Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Salsa Roja

This is the salsa I grew up with. I remember watching my grandpa in awe as he mixed up huge quantities of his special salsa at the Goldrush Cafe. It has always been a customer favorite, and definitely a favorite of mine as well. Simple, spicy, and full of fresh flavor, this classic red salsa hits the spot.

I've scaled this back and tried to simplify the process slightly, since I never need such a large batch. His salsa was always hand chopped, I think that makes it that much more special but feel free to use your food processor if you like.

Salsa Roja
(printable recipe)

4 roma tomatoes
1/4 large white onion
3-4 jalapenos
handful cilantro
3/4 c tomato sauce
salt & pepper to taste
garlic salt to taste

Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise, give them a good squeeze to remove the seeds. Finely dice the tomatoes & onion, mince the jalapenos very fine or process in a food processor. (use caution / hold your breath when you open the lid. Trust me.) Combine with chopped cilantro and and tomato sauce, add a little water to get a consistency you're happy with. Season with plenty of salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Serve with fresh tortilla chips.

Monday, August 30, 2010

50 Ways to Use Preserves, Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Fruit Butters

If you opened my fridge right now (please don’t!) you’d find that 1/3 is stuffed with condiments, 1/3 is filled with fruit, and the rest of the space is devoted to veggies, meats, and dairy. I am a self proclaimed condiment queen, I love to make sauces, dressings, salsas, dips, spreads, gravies, and preserves. So its no surprise they consume so much fridge (and cabinet) space. To me, these things can make or break a dish by adding the perfect complement of flavor, whether its a bit of tang, spice, or sweetness.

Many of you may have wandered how in the holy heck I was planning on using the multitude of things in my canning inventory...to tell you the truth I was starting to wonder myself!
So I racked my brain for a couple of days, got creative, went crazy, and finally made this list. I even scoured the internet and found links to provide a few examples and recipes. Enjoy!

1. preserves make a great crepe filling, raspberry crepes with nutella anyone?
2. swirl preserves, jams, and fruit butters into plain yogurt (or applesauce!) for a custom flavor
3. use jam or fruit butter as a glaze on a fresh fruit tart, how about an apricot tart glazed with apricot honey butter...
4. mix jam with cream cheese and use as a filling for stuffed french toast
5. glaze a ham with pineapple and apricot jams

6. make these jammy oatmeal crumb bars (photo via Blue Ridge Baker)
7. spoon warm preserves over ice cream, pair with a brownie or sponge cake, and top with chopped nuts and whipped cream for a decadent sundae
8. use preserves and fruit butters to top off a plain cheesecake
9. mango butter (or any fruit butter, really) makes a delicious cake filling, its a great way to liven up plain yellow cake
10. turn a pint of sweet potato butter into sweet potato pie by adding an egg to make the filling set

11. make berry lemonade
12. use a spoonful or two of your favorite preserve in a fruit smoothie to add sweetness and fruit flavor
13. use a bit of jam to fill a cupcake (cut out a round peg from the top, fill with jam, replace the cake, and frost for a sweet surprise)
14. make this baked brie appetizer
15. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (duh)
16. spoon warm preserves over pancakes for breakfast (or dinner!)
17. fill a macaron with jam
18. if you're running low on fruit for mixed berry mojitos, add a bit of blackberry or raspberry jam and omit the sugar
19. make a fruity vinaigrette (photo via Allrecipes.com)
20. try this tasty flavored margarita
21. fill a kolache, empanada, turnover, or danish or sweet roll with jam (hey, thats 5!)
22. hot jam breakfast sandwiches
23. jelly doughnuts anyone?
24. make thumbprint cookies
25. homemade pop tarts are gaining popularity
26. add a tablespoon of hot pepper jelly to stir fry just before serving

27. make sweet peach bbq sauce, combine 2 parts peach jam and 1 part bbq sauce... OR try a spicy pineapple variation: substitute pineapple jam for the peach jam and add fresh minced jalapeno pepper for a spicy sweet sauce that’s delicious on chicken wings.
28. how about some fruity, frothy punch?
29. these sound delicious...fruit preserve chocolate truffles
30. hide a layer of jam in a meringue pie, how about raspberry or strawberry with lemon meringue? (spread the jam on the prebaked crust, freeze for a few minutes to set the jam and then add filling) ooh or swirl blackberry jam into key lime pie! how gorgeous would that be?
31. try this devilish steak sauce
32. make fancy flavored butter or cream cheese (2 parts room temperature butter with 1 part preserves, beat until thoroughly combined, chill if desired)
33. how about some spicy sweet jezebel sauce?
31. make a jam cake

