Monday, December 17, 2012

As The Condiments Continue.......

There might be too much of a good thing. Might be. Like mustard seed. I bought 1 pound of yellow, one pound of brown and then another half pound at Whole Foods thinking I'd have enough for a couple batches.

Um. No. I have enough to feed a crowd at Lambeau Field on tailgating day.

So tonight I started Batch Three this time using Newcastle Brown Ale, and some change up in the spice mixture. Before you say "Oh no.......another mustard recipe......" just remember, a few months mellowing in a cupboard and it will be bratwurst on the grill time again !!!

Anyway....... it's kind of a joke at my house that I can take black pepper and an ice cube and make a three course meal- we call that MacGuyer Dinner (get it??  MacGuyver?? never mind........)  So I'm always tweaking recipes and reworking them and trying new combos. Give me a basic beer mustard recipe and I can't leave that alone !!! So therefore, I am calling this one MacGuyer Mustard.

Monica's MacGuyver Mustard

1 12 oz bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale
1 1/2 cups mustard seed- I used half yellow and half brown
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tb salt (I used sea salt, use whatever you have on hand)
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 TB dried minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 tsp ground dried ghost chile (as much as you dare)
1-2 tsp ground aji limon chile (again, as much as you dare)

** Note: I used the hot peppers grown in my garden, so if these exact kinds are not available you can substitute whatever you want- cayenne, jalapeno, habanero, Penzey's is a great source of peppers

The method is the same, mix all ingredients and allow to sit at room temp for 48 hours to bring out all the flavors. Buzz in the food processor to the consistency you like (I like mine fairly coarse). Then you're ready to jar it up and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes or store in fridge if you're not a canning kinda person. Mustard lasts in the fridge for a LONG time  without canning.

(Photo of Newcastle Brown Ale is courtesy of

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's a Party !!!!!

Writing my little bitty blog has been a big part of my life the last year or so. And with that goes City Girl, Country Life on Facebook- where it all began !

And now FINALLY !!!!! City Girl has reached that MAGIC NUMBER, a milestone that at one time seemed near-impossible. 2000 Fans !! Yes, today, December 14, 2012, that milestone was achieved !!!

I remember the first 100. Boy, I thought I hit the big time. 100 people were reading my little posts and looking at my pictures !! But as time grew and that number grew, it became 200, then 500, then 1000 !!!

I've had the number go up and down, people leave Facebook or they got tired of my summer filled with canning, or they just got bored and dumped a bunch of pages they didn't pay much attention to. That's ok. That's life- we all do, right ?

Then I started making friends ! Real people- men and women with interests just like mine ! Trading info and recipes and ideas- getting to know people just like we were neighbors. Even the occasional celebrity !!

So here we are today. 2000 fans. Definitely time for a party, but instead of me getting all the gifts, one of YOU loyal followers is going to win, as my way to thank you for your support, your friendship and your incredible ability to help me stay focused on enjoying this blog and Facebook page, and enjoying my friendships with all of you.

What am I giving away ???   How about PRIZES !!!!

And how do you win ? In the comments below tell me who you are and how you found City Girl or Rockin The Kitchen and what keeps you interested and keeps you coming back. That's all. We will draw a random name and announce a winner on the "City Girl,Country Life" Facebook page on Friday, December 21. So simple !!!!!!

So good luck to all of you and have a very happy and safe holiday season !!

Monday, December 10, 2012

She is at is again !!

Sun Dried Tomato Mustard. Just has a nice ring to it, doesn't it ? So.....Tuscan. So cheese platey, pile of olivey (yes, I know I am making these words up). I thought so, so that was my Mustard Project #2.

The ingredients are easy to find, nothing most people wouldn't already have except maybe the quantity of mustard seeds. Mustard powder, vinegar, salt, garlic and dried tomatoes round out the grocery list.

Let's get to it !!

Sun Dried Tomato Mustard

1 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup yellow mustard seeds  (I stuck with the recipe on this one and didn't mix yellow and brown)
1 cup water
2 cups sun dried or dried tomatoes, cut in small pieces (NOT oil packed)
3 TB mustard powder
big pinch of salt
1 tb/clove or so minced garlic.

In glass bowl combine vinegar and mustard seed. Cover and let sit at least overnight until seeds has absorbed all the liquid. I decided to stick with the yellow seeds only because I didn't want to take away from the pretty bits of dried tomatoes in the finished mustard, but by all means, if you want to or have to, mix, please do so.

