Welcome to my kitchen! Sit right down and join me for something yummy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Suzi Treats

Well, I've been grinding my own wheat and baking for my family for about 5 years now, but I've never made anything for our dog.  Today I changed that.  I've been wanting to try my hand at making dog treats for a while, and finally did it.  I found a dog bone shaped cookie cutter at a local store, and I must say they turned out really cute.  The real test though came when I fed one to Suzi.  After her first bite she started drooling!  She finished it within 20 seconds and then came to me looking for more.  I think it was a success!

 Here they are ready for the oven.

 Here's the dough after I cut them out.

Here's the finished product!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Making Salsa!

I’ve had several people ask me about canning salsa, so I thought it would be easier to put this in a blog post.  We LOVE salsa and have been canning it for at least 18 or 19 years!  Our recipe has evolved through the years and so has our process, but most salsa recipes have the same basic ingredients….tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, hot peppers (we use jalapenos), and garlic.  THEN it becomes a personal preference kind of thing.  We like cilantro…a lot of people don’t.  If you don’t like it, don’t add it.  J  The other thing that makes it kind of difficult to give people a recipe for salsa, is that not everyone is going to make a huge batch each time like we do.  So it’s difficult to give exact measurements since I don’t know how many tomatoes you have in front of you!  I don’t know how many pounds of tomatoes I use or the number of cups of chopped peppers.  I’ll do my best to give you my recipe, but really you’ll just need to use it as a guideline and then adjust it to the amount you are making and your personal tastes. So, here’s my basic recipe:

I start out with about 10 to 15 quarts of tomatoes, peeled and chopped, which for me is half a stock pot (15 quarts would be about 2/3rds full).

add to tomatoes:

6 medium green peppers, chopped
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, finely diced (this is a very mild salsa...add more jalapenos for  more spice or use hotter peppers)
3 cans (6 oz) tomato paste (or more if salsa is not thick enough)
1 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)
4 tbsp garlic (I usually use the already minced garlic)
1 tbsp black pepper
1/4 cup hot sauce (we like Frank's Hot Sauce)
3 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
4 tbsp oregano (I use dried unless I have fresh on hand)
3 tbsp cilantro (ditto above)

Peel tomatoes first. The way I do this is to put a big pot of water on the stove (pot should be half to two-thirds full of water) and bring to a low boil. Have a scrap bowl handy for tomato skins and a large bowl about half full of ice water (don't add ice until you are ready to put in your hot tomatoes). Cut off stems and bad spots and then put tomatoes in boiling water. Keep in water for about 5 minutes or until you start to see the skin crack on the tomatoes. Using a slotted spoon or ladle, transfer tomatoes to ice water. Let sit in ice water until they are cool enough to handle. Then you can remove the skins and put your tomatoes in your stock pot. If I don't have enough tomatoes to can, I put the peeled tomatoes in the refrigerator until more tomatoes come in from the garden.

When you are ready to can the salsa, add the rest of the ingredients to your diced (or crushed) tomatoes. Let the ingredients simmer and cook down a bit. Now comes the fun part. After the salsa simmers a little while, get out a bowl and tortilla chips and try it! Then adjust the salsa to suit your taste buds! When you acquire the taste and consistency you want, you are ready to can!

I can mine in a pressure canner, although in years past I did can in a boiling water bath.  If you have a pressure canner, follow your manufacturer's instructions on canning tomatoes. I can mine for 15 minutes with 5 pounds of pressure.  If you have any questions about this process you can ask me.

After the 15 minutes is up, I turn off the burner and set the timer for 45 minutes. That is long enough for the canner to depressurize and cool down enough for me to remove the lid. The contents are still extremely hot though, so be careful when removing the lid and removing the jars. I set my hot jars on a double layer of kitchen towels on my counter for about 24 hours. After the 24 hours are up, I remove the rings and label my jars.  One of the reasons I remove my rings is because I will need then for more canning; however, the other reason is because I have had instances where I have removed the ring and the lid came off.  I wouldn't want an improperly sealed jar to be on my shelf and spoil!  If any of your jars don't seal, just stick them in your refrigerator and use in the next few weeks.

If you don't want to can your salsa, another option is to use basically the same ingredients as above, except you don't cook anything. Dice your tomatoes, drain most of the juice and then add the rest of your ingredients. It's a very fresh, good salsa!

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Cannings of the Summer

I love to can food for our family! I love the process, I love the results!  I love to store the food in my china cabinet and just look at it!  :)  BUT we have had a very dry summer and the garden hasn't done as well as usual!  

We planted beets for the first time this year and they did really good.  I was able to can some pickled beets and I also made some pickled eggs/beets.  They turned out really good!  Next came the cucumbers.  A couple of years ago I found a recipe I liked for pickles, and I was able to do that again this year.  They turned out nice!

