Cinnamon Apple Jelly

 I’ve made cinnamon apple jelly many times before – some were flavored with ground cinnamon, some I used cinnamon extract which is pretty good, but this time I used a box of Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea! It’s very aromatic, has a bold taste and tastes great on a piece of homemade bread! Over the last week I handed out 5 jars to friends and family (my official test testers!) and everyone loved it. The best part is this recipe is quick and easy. 


  • 4 cups Apple cider
  • 1 box Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea (20 servings)
  • 1 box Sure-Jell no sugar pectin
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

      In a medium saucepan, bring the cider to a low boil. Add all 20 teabags and stir to make sure they’re all submerged. Steep for 15 minutes and remove the bags

    Whisk in the box of pectin and heat to a full rolling boil. (Mixture should still bubble when being stirred)
    Stir in sugar and lemon juice and once again heat to full rolling boil! By the time it gets to a boil you will notice it starting to jell.
    Ladle jelly into 8 half pint jars and can in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

    I am typing this post as we drive down I-40 somewhere near Albuquerque on my way back from visiting my parents in Kansas.  My Father has Mesothelioma and nobody was really sure if he would make it to thanksgiving. I’m happy to say that he did! Now I pray he makes it until Christmas! I will fly back there next week just to be sure….


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    Pomegranate Jelly v2.0

     I’ve been  spending my fall travelling back and forth to Kansas to see my parents. When I returned home a few weeks ago I realized that I had better do something with all the pomegranates on my trees or they’d all end up being eaten by our chickens. Looks like it’s time to make more pomegranate jelly!

      I remember from the last time that I made jelly that I had a batch that didn’t set-up, so I had to rescue it by making it over again with no sugar / low sugar pectin. So it seems logical too me that I should just use that type of pectin to begin with… I am sure glad that I made that decision- over the next few days I made 5 different batches  and they all worked perfectly! This is what I will use from now on!

    When I picked the fruit, there were some that had actually split open. This is supposedly caused by inconsistent watering (there was a lot of that this year!) But the fruit inside was ruby red and so far- undiscovered by the local birds. All the fruit got a good soak in water, then gently cut open with a knife. Then,using the handle of the knife- give the skin a few good raps and the arils will start falling out into your collection bowl.

    Process through a food mill to extract the juice. This year I got over 3 quarts. Feed the seeds to the chickens if you have any… they’ll love it!

                Pomegranate Jelly Version 2.0


    • 3.5 cups pomegranate juice
    • 1 box Sure-Jell no sugar pectin
    • 1/2 tablespoon butter 
    • 5 cups sugar
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

        In large saucepan add the juice, whisk in the pectin  and add the butter to keep the foam down. Heat to a full boil, so that when you stir the jelly it still bubbles.

          Add the sugar and lemon juice and return to a full boil. Fill half pint jars and can in water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 6.5 to 7 jars

          My jelly was so successful  that I decided to make two other flavors. The first was blackberry- one of my favorites. The second one was an experimental Cinnamon Apple Jelly that really turned out good! Its a very simple recipe, but worthy of sharing with friends and family this Christmas season! I will share that recipe in my next post…



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        Red Savina Hot Sauce 

          The other day, I had someone on Facebook ask me what I do with  all those peppers that I grow. That’s a good question, so I guess I should share what I make with all of that hot fruit! I make habanero hot sauce! The variety of habaneros that I grew this year are called Red Savina, which are about twice as big and twice as hot as the normal orange habaneros.  Some of the peppers this year are over two inches in diameter!

         I’ve been making this sauce for 5 years now and every time I think that I should change the recipe – I  end up deciding to leave it just the way that it is! It is smoky, sweet, savory, citrussy and very hot… but not too hot!   It doesn’t take much, but its a great condiment for tacos, burgers and most everything else. My youngest daughter (22) loves this sauce enough that when she moved to Seattle for the summer I had to ship some up to her! Even most of our exchange students that we’ve hosted over the years craved it!

            This recipe is carrot based, like a lot of Costa Rican hot sauces are. They add  good flavor and texture too.

