A Lonely Fall Day

Who can argue that fall is the most beautiful season of all. The temperature is just right and the leaves turn red, yellow, brown, orange, or every color in between. Little by little these leaves fall off the trees, exposing the branches and everything around. It rained last night. I heard thunder.

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Don’t Ignore Jalapeño Peppers

Jalapeño is a medium-sized chili pepper. Most jalapeños are produced in southern New Mexico and western Texas. The growing period is 70–80 days in hot weather. When mature, the plant is about two to three feet tall. Typically, a jalapeño plant produces about 25 to 35 pods. During a growing period, a plant will be picked multiple times. As the growing season ends, jalapeños start to turn red, which have less flavor. Green jalapeño peppers have a lot of tiny lines on the surface when they are extremely hot and ready for picking.

A mature jalapeño fruit is about 2 to 3½ inches long and is commonly picked and consumed while still green. Once picked, individual peppers may turn red on their own. The flesh has a mild flavor close to a green bell pepper. The heat is concentrated in the membrane surrounding the seeds, which give the spicy flavor we all love.

When preparing jalapeños, don’t rub your hands on the eyes. Capsaicin, the chemical in jalapeños that makes them hot, can cause painful burning and redness. Fresh cut jalapeños can give your hands a burning sensation for hours. I found that out myself.

Jalapeño peppers can be used green or red in Mexican and American cooking. Chipotles are smoked, ripe jalapeños, a Mexican favorite.

I have only discovered jalapeño in Chinese cooking recently when I needed some chili peppers to make black bean garlic ribs (豉汁排骨). The results were wonderful. Four pounds of baby back ribs disappeared quickly. Wow, I can think of many ways to use jalapeño in my cooking. Oh, yes, I will definitely grow jalapeño peppers in my vegetable garden next year.


How To Make Pizza At Home

If you have to work all day and don’t have time to cook, then having frozen pizza at home is very convenient. The problem is they don’t taste all that good. I keep changing brands hoping to find one I like. They are either too salty or too sweet, too dry or too wet.

Lucky for me, I found a Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough crust in the refrigerator section and decided to give it a try. That means I am going to make pizza myself, sorta of. My husband helps me in the kitchen. I have some grilled chicken left and I like spinach. So here we go… making spinach pizza at home.

The result was better than I expected. I have since tried it with different ingredients here and there. They were all good. Follow the instructions on the can and add your favorite pizza toppings. Thin pizza crust is definitely a better choice. I don’t like the classic pizza crust, too soft.

Make your favorite pizza at home on weekends because it takes time to get everything ready. But you can always use leftover meat and frozen spinach to save time. I do that all the time. My homemade pizza usually tastes really good. It is a big pizza, enough food for two days. Warm up the cold pizza in a frying pan and cook on low heat for a few minutes. Lunch is ready!

Shopping in Chinatown

One of my favorite things to do in Chicago is shopping in Chinatown. There is a strip mall called China Square on Archer Avenue just a short distance from Wentworth Avenue, which is the older part of Chinatown but still very popular. Most people have to walk from store to store because it is hard to find parking here.

The newer design of Asian structures can be seen through out the strip mall. Local residents and people from all over the city come here to eat at their favorite restaurants. I have always enjoyed getting some delicious Chinese barbecue from Barbecue King. Don’t forget to buy some Chinese pastry and dim sum to take home. They are good. I always buy more than I can eat.

While I was shopping, Lynard took these pictures for me. They turned out pretty good.

Making Char Siu One More Time

Although I cook Chinese food at home, there are certain foods only Chinese restaurants can do right. Tried as I dared, I couldn’t make dumplings or dim sum, nor could I make the famous char siu (Chinese barbecue). I decided to make char siu one more time after I saw a lively food blog. The guy did a great job showing us how to make char siu at home. I thought, why can’t I do that? It looks delicious and easy.

I have tried many char siu recipes I got online, not good at all. Maybe I found the char siu recipe I have been looking for. I followed his instructions on the website, at least I thought I did anyway. I used pretty much the same ingredients listed there. Except I don’t think pork shoulder is the preferred choice of meat. But what am I supposed to do? It’s not like I have a friend working in the meat department. We can only get what’s available in the store. Regardless, I was confident that I could make restaurant quality char siu this time.

After working in the kitchen for a whole afternoon, I could not be more disappointed at the char siu I made. Although it wasn’t all that bad, it certainly did not have the right flavor of real char siu. It didn’t look like the restaurant char siu either. So what do I do from now on? I buy char siu when I go to Chinatown in Chicago.