Bored of bland food, Mike Hultquist needed to add some more flavor to his palate back in his college days. So, he decided to combine his love of pepper and spice and start his websites, JalapenoMadness.com. Today, he writes and creates culinary recipes for people brave enough to handle habaneros or those simply looking for just a little kick of heat. Come see how Mike uses Pinterest to share chili techniques, connect with other chefs, and even promote his new book!
Mike, can you give us a quick peek into your background as a chef, writer, and spicy food blogger?
I’ve cooking with chili peppers and have been a chili pepper enthusiast for over 20 years. I have a background in writing – novels, feature films – but have always had a huge passion for peppers and spicy food. I started the site JalapenoMadness.com to explore my love of jalapenos, and it naturally grew from there to ChiliPepperMadness.com where I expound on all things chili peppers, though I have a heavy focus on cooking.
How did you get into experiencing, blogging about, and cooking with chilies?
It started back around the college days when I had to learn to cook. I quickly grew bored of bland food and needed to spice things up. I realized an affinity for cooking the more I did it, mostly because of the passion for it. I use the blog and my sites as a way to share what I learn and what I am passionate about. I love to share my love of peppers and spice.
We’ve been looking through your “chili pepper spicy food recipes” board and preparing our taste buds to try some recipes. How do you use Pinterest to discover a new side of spice?
I use Pinterest as a way to share the visual side of what we do here. I blog with my wife, Patty, and she is becoming a heck of a photographer. Food is highly visual and we are working to improve that part of our work. People love the visual nature of Pinterest and it’s only natural for us to utilize such a great system. I also use Pinterest to explore what other cooks and bloggers are doing, as well for other non-cooking related interests, like design ideas for my new office.
I also have boards dedicated to books. For example, I produced a book called “Jalapeno Poppers and Other Stuffed Chili Peppers” and I have a board dedicated specifically to that here:
With food being so highly visual, it is important to promote your work through photos, especially a cookbook. Pinterest also allows me to add photos that aren’t in the cookbook, which helps potential buyers to see the recipes or variations thereof.
For someone looking to put a little spice in their meals, where do you begin especially now with Spring and Summer rolling around?
With planting season upon us, it is time to get those seeds plants or get those seedlings in the ground, depending on your zone. Some people in the south are already harvesting, those lucky dogs. With access to fresh peppers, I say incorporate them into anything and everything. Freshly harvested peppers are incredibly delicious and can add both zing and heat to your meal. Consider roasting them for an even different flavor. With salsas, the possibilities are endless. So many fresh ingredients! It is fun to play with different combinations and cooking techniques, which I explore in the book.
What do you recommend for someone who can’t handle spicy foods?
There is a huge range of spice level in chili peppers. I like to cook with peppers of all types, even bell peppers, which have no heat, to poblano peppers, which have only a low level of heat, all the way up to the superhots. If you’re not used to spicy food, start low and move your way up. I started with jalapenos and used to think they were crazy spicy. Now I eat 4-5 at a time. I moved up through habanero peppers, which I LOVE, and regularly eat superhots like 7 Pots, Ghost Peppers, Scorpions and more. Also, keep a dairy product on hand, like milk. Chemicals in the dairy will help counteract the heat element in the peppers if you go a little overboard.
Do you have any advice for growing chilies in the garden?
Same as with cooking. Check the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on a particular pepper type before growing. The higher the SHU, the hotter the pepper. Jalapenos are about 5,000 SHU, while a habanero is around 300,000 SHU. The hottest is over 2 Million SHU. Whoa! Chili peppers are pretty forgiving when growing, but treat them with care. Be sure to pick often to keep them producing, and learn some simple preserving techniques so you can eat them throughout the winter season.
Any crazy chili stories or adventures that added some heat to your life?
When I was about 5 years old, my sister dared me to chomp on a chili pepper she pulled from the fridge. She knew it was hot, but I didn’t. I took a bit and felt the burn immediately, but wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of reacting. But when my eyes teared up, she laughed and laughed. Little did she know she got me hooked!
Now, I think I’m the one who is adding heat to others’ lives. I’m known around the neighborhood and in the local restaurants as the guy who likes it hot. We throw a fiesta party every year and people look for my superhot blends or homemade sauces. When I walk into my favorite local Mexican restaurant, the cook automatically tosses peppers on the grill. I bring my own spicy chili powders when I go out for pizza and that always sparks a conversation. People often want to try the powders and get a real kick! My preferred powders is a blend of scorpion and 7 pot peppers. Quite hot!
I enjoy encouraging people to bring chili peppers into their lives. They’re so great! One of Nature’s perfect foods.