32. bake a bit of jam into muffins, try these or these (photo via Good Things Catered)
33. turn those yummy drippings from pork or chicken into a delicious pan sauce with a cup of preserves and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (try cherry or strawberry preserves, season with salt & pepper to taste)
34. fold in 1/3 - 1/2 c of preserves into your favorite brownie mix for a new twist on the traditional
35. hot pepper jelly (or any preserve really) spooned over a block of cream cheese and served with crackers is always a hit
36. make sweet & sour sauce (puree, then bring to boil, stir until thick)
¼ c peach preserves
¼ c apricot preserves
5 tsp white vinegar
1 ½ tsp cornstarch
½ tsp soy sauce
½ tsp yellow mustard
pinch of garlic powder
4 tsp water

37. spoon your favorite jam over baked apples or pears
38. make a fresh fruit pizza, use a bit of jam for the sauce, add fruit and sprinkle with ricotta or bits of cream cheese, bake!
39. lil' smokies swimming in equal parts warm grape jelly and chili sauce, strange but good
40. have a tea party, serve your favorite tea blends, crumpets, and an assortment of preserves
41. have a tasting party, put out a cheese plate with jam pairings, crackers, and wine
42. how about a grilled cheese with hot pepper jelly?
43. combine hot pepper jelly with a bit of mayo and horseradish for a unique sandwich spread
44. add preserves to a sweet noodle kugel

45. make this chicken tagine (photo from Gourmet)
46. thin jam with a little water and warm to make a syrup, poke holes in a still warm cake, pour syrup over the top to infuse the cake with flavor
47. try an orange marmalade ale
48. fold preserves into fruit fluff desserts, like this one
49. layer preserves in a trifle with fresh fruit, pudding, and whipped cream
50. oh yeah, and you can spread it on toast!

I wish I had as many uses for pickles and relishes... I’ll have to think hard on that one. Tell me, how do you like to use your home canned goods?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mango Butter

I have to say this Mango Butter has been my favorite fruit butter yet. It makes a delicious spread, works wonders on plain cake, and will soon grace some chicken wings (tonight!). I didn't mess around with this stuff and knew I better put up full pints instead of smaller jars. Once you taste it you'll see why. The flavor is pure mango, bright, fruity, sweet but not cloying, liquid gold.

Mango Butter
(printable recipe)

4 lbs. ripe mangoes
1 1/3 c water
4 1/2 c sugar
grated rind & juice from 2 lemons

Peel and core the mangoes, puree the flesh. Bring puree and water to a boil, then simmer 15-20 minutes. Add sugar, lemon rind, and juice. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 35-40 minutes until reduced and thick. Prepare canner, jars, and lids (see Canning Basics).
Pour into 3 pint jars and process for 15 minutes in a hot water bath.

Vanilla or cinnamon may be added for a change of flavor, but I prefer this mango butter as is.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pork & Green Chile Enchiladas

After returning from our recent trip to New Mexico I was determined to make my own version of the enchiladas we had in Taos. I loved the idea of pork and salsa verde in an enchilada, similar in flavor to my Calabasitas con Carne de Puerco, but a unique dish all its own.

There are two components to this dish, the enchilada sauce and the filling. Feel free to mix and match these with other filings and sauces to make your own combination. Try chicken, beef, or cheese filling.

Pork & Green Chile Enchiladas
(printable recipe)

Salsa Verde para Enchiladas
15 tomatillos (about 3” diameter)
6 poblanos
1 small white onion
1 jalapeño
1 tsp. salt
squeeze of lime juice (optional)

Roast the poblanos until they are blackened on all sides, peel and remove stems and seeds. Add to the food processor.
Boil the tomatillos until they begin to soften and turn color. Remove and add to food processor.
Remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeño. Roughly chop along with the onion. Add to food processor with remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, you may need to work in batches.
Then run the sauce through a mesh sieve, save the pulp. (This should yield about 1 1/2c pulp, use a cup for the pork and save the rest to tuck into a quesadilla or add to tacos)

Pork Filling
3 lbs. country style pork ribs
2 bay leaves
1 c water
salt & pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c leftover pulp from straining salsa verde

Season the pork with salt & pepper and sear on all sides. Add to a crockpot with remaining ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours or on high for 5 hours until tender.
Carefully remove the pork and shred or chop, add a bit of the leftover juice to keep it moist.

