I've never been one to count calories. I've never been on a diet. I don't scour the grocery store for fat-free alternatives to all of my favorite foods. Nope. I eat pizza (and love it!) and my body does not have a maximum capacity for my favorite food, French fries.

Don't get me wrong, that's not all I eat. My daily food is mostly comprised of heart-healthy, low-fat foods foods. But I'm sure to reward myself by balancing smart foods with a few calorie-packed comfort foods. Since I never know exactly what's going into dishes that are prepared in restaurants, eating out is a good excuse to eat high-fat, artery-clogging foods. But when I cook for myself, I explore new ways to make healthy, home-style foods are saturated in flavor, not fat.

There's a great site that I came across, called www.fatfree.com. Fat-free foods don't appeal to me much (especially when the fat is replaced by more sugar, hence more calories), but the recipes seem to follow my mantra - skimp on fat, not flavor. (Bonus: half of the recipes are vegan!) I saw a dish called pepper "steak", which I hadn't had since I was living with my parents, more than ten years ago. The fat-free vegan recipe called for mushrooms as a replacement for the meat, but since fungus grosses me out, I went a step further and substituted seitan for the 'shrooms.

The (fake) pepper "steak" was just as I remembered it and the familiar taste of peppers and onions took me back to my mother's kitchen. It was amazing that so few ingredients packed so much flavor and definitely didn't miss the meat...or the fat! Happy cooking!

Pepper "Steak"

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

Water or broth for sautéing

1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 large (4-6" diameter) Portobello mushroom or a few shitake mushrooms, slice the mushrooms into 2" long by 1/2 wide by 1/8 inch thick pieces ( I replaced these with bite size pieces of Seitan)

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

Soy sauce to taste

Hot sauce, cayenne pepper or hot pepper oil to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, sauté the minced garlic and onion in broth or water until onions are translucent. Add the red and green bell peppers and mushroom slices (or seitan) and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until mushrooms release their liquid and acquire a "meaty" texture. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve over hot rice.
Serves 2-4.

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