Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Chiles

Halloween may be the most well-known holiday occurring this week, but with its abundance of candy and other treats, it’s probably not the healthiest.  The day after Halloween, November 1, is celebrated as the Day of the Dead, or La Dia de los Muertos, in Mexico and other Latin American countries.  This day is intended to honor deceased loved ones, and Mexican families often do so by preparing the favorite dishes of those who have passed.  Many dishes feature traditional Mexican staples such as chiles – and often some other, unhealthier ingredients – but they can easily be lightened up with a few simple swaps.  Poblano chiles, used in the recipe below, are a good source of Vitamin A and an excellent source of Vitamin C.  They’re also high in antioxidants, including phytochemicals and capsaicin, the compound which gives poblanos their heat.  Although you may need to build up a tolerance to hot and spicy foods, in the long run you may be doing your waistline a favor:  foods with strong flavors, like those that incorporate poblanos or other chiles, are more likely to keep you feeling full and satisfied long after the meal is over.

Stuffed Poblano Chiles in a Creamy Walnut Sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground turkey breast
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup dried apples, chopped
⅓ cup dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup sweetened dried pineapple, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups walnuts
2 ½ cups Skim milk
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature 
Salt, to taste

10 poblano chiles, charred, peeled, left whole for stuffing
Whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup pomegranate seeds

1.  In a medium heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
2.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
3.  Add the ground turkey, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper and cook at medium heat until meat loses its pink color and is cooked through, about 7 minutes.
4.  Add the dried apples, apricots, and sweetened pineapple and remove from the heat.
5.  Add the ground cinnamon and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Set aside. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf and discard.
6.  For the sauce: Put the walnuts, milk, and goat cheese in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and silky, about 2 minutes. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon. (If the sauce is too thin, add more walnuts and puree. If too thick, add more milk.)
7.  Cut a lengthwise slit into each chile and carefully cut out seeds with kitchen shears, leaving the stem intact. (For less spice, carefully remove the veins.)
8.  Spoon the filling into the chiles, then close, slightly overlapping the sides of the openings.
9.  Transfer the stuffed chiles, seam sides up, to plates and pour about ⅓ cup walnut sauce over each chile, leaving some of the chile visible.
10.  Sprinkle with parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Food Network


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