Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grilled Smoked Chili

Last year, I saw a Twitter post from @WeberGrills about grilling chili. My husband and I saw their video http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/blog/fall-comfort-in-the-form-of-grilled-chili and knew we had to try it. First, we had to buy the Weber Original Gourmet BBQ System Hinged Cooking Grate and the Weber Original Gourmet BBQ System Wok for our Weber Grill. Then the fun began. 

We've grilled / smoked chili now several times. Every time we add something different. We make a large amount so we can freeze it. We bring out the chili goodness while watching football on TV or just a lazy day of not cooking. Our last batch of chili went together like this:

Getting the grill started.
Roasted onion slices, home grown jalapenos and poblanos
Added 2 heads of  fresh garlic (in foil) to roast as well
Onions and peppers ready to chop
Peppers and onions all chopped and ready to go
Almost forgot to char the green peppers grown from my mom's garden.
Garlic still roasting.
Grilled up a cup of chopped bacon
Next, 2lbs of course ground beef
We had leftover smoked pork from the week before and froze.
Decided to throw that in for added flavor and texture.
Time to throw in the grilled bacon!
There's all the meat.
Add grilled, chopped onions and peppers.
Also added chopped celery.
Stir it all up!
Added large can of tomato sauce and a can of crushed tomatoes.
Stir that all up
Added a bottle of Ale, a cup of beef broth and my mixture of spices.
1 TBL salt
2 TBL freshly ground peppercorn medley (red, green, white and black)

2 TBL paprika
1 TBL chile powder
1 TBL chipotle chili powder
1 TBL ancho chili powder

1 TBL ground cumin

1 TBL dried oregano
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
Stir the spices in
Looking great!
While grilling, we had to keep adding more liquid.
So keep water or broth or beer handy.
Add pinto beans and black beans. I had cooked a cup of dried bean (each type) the day before separately. You get a good amount of beans from dried. Plus I didn't add extra salt (which you get from canned).
 Oops, we have to get that roasted garlic in there.

.Simmered away for a couple of hours, adding liquid when needed.
We also had used soaked pecan chunks on the charcoal throughout this whole
process, from the peppers/onions to the end of grilling our chili to add a nice smoky flavor.

What a great chili. I hope you try grilling some chili. It sure is fantastic!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Raspberry Jalapeno Jam

First I picked my jalapenos and raspberries from my garden. 
Of course, can buy them if you didn't grow them :-)
Then I rinsed them in cold water.

  • 4 cups raspberries
  • 2 large jalapenos with seeds, chopped (less heat if no seeds)
  • 6-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 packet Certo (liquid pectin)
  • 7-8 1/2 pint Ball canning jars (sterilized)
Get out your big water canning pot. Fill with enough water that will cover the jars 1-2 inches. Start that boiling because that takes time.

Now on to the jam. I do things a little differently. I like to make my jam seedless. I put the chopped jalapenos with seeds and raspberries in a 6-quart pot on the stove and cook them down a bit, making them soft and extracting some juice as well. Cook for maybe 5-10 minutes on medium low heat. Pour the raspberry/jalapeno mixture into a blender. Blend it on high for a couple of minutes. You may need to do it in 2 batches. While blending, wash out the pot. When finished blending, place a fine mesh strainer (like the one above holding the washed raspberries) over a big bowl. Pour the juice blend into the strainer. Take a spoon and stir the juice. The juice goes through the strainer and the seeds stay. And I'll say, there is a big pile of seeds! Raspberries have a LOT of seeds. I throw the seeds away. You do what you want with them. Anyway, pour the juice from the bowl into a measuring cup. Actually, I'm lucky enough to have a BIG measuring cup so I use that as my bowl. You must have 4 cups of liquid. If you need to, add some water. You can get away with adding 1/2 cup of water. If that still falls short, you'll need some more fruit! Now pour that 4 cups of raspberry/jalapeno juice into your clean pot.

Pour 6-1/2 cups of sugar into the juice mixture. Stir until sugar dissolves. Cook on medium heat until there's a rolling boil (stirring all the time).

Have your Certo packet ready, open and standing in a cup because things can go fast! When the juice is at a rolling boil, pour the liquid Certo into the juice and stir for 1 minute. Then take it off the heat.

Time to ladle the jam into your jars. Fill to 1/4" from the top of the jar. Wipe the rims clean, and place the sterilized, heated lid on top. Take a ring and twist to finger tight on the jar.

