DIY Tabasco sauce (fermented chili sauce)

Growing up I never understood the concept of "pickled peppers" (from the pied piper nursery rhyme). It didn't make any sense until I tried making tabasco sauce... and realized I had a jar of chile peppers pickling in my own kitchen. I was inspired by lots of people on the internet making tabasco, particularly Rob Welsh.

Wash and dry a lot of chile peppers. I had anchos, poblano, mole and chilaca peppers from the farmer's market.

Cut peppers in half and remove and discard seeds and membrane

Pack chile halves into large half gallon glass jar. I put the various colors together in layers to make it easier to make them into different colored sauces later.

Mix up 1 quart distilled or filtered water with 2-3 TB salt.  Pour over the peppers in the jar.  Weight with a smaller glass jar as needed to cover the peppers (don't want them peeking up above the water level).  Cover with paper towel or lint free kitchen towel and secure with rubber band (this is to keep flies out while fermenting).

Let it ferment for approx 10 days.  My jar didn't have any foam or stuff to scrape off (unlike fermented pickles which foam for the first couple days). If yours does, just skim it off and recover.

Once ready (I tasted one and it had a good flavor), strain off the soaking liquid into a bowl.  I blended each variety of pepper separately to maintain their colors (red and green don't blend into a lovely color).
I experimented with adding some garlic and white wine vinegar to some of the batches, and using the fermenting liquid for other batches.

Pour chili sauce into glass jars, put on lids. Store in the fridge. I'd imagine these keep for a while? But I don't know until I try! I noticed that it was separating the solids from liquids so I think a good shake of the jar before using from the fridge will be good.

Spicy Beef & Bean Stew (slow cooker)

Read through a slow cooker book and adapted this recipe.  It made the house smell awesome.

Soak 1 cup of dried beans in water overnight (I used white cannellini beans, but black beans or the original recipe suggested mayocoba beans).

The next morning, drain off bean soaking water. Put soaked beans in bottom of slow cooker.

Layer over the beans in the slow cooker pot:
2.5 pounds beef chuck, top round, or stew meat, cut into pieces
1 diced yellow or white onion

Sprinkle 1 TB cumin seeds (whole) and 1 TB oregano over the top. Optional add epazote leaves/sprig.

Puree in blender:
2 large tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes)
2 jalapenos (seeds removed)
4 cloves garlic
1 TB kosher salt
2 chipotles from can with adobo

Pour the puree over along with 1 C beef broth. Add water if needed.

Slow cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve hot over cooked rice, or with tortillas or cornbread and cheese.

Secrets of Miso Soup

A mediocre miso soup is quite easy. A spectacular miso soup... well that's another story. In the Japanese fashion, doing it well takes attention to detail at each step.

Key points I've learned about making  Spectacular Miso Soup:

  • right kind: white and reds are generally used. Stay away from dark purpl-y miso (like Hatcho)-- save that for nasu no dengaku or broiled salmon.  I like a mixture of white/yellow and red miso.
  • good quality: I've often been disappointed by the "organic" stuff they carry at whole foods or new seasons. Get the real japanese stuff, made in Japanese way. The natural foods store miso is too weak to make excellent miso soup (but works for other stuff).
  • right amount (i.e. enough): don't skimp on the miso! Start with 1/4 C miso when making soup for 2 people (i.e. 2 TB per small bowl/single serving), check and adjust
  • Strained/blended: use a strainer, or blend the miso into dashi so no clumps remain. Blending is a trick to get super silky miso soup.
  • Once you add the miso the soup, do not let it boil again. That means you may need to parboil your toppings so they are cooked through when you add to the miso soup. 
  • You must make "real" dashi for miso soup (also called #1 dashi, or ichiban dashi). Not shortcut, cold brew or second-dashi (which I will admit is excellent for other purposes). 
  • Remember: remove the kombu just before boil (don't let the kombu boil!). Here's my method for good dashi: 
    • Bring pot of filtered water and a strip of konbu (kelp) (this is often called dashi konbu) up to warm. 
    • Right before it boils, remove (and discard) the konbu
    • Now add a generous handful of fish flakes (katsuobushi). 
    • Simmer gently for 3 minutes and then remove and discard fish flakes, strain
  • not too many. For example, wakame grows tremendously in water. Just use half to one teaspoon of dried wakame in a soup for a couple people.
  • It's easier to get the proportion of liquid to toppings right if you use small bowls.  Making miso for two is ironically easier to assemble in two individual serving bowls than trying to do both servings on the stove and then parsing it out. 
  • Don't be afraid to parboil the toppings/chunks before adding to the stock. This is how many kaiseki chefs do it. (see notes about not boiling miso) 

Lentil Bacon Tomato Soup

 Got the idea from an Italian cookbook for this soup. It was quite good and hearty for a cold drizzly day.

