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Interesting Articles (click on the title to go to the article)

Why are Peppers Good for You?                                  A Cooks Guide to Chile Peppers

All Around Benefits of Eating Hot Foods                        How to Roast a Chile Pepper

Lung Congestion                                                      Stop the Presses -- Gotta Be Chili

Science Solves Some Chile Puzzles                              Chili Humor

Hot Help for Arthritic Pain                                        

Hot Sauce Detoxifies Raw Oysters

Why Are Peppers Good For You?

By Melissa T. Stock and Kellye Hunter

While the thought of eating chile may make your mouth water, the idea of chiles in your eyes or nose is enough to make you cry--even though it can be good for you. In the West Indies, for example, the pressed juice of chiles is used to treat inflammatory eye disorders, and the water of boiled chile leaves is used as medication for asthma, cough, chest colds and tuberculosis. Because it causes sweating, chile is included in many folk remedies for alleviating fever, and because it kills both germs and pain, a capsaicin-based spray is used by some doctors to combat sore throats. Currently in the United States and Europe, doctors are studying capsaicin, the chemical that makes chile hot, as a way to alleviate symptoms of the head, nose, mouth and respiratory tract. One study at the Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago found that a pinch of pepper in baby food helped stroke patients (who are having difficulty swallowing) ingest their food more easily

One theory is that capsaicin is a counter-irritant, an irritation to an irritation, that stimulates the nerves it directly contacts. One theory is that this stimulation depletes the nerves of Substance P, an neuropeptide that transmits pain signals to the brain, which then reduces pain and irritation in the treated area. Capsaicin irritation also helps the body work more efficiently by causing a protective reaction, particularly in the digestive and respiratory tracts, in which excess fluids are produced to flush out an unwanted invader. In this article we will explore some of the ways doctors and researchers are using capsaicin to soothe your head and help you breathe easier. Never before has it been so good to be so irritated.


Millions of dollars and thousands of hours have been dedicated to finding a cure for the common cold. And to most people, the sick sentence remains the same: it takes about a week to get over a cold if you just suffer through it, seven days if you take over-the-counter medicine.

But don't despair! There's definitely a pecking order when it comes to fighting respiratory problems. According to much recent research, the powerful poultry/pepper one-two punch may be just what you need when battling bronchitis or combatting a cold. Add in a little garlic, and you've got soup and a cure fit for a king, a doctor, and a researcher or two.

Dr. Irwin Ziment, a pulmonary specialist at the University of California at Los Angeles, says that chicken soup does work to fend off a cold, and that there is sound medical reasoning behind his claim.

According to Ziment, as reported in Health Magazine, "Chicken, like most protein foods, contains a natural amino acid called cystine, which is released when you make the soup." Ziment says that this amino acid "bears a remarkable chemical similarity to a drug called acetylcysteine, which doctors prescribe for bronchitis and repiratory infections." Added proof is that acetylcysteine was originally derived form chicken feathers and skins.

But just not any old chicken soup will do, says Ziment. The spicier the better, with lots of chile peppers, hot curry and as much garlic as you or your co-workers can stand. Mix this together and you've got a "potent pharmacological brew," he says. However, it's not just the chicken that makes this remedy work

All Round Benefits of Eating Hot Foods


Chili peppers may do more than light a fire in your mouth. Research suggests they fight disease, ease pain and may even help you lose weight! Some like it hot. And Maybe the rest of us should develop a taste for spicy dishes with chili peppers.

"Hotter is healthy," says New York nutritionist Shari Lieberman, R.D. "Chilies have long been used to treat circulatory problems and added to other herbs to increase their potency."

Now research suggests the chili pepper may be strong medicine on its own. Most of its medicinal and anti aging powers are credited to capsaicin a compound found in the seeds and veins.


