Fire up your food with hot peppers

September 11, 2023 at 3:15 p.m.
Peppers that are in season right now are a great way to add heat to your flavor palate.
Peppers that are in season right now are a great way to add heat to your flavor palate. Katy G. Wilkens

Food doesn’t have to taste flat when you give up salty foods that are bad for your body. There are five other flavors that your taste buds will enjoy: sweet, hot, bitter, sour and umami (the taste of slow-cooked proteins).

Sweet-hot combinations are among my favorites. If you add fresh herbs to sweet-hot recipe combos, you are also adding a third note, the bitter one, that makes food interesting.

The peppers in season right now are a great way to add heat to your flavor palate. My garden is bursting with shiny jalapenos, nicely rounded bell peppers, hot Thai chilies, mild banana peppers, plus my favorite - the round, red, and easy-to-fill cherry peppers.

When you work with peppers, it’s a good idea to wear latex gloves - the kind you use for painting or food service work. I have wiped my eye too many times with fingers covered in hot chili essence. Ouch!


Wildfire apricot jam

Ginger and jalapeno give this jam a nice kick.

3½ cups apricots (about 2½ pounds of fruit)
2-3 jalapeno peppers


1/3 cup lemon juice


5¾ cups sugar


¼ teaspoon butter


1 teaspoon powdered ginger


1 packet liquid fruit pectin

Remove pits from apricots. Slice peppers in half and remove seeds. Coarsely chop apricots in food processor or with knife. Put in large pan, add lemon juice and sugar. Add butter to help decrease foaming. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add pectin and powdered ginger and return to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam off top. Pour in glass jars. Will keep a month or more in your refrigerator, but it won’t last that long. To preserve for longer, can the jam using a hot water bath.


Nutritional information (per tablespoon):
Calories: 40, Carbohydrates: 10 grams, Sodium: 0 milligrams


Thai sweet chili sauce

2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed


3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced


½ cup sugar


¾ cup + 2 tablespoons water


1 tablespoon cornstarch


2 tablespoons water

Chop peppers, or use food processor. In a saucepan, bring peppers, garlic, sugar and ¾ cup water to boil. Lower heat, simmer for 3 minutes. Combine cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl, stir. Whisk into the pepper mixture over medium heat, stirring until sauce thickens, about one minute. Let cool completely and refrigerate. Yields 1 cup.


Nutritional information (per 2 tablespoons):
Calories: 50, Carbohydrates: 12 grams, Sodium: 0 milligrams


Fresh corn salad with sweet-hot lime sauce

2 limes, zested and juiced


2-3 garlic cloves, minced


2-3 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce (above)


2 cups sweet corn kernels


1 red onion, chopped


1 bunch cilantro, shredded


½ head red cabbage, shredded


½ cup shredded carrot


2 cups cooked, chilled shrimp or cubed chicken (optional)
½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts (whole or chopped)

Mix lime juice, zest, garlic and chili sauce in small bowl. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing, and add shrimp or chicken if using. Gently toss. Top with peanuts. Chill or serve immediately.

Nutritional information (per ½ cup):
Calories: 115, Carbohydrates: 21 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Sodium: 45 milligrams


[Contributor Katy G. Wilkens recently retired as registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards for excellence in education and for significant contributions in renal nutrition. She has also been awarded the Medal of Excellence in kidney nutrition from the American Association of Kidney Patients.]


Eating Well, Living Well classes


Studies show that working with a registered dietitian can delay kidney failure and postpone dialysis for longer than two years. FREE nutrition classes taught by Katy’s former team of registered dietitians are available at convenient times and locations around Puget Sound.


Eating Well, Living Well classes teach people how to eat healthier to slow the progress of kidney disease and postpone dialysis. Learn more at


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