Add to work bowl of food processor.

Add tomatoes and all ingredients.

Cover and process until thickened and desired consistency. I like the coarse ground mustard texture so I leave quite a bit of visible seed in mine.

Prepare 1/4 pint jars for boiling water bath.  Fill with mustard to 1/4 inch headspace, fix lids and rings and process for 15 minutes.  Remove from canner and let cool.

"So what's the deal with all the mustard?" People keep asking me. I don't know, I like trying new things, I'm not really a Plain Jane kinda cook, I like experimenting and exploring flavors. Mustard is like a wide open canvas and my brain is loaded with ideas. Plus it's yummy on sandwiches !! Makes great additions to gift baskets. Nice to share with my venison sausage sharing friends. Goes GREAT with venison sausage in fact. Nice on a cheese plate. You're only limited by your imaginations and your likes. So give one a try- they are so easy to mix up, buzz in the processor and just a short time in the boiling water bath. I'd even say these are good for beginning canners  !

NOTE:  When choosing the sun dried tomatoes I went with the dry pack or raisiny type, and NOT the oil packed because I planned on processing in a boiling water bath. You should never use oils in home canned foods. HOWEVER, if you are making mustard to refrigerate or freeze and NOT process for shelf stability, it's perfectly ok to use the oil packer tomatoes.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cutting the mustard

I think I might have found a new "calling", or maybe my niche in the canning world, homemade mustard !! See........this is what happens when you start hanging out with other canners in groups on the internet. This fascinating group of people love to chat and share recipes. And ideas. And somewhere along the line the subject of mustard came up

I can't do anything without researching it like crazy, and research it I did. Found loads of recipes- regular yellow hot dog mustard, grainy spicy mustard, German, French, wine, beer and endless variations of all of them.

Basically, all mustard begins with the same basic foundation: mustard seed and liquid. Sometimes the seed is ground into powder first and sometimes the seeds are soaked a day or two to plump up, soften and infuse flavor. Using a combination of ingredients my first homemade mustard came out amazing and one of the easiest things I have ever made. I'm sure before long the gardener in me is going to want to grow my own mustard just for the seed.

So my recipe..... super easy, super delicious. A little sweet and hot and I can't wait to try it on a freshly grilled bratwurst !! What I love so much about this recipe is the flexibility. This is only the first of many batches I'll be making with many different beers. 


1 12 oz bottle of beer (for this recipe I used Sam Adams Cream Stout)
1 1/2 cups mustard seed- I used half yellow and half brown
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 tb salt (I used sea salt, use whatever you have on hand)
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp each ground allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl.

Cover and let rest 24-48 hours. 

The seeds will swell and plump and soak up all that beer and spice yumminess.

Turn ingredients into work bowl of food processor.

Process until mixture is thickened and the level of graininess you like. 

Prepare canning jars (I used 1/4 pint jars) and lids for boiling water bath canning. Fill each jar with 1/4 inch head space. Process for 15 minutes. Mustard should age for a couple weeks to really let the flavors meld and bloom. From this recipe I got 10 jars. much as I want winter to finally arrive at our little lake, I can't wait for the first grilled bratwurst in the spring, slathered with this amazing mustard !!!  I hope you guys try it out- it's delicious !!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Comfort Food Memories

This morning I was invited to share a food memory and recipe on another Facebook food page. I have lots of wonderful memories of food with my family, many amazing dinners, in or out, and lots and lots of recipes I will never be able to recover because my grandmother took them with her to Heaven.

But in this case, I felt the best choice was my mother's pancakes. She was a simple German housewife, with the most basic of cooking ability to feed a family. Having grown up during and after WWII she lived in true poverty, sometimes surviving for a year off bags of dehydrated vegetables the Allies provided. I never saw her ever eat a sweet potato after living off them as a child. Same with corn. 

