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Food & Dining // Heart-y Chef
Diana Helfand

‘Honk!’ If You Love Mexican Food

Opening June 28 and onstage through July 15 at Manoa Valley Theatre, Honk! a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Ugly Duckling will appeal to the inner child in all of us. Directing Honk! is Karen Meyer, who just celebrated 10 years as director of Castle Performing Arts Center.

According to Karen, the musical’s message will strike home with young people. “The show’s theme is a song called Different, which is sung by the Ugly Duckling,” she says. “Even though his mother teaches him to hold his head up high, he must find his own way and accept himself. Such a beautiful message wrapped up in a simple story. There’s no wonder it has endured for more than 150 years. Its message of tolerance also is particularly relevant today.”

Since moving to Hawaii from chilly Buffalo, N.Y., more than 30 years ago, Karen has directed dozens of plays and musicals. As a teacher, she’s helped Castle to become one of the top after-school arts programs in the nation. She was also a driving force in taking Castle to the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A milestone event, Castle was the first public school from Hawaii to perform in the renowned festival.

For more information and tickets, call 988-6131 or manoavalleytheatre.com.

One of Karen’s favorite recipes is inspired by Mollie Katzen’s original Moosewood Cookbook. This Mexican Pepper Casserole is basically a quiche without a crust – good for breakfast, lunch or dinner, completely carb-free (for those on Atkins or other diets) and very easy to change up to taste. Meyer suggests substituting Greek yogurt for the sour cream to save calories (it doesn’t change the taste at all).

MEXICAN PEPPER CASSEROLE

* 6 medium bell peppers (2 red, 2 yellow and 2 green)
* 2 tablespoons butter (may omit, or substitute Smart Balance margarine)
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 medium onions, thinly sliced (add sliced mushrooms to taste, if desired)
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 4-ounce can diced green chilies, drained
* 1 teaspoon each sea salt, cumin, coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1/4 teaspoon each black pepper and cayenne
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 1/2 pound sharp Cheddar, thinly sliced ( may use low-fat or nonfat Cheddar)
* smoked paprika (or regular)

For Custard:

* 4 large eggs
* 1 1/2 cups sour cream (substitute Greek yogurt for a healthier option!)
* paprika, to taste Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice peppers into thin strips. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté onions and garlic with the salt and spices. When onions begin to soften, add the pepper strips and sauté over low heat for about 10 minutes. (Karen usually mixes onions and mushrooms in with the sautéed peppers.)

Stir in the diced chilies and sprinkle them with the flour, stirring to combine. Continue to mix until any extra liquid is gone.

Butter a deep casserole. Spread half the vegetable mixture, top with half the cheese slices; repeat layers.

Beat together the custard ingredients and pour over the casserole. Sprinkle generously with paprika.

(Karen also recommends a little cauliflower or carrots – but they have to be parboiled before adding to vegetable mixture – if she’s trying to be extra-healthy! She always adds extra spice: chili pepper, cumin and garlic especially, and lots of salsa on the side.)

Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes until browned around the edges.

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