Fry up finely chopped bacon odds and ends with garlic, 2 minced chile peppers, and 1/2 C chopped parsley in a pan.

Add 1 C cooked french lentils, and 1-2 C tomatoes (either canned or fresh, I used a combination of diced and pureed).   Season with freshly ground black pepper, and add hot water to thin it out a bit.

Cheesey Kale Chips

This is a great travel snack as it is both raw and vegan, doesn't need refrigeration and is nutrition packed.

Wash and tear up 1-2 bunches of kale (approx 6 + cups) into mouth size pieces. Rip out and discard the tough woody stems.Set aside.

Blend until smooth the cheesey sauce:
1 red bell pepper or spicier pepper (approx 1 C chopped pepper) - red is good color for cheese effect. If you don't have any red pepper, just use extra water. 
1 C cashews 
2 TB nutritional yeast ("nooch")
1/2 tea salt
1 TB olive oil
1 TB agave
4 TB water (or enough to get blender blades going)

Massage the cheesey sauce into the kale.

Spread on dehydrator trays (fills 2 of Excalibur size) and slide into the dehydrator.  It's quite fluffy to start, so I pull out a few extra trays and set them aside to give the kale trays extra height.

Dehydrate until crispy, approx 6-10 hours (105-125 F)

Kettle corn

Bought some kettle corn at the farmers market- what a treat! Now I'm trying to recreate it at home. I was inspired by this recipe, then tried this recipe but it had too much popcorn and not quite enough salt/sugar. 

I've made it twice now, below is what works for my size cast iron pan (too much popcorn kernels means they don't have enough space to pop and get coated with the syrup). My pan is a old camp cast iron stove, probably 6 quarts? So make adjustments for the pan size you are using. 

I've been thinking this would be great party snack: it goes together quickly, makes a large volume of food, doesn't need to be kept hot nor cold, is made from stuff I generally have around and is pretty cheap.


Heat lidded cast iron pan over medium high until warm.  Melt/stir:
1/4 C butter or oil (I'd bet coconut oil should work? haven't tried it yet)

1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp (or more) fine sea salt
Let it foam for 30-60 seconds to start caramelizing the sugar. 

Now add and stir:  1/4 to 1/3 C popcorn kernels

Cover with lid. In a minute or 2 the kernels should start popping. Shake the pan, keeping it covered with lid. Be really careful- opening that lid for just a moment for a peep shot my face with a hot kernel! so don't lift that lid, seriously.

When popping slows down (don't wait too long or it will burn, i.e. less than 4 minutes total) then take off heat. Remove lid carefully with oven mits and stir.

Pour into large bowl and enjoy!

Tali sauce revisited

Yellow sauce which is great on beans, or in bean bowls. Has a cheesey flavor even though it is vegan because of the nutritional yeast. Freeze in ice cube trays, or keep in the fridge.

Blend until the pieces of nut and beans are broken up and texture is silky:
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C water
1/4 C almonds
1/4 C cooked garbanzo beans (or canned and drained)
juice of 1 lemon
3-6 cloves garlic

Then add and blend:
0.5 to 1 C nutritional yeast (nooch) flakes
1 tea turmeric
1-2 tea onion powder
1 tea garlic powder

Italian Rosemary Chickpea Potato Soup

You know when you fiddle with a tried and true recipe and the new version is actually better? This was one of those times. I had extra bits and pieces of potato left over from this recipe that used mandolin-sliced potato pieces. And I didn't want them to go to waste, so they went into the soup. And it was delicious.

Follow the recipe for chickpea soup but put diced potato in after the onions. Make sure the potato pieces are cooked before adding the frozen cooked chickpeas and proceeding with the recipe. Omit the pasta. Season with lemon juice and zest to brighten the soup. Make sure you use enough salt (preferably sea salt).