 Above is a close up of my pickles.  I made some regular dill and I made some spicy dill.  Can you see the pickles with the red at the bottom of the jar?  That's the spicy pickles.  I used jalapenos and some red pepper flakes!

You can see the pickles and the beets in this shot.  I'm hoping to make salsa later this week or next week!  Mmmm....can't wait!

Layered Mediterranean Tortellini Salad


Okay, these pictures do not do this justice!  Beth found this salad on Pinterest (where else?) and it is a keeper!  We all loved it and there were no leftovers!  :(

I love the red of the tomatoes, the green of the basil, the purple of the onion, and the black olives!  So pretty!

So, here's the recipe so you can try the wonderfulness!

  • 1 package (18 oz) Cheese Tortellini (or use two different kinds)
  • 6 tablespoons bottled light Greek or Italian dressing,divided
  • 2 cups whole cherry or pear tomatoes, cut in half (I diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced cucumber
  • 1 can (13.75 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 can (6 ounces) pitted whole ripe olives, drained (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) Parmesan Cheese
Prepare pasta according to package directions; rinse in cold water then drain well. Place half of the tortellini in one bowl and the remainder in another bowl. Add 2 tablespoons salad dressing to each bowl; toss gently to coat.
PLACE tomatoes in large glass serving bowl; drizzle with 1 tablespoon salad dressing. Top with half of the tortellini, all the feta cheese, all red onion and all the basil; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon salad dressing. Top with remaining tortellini, cucumbers, artichokes and olives. Cover; refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Season with pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Easy Jambalaya

I mentioned Easy Jambalaya earlier in the week on my Two Week Meal Plan post.  Well, we tried it tonight and it was a big hit!  I did change some of the things in the original recipe, of course, so I thought I'd better write it down so I don't forget.  I'll probably play around with it again in the future...trying different meats, etc.  So, here's the original recipe with my changes:

Easy Jambalaya

  • 2 tablespoons butter  (I used 1 Tbsp)
  • ½ pound of sausage (preferably andoullie) or bacon  (I used pre-prepared hamburger that was in the freezer)
  • 1 large bell pepper, any color, in large dice
  • 1 large onion, in large dice
  • 3 ribs celery, in large dice
  • 1 small head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (sold premixed or make some) (I used THIS recipe and *gasp* I used about 3 TABLESPOONS of the mix. We like lots of spice!)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (no need for extra salt and pepper)
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped (or equivalent quantity of cherry tomatoes)
  • 3/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves (I didn't have any, so I omitted. It would be good though.)
  • 1.5 cups quick cooking brown rice (I don't have quick cooking rice, so I cooked my brown basmati rice in the rice cooker and added it.)
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth (if you don’t have any stock you could use water instead) (since I didn't cook my rice in the mix, I didn't need as much liquid. I just used enough chicken broth to get to the consistency I wanted...probably about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup water (I omitted)
  • 1/2 pint shucked oysters, with their liquor (optional)  (NOPE!)
  • Hot sauce, to taste (optional) (Neal and Beth used this, Ben and I didn't.)
  • Green onions for garnish  (Oh Yes!)  And we also threw on a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
  1. Combine the butter and sausage (or bacon) in a large soup pot over high heat. Cook for about 6 minutes stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery, garlic, Creole seasoning, salt and black pepper to taste. Saute over high heat for about 8 minutes, or until the veggies have browned and carmelized.
  3. Add the tomatoes, shrimp, and bay leaves, and stir for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the rice, stir gently, then add the broth and water. Gently stir the rice again to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes (or until the rice is tender).
  6. Turn off the heat and fold in the oysters (if using), cover, and let sit for about 8 minutes. If not using oysters you can skip this step altogether.
  7. Garnish with green onions and serve.

This one will go on our meal rotation!  Yay!

Raw "Larabars"

Since I decided we are going to add more "real foods" to our diet, I thought it would be good to have some desserts and/or snacks.  I've never eaten store bought Larabars before, but when I looked at the recipe they sounded really good.  Actually there are many different recipes out there (some without nuts), but I finally narrowed it down (with some changes) and made the following recipe:

Raw "Larabars"
(energy bars)

4 cups pitted dates (mine were somewhat moist)
2 cups raw cashews (or whatever nut you like or have on hand)
1 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips (this is what I had on hand)
2 tbsp peanut butter (I used PB2)
2 tsp vanilla

Optional additions:
unsweetened coconut
coffee granules

Line a 9" x 13" pan with a piece of parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the long sides. Set aside.