  • Fights chronic diseases. Capsaicin acts as an antioxidant. Just like vitamins A, C and E, it disarms cell-damaging molecules called free radicals believed to promote heart disease and other life-shortening ailments. And one jalapeno has more vitamin C than three oranges; it's also a good source of vitamins A and E.
  • Combats cancer. Capsaicin may short-circuit various kinds of cancer. In lab tests, it helps keep toxic substances from attaching to the DNA within the body's cells, where they can trigger changes that lead to cancer.
  • Busts up blood clots. "Capsaicin has been shown to be a natural blood thinner, which helps prevent clots that block arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes," says Lieberman. Blood clots are rare in Thailand, where people eat chili peppers daily. One small-scale study found that people who ate peppery noodles had a temporary rise in their blood's clot-dissolving activity.
  • Kills pain. Jean Carper, author of Food: Your Miracle Medicine, claims that inhaling capsaicin can stop a headache and research suggests that it's an effective topical painkiller. Yale Medical School's pain management center found that Capsaicin served in taffy controlled pain from mouth sores in many chemotherapy patients. And a cream containing capsaicin reduces the pain of arthritis and shingles. Scientists theorize the fiery compound either blocks pain signals or stimulates the same nerve fibers that react to a burn or injury, so the body releases natural painkillers, endorphins.
  • Speeds up metabolism. A British study found hot peppers boost the metabolic rate, which burns extra calories. And losing excess pounds is as good for your health as it is for your vanity, since it reduces the risk of adult onset diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

    So consider adding a mouth-burning meal to your diet once a week. Cool your palate with cheese, milk or yogurt. Serve chili, spice up scrambled eggs and other dishes with a chili-based oil (such as Mongolian Fire Oil) and snack on salsa.

    Sipping chicken soup spiced with chili powder, garlic and onions is "the best cold remedy there is" says UCLA professor of medicine lrwinZiment, M.D. Chicken soup contains a compound that thins mucus, making it easier to expel. And fiery foods help combat nasal and chest congestion by triggering the release of fluids that dilute mucus. That's why your eyes water and your nose runs when you chew on a chili pepper or eat spicy Mexican food.

Chile Peppers Hot Help for Lungs

 When patients with serious lung conditions like chronic bronchitis visit Dr. Irwin Ziment's office in Sylmar, California, he's got a red-hot prescription for them: "decongestant soup" made with plenty of hot chile peppers.

Eat hot foods regularly, he tells the visitors, and you may wind up with healthier lungs.

In the short term, peppers help clear your lungs if you've got a case of bronchial congestion, says Dr. Ziment, chief of medicine at Olive View UCLA Medical Center. That's why hot foods are good if you've got a cold and feel like you're stuffed up. In the long run, they improve the health of your respiratory system.

The key is capasaicin, the ingredient that makes hot peppers hot. How much should you eat? As much as you can tolerate, says Dr. Ziment. "Start off with milder amounts, then work up. Daily use is a good idea."

One of our favorite ways to enjoy hot chile peppers is in a mild garlic-potato soup (the mild garlic taste comes from a long, slow cook). It's a version of a classic Mediterranean garlic soup, with a cayenne punch. Studies have shown that garlic also helps you resist the flu, may lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of stomach cancer. Plus, comments Dr. Ziment, it's a mild decongestant.

Garlic Soup with Potatoes, Cayenne

2 servings
One head garlic, about 16 cloves, separated, unpeeled
1/4 tsp. dried sage, or 1/2 tsp. minced fresh
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, or 1/2 tsp. minced fresh
1/2 bay leaf
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium potato, pared, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 sprigs parsley, chopped fine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or more, to taste


In a 2- or 3-quart saucepot over high heat, bring a quart of water to boil; drop in unpeeled garlic cloves. Boil 30 minutes. Retrieve garlic by pouring through sieve or colander, discard water. Rinse garlic under cold water. Squeeze each clove out of its akin back into the pot. Add one quart cold water, the fresh and dried herbs and olive oil. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for to minutes. Add potatoes, return to boil, reduce heat, simmer another 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Turn off heat. Add ground pepper and salt to taste, and X teaspoon of cayenne or as much cayenne as you can stand. 

Science Solves Some Chile Puzzles


A person suffering from ulcers should never eat Chile. Right or wrong? Why can some people eat hot chiles and others cannot?

Finally, we're getting the answers to some of these questions. Regarding the ulcer inquiry, investigators at the National University Hospital in Singapore examined the inner lining of the stomach with sophisticated technology to investigate the causes of peptic ulcers.

"A lot of people feel that a pepper is bad for their ulcers and their stomach," said Dr. Fin Y. Kang. "We've shown that it does not harm the stomach and may even help."