How much should I put up/preserve/can?

Ever since I decided to try to eat more local, nutritious and fresh foods, I've had to think about menu planning more seasonally and spend more time in the summer getting food ready for winter.  What's great though is that food prices are cheap in the summer at farm stands or upick, and even neighbors or your own garden give plenty of food.  If you can preserve this cheap deliciousness in the summer, then you have a cheaper grocery bill in the winter when you have to go back to relying on the grocery store.

Planning how much you need of each item isn't hard if you keep notes.  The first year you start canning you won't know how things turn out or how much you use various goods.  But planning pays off as you know when you've made enough and you won't end up with tons of something you won't eat!! And consider the non-canned goods that you want to save like frozen fruits and dried vegetables.

Here's what my pantry looks like (and there are more jars on the top shelf I couldn't get a photo of!)

I've got a bunch of jam (mostly leftover from last year- I just don't eat that much jam as I prefer unsweetened raw fruits from the freezer). I am stocked on salsas (red and green) and there's some gravenstein vanilla applesauce tucked away in various corners. 

Here's how to make your own customized preserving plan: 

Autumn of your first year of canning:
Write down how much of each recipe you made and stocked away
Make sure you save off the recipes you used so you know which recipes go with which jars (I keep a binder for preserving recipes, separate from other recipes. I also note the date I made the recipe and the actual yield I had on the recipe-- helps so you know what size and how many jars to sterilize next time!)

Spring after your first year of canning: 
Check the pantry.  Take a tally of how much is left of each item. Compare to your autumn inventory to calculate the # of jars used for each recipe.  This is your baseline # of cans to produce this year. Now adjust by considering:
  • Did you run out of something before spring? If so, when did you run out? Use that to calculate the run rate of how many jars/pints you consumed from autumn inventory to the approximate date you ran out. 
  • Were you stingy with something and would have liked to give away more applesauce, or use more salsa? If yes, add to those counts. 

Use this info to make a plan for the upcoming year.   We found that we use a ton of tomato products (canned diced tomato, tomato sauce, tomato salsa) and not much jam.  I like to have applesauce on hand for baking or when someone feels sick or gets work done at the dentist.

Also consider if any recipe tweaks, using a different variety of produce, or finding a new recipe is needed. Was the salsa too mild? Do you prefer one type of apple to another?

And finally think about your typical serving size of each recipe and whether the jar size was appropriate.  My first year most of the salsa was in half pints.  But this year I realized that a half pint of salsa is one person eating chips for a snack, so now I can my salsa in pint jars (and make a couple half pints to give as gifts).

Here is my "must have" list I used for the 2013 season:

  • Diced Roma tomatoes: at least 8 pints
  • Pureed tomatoes: at least 4 pints.  I use the same recipe as for diced tomatoes but instead of peeling and dicing I run them through the vitamix. This is a great way to can up funny shaped tomatoes you don't care to peel, and for cherry tomatoes.
  • Tomato basil sauce with onion, garlic & herbs: at least 4 pints (great for pizza, lasagna, or last minute pasta)
  • Tomatillo Salsa (salsa verde): at least 10 pints
  • Roasted tomato salsa: 15-20+ pints
  • Vanilla Gravenstein Applesauce: 13-15+ pints (people love this for gifts, and with holiday food, it's great for the day after Thanksgiving) 
Non canned items that I like to have around:
  • Frozen strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries (these can be picked in the spring/summer for $1-$1.50 a pound where I live- much cheaper than buying from the store!!)
  • Dried chile pepper powder
  • Frozen basil pesto (vegan version or more standard version- really just grind up any greens you have with some basil, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and nuts) 
  • Fruit leathers
  • Sour fermented dill pickles 
  • Pies (yes you can bake and freeze 'em whole, wrapped in foil, to thaw and enjoy for a party or holiday)
  • I also freeze cookies, muffins, banana cake and bread. That way we don't have to try to eat a whole batch, and they thaw pretty well in the microwave. And when my husband wants a treat while I'm trying to eat virtuously this set up makes us both happy :)  

Favorite Canned Tomato Recipes: Tomato Sauce with Onions Garlic and Herbs

This is another favorite, I made 4 pints last year and so far I've made probably 8 pints for this year. It's a great way to use tomatoes while they are abundant and the sauce is really handy throughout the year.