Add the cashews to a food processor and pulse until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the chocolate chips and pulse again until the chocolate chips are also finely chopped.  

Transfer nut/chocolate crumb mixture into a bowl and set aside. 

Add half of the dates to the food processor and process until a paste forms and clumps together in the bowl. Add in 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and half of the chocolate/nut mixture (if you are going to add anything else like coconut or coffee grounds do it now). Replace the lid and process until evenly combined. Scrape into the prepared pan.  

Repeat with the remaining dates, chocolate/nut mixture, vanilla and peanut butter. 

When all of the ingredients have been processed, wet your hands and use them to press the mixture as evenly over the bottom of the pan as possible. Fold the excess parchment over the bars to cover them and use something flat and heavy to press down firmly on the mixture until it is smooth. 

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and then slice.

Here is the link to the recipe I adapted mine from: Homemade Larabars

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Two Week Meal Plan

What has always worked best for me is meal planning.  I used to plan up to a month at a time and then shop for everything that was non-perishable, and then shop weekly for the perishable items for that week.  It worked well, but I got away from it due to the amount of time it took. A couple of nights ago, my daughter, Beth, and I sat down and chose meals that we want to eat over the next two weeks.  I don't have recipes for all of them right now, but for those that I do have, I will link.

We won't eat these in any particular order...I still like a bit of spontaneity to our suppers...but I can just look at the list each day and choose a meal.

Salad -- we all like salads, so I think we'll probably eat a salad each week.  We always have spinach on hand and right now we also have romaine lettuce.  We have cucumbers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and I usually cook some chicken to throw on top.

Salmon, Ribbon Salad (just some thinly sliced veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, and carrots in a marinade), brown basmati rice.

Chicken Fajitas (just chicken breast cut into strips, sliced onions, sliced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms sauteed in a little olive oil with spices added - chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt) and refried beans.

Easy Jambalaya

Curried Cabbage with Chicken

Portabello Mushrooms Burgers (I marinate the mushrooms in Italian dressing and then grill and I use my whole wheat buns), steamed green beans (fresh from the garden!) and Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Fresh Basil 

Grilled Chicken (marinated in Italian dressing), brown basmati rice, green beans

Cauliflower Pizza -- Beth found this on Pinterest and wanted to try it.

Layered Mediterranean Tortellini Salad - This one wouldn't be considered "real food" but it does look good and relatively healthy (and Beth wants to try it!  :)

Omelettes (we have chickens, so the eggs are really good!), turkey bacon and fruit

Baked Chicken Tenders, sweet potato fries (fresh sweet potatoes sliced and baked in the oven), vegetable (not sure which one yet)

Well, that's not quite two weeks worth, but I'm sure we'll have leftovers a time or two, and we also have frozen tilapia in the freezer.

I'll post later about a couple of snacks I've tried this week.

Real Food

I've been reading a lot of "real food" food blogs lately and I'm intrigued.  I'm in my mid-40's, overweight, and tired of trying diets.  My body is crying out for healthier food, and I don't mean diet food.  My first step to eating healthier was when I started grinding my own wheat and baking all our bread about four years ago.  This was a great move!  My family loves the bread and actually craves it when we have to eat store bought bread. About the same time we started eating brown rice (specifically brown basmati) and whole rolled oats.  We just recently switched from skim milk to organic 2% or whole milk.

So, I thought I'd start working on this blog again, but this time I want to focus on healthier meals.  I know all the foods we eat are not considered "real foods" but that's the direction I'm moving in.  I hope you enjoy this journey with me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beth's Hummus Pizza

This is just a reminder to me as to how good Beth's hummus pizza was last night!

Whole wheat crust
a thin layer of homemade hummus
half mozzarella/half feta cheese
cayenne pepper
bell pepper
black olives
diced fresh tomatoes
turkey sausage
little more mozzarella on top

bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vietnamese Fried Rice

When I find a recipe online, I like to give that person credit for it. This time, however, I cannot remember where I found it. I'm sorry about that, and if I remember it later, I'll post it. I did make a few changes to the original recipe.

2 cups brown basmati rice
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 tsp minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp La Choy Lite Soy Sauce (or more to taste)
1 cup frozen vegetables (I like the green bean, corn, peas, etc. mixture)
2 eggs, beaten

Cook rice and set aside. In a hot skillet saute the ground beef in olive oil. Add some soy sauce, if desired. When meat is done, remove from skillet and add garlic, onion, pepper, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir fry until onion is cooked through. Stir in the beaten eggs and stir fry until eggs are cooked. They will not look like scrambled eggs that you would eat for breakfast. Add the ground beef back into the skillet along with the cooked rice. Add more soy sauce, if desired.

**I also throw on some chow mein noodles when I serve it**