Kids, Gardening, & Jalapeños. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦🌱🌶️


The kids like to garden. They helped plant once again this year, and have been great at watering, upkeep, & harvesting. They really did most of the planting work this year, and are learning about how to keep weeds out and when to pick ripe peppers. (They’re already pretty good at tomatoes.)

Molly & Ian try a jalapeño from the garden! 🌶️

This year, by accident, I picked up a jalapeño plant when shopping at Home Depot. I meant to get 2 each of yellow bell peppers, orange bell peppers, and red bell peppers. I came home with a jalapeno and only one yellow pepper. We also planted some sweet banana peppers.

When I brought it home, Ian was determined to plant it & try some. He was true to his word! Molly & Ian did both try it! I put the video up on YouTube and IGTV.

Decide for yourself if you think they liked it:

I haven’t ever grown hot peppers despite all my years growing tomato, pepper, & a slew of other stuff.

I asked on various social media platforms on how to tell if your jalapeno is ripe and I got a handful of differentiating opinions. I got…

  • When they turn red. (Was told they turn black before they are red.)
  • When they start to get little brown lines/wrinkles.
  • At around 3″ long.
  • At around 6″ to 8″ long.
  • Look at the photo on the plant tag.
  • bury match heads to make them hotter.

So, how do you tell when they’re ripe?


Share your hot pepper ripeness tips & any other tricks below on the comments.

Have an recipes to share too?  I would like to hear your thoughts on gardening, jalapeno peppers, or the video below!

This has been a fun gardening journey.  It is exciting to see them learn about composting, growing food, and then trying it & even cooking with it.  We have had plenty of beautiful snap beans, sweet banana peppers, & a few varieties of cherry tomatoes so far.

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Much #latergram. #GardeningForKids

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#Jalapeño!🌶

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#SweetBananaPeppers!

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How yinz make your chili? 🌶 [Chili à la AiXeLsyD “Recipes”] 🌶


Yinz like chili?  I do.  I haven’t made any for a long time.  I may need to change that.  I stole this (& modified it) from my never-used Cookpendium blog.  My writing has hopefully improved since then.  Maybe not.  I like a tamer chili that would appeal to a wide variety of people to add heat as they like.  I like it thick enough to make a spoon stand.  I can take or leave the beans, and I reject your debatable elitist visions of chili or what it ought to be.

I ought to try and make a new batch using only stuff I buy at Aldi.

How do you make yours?


[Originally from a post at (the now defunct) PittsburghBeat.com, here’s a few consolidated chili recipe/methods…]

Recipe 1:

I’ve never made chili before, and in researching, I came across 50 billion recipes. So, this morning I made my own in the crock pot…

  • 2 cans of condensed tomato soup
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 packet of chili mix
  • about ½ cup of water
  • 1 tsp. of beef bullion
  • 1 can light red kidney beans
  • however much ground meat was leftover from last night
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • a dash of paprika
  • a dash of garlic

…and I slapped it into the crock pot on low for 8 hours.

Hope it tastes good when I get home. I’ve got shredded cheddar cheese for the top of it, & Super-Pretzels to go along with it. They always served pretzels & chili in my elementary school cafeteria so they belong together in my warped mind.

Most of them use tomato paste, soup, sauce, juice, or diced tomatoes as a base… I even saw one that called for Spicy hot V8… and I think my mom always used soup. Tomato paste is usually bitter, so I figured the tomato soup would counteract it. All of the spices should be rockin’. I like my chili thick.

Oh yeah, about 1/2 the ground meat was cooked w/ some seasoning salt & A1.


Recipe 2:

Here’s what basically went into my chili. I’ll probably eventually make a blog about it with a narrative so I can remember what I did this time for next time… to see what I wanna change or what I wanna do again.

I ended up only using the one can of diced tomatoes (the one with jalapeños) and still kind’ve overflowed the pot by a small amount. So, next time I may cut out one can of tomato soup or a can of beans. Also, I want to try garbanzo beans in my next batch… and I’ve heard chocolate powder goes good in chili some times… so I wanna try that one day too.

I also tossed in 2 slices of Velveeta ripped apart, a dash of spicy brown mustard, and a drop or 2 of A1 Cracked Peppercorn Steak Sauce.

I think the meat that I used was too fatty or I didn’t drain enough fat (…even though I got a about ⅔ of a regular sized plastic cup full of fat out of it). I had to skim some excess grease off of the top when I popped it open this morning.

I’ll let you know the general consensus after it’s been consumed.

[Edit:  It was good.]