It's great for pizza. You can pull out a pint or half pint (depending on how many pizzas) and voila- you have sauce! and it is so much better than the store bought. It's great on oven roasted veggies (like eggplant) or to cook eggs in it.

I love that this does not require peeling tomatoes.  I use my vitamix blender to blitz the peels to

Ingredient/Cost notes: I did upick tomatoes this year for 50 cents a pound. That totally beats the "good" farmer's market price of $1.50 per pound (and slaughters the store price of $3 a pound).

Canning notes: sterilize at least 4 pint jars (cook in boiling water for 10 minutes to sterilize).  I like to heat up 5 pints and 2 half pints (my canner fits 7 jars) just in case.

Roughly cut several pounds (4-6 pounds) of tomatoes, enough they will blend in the blender.  Puree. Measure out how many cups of tomato you have. This recipe is for 12 cups of tomato puree (which I get with approx 6 pounds of tomatoes) but you can make smaller batches, just scale down the other ingredients.  Set aside.

Saute 12 oz diced onion in 1 TB olive oil until browned.  Add 2-3 minced cloves garlic, salt and stir.

Pour in tomato puree, stir. Optional add 2 branches rosemary.  Cook over high heat with lid off (to promote evaporation) until it reduces a bit: 20-35 minutes.  I do this while I'm prepping something else.

Add approx 1 tsp cracked black pepper to taste, 2-3 TB finely chopped basil and 2-3 TB finely chopped oregano.  Add approx 1- 2 tsp salt to taste.

Put 1 TB lemon juice into each sterilized hot pint jar. Following standard canning procedure, pour in the tomato sauce, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal up and process in boiling water bath canner for 35 minutes.

Whole Wheat Berry pie with Nut Crumb Topping

I have been making pie for a long time, and have updated my recipes throughout the years.  I think this is my new go-to for making pie.  I like that this uses a lower amount of sugar and no shortening (thus no trans-fats).  Use organic and/or pastured butter for best nutrition.

Batch baking tip: ahead of the summer berry (and fruit) season, you can get started for your pie making.  Purchase foil disposable pie pans.  Make several batches of pie dough, roll out and shape into the pie pans. Freeze until solid. Then you can stack several frozen pie shells in the foil tins togehter, wrap in foil and freeze.

Holiday pie freezing: Learned this from my mom, the pie maven in the family. Make the pie, bake it. Let it cool. Wrap in foil tightly, freeze.  The day before Thanksgiving, Christmas etc., thaw the pie in the fridge.  The day of the holiday or party, you can cut into slices while slightly chilled (refrigerator temperature) and guests either eat cool or microwave their slice. It is much easier to slice when chilled than hot.


Whole Wheat Crust
In food processor, blitz a few times until the butter resembles pebbles of sand:
1.25 C whole wheat flour (you can sub some of the flour out for gluten free or other flours but might be more difficult to roll out the dough)
2 TB flaxmeal
1/4 tsp salt
8 TB frozen butter, cut into chunks

Now add 3 TB ice water, pulse until just combined (do not overmix).

Tips: the cold/frozen temperature of the water and butter means you are more likley to have small pieces of butter dispersed, whcih is better for texture (read up on frissage on the web for details).

Roll the dough out. I like to use two sheets of wax paper to limit the sticking. Otherwise you can dust your cutting board/work surface in a little more flour.  Use a rolling pin and roll to less than 1/4 inch thickness. If it gets to warm and the dough is falling apart, refrigerate it for a few minutes to firm it up.

Carefully transfer over the pie pan.  Shape into the bottom of the pan.  Pinch the top of the crust and cut away the excess.  Freeze as is or continue and fill the pie shell.

Berry Filling
Combine in a bowl, mash a little with a fork so that some of the berries release some juice. Mix until combined:
4.5 - 5 C berries (this is approx 2 pints)
1/4 C flour (wheat flour, rice flour, tapioca flour all work fine)
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional lemon juice (1 -3 tsp)

Pour the filling into the prepared pie pan over the dough.

Crumb Crust
I like crumb crust instead of a second pie crust, it's like a crumbly cookie topping!