For the Enchiladas
corn tortillas
oil for frying
shredded cheese, I like habanero cheddar or monterrey jack (use any melting cheese you like)
crema fresca

Fry the corn tortillas one at a time in about 1/2” of hot oil. You want to pass them through the oil briefly, until they are just soft and you begin to see bubbles form, about 15 seconds per side. Stack these on a plate and allow them to cool before you handle them. Meanwhile set up your assembly station. I like to use a pie plate to dip the tortillas in the sauce. A good size baking dish is great for rolling and holding the finished enchiladas.

Here’s the procedure:
Dip each tortilla in the green sauce, coating both sides. Place the filling (about 3 tablespoons) a bit off center (closer to you than perfectly centered), form into a log. Bring up the edge closest to you and roll like a cigar, keep the finish end at the bottom to prevent it from coming undone. Repeat until you have a pan full, or roll as many as you need. (these taste great reheated, but they can start to fall apart the next day)

Cover the enchiladas with additional sauce and shredded cheese. Bake for a few minutes to warm them through and melt the cheese. Alternately you can plate them up individually, cover with sauce and cheese, then microwave or put them under the broiler for a minute, this makes for a nicer presentation if you care for that sort of thing. (also the reason “the plate is hot!” at Mexican restaurants)

Top with a good amount of crema fresca. Trust.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Habanero Cheddar

Yumtown. I see nachos in my future...


I'm not much of wine drinker, I much prefer beer, but I do enjoy a glass of fruity sangria every once in a while. Here's my version of this classic wine cocktail.

(printable recipe)

1 bottle Spanish red wine
1 1/2 c fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 c fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 c pineapple juice
sliced oranges, limes, and pineapple
soda water (a fizzy pineapple soda works nicely too)

Combine wine and fruit juices, add sugar to taste. I used about 1/4 c of sugar. Add the sliced fruit (I didn't have any pineapple to spare but I did have a core that I threw in), chill for at least 4 hours.
Serve in a tall glass with additional fruit to garnish. Top off each glass with a splash of soda water for a bit of fizz.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I could definitely use a few of these, I've always got a snack or two in my purse and I hate wasting plastic!

Now's the perfect time to get these for any kids in your life too, Lunchskins are great for lunches and come in three sizes, snack, sandwich, and sub.

Blueberry Butter

Sorry to post this so late in the season but it could not wait until next year. I'm loving this butter and wanted to share in case anyone happens upon some end-of-season blueberries, I know I am still seeing some around..

A couple weeks back I happened upon a pretty good deal at the Dallas Farmer's Market, 12 pints of blueberries for $10. That's 24 cups, folks. A LOT
of blueberries, more than you need for most small batch recipes. So I turned to fruit butter. Fruit butters are a bit different than jam or jelly, they require less sugar and cook over a longer period of time and yield less. Perfect if you have a ton of fruit or want to lower your sugar intake a bit.

Oddly enough I had seen Marisa's Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter just a few weeks prior, not knowing at the time that I'd soon have more blueberries than I knew what to do with. Here's the simple recipe.

Blueberry Butter
(printable recipe)
from Food in Jars

makes approximately 3 1/2 pints of butter

8 cups of pureed blueberries
2 cups sugar
1 lemon, zested
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Put the pureed blueberries in a slow cooker. Place a lid on the pot and turn it on low. After about an hour, give it a stir. At this point, you want to use something to prop the lid a bit. I found that laying a wooden spoon across the rim of the cooker and then placing the lid on gave it just enough room to let the steam evaporate.

After 5 hours add spices and sugar. Remove the lid and increase heat setting to high.

Once it’s cooked down sufficiently*, pour into jars (leave a good 1/2 inch of head space), wipe rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

*When the cooking process is done, you can puree with an immersion blender or (carefully) in a regular blender, for a smoother product. It depends on whether you like your butters a bit chunky or very smooth.

