A Bowl of Spicy Love

I am not sure what inspired me but I decided to make jambalaya for the first time. And strangely I had everything on hand but the celery and sausage. I know it’s down right amazing I didn’t have any Andouille sausage lying around the house given my love of “encased meats.”  (Sorry mom)

So after a quick trip to the market for those 2 key ingredients, I set about making a serious bowl of spicy love.

For a recipe I went right to an authority figure…. Emeril! I followed the recipe pretty closely – I only left out the chicken. Just decided to keep it to sausage and shrimp. Another small modification was the use of tomato sauce instead of fresh chopped tomato – it was just what I happened have.

Which leads me to an interesting note. Apparently one of the main differences between “Cajun” jambalaya and “Creole” jambalaya is the use of tomatoes. Creole uses tomatoes, Cajun does not. So as a tomato lover it is obvious which kind I am going to favor. But I think this is only a guideline and not a rule.

If you haven’t attempted to make jambalaya because you thought it was complicated or took a long time – you would be wrong. This was easy and quick to make! my only regret is not making it sooner!


Hot “Stuffed”

Stuffed Cherry Peppers are a popular item around these parts.

These are the small, bright red peppers sometimes known as “pimiento” but usually referred to as “cherry peppers” based on their size and color. (Capsicum annuum for those who are really into it) They have a fairly low rating on the Scoville scale of heat but this doesn’t mean they don’t pack a bite of heat. For me they have an initial “prick” of heat but it subsides pretty quickly. But everyone is different so proceed with your level of caution.

Here in New England you will find these little guys pickled and served up along side platters of lamb kebobs or even more popular… as part of an Antipasto platter stuffed with a bit of salty cheese and prosciutto.

After spying fresh ones for sale at the city farm market, I recently decided that these little guys might serve as a nice vessel for a meat stuffing thereby elevating their status to “hot appetizer.” Just imagine these guys feeding the masses at your next football party or even as part of a fancy “passed hors d’oeuvres” affair.

I used a bit of ground pork (fatty butt to be specific) but a more lean cut of ground pork or beef would be good. (or lamb, yum…)  I added only seasoned salt, ground black pepper and fresh minced basil to the meat before stuffing the peppers and pushing a little hunk of Havarti cheese into the center. (Instead of stuffing the cheese in, you could add it as a topping in the last 10 mins of baking instead using Parmesan etc)

Here was my process….

remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down

Remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down.


perfect little vessels

Perfect little vessels – They can only hold barely a tablespoon.

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese.

baked for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil

Baked on an oiled sheet pan for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil.                                  Maybe top with minced, fresh basil if you are feeling fancy.

Production notes

A pound of ground meat would fill approximately 24 peppers depending on the actual size of the peppers. You would probably use about 1/2 cup of fresh minced basil per pound of ground meat. About 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt per pound of meat and some good healthy pinches of ground black pepper.  The cheese cubes were tiny at about 1/4″ x 1/4″ in size. Any cheese would be good here, but one that melts willingly would work best.

Scooby Snacks

Have you seen this new trend where 3 or 4 pictures give the whole recipe? Especially popular on Pinterest.

Well here is my version…

Any questions…

beauty shot

Production Notes

I used a smoked, fully cooked chorizo – but a raw version would work too – just make sure it cooks fully.

I also used a pre-made “crescent roll” dough that comes in a “blue can” – they have a seamless “1 piece” version but you could easily adapt this for the traditional crescent style. Or I guess if you are handy – make your own dough from scratch.

A layer of cream cheese or even just a sprinkle of Parmesan might have put these over the top – just sayin.

Spicy Peppers

Spicy filling, sweet peppers!

Recently while visiting New Hampshire I acquired the most wonderful local goat cheese and the cutest mini sweet red peppers. (Thanks mom!)

After I got them home it occurred to me that with a little help from the basil and oregano lingering in my garden and a couple pantry ingredients I could have myself a nice little snack or game day party bites. GO RED SOX!!  So the “spice” in this case wasn’t from the peppers but the filling I made for them.

3 main ingredients

Little spicy bites!

pepper for sizeI mixed the goat cheese and chopped herbs with a healthy dose of seasoned salt, black pepper, plenty of spicy, red chili flakes, some dashes of hot sauce, dash of garlic powder and some EVO oil to thin the consistency and add flavor. I also added a very small amount of “half and half” (you could use milk or cream too) to make it more creamy and spreadable. The mixture becomes a wonderful mix of tang and spice!

Stuff it into peppers or dip into it with veggies or use as a sandwich spread!

If I wasn't so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!

What a perfect snack for the Red Sox game! (oh and if I wasn’t so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!)

Level 3

Level 3 refers to ( in this case ) the level of hot in my jar of Korean hot pepper paste!

level 3

Recently I had a hanker-ing for some Korean BBQ and with no food trucks in sight I was forced to search the aisle of my supermarket for just the right stuff. There was only level 3 available, no #1 or #2 . I was worried this might blow the roof off my mouth, but I was brave and tried a tiny bit as soon as I got home. Straight up from the jar. It wasn’t bad. Downright tasty even. In fact I bet I could handle up to “level 4” should I come across it some day!

First, I applied a dry rub to the pork spare ribs I decided to use. A quick mix of ground ginger, seasoned salt, onion powder and smoked paprika did the trick. (I used 1 tsp each for about 2 lbs of spare ribs.) I let that hang out on the ribs for a few hours during the day while I did errands, etc.

Second, since I didn’t have all day to fire up the smoker in the back yard – oh wait I don’t have a smoker – I simply put them into a foil-covered baking dish into a 375 degree oven for about an hour to steam them to delicious. (longer if you have more ribs, use a thermometer if you want.) So at this point the ribs were cooked through and tasty but lacking the caramelized, charred outside that we all love.