In food processor grind until the almonds are broken into almond meal/fine powder:
1/2 C almonds (or other nut of choice like walnut, hazelnut, pecan)
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C flour (rice, coconut, wheat flour all work fine)
pinch salt

Now add 1/3 C cold butter. Blitz until it is crumbly.  Use your hands to grab a bit and squeeze it together so it makes bigger clumps. Spread the clumps and crumbs over the berry filling in the pie pan.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bake up to 2 pies at a time in the oven.

I start with a timer at 30 minutes to check if the crust is burning (if it is and the pie is not done yet, then cover the edges with aluminum foil).  The full baking time ranges from 40minutes to over an hour depending on how cold the pie crust was (did it come out of the freezer) and how many pies you are baking at once.

You'll know the pie is done baking when:
  1. the crust is firm and feels "crispy"
  2. the filling is bubbling
  3. the center of the pie doesn't jiggle too much
  4. the crumb crust topping is slightly browned in spots

DIY Chili Pepper Powder

I had some chili peppers going bad last summer and thought, hey why not dehydrate them? It was a last ditch attempt to get some good out of them and I didn't really have a desired outcome.  But after grinding them I realized it was quite delicious on top of fried eggs or anything really.

So I'm doing it again this year!  This time of year the chiles are abundant and cheap at farmer's markets. And the result is much tastier and customizable than supermarket "chile powder".

You can make chili powder out of any type of chili- jalapeno, serrano, chilaca, poblano etc.  You might want to color code your powders; grind all greens together and all reds together.

1. Wash and dry the outside of the chile peppers
2. Cut off the stems, slice open. Optional: remove seed/membrane for less spicy version.
3. Lay on dehydrator screens. Dehydrate at 110 or 115 F until dry and no squishy spots (if there is full sun and hot weather, you might get away with drying outside? just watch out for bugs)
4. Grind into a powder.  My friend let me use her Vitamix dry blade. You could try a coffee grinder (if it is used for spices! Otherwise you might get spicy coffee)

Thai Soup

My hairdresser was telling me about Tom Kha Gai soup she makes and it got me thinking that it doesn't have to be difficult or require a stop at uwajimaya.

I make my own chicken broth- it is cheap and pretty quick when using a pressure cooker.  And it tastes better!

for 2-4 people (depending on portion size and desired  leftover)

Boil (or pressure cook) 4 C chicken broth with 2 inch of ginger, cut into big chunks and 2 stalks lemongrass (pounded with meat tenderizer).

Boil until fragrant, or if pressure cooking, 3-4 minutes is fine (then bring down pressure and open). Strain out and discard ginger and lemongrass.

Add to the pot, put on low heat with lid and warm it up without boiling:
coconut milk (lite or regular, or use coconut cream) to taste
1/2 red onion, sliced into wedges
1/2 - 1 C cooked chicken shredded into bite size pieces
0.5 - 1 tsp fish sauce
0.5 - 1 tsp red pepper flakes
0.5 TB sugar to taste (balances out the flavor)

2 ears corn off the cob (or 1 C frozen)
5 cremini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced

Cook on low without boiling until warmed through.

Just before serving, stir in chopped basil and cilantro. Serve, optional with rice.


  • Instead of using cooked leftover chicken, my hair dresser mentioned slightly freezing boneless skinless raw chicken breasts. Then slicing them thinly on the diagonal.  Add the raw thin sliced chicken to the pot for the last 2 minutes of cooking. 
  • Substitute shrimp for the chicken. Shrimp cooks quickly, so add raw shrimp at the end
  • Potato or pumpkin might be good instead of the mushrooms and corn. 

Pressure Cooker Beef Bone Broth

My grocer sells beef bones in the freezer area- $1.99 a pound (which I'm not sure is a great price).  Try to get pastured/grass fed beef bones.

Put beef bones in roasting pan. Coat with tomato paste. (next time ifI don't have tomato paste I may try a little brown sugar and or oil? I think the point is to help the beef bones carmelize)

Bake/roast in 400 F oven for an hour. It will smell delicious.