The slow cooker makes this a snap to prepare, it was the perfect side project to have going during my weekend canning marathon, as it required little attention and gave me lots of time to do other things.

Blueberry Butter is great on breakfast breads, spooned over ice cream, or swirled into yogurt. I may even try to use it as a pastry filling, possibilities abound!

Hardeman's BBQ

Oh Lordy, this was good.

Small ends plate and chopped beef sandwich from Hardeman’s BBQ on Westmoreland in Oak Cliff.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roasted Corn & Poblanos

Here's a quick side dish I whipped up to make use of some fresh corn. Serve with grilled fish, spoon over salad or add to tacos and tostadas.

Roasted Corn & Poblanos
(printable recipe)

4 ears sweet corn
2 poblano peppers
3 roma tomatoes
chili powder
garlic powder
salt & pepper

Roast the corn and remove from the cobb. (do this on the grill for the best flavor, or you can briefly boil the corn, then char in a cast iron skillet) Roast the peppers, remove the skin, stem, and seeds. Roughly chop.
Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and give them a squeeze to remove most of the juice, then roughly chop. Combine the corn, poblanos, and tomatoes with a pat of butter in a skillet and add seasonings to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes over a medium heat. Remove from heat and add a handful of fresh chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

*I didn't have any cilantro on hand, but I know it would add some nice flavor to this dish!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pickled Jalapeños

I doubt many of us have Christmas on the brain, what with the 100+ degree weather we're having. I usually don't start thinking about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but this past weekend I decided to plan ahead and put up some festive jalapeños in preparation for the holidays.

Pickled Jalapeños
(printable recipe)
from Ball, Complete Book of Home Preserving

2 1/2 lbs. mixed red & green jalapeño peppers*
6 c vinegar
2 c water
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. canning salt per pint
1 bay leaf per pint

Rinse the jalapeños, remove the stems and slice 1/4" thick rounds. Prepare canner, jars, and lids. (see Canning Basics)
Bring vinegar, water and garlic to a boil. Add salt to each jar and fill with peppers, cover with vinegar solution and stick a bay leaf into each jar. Wipe rims and apply lids. Process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Wait 4 weeks before using in your favorite dishes.

*I highly recommend wearing a glove if you are slicing by hand, or if you happen to have a mandolin slicer now is the time to use it! You may certainly use all red or green jalapeños if you like.

Calabasitas con Carne de Puerco

This is my favorite dish to order at El Taquito Cafe in east Dallas. I ordered it one day on a whim, knowing that you don't always see calabasitas on the menu at your standard Mexican restaurant. I noted the little chili pepper by it, indicating it was picoso. The waitress even remarked that it was spicy. No matter, I had to try it. And boy, was she right! This stuff is just beyond my threshold of heat tolerance but I simply could not. stop. eating it. I could feel the burn of the peppers in my stomach, but the falling apart pork and tender squash was too good. The heat just made it more interesting.
Now that we're living in Oak Cliff we don't make it to El Taquito as often as I would like, so I had to devise my own version of this favorite. Here is how I do it..

Calabasitas con Carne de Puerco
(printable recipe)

2 lbs. country style pork ribs
3 small new potatoes, diced
4 calabasitas, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
1 small onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced*
1 serrano, minced*
5-6 tomatillos
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. comino
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 c chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste

Trim excess fat and bones from pork. Fry in a bit of oil until no longer pink, remove & saute chopped onion, garlic, & peppers. Meanwhile boil the tomatillos until they soften and set aside, save the water.
Puree the sauteed veggies & tomatillos.
Boil the potatoes about 10 minutes, not quite fork tender. Set aside.

Simmer the pork with the puree, spices, and chicken stock for 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours until tender. Stir occasionally and add additional chicken stock if necessary. Add potatoes and sliced calabasitas. Simmer until sauce is reduced & calabasitas are soft and cooked through. Season with additional salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh beans and plenty of hot tortillas.

*adjust spiciness to your liking. 2 peppers gives this dish just a slight burn, nothing like the original fire-breathing dish. This version has all the flavor and about 25% of the heat.

