Chiles can completely change the taste of a familiar dish

How Chiles Can Liven a Boring Meal

by Danna Vach

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The Flavor Boosters

Spice It Up!

There's a reason why different chiles are used to add flavor to so many different recipes. Different chiles have different flavors and heat intensities. By adding varying amounts and several kinds of peppers to food, a dish can take on a completely different and lively taste.

Take, for instance, a bland meal of hamburger and rice. Green or red bell peppers, which are low heat intensities, can add a mild sweet flavor to the meat and rice. Peppers can be chopped and mixed with the hamburger and rice, or the peppers can be stuffed with hamburger and rice, topped with cheese, and baked until heated through and the cheese is melted. Please note that it helps if the peppers are dipped into boiling water for a few seconds to start the cooking because they will take much longer to cook if not.

Canned green chiles are also a great, inexpensive addition to any rice meal, pasta meal, or even meatloaf! Green chiles are mild but very flavorful, and cans go on sale from time to time at the grocery store so feel free to stock up when they are cheap. Because of the long shelf life of canned items, these green chiles are an ideal pantry staple.

Jalapeno peppers are also very inexpensive to purchase, especially during the summer months. These plants are also quite easy to grow. They grow well in pots on decks as well as in garden rows. Jalapenos can be added to salads, sliced and placed on hamburgers (my favorite), or even chopped and added to meatloaf or a large pot of chili. If the seeds are removed as well as the white membranes inside of the jalapenos, the peppers are not quite as hot. If roasted before eating, jalapenos are much sweeter tasting.

Of course, there is the always popular chili recipe to cook for an easy, inexpensive meal. Plain chili can be given quite a kick with the addition of just a few chiles. Almost any combination of peppers can work in a pot of chili. Mild bell peppers can be combined with jalapenos for a bit of a kick. If something hotter is desired, habanero peppers and scotch bonnets can add flavor and heat. Wear gloves when handling these peppers!

Most chiles are warm season plants, but they grow well indoors in the right environment. If growing chiles isn't an option for you, dried, canned, jarred, and pickled peppers are all different ways of enjoying peppers year-round. Stock up the next time your grocery store or farmer's market has them on sale and then experiment!

Danna Vach is a writer for and a lover of all types of chili and food. You can contact her at

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