Transfer roasted bones to pressure cooker.  Pour hot water into the roasting pan and scrape up the bits, pour into the pressure cooker. Add more water to cover. Usually want to fill 1/2 to 2/3 of the pressure cooker with liquid for broth- follow the manufacturer's instructions (i.e. don't overfill)

black peppercorn
bay leaf

Bring up to pressure. Cook over pressure for 25 minutes.

Strain. Pour into containers.  I like to refrigerate first, which makes it easier to scrape off the fat.  Then you can freeze for later use.

Soft, sweet whole wheat bread baked in cast iron

This is delicious on its own, or spread with peanut butter, jelly, coconut butter, honey or dairy butter. It's slightly sweet from the honey and the fat (egg and coconut/olive oil) make the texture softer.  You could put slices out for guests or serve to kids (or put in lunchboxes).  It's so soft I'm not sure it would hold up to a large sandwich (exception: pb&j has the peanut butter stickiness which should work though).

I used the same dough recipe as for whole wheat hamburger buns.   You can use coconut oil instead of olive oil.

Shape the whole recipe (i.e 2 pounds of dough) into a ball in a mixing bowl. Let it set at room temperature for an hour to rest and rise a little bit.

Preheat oven to 400 F with seasoned cast iron pan and lid inside (make sure your lid can go in the oven).  Let it preheat for 20-30 minutes to get the oven and pan hot.

Now pull the preheated hot pan out, remove lid, carefully transfer bread dough into the pan without burning yourself. Cover and return to oven.

Bake (still at 400 F) for:
20 minutes with the lid on
30 minutes with lid off

Let bread cool down before slicing.

Zucchini cupcakes/muffins

Great way to use up the cores of zucchini left over from zucchini noodles.  I adapted the recipe from here which used more sugar. Someday I want to try this recipe which is more of a cake and has broiled frosting.

Optional peel the green peel off the zucchini. I use this part for zucchini noodles for soup or with marinara sauce. Cut off the top and end.

Run the zucchini through food processor with shredding/grating disc. Squeeze in a bamboo sushi mat to release the extra water from zucchini shreds.  You should have approximately 2.5 C grated zucchini.

2 eggs
<=1/3C coconut oil, melted (make sure coconut oil is melted (otherwise you get greasy muffins)
3/4 C plain Nancy's yogurt
1/3 C water or milk
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Now add the dry ingredients:
3 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Bake in greased muffin tins for 20 minutes at 350 F.

Optional: add chunks of dark chocolate, or toasted walnuts for more texture.
If you want these to look like white cake, then remove the green peel from zucchini entirely, and use whiter flour.

Japanese Negi & Chicken Skewers (Yakitori negima)

I made this (with hubby's help on the grill) today and it was amazing.  We got really good quality chicken breasts which I think made the difference.

Make sure you use negi, as in long tokyo onion (naga negi). Do not use leeks- they are too tough!  You can tell the difference because negi will be less than 3/4 inch diameter.

You make a marinade/basting sauce (see the recipe) which is quite similar to teriyaki and the chicken rests in it for 10-20 minutes. Then thread onto skewers with the 1" pieces of leek.  Barbecue until done.

Grown up Mac & Cheese & Veggies

I had been craving pasta: pasta salad, carbonara, penne alla vodka... and then I saw this recipe which reminded me of the broccoli in the fridge.  You can customize each bowl to suit which is good because we like different cheeses. And this is very easy since it all cooks together.

Bring large pot of water up to boil.

Meanwhile, clean and cut vegetables:
broccoli heads & stalks into chunks
any broccoli leaves, or kale or spinach- cut into ribbons
dice red bell pepper

Once water is boiling, add 1 TB salt.  Add whole wheat pasta.  For the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add the broccoli. For tender vegetables like leaves and the bell peppers, add at last minute of cooking.

Strain off hot water, reserving a little bit in case you need to moisten the noodles.

Toss hot drained pasta with:
pesto (I freeze mine in ice cube trays, so thaw first)
chopped parsley
cheese (cheddar for hubby and blue cheese crumbles for me)

Moisten with a little hot pasta cooking water. Toss and eat immediately.


Favorite Canned Tomato Recipes: Roasted Salsa

I'm in love with this salsa. It's similar to the double roasted salsa at Trader Joes but much cheaper to make! I upicked tomatoes for 50 cents a pound this year (otherwise I typically purchase at the farmer's market for $1.50 a pound, unless my garden goes gangbusters).

