I never feel so "at one" with the granny-lady gardeners of the past as I do when we plant and harvest green bell peppers.
With our green-pepper yield we truly "put food by" in the way that people, of necessity, utilized their gardens in days gone by.
Our green peppers traditionally are prolific, with far more that we could possibly use during one summer's time.
As each summer wanes, I get my knife and chopping board out and pulverize into bits my leftover peppers. Then I line up small, airtight, plastic containers and dump the chopped peppers in, label them, and store them in the freezer.
This industrious act fairly uses up all my plastic containers as well as a couple of shelves in the deepfreeze. Staring at the green-pepper collection that I've just put away, I always believe I've stored up far more green peppers than I can use in any 10 non-growing seasons.
I'm always wrong. I find amazing the number of recipes that list green peppers as an ingredient. Deep in the winter, when the pepper plants are gone, I can feel smug as I traverse the few steps to my freezer and haul out one of my airtight containers into which just weeks before I've put away chopped peppers. Then just about the time, in mid-to-late summer, when the freezer cupboard starts running bare of my stockup, new green peppers are starting to pop out from the current year's garden. So goes the cycle--just as it has in people's stored-away garden supplies for generations, except of course that I have the blessings of a modern, electric deepfreeze for storage.
Last year my cousin Yvonne gave me a wonderful tip. She told me that she takes green peppers from her garden and from them makes a whole flotilla of Stuffed Green Peppers. Then she cooks and freezes the stuffed peppers in portions that ultimately will make dinner-sized servings for her and her husband, Wheat. In the depths of winter, then, she's ready to thaw a nourishing meal and reheat it for their dinner.
After hearing her suggestion, at the end of last summer I tried this. We especially enjoyed our Stuffed Green Peppers during the month of December, which, as any woman with the weight of Christmas prep on her shoulders knows, is a month in which frenzied activity makes cooking regular meals impossible. How good to simply gallop over to my freezer and thaw and then microwave a wholesome Stuffed Green Pepper dish made from our own garden peppers a few months back!
Our garden's green-pepper rows look promising this year, but we're still too early to breeze out and pluck a few when I run across green bell peppers in a recipe. So for our meal a few nights ago, thankfully I still have a few airtight plastic containers marked "green peppers" in my deepfreeze. For "Sweet and Sour Chicken" (recipe from a Sam's Club flyer), I had only to walk a few steps and raid my supply--and once again felt self-satisfied (and as though I was linking arms with many generations past) in doing so.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
4 to 6 (6-ouce) boneless skinless chicken breasts (we used chicken tenders)
1/2 teaspoon salt (we use salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup green bell peppers, diced (can add red bell peppers as well, if you have them)
1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Heat grill to medium (we use our countertop grill). Spray the chicken breast lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. While chicken is grilling, combine juice, water, zest, honey, 3 teaspoons vinegar, and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small bowl combine cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Add to saucepan and mix until thick. Add pineapple and bell peppers. Simmer on low for 5 minutes until chicken is ready. Plate the chicken and top each breast with 3/4 cup of sauce. Can be served over rice. Serves 4.