Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce

My mom had a green thumb.  She could bring plants back from the dead.  This is not a trait I inherited from her.  Most plants do not thrive in my care.  I have found one exception:  Ghost Peppers! 

I love my food hot and spicy.  I make my own chili powder by drying habanero chilies and then pulverizing them in the food processor.  I keep this stuff on the table and sprinkle it on all of my food.  I even keep a vial of it in my purse so I have it when I am eating out.  I had been searching for ghost peppers and finally found a small package of fresh, bright red ghost peppers at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati.  I brought them home and set about harvesting the seeds .... with my bare hands.  Bad idea!  My hands hurt for 3 days.  I tried everything from spraying them with bactine to rubbing orajel all over them.  Nothing but time worked.  I could not remove my contacts for those three days either.  So - ALWAYS wear gloves when handling these suckers. 

Anyway, I got my seeds and last March I planted them in my garden.  Now all these forums I read say they are hard to germinate and will take up to 30 days to pop up and so on and so forth.  My peppers were up and at 'em at day 14.  The forums were correct in that it takes 6 months from germination to budding.  Once the buds formed, they formed.  Tons of them.  Then the forums said that unlike other chilies and peppers that are self pollinating, ghost peppers need our help.  So last September I ran to my garden every day with a little paint brush to tickle the inside of each flower.  It must have worked because I got tons of peppers.  By November they were turning red and ready to harvest.  I took the first batch and made some of my habanero powder.  I dried a bunch of the ghost peppers with the habaneros and blended them in.  That powder is powerful stuff.  I gave away a bunch of the chilies to my chili loving comrades.  There were more green chilies on the plants.  I left them to ripen and although it got cold here we did not experience a freeze (I live in Orlando).  Today I harvested the last of the red fruit.  I had about 20 chilies.  My plants survived the winter and we have had 80 degree weather the past week and now there are tons of buds all over my chili plants so I am going to have a bumper crop this coming year. 

I honestly do not know what I will do with them all.  My family does not share my passion for heat.  I will probably make a batch of pure ghost pepper powder.  As for todays harvest, I made some hot sauce.  By the way - I wore gloves.

Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce
makes about 8 ounces sauce


1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup diced carrots
1/3 cup diced tomato
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1/2 cup chopped ghost peppers (or hot peppers of your choice)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt


Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add the onion, carrots, tomato, garlic and peppers.  Saute until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add water.  Simmer about 15 minutes until most of the water is evaporated and the vegetables are very soft.  Put this mixture in a food processor.  Add the vinegar and salt.  Process until very smooth.

Press mixture through a fine sieve .  Put into a clean jar in the refrigerator.  Let age for a couple of days before using.  Use judiciously!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Asian Pork and Shrimp Buns with Soy Dipping Sauce

Happy New Year!  Chinese New Year that is!  Okay, so this post is a little late.  The year of the horse officially began on January 31, 2014.  However, the Chinese celebrate the Chinese New Year for 15 days so I am actually right in the midst of things here.

We belong to a group called Families with Children from China because our twin daughters are adopted from there.  Our big New Years celebration was last night.  We have a big dance party with a DJ.  Everyone brings a dish.  We have a dragon dance and for fireworks one of the men brings PILES of bubble wrap which we cover the dance floor with and at "midnight" the kids jump all over it until every last bubble is popped.  What a racket! 

This is the dish I brought.  I actually developed the recipe to submit for the Pillsbury bakeoff a couple of years ago but sadly it was rejected.  I really don't know why but all I can say is everyone loves these.  They are pretty easy to do and they look so professional.  Like you went out and bought them or something. So even though Pillsbury will never publish my recipe I do not want to deprive anyone!  Here you go:

Asian Pork and Shrimp Buns with Soy Dipping Sauce

Ingredients for the buns:

4 ounces peeled, deveined shrimp
2 ounces white mushrooms
8 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1  (8 count) can Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Refrigerated Biscuits
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 egg
Soy Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)


Preheat oven to 375.  Grease a large cookie sheet.

Coarsely chop shrimp and place in a large bowl.  Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the shrimp.

Add the remaining ingredients except the biscuits, sesame seeds, egg and Dipping sauce to the bowl with the shrimp.  Mix well.

Divide each biscuit into 3 pieces.  Cut each lengthwise into 3 strips.  Fold each strip together and then press to seal and shape into a 2 1/2 inch circle. 

Divide the filling among the circles.  Pull and the dough up around the filling and twist to seal the filling in.  Place twisted side down on baking sheet.

Brush the buns with the beaten egg.  Sprinkle each with sesame seeds.  Bake 16 to 18 minutes until golden.  Switch the baking sheet around halfway through for even baking.  Serve with Soy Dipping Sauce.

Soy Dipping Sauce


1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced green onions


Combine all ingredients until sugar is dissolved.  Serve with buns.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pantry Antipasto Salad

Here is a recipe - well not as much a recipe as a suggestion of one.  That is one of the problems with me and blogging.  I love food.  I love to cook.  I want to tell you about all the things I am making!   But most of the time I am throwing stuff together from what just happens along in my kitchen and while the food is good it is hard to post a recipe that calls for a little bit of leftover this and whatever happens to be left in that other jar in the fridge so I can use it up.....because what is lurking in your fridge is going to be different than what is in mine.  What is really a problem is when my family says mom this is so good, make it again, and the fact is I will probably never have that particular combination of bits and pieces again!

For example, one thing that gets made only once or twice a year is the best chicken marsala.  The secret?  Leftover turkey gravy in the marsala sauce.  Well there is only leftover turkey gravy in the fridge after Thanksgiving so that is when we have it.

So here it is - a non recipe that I can post for you!  Most everyone probably already makes a version  this but forgets about it so here I am to remind you of it.  The next time you are invited to a potluck or neighborhood picnic here you go. 

Tonight I made a very basic version of this salad.  Here is what I did...

Pantry Antipasto Salad
Serves 10 - 12


1/4 pound hard salami (ask the deli to cut 2 pieces about 1/4 inch thick each)
1/4 pound genoa salami (ask the deli to cut 2 pieces about 1/4 inch thick each)
1/4 pound cheese ( I used mozzarella because of my kids but otherwise would have used pepper jack)
one 7 ounce can roasted red peppers, drained
one 5 ounce container large, black, pitted olives, drained
generous 1/2 cup stuffed green olives, drained
8 ounces marinated mushrooms, drained
one 15 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup pepperoncini, stems removed and sliced into rings
1/2 cup your favorite vinaigrette


Cut the salami and the cheese into 1/4 inch strips and then crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.  Cut the roasted red pepper the same way.  Place all ingredients into a large bowl and toss. 

Chill and serve.  Please continue reading as that is just the beginning...

This is so versatile!  Add what you like.  Some of my favorite additions include 8 ounces cooked penne pasta, one 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained, and a container of grape tomatoes.  Or add some tortellini instead of the penne.  Indeed, tonight I served it as written as a side dish.  I am going to change things up and add the penne to what is left for tomorrow - and there I go again - adding things to things to ......