Monday, June 24, 2019

Candied JalapeƱos aka Cowboy Candy

  Even though I'm not really a spicy food kinda guy, lately I've been kind of in the mood to push my own flavor boundaries and turn up the heat just a bit. In my neverending search for new and fun things to preserve in jars, I discovered these little gems of sweet-hotness that are absolutely amazing and delicious on EVERYTHING. I mean, yes, you can serve them on crackers with a schmear of cream cheese, but seriously, they're great on sandwiches, salads, you name it. They're sweet and syrupy, the spice is definitely there, and the pepper flavor is just as present. And the addition of the cayenne pepper gives it a slow burn that I just love in a sweet heat. I found the recipe on a blog called Foodie with Family, and I followed it EXACTLY to the letter. I know. I know. It's crazy that I didn't tweak it somewhere along the lines which is my usual MO, but for me, hot peppers are kind of uncharted territory, so I stuck with the plan and didn't stray from the path. I'm pretty thrilled with how they turned out! And I happened to find a few RED ones, so I added a slice or two to each jar for a little pop of color. I'm thinking this the current front runner for holiday gift giving this year.
They're just that good! Boom.

3 pounds fresh firm, jalapeno peppers, washed 
2 cups cider vinegar 
6 cups white granulated sugar 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon celery seed 
3 teaspoons granulated garlic 
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

 Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers, and discard. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside. In a large pot, bring remaining ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile, hot canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes, (which means a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred away). Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.
Place jars in a canner, cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth.  For best flavor, allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating.

-This recipe makes quite a bit of syrup compared to the amount of jalapenos. The original recipe suggested canning the extra syrup in jars because it's so yummy brushed on meats or anything you grill, but even after doing that, there was still quite a bit. So I just used it to make a batch of candied Habaneros! If you plan to double the recipe, (and you definitely should!) don't double the syrup ingredients. You'll have plenty!
-Instead of using a food processor or mandoline, I chose to slice the peppers by hand. Yes, that's a little tedious, but I wanted to make sure they were all perfect little rings that were the perfect thickness. The food processor and mandoline weren't helping me to that end. You don't want the slices to be too thin, otherwise they'll just turn to mush. Oh, and definitely wear gloves and take care not to touch your eyes or any other part of your body. Oof.
-If you're not interested in preserving them in sealed jars, just follow the recipe up until you fill up your jars, then just keep them in the fridge. They'll keep up to 3 months.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Beef

  When you think of barbecue, you usually think of firing up the grill, correct? Or if you're really hardcore, you think of firing up your smoker, am I right? Well, what do you do if you want something barbecue, but you live in an apartment with no way of grilling? You use your slow cooker, of course! That's usually my go-to when I want pulled pork, but this time I wanted to do a pulled BEEF.
 Now, normally, I would just pour some barbecue sauce over a chunk of meat and let it cook all day, but this time I kind of wanted to do a dry rub instead. Can you put a big beef in a slow cooker without any added liquid? Absolutely! For one thing, there will be a lot of juice from the beef itself. And for another thing, you really don't want to BOIL the beef in all that liquid. You just want it to slow cook in its own juices. And then, finally...FINALLY....., after patiently waiting for it to cook all day ... you pull apart the most tender beef you've ever cooked......  you add some barbecue sauce, just until it's enough, and then you serve it up on some fresh rolls with some cole slaw or potato salad and a crisp crunchy pickle spear.
OH. MY. GOD. Seriously, for me, that's Summer on a plate. All I need now is some Jersey corn and a few Jersey Tomatoes, and I'll be living like Royalty, wondering what the poor people are doing. SO GOOD! There's just nothing like it!
So, give it a try. If you're all about that beef, then this is one for you!

1 3-5 lb chuck roast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
1 sliced onion
Barbecue sauce

Mix together the spices and brown sugar. Using your impeccably clean hands, rub the spice mixture all over the beef. Place beef in slow cooker. Top with onion slices. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. When the beef is falling apart, use two forks to shred it. Add your favorite barbecue sauce until it's as saucy as you like it.