Made 11.5 pints last year and forecasted I'd need at least 15 pints this year; we eat a lot of this stuff!

Jar size: Half pints are too small for our usage but make good taster/gifts. I  prefer the pint size as we got through lots of salsa.  Tip: when giving out canned goods to friends and family, ask for the jars back! Start training them early and you won't have to purchase too many jars each season :)

My favorite uses are to mix this with black beans (great vegan bodybuilding food) or drizzle it on fried eggs for a nutritious vegetarian breakfast.  Or we put it on tamales. It's of course also delicious on chips or anything else you typically use salsa for.

No peeling necessary.  The roasting does take an extra step but is totally worth it.

Canning notes: sterilize at least 5 pint jars (cook in boiling water for 10 minutes to sterilize).  I like to heat up 6 pints and a half pint (my canner fits 7 jars) just in case. Yield is between 5 and 6.5 pints.

Roast under the broiler in the oven (500 F) until blackened in spots. I do this in 2 or 3 batches on rimmed baking sheets (the will be 5-15 minutes depending on your oven and the ingredients:

5 pounds tomatoes, cored and cut in half
1 pound 6 oz yellow or white onion, peeled and cut into half
8 oz chiles (approx 10 red jalapenos; good with any medium to spicy chile or mixture of chiles)
2 oz garlic (1-2 heads), peeled

Puree all of this in the blender. Once mostly smooth, then add 1/4 C washed cilantro and blend for just a few seconds to make it into small flecks (you don't want to overblend the cilantro in otherwise it will muddy the color instead of being nice little green flecks).

Pour the liquid into large (6 quart) saucepan.  Bring up to boiling and add:
1/2 C apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 TB salt
1 TB sugar

Following standard canning procedure, pour the hot salsa into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe rims so they are clean, put lids (which have been soaking in hot water) on, screw on bands. Process in boiling water bath canner for 40 minutes.

DIY Yogurt in dehydrator

I referenced several recipes for how to make yogurt. Why make yogurt?  Store bought yogurt is very expensive compared to making it at home. If/when we have a good dairy source (either when we have a goat or cow of our own or live near one) then I'd consider using yogurt as a way to use up, enjoy and extend the shelf life of milk. Hell I'd even start making butter (or at least try) if I had abundant good dairy.

Result: a slightly runny with clumps texture- not perfect- but it was delicious.  Blended with blackberries it made a fabulous milkshake!! On the left is the one where I added honey and vanilla bean. On the right was plain and it firmed up a bit better, you can see the whey liquid at the top (which went into muffin batter).

Basic Method:
Basic idea is to sterilize jars. Heat and cool milk to speicifc temperatures.  Mix cooled milk with some starter yogurt (I used Nancy's plain yogurt which has active cultures and is a local favorite). Then you let it ferment at 105-110 F for a few hours.

I used 1/2 gallon of milk which made a little more than 2 quarts of yogurt.  In each quart of milk went 1/4 C plain starter yogurt.  I tried adding honey and vanilla bean to one jar but it just got really runny... so maybe you add the sweetener after it ferments?

I capped the jars and put them in my dehydrator. Next time I'd put it at 105 instead of 110 to try for a better texture.  I took them out at 4 hours, but I think they could have gone longer to get a firmer texture.

Farmers Market Stir Fry in cast iron pan

Cast iron is amazing for stir fry.
This is the first meal I've made that tastes like good chinese food (however this is much healthier).  Pairing it with egg fried rice made it a whole meal and gave some protein (which is great b/c I always have eggs around but don't often have bits of meat perfect for stir fry).

Great way to use up veggies from the farmer's market, especially with the end of summer bounty making me purchase perhaps too much on saturdays. I had long green beans, green bell peppers, onions and eggplant needing to be used up.

I saute my eggplant slices separately as the husband will not eat eggplant (sad!). Just make sure you cook it really good so it gets mushy- the best texture (raw eggplant texture is more rubbery- not so good).

Usually I get scared away from stir fry as I don't feel like I have the appropriate "sauce" for it.  But really then I realized that Japanese teriyaki is delicious and doesn't take more than sugar, sake, mirin and soy sauce. So, I used a variation for this and it was very good (ok so maybe that makes it Japanese-Chinese fusion but who cares).

