When Life Gives You Jalapeño Jelly Rocks

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I have a little pepper garden in the back of my house. It wasn’t supposed to be a pepper garden. Payam built it for me to grow herbs but I threw in a few pepper plants because I wanted to make salsa. Over the years the pepper plants have somehow taken over and the herbs have retreated. I think there is a tiny bit of rosemary that is barely hanging on.

These pepper plants produce! They are small but mighty!  Cody helps me harvest them regularly. I think he forgets he does not like them.

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The other day when I got a big bag of jalapeños in my produce delivery box I decided something had to be done with all these peppers. I decided I would make jalapeño jelly, my favorite thing to put on bagels with cream cheese!

Problem is I’ve never really learned to can. I’ve watched my mom do it a thousand times and even helped her but I never really tried to can myself. So I called up my mom, got the basics down and headed for the hardware store to pick up jars. I chopped my jalapeños (With gloves on of course. At least I’ve learned that lesson over the years.) and started them boiling with all the added sugar. Which is a TON by the way. Maybe I lost track of how many cups I was supposed to put in and put in an extra…I don’t know!

I got distracted LIKE I ALWAYS DO. I am the queen of distraction. I am the absent minded professor of many creative projects going on all at the same time. Ooh, shiny thing! Next thing I know I was in the garage helping Payam with some design options for his cutting board business and when I walked back inside my jelly boiling timer had already gone off. I had no idea if it was one minute over or twenty. That is how deep into distraction I can get. Time is a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff

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Also I may have added two packets of pectin instead of one but I swear the micro-printed IRS form-esque directions inside the pectin box said to. Part one said: add one packet of pectin and then follow the directions to part 2. Part two said: add one packet (total 2). I swear!!! It said “total 2.” But then I threw the directions out because they were all sticky and I couldn’t pull them out of the trash because they were buried under other gross stuff so I can’t really prove anything.

Distraction + a possible misreading directions x2 variable = ROCK HARD JELLY STUCK IN JARS!

The jelly wasn’t hard when I poured it into the jars but I do remember at one point I was on the phone with my mom and the jelly mixture was off to a royal boil and it did sort of smell like candy. That may have been a clue. My gut says the pectin is fine I just over-cooked it. But I could be wrong. Maybe too much sugar, maybe too much pectin, very probably too much time.

So what to do now? I sat on it for a few hours (while social-media-ing the hell out of it of course) and then decided to microwave a jar and see what happened.

Guess what? The sticky rock jelly turned back into liquid! It bubbled and boiled right out of the jar and onto the microwave rotating dish in a royal boil mess! That seems to be a theme with me and canning. I carefully took the bubbling jar, poured it on some wax paper and let it harden.

Some places of my splat of liquified jelly were smooth and others were sticky clumps. The smooth places peeled up like a fruit roll-up when played with, while the clumpy lumps turned into the worst kind of gooey taffy that sticks to your hands and everything else in it’s path.

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Sooooooooo I decided to make little balls out of my sticky mess and roll them up in squares of wax paper. Because why not! I am like a grandmother who lived through the depression and I refuse to waste food!

The slick smooth stuff worked great, the jelly clumps not so much. It was a very sticky afternoon.

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Then because I am me, I did some quick graphic design for packaging (which is so much more in my comfort zone) and wrapped them all up in little bags to take to school pick-up aka parent social hour and handed them out to all my friends.

Guess what? They were a smashing success! Everybody loved my sticky jalapeño jelly balls even if they did have to lick them off pieces of wax paper and get their hands all sticky! They were delicious and spicy! Before I knew it I had handed almost all of them out and people were asking for more.

Now if only I could figure out how I made them!!!

Reporting for Pasta Duty

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When did I become a foodie? Remember how I used to be a terrible cook or at least I thought I was a terrible cook? Turns out I’m not anymore and I LOVE cooking!  I love cooking, I love finding new recipes to try, I love watching cooking shows. I’ve jumped on the cooking bandwagon like nobody’s business.

The other day I got a crazy bee in my bonnet that I wanted to try fasting. It was a really stupid idea. I read some article about eating less and living longer and I was wondering IF I could do it. You know, as a challenge now that I’m so healthy with all my crazy intense yoga workouts. You can tell where this is going. I have “Big Fat Fool” written on my forehead.

It turns out I can fast. I can push past the hunger no problem but I don’t like fasting! I lasted all day on coffee and water until 5:30 pm. You know why? Because I missed cooking!  Seriously. I’m pathetic. Maybe if I had had some religious reason for fasting I would have lasted longer.

I found myself migrating to the couch because I had no energy and my brain refused to work on anything creative. Before I knew it I was watching cooking shows and it was driving me crazy. I think I was trying to eat/cook vicariously.  I was lost without something to do at my usual cooking time.

And I had Blue Apron ingredients in my refrigerator calling me because if I didn’t cook them on the right day they would go bad. So I gave in. Actually Payam and I tossed a coin to decide if we should give in (he was fasting with me like a total champ) and of course two out of three gave us the answer we really wanted.

Pathetic.

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I’ve got the kids cooking now too. They are the perfect age to learn how to cook. They are willing and capable to handle sharp knives and hot pots without hurting themselves and they are still young enough that they think it’s fun and they don’t roll their eyes at me with attitude about it. Bug made Taco Bowls and Joon made spaghetti (with a side of zucchini and sausage for the grown-ups). I was really proud of them.  Maybe, just maybe my new love of cooking is rubbing off on them.

I’ve been trying to try one new recipe a week. They say that’s a great way to keep your brain growing and improving as you get older. I’m horrible at Sudoko so recipes it is! So far I’ve learned how to make pot stickers, sticky chicken wings, a ton of Blue Apron recipes…AND PASTA!

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YES! I made homemade pasta!  Payam bought me a pasta roller attachment to go with my mixer for my birthday and I had to try it out right away or else I knew it would just sit in the cupboard and get dusty. I’m so glad I did too because guess what?! It’s easy! Like easier than baking a pie.

I’m still curious about making it without a mixer and completely by hand. I spend a lot of time on pinterest looking at food photography and I’m very intrigued by the whole mound of flour with eggs in the middle. I do want to try that. But in the meantime, I made my dough in my mixer and it was pretty much perfect.making-homemade-pasta2

The pasta dough went through the roller like butter. It was so fun.

However, making raviolis from my beautifully flattened pasta dough was probably not the best choice of first pasta to make.  I had no clue how to center my filling in between the pasta sheets without wasting a ton of space but I sort of managed. They looked like a kindergartener made them and I threw out about half of the dough just because it was contaminated with filling and I didn’t want to run it through the roller again.

I also had the not-so-bright idea to use some fresh corn, that needed to be eaten, in my filling. The extra water content from the corn made the sausage filling lose and kind of weird which made the whole dish a little off. But we smeared some extra spicy, doctored-up marinara on top and those raviolis got eaten up, no problem.

Next I’m going to try fettuccini!