Anyway, I am going to share with you the post I shared with "Della Rose Living" on Facebook- My Mother's Pancakes

One of my favorite food memories is one that's come up a couple times this past week in various recipes and while there isn't a real "recipe" written down anywhere, it's easy enough to duplicate. My mother grew up very poor in post-war Germany and they had very little to eat. Meat once a week poor. Her mother made pancakes and later my mother made them for us (because for one thing she didn't know what "American " pancakes were)  and I loved them as a kid, my kids loved them then they were little- they would sometimes go to Gramma's house after school (when they were in high school) and ask her to make pancakes. Since I'm not a maple syrup fan much these are perfect- a little heavier than a crepe but not "cakey" like American pancakes and they don't soak up all the syrup. So, my late mother's amazing pancakes (amounts approximately)

2 cups flour
2 eggs
milk (enough to make a pourable batter like white sauce/gravy)

Cooked just like regular pancakes, served with butter and syrup, this is THE comfort food for me. Now that she's gone when I really am having a crap day and need a hug from my mom, I'll make pancakes........and remember her.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Style de canard cuisine fran├žaise

Yes, I am a food snob and I'm ok with with it. Plus I like to throw a few French words around since I am semi fluent (or used to be anyway)

So we have a friend who hunts. A lot. And we are the lucky recipients of a lot of yummy game birds and venison. I get to do a lot of experimenting and many game birds fall into the classic French cooking methods. Like goose and duck. In this case Mallard duck to be exact.

I thawed the duck not quite sure what was in the bag, except it was marked Mallard. Incredibly, it was two WHOLE Mallards. In a bittersweet moment I wished I had decided to go with roasting but.....with only me at home and a game plan, I just went for it.

I will always brag about my knife skills. Just face it- I got this. And I have the perfect knife for breaking down bone. So I went at it, removing legs and thighs, boning the breasts and setting them aside, slashing the skin and getting every bit of extra fat I could pull off each bird.

Duck confit is not a quick to fix dish. And it's not a one day dish. Next step is mixing up the rub- almost like a dry brine really. Kosher salt, lemon and orange zest, herbs and juniper- the smell of juniper just makes me smile. Into a ziploc bag to dry marinade and cure overnight before tomorrow night's long, spa oven spa. And nothing makes a better duck spa than a genuine Le Creuset dutch oven !!

Duck Confit

about 16 oz duck, mallard preferably, or goose
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tb kosher salt
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked
2 springs thyme, leaves stripped
1tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 piece star anise, crushed
1 tsp juniper berries, crushed
6 tb duck fat (I had to sub half olive oil and half butter)

Rinse and clean the duck, check over for pin feathers, remove if necessary. If ducks are whole, remove legs and thighs, cut breasts from bone, leaving skin and fat on all. Slash skin all over duck, pat dry with paper towel and set aside. I cut the breasts into chunks similar in size to leg and thigh pieces.

In a small bowl combine garlic, zest, salt and all herbs and spices. Rub all over the duck pieces and place in ziploc bag, close and allow to marinate overnight, 24 hours.

The next day rinse off ALL cure rub, pat dry and place in clean deep roasting pan.

Add the duck fat (or olive oil in a pinch- NOT bacon fat). Roast, covered,  in 300 degree oven  2 to 3 hours.

At this point you can uncover, crisp the skin and serve, or cover and store in refrigerator for future use.

My duck, checked after a couple hours, has shrunken quite a bit but the meat is soooo succulent and I am amazed at the amount of duck fat rendered from such small birds.

So what are we going to do with this amazing duck ? I have some tacos. Duck with asian long beans and rice. Just pick it off the bone and eat it......and the best part- that amazing duck fat to save for other cooking. Heaven awaits !!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The jars are barely cool in the cupboard and I'm itching to get them back out ! I ordered mustard seed today so I could make a couple craft beer spicy mustards- maybe for Christmas gifts but more likely I'll hoard those up too.

The Chef cooked dinner tonight- a simple fish dish with Chef Feiny's Citrus BBQ Rub, fresh tomatoes, fresh green beans and a very spicy Spanish-style rice.

Fresh tilpia filet liberally rubbed the Feiny's Rub, and all the delcious sides. It was a nice change of pace from our usual Monday night pasta.

But I still want to can things. Winter squash, gourmet mustards, whatever I can get my hands on that this time. I have a small amount of tomatoes changing to red that I can can or freeze soon. Then......the long months til springtime.

I joined a gardening group today. I've been buying seeds and making plans for next spring. Pretty sure I know what I'm NOT planting and what I am planting. Spring peas are almost a must and I have a super special little cucumber that I hope will bring me a ribbon at the county fair- a first ever !