Hopefully by now your water canner is doing a good boil itself. Using the jar lifter, carefully place your jars into the boiling water. Make sure the water is 1-2 inches over the top of the jars. If not, add water. If you do, make sure the water starts boiling again. Place the lid on the canner and heat in the boiling water for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, take out your jars carefully with the jar lifter. Don't shake or tilt. Let the jars sit for 24 hours. I love the sound of the "ping" when a jar seals. If a jar doesn't seal within an hour, refrigerate it. I know, a jar can sometimes take a couple of hours to seal, but since that doesn't usually happen to me, I would rather err on the side of caution and be safe with my canned food.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Seedlings are Grounded!

My seedlings, which I lovingly grew from seed were placed into the ground this past weekend. It was one week past my intended planting day of Mother's Day. My husband plants my garden every year with direction from me :-)  for Mother's Day. This year, while visiting his mom the day before Mother's Day (as is our tradition), he was trying to imitate some martial arts moves that his younger brother was showing him. While he impressed his brother with getting the moves right, I knew that the old guy was going to be in no condition to be planting the next day. I was right.... as usual :-)  As luck would have it, there was even a late snowfall on May 16th that my seedlings missed, not being in the ground. Talk about thankful!

It took all week to get the husband back to normal. We were excited to get things started. We have the back garden along our fence that used to be just all tomatoes. No tomatoes this year!! That garden is in 3 sections. The first section has my 3 brussels sprouts seedlings. First time ever trying to grow these.

The middle section has a poblano, habanero, cayenne then another poblano. The cayenne had already grown a flower on it before we even put it into the ground. I did pinch that flower off. Those plants have some growing to do before they are ready to flower!

In the third section of our back garden, we have my 3 cubanelle seedlings.

And here's the entire back garden

Then we moved on to the garden right behind our house.

To the far left, we planted our herbs. The only thing that survived this past winter were my 3 huge bunches of chives. Goes to show, not much can kill those suckers! Rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc... didn't make it. We had to buy basil, parsley, sage, thyme, tarragon and marjoram. For some reason, cilantro and rosemary were not at the garden center. I still have to get those, as well as mint. 

Last, but not least, we planted the giant jalapeno seedlings. This is the first year that we decided to go with less and spread out the jalapenos.  We have 13 (don't ask why 13, it just came out that way) this year, when we usually go for 20+. We've never had a problem crowding in the jalapenos before, but the husband wanted to experiment. So why not see if our jalapenos yield as much or more than the past. It would be real sweet if it's more!

While the husband was planting the garden, I made up a quick snack. When he was ready to sit down (all right, he took a shower first), I brought out a tray of cheese and crackers, with some of our chives from the garden. I gave him a little dish of ranch dressing on the side. And brought out his favorite chilled Lynfred Winery Sangria Rouge Wine. It was like a taste of summer. Perfect!

And here we played with designing our cheese and crackers.

 Time to sit back and watch our garden grow!

Friday, May 16, 2014


It's no secret that I'm a long time fan of Lynfred Winery in Roselle, IL and their name came up in conversation as to where we could go and meet a couple (Steve and Kendra) who love wine and food like my husband and I. I had never met them in person, but talked with Steve before, who used to work in the telecom field. My husband, Glenn, had met Steve before on the job. During our conversations through work, we found we had a lot in common, food, wine and gardening.

We kept up the conversations after he left telecom for the insurance industry. Talk about getting together for dinner came about when we were discussing our seedlings and how they were growing. His through aquaponics, mine in dirt. Steve suggested going to one of the Lynfred Winery events and we decided to try the Sangria Wine Dinner at the Melting Pot. We were drawn in with the true words from Lynfred Winery...

The Chicago winter has been brutal and a taste of summer is what we all need! Join us for a Sangria-themed wine dinner at the Melting Pot Schaumburg!

The weather is still brutal. It's snowing. On May 16th. Crazy.
But, I'm glad we went to the dinner. I finally met Steve and his adorable wife and we had a great time!

We got to The Melting Pot at 6pm and were there until 9:30, way past my usual bedtime, but I digress. Our conversation flowed from food and wine to eagles and puppies to gardening. All the while sampling Lynfred Sangria wines and eating fantastic fondue.  What was on the menu?

Cheese Fondue – Cranberry Walnut Cheddar with Lynfred Sangria Rouge
Served with different types of bread cubes, apples, carrots and cauliflower.
This cheese fondue was fantastic. I hope I remember the ingredients they used to make it, which our super nice, bubbly and informative server did in front of us. The Lynfred Sangria Rouge, or the red sangria is what we called it, was paired perfectly with the cheese. My husband, Steve and Kendra all liked the Sangria Rouge as the best wine of the evening.

