Jalapeno Cafe
Monthly NEWS


What's Cookin' at The Jalapeno Cafe


May

Cinco de Mayo

This Mexican celebration continues to grow in popularity in the United States. It started out being celebrated in the towns along the USA/Mexico border and now it is celebrated all over the US. What many people do not know is that this is not Mexico’s Independence day, that is on September 16.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, which occurred on May 5, 1862. A courageous group of Mexican soldiers, led by Gen. Ignacia Zaragoza, defeated well armed and trained French soldiers sent by Napoleon III to take control of Mexico. The battle showed the courage and determination of the Mexican people to be free of foreign rule.

If you are planning a Cinco de Mayo celebration, check Jalapeno Cafe's Recipes section for authentic Mexican dishes.. Tostados de Tinga is a popular dish in the state of Puebla. Mole was supposed to have been created by the nuns in Puebla. Try the Chicken Mole' Tostados, too. Top the celebration off with an Easy Kahlua Cake.


August

Here is an update on my chile pepper crop. The Pequins and Lemon Drops are producing heavily right now, but the Chiltepins are just starting. I have one small problem with the Chiltepins and that is that the Blue Jays and Mockingbirds love them. I have to chase them out of the garden two or three times a day. I had some old rubber snakes that I used to keep on a brick wall to scare the Grackles away. I put the snakes out in the garden by the Chiltepins yesterday. Too soon to tell if this works. I grew the mild "False Alarm" Jalapeno pepper and I do like it, even though it is really not hot enough for my taste. Overall, it has a good jalapeno flavor without the heat. So you Jalapeno Lovers who want a milder pepper, give this plant a try.

Chiltepins, not yet ripe.

Just harvested

Chile Pequins

Lemon Drops


 

Here is a gardening update. We received our pepper plants from Cross Country Nursery in early April and immediately planted them in the garden. They are doing very well, thank you. The ones that I raised from seeds are up too, in fact I am giving away jalapeno plants. I had planted chiltepin seeds which had not sprouted after two weeks, but I was just too impatient because these seeds have sprouted too.

Here is a snap shot of the beautiful plants shipped from Cross Country Nursery, a picture of our garden and pictures of the chiltepin plants after a few days in the ground.

We have raised beds in our garden since we live on a land formation called the White Rock Escarpment. It is very hilly and beautful, but it means we are on perched on limestone rock. The only way to grow anything around here is to dig down about 24 inches and remove the limestone mix, replacing it with good garden soil or to build raised beds. We have done both.


April

I have a lilac bush in my yard that I have nursed through the hot Texas summers for about 8 years. Each spring, it puts out a few sickly blooms. I decided if the plant did not produce more lilacs this year, I was going to dig it up and put in a shrub more suited to the Texas climate. Well, the plant must have known that it was facing extinction, because it is loaded with blooms. Every day last week, the bush was covered with butterflies. Here is a picture I took with my digital camera.

I am sorry to report that the chiltepin seeds that I planted did not sprout. But not to worry, I found a source for chile plants, The Cross Country Nursery in New Jersey. Their selection is huge! They must grow every type of pepper plant known to man. I placed an order for 3 dozen plants, and we should be receiving a shipment any day now. I ordered three types of Chiltepin, a native Chiltepin, a cultivated Mexican Chiltepin and a Texas Chiltepin. That way, I can find out which one has the hottest peppers.

One packet of chile seeds that I planted indoors is growing really well, so I have a big crop of "Lemon Drop" seedlings on my window sill. We will start the Jalapeno seeds outdoors as soon as we have a few hot days. I hope to have some photographs of the pepper plants for you soon.

For you tomato growers, we purchased some Early Girls at the local nursery and put them out in early March. We had to cover them a few nights when we had frost, but they survived and they are blooming! We grew our other tomatoes from seeds. We have put out Big Boys, Mortgage Lifters, Nebraska Wedding, Slicer, and 2 French heirloom tomatoes that I can't remember the name of. Last year, the Mortgage Lifter was the best producer in our garden. I grew Brandywine last year and they were the best tasting tomatoes I've ever grown. But they tend to put out a lot of leaf and not many tomatoes, so I did not grow them this year.

I hope you checked out the enchilada recipes that I posted on the main recipe page. Try the recipes, they are easy to make and taste so good. Please note the pictures I took. I am finally mastering my digital camera and I will post more food photos in the future.


March - It Snowed!

We have had the perfect winter here in Dallas. It snowed one day, a wet heavy snow. School was canceled and the kids were able to sled and make snowmen and everyone, including me, took pictures of the beautiful snow covered trees. The next day, it warmed up and all the snow melted. Yes, that's my idea of winter. Here is a picture of my front yard and Kiesthill Dr. where I live.