The leaves are blowing around, the weather is changing daily and I'm so happy about it !! I can't wait for the frosty fall mornings and the first snowfall. In the meantime, I guess I'll find things at the store to can .......

Monday, October 15, 2012

Operation Faux Olives, Part II

More than 3 weeks have passed. The jar has been in my sight every time I opened the refrigerator, tempting me. I wanted to taste them sooooo badly. I did after about a week and it has ACK awful. I felt a little disheartened, like my project was going to fail. I hate failing. I hate it when a recipe or a planned recipe flops on me. the case of Faux Olives, that was not going to be the ending of my story. They. Are. Awesome!! It's been just a hair over 3 weeks in the fridge and they are so delicious- they really DO taste like olives ! And they have the same texture and chewiness of a picholine olive but no pit!

They look so small in the glass but they are really typical
green olive size.
Of course, you can't have olives without a martini so tonight, with a lovely fire in the chiminea, the cool fall evening descending on us, the Chef and I enjoyed a wonderful cocktail by the fire, complete with Faux Olives!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Product Review: Sorry, Porky, but you're going on the dinner plate

Time to put on my Kitchen Science Lab hat and think up a tasty recipe using pork and Chipotle Apple Butter from FireFood. Pork and apples have been paired together forever, but I want to do something a little bit non-traditional and stir up the tastebuds.

So here's my idea- in Iowa we have a local restaurant that claims to have invented something called Chicken Spiedini. I have no idea if they really did or not, but I'm going to borrow their idea and switch it up quite a bit. My first course of action was to find the right hunk of pork so a lean boneless sirloin roast was what I went with.

Next I have to to cook it, incorporating these flavors and still keep the textural contrasts I'm looking for. Assess the heat level in the apple butter. We like it HOT at our house so I may need to bump up the heat if it's more on the mild side. Side dishes......I can't just plunk a pile of meat down on the table and call it dinner...... Then there is the unexpected secret ingredient, which is where the spiedini idea came into play- the Panko with Habanero and Onion.

Spicy Apple Pork Skewers with Habanero Crust

lean boneless pork - I used sirloin roast
Chipotle Apple Butter
cooking oil
salt, pepper
big pinch crushed thyme
big pinch crushed oregano leaves
good olive oil
package Panko with Habanero and Onion (from FireFood)

Cube the pork into 2 inch cubes, season with salt and pepper and set aside in a large resealable bag.
In small bowl combine 1/4 cup apple butter, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3-4 cloves finely minced garlic and herbs and mix well, reserve half the marinade for later and pour rest over pork in the bag, press out as much air as possible, marinate in fridge at least an hour.

Drain pork from marinade and discard. Thread onto skewers. Place pork on lightly oiled sheet pan, brush liberally with reserved marinade.

Broil until marinade is starting to caramelize and pork is browning nicely (watch carefully !!) Turn skewers over, again brush liberally with marinade and broil until ALMOST done. Remove from oven sprinkle the Panko with Habanero and Onion over the skewers, drizzle with a little olive oil or melted butter (NOT margarine) and return to broiler until crust is golden brown and meat is cooked thoroughly.

Sides....... I went with oven roasted potatoes with onions and herbs. Simple, homey and didn't take away from the boldness of the meat skewers.

Now, let's talk about the chipotle apple butter and the panko.  As you know, we've already made pizza from FireFood's habanero pizza sauce and tested the chipotle cranberry jam on a turkey panini. When I opened the apple butter it looked just like every other jar of apple butter, but when I tasted it to check heat level and see if I might wanna boost it up a little- holy cow, that chipotle brought more heat to the party than I was expecting. No more heat needed there. And the panko, again, they look like harmless little bread crumbs and I expected the onion to be overpowered by the habanero but that was not the case. The crunchy, nutty little nuggets carry a nice pop of pepper and a very forward onion taste- absolutely delish. This is Shake and Bake for grownups ! This would make a great breading for hot chicken nuggets or maybe crunchy boneless wings with some Franks added to an egg wash. I see lots of possibilities for this yummy product, and hope to try more varieties soon !!

Seriously, if you like spicy foods, you really need to check out FireFood. They have so many awesome products to choose from. I'd love to hear from you guys after you've tried them !

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Product Review: Super short and easy !!

While the Chef works away at the restaurant every night, I don't normally cook a big dinner for myself. In fact, more often than not dinner will be a bowl or two of cereal and maybe toast if I feel that adventurous.