Canning Inventory 2010

The summer canning season is quickly drawing to a close (can you believe its mid-August?!), it seems like just yesterday I was making a big batch of strawberry preserves, but that was actually back in April, so it must just be my perception of time. Since then I've made salsas, jams, pickles, and fruit butters and continue to fill my cabinets and squirrel it all away in various spots (and pawn off samples on friends and family).

Last week I had a bit of ambition and decided that it was time to do an inventory of everything put up thus far. I cleared my counters and started pulling jars out... I should also mention that nothing was very organized (I just stashed this stuff where ever I had space!). Over 125 jars, 2 breaks for chocolate, a new organizational system, and a couple of ipod playlists later I had everything sorted and accounted for.

Here's what I came up with:

Creole Sauce - 7 pints
Cinnamon Red Hot Apples - 4 pints
Pickled Banana Peppers - 2 pints, 2 half pints
Okra Pickles - 2 pints
Garlic Pickles - 1 pint
Sweet Potato Butter - 2 pints
Spiced Apples - 4 pints
Carrot Jam - 2 pints
Peach Pie Filling - 5 pints
Mango Butter - 3 pints
Sweet Pickled Jalapenos - 1 pint
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling - 4 pints
Hawaiian Conserve - 4 half pints
Praline Syrup - 2 half pints
Apricot Honey Butter - 2 half pints
3 Citrus Marmalade - 1 half pint
Pineapple Marmalade - 1 half pint, 2 quarter pints
Strawberry Preserves - 4 pints, 2 half pints
Peach Jam - 8 half pints, 3 quarter pints
Blueberry Butter - 9 half pints, 4 quarter pints
Strawberry Jam - 5 half pints
Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - 5 half pints
Clementine Marmalade - 2 half pints
Papaya Lime Jam - 4 half pints
Maple Walnut Syrup - 3 half pints
Cactus Salsa - 3 half pints
Blackberry Jam - 4 half pints, 2 quarter pints
Raspberry Jam - 4 half pints
Prickly Pear Jam - 2 half pints, 2 quarter pints
Black Bean Dip - 4 quarts, 2 pints
Stewed Tomatoes - 3 quarts
Pickled Jalapenos - 1 pint, 8 half pints

And yes, in the event of zombie-apocalypse you are all invited over to my place. Just bring toast. Lots and lots of toast.

Now all I have to do is keep this list going, adding and subtracting as we work our forks through each jar. Or I may just schedule a bi-annual inventory, I'm not sure how to handle that yet. Either way this was a great opportunity to organize, evaluate, and clean up my pantry. It also gave me the chance to check seals and labels and rediscover some of my favorite projects from earlier this year.

If you decide to tackle a canning inventory for yourself here are a few useful tips:
  • take time to sort everything by type, batch, and jar size if applicable
  • check your labels to be sure they are still clear, legible, and properly marked
  • check seals. look for any signs of mold or improper seal. Test seals by tapping the lid with a spoon (you are looking for a high *ping*, compare to a jar filled with water and a new lid screwed on) or remove the ring and lift the jar by the lid (using just your fingertips) the seal should be able to support the weight of the jar.
  • you may choose to rearrange / relocate your preserves. I now store all like items together, such as all jams,jellies, butters, and conserves go in one cabinet. I have another spot for pie fillings and whole fruit preserves, and another for savory sauces, salsas, and pickles.

For further information on storing home canned foods check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation site, How Do I? ...Store page

And one more thing, I created these fun inventory sheets! Download 'em, print them, use them to your heart's content. (click to download printable .pdfs)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peach Pie Filling & Jam

I don't know about you, but I've been eagerly awaiting peach season all year. Its finally here and nothing compares to a ripe summer peach, sweet, juicy, and bursting with flavor. Sadly, they aren't around all year. So let's cheat, shall we? Peach pie in January? Heck yes!

Oh and while we're at it, Peach Jam. I made both jam and pie filling on my birthday weekend canning marathon, and let me tell you 40+ peaches is plenty to tackle in one day. Add to that a whole slew of blueberries and various pickles and you've got 1 exhausted (and extremely) Hungry Texan.

