Wednesday, December 5, 2018

bbq chicken cauliflower casserole

When I recently went through my big freezer, I realized I have a lot of riced cauliflower in there. A LOT. I have six bags of plain riced cauliflower, four bags of riced cauliflower stuffing, and two bags of rice cauliflower stir fry--all from Trader Joe's. I can't even remember why I originally bought it.  So, the question became:  WTF am I going to with with all this damn cauliflower?

I got an email from The Kitchn recently, which contained a group of five-ingredient casseroles. As I looked through I noticed one, BBQ Chicken Casserole, that called for a bag of plain riced cauliflower. Also:  shredded chicken breast, onion, eggs, salt, pepper and BBQ sauce. Since I had two rotisserie chicken breasts in the freezer from a few weeks ago, I figured this would be a good recipe.

The verdict?  This was so easy and came out great. How did it taste? Like BBQ chicken. You can't taste the cauliflower at all.  Even my husband, who doesn't eat cauliflower, liked it. I made a couple modifications to it: I used store-bought BBQ sauce and used two cups rather than two and a half, used a 12 oz bag of riced cauliflower rather that 16 oz (that's what I had on-hand and didn't want to open another bag), and added about two cups of shredded Mexican cheese to it.

Assuming you're a weight loss surgery post-op and divide the casserole into 12 servings, one serving is about 240 calories, 9g fat, 26g carbs, and 15g protein. If you want to leave the cheese off, which is how the recipe was written, you'll save yourself 75 calories per serving.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

update #8: the war on back pain

Time for another back pain update (and another cute cat picture). This time it's good news.

This week I went for a diagnostic procedure called lumbar medial branch block. The purpose is to determine if my pain is coming from any of the nerve branches coming off the facet joints in my spine. They inject an anesthetic around the nerve branches at several vertebra levels. If the pain stops, then my pain is coming from those joints and I'd be a candidate for radio frequency nerve ablation, which basically kills or "fries" the nerve. If the pain doesn't stop after the branch blocks, then that's not where it's coming from and there's no sense in trying the ablation.

So I went in for the procedure on Monday. It was pretty much the same as when I went for the epidural cortison injections: no NSAIDs for five days before the procedure and nothing to eat or drink four hours beforehand. I had to lay face-down on the table and they used fluoroscopy to guide the needles to the injection sites in real-time. A numbing agent was injected at each site and then they did eight injections–four on each side of the spine (L2 through L5). There was some discomfort, but it didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as the epidural cortisone injections I had earlier in the year. I was instructed to do home and do all the things that would normally aggravate my pain, which is easy since sitting is what causes it for me. That, and standing in one spot for more than 10 minutes or so. I was out of the office in 20 minutes, measured from the time they called me from the lobby to the time I left. I had to keep a pain log for five hours and report the level of pain and the percentage of improvement.

I sat at my home desk for FOUR HOURS mostly without back pain. That’s huge for me, because normally I'm starting to hurt after about 10 minutes or so. My hips and upper legs ached from sitting from so long, but there was almost no back pain. When I got up from my desk for the bathroom and a few other things, I actually felt the sciatic nerve pinching every time I took a step with my left leg, but didn’t feel all the other pain I normally feel. I guess the pain coming from the joints (and not knowing it) kind of skewed how I was feeling and I just assumed it was all from the pinched sciatic nerve. The anesthetic wore off by Tuesday night, which is what is supposed to happen, but it was a somewhat blissful couple of days!

I went into this without really any hope that it work since other things haven’t worked very well up until now. Well, it DID work! It also made me realize that I have pain not only from that sciatic nerve, but from the joints as well. Overall, I would estimate I got about a 75% reduction in pain.

I go back for my follow-up in a couple weeks, so I plan to tell them I want the ablation. I'm wondering, though:  how do they know which nerve to kill? They did eight injections spanning the L2 through L5, so how would they know which one to kill? Do they do another branch block procedure for only certain areas? Guess I'll find out in a couple weeks!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

happy thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Aside from that, this post is an excuse to show off my contributions to today's meal:  pie and brownies!