Tonight though I was feeling a little more restless and needed something to do in order to have a reason to NOT deal with the bowl of pears on the table (fact is, I'm giving some serious consideration to just TOSSING them and concentrating on the tomatoes that are ripening by the day).

Not too long ago I received a box of wonderful goodies to try from Elaine and Rob at FireFood with the promise that I would experiment, taste test and let them know what we think about their products. As you already know, we are SOLD on the Diablo Habanero Pizza Sauce, but there are still several items in the goodie box to try so, why not tonight?

I'm normally not a big sandwich nut but there is something about the crunch of a panini that's just special enough to capture my heart- and they're as easy to make as a grilled cheese but a heck of a lot more sophisticated. So tonight my sandwich consisted of thick slices of crusty bread from the South Union Bakery. South Union Bakery is a Des Moines original. Each loaf is hand made and baked daily in the 24 hour bakery located beneath Gateway Market at 2002 Woodland in Des Moines. They make so many different styles of bread and they are all so wonderful. 

On top of that wonderful bread went sliced provolone cheese, thinly slices roast turkey and a big spoonful of FireFood's Cranberry Chioptle Jam.

Just the SLIGHTEST brush of melted butter on the outside and they went on the press until super crunchy, golden brown and melty.

The turkey, cheese and sweet heat of the jam made this a perfect sandwich combo. The salty smooth provolone accented the sweet jam and left the chipotle just mingling in the background. This jam is a PERFECT condiment.

For someone "afraid" of hot peppers, hot foods and spicy things- this jam is the perfect place to start. It's not "hot". It doesn't burn your tongue or make you break out in a sweat. It's cranberry first with the ever so slight hint of something warm in the mix.

The only thing I DON'T like about this jam is the fact that is doesn't come in GALLON jars! Seriously, it is THAT good. It  would make a great pan sauce for sauteed chicken breasts or pork chops, a condiment alongside roast pork- it's just so versatile and easy on the palate. I highly recommend trying it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hey, I thought the gardening season was over !!!

But apparently not !!!

Sure, we have had several killing frosts and my own garden is long long gone. MY once proud castor bean plant looks like a big pole with cooked spinach draped all over it. Kinda gross actually.

But as always, with the end of the season comes an abundance of green tomatoes, and while I personally did not have an abundance from my own garden, my friends sure do, and they are giving me tomatoes by the box full. Of course,all these green tomatoes mean I have been devoting alot of research time into recipes for green tomatoes- and besides the obvious, pickled green tomatoes, which I don't even know if we'll like, we have the Tomolive Experiment still going, but the weird thing about nature and tomatoes is this: if you spend too much time worrying about what to do with GREEN tomatoes, they eventually change into RED tomatoes.

Which is where I'm at today. These tomatoes aren't your fancy hybrids, no Beefsteak or Early Girl or anything like that in there. These are all the golf ball size tomatoes you get when you leave a seed or two behind over the winter and get 25 volunteer plants that you just don't have the heart to pull. They revert back to their original form instead of the hybrid you had last summer. Which makes no difference to me, a tomato is a tomato to me, and I'll gladly take them off your hands.

But what to do with many pounds of smallish tomatoes, without dealing with peeling and all that mess? Easy !! Wash, cut in half, toss with the littlest bit of olive oil and salt and ROAST them to release the juice, heat the tomatoes and then can them, which is exactly what I did.

I'm going to guess at this point I had about 5-6 lbs of small tomatoes, mostly red golf ball size with a few small yellow pears and tiny yellow teardrop tomatoes in there. I gave them a quick bath in the sink, sorted out a small handful of yucky ones and then set aside two deep baking sheets, with a little drizzle of oil on them.

With the oven heating to 425 degrees I started cutting the tomatoes in half and tossing them on the sheets, ending up with two generously full baking sheets of beautiful tomatoes. I gave each pan a nice grind or two of sea salt and put them in the oven with the rack in the upper third and roasted them about 15 minutes and that temp then turned it down to 325 and let them go another half hour or so while I readied everything else.

Once the tomatoes were roasted and juices were released I dumped them into a big bowl and added my personal Italian seasoning mixture- a generous tablespoon or two of basil, crushed, palmfull of parsley, crushed, thyme, BIG pinch of oregano, and garlic powder.