        Ingredients  (makes approximately 30 oz)

        • 8 oz carrots
        • 8 oz Habaneros  (red savina if you can grow your own)
        • 1 head of garlic- roasted on stove
        • 1 cup Apple cider vinegar
        • 1/2 cup brown sugar
        • 1 teaspoon salt
        • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke 
        • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

            Slice carrots into 1/8″ wheels, place in saucepan with enough water to cover a and cook until tender.

            While that is cooking, slice peppers a bout 1/8″ thick. Do not do like I do…. please wear gloves when working with these peppers. I always forget, then an hour later I end up touching my face, or worse… my eyes! Someday I will learn.

        Once the carrots are tender, add the peppers and the rest of the ingredients and return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.       Pour entire contents into blender and mix until very smooth. 

        *note… you may want to consider blending this outside or at least a well ventilated room. Whenever I blend this up, my wife accuses me of making tear gas!

        You can store this in canning jars in the refrigerator, but I believe that the best way is to re-use 5 oz shaker type hot sauce bottles that have been pre sanitized. (Dont tell anyone but sometimes i buy new bottles and just dump the original contents out!ūüėČ)

        Posted in Mexican, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

        ¬†Tonka Bean Creme Brulee

          About a  month ago I came across a recipe on a blog called Illegally Delicious  Plum Preserves Infused with Tonka Bean… cool, but what was a Tonka bean? I had never heard of it… turns out it is the seed of a tree (Dipteryx odorata) fromVenezuela. The seed looks like a large, dark brown shriveled almond that is used as a spice in some high end restaurants, also as an ingredient in some perfumes and also is utilized in one way or another in some Central/South American cultures.I am not interested in the other uses, but as a new spice to use in my cooking- I want to try it! One small problem… the FDA  has banned it since 1954! It seems that the seeds contain Coumarin, and if it is taken in a large quantity at once, it could kill you. To possibly do harm to one self you would have to eat 30 tonka beans at one sitting which just isn’t going to happen! It’s kind of like eating 30 whole nutmeg… you just don’t do it! (I do have 30+ nutmeg in my kitchen though!) As a spice, you would only use may be half of a Tonka bean. Thank you FDA for protecting us, but this ban seems a little excessive!

          After a quick internet search, I found the beans for sale on Amazon (of course) as well as eBay, etsy and a few other sites- and within a few days they were in my mailbox! It is hard to describe the aroma of the beans  as I grated some up on my microplane… flowery,  warm, a bit of vanilla note in there. I figured they’d be good in the spice muffins that I was making! The problem with that is I use so many other spices that it was hard for me to pick out the one flavor in the muffin, but they were good! I decided that I needed to make a dessert  and only use Tonka Bean so I could really taste what I was getting… thus Tonka Bean Creme Brulee!
                   Tonka Bean Creme Brulee 


        • 1 quart (4 cups) heavy cream
        • 8 egg yolks (room temperature)
        • 3/4 cup white sugar
        • One half of a Tonka Bean (or live on the wild side and use a whole one!) Use a microplane to grate.

          Preheat oven to 325f, start some water boiling in a kettle for the water bath and make sure your eggs are at room temperature so your creme brulee texture is smooth!

          Heat the cream, sugar and Tonka Bean in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to boil. Turn off heat a and set aside.

           Separate egg yolks into mixing bowl and slowly whisk in the cream mixture to temper it. The grated Tonka Bean tends to sink, so make sure to pour all of cream mixture in! 

          Pour into ramekins. (My ramekins hold about 5 oz, so I poured mixture into 9 bowls)

           Set ramekins into a water bath (I use a lasagne pan filled halfway with boiling water) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly set.

           Let cool on the counter to room temperature,  then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or more.

           To serve, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of white sugar on top of each ramekin and using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar and serve. A plumbers propane torch works well for this too! 

         Tasting notes:

           The Tonka Bean flavor is still very hard to describe, but I do get warm, flowery vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. I had my family taste testers try this and they are ready for me to make another batch! 