This pie is one I've never made before and I got the recipe from the Pillsbury website.  Here's the recipe:  Almond Macaroon Cherry Pie. The only thing I did differently is I made the pie crust from scratch. (Yes, I'm showing off just a bit...) I can't comment on the taste since it just came out of the oven and is screaming hot. Plus, it's not for my house anyway. But really, how can one go wrong with cherry pie? Not possible!

I also made brownies from scratch. It's not difficult at all and really not much more effort than using a box mix.  I use the King Arthur Flour recipe, which you can find here (the newer version):  Ultimate Chewy Brownies. It's pretty much a no-fail recipe and the brownies are truly chewy with a crackly crust and they're not super sweet, which is why I like this recipe so much. This time I added 1/4 tsp of espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor. It's not necessary and I normally don't add that, but I have a new canister of espresso powder and figured I'd try it out. It was a definitely a good call! The brownies had an even deeper chocolate flavor than usual.

A note about the brownie recipe linked above:  This is not the recipe I downloaded years ago. KAF has changed it a bit from what it used to be. Below is the actual recipe I use. The difference is that the newer recipe calls for a 9x9 pan instead of 8x8, "baking cocoa" instead of "cocoa powder" (I checked and they are actually the same thing), and adds the optional espresso powder. Also, I DO NOT use Hershey's Cocoa Powder for these brownies. I'm a total snob when it comes to cocoa powder for baking purposes. I find that Hershey's gives this particular brownie a different texture and it's not quite as chewy. I typically use Aristocrat cocoa powder made by Wilbur Chocolate.  It's a highly alkalized dark cocoa power with 22%-24% fat. I can only find it in-person at a particular candy store in Lancaster, PA, so I stock up when I visit my cousin. (You'll see at the link that it's sold in a 50 lb. bag, which is a bit too much for my needs!)  But if you want to buy online in a normal, home cook quantity, I found it on Amazon (of course!).  I also have used natural cocoa powder interchangeably and it worked perfectly fine.

The recipe below is the exact recipe that I use from the KAF website . You can see at the bottom it's from 2002--ancient times!

      King Arthur Flour's Ultimate Chewy Brownies

        3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
        1 stick margarine, melted and cooled
        1/4 cup vegetable oil
        2 cups granulated sugar
        1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
        3 eggs
        1 teaspoon vanilla (or coffee) extract

      Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spread mixture in a
      greased 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 325°F for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pan
      from oven and cool for at least 3 to 4 hours, or overnight, before cutting
      and serving.

      Copyright 2002, The King Arthur Flour Company. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

my latest tag sale finds

Twice a year the Stratford Cat Project, a cat rescue with which I volunteer and where most of my kitties have come from, holds a huge tag sale.  Proceeds go towards helping pay for medicals costs, supplies, etc.

I typically stop by later in the day to help pack up and transport boxes back to the storage unit. Before doing so, I walk around to see what kinds of things I can buy. Typically I'm looking for cat-related items (surprised??), such as pictures and statues.  The statues I use as garden ornaments and grave markers for kitties that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I also like to put the statues on the landings outside my front, side and back doors--people need to know a crazy cat lady lives here. I also look for other decorative items that might be somewhat of an antique, but those are few and far between. I also grab books to put in my spare bedrooms for when people stay over. I don't know if they read them or not, but I'm prepared!

Our last tag sale was in September and these are the items I came home with. I haven't found spots for everything yet, but I'm working on it. The house is in a bit of disarray at the moment between laying down the new flooring, putting up the remaining curtains that I bought months ago, and cleaning up in general.

This one reminds me of my mom's cat, Missy. She was a tuxedo cat and kind of a crabby diva, but we loved her. I'm thinking I might re-frame this one, since I'm not thrilled with the frame itself.