Mixed it all up and filled 7 pint jars full. I put them in the boiling water bath for 40 minutes and they came out looking perfect. The tomatoes were so juicy I didn't have to add any additional water to the jars.

They were so successful, I was only able to store 5 of the 7 pints. 2 jars were opened the next day by The Chef and went into a pot of pasta sauce. But this is not the end of the story I hope. MY friend still has a LARGE stockpile of green tomatoes. And even though I really want to try some green tomato mincemeat, I have a feeling I an going to be doing plenty more roasted tomatoes with Italian herbs to get us through the winter.

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's almost furnace time !!

The weatherman (I know....don't lay any money on the table....) is saying you might want to fire the furnace up later this week. We won't- we're  tough like that- but what makes me so happy about hearing that ?? It's time for Winter Food !!

Ahhhhhhh yes, winter food. Roasts slow cooking all day. Turkey browning in the oven and making the whole house smell like yummy wonderfulness. Oh yes, I can't wait. see..... in the freezer is some of the most amazing winter foods of all- game birds. Mallard duck breasts. Goose breasts. Snow geese. I can hardly wait to break out the Le Creuset and spend a lazy weekend day, maybe even a snowy day, experimenting with the many awesome goodies that I canned earlier in the fall.

For instance, this amazing Apple Pear Chutney I have been working on. Starting with a pretty basic pear chutney recipe, I made a few adjustments (canning purists, don't worry- I did not make changes that would affect the safety of canning- this recipe has plenty of vinegar to allow for some experimentation) and came up with the perfect, in my opinion anyway, tangy, sweet, sour and slightly hot condiment that will soon adorn slices of roast pork or turkey.

Pear, Apple and Cranberry Chutney

3 quarts finely diced peeled pears
1 quart finely diced peeled apples
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
3 cups brown sugar
2 TB dry ground ginger
big pinch of salt
3-4 cloves minced garlic
3 whole cayenne peppers (don't crush, you'll remove later)
2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups white vinegar

Combine all ingredients in large stockpot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 2-3 hours or until reduced and thick, stirring often to prevent sticking. 

This is about halfway through cooking- I let it reduce further

At this point you can prepare canner and jars and ladle hot chutney (fish out the cayenne peppers and discard) into jars, wipe rims, seal, and process in BWB for 10 minutes for pints, or, as I am doing, letting mixture cool slightly, refrigerate overnight to let the pepper infuse as much as I can before I remove it, and then reheat to boiling and continue on with processing. 

Pizza with a side of Melt Your Face Off

Another Sunday. Another Chef's Day Off. Another day filled with football. Football food...what to make.....what sounds good.......what do we have.......

At our house it's the same routine every week. What do we eat, what's in the cupboard, we didn't thaw anything. Since it's football season, there are some obvious choices- wings, nachos, chili. We aren't the obvious, average sort of cooks tho, so we like to shake things up a bit.

Recently the incredible folks over at FireFood sent us a little "care package" of goodies to sample and then let them know what we think. Well that box was filled with incredible choices, everything from fiery hot panko with onion and habanero to chipotle apple butter (THAT one has me really thinking about some innovative ideas......). If you've followed this blog for more than a few months you KNOW we are pizza people. Homemade pizza is like an art form here, with the Chef as Picasso, painting his doughy canvas with sauce and vegetables and meat and cheese and then kissing his fingers and declaring Bellissimo !!!   Ok, well, maybe that might be overdoing it a little but you get it- we take pizza making seriously here.

In the box is this little, unassuming, innocent looking jar of something deep red. I pick it up and unwrap the bubble wrap and discover- HOLY HELLFIRE !!!!  Diablo Habanero Pizza Sauce !!! We looooove our hot and spicy food around here !! So it's settled. Sunday. Football. Melt your face off pizza.

We started, as always with my homemade pizza dough. There is no recipe here folks, just experience. I've been baking for 30-plus years and breadmaking for just as long. I dump some flour in the bowl, eyeball some sugar, pinch of salt, dribble or so of olive oil, palmful (guesstimate) of yeast (we buy it in bulk jars, so there is no "use one packet" or anything like that) and enough warm water til I think the dough is "right".  Set that aside to proof for a little bit and we finish watching the Vikings SKIN the Lions !!! SKOL !!!!!