Recipe 3:

I must have pinned this at some point, too.  Someone re-pinned it here…

I think it was a joke about Pepto because this chili killed my guts, even served over mashed potatoes.


Share your chili recipes with me in the comment section below.  Don’t be a jag and sit on your secret ingredient(s).  Is it cocoa powder?  Chocolate bars?  Corn?  Zucchini?  Cinnamon?  Potatoes?  Steak?  Instant potato flakes?  Cornmeal?  Chupacabra?

How do you serve it?  In a bowl?  Over baked or mashed potatoes, rice,or spaghetti?  With soft pretzels or cornbread?  With tortilla chips or crackers?

How do you cook it?  Crock pot?  Dutch oven?  Stove top?  Over a campfire?

Do you like the Hormel canned stuff or the stuff from Wendy’s?  Who makes your favorite?

Spill it!

Nine Can Vegetable Soup


This is an incredibly easy & delicious dinner or lunch.

Well, the name’s misleading.  Sometimes it’s not exactly nine cans.  I’ll give you the recipe as it was given to me…

Nine Can Vegetable Soup

  • 2 cans Hormel chili, any variety
  • 1 can vegetable soup
  • 1 can green beans
  • 1 can sliced new potatoes
  • 1 can mixed vegetables
  • 1 can corn
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (for extra kick, use a can of tomatoes with green chiles in place of one can of diced tomatoes).

Optional: 1lb ground meat*

Dump the entire contents of every can into the crockpot – liquid and

all.

*Brown turkey or beef and drain and add to veggies in crockpot. Heat on low all day, or on high for less than 2 hours.

Well, sometimes I do it like this…

  1. Hormel Chili with Beans
  2. Hormel Chili with No Beans
  3. Campbell’s Beef With Barley & Vegetables Soup
  4. Campbell’s Vegetable Beef Soup
  5. Cut Green & Wax Beans
  6. Diced New Potatoes
  7. Succotash (Corn & Lima Beans)
  8. Mixed Vegetables with Potatoes
  9. Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, & Oregano
  10. Petit Diced Tomatoes

Nine Can Vegetable Soup

I didn’t take this picture, or make this soup. This is pretty much what it looks like though. (athomewithkim.com)

Sometimes I add other stuff.  I think I’ve put in Garbanzo Beans, Mexicorn, or

the diced tomatoes with jalapeño or chili peppers, and even plain old navy or black beans.  Sometimes I dump some of the liquid of the cans out.  I like thick soup.

I’ve used ground beef & ground turkey… both work really well.  I’m sure a vegetarian version of this would be easy to make. (Hormel makes a vegetarian chili, you can get vegetarian vegetable soup from Campbell’s, & the ground tofu, seitan, or tempeh would work well… or you could just add more beans or vegetables.)

I just put it into the crock pot on low all day.  Dinner’s ready when you get home!

I like to have it with homemade bread, or over biscuits like a pot pie.  If you’re camping and have a mountain pie iron or if you have en electric sandwich maker that seals the edges you can add some flour to thicken it up or strain it a little to make incredible filling.

I also like the tiny saltine crackers.

A any rate, we make some & it lasts a while… as a main dish, or a side with sandwiches.  It freezes & re-heats easily.

Do you make something like this?

What are some good soup recipes or easy crock-pot recipes?

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 2)


So, last time I blogged about pizza, I covered some of my favorites: Aiello’s, SLICE, & A’Pizza Badamo.  This time I’ll blog about other area big-hitters.

Beto's Pizza on UrbanspoonBeto’s is another place nearby that is just excellent.  They’re the place that you’ve probably heard of that doesn’t cook the cheese & other toppings.  You’ll probably either love it or hate it.  I dig it, the wife does not.  The only thing I’d change is the consistency of the sauce… I’m not a fan of chunks of tomatoes in pizza sauce, but the flavor is excellent.  They don’t get all fancy with toppings here either, just simple, straightforward pizza with cheese that’s melting as you eat it.  I think my favorite way to eat it is just as plain cheese pizza.  Why mess up such a beautiful combination?

Molly's Pizza on UrbanspoonMolly’s Pizza is close by too.  They have some great pizza, and some really crazy specialty pies like the Ranchero Steak Pizza and the Pierogi Pizza.  I personally like to get a pizza with zucchini on top.  Excellent stuff!  It’s hard to pick a favorite around here.

Fiori's Pizzaria on UrbanspoonFoiri’s is a south hills institution.  Sorry, I don’t get it.  Is it good pizza?  Most definitely.  Is it overrated?  In my humble opinion, yes.  Maybe I’m biased because you can get deathfish as a topping there.  At any rate, if you’re in the area and a pizza aficionado, it’s worth checking out before you decide that Slice is the best place around.