During February, I tried some new green enchilada recipes, which I have posted on the recipe page, but no new desserts this month.

We have planted our tomato seeds (8 different varieties) in flats and the little plants are up and sprouting more leaves every day. I am going to plant my pepper seeds this week-end.(Then we'll be out of sunny window sills). Our garden is turned, and we worked in more compost and orange peel (for the nematodes) so in three or four weeks, we will be moving the plants outdoors. I will be growing Jalapagos (mild and hot), New Mexico Joe Parkers, chiltepins and pequins. I will share my chili growing experiences with you this year. Please send me your plans for preserving, pickling, drying, freezing and whatever else you do with your pepper crop.


Get Ready for Easter

Easter is coming up and it's time to start saving egg shells for cascarones. These colorful confetti filled eggs are an important part of the Easter celebration for Mexican families in Texas. It's supposed to bring you good luck to have a cascarone cracked on your head. In San Antonio during Fiesta week, everyone has cascarones to crack on their friends' heads. Last year, I sent some to my grandson who is attending college up in Rochester NY, and he told me they were a huge hit. I usually make enough to give a dozen to each child and of course the grown-ups have to have some too. This is a good craft project for kids.

Some people make elaborately decorated cascarones, and others just spray them with spray paint. I color mine with Easter egg coloring and fill with paper confetti. One year, I made the mistake of using the mylar confetti sold at the craft store. It does not degrade and I think is is still in my lawn. Sometimes I can find paper confetti at the Mexican party stores, if not, I get out my scissors and snip enough crepe or tissue paper to make a bag of confetti.

To get started, you will need to eat lots of scrambled eggs and omelets and save the egg shells. To open the eggs, take a knife and punch a tiny hole in one end of the egg. Break the egg open at the other end, making a large enough opening shake the egg out into a bowl

Rinse the empty egg shell and put it in an egg carton. When you are ready to make the cascarones, dye the shells just like you would Easter eggs. Put them back in the egg cartons to dry. Once they are dry, you can write or draw on the shell or paste on gold stars. Fill each egg with confetti and paste a piece of tissue over the top to hold the confetti in.

Here are some website that tell more about the custom of cascarones. Cascarones Send a cascarone e-mail card. Let's make cascarones - class project. Cascarones -Egging at Mexican Fiestas What Egg-Zactly are Cascarones?.


January

About the time I finish putting away the Christmas decorations, the seed catalogs start arriving in the mail. They are filled with pictures of tomatoes, sunflowers, herbs and all the things I love to grow. It lifts my spirits to flip through the pages, reading the claims that promise bumper crops of vegetables and flowers. Before I know it, I have my pencil out and I'm jotting down my selections on the order form, my head filled with visions of baskets full of ripe tomatoes, corn, and colorful cut flowers.

You have so much more variety if you grow your plants from seeds. We use the little miniature greenhouse planters, placed on a sunny window sill to sprout the seeds, then transplant them to peat pots to grow until time to plant in the garden.

Last year was the year of the Tomato for us. We filled our beds with many different varieties of heirloom tomato plants that we raised from seed. The heirloom tomato seed, Mortgage Lifter, was the best performer in our garden. The Brandywines had the best taste, but did not produce well in the Texas heat.

This year, I am going to have one bed just for jalapenos. I will try to grow different varieties of jalapeno from the mildest to the hottest. Then I will try different preserving recipes. I'll keep you updated on this project.

For you pepper fans, I noticed that the Burpee catalog (www.burpee.com) has seeds for the Chiltepin. This is the little wild pepper that is so hard to find. I will definitely plant some of these seeds. For everyone who wrote me about where to find mild jalapenos, the Burpee catalog has one called "False Alarm" and the Pinetree Garden seed catalog (www.superseeds.com) has one called "Senorita." I also noticed that Pinetree has seeds for Pineapple tomatillos which sounds like something fun to grow.

Some of my favorite seeds are the Little Gem romaine, (www.shepherdseeds.com), a miniature head of romaine lettuce, the Star Burst squash that is little buttercup yellow Patty Pan squash (the raccoons like it, too), Cinnamon (Mexican) Basil (smells so good) and Love-Lies-Bleeding (www.selectseeds.com), an old fashioned cut flower that has long chenille like tassels of crimson red. All of these plants are easy to grow from seed.

I have finally purchased a digital camera so I will photograph the peppers in the garden throughout the growing season. In the meantime, I posted my first food photograph, the Sonora Chicken Casserole.


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