Thirdly, I put those ribs directly onto a hot gas grill in my backyard – that I do have – and charred them a bit until they looked good enough to eat.

But wait!

The final step was to brush on my homemade “Korean BBQ” sauce and char the ribs even more. Watching carefully that they didn’t cross the fine line of deliciousness to burned. With all that sugar in the sauce you have to be careful not to apply the sauce too soon.

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

The Sauce:

1 tb +/- finely diced(minced) onion

1 tsp of oil for sautéing onions

2 small garlic cloves, super finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, super finely minced or paste

1/2 cup Ketchup

1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar ( plain or low sodium seasoned)

1 tsp toasted sesame oil*

2 tsp ( or more if you want it hot!) Gochjang paste ( Korean Hot Pepper Paste)

1 cup pan drippings from your spare rib oven-roasting pan or just plain water.

Saute the onion in the oil till nice and soft, and a bit brown. Turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger in. The residual heat kind of warms the garlic and takes some of the raw “bite” out without really cooking it. (at least I thought so) Add the ketchup, soy, vinegar, oil and pepper paste to the warm sauce and stir thoroughly. It will be thick. Add enough pan drippings from your rib oven roasting dish or even just plain water to thin it to your liking. Sauce will end up being about 2 cups +/- of liquid.

This sauce can be served as a table condiment as is, used for a glaze in the last 10 mins on your grilled food or just eaten with a spoon. Probably keeps in the fridge for at least 5 days but I am no expert and frankly it was just the perfect amount for 2 lbs of ribs!

*due to sesame allergies in the house I actually used Pumpkin Seed oil but toasted sesame oil would be more traditional.

Note: gluten free folks – read your labels on the hot pepper paste – not all are created equal.

Mexican Lasagna

or maybe Enchilada casserole? But if I call it that than we have to immediately break into the a rendition of “Desperado” – replacing the word “Desperado” with “Enchilada.”   What!   You are not familiar with the 1973 soft rock hit by The Eagles?!  Well give it a listen here.  You won’t regret it.

Anyway I digress…Back to dinner.

I simply diced up a small onion, cut 2 small chicken breasts into small pieces and browned them in a pan with oil. ( or butter or whatever you like) Prior to going into the pan, I coated the chicken pieces in little mixture made with 2-3 three tablespoons of AP flour mixed with 1/2 tsp -1 tsp each of these ground spices: cumin, chili powder, salt/pepper, oregano, and a little smoked paprika. (Kinda like you might coat stew beef pieces in seasoned flour before browning them.) Once everything was browned and getting delicious I “de-glazed” the pan with a small amount of warm water and some healthy dashes of hot sauce. This formed a small bit of a thick sauce. ( add some more water if you need to) Turn off the heat and add 1 regular size can of drained black beans.

Now the assembly: Spray an oven proof dish with non-stick spray, coat your flour tortilla by dipping it into a bowl of enchilada sauce** and place it as the first layer. Be generous with the sauce on the tortilla. Now spoon some of the saucy chicken and bean mix on top, add a thin slice or two of your favorite cheese (I used Munster) or a small handful of shredded. Top with another coated tortilla and repeat. End with a tortilla on top, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top and down the sides and top with a little more cheese. ( I switched to a handful of shredded for the top.)

Exhibit 1:

mexicanlasagana prepped for oven

A couple stray black beans got on top!

Now bake covered in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 25 mins, uncover and bake another 10-15 mins till browned, bubbly and extra sauce around edges seems thicker. Like all lasagna this will cut and taste better if allowed to cool a bit at first. (Will somebody help convince my husband?!) Or better yet cool completely, cover and freeze for another time or reheat later and bring this to your next potluck party!

I made mine using 2 quite small chicken breasts and 6 small tortillas as I was practicing cooking for two instead of my usual 10 but this could easily be made in a huge batch!

** Enchilada sauce can be made easily using a recipe such as this one. Or you can purchase it in cans/jars in the supermarket. Try the “ethnic” aisle or wherever the taco kits are sold in your store.

I used about 1 cup +/-  Any extra sauce can always be frozen and later thrown into soups ( spicy tomato soup!) or used as a marinade or glaze for meat or veggies.

hot from the oven

Waiting for it to cool a bit before cutting into it!

Arroz con carne de cerdo

Rice with pork.

Not an expert here by any means – in fact had to look this title up – so hopefully we can trust the internet on this translation!

Anyway, that is what I made the other day. Some “spanish style rice” and some grilled pork chops to go along with it. A true “Arroz con carne de cerdo” or its cousin “Arroz con pollo” (chicken) would have the meat browned and finished with the rice. My variation was separate items, but still very yummy if I say so myself!

arroz con pork

I started with butter, onion, diced sweet red pepper and garlic in a pan. I added the dry rice to the pan after things were browned up nicely to toast it a bit. I also threw in my dry spices at this point to also “toast” them a bit. Adobo seasoning, ground cumin, smoked paprika, chile powder and ground annatto seed along with black pepper. A few mins after that, the liquids went in. I used both stock and a small can of tomato sauce. Simmer covered for 35-40 mins or until the rice is cooked and the liquid evaporated. Add some frozen peas in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking. Before serving, taste for seasoning. (you may want to add more salt or a bit of hot sauce)
As for measurements… just use your basic 2:1 ratio of dry rice to liquid and just sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of each seasoning depending on how much rice you are cooking.
Shhhhhhh.. I used healthy whole grain brown rice since the color was going to be hidden from my husband anyway!