Il Pizzaiolo on UrbanspoonIl Pizzaiolo isn’t your regular Pittsburgh pizza shop.  They’re fancy.  They have great pies in a steep Neapolitan tradition.  As they say themselves…

…the restaurant has become a vibrant gathering place for lovers of Neapolitan pizza, pasta and Italian wine. Nearly everything on the menu is hand-made. And if it’s not made in-house, it’s imported from the best artisans, cheese-makers and salumeria in the world. Mozzarella di Bufala comes direct from Naples every Thursday and the pizzas are baked at 1000˚ in a handcrafted, wood-fired brick oven for less than 90 seconds. This, along with perfectly leavened dough, San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, produces the most authentic Neapolitan pizza possible.

So obviously, this is no Pizza Hut.  They make incredible gourmet pies.  Unfortunately it’s entirely not what I’m craving when I “just want a pizza”.  This is where you want to go when you’d like a nice evening out to enjoy some of the lightest most delicious pizza you’ve ever eaten.

Italian Village Pizza (Canonsburg/McMurray) on UrbanspoonItalian Village Pizza is all over the place.  Both by location and quality.  They used to have a killer A1 Steak Sub at the one on Rte. 51, but I don’t think they have that any more.  The last one I frequented was the one in McMurray, but I only ever got the pizza once or twice.  The steak & Italian subs are incredible, but the sauce was just too bitter for me.  It tasted like straight tomato paste with some basil thrown in.  Some people love it, but it just wasn’t my thing.

Here I’d also like to try to address this thing…

VinceNt’s vs. Vincent’s

I’m still not sure what the exact dispute is… if there’s still a dispute, and if there are only two Vincent’s involved in this saga.  Can anyone fill me in on this?  I’ve heard several amalgamated stories over the years.  Some credible news even.  First, you’ve got to get your head around the locations…

There’s Vincent’s Pizza ParkOne on 30 in Irwin/North Huntingdon, one on Ardmore Blvd., and one in Holiday Park (the one I used to frequent).  And there’s Vincent’s “of Greentree” …oddly enough in Greentree, Southpointe, and the West End.  (There also seems to be a Vincent’s Pizza Pub on Mt. Washington – I’m unsure if they’re related to any of the others.)

I haven’t been to Vincent’s Pizza Park in Holiday Park in a long long time, but I remember it as the greasiest pizza I have ever had.  It was good, but greasy.  Some people like that.  I’m not the biggest fan of grease, but I remember they had a nice thick crust & a flavorful sauce.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Vincent’s in Greentree, but the one in Southpointe has great steak subs, garlic buns, and pretty good pizza.  Their “like it” percentage on Urbanspoon is pretty low though.  No idea what’s up there.

Vincent's Pizza Park on Urbanspoon Vincent's of Southpointe on Urbanspoon

Which Vincent’s is your favorite?  Which Vincent’s location is the best & the original?  (I think it’s Vincent’s in Forest Hills)

Please, chime in on any of these locations, any from my previous pizza post, or any that I may have missed.  I may dive into pizza chains next.  Pizza is always a subject of hot debate (and it goes well with beer).

Radical!

Radical!

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 1)


Dare I say no food can be as unifying and polarizing as Pizza?  Generally, it’s the one thing most people like.  Need to feed a bunch of people quickly?  Kids birthday party?  Reward for good achievements?  Pizza party!  It’s the go-to feed a herd food.  Unless someone’s lactose intolerant or has a food allergy to tomatoes or something…  I’ve never heard someone exclaim anything to the effect of “Free pizza?  Ew!  No thank you!”  I’ve heard a friend say “Pizza is like sex, there’s no such thing as bad pizza.”  I’m pretty sure he’s paraphrasing a comedian, but I have no idea who.  No matter where the sentiment lies on the corny scale, he’s right.  Most pizza is acceptable sustenance if not worthy of writing online reviews, letters to your mom, or several stanzas of poetry.

At the same time, a simple statement like “[So & So] makes the best pizza!” can make the most passive among us throw-down in an instant.  I’m pretty sure if Canada called up, and said “Hey United States, we have better pizza than you!” – there would be a full-scale invasion, and we’d soon have another big state.  (Maybe minus Quebec, the Queen Mum can keep that one.)  I’m guessing that unless you’re from Quebec or you for some reason hate pizza, you’re still with me, right?

