato on top. Top each tomato with a little bit more of the salad greens then drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and serve.

Cheesy Stuffed Mushrooms

12 whole portabella mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1 chopped red pepper

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 (8-ounce) package light cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems extremely fine. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, red pepper and chopped mushroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared; don’t let it burn. Set aside to cool slightly and then stir in the parsley. When garlic and mushroom mixture is cool, mix in the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and onion powder. Mixture should be very thick. Using a spoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the mushrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form under caps. Serve immediately.

Makes 12.

Salmon Stuffed Peppers

4 green, red or orange bell peppers

2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 pounds salmon, cut in bite-size pieces

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup farfel

2 teaspoons oregano

1 to 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Cut the tops off peppers and scoop out the seeds and ribs. Place peppers in prepared pan.

In a skillet heat the oil and sauté the salmon, onion and garlic for 3 minutes or until onions are translucent. Place mixture into a bowl. Combine onion mixture with farfel, oregano, marinara sauce, 1 cup cheese, salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly into prepared peppers.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until peppers are tender but not falling apart. Remove them from oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top of the peppers and return to the oven for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Serves 4.

– Modified from Epicurious.com Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@frontier.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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