Salad – Strawberry, Mandarin and Almond Salad with Lynfred Sangria Blanc
My husband put fresh cracked pepper on his salad. I had to taste the pepper on the strawberries and mandarin oranges, and I really liked it! Goes to show, you can add cracked pepper to just about anything and it enhances the flavor. The Lynfred Sangria Blanc was my favorite wine of the evening. Light, fruity, and a hint of sweet, went very well with the salad.

Entrée -  Kiwi Lime Shrimp, Teriyaki Sirloin, Ahi Tuna, Honey Orange Chicken with TMP Grand Sangria
We all agreed the shrimp was the best in the entrée. Maybe it was because that cooked the fastest in the broth fondue and we were all hungry. But the kiwi lime shrimp was to die for. Though everything else was delicious as well. We all realized that the TMP Grand Sangria tasted quite a bit different than the first two sangrias. Then we realized that TMP stood for The Melting Pot. It was their sangria, not Lynfred. While it was good, we preferred the Lynfred. Are we spoiled? I would say so. Be that as it may, we thoroughly enjoyed the entrée.

Chocolate – Passion Fruit Yin and Yang with Passion Fruit Sparkling Sangria
So we forgot to take a picture of the coolest dessert ever. Forgive me, we were getting tired, and full. This dessert was so awesome. The two different chocolates, swirled to form Yin and Yang.  And the sweet things to dip into this decadent chocolate fondue, were too many. Let me see if I remember some of them... rice krispie treats, brownies, chocolate chip cookie bars, pound cake, strawberries and more. This alone could have filled us up easily, without dinner. It was the wow factor. And the pairing of the tart and effervescent  Lynfred Passion Fruit Sparkling Wine was of course, absolutely perfect to end such a wonderful evening.

Thank you, Lynfred Winery and The Melting Pot for a wonderful evening!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seedlings First Day Out!

Temperatures in the Chicago area hit the 70's today for the first time this year. It was time to put my seedlings outside to start and acclimate them. I put them in the shade so as not to shock the living daylights out of them since they've never been outside before. I would hate to have the sun scald them before we even begin! It must be done slowly. One year, I mistakenly put them in the sun right away and they just keeled over. I caught them in time as I put them in the shade and gave them water and told them to man up. Can't be having weak plants! They perked up. Nice to have something listen to me for once. LOL!

These are my giant jalapenos outside on the deck.

Cayenne, habanero, cubanelles, poblanos and brussels sprouts.

My seedlings are outside and just loving it. Tomorrow is set to be another gorgeous day as well. But my little seedlings better get as much sun as they can because they are calling for possible snow Monday morning. Got to love the midwest!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Seedlings are Growing! Indoor Seed Update 3/27/2014

It started out at 30 degrees this morning with a little snow coming down. But we are expecting temps close to 55 today! Up and down with the temperatures. Makes you wonder how summer temps will be.
Let's check on how my seedlings are doing.

Above is my tray of giant jalapeno seedlings. They are growing so well. Most of my seedlings have grown to over the height of the cup. They all have their second set of leaves in. I added about 4 tablespoons of new dirt in each cup to help strengthen my seedlings. They are all standing tall!

My second tray of seedlings carries brussels sprouts, cayenne, habanero, poblano and cubanelle peppers. Sadly, one of my cubanelle pepper seeds didn't come up. That's ok, I still have 3 more which is plenty for us.
Oh, and my habanero seed never came up either, so I replanted and have two small seedlings growing in the same cup. That's ok too. They will catch up once they are in the ground. I found that out last year. My brussels sprouts were the first to come up of all the seeds and are looking mighty fine.  All these seedlings are not as tall as the jalapenos yet. But I did add 2-3 tablespoons of dirt in each cup to help them out.

Here are some closeups of my seedlings.

Giant jalapenos growing extremely well. Aren't they looking good? I love the giant jalapenos because we stuff them with cheese and herbs, wrap in bacon and grill them. I can just taste them now. Bring on summer!!

Above far right and the plant in front are my 3 cubanelle peppers. Growing well. In the way back to the left are my 2 little habanero plants. My 2 poblano plants are between the cubanelle and habaneros. Certainly not as tall as the jalapenos. But they will get there.

In the far left hand corner is my one cayenne pepper. It was the first pepper seedling to come up. Still kind of short. This is the first time growing this pepper. I'm hoping for lots of cayenne peppers so I can make my own cayenne powder. We use that quite a bit here.

And here is my biggest brussels sprout plant. I have 3 of them. One is kind of puny, and the other is big, but doesn't stand up straight. First time growing these as well. Always interesting growing something new.

Keep on growing! You'll be in the ground one of these days, my little pretties!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Day of Spring!

Happy first day of spring! 
Woke up this morning and opened up the drapes and this is what I saw! 
Snow. Bah humbug!

This past winter has continued to defy us! Well, I know that the temperature is rising and we should end up with approximately 49 degrees as a high today. Maybe more. The snow is just about melted already. Yes! Time to kick old man winter to the curb! Tomorrow is supposed to get to 60, and then our luck changes again. Back to cold weather. This up and down stuff will be changing soon, and the thought of snow will be in the distant past. I hope.

I then looked at my all my seeds that I planted indoors. They are doing very well. It really makes you think of SPRING!! I'll have to add more dirt to the cups soon as my seedlings continue to grow. Who is not ready for spring and gardening to begin?!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Preparing for Spring. Planting Seeds Indoors.

Who's ready for spring? With all the snow and cold we've had this winter, I really shouldn't have a need to ask! This past weekend, we got 4 more inches of snow, and now the chill factor came back to greet us with subzero temps again. #Chiberia is a fun place to live!

I usually plan to start my seeds indoors about 2 months before Mother's Day. Around the Chicago area, Mother's Day is usually a good day to plant outside. Of course, give or take a week or so, depending on this crazy weather we have. This past weekend was the time to start my seeds indoors. Time to get my hands dirty!

My setup is extremely simple. I have a small shelving unit with three shelves. This year, I'm only using 2 shelves. A couple of years ago, my husband and I bought 2 growing trays with the covers and little heating pads that goes with them. So we will use those. The bottom tray is so very light plastic, that I've noticed it has started to crack and break. Something to worry about next year.

Usually I start my plants in small clear plastic cups (with holes drilled into the bottom of the cup). Then I transplant to a bigger cup with more dirt when the seedlings are big enough. This year, I sent my husband on a mission to get 16oz clear plastic cups. I will add dirt as the seedlings grow in the same cup. Well, the husband came home with clear green cups. He said that was all he could find in the size that I wanted. The stores probably just had the green cups out to try to sell for St Patrick's Day. Ah well, we go with the flow!

The husband was kind enough to drill the holes in the bottom of the cups. I labeled each cup with a black Sharpie pen, as to what seed was going to grow there. I mistakenly didn't label last year. What I got was a habanero growing in amongst my cubanelle peppers. So this year, I labeled!

Filled each cup halfway with gardening soil. Then it was time to plant the seeds. In went 13 giant jalapenos, 4 cubanelle, 3 brussels sprouts,  2 poblano peppers, 1 cayenne and 1 habanero. Added some water to each cup. Placed the lid on the plants and made sure the little heating pads were plugged in.

I don't have grow lights. Maybe one day I will, but it is not this day! My plants face the north. Not optimum for the best sun. But it is the best and biggest area available to grow my seedlings. They do tend to grow "leggy".  When it's time, I just place them deeper into the ground, maybe stake them up for awhile, and they take off like crazy. Never had too much of a problem with "leggy" plants. Leggy meaning spindly stalks.

Now comes the best part. Waiting to see my seedlings pop up through the soil. Let's do some growing!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January 1 musings...

It's the first of the year. I'm tired of snow. I had put in my request for snow only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but obviously my request was ignored. It is time to fight back and start thinking about the warmth and pleasures of springtime.

Is it too early to think about what I want to plant in my garden this year? I don't think so. This year we will do some more experimenting. We'll put in different veggies!

One thing is for sure, we won't be growing tomatoes this year. Basically, because we suck at it. We had great luck with tomatoes for about 2 years, then BAM, we suck. Blossom end rot all the time. We tested the soil and it's good. We watched our watering. We changed from roma types to regular round tomatoes. Bought plants instead of growing from seed. Nope, we just suck. So instead of wasting our time and money on growing tomatoes, we're going to change things around. Mix it up a bit.

Must haves in our garden are peppers. What kind? Large jalapenos, cubanelles, poblanos and a habanero. We had 2 habanero plants last year. This year, only 1 will suffice. We had so many habaneros from 2 plants that I ran out of things to make with them. I made habanero hot sauce which was a hit with my whole family. But an even bigger hit was my habanero mint jelly. Ok, I forgot to put the mint in there and the jelly didn't 'set', but I added red pepper flakes to give it an interesting texture and color. It's fabulous on meatballs and shrimp, probably on just about anything.

More herbs this year for sure. They did great in the ground. Better than in my deck pots. Maybe we'll try our hand at brussel sprouts or lettuce or beans. I received my big Burpee catalog and another catalog called Jung Seeds & Plants on New Years Eve. It's time to look through them and come up with my 2014 garden wish list.

Happy New Year!