This would probably look nice across from the front door, but I haven't decided yet.

This one is my favorite and it's pretty big, although you can't tell in this picture. But below you can see it in it's chosen spot.  I got the desk at the local antique store for a really good price. It's late 18th century/early 19th century. The primitive bowl on top is from the same store, and I got that for less than $10.00. Got the wooden spoons there, too. (I LOVE wooden spoons!)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

life lately

Time for another update on life since I couldn't come up with anything interesting to post about.  I lasted posted a life update in July.


Leia had to go to the vet this week. She started showing signs of a urinary tract infection:  frequent litter box usage, only peeing a little each time, taking a long time in the box, licking. I brought her in and it turns out it's not a UTI. They think it's stress-related, but took a urine culture just in case. She has to have prescription food for awhile and we'll see how that goes. They're a little concerned because the original sample, the one they tested for infection, shows that her urine is a bit diluted. I'm hoping they don't say she has kidney disease. They gave her subcutaneous fluids and sent her home with pain medication. She stayed in the bedroom for awhile so I could monitor her litter box usage (with 11 cats, it's difficult to know who's doing what and when). She seems to be doing fine now. I haven't yet received the results of the culture, so I'm hoping nothing else comes up.


Someone hit the back of my car in a parking lot and took off. I've had the car for less than a year, so I'm pretty annoyed. There goes my deductible! Since the paint is damaged, I had to fix it so it doesn't rust or get worse.  I don't understand why people do things like that. I'm guessing they know they won't get caught and are counting on the fact that it won't be noticed right away. And they're probably uninsured, unlicensed, or both. Anyway, it's fixed now. I guess the one bright spot is that the body shop washed my car, completely detailed the inside, and inflated my tires, which were a little low.


We're currently in the middle of putting down a vinyl plank floor in the family room. It wasn't planned. We just decided that since we had gotten rid of the couch and hadn't yet replaced it, why don't we tear up the (very) disgusting carpet and put down either laminate or vinyl?  So we ripped it up and, yes, it was really gross. I mean, I've got 11 cats and it's also a high-traffic area of the house. Bob has been working on laying the new floor down this week, but we'll probably spend part of the weekend finishing it up.

The hard part is working around the hatch in the floor, which is for the well. Yes, our well is under the family room. Our house was built in 1735 and the well was outside at that point. At some point in the early 1900s (we think), the family room was added. Rather than connect to the city water, the home owner decided to build an enclosure around the well and put a hatch in the floor so it can be accessed. Brilliant...not! Sure, it's cool to look at, but it's going to be REALLY expensive when the time comes to replace the well pump.

Here's the hatch in the floor.

And here's the well. Pretty amazing, isn't it? It's hard to believe this was dug almost 300 years ago with hand tools, and it's perfectly round. You can see how far down the water is. 

Back Pain

Last time I updated I mentioned that I wasn't doing anything else for awhile since I'd reached the limit of epidural cortisone shots I could have  in nine months. Now that summer is over, I've scheduled an appointment to see about getting them again. Even though they didn't last more than three weeks each time previously, it was still a great help when it came to sleeping.

Sleeping seems to be the biggest problem for me, mainly because, well, I need to sleep. When I'm sore from sitting (and sitting is the thing that causes most of the pain), I can just get up from my desk, the couch, whatever and walk around for awhile. I can't do that when I'm sleeping. I mean I could, but then it would take me awhile to fall back asleep and I'll end up more tired the next day. My standard practice at the moment is to take half a Tylenol PM and either one or two regular Tylenol at bedtime. I substitute half a Percocet for the Tylenol PM if I really need it, but I try not to do that since I sometimes feel hungover the next day. I'm getting really tired of taking pain medication every single night, so I'm thinking it's time to do the shots again, even if I only get limited relief. I'm also worried about my liver with all the acetaminophen, even though I take about half the daily maximum dosage. 