I found that the easiest way to go about peeling/pitting/slicing them is to:

1. Boil a big pot of water. Cut an x in the bottom of each peach. Working in batches, boil 6-8 peaches at a time for about 5 minutes. The skin will slip off easily.
2. Prepare a sink full of cool water to hold the peaches after boiling. Peel and treat to prevent browning. I have a double sink and used one side to peel and the other side to receive the peeled peaches. Fill with water and a splash of lemon juice to treat the peaches and prevent browning.
3. Once all the peaches are peeled, remove the pits by making 1 continuous cut around and gently twisting. Slice and return to treatment water. At this point they can be put up as is (in syrup) or used in jam, chutneys, or pie filling.

Now that that's done, lets get to the recipes:

Peach Pie Filling
(printable recipe)
from Ball, Complete Book of Home Preserving

1 cinnamon stick (about 3" long, broken into pieces)
2 tsp whole cloves
12 c sliced, pitted, peeled peaches (treated to prevent browning and drained)
2 c finely chopped cored peeled apples (treated to prevent browning and drained)
2 2/3 c sugar
1 c golden raisins
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 c lemon juice
1/4 c white vinegar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Tie up the cinnamon and cloves in a square of cheesecloth to create a spice bag.
2. In a large stainless steel saucepan combine all ingredients. Bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.
3. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 10 minutes).
4. Meanwhile prepare canner, jars, and lids. See Canning Basics.
5. Ladle hot filling into jars, leaving 1" headspace. Wipe rims and secure lids.
Process for 15 minutes in hot water bath canner.

Makes 4 pints (I scaled the recipe up to make 6 pints). Each pint will fill 1 double crust pie.

Peach Jam
(printable recipe)
from Ball, Complete Book of Home Preserving

5 tart apples, stems removed. Chopped coarsely (peel, core, and all)
2 lemons (unpeeled), finely chopped
6 c sliced, pitted, peeled peaches (treated to prevent browning and drained)
5 1/2 c sugar

1. In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan combine apples, lemon and enough water to prevent sticking. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat, partially cover and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until soft. Working in batches transfer mixture to a fine sieve to remove cores and skins. Should yield 2 cups of applesauce.
2. Prepare canner, jars, & lids.
3. Back to the pot with the applesauce, add peaches and sugar. Bring to boil stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Boil about 20 minutes (keep stirring!) until it thickens and mounds on a spoon. Remove from heat and skim off foam.*
4. Ladle into six half-pint (8oz) jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Remove any air bubbles, wipe rims and secure lids and rings.
5. Process 10 minutes in a hot water bath canner.

*I used an immersion blender after the sugar had dissolved to get a smooth overall consistency although I did leave a few chunks throughout. This is optional and does not indicate to do so in the original recipe.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Steak Salad

I could eat a salad like this every day. Fresh greens, cucumber, crunchy jicama, tomato, black beans, leftover tablitas cut off the bone. Salsa and crema fresca to dress it up. Awesome.

Red Onion Woodworks

I've known about Red Onion Woodworks for a while now, I don't know what's taken me so long to post about them. They make gorgeous wood cutting boards and serving trays. Each piece is unique and drool-worthy.

From their Etsy site: "Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) grows abundantly up and down the West Coast of the United States, but only the rare tree shows the fiddleback, quilted, or burled figure that I use when making my cutting boards and serving trays. Each piece I make is absolutely unique. In fact, my favorite part is putting finish on a board and seeing the natural figure of the wood being revealed."

Visit Red Onion Woodworks on Etsy to see what they currently have up for sale.

Hank's Tomatillo-Avocado Dip

This is Hank's specialty and is something he created all his own. It combines roasted peppers, creamy avocado and tangy lime for one addictive dip. This makes a huge batch, but that's never a problem...it won't last long. Serve with crispy tortilla chips or use on tacos. This also makes a great dressing for salads.

Hank's Tomatillo-Avocado Dip
(printable recipe)

1 large poblano
1/2 white onion
1 large can tomatillos, drained*
1 serrano
1 jalapeño
4 small avocados or 2 large
juice from 2 limes

Roast the poblano, onion, serrano, and jalapeño in a 400 degree oven, about 20 minutes. They will not be fully charred. Peel the poblano, stem and de-seed the peppers. Add all to the food processor and run until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt and a bit of garlic salt.

