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3 Simple do-ahead recipes

Bell peppers stuffed with sweet Italian turkey sausage,

Bell peppers stuffed with sweet Italian turkey sausage, couscous and zucchini.  Credit: Marge Perry


1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 cup couscous

12 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage, 3 to 4 links, removed from casings and chopped

1 small zucchini (about 5 ounces), finely chopped (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon drained capers

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 medium bell peppers (mixed colors)

2 cups low sodium tomato juice

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (optional)

1. Combine 2/3 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the water to a boil, add the couscous, cover and remove the pan from the heat; let stand 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer to a medium bowl.

2. Add the sausage, zucchini, raisins, tomato paste, capers, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to the couscous and mix well.

3. Cut the top 1/4-inch off of each bell pepper. Remove the seeds from the peppers and discard. Fill the peppers with the couscous mixture. Set the filled peppers in a saucepan just large enough to hold them upright. Pour the tomato juice around the peppers and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the sausage has cooked through and the peppers are tender, 55 to 60 minutes. Serve the peppers topped with the Parmesan if desired.  Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 313 calories, 22 g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1063 mg sodium

TIP: The peppers may be assembled in advance, refrigerated and cooked just before serving, or cooked ahead and reheated.



2 tablespoons olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 medium carrots, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 pounds lean (93 percent) ground beef

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

1 cup red wine

1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high. Add the garlic, onion, carrots, oregano, thyme and basil and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly browned.

2. Add the tomato and wine and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 276 calories, 23 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 11 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 751 mg sodium



Serve over buttered noodles.

1 1/2 pounds top round, thinly sliced and cut in 1-inch-wide strips

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/3 cups unsalted chicken or beef broth

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1. Toss the meat with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until it is barely pink, about 4 minutes. (It will cook more later.) Transfer to a bowl.

3. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour is no longer visible. Add the broth in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 1 minute until the liquid begins to thicken. Stir in the mustard; add the beef and toss well. May be set aside at this point and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days when cooled. Return the meat to the skillet and reheat before proceeding.

4. Stir the sour cream into the heated mixture, and gently heat it through for 1 minute.  Just before serving, stir in the parsley. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 236 calories, 29 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 10 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 423 mg sodium

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