Love in the Kitchen - making fast, healthy, homegrown meals you'll enjoy

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jalapeno Peanut Brittle

I was chatting with some co-workers today and I mentioned that I had made jalapeno peanut brittle over the weekend.  They all thought I was crazy - one of them said "how did you ever think of such a thing?!"

Well, I once bought something like it in a store ages ago (granted, it was a specialty chili pepper store, but a store nevertheless) and I thought it would taste good here (and it did!):

I can't tell if this stuff is really good (I think it is super-addictive) or just weird.  Maybe you can decide.

Jalapeno Peanut Brittle


  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. white corn syrup
  • 1 c. roasted peanuts
  • 1 T. margarine
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped jalapenos 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda


Combine sugar and syrup in 2 quart mixing bowl. Microwave for 4 minutes.

Remove from oven and add peanuts and stir well. Microwave for 4 minutes. Remove from oven and add margarine, vanilla and chopped jalapenos. Stir well and cook for two additional minutes. Remove and add baking soda and stir quickly. (I like this part - it makes the candy sort of foamy and peanut-brittle-looking)

Pour on buttered cookie sheet, spreading thin. (May add a little green food coloring, if color is desired.) Let cool about 30 minutes then break into pieces. Store in airtight container and do not refrigerate.

I thought this was really good - we cut it into pieces and put it on top of these:

Yummy!  All the best flavors - sweet, spicy, salty... with a crunch.  And it goes together quickly.  Can you ask for more than that?

Oh and a quick tip -  best not to leave it out in the humidity.  It because less peanut brittle and more syrup-coated peanut taffy.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meeting Melissa d'Arabian

The Mr and I watch a lot of Food Network shows.  One of our favorites is "The Next Food Network Star".  We started watching the second season, when Guy Fieri (our #1 pick!) won.  Love Guy - he was a fantastic choice.

Another of our favorites was season four, when we watched Melissa d'Arabian battle it out with Geoffrey for the winning television show.  My personal favorite episode was one in which Melissa was given a bunch of different hot peppers, with which she was unfamiliar, as her ingredient (imagine, hot pepper episode being my favorite...) and Bobby Flay was impressed because she took the time to taste each individual pepper.  I always wish she would have posted that recipe.

Maybe the next best thing though, is being able to see her at a book signing last weekend.  Here we all are:

Her book, Ten Dollar Dinners, is fantastic!  And since we had the chance to meet her this weekend, I made a recipe out of the book to show you all here:

French Cut Steak with Carmelized Onions


  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1 pound) skirt steak, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 2 medium sweet onions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup beef stock or broth


  1. In a small bowl, combine spices and salt and pepper. Liberally season the steak with the rub and let rest 15 minutes on the counter.
  2. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over low heat. Add onions, season and cook until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.
  3. In a large saute pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon butter over high heat. Place steaks in the pan and sear until nicely browned, about 3 minute per side for medium-rare. Remove pan to plate to rest 10 minutes.
  4. Place the saute pan over high heat and deglaze with wine and vinegar until reduced by 1/2. Add onions to the pan with beef broth and reduce by half. Salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Slice steak and fan to serve. Top with sauce.

This was easy, fast and really tasty!  We always watch Melissa's show and enjoyed chatting with her too.  Her book is wonderful, with lots of great tips for saving while still having great food.  Check it out - you'll be glad you did!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Garden Party - Garden Surprises!

We've all had surprises in our gardens, haven't we?

Some are good surprises.  Like this pretty jalapeno we found...

... which was growing  in our hanging flower basket!  Surprise!

And this healthy tomato plant?

Growing in our hot pepper pot!

Some are kind of thankful surprises...

... like this lettuce, which is really thriving after the evil squirrel invasion.

And the fact that this scraggly tomato plant keeps pumping out tomatoes.  Surprise!

Some are NOT good surprises.  I went out to take some photos and found this unwelcome surprise:

Holy crikey, he's enormous!


I find that guy really creepy.  And he makes me mad!  As if I didn't have enough problems with my darned tomatoes... can't he go to someone else's house?  Not that we have to worry about him any more.... but I hope he didn't bring friends.  You will have to check back next week to see - in the meantime, check out An Oregon Cottage for her weekly Garden Party.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Harvest Monday: August 27, 2012

We got more tomatoes this week, and I think we'll have some fabulous beauties ripen towards the end of the week.

We got our new camera this week, and some better lighting solutions too.  And what I notice from looking at this picture is that I need to wipe the water spots off those tomatoes!

I didn't get pictures of the multitude of peppers we picked this week, nor the strawberries.  And I forgot to take any of the corn either.  I'm either really hungry when I harvest or my mind is going.  Can't decide which.  The Mr could probably tell you though.

I think we'll see more strawberries and peppers this week.  And our lettuce is coming back - maybe enough for a salad this week!  Corn too.  And tomatoes.  It does look to be a productive week!

Total Harvest for the Week: 4 pounds, 1.8 ounces
Total Harvest for the Year: 45 pounds, 0.5 ounces

 Linked up with Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday... hop on over and see what else is being picked this week.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Peanut Popcorn Cupcakes

The Boy gets braces tomorrow.  And we all know what that means.  A couple of years of eating corn cut off the cob, sliced apples, no popcorn or nuts... and no chewy candy.

So we planned a dinner to make sure he had most of those things.  We had ribs and corn on the cob.  He loves those.  And I made special cupcakes that had all kinds of braces-unfriendly ingredients.

This is more of a process than a recipe - and here's how it goes:

Chocolate Caramel Peanut Popcorn Cupcakes


  • 12 Chocolate cupcakes from your favorite recipe (or a box - that's what I used this time), each with a caramel placed in the center prior to baking
  • Chocolate frosting
  • Vanilla Frosting
  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, popped
  • 8 large marshmallows
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 12 pieces peanut brittle (I used jalapeno peanut brittle... recipe to come later this week)


  1. Apply chocolate frosting to each cupcake.
  2. Microwave the marshmallows and 3 cups of popcorn for about 15 - 30 seconds, or until marshmallow is soft.
  3. Stir in the margarine, and mix until the popcorn is coated with the marshmallow.
  4. Working quickly, put a spoonful of the popcorn mixture onto each cupcake.
  5. Pipe (or spoon) a mound of vanilla frosting onto the top of each cupcake.
  6. Add a piece of peanut brittle to the top.
  7. Enjoy (I'll leave it to you to figure out the best way to eat these tall, chewy, crunchy delights!)

Yum!  If you are going to have to have braces, this is an excellent dessert to usher in the era of metal!


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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chocolate Orange Angel Food Cake

The weather seems to have cooled a bit.  Not a lot, but enough to turn on the oven for a bit.  I want something light though.  That doesn't mean I can't satisfy my chocolate craving.  And do it without breaking the calorie bank.  With this wonderful creation:

Chocolate Orange Angel Food Cake

  • 4 ounces orange-flavored dark chocolate
  • 12 large egg whites
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange rind, grated or freshly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Make sure a 10" x 4" tube pan is clean, dry and free of grease.

  3. Grate the chocolate bars on the fine holes of a cheese grater, NOT a teeny-holed citrus grater. (Make sure you do find orange-flavored dark chocolate-- it is not very difficult to find, and absolutely essential to the recipe).

  4. Separate the eggs, and let the egg whites come to room temperature; about 15 minutes.

  5. Sift 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt onto a piece of waxed paper. Sift them together a total of three times.

  6. Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the lemon juice and continue beating. Sprinkle the remaining cup of sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, over the egg whites and continue beating at medium speed until the egg whites are glossy and form soft peaks that bend over at the top. Do not overbeat, or the egg whites will lose their volume.

  7. Sift 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients over the egg whites and fold.

  8. Gently stir in the vanilla extract and orange rind.

  9. Alternately fold in the chocolate and remaining dry ingredients, working in small batches, until just incorporated.

  10. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake for 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. A knife inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.

  11. Remove from the oven and invert the pan. Allow the cake to cool for 30 to 45 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and tube to loosen the cake.

  12. You can serve this as is, or with a little whipped cream, or ice cream-- whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!

This chocolate angel food cake is a light and flavorful dessert.  Go ahead - have a second piece!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Easiest Possible Raspberry Soup

I've been a fan of chilled soups since I first went on a cruise.  That cruise was through the Panama Canal and was delightful.  Chilled fruit soup for dinner every night.  As one of the five courses naturally.

Unfortunately, cruise soups aren't necessarily all that healthy.  And you would think they would be, given that they are made of fruit.

This one, however, has been lightened, and has a bit of zip added to it with the addition of a jalapeno (or two).  And - it is super quick and easy to make.

Chilled Raspberry and Chile Soup

  • 4 cups raspberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 - 2 jalapenos, depending on how hot you like it
  • 12 ounces of fat free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup of fat free milk


Peel and slice banana.  Cut the jalapeno into pieces.  Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.

Chill for at least 4 hours.  Serve.

And that's it!  Delicious and refreshing, with a bit of a kick.  Be sure to do a taste test before serving to guests.  (At least guests that you don't want to light on fire.)  You'll feel like you are on a cruise, but you won't see it on the scale tomorrow!

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sourdough Bread

A few months ago, I ordered some sourdough starter from Goldrush Sourdough Products in the hopes of eventually baking a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.

I've been growing the starter for a couple of weeks.  The starter came in an envelope, I added warm water and flour and it started to grow.  I had to keep feeding it, and it kept (and still keeps getting) more sour.  Which is good!

Starter is a kind of weird substance.  It has a bit of an odd smell, and according to the directions "the green/gray liquid at the top of the starter is normal"... which sounds a bit unpleasant.  But it works.  And once you've grown the starter for a week or two, you can bake bread!  Here's how I did it:

Sourdough Bread


  • 3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast


Combine all ingredients in bread machine according to manufacturer's instructions.  Set for dough cycle..

After the dough cycle has finished and the bread has risen, knead the dough on a floured surface until the dough feels smooth and stretchy.

Form into loaves as desired, lightly cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size (about 3 hours).

Preheat the oven to 475 F.  Place a pan with 1 -2 inches of water ont he bottom shelf of the oven.  When the water is visibly steaming, the oven is ready.  Place the dough pan in the middle of the oven and reduce the heat to 425 F.  Bake for 30 - 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cool baked bread on racks before cutting.

This wasn't my best bread-making attempt, but it did turn out quite good for a first sourdough attempt.  The taste was very good - quite sour, as I had hoped!  A little heavier than I would have liked, but I like the texture of a nice French or Italian bread.  And sourdough does tend to be a bit heavier.

If you'd like to try, you can get starter from Amazon here.  Or, if you live in the San Diego area, I've got some good starter going and am willing to share.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Garden Party - Ghost Photography

We've been eagerly anticipating the birth of some baby scorpion peppers and some baby ghost peppers.... and it looks like our wait is nearly at an end!

You can (sort of) see here in the center of this photo, our first scorpion pepper bud.

Not a great shot - but I wish I had had The Mr take a picture of me trying to get even this not-great shot.  In an effort to help me get better photographs, The Mr bought me some very cool lighting accessories, one of which allows me to get my flash off of the camera.  I wanted to use this last evening to get these shots and it worked beautifully.  Unfortunately, I still have the problem of getting the right depth of focus and focus on the correct part of the image.  And this shot needed to be taken from above.  So in order to get this, I set up my flash on a tripod next to the plant and stood on the top of a step ladder (!) looking down, trying to get as far "up" as possible.  Yes, smart.

This baby ghost was easier to capture.

But wait... what do I see there?

A visitor?

Ugh!  Not our ghost peppers!  Well, I certainly hope he enjoyed his last meal.

So excited to see our upcoming super-hots!  (Though, I am not certain the we are culinarily prepared for the heat...)  We're in the process of testing our germination process with some jalapeno seeds we harvested.  I expect to see results later this week.  And, I'm expecting a bunch of tomatoes this week.  You will have to check back next week to see - in the meantime, check out An Oregon Cottage for her weekly Garden Party.

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