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CULINARY THRILL SEEKING — Simple pepper jelly makes everything fancy

My mom kind of cheated on pepper jelly. She’d basically melt some inexpensive store-bought jelly of any flavor and infuse it with devilish tiny slivers of red cayenne my dad grew. I was of high school age when she figured it out, or I’d have been raised on it. She put it lovely Mason jars because it was so lovely, but she was happy to share her quickie method.

I touched base with an aunt who keeps multiple varieties of mustards on hand and she made a sandwich and offered a jar of a friend’s homemade pepper jelly. She mentioned she’d have to hint to the friend it was the last of the gift, in hopes she’d receive more.

The jar was dated 2017.

Imagine. The peppers in there had probably been grown and processed weeks before Hurricane Harvey flooding changed our lives again. Now we’re in another pickle. May God’s good things keep growing and nourishing us.

And now you have been blessed with my Mom’s pepper jelly tip to boost your spirits.

Hide the cheese

June was National Dairy Month, so hopefully you celebrated cheese. But when a precious little slab of Parrano Originale Cheese got to my house, I was not quick enough to hide this “something special” so my husband saw it everything. I had to share it right down the middle, which I managed to do for three days, doling out the nutty flavor and buttery aroma of a “fine aged Parmesan with the smooth, creamy texture of a young Dutch Gouda.”

I put the company’s words in quotes as they more poetically express what is superior about this cheese, and why a family would fight over it. While parrano.com has lovely recipes, such as a cranberry turnover that looks beyond appealing, I’m on the simple idea side such as serving this cheese on an antipasto platter with olives and cured meats, or melted into a tortilla with salsa or chopped peppers. Just maintain your dignity when going for another sample.

Gayo Azul Gouda Holland Cheese is another contender for your sandwich, with pepper jelly (see above). Look for the Blue Rooster on this line that goes back to the ’50s with Caribbean roots. Dutch cheeses were prized there because they were aged and could be stored without refrigeration.

I enjoyed a block marked “mild & creamy” that I enjoyed alone. I mean alone from any embellishment such as even a cracker and alone as in no one I had to share with. I figure all the cheese lovers in Nederland – with their Dutch background – should also enjoy Gayo Azul.

Spa Girl Cocktails has a “spring collection” that invites you to “Drink Clean, Live Happy.” Cocktails in a can? The pear version, paired with a patio evening, hit the spot in such a clean way, and it packed a fresh punch.

The short of it is you get flavor without expensive, sugary and artificial mixers. Spa Girl flavors of cucumber, peach and pear come in little cans or bottles and “regular” size. Enjoy them straight up or mixed with rosewater, lemons, mint, melon juice, berries or Prosecco.

Keep it simple, or go to town with your own “clean” ingredients. Forbes has profiled entrepreneur Alisa Marie Beyer about her business path that lead to these products touting premium plant-based vodka, that are vegan, gluten free, low in calories, sugar and carbs and ring in at 48 calories a serving. It’s a pleasant treat you can look forward to without guilt and the flavors are as delicate as promised.

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who will take elaborate steps to make things simple. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com.