The scientists gave patients temporary gut damage with irritants such as aspirin or alcohol, then applied capsaicin to the damaged areas. Rather than aggravating the damage, capsaicin somehow eased the irritation.

The scientists speculated that the capsaicin stimulates nerve fibers that release a hormone which increases blood flow to the area and helps to protect the stomach from irritants. But they insist that diluted capsaicin - not the peppers themselves - would be the most efficacious.

The reason some people cannot eat hot chiles is simple, really. They are called supertasters and have nearly twice the number of taste buds per centimeter of tongue area. Approximately onefourth of the population are supertasters, while half have normal taste and another fourth are called nontasters because of their lack of taste buds. The supertastcrs are acutely sensitive to sweet, spicy, and bitter tastes, and hence have less tolerance to chiles. Nontasters can enter chile-eating contests, and often do.

Hot Help for Arthritic Pain

 - 8 to 10 ounces habanero chiles, chopped with the seeds
- 1 quart olive oil

Combine the ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer very genty for 4 hours. Let cool for 4 hours. Repeat this procedure two more times. Place the mixture in blender and blend on high for 20 seconds. Strain the mixture through a sieve that has been lined with muslin (pantyhose will do just as well) and place in small bottles.

Yield: 8 4-ounce containers of lotion

Variations: You can also enhance the formula by adding 40 drops of lavender oil to the strained lotion.

You can make a cream by adding 6 ounces of melted beeswax to the warm, strained oil. Stir thoroghly, and shake the bottle until cool.

Caution: Do not rub your eyes after rubbing your skin with this cream!

Hot Sauce Detoxifies Raw Oysters


If you've ever suffered food poisoning from tainted raw oysters, as your editor has (it was an horrendous experience) read on. A team of scientists from the Louisiana State University Medical Center has reported a series of tests on a bacterium, Vibrio vul''ificus, found in some raw oysters that causes symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to dangerous blood poisoning. Some of the suggested oyster treatments ranged from adjusting the storage temperature downward, to heat-shocking them, to zapping them with radiation. Enter hot sauce. At the American Society for Microbiology meeting last October, the LSU scientists recounted Flair experiments with test tubes full of oyster bacteria. Ketchup added to the test tubes had little effect. ("That doesn't surprise me," wrote syndicated columnist Calvin Trillin, "When you eat ketchup, you can tell that nothing much is going on.")

Lemon juice worked "moderately well," as did horseradish. But straight hot sauce from a bottle killed all bacteria in one minute flat. Even diluted sixteen to one, the hot sauce killed all the bacteria in five minutes.

"Some of the findings were a little astonishing to us," said Dr. Kenneth Aldridge, one of the researchers. "We had no idea these condiments would be so powerful." They also tested three other varieties of Vibrio bacteria, as well as E. coli, shigella, and salmonella. Hot sauce killed them all.

If seafood lovers ever needed a reason for using hot sauce, they have it now. Is this the future for sushi and sashimi? 


A Cook's Guide to Chile Peppers:

 When buying chiles, how do I know if they're fresh? 

    Judge freshness two ways - by appearance and aroma.  Fresh chiles should be firm and heavy for their size, with shiny, blemish-free skins.  They should smell fresh and clean.

 What about dried chiles?

    The most flavorful dried peppers are unbroken, pliable, and pleasingly fragrant.  Their color should be deep and Vibrant.

How can I tell if ground red hot chile peppers are still good?

    These powders should have a deep rich color and not be too powdery or dry.  A slight lumpiness is desirable - it means the natural oils, which carry the flavor, haven't evaporated.  When you rub the powder between your fingers, these oils should leave a stain.  Lastly, fresh ground chiles will be strongly aromatic.

The smaller and redder the fresh chile, the hotter it is, right?

    Maybe.  Although smaller varieties tend to be the hottest, that isn't always the case, and color is no indication of heat.  Hotness is unpredictable, even within varieties.  Where they were grown, and temperatures and rainfall during the growing season all play a role in a chile's heat.  Ask the vendor or taste for yourself

 What are the best ways to store chiles?

    Fresh chiles should be wrapped in paper towels to keep moisture from hastening their decay and placed in the refrigerator.  They'll stay fresh for two to three weeks.