If there is quite a bit of juice, just remove a little before you add the barbecue sauce.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Strawberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

   A few years ago, I came up with a recipe for Blueberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, and it was fun and unexpected and a fabulous big hit. It was sweet and tangy and smoky and zesty and everything you want in a barbecue sauce. So then I thought, I wonder how it would taste with strawberries instead of blueberries! Wouldn't that be amazing? At first, I figured I'd just use the same recipe and swap out the blueberries, but then I thought, wait... let's make a new recipe for strawberries and let them have their own moment in the spotlight!
  As always, when I want to find a new recipe, I do some googling to see who else might be thinking of the same idea. I happened to find a recipe on a blog called The Stay At Home Chef, and I gave it a try. It's so good! But then I thought, lets turn this from good to GREAT! So, this is basically the same recipe, but I added a couple tiny tweaks to it. (You know me. I can't leave well enough alone.) The final result is a revelation! Who knew that strawberries would pair so well with smoky Chipotles??? And since Chipotles are just smoked jalapenos, this sauce has a nice little kick to it. Not like a burn-your-face-off kind of a kick, but just a nice heat that sneaks up on you a little. I'm not a spicy guy, but I'm definitely a fan of a slow burn.
  So the next time you're grilling up some chicken or ribs, or maybe doing a slow cooker pulled pork, give this one a try. It's really awesome!

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil 
1 large sweet onion diced 
3 cloves garlic minced 
2 cups strawberries hulled 
3 chipotles in Adobo sauce 
1 cup ketchup 
2/3 up brown sugar tightly packed 
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
1/2 cup honey
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon salt

 In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add in onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and saute for 60 seconds. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce or transfer to a blender. Puree until smooth. Return to heat and simmer another 10 minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 5 days.

If you would like more heat, go for it! Add some crushed red pepper flakes for another layer of heat. Or you could even add in some chopped jalapenos or a bit of Tabasco.
If you would like a sweeter sauce, bump up the brown sugar and honey.
If you want a little more tang, try adding a little more mustard or lemon juice or even a little splash of apple cider vinegar. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Joey's Creamy Fettuccine with Zucchini and Peas

  OK, so, I have a confession to make. I don't eat pasta very often. Like, maybe only a few times a year. There. I said it. I know. I know. That's blasphemy in some households, right? I mean, of course, I do LOVE it, but very often I find it to be a little bit heavy. So, unless I'm doing a big spaghetti dinner, or maybe doing fresh pasta for friends, I kind of have to be in the mood for it. That's not a crime, is it? Actually, one of my favorite ways to have pasta is with a bunch of fresh vegetables. Since I live in The Garden State, I absolutely can't wait for the warmer months of the year and all of the fabulous produce that comes with them. THAT'S when I'll definitely be in the mood for a nice dish of pasta and some of Jersey's freshest veggies to go with it.
 For this one, I decided to go with zucchini. I saw it at a local farm stand, and it was so brilliantly green that I was inspired to keep with that theme and add peas and fresh herbs. The result was an amazing pasta dish, perfect in its simplicity, kind of similar to an alfredo, but a little bit lighter.
 So if you're a "pasta every week" kind of household (or even more), you should definitely add this one to the rotation. It was quick and easy and it was just the thing to hit the spot! Hope you like it!

1 lb fettuccine
1 stick butter
1 medium onion
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large (or 2 small-ish) zucchini, cut into large dice
Salt and crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 10oz box of frozen peas
5 or 6 large leaves of fresh basil
Fresh parsley

   Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt. Boil fettuccine according to package directions to reach desired doneness. While your waiting for the water to boil, make the sauce.
  In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add diced onions. Saute until they soften a bit. Add chopped garlic and continue to saute. Add diced zucchini, season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes, and continue to saute, stirring frequently. When the zucchini are tender, add chicken broth, cream, and grated cheese. Stir all until well combined. Reduce heat to simmer. Let the sauce reduce a bit until the pasta is done. At the last minute, add the frozen peas and fresh basil. Give it a good stir. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Add drained pasta and toss all together. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Top with chopped fresh parsley and a bit more cheese.

The sauce is meant to be kind of thin so that the pasta will really drink it in.
Be sure to taste it and adjust the seasoning. It will need a bit more salt than you think it will. If you don't like crushed red pepper flakes, then just use black pepper.
For an extra punch of flavor, add a splash of white wine to the sauce!