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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Some Like It Hot-Some Like It Not

America is getting hot. No, nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with diet. Spicy has taken on a new meaning across the fruited plains and spacious sky. I can remember when restaurants hardly ever had any choices that were beyond salt and pepper. Now, dishes are replete with mouth watering herbs (many of them fresh)and tantalizing spices, many of them HOT.

I have always had the opportunity to try "hot" on my food as my dad kept cayenne peppers in a small condiment bottle of apple cider vinegar on the table right along with the salt and pepper. This was great to give a little punch to steamed vegetables and for the brave at heart, to splash on salad. We also had a bottle of crushed red peppers for sprinkling on mashed potatoes, on grilled tomatoes and onions for a little extra kick. I strung peppers like popcorn and hung them in garlands on the back porch to watch them turn beautiful flaming oranges, reds and yellows; I learned the hard way to keep your fingers away from your face in in the process.

Cayenne is my favorite pepper; I just picked the last of them from the garden. They are one of the main ingredients in my immune tonic Lizzy's Elixir and a staple in the kitchen. The source of Cayenne's heat is the resin capsaisin which is responsible for the many healing qualities cayenne brings us. It is such a remarkable stimulant I can scarcely comprehend why it isn't "prescribed" by more physicians. It is wonderful for the cardiovascular system and is often said to be the "herbal nitro" for heart attack victims. Capsaisin works a tonic and stimulant to the gastro-intestinal track by nudging the appetite, helping with digestion and facilitating peristalsis. If you are feeling sluggish, moving slow, have cold hands and feet and just all around down-in-the-dumps try a few sprinkles of the apple cider vinegar/cayenne mix in a bit of water. Forget Red Bull--it's like a little jolt of healthy energy.

Cayenne boosts effectiveness of other herbs and is full of vitamins A, B and C. Calcium and potassium are great for your heart and are found in good portions in cayenne.

I have clients and family who shy away from anything hot, but the benefits are so hefty, it pays to work at acquiring the taste for spicy. But if you just cannot abide cayenne, try ginger.

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