          My cache of  nutmeg that I mentioned earlier is whole nutmeg that I had shipped from Jamaica!

          Each nutmeg is covered in a hard shell that resembles a pecan. They are easily opened by a firm tap with the handle of a knife. On the outside of the shell is a paper thin coating that is actually Mace! Interesting!


        Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

        Garden Update 2017

        Between visiting my parents, helping my oldest daugher move and a busy work schedule, I realize now that I never posted an update on this year’s garden! I know that most folk’ s gardens are now winding down, but with the cooler weather we have been having my garden has really taken off! I hope everything can ripen before our first frost which is at least a month away.

         This year, I did some further experimenting with irrigating with my pond water. I need to change out a portion of the pond’s water anyways, so why not use it? Most everything seemed to do well using this method so I  will do the same next year (maybe even automate part of it with a timer and an additional pump!)

        I was really surprised how well the beets grew. I planted 2 different types, the one on the left being a variety called Krapaudine which ended up being huge! The beet on the right is a Detroit and is about 3 or 4 inches in diameter. I will definitely plant these varieties next year too!
        My hot peppers did very well. I saved some seed from the Thai Chile’s that I bought in Chico last year- I only planted 3, but there are hundreds of peppers on them still!

        I have two varieties of red habaneros going – red savina  and a carribean red. They are both very flavorful… great citrus flavor, but these things are hot!!! You don’t need much. 

        Rounding out the peppers is some nice Lilac bell peppers. Not hot, perfect in a salad!

        My tomatoes grew over 6 feet high and are loaded with a small Italian variety. I was hoping they’d be larger, but at least they’re prolific!

        This year, I seem to have  had very few pests in the garden, but I had a lot of baby lizards. Whiptails and Desert Spiny lizards mostly and they must have kept the bugs, including tomato worms in check! If you look closely there is a young desert spiny on this planter next to the pond.

        I think the only thing that didn’t do exceptionally well was the variety of corn I planted. I believe it was called “glass gem” and is a popcorn. The kernels resemble stained glass. Beautiful, but not plentiful. I may try once more as an ornamental.

        The Cleveland Sage that I planted last year exploded with new growth and tons of purple flowers that lasted all summer long!

        All in all I am happy how this year’s garden turned out!


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        Peppers of the Americas (book review)

        Peppers of the Americas

        Every once in a while you come across a book that you just¬†have¬†to read. For me, this is one of those books… My two biggest hobbies are gardening and cooking, and peppers are vital to both.

        In my garden I have grown many varieties of peppers (some with greater success than others), but after reading the extensive gallery of fresh peppers in this book, I realize that I have just scratched the surface of what I could be planting! There is a section on growing  peppers,whether from seed or from started plants, outdoors and indoors that I am sure will benefit my own garden. Also included is a list of sources to get some of these rarer seeds! I am really looking forward to next years garden!

        As a cook, I really like the gallery of dried peppers. With pictures, descriptions and notes on flavor, this will take a lot of guesswork out of my next visit to my local Mexican market! Every fall our local market offers huge bins of freshly dried peppers that smell wonderful, but until now,I have to guess which ones will suit the dish that I am making.

        There are recipes here to last me the winter with sauces, side dishes and main dishes as well as how to dry or roast peppers. The first recipe that I will be trying will be “Slab Bacon in Hibuscus Hot Pepper Adobo with Chocolate” Wow….Time to get cooking!

        Author Maricel E. Presilla also has other books out that I am anxious to read as well.. Heres a list of her other books, including The New Taste of Chocolate 

        FTC disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review. If you think that you might be interested in reviewing books for free also (who doesn’t like free?) check out the link above… Dan

        Posted in Book Reviews, Gardening, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

        Heading Home

        Part 3 of 3

         We are not in Kansas anymore! 

        After saying goodbye to my parents, we headed east on hwy 36 and then dropped down to I 70 in Hays, Kansas. The Blue Rapids area had a lot of hills and trees, but the further west that you travel the flatter the landscape becomes! 