    Store dried peppers and ground chile peppers in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.  They'll keep up to two years, but will begin to lose flavor after six months.  Dried chiles will keep their flavors and colors longest if kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

 Why should I roast fresh green chiles?

    Although some small peppers, such as jalapeños, can be eaten raw or simply added to cooked dishes, they and larger thick-fleshed peppers, such as Anaheim, New Mexican, and poblano, are most flavorful after they've been roasted.  Once cooled, the skins slip off easily, and the meaty flesh can be used in recipes.  Never rinse the roasted chiles because you'll remove oils that add flavor.

    Use roasted and peeled chiles right away or keep them in the refrigerator for only a day or two.  Or, freeze in airtight freezer bags up to one year.

Can chiles be dangerous to me as a cook?

    Whenever you work with fresh or dried chile peppers, their volatile oils can burn your skin, sensitive mucous membranes, and eyes.  As a precaution, put on plastic gloves or slip your hands into plastic bags before you begin.  Avoid touching your face or eyes while you work, and wash your hands vigorously with soap and water afterward to remove the oils.

How can I lessen a chile pepper's heat?

    Capsicum is the natural chemical in chiles that gives them their hotness.  It's concentrated around the stems, inner membranes, and seeds.  You can scrape away the seeds and the vienlike membranes inside fresh chiles using a knife, or simply pull them off dried peppers.  Stems are easily removed.

    Try to avoid reducing heat by using fewer chiles in a recipe - remember that chiles contribute complex flavor, not just heat.  If you're new to hot dishes, however, it's best to start out with fewer chiles.  You can always add more as your plate becomes accustomed to the heat. 

How To Roast A Chile Pepper:

1. Wash your peppers!

2. With a knife or some other sharp object cut a few small slits in your peppers.   This is important because your peppers will explode if you don't - I know this from experience!

3. Place your chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet - do not stack.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till the skin blisters and turns brown.  You might want to turn them over to get the back side, but I personally don't think this is all too necessary...

4. After you pull the chiles out of the oven - enclose the peppers in the foil and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.

5. When the peppers have cooled enough to handle, halve them lengthwise; The skins should pull off with your hands, but you can use a knife.

6. Scrape away and discard the ribs and seeds (if you don't want them).  The chemical (Capsicum) that gives peppers their heat is most concentrated in those areas.


Always use plastic gloves or slip your hands into plastic bags before playing with chile peppers!

Stop the Presses -- Gotta Be Chili

by John Raven, Ph. B.

Whoa! We had a nice article about my dream kitchen all lined up for this month, but our readers are demanding CHILI. Ah, yes. After that long, hot summer the cooling winds of fall are coming down off the highlands signaling our bodies that chili is needed to fight off the ravages of the coming cold seasons.

As I hope we all know, chili was invented in San Antonio, Texas, about the middle of the Nineteenth Century. It began as a simple peasant stew using materials inexpensive and at hand. Meat, chile peppers, comino, oregano and garlic made up the first recipes. All the spices except the comino grow wild in South Texas. The comino was imported from the Canary Islands by settlers in San Antonio in the 1700s.

The reputation of the bowl of chili was carried all across the nation by the cooks of the giant cattle drives of the late 1800s. The dish always tasted good and was full of vitamins and minerals that made the body feel good. The fat content packed a lot of calories to fuel the cattle-driving machines known as cowboys.

During the great depression, the "chili joint" came into existence and made it possible for anyone with a nickel or a dime to have a satisfying meal. The serving included crackers and ketchup. Many of the survivors of the great depression look back fondly on chili as one of the few bright lights in the ordeal.

As the depression filled and the economy grew, chili lost some of its magic. There were, however, true believers who raised the lowly bowl of red to cult status. Most notable was the Chili Appreciation Society International that grew up around Dallas. Once a month or so, a group of these Chiliheads would gather to consume and tout the virtues of chili. They were serious in a humorous way. They wrote songs and poems about chili. They came up with rituals like The Crumbling of the Crackers to make their meetings entertaining. They distributed recipes to every part of the known world to spread appreciation of their favorite food.

In 1967, at the ghost town of Terlingua, Texas, the first known chili competition took place. The object was to determine who was the best chili chef in the whole world. This happening grew into the huge chili cookoff industry that continues today. Every weekend, hundreds of chiliheads gather at dozens of chili cookoffs to find the perfect bowl of red.

Okay, now you know a lot more about chili history - maybe more than you wanted to know. Lets get on with the nuts and bolts of the dish.

The principal ingredient of chili is meat, usually beef, although pork, venison and other red meats are sometime used. Pardon me, but any dish made with poultry and chili seasonings is not chili. Maybe its chili flavored turkey stew or something, but chili its not.

My preference for chili meat is chuck from the arm of the bovine. Top round and rump roast make equally good chili. Remove anything white from the meat. The meat can be ground to chili size, which is as coarse as the grinder will cut. But I prefer hand-cut cubes of the meat, about one-half inch square. Another pardon me: Hamburger does not make chili; it makes chili sauce.

The predominant seasoning is the chile. There are hundreds of varieties of chile peppers. The original and still favorite type for chili is the ancho. To add confusion to the issue, ancho chiles, when green, are known as poblanos. But we are dealing here with the ancho, which comes to market dried. It will be dark, reddish brown and look a lot like a run-over bat. However, when reduced to powder or reconstituted with water it makes wonderful chili.

Only the traditionalists still make chili from ancho pulp. This requires removing seeds and stems from the dried pods, soaking them in hot water and then removing the pulp with a food mill. Just too much work for the average cook.

The chili powder we buy to make our bowl of red is actually a "chili blend" or spice mix. It contains among other things, cumin, oregano and garlic. A pure chili powder without the added seasonings is "chile molido".

More Chili Recipes:  Recipes
The cumin starts life as comino seeds -- tiny seeds that are very aromatic and pungent. Cumin is simply ground comino seeds. Comino can be used in the chili, although most folks prefer the cumin. If you want to try the comino, toast the seeds in a heavy skillet before you add them to the pot. If you have a way to grind the seeds, toast them first and then grind them. It really improves the flavor. Cumin is the spice that gives chili its heavily distinctive aroma.

Red pepper or cayenne is what puts the bite in your chili. Cayenne has what is called a "back bite." That is, it takes a few seconds before it grabs your taste buds. Most folk cant abide too much red pepper. Go easy on it to start.

Millions of words have been written on the subject of how to construct a proper pot of chili. If you are really interested in learning a lot more, go find a copy of "The Great Chili Book" by Bill Bridges.

Heres a starting recipe for chili novices.

Basic Texas Chili

  • 2 pounds beef, round or chuck, cut into ½" cubes, all white removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Water
  • 2-3 tablespoons blended chili powder, Adams preferred
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup water
In a heavy skillet, sauté the meat in a small amount of oil or shortening until it is gray and gives up its juices. Transfer the meat to a stew pot and discard the juices.

While the meat is still hot, mix in the onion and garlic, salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and let set for 30 minutes.

Add enough water to cover the meat. Put in the spices and bring to a simmer. Cook until the meat is tender. You may have to add more water if the mix becomes too dry. Add the tomato sauce and simmer another 20 minutes.

If the chili is not spicy enough for your taste, add a small amount of cayenne.

Mix 2 tablespoons flour with one half cup of water. Raise the heat under the chili until you get a good boil. Stir in the flour/water mixture and continue stirring until mixture thickens. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 more minutes. Serve with saltines or tortillas.

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This recipe will get you started on your way to becoming a fine chili chef. Experiment with the recipe. Try different brands of chili powder. If you end up with two favorite brands, mix them half-and-half and see what result that brings.

Garlic needs to go in the pot in the last half of the cooking process as it will lose its whomp if cooked too long. Oregano will become bitter with too much cooking, so it too needs to go in toward the end of the cooking time.

Here are a few chili "secrets":

  • Chili that is bitter can be sweetened with a little dark brown sugar. Just enough to kill the bitterness.
  • Chili that is too salty can be rescued by boiling a peeled potato in the pot. The potato will absorb a lot of the salt. Also, if your chili comes out way too thin, add some instant mashed potatoes. This will also absorb salt and is an easy way to stretch a pot of chili when an unexpected guest shows up.
Most of all, experiment. Read all the recipes you can find. This way you will be ready for that cool weather that demands CHILI!



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