Slices from SLICE

Slices from SLICE

Here’s the plan:  I’m going to tell you about my favorite pizza, and you’re going to tell me about your favorite pizza.  We’ll all try to remain calm.  When you’re wrong, I’ll tell you… so don’t be afraid.  This will probably be limited to Pittsburgh due to my geographical location.  So, if there’s pizza from somewhere else that you want to tell me about, you can… & I’ll assume you’re wrong until I go try it.  If the place is local (to me), even better.  I may go try it.

Side note – In case you’re new, I’m deathly allergic to shellfish (& mollusks). I’m not too excited to try pizza from places that offer shrimp, lobster, crab or any other kind of deadly sea-bugs as pizza toppings. I generally don’t feel “safe” when they can put their hands in one topping to put on someone else’s pie, then into my toppings without washing their hands… or to (even worse) perhaps drop some on my pie.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for different kinds of pizza.  It’s OK to like more than one.  Shocking, I know.  Here’s the beginning of my run-down on local pizza:

Aiello's Pizza on UrbanspoonAiello’s is up first, because well… they’re my favorite.  Their sauce is nothing short of perfection to my humble taste-buds.  It’s sweet but it doesn’t lose the flavor of the tomatoes.  I love pizza sauce that doesn’t have that bite that you get from tomato paste.  The dough is perfect doughey goodness, yet thin enough so it’s not like you’re eating a loaf of bread with pizza toppings.  Aiello’s is always clean, and it’s cool to watch ’em make the pies right there in front of you.  The seemingly gruff employees just are who they are.  They’re all nice guys.  They call my father-in-law “Anchovy Bobby” for his dedication as a customer and obviously now I guess… affection for anchovies.  Well, I did get yelled at by Joe once for being late to pickup a pizza.  I was fighting traffic down Forbes all the way from Oakland to Squirrel Hill.  But, he was concerned about pizza quality (and perhaps that he had been stiffed the cost of a pizza).

Mineo's Pizza House (Squirrel Hill) on UrbanspoonI guess if I’m talking Squirrel Hill and pizza, I have to mention the other guys.  I’ve had Mineo’s, but to be fair… it was only once.  I don’t see a reason to go back when Aiello’s is a few doors up the hill.  It was greasy, and they offer deathfish as a topping.  Boo, I say.  One thing you can’t argue is that they have just as devout a following as Aiello’s.  You’ll get lovers & haters on both sides of the issue.  I think it’s probably good for both businesses to have such a famed & heated rivalry.  (Legend goes that Joe worked at Mineo’s, then split to make his own name making pies his way.  Check out this article, this YouTube video, and this Facebook group for more.)

SLICE on Broadway on UrbanspoonI have found a new additional favorite closer to home in Dormont… SLICE on Broadway in Beechview is excellent.  Hoping my father-in-law’s ears aren’t burning, I’m going to go ahead and say that SLICE is every bit as good as Aiello’s.  Read the reviews on UrbanSpoon, Yelp, & Google.  All those people can’t be wrong, can they?  The guys that run the place seem really friendly, the place is clean, and easy to get to for me anyway.  Here again, it all comes down to the sauce.  The sauce here has a slightly sweet tinge to it… and it’s fantastic.  The proportion of the sauce is great too, there’s no cheese sliding off of this pie on the 1st bite.  The amount of toppings is respectful & not a “look how many toppings we can put on” kind of thing.  These guys really just know how to put together a great pie, and I can’t wait to work my way through the menu.  It’s also kind of cool to sit there & watch the T go by… even though I could also do the same thing from my front porch.  They get bonus points for having “The Big Salad” on their menu and for still being excellent the next day.

A'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA’Pizza Badamo is another great nearby shop.  They, like SLICE, seem to have a “No B.S.” approach to making pizza.  Fresh ingredients, simple pies, done right, & value for the money.  I also need to work my way through this menu.  I’m anxious to try the Eggplant Parmesan sub.  The one & only thing that may give SLICE a slight edge (to me anyway) is the sauce.  A’Pizza Badamo’s sauce has a little more savory flavor than sweetness.  Like I said, I like sweet sauce.  Then again, I think I’m going to have to try many many more pies from each place to decide who the champion is.  I hope to never be able to make up my mind.  These guys are also really a class act, the place is quaint, clean, and a relaxing place to hang out.

Well, those are my favorites (& one not-so favorite, I guess)… and it’s a lot to take in right now.  Perhaps I’ll have to make this a series of posts.  I could do a post just about the pizza shops in & around Dormont.  It’s an almost endless list.

At any rate, before I continue my pizza tirade… let the comments begin!  Where are your favorites?