        By the time we got to Colorado Springs the temperature had dropped to 54 degrees! (Back in Apple Valley the temp was pretty much double that!) Our plans are  to spend the night in Colorado Springs, get up and go to a garage sale and then head over the Rockies and spend the night somewhere in Utah.

         When we were leaving Blue Rapids I saw on Facebook that Kevin J Anderson posted that he would be having a yard sale this weekend. Kevin is one of my favorite science fiction authors and his house was right on the way home… how could I not go?

        Well, it turns out that he is as real nice guy and we talked for a good 10 minutes or so about his different series of books and a new one that is in the works. I bought a couple of small things, said goodby and headed for the Rockies!

        By the time that we got to the I 70 at the base of the Rockies the interstate was really congested  and  I began to question myself if I really wanted to be in a traffic jam all the way over the continental divide… but the traffic eased up over time! I was really surprised to see so many dead trees there were along the mountains. Some areas I estimate had 50% dead trees! More victims of the bark beetle I suppose. 

         Call me old, I guess, but I think I had the whole John Denver music catalog playing in my head during the drive through the mountains! Funny how that happens sometimes…

        One of the many tunnels. 

         We stopped in Silverthorne for lunch at a little Mexican restaurant,  which was pretty good. Back on the road!

        About a half mile down the road. I had to swerve to avoid hitting almost the whole drive train of an 18 wheeler! Drive shaft, u joint and a bunch of other stuff  – what the…   Looking up ahead I see a couple of vehicles with flat tires and the disabled truck streaming coolant into the road. I slowed down and drove through the coolant, but as I  did,  I could see that it was actually diesel fuel and there was a lot pouring out and flowing into the median. I have no idea how long that will take to clean up, or if they will close the road to do it! Obviously an accident, but if my buddy John were alive,  he’d be writing a song about it! When we stop tonight I’ll look for a car wash to wash off the diesel. 

        West side of Rockies 

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        Part 2 of 3. 

        Spending the week here visiting my parents has been very important to me. My Dad has just been given a pretty ominous diagnosis- so no one really knows just how long he has, so I am glad we are here. I’ve been looking around, looking for things that might need fixing, we’ve been playing games together and visiting local friends.   

          One of the first things that I did with Dad was to go play cards with his friends at city hall! 

        You couldn’t meet a nicer group of guys. Ages ranged from 70 to 95! (I was the youngest at 55…) They play pitch for 3 or so hours every Monday. While we were playing I looked around the room and realized that we were actually playing in the courthouse! Next time that I visit I will have to go back again…

        The next day, I took Daphne and Zack on a little hike to Alcove springs. The springs were an important stop on the Oregon trail for the wagon trains heading west into uncertainty! The famous Donner-Reed party stopped here and one of Reed’s men even gave the springs their name. 

        There are names and dates carved all over the rocks by the travellers- even the initials JF  which is believed to be John Fremont

        Such a beautiful area. But if you hike out here in the brush be sure to make preparations against insects. I wore long pants,  socks and tennis shoes and really sprayed my legs down with insect repellent  just to be safe! Later in the day I told one of my friends where I went and how I prepared. He just smiled and said Yep, you got chiggers. And he was right! I now have about 20 bites on my right leg! If you do ever get chigger bites,  I recommend applying a dab of bleach on each bite with a q-tip. It’ll stop the itch. Obviously you had to be tough to be a pioneer!

        When Dad’s birthday came, we headed down to Manhattan KS to have a nice dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse. Five of our California expatriate friends met us there and we had a great time! I took the waitresses recommendation and ordered  the flat iron steak which was perfect. 

        I’m glad that we were able to be here for this!

         One thing that I  always like seeing when I’m in the Midwest is fireflies! 

        It’s too hard to get a picture of one lit up, so here’s what they look like unlit! Whenever I do see them- they remind me of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland…

         Time moves too fast and it’s now time to head home and return to work. We ate breakfast in nearby Marysville, said our sad goodbyes and drove westward! 

