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Potpourri of Peppers

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

Expand Your Use of Healthful Peppers

Add a potpourri of peppers to your meals, especially if you're stuck in a rut reaching for the same peppers every time you visit the grocery store. Bell peppers are a great way to boost nutrition. Expand to using a potpourri of peppers with the following varieties.

Potpourri of Peppers

  • Banana peppers. Found fresh or pickled in jars, these mild-tasting peppers look like the fruit for which the peppers are named. These peppers are often mistaken for spicy Hungarian wax peppers.
  • Jalapeno peppers. Celebrated as the quintessential "bad boy" of the chili pepper clan, these tiny peppers actually vary quite a bit in the level of heat they deliver.
  • Cubanelle peppers. With a deeper flavor than bell peppers, slices of these long yellow peppers are ideal in stir-fries or on a home made pizza.
  • Chipotle peppers. While some grocers carry fresh chipotle peppers, most cooks take advantage of chipotle peppers that are canned in adobo sauce. The peppers are somewhat spicy and have a smoky flavor.

For a change of taste, try pureed roasted red peppers as a sauce.

Freezing Green Peppers

  • Chop peppers and spread in thin layers on cookie sheets. Place cookie sheets in freezer until frozen. As you remove the peppers from the cookie sheets, break up to eliminate large hunks. Place in storage bags and freeze until needed.

Hot Pepper Tip

Jalapenos: This spicy food can also increase your metabolism. In fact, many naturally spicy foods tout similar properties.

Heat It Up with Chiles

Chili Peppers

Chiles, the fiery members of the potpourri of peppers family, give a cutting edge to barbecue sauces and marinades. Here is a scorecard to help you know the players.

Note of Caution

Wear rubber gloves when handling chiles because the oil can linger on your skin even after washing. The hottest parts of the chiles are the seeds and veins. Cut chiles in half, and scrape out the seeds and veins with a paring knife or grapefruit spoon. Leave in the seeds and veins only if you want the added heat.

A small (2-inches long) fiery, red chile native to the Gulf of Mexico and now widely grown throughout Africa, India and Asia. Cayenne is very hot, but its flavor is fairly one-dimensional. It is most often used in powdered form.

Chile de Arbol
A long (3 to 4-inches) slender, red chile from Mexico. It's dried and moderately fiery; it is used in the charred tomato salsas that accompany grilled beef in northern Mexico.

These smoked jalapeno chiles are from Mexico. They are available dried or canned. The canned are packed in a flavorful vinegar sauce called adobo.

This is Mexico's version of the Scotch bonnet chile. It is smooth, acorn-shaped and red, green or yellow in color. It takes ist name from the Spanish word for Havana.

This bullet-shaped green or red pepper with gentle heat and grassy flavor is widely available.

Scotch Bonnet
It is shaped like a Chinese lantern and 50 times hotter than a jalapeno, but behind the heat, there is a smoky, fruity flavor that may remind you of apricots. It is sold at West Indian markets, specialty produce stores and some supermarkets. You can substitute habaneros if you cannot find Scotch bonnets.

This is a thin, tapered, bright-green chile that is smaller and slightly hotter than a jalapeno. The two can be used interchangeably.

Two peppers are sold under the name Thai chile. The "prik kee noo" is a tiny, ridged, mercilessly hot version whose name in Thai means "mouse dropping". The "prik kee far" is a slender, horn-shaped, green chile that is very hot but milder than the "prik kee noo". Look for Thai chiles at Asian and Indian markets, or substitute milder serrano or jalapeno chiles.

Did you know?

The spicy jalapeno can increase metabolism. In fact, many naturally spicy foods tout similar properties.

Habanero pepper food fact

Red Bell Peppers or Pimientos?

Pimentos Can Replace Red Bell Peppers

  • If you love the look of red bell peppers in a dish but find that they're either unavailable to too pricey, substitute roasted red peppers or pimientos, both of which are commonly available in jars. The flavor will be slightly different, but the visual effect the same.
  • Julienne either peppers or pimentos and saute with onions and other vegetables to serve as a side dish, or you may puree them with a little olive oil and serve them as a sauce, or a roasted pepper soup.

More on pimentos... Pimientos are excellent pickled and delicious stuffed appetizers. For delightful crunch and beautiful color, add chopped fresh pimientos to salads such as pasta, potato, chicken, tuna or egg salad.

Make homemade pimento or red pepper cheese: Sharp cheddar cheese finely grated, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and chopped up pimentos or peppers. You can also add things like jalapenos if you like it hot.

Dried herbs should be stored in a cool, dry place. However, red spices such as chili powder, paprika and red pepper will maintain flavor and color longer if stored in the refrigerator.

Did you know?

Pimiento can be grown and used just like bell pepper, slivered and added raw to salads, or stuffed and baked as a side dish or entree. Fold canned pimiento into softened cream cheese for a quick bread spread. Add finely diced celery or pinenuts for crunch, if desired.

The tiny red pimento in the middle of olives is there to enhance the flavor.

Red Pimientos

Red pimientos

Stuffed Peppers

If you love homestyle dishes but don't have the time to cook them, this potpourri of peppers slow-cooker dish is for you.

Red and Yellow Bell Peppers Cut in Half

2 14.5-ounce cans no-salt added diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4-1/2 large bell peppers, yellow and orange
8 ounces 95 percent lean ground beef
1/2 cup converted brown rice
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup raisins
Chopped parsley for garnish

Combine tomatoes with juice, vinegar, cumin, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Stir to mix. Pour 1/3 cup sauce mixture into 4 quart or larger slow cooker.

Chop the half bell pepper finely. Slice off the top 1/2-inch of remaining peppers. Seed peppers and reserve tops. Using your hands, combine beef, rice, onion, raisins, chopped pepper and the remaining sauce mixture in large bowl. Spoon mixture into peppers and replace tops.

Place into slow cooker. Cook for six to eight hours or until peppers are tender and meat is no longer pink. Serve topped with cooking sauce. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Nutrition information per serving (1 stuffed pepper):  240 calories, 16g protein, 39g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 4g fat, 2g saturated fat, 410mg sodium.

Yemenite Chile Sauce

This is Israel's national barbecue sauce -- a diabolical blend of chiles, garlic and cumin with just enough tomato and olive oil to keep you from setting your tongue on fire. Serve this sauce with grilled fish, chicken or beef or lamb shish kabobs, and have plenty of drinks on hand to extinguish the fire.

2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 to 6 jalapeno chiles, seeded, coarsely chopped*
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 /2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 /3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor; blend to form smooth sauce.

Tip: *For hotter sauce, do not remove seeds. Recipe makes two cups.

Nutritional information per two-tablespoon serving:
Calories: 45
Total Fat: 4.5g
Saturated Fat: 0.5g
Protein: 0.5g
Carbohydrate: 1.5g
Cholesterol: 0
Sodium: 150mg
Fiber: 0.5g

Bell Pepper Cooking Tip