I'm trying to put off surgery until I get to the point where the pain stops me from doing certain things, like working out. I'm not at that point yet, though that could happen in the next year or two. 


I mentioned in my last "life lately" post that my company was acquired. I've since learned that my job will end towards the end of February, so that means another job search. I'm actually not upset that I didn't get an offer from the acquiring company; I know many people that have worked there, and there's a reason they left.

It's a little too early to start searching, but I look everyday just to see what's out there...and there's not much. I'm thinking I may want to change industries, as I've been in the same one for 22 years, but that could mean a pay cut that I really can't afford right now. Lots of people have been telling me to "think outside the box" and that sounds good right about now. I'm someone who needs change, so going into another industry could be the shot of excitement I need, career-wise. It's scary, but exciting at the same time to think I could be doing something quite different this time next year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

my new workout: OMG i'm so sore!

I regret asking my trainer if it's time to change my workout. I'm so sore this week!

I've been doing the same basic workout at the gym four days a week for quite awhile now. I'm a bit bored, but it's at the point where I know what to expect, how I'll feel when I'm done, and I'm kind of on auto pilot.

My current workout looks something like this:
  • Warm-up on the treadmill for 15 minutes, typically walking at 2.8 MPH while reading a book on my phone. I usually do this since I've been sitting at my desk all day (the gym is at work) and I need to loosen up; it helps relieve the back pain.  (I do a different warm-up when I go to see the trainer since time is limited and he's there to make me do it:  three sets of jumping jacks, mountain climbers and jogging in place.)
  • Three sets:  15 kettle bell swings (20 lbs.); 15 reverse lunges with kettle bell (15 lbs.); 15 sumo uprights with kettle bell (25 lbs.); and 15 lateral pulldowns (60 lbs.)
  • Three sets:  20 walking lunges (sometimes with two 10 lb. weights or a 10 lb. medicine ball); 20 body squats (sometimes with a 10 or 15 lb. weight or 10 lb. medicine ball); and either 15 pushups (floor or incline) or 10-15 squat jumps
  • Three sets of exercises on the weight machine. This varies from day to day and depends mostly on how my back is feeling. I typically do two of the following exercises:  10-15 chest presses with 40-50 lbs. of weight; 10-15 biceps curls with 30-40 lbs. of weight; 15 triceps pushdowns with 50 lbs of weight; or 15 cable squat rows with 70 lbs. of weight.
  • At the end I may add in a plank or wall sit for one minute, also depending on how my back feels.
  • I end with three different stretches.
To someone who doesn't really workout or does a different workout, this may look like a lot (or not), and it is. But having done it for a long time now, I'm much more efficient at it, which means I'm not working as hard as I could since I'm not really changing it up or challenging myself. Yes, I sweat and feel like I worked hard, but it's not difficult anymore. So, I asked my trainer last week if it's time for a change and, of course, he said yes. (Not sure why I thought he'd say no...) When I went to my appointment last week he showed me a preview of the new workout and...I'm really sore!

My new workouts look like this (he gave me two different ones that I will rotate throughout the week):

Workout 1, which I will do on Mondays and Wednesdays:
  • Warm-up (same as above)
  • Three sets:  20 walking lunges; 20 body squats; and 15 squat jumps
  • Three sets:  20 flies using two 10 lb. dumbbells; and 15 push-ups
  • Three sets:  20 chest presses  (30 lbs.; I may need to drop this to 25 lbs. since it was almost impossible to get through all three sets at 30 lbs.)
  • Three sets:  Left and right leg crunches, 15 on each side; and 15 flutter kicks
  • End with a one-minute plank or wall sit several times per week
  • End with three different stretches

Workout 2, which I will do on Tuesdays and Fridays:
  • Warm-up (same as above)
  • Three sets:  20 lateral lunges; 20 wide body squats; and 15 scissor jumps
  • Three sets:  20 lateral pulldowns (40 lbs.); and 20 biceps curls with either two 10 lb. dumbbells or on the weight machine with 20 lbs. of weight
  • Three sets:  20 kettle bell swings (20 lbs.) and 20 wall ball using a 10 lb. wall ball
  • Three sets:  20 ins and outs; and 20 bicycles
  • End with a one-minute plank or wall sit several times per week
  • End with three different stretches
Today is Wednesday and I've done both of the new workouts this week. How did it go? Well, I made it through the whole thing both days; however, I couldn't do all the ins and outs, and bicycles. I was able to do 10-15 each time, but not 20; it was really, really hard and my abs felt like they'd rip apart. Partly because they were sore from the previous day, and partly because it was just hard--I'm not used to doing ab work. And also it was rough on my back, even though the trainer showed me how to minimize pressure on it. Also, 30 lbs. on the chest press was almost impossible. Basically, the way it should go is that it should be really difficult to push out the last few reps during the third set. Instead, it was super difficult midway through the second set, so I'll need to bump it down to 25 lbs. until I get used to it. I found the scissor jumps to be difficult, mainly because I'm not used to the movement--it's basically a squat jump but you land in the lunge position) and my balance isn't what it used to be. For the next week or so I'll concentrate more on getting the movement right and improving my balance, and then I'll move on to speeding it up a bit. And finally, I found the wall ball/kettle bell swing portion to be difficult. It wasn't that it was hard on my back or too much weight, but, rather, it winded me for some reason. I'm guessing that's because I'm engaging the core during both exercises, which can cause me to become a bit winded usually.

So, to sum it up: I got through it, but I'm really sore and I want to die when I cough (well, maybe it's not THAT bad...). But I'm hoping this helps me get eating habits going back in the right direction again.

Monday, October 8, 2018

what's your workout soundtrack?

I've finally developed a workout soundtrack for myself and I'm so glad I did.  I now find that it's easier to keep myself on track, motivated (mostly) and entertained while doing my workout. It also makes it go by so much faster!

When I first started seriously working out way back in March 2016, I worked out in silence. Since I was in the company gym all by myself, I really didn't need any music and just did my thing; however, I couldn't figure out why it was so hard to get through it and seemed to take much longer than it really did.  When I went to the trainer each week, it seemed to go by really fast. I assumed it was because I had a person to interact with. One day I decided to play some music I'd downloaded onto my phone and it was a light bulb moment:  my workout went by much faster and I wasn't bored. I came to realize that I enjoyed having music while working out. I also came to realize that, in addition to the lack of music making my workout feel longer, I spent a lot of time bitching and moaning to myself in between sets, which made my workout actually be longer. Once I got the music going and adopted the attitude of, "Just suck it up and get it over with," things got much easier and more efficient in the gym.

About six months ago I decided to try the Pandora music app on my phone since I was bored of the music on my phone, and it was a pain to have to keep adding music while connected to my computer at home. My trainer uses it for his clients and he always plays the Hard Rock Strength Training station for me. I found that I liked a lot of the music, so I decided to give it a try myself. It's about $10.00 a month, which is the Pandora Premium subscription (I can play it in my car, too), although you can get the free version if you don't want to pay for it. It just means some of the functionality is limited and there are ads.

For awhile I played the Hard Rock Strength Training station and found that I kept playing the same songs when I worked out (they show up in the Recent list for easy access). I then eventually figured out that I could make my own custom playlists--I was a little slow on the uptake there--and that's been great for me. I promptly made a workout playlist, which I use everyday when I work out on my own.

This is my main playlist:
  • 'Till I Collapse by Eminem
  • Feel Invincible by Skillet
  • Not Afraid by Eminem
  • State of My Head by Shinedown
  • Jekyll and Hyde by Five Finger Death Punch
  • Closer by Nine Inch Nails
  • Dead but Rising by Volbeat
  • Remember the Name by Fort Minor
  • Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit 
  • Wild Side by Motley Crue

The list probably looks a bit short, but that's because I typically walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes and read a book when I workout in the gym at work. And the reason for the walking, rather than what the trainer has me do (jogging in place, jumping jacks and mountain climbers), is that I sit at a desk all day and really need the walking to loosen my back and leg muscles. 

Other music on the playlist, which I sometimes play if I want to switch it up:
  • Still Counting by Volbeat
  • Back in Black by AC/DC
  • Whole Lotta Rosie by AC/DC
  • Bleed it Out by Linkin Park (this is great for warming up)
  • Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. (never heard this one until someone on a forum I read suggested it)
  • Black Rose by Volbeat
  • And many more, most of which is Volbeat, Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed and AC/DC
I've also made a few playlists that I can use when I see the trainer since the studio has a wireless speaker. My custom playlist was a lifesaver in the studio this past week when I was getting over a cold and needed something especially fast-paced for my warm-up (he makes me jog in place, and do jumping jacks and mountain climbers).  

So what's on your workout playlist? What song do you absolutely have to play every time, either because it gets the blood flowing or it means something to you? For me it's 'Till I Collapse by Eminem. Not only do I like the beat, which works well for the type of workout I do, but I like the lyrics.  I think the first part says it all and can apply to so many things in life. 

'Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak 
And when you feel weak 
You feel like you wanna just give up 
But you gotta search within you 
Tryna find that inner strength 
And just pull that shit out of you 
And get that motivation to not give up 
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall 
Flat on your face and collapse 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Califia Cold Brew Coffee: Mocha Noir

While I was grocery cat food shopping the other night I noticed something new in the milk aisle:  mocha flavored cold brew coffee made with almond milk. I'm always up for trying something new when it comes to a mocha coffee drink, but I tend to not try many since they're absolutely packed with sugar. I almost passed right by, but then I noticed that it said "25% less sugar" so I took a peek at the nutritional information. Surprisingly there's only 12 grams of sugar for the whole bottle. That's fairly low since so many of them pack 20 grams of sugar or more in a bottle. I will admit, though, that this bottle isn't as large as the Starbucks coffee drinks, so it's maybe not that much less sugar. That said, it was nice to see a bottle that is ONE serving size and not 1.5, 2 or 2.5.

If you like a strong coffee flavor, need something dairy-free and want less sugar, this is for you. Personally I found the coffee flavor a bit too strong for me. I prefer more of a hint of coffee rather than full-on, in-your-face coffee flavor, but I'm also not a coffee drinker so that's probably why. I ended up adding some of my Fairlife milk to it in order to tame it a bit. I also didn't care much for the almond flavor from the almond milk. I mean, I like almonds and I know what almond milk tastes like (almonds!), but it was weird to taste almonds when I'm drinking something that's mocha.

My verdict is that I would not buy this again. It was on sale for $1.89 and it's less sugar, which is what attracted me, but I wouldn't buy it again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

homemade blackberry jalapeno jelly

Alright, I've depleted my supply of homegrown jalapenos, so here's my last batch of jalapeno jelly for the season (unless I decide to go buy some jalapenos, which I may do!).

This time we have blackberry jalapeno. I LOVE blackberry jam and figured this would be a good combo, and it is! Lucky for me I found blackberries at three 6 ounce containers for $10.00, which is a good price. Usually they're about $5.00 per container and I refuse to spend that much on something that may or may not turn out good. I've learned the hard way that I should wait for a sale when making certain recipes for the first time. There's nothing worse than spending a bunch of money only to have the dish turn out bad.

I used this recipe:  Blackberry Jalapeno Jelly. What I like about this recipe, even though it is slightly more work, is that it produces a seedless jelly. I love blackberry jam/jelly, but I hate the seeds. They're just annoying, and I don't like being annoyed while I'm trying to enjoy my food. I was able to put the berries in the food processor, which saves a ton of time and effort, and then mash them through my fine-mesh sieve. It wasn't difficult or time-consuming like I thought it might be. Note:  Make sure your food processor is big enough to handle all the berries at once. If not, break them into batches. When you puree the berries they tend to go up the sides of the food processor bowl and can ooze out between the lid and the bowl...onto your white counter top. Deep purple oozing out on to a white surface that stains very easily is not good. Thank the universe for the Magic Eraser! (Come to think of it, a blender would have been easier and less mess I think.)  I increased the jalapenos on this since the ones I had left were small and not as mature as the ones in my previous batches of jelly. It worked out just fine. As with the other jellies, the heat mellowed out overnight and the result was a pleasant, but present, heat. Also, this jelled firmer than my other jellies. It was likely a combo of this recipe calling for two packages of pectin instead of one, and boiling the jelly after the pectin is added for three to four minutes, rather than just one minute.

Marty was back to work, after an extended visit at the vet, and supervised this batch. (I can't tell if he approves or not?) Whenever I'm cooking, this is his spot.

Here's the finished product. I brightened up the picture a bit so the peppers are easier to see; blacberry jelly is pretty dark.  Although the recipe says it makes eight jars, I only got six full jars and one half-full jar, even though I used more blackberries than what the recipe says to use. Not sure what happened there. Maybe I didn't mash the pulp enough to get more juice out? No matter, it's still a lot of jelly that will take me awhile to use.

Since I have a very old house that has limited storage, and I have a lot of crap stuff as it is, I've been storing my jellies on one of the shelves of the hutch. It works for now. 

I'm thinking I'm done with jelly for the moment, although if the mood strikes I still have some pectin left. I have a lot of herbs in my garden, so I'm thinking I may try my hand at making herb jelly. I'm guessing I would use for glazing chicken on the grill or mixing it with goat cheese to make a spread, since rosemary (or sage or thyme) jelly on toast doesn't sound all that appetizing. Although I'm sure someone out there would enjoy that.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

homemade jalapeno jelly

Yup, more jelly! I told you I had a lot of jalapenos to use up. And I'm finding I like this whole canning thing.  Once I figured out the timing of when I should start the empty jars to heating, when to start the jelly on the stove, etc., it got easier and not such a big project. I also decided to chop all the peppers ahead of time using my food processor, which made it flow a lot better. Plus, I'm quite happy that I've had only one jar fail to seal out of four batches of jelly. That's way better than when I first tried making jelly many years ago. That...didn't go very well.

For this recipe I used the Jalapeno Jelly recipe I found on Kraft's website.  Kraft makes CERTO, which is the liquid pectin I use to make the jelly gel, so it seemed like this would be the easiest and most fool-proof. There are SO many recipes out there for jalapeno or hot pepper jelly, and even when you Google "jalapeno jelly with liquid pectin," you get a ton of recipes that call for powdered pectin, which I didn't have on hand. Powdered pectin can be used, but there's a different order in which you assemble and cook the jelly. Since I'm new at this, I wasn't comfortable trying to adapt a recipe for liquid pectin.

As you can see, it looks pretty good even though Marty wasn't there to supervise this batch. (He loves to sit in the pass-through from the dining room to the kitchen and watch me cook.) I'm happy to say it jelled up firmly and isn't runny. It has a pleasant heat and isn't very spicy at all. I'm finding that the jelly has a lot of heat at first, but as it sits overnight it tends to mellow out. Because of this, my plan next time is to leave more of the jalapeno seeds intact--that's what holds most of the heat.

So, what will I use this for? I already gave away several to friends and family. The remaining jars will likely be used for making a goat cheese panini with jalapeno jelly. Messy, but delicious! I could also mix it with cream cheese to make a dip or spread. 

Next on this list is blackberry jalapeno, as I have several more jalapenos on my plant to use up before the end of the season. I LOVE blackberry jam, so I'm thinking this will be a good combination. Although blackberries are expensive, so I will wait until I see them on sale.