Once the dough is made, my pizza duties are largely over with. The Chef takes over and does his thing. So he tastes the Diablo Habanero Pizza sauce first with a spoon- as do I, we need to learn to fear/respect the habanero......and decide how "saucy" we want this to be. Pretty saucy- we like it HOT.

Next goes cheese, some pepperoni, chopped fresh onion, mushrooms, and sliced banana peppers (as if we aren't already in enough trouble) and a few chunks of fresh tomato scattered about. A little more cheese on top, and into the oven she goes.

Now, how to describe this sauce...... well, to start I'll compare. Several local pizza joints have their "spicy" sauce which pretty much is pizza sauce with just a bunch of extra red pepper thrown in there. All you get is heat. The Diablo sauce is so much more than that. You can tell Elaine and Rob at FireFood care about their product and that people enjoy it. This sauce is heavenly. It's the slightest hint of heat, the sweet mouthful of tomato richly simmered down and THEN the little blast furnace of habanero in your mouth. Believe me, if you love HOT foods, you must try this stuff. If you are wimpy and don't do hot, don't even think about it- you have to be a habanero lover or love spicy hot foods to appreciate it. It's not just about the heat- you can taste so many flavors in this sauce, the heat is just an extra bonus on top of the delicious. And the heat doesn't stick around for ever- you get this nice POW of pepper and then it nicely mellows out.  It's a must have again and again for us !!

You can find these wonderful products online at or search for FireFood on Facebook. I HIGHLY recommend it. And I still have 3 more jars and a pack of those spicy panko breadcrumbs to play with !!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Operation Faux Olives Part 1

I love a good food experiment. I do it all the time, play with textures and flavors and unusual combos. So as a Facebook user (City Girl, Country Life) I came across another Facebook page called Growing Gardens that had a post for an end-of-the garden kind of refrigerator pickle. I love reading what other people are doing in the garden and in the kitchen so I read their instructions:

  • Fill a quart jar 1/2 to 3/4 full with green beans
  • Fill remainder with green tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • Chop some fresh basil and pack that on top

Bring 3 cups of water to boil, stir in 1/2 cup salt until dissolved. Pour into vegetable jar. Add white vinegar to jar until full, close and store in fridge. After 2-3 week the pickles will be ready and the tomatoes will have a taste and texture similar to green olives. Kept in fridge, veggies will last 6-8 months.

Well, I couldn't help but wonder if the tomato CHUNKS taste like green olives, wouldn't green CHERRY tomatoes ? I asked the question on their page and they challenged me to try it so..... here we go!!

I knew I did not have enough cherry tomatoes to fill a quart jar- more like a half pint. So next comes the math. I guestimated on the boiling water and used a little less than 1/3 cup and enough to salt to make it "pickle salty". We'd already had a first frost so I had no fresh basil, I used just one dried leaf, crushed up. I poked each tomato with a toothpick, placed in the jar, added the water, topped off with vinegar, dated it, placed in fridge and now........ we wait........

Well, I am 4 days into the experiment and finding it EXTREMELY hard not to break into that jar and just see what one tastes like. I am going to try real real hard not to. I also heard from my canning enabler friend Janet that she has lots of green tomatoes for me, including cherries, so I will have more to experiment with and work on that olive brine flavor. Stay tuned !!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Zombies Revisited

Ohhhhhhh Zombie I love you so. Your naughty menu of ridiculously high calorie yummies makes me happy.  So today's visit to Zombie Burger after visiting the World Food Festival I wasn't exactly starving but my nephew hadn't ever been there so.......

The menu is the most creative you will find almost anywhere. The burgers are just ....... well..... unusual combinations.

We started off with a couple cocktails. Jeremy had The Zombie, a combo of two kinds of rum, Cointreau and cherry liquer. I had the Blood Tang Martini, Three Olives Rang Tang Vodka, Cointreau, Blood Orange puree and lime, garnished with a drizzle of blood colored candy goo.

My nephew had the "They're Coming To Get You Barbara" burger.......a frightening combination of two patties (double tap), cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, and two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun.


My choice was the 28 Days Later Burger, with bleu cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. MUCH more manageable.

I'll just say.......too too much food after the food festival.

Jeremy, however, polished off the evening with an adult milkshake- The Tallahassee- vanilla ice cream, Twinkie, cherry kool aid powder and vanilla vodka.

It was the perfect ending to the perfect Aunt/Nephew Day !!