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        Summer Road Trip

        Part 1 of 3

        This Wednesday,  my father will turn 80 years old! My parents were going to come to Apple Valley to visit, but they aren’t going to be able to make it. So we have decided to take a road trip…1400 miles! You only turn 80 once, so Blue Rapids, Kansas here we come. We aren’t going to drive straight through for 21 hours, we will make the trip in three days so we can enjoy it more.

        I am going to do this blog post a bit differently and upload my partially finished post and then add daily to it. Let’s see if this format will work! We are in Winslow Arizona now so I’ll have catch up first…

        My wife Daphne, my son Zack and I left Apple Valley on Friday afternoon… it was already 95 degrees out. Not really a great time to cross the Mojave desert, but we got on interstate 40 and headed east towards Arizona. I 40 parallels what used to be Route 66, along the way you can see a lot of old empty buildings- most are in ruins. It must have been an interesting drive back in the day!

        By the time we drove to the Colorado river at Needles it was around 112 degrees (which is pretty normal this time of year) I bet that water feels good!

        We had a nice dinner in old town Kingman at El Palacio and then headed to Flagstaff for  the night at a Days Inn.

        At 4 am, I woke up to 3 people speaking German… it was so clear that I thought they were in our room! Nope… the walls are just not insulated. When I got up, I noticed that there was a huge gap (1.5″) under the door that divides the two rooms! Not that big of deal, but I  thought it strange. 

        When we got past Gallup, New Mexico, I was surprised to see so much area that was volcanic. There was quite a bit of lava on either side of interstate 40… miles and miles! It makes you wonder if it could become active again in the future!

        I love the red colors of all the plateaus, mesas and hills in New Mexico.

        When we got to Tucumcari, we filled the gas tank ($2.09 / gal) and headed Northeast on the hwy 54 through Dalhart Texas, through the panhandle of Oklahoma  and on to Liberal Kansas. Whew… I had my son drive a lot of this and he logged 5 states in 1 day! We travelled 700 miles today.

        There are thousands upon thousands of cattle in the feed lots of Dalhart Texas. 

        Pro Tip: If you have to drive downwind of these feed lots, turn on your A.C. and set it to recirculate the air in the car!

        This statue has to be 30 ft high! Wish I knew what business it used to be guarding!

        My apologies to the Schartz family, but I found this sign amusing!

        On our third day we drove for 5 hours and met my parents for Fathers Day dinner at a restaurant in Manhattan, Kansas! From there,  just another 45 minutes up to Blue Rapids. It feels good to not have to drive right away… It’s been a long trip, but its important to me. 

        This post is so long, that I am going to break it up into 2, maybe 3 parts as I plan to head home through Colorado and Utah…

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        Pulled Pastrami Sandwiches 

        Last week we went to my brother’s house for a BBQ. Don just got a new smoker and he cooked up some excellent pulled pork and six racks of baby back ribs. As we were talking, I told my brother that I had some pastrami curing at home and that I’d be smoking it this weekend… that’s when my inspiration struck! I told him I would be making pulled pastrami sandwiches.

        These sandwiches turned out awesome – every bit as good as I imagined! The meat turned out very tender… perfect for a sandwich. We will definitely be cooking this again and you should too. (You won’t regret it!)

        Of course, you have to start by curing some pastrami. I started with my recipe for Tri Tip Pastrami.¬† It’s not difficult, ¬†but it takes a week to cure, so plan ahead! Follow the recipe, including the 1.5 to 2 hours in the smoker.

        Notice that we had to sample a bit once it was smoked. Great stuff!

        Place the meat in a pan and add 1 to 2 cups of water (or get creative… beer? ) cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven @350f for half hour, then reduce temperature to 250 for 2 hours.

        Slice pastrami into chunks so your meat shreds aren’t really long, and then shred with a fork. If it doesn’t shred easily – add more liquid (if needed) and place back in oven for a bit longer!

        That’s it! ¬†I made my sandwich with a slice of Swiss cheese and topped it with homemade ¬†1000 island dressing on a super fresh, (unfortunately store bought) hamburger bun.

        I do hope that you will give this a try!


        Posted in curing meat, DIY, Meat | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments