When someone told me the Joy of Cooking included infused liquors in their recipes I basically dove for my copy and flipped to page 58, only to be somewhat disappointed. Only vodka? Sure, vodka is great to infuse, but so is bourbon, gin, tequila, and (for godsakes) brandy. So, once again, I took it upon myself to create a variation. Jalapeno tequila.

My jalapeno tequila came to be after being told the jalapeno tequila in National Mechanics‘s pineapple jalapeno margarita was house-infused. My best friend and I tried it for the first time about three years ago and decided we must recreate our own. Since then we have expanded our spicy hellfire repertoire to include everything from ghost pepper vodka creations to simply throwing Tabasco in our dirty martinis. But this, my friends. This started it all.

You can use any tequila you want as long as it’s 100% agave. I personally prefer silver, but that’s just personal preference. While you should use quality tequila for this, please don’t spring for a bottle of Patron, it’s really not worth the extra cost when you’re going to be infusing it with something so strongly flavored. Sauza works just fine.

1 bottle of 100% agave tequila

3 jalapeno peppers

1 large, clean pitcher

WEAR GLOVES. You will thank me

Cut the stems off the peppers and slice them lengthwise. scoop out all of the seeds and slice into thick strips.

Open your tequila and drop in the jalapeno strips. You may need to pour a little of the tequila out if the peppers displace more room than the bottle allows. If so, take a shot–you deserve it. No, I’m kidding. No drinking until your capsaicin-infected gloves are in the trash and you wash your hands. Go on now.

Now you wait. However long you want, really. Taste every 24 hours or so until you reach the desired amount of spiciness. After it’s hot to your liking, strain the tequila into the pitcher and funnel it back into the bottle and toss the peppers. This method can also be done with fruits and herbs, and it’ll last just as long as un-infused liquor without any special storage.

Salt a glass, add some pineapple juice and jala-tequila. Ta-da! Delicious fire.

[x-posted on food52]

I have called Iovine Brothers three times this week asking about squash blossoms and although they keep trying to give me hope, they haven’t actually had any in stock. That and the chicken cacciatore turns out to be more work than I have time for during finals. So today I’m going to share one my favorite easy, cheap, and healthy dinner recipes instead of hitting up the cookbook.

Note: Everything I used in this recipe came from Trader Joes. I didn’t plan it that way, but it just kind of worked out.

Thai Green Curry Shrimp with Cauliflower “Rice”

A handful or two of frozen cooked shrimp
1/2 cup Thai green curry sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
Half a head of cauliflower
Coconut oil
Salt

Thaw the shrimp in a bowl of water for 15 to 20 minutes.
In a saucepan combine the coconut milk and Thai green curry sauce over low heat and bring to a simmer.
Add your shrimp and just let it hang out while you work on your weird veggie rice.

Cauliflower rice is a recent obsession of mine. I’ve been dabbling in paleo recently, and it’s a really awesome healthy alternative. It’s super quick and easy and you don’t hate yourself after you eat it.

Chop up some 1 inch hunks of cauliflower and throw them in your food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, a blender can work but you should work in small amounts lest you end up with  mush underneath huge chunks of cauliflower. Pulse until the cauliflower is in rice-like bits.
In a large saucepan heat some coconut oil over medium low heat and add your cauliflower. Add a pinch of salt and stir occasionally until it’s cooked though. It shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes at most, just make sure you watch it so it doesn’t get mushy.

Throw the “rice” in a bowl, top with your shrimp and coconut curry sauce, and eat in front of your computer while you feverishly type a 5 page analysis of Prometheus Bound for your Art History final.

I have failed you again, dear readers. In my determination to locate, stuff, and bake squash blossoms I have come up empty handed. The nice manager at Iovine’s has informed me that they may have them tomorrow, but I won’t know until after 10 AM and I haven’t had the time to shop for the chicken cacciatore ingredients. I am aiming for Friday, but we’ll just have to see. Worst case scenario I’ll cave and bake some cookies.

This blog has been a trial run for me in many ways. I’ve always wanted to start some sort of cooking blog but was never sure what direction to take it in. I didn’t want to just cook dinner, snap some photos, and slap the recipe up on the internet willy-nilly but I also didn’t have any particularly interesting ideas outside of that.

I like the idea of trying a new recipe a week, but I want to feel like I’m working towards a goal. I’m never going to cook my way through The Joy of Cooking, nor do I want to (that blender borscht just does not appeal to me), but I still want to explore it. So, I’m trying to work this out in my head. Recipe tests are fun, but with my current limitations in my kitchen, budget, etc. it will be difficult for me to adhere perfectly every time. Also my personal goal is to master a few really great recipes to just have in my arsenal whenever I need to make something.

I think what I want to do is try to determine the best ________ recipe there is. The best chicken marsala, the best lamb rogan josh, the best lemon tart. I don’t want to limit myself to cookbooks, and I want to be able to experiment with my own adjustments if I feel like it’s needed.

Now I just need a name for the new blog, a little big of layout planning, and I’ll move everything over to my server.

…But a name, whatever will I do about a name?

As you can probably guess I do not have a recipe test for you today. A few days ago I swung by the Reading Terminal Market around 1 PM to pick up my supplies, and after fighting through a ridiculous lunch crowd and trying to stave off an anxiety attack I discovered that Iovine’s did not have squash blossoms.

How? How do you not have squash blossoms? You had them in April when it made absolutely no sense to have them but you do not have them in August?

As I stood there in a sea of shoppers with little regard for my personal space trying to decide what to do, I felt my motivation leave my body like a possessing spirit that got bored. I half-heartedly looked at a few Amish stands for squash blossoms, and although I could still have easily made the chicken cacciatore, I couldn’t bring myself to stay in the Terminal any longer.

The next day I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up witch hazel and briefly considered buying ingredients but since I don’t make a habit out of flushing money down the toilet I opted not to. So here we are. I have failed.

I do not buy groceries at Whole Foods anymore. I used to back when my room mate worked there because we got a very generous discount and I was going through a vegetarian/health food phase, but over the past few years I’ve become more concerned with saving money, so much so that I’ll happily shop at three different places to get the best price on my groceries.

Here is what I have learned in my frugality:

1. There is never any reason to buy produce from Trader Joe’s. Bagged greens and bananas are fine, but other than that you’re really just throwing your money away. It’s over priced and has been shipped from so far away that it’ll go bad almost instantly. Same goes for their deli meats. Just don’t even bother.
2. Trader Joe’s is amazing for anything frozen. Sides, last minute h’ordeuvres, meals for one, popsicles, whatever. Try the gnocchi sorrentina. It’s fantastic.
3. Whole Foods blows. Although I love their olive bar and can’t find anywhere else that sells my toothpaste.
4. Farmer’s Markets are hit or miss, but worth taking a chance. If you don’t mind inconsistency and allow yourself to be inspired by whatever is seasonal and available to you, there’s no reason to buy your produce anywhere else. Shop around though, not all stands are created equal especially when it comes to price. Example: the Tuesday stand on Drexel’s campus sells giant Jersey tomatoes for 75 cents. I have seen identical quality tomatoes go for $5-$6 each.
5. Reading Terminal is heaven. Unless you’re agoraphobic. Frankly the Amish stands are usually overpriced, by Iovine’s and OK Lee are fantastic. Martin’s has giant sirloin steaks that can feed an army for cheap and Hatfield has inexpensive cold cuts as well as giant hunks of Amish butter that cost so little it should be illegal.

Fin

No one likes summer quarter, especially when you’re old enough to have a graduate degree. This past week has been borderline intolerable for me. My lease is almost up, finals are approaching, I have freelance projects constantly tapping me on the shoulder and I have to force myself to try a new recipe while if left to my own devices I would just order in.

But, no! Not this time. This time will be different. This time I will forgo Indian takeout and cook a feast. Against my better judgement.

Tomato season has me inspired to stick with Italian. As you may have gathered from my past recipe tests I try not to eat a lot of pasta, not because I don’t love it because I love it far too much, so I’m branching out further than I anticipated.  Which I’m quite excited about! And I would have lovely blog post with gorgeous photos for you today had I had time to run to Reading Terminal this weekend to gather ingredients, but alas, I have not had the time.

So what’ the plan for this week? Two dishes: chicken cacciatore (433) and squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and herbs (309). I’ll make them together but will publish the recipes different weeks in order to free up some more time for writing papers and studying. Please forgive me, I am but a multi-tasking college student.

I’ll head to the Reading Terminal tomorrow and scoop up some squash blossoms from Iovine Bros., herbs from OK Lee, and mushrooms from whoever has them the cheapest. I don’t remember how much the squash blossoms at Iovine are, but if they’re pricey I’ll just cut the recipe in half. I’m only feeding two people anyway. I’m quite excited, though. I’ve always seen the squash blossoms at Iovine and wished I had a use for them, if this recipe works out I’ll have a great appetizer for entertaining.

As for the chicken cacciatore, not only have I never made it but I’ve never eaten it. I’m partial to chicken Marsala which seems to be less intensive. The recipe sounds delicious though and I’m always looking for new ways to serve chicken.

See you all Friday, squash blossoms abound.

So, I was fully not intending to make meatballs two weeks in a row but as I stated in my last post John Becker told me to and when one of the editors of Joy of Cooking tells you to cook something you don’t ask questions. Plus this week was utterly insane and I was relieved to have something simple to experiment with.

As you can see form my meatball post I didn’t make a sauce. This is because I absolutely loathe store bought red sauce and while I have a pretty great recipe for it it takes hours that I simply did not have. So when given the idea of roasting up a bunch of tomatoes and garlic and calling it a day I was sold. And good lord was it delicious

Slow-roasted tomatoes

4 to 5 large ripe tomatoes cut into 3/4 inch slices
1 teaspoon each confectioners sugar, salt, and black pepper
Olive oil
Chopped herbs of your choice

I arranged the tomatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkled them with the sugar (I just cane sugar, came out just fine), salt and pepper, drizzled them with olive oil and topped them with basil. Popped them in my toaster oven at 250 and forgot about them for about 2-2 1/2 hours. I basically waited until they looked and smelled so delicious I couldn’t handle it anymore.

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I may have eaten a few while they were cooking. You know, for science.

Roasted garlic

4 heads of garlic
Olive oil

Roasting garlic may be my favorite thing in the world. It takes almost no effort and it’s so delicious it should be illegal. Chop off the top of an entire head of garlic so the cloves are exposed, drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in tin foil. If roasting 4 heads alone (as in, without the tomatoes) bake them at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. I put these in along with the tomatoes and they finished at the exact same time.

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Chop up those tomatoes and sweet roasted garlic cloves and simmer them with your meatballs for about 10 minutes.

Seriously delicious and totally beautiful. I fully intend to have roasted tomatoes and garlic on hand at all times for the rest of the summer.

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Everyone say it with me now. Thank you, John Becker!

Well, dear readers, it would seem that I received some fairly interesting feedback on my last recipe test. Although its legitimacy is still unconfirmed, it appears that John Becker of the Joy of Cooking family commented on my last post suggesting I try roasting up some tomatoes and garlic in place of a sauce for the Italian meatballs. Needless to say, this week’s project has been decided upon.

In other news, I’m now on Twitter! @CBTestKitchen. Tweet me some suggestions for recipe tests.

Our second order of business, bodega groceries. Now, corner stores aren’t exactly renowned for their fantastic produce quality but I am hear to preach the positives of doing at least some of your shopping at your local bodega assuming you live a stone’s throw like I do.

Up at the corner of 12th and Spring Garden is a little Mexican convenience store without a name. It’s about three blocks from my apartment, it’s open pretty late, and the prices are unreal. I love shopping there, but only for specific items. Namely things that I am going to use immediately and/or want to be ripe. For example, I don’t buy avocados anywhere else. $1 a piece and they’re always ready to use. The same goes for bananas, mango, and peaches, and if they go bad before I get to use them I can simply peel them and throw them in the freezer for smoothie ingredients. Seriously, every time I shop there I feel like I just robbed them blind.

Today’s bodega haul

This was $10. A dozen eggs, three avocados, two peaches, five bananas, garlic, a mango and nine tomatoes. True, I need to use most of it in the next few days (save for the eggs, they’re good for a few weeks) lest it start to go bad. But to be honest I find that the things I buy from the bodega going bad less often than when I buy grocery store produce, probably because I tend to stock up more when I go elsewhere.

The selection at the bodega is limited and they’re frequently out, but the prices are so low and the location is so convenient that it’s worth digging through bruised fruits and overripe veggies when my crisper drawer is running low.

Plus, where else can I get last minute guacamole supplies for under $5?

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