Some Like It Hot

You’ll be pleased to learn that I’m not in here whining about the blazing sun and hot temps for a change. Today, I’m thinking about a different heat source. As in:

chile peppers

Chile Peppers, Albuquerque, NM


With literally hundreds of varieties to choose from, peppers provide a tasty and healthy smorgasbord of colorful, flavorful goodness. Plus, they’re beautiful to look at, drying on a rack or on the end of my fork!

The big deal component in peppers is capsaicin, a phytochemical that may act in several healthy ways:
– Cancer fighter
– Pain reliever (pain causer, too, if you get your hands near your eyes when cutting the hotter varieties)
– Inflammation fighter
– Stomach soother (potential stomach erupter, for some folks unaccustomed to them)
– Fat burner/metabolism booster
– Heart protector

Generally speaking, the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it has. Most of the heat is in the ribs and seeds which is why those bits are usually cleared out in the prep process. But you don’t have to eat the hot varieties to gain health benefits. Even the sweeter peppers have healthy properties. According to WebMD (my doctoral alma mater), red bell peppers provide these benefits:

Red bell peppers are a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, and the minerals molybdenum and manganese. And, they’re especially rich in nutrients and phytochemicals such as:
Vitamin A, which may help preserve eyesight, and fend off infections
Vitamin C, which may lower cancer risk and protect against cataracts
Vitamin B6, which is vital for essential chemical reactions throughout the body, including those involving brain and immune function
Lutein and zeaxanthin, which may slow the development of eye diseases, such as cataracts or macular degeneration
Beta-carotene, which may help protect against certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer in women before menopause
Lycopene, which may decrease the risk for ovarian cancer

Not being a science-y type, I have no idea if those medical claims will stand the test of time, but I do know the ancient Aztecs and Mayans were big consumers of peppers and that was entire eras ago. So it’s not exactly a new food. They just didn’t have blogs back then on which to post their findings.

Not that the original A&M were all that concerned about health, mind you. I think the big attraction was that they considered peppers to be aphrodisiacs. At some point, they came up with the idea to combine peppers with one of their other aphrodisiacs, chocolate, in a spicy cocoa drink. A few wars and mergers later, we got molé. I bring this up, not just because I like to mention chocolate every chance I get, but to move us along to the exciting idea of combining peppers with other foods, even the unconventional. (In my pre-molé days, I would have never thought of combining chocolate with spicy peppers, would you?)

I’m not a huge fan of the hotter pepper varieties, not in abundance, anyway. I use green chiles in my Mexican chicken and taco soup, and I love roasted green peppers on a turkey or ham sandwich, but my favorite pepper (besides plain ol’ black pepper) is pimento, a nice mild pepper that’s both a teensy bit sweet and tiny bit spicy. They look like this:

Pimento(photo credit: Nichole Treadway)

Well, that’s the way they look at Kroger. And they were on sale last week, so I bought a couple of jars.

Here in the Southern U.S., most people eat pimentos in two ways: 1) stuffed in an olive, or 2) in pimento cheese spread. One is relatively healthy; one is not. You can guess that the pimento cheese is the delicious, but lesser, food in the duo. But don’t blame the pimento! It packs a powerful nutritional punch:

new pimento cheese


Since I’m trying to eat healthier (mostly), I decided to try a variation on pimento cheese:

new pimento cheese

That, my friends, is a 50-calorie, 3-ingredient pimento cheese so scrumptious and healthy it makes you want to jump up and shout! (Seriously, I dare you to try it and not at least go, “mmmmm….”) This is pre-stir, so you can see that it is cottage cheese (low fat isn’t visible to the naked eye, but that’s what it was), some diced-by-someone-else pimentos, and some fresh black pepper. I’m intentionally omitting measurements, because it is strictly a taste thing.

This week, I stirred some more tiny red jewels into a tuna salad with equally yummy results! For some reason, while I was eating my tuna, it occurred to me that pimentos might be a nice addition to scrambled eggs & cheese. I’ll be trying that as soon as I emerge from my current moratorium on scrambled eggs.

And every now and then, I’ll embrace my roots and have some good old-fashioned pimento cheese, too, just for variety. 😉

I’m going to continue taste-driving peppers in the months to come, but I expect those of you who like the tongue scorching type peppers will have those all to yourselves. Which reminds me, if you’re ever curious about the heat value of a particular type of pepper, there’s an actual ranking index of peppers and hot sauces called the Scoville Scale!

Do you like peppers? Pimento, or otherwise? I encourage you to join me in experimenting with them and enjoying their tasty, nutritious benefits!

16 thoughts on “Some Like It Hot

  1. I love these bits of information… like what’s so great about the peppers.
    And I need to start gathering ideas like your pimento cheese to keep my low calorie foods interesting.

  2. When I was younger, I didn’t like spicy food at all. Now, I am a pepper maniac…not too hot mind you, just hot enough. I love pimento in olives…yum!

    I don’t mind red and green peppers, but only if they are cooked. No raw peppers for me thanks.

    I go to a Mexican restaurant that serves chocolate chili cheesecake. One word…divine!

  3. I love peppers – especially hot peppers like habanero and jalapeño. This pimento cheese is a nice alternative to other cheese spreads, and would be great in the wraps that I’ve been having a lot of lunch. Thanks for the tip.

  4. You are so darn funny!

    I was never a pepper lover. Didn’t like hot stuff. I’m a recent convert to the roasted red peppers. And I like those mild green peppers that are in chile releno casserole. So I am expanding my pepper horizons. I have bad memories of pimentos, but maybe I’ll give them one more try. After all, you said they were sweet.

  5. Hi Cammy.

    I found pimentos stuffed with a savoury mix of cream cheese in the deli section of one of our SuperMarkets. They were yummy and would make a delicious in-between snack. I guess there are endless versions which would make them the perfect snack. Not into chillies so much but I do love coloured, sweet, bell peppers.

    Very comfortable late winter day here. Almost reached a high of 65’F

    Blessings, MargieAnne

  6. My first reaction to this recipe was YUCK! Then I remembered a recipe I read on a blog that mixed chick peas with cottage cheese and my first reaction was YUCK! It is now one of my favorite snacks! I just added “chopped by someone else” pimentos to my grocery list! I will let you know!!!! (I am still thinking YUCK- but I like to think of myself as open minded) :)

  7. I love hot peppers! I am the hot sauce queen 😀

    I have never had pimentos, but I wonder how some roasted red peppers (which I do have) would go mixed with ricotta cheese (which I also have). Now you have given me ideas – thank you Cammy!

  8. I don’t know what it is about peppers that sends me running in the opposite direction. Green ones don’t agree with me at all, and I remember my mother fixing stuffed green peppers when I was a kid – yuk!
    Now that I’m grown up (I use that term loosely) I still don’t eat many peppers. I will occasionally eat red if it’s diced up really small, but that’s about as creative as I get. My husband swears by them, though. Your post has given me a lot to reconsider, so thank you!

  9. I’m going to buy colored sweet peppers at Costco today for the road trip. I think I like the orange ones the best.

  10. Being a good Texan, I love me some chili peppers. Even though I have a gringo tongue, the flavors of Mexican and Southwestern peppers make me drool, um, salivate – especially Hatch chilis, which we can get so easily in AZ.

    Also as a good Texan, I do love (and I mean LOVE) pimento cheese but am too lazy to make it so THANK YOU for the quick and healthy recipe, Cami!!!

  11. I’m a big fan of heat when it comes to cooking healthy – keeps its interesting. I destroy peppers — and recently I’ve had homegrown jalapenos.

    I’m new to the site but I’ll be poking around your recipes.

  12. I’ve seen the pimento cheese on various Food Network shows and think it sounds yummy!

    My mother ADORES hot peppers–the hotter the better! My garden has 7 different varieties but her favourite is still the Thai chili :)

  13. I love peppers, hot, mild, marinated, stuffed, cooked, raw, I love them all. I had a bunch of grilled peppers tonight in a veggie wrap with caramelized onions, spinach and cheese, it was delicious. I love how some good hot peppers can clear out my sinuses better than any medicine.

    I’m going to have to try the pimento cheese spread.

Comments are closed.