This makes excellent leftovers.

1.  Mix up the "sauce".  I used sake, soy sauce, little bit of sugar, red pepper flakes, garlic and cracked black pepper.

2. Heat cast iron pan over high heat for 3-5 minutes until it is screaming hot. Add a little peanut oil (or other high heat oil- don't use olive oil as it will burn) and coat the pan.   Be careful, that pan gets very hot and I've burnt myself -- use oven mits.

2. Sear each veggie separately in the hot pan and dish it out into a bowl when you are ready to do the next veggie. this way you don't overcrowd the pan and decrease the temp or get too much liquid. This helps cook the veggies in the appropriate stir fry method (and taste).

Veggie selection/Ingredient Note: In this photo I used long green beans (green beans taste the same), bell pepper and onion. Eggplant, celery, broccoli (if in small enough chunks) are all good.  You can even do leafy greens like spinach but they will cook really fast. Pretty much anything should be good in stir fry...

3. Once you are done cooking all the veggies separately, you'll have a bowl of veggies with black marks. This is perfect. Now pour all the cooked veggies back into the hot pan. Add the sauce, stir and coat the veggies in the sauce.

Serve hot, with rice or egg fried rice.

Gallo Pinto (costa rica rice and beans)

I fell in love with gallo pinto in Costa Rica. It is particularly hearty breakfast, especially when served with eggs (usually scrambled).

Here in the US, we have a chunky raw salsa called pico de gallo. I mentioned this in Costa Rica and got laughs- apparently it means the beak of a rooster? In any case the name doesn't universally carry the meaning of a food.  What's funny is that they still use rooster to name a different dish in Costa Rica.  Gallo pinto means spotted rooster.

I had extras which I spooned into a metal muffin pan and froze. Once frozen, you can pop it out by putting a little hot water on the bottoms of the muffin pan, or using a knife (carefully!).  Then I put these hockey pucks into a freezer bag. They take up less space (and don't keep a container in the freezer) and you can pull out just as much as you want. 

I consulted a few websites for gallo pinto recipes (this, this and this) and finally made my own variation.  Here's the gist:

Saute 1 diced onion and 3 cloves garlic in olive oil with salt until browned.  Add diced green bell pepper and cook until softening.

Add 1 cup dry raw rice, and 1  ground and cook in the oil to toast- approx 60 seconds.

Now add a few cups water (or broth), 1 - 2 TB tomato paste. Optionally, blend up roasted chiles and raw cilantro with water and use for the broth.  Stir and cover, put on low heat and cook until rice is nearly done.

Add 1/2 C black bean cooking water and 1 C cooked black beans. Stir.  Finish cooking the rice.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Lemon Almond Poppy Muffins (Whey & Yogurt)

I made too much home made yogurt so I figured I'd use some up in this recipe.

Reduced the sugar, increased the poppy seeds, added lemon to this recipe. So I was going to use whole wheat flour until I realized I didn't have any. And I was going to use coconut oil instead of the butter, but then I overfilled my yogurt/whey container and decided to try it without more liquids like coconut oil.

The texture of these is moist and almost rubbery in a good way- my husband loves gummy bears (it's a texture thing) and was raving about these. Full discolsure- they don't have cake-y crumb, but more of a bready crumb.  My guess is that the protein of the whey liquid and yogurt, along with resting the batter, is responsible.

These are not very sweet so I drizzled with lemon zest, lemon juice and powdered sugar which was perfect. I did try sprinkling with turbinado sugar but it fell into the batter so I wouldn't do that again on this batter.

The photo at top is the batter baked into mini tartlet pans (sprayed with olive oil first).

2 C cake flour (or whole wheat pastry flour, or use all purpose flour)
1.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
0.25 tsp salt
1/4 C sugar
4 TB poppy seeds

1 tsp almond extract
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 egg
1.5 C yogurt & whey liquid on top of the yogurt (mine was from home made plain yogurt made from whole grass fed milk)

Set the batter in the fridge to rest for 4 hours or overnight. This should help hydrate the flour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour batter into greased muffin pan.  Bake for 25 minutes at 350 or until set and slightly golden.

Pull out of muffin pans, and drizzle each muffin with mixture of:
lemon juice
lemon zest
powdered sugar to taste