*you may also use an equal amount of fresh tomatillos. You'll need 10-12 small tomatillos. Remove the husk, rinse and boil for 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Fresh tomatillos (where we live) are typically much cheaper than canned, so a few extra minutes of prep can save you some cash.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hungry Texan Tortas

This past Saturday I was craving a torta from a local taqueria. It was the first time in a while I knew exactly what I wanted to eat. I knew I didn't feel like cooking either. Usually Hank and I banter back and forth, with 'what do you wants' and 'I dunnos' until we (4 times out of 5) decide on something Mexican.
So, all geared up for fresh, yummy tortas and a Mexican Coca Cola, we headed out to pickup lunch. But unfortunately when we got there the placed was closed. At 2. On a Saturday. We were seriously bummed.
Undeterred (and hungry), I had Hank swing me by the grocery for some fresh bolillos. After some quick chopping and digging in the fridge, lunch was ready. And pretty delicious too.

(printable recipe)

bolillos (hoagie sandwich rolls or french bread will work)
mexican crema or mayonaisse
pickled jalapenos
queso fresco
refried beans
ham, or milanesa*

Split the bolillos and toast them if you like. Slather with mayonaisse and spread a layer of warm refried beans on the bottom. I had leftover black bean dip that was really tasty with these.
Pile on the ham, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, jalapenos, and queso fresco. Smash the sandwich closed and stuff your face. Serve with lots of these.

Tortas are extremely adaptable to suit different tastes and use up what you have on hand. I made Hank's sandwich with the last of some picadillo we had in the fridge. I made sure mine had plenty of onion - use what you like! Try the milanesa version, use chicken or even grilled shrimp.

If you'd like some extra heat or just want to spice things up a little make a special mayonaisse by combining 1 chipotle pepper with 1 c mayo. Puree until smooth and slather on the bolillos. It'll give it some zip!

*For the Milanesa version:
veal cutlet, or small piece of steak (pound thin with meat hammer)
dry breadcrumbs (ground fine)
salt & pepper

Dredge the cutlet in milk, then in seasoned breadcrumbs, and press them to adhere to the meat. Pan fry in oil. Layer in the torta with other ingredients.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Berry Lemonade

I'm always looking for ways to use my stockpile of jams and preserves, there's only so much toast a girl can eat right?
Last week I was craving tart sweet lemonade, but wanted something with a bit of a twist. Just a spoonful of jam in each glass creates a custom flavor that is sure to please.

Berry Lemonade
(printable recipe)

juice of 4 lemons
1/2 c sugar, or to taste
1 quart of water
assorted berry flavor jams

Juice lemons and run through a fine mesh sieve to remove any seeds. Add sugar and water and stir to combine. Chill completely. To serve put 1 tbsp. jam into each glass (I used raspberry and blackberry). Fill with ice and pour lemonade over the top. Add a swizzle stick for stirring and a lemon slice to garnish.

Black Bean Dip

This is easy peasy folks. Almost too easy for the results you get. This Black Bean Dip is great to keep on hand to serve with chips and veggies, slather on burritos and tostadas, or even eat as a side. It comes together in a snap and always gets rave reviews. What's not to love?

Black Bean Dip
(printable recipe)

2 cans whole black beans
handful diced onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp. comino
garlic salt

Saute the onion and garlic in oil until soft. Drain the beans (reserve the liquid) and add to the pot to warm through, about 5 minutes. Put in the food processor* and pulse until smooth, add seasonings to taste. You may want to add a bit of liquid if the dip seems too thick.

*you can use a bean masher if you don't have a food processor, it will just take a bit of mashing to get a really smooth consistency. You may want to mince the onion in this case as well.

Add chopped fresh jalapeno to the onion and garlic for a hot bean dip.
Top the dip with cheese (try monterrey jack, queso quesadilla, or habanero cheese) and melt under the broiler until warm and bubbly.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sedimentary Sentiments

Just stumbled on great tableware from Sedimentary Sentiments via Etsy. Really nice pieces here, AND...they're food safe!

Coco Loto

It is so $*#@^!% hot! Coco Lotos quench and satisfy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cactus Salsa

On our recent trip to New Mexico I saw some tiny cactus on the trip to Santa Fe, along the Rio Grande. This sparked my recipe for Cactus Salsa. I know the small nopales (cactus pads) are usually the most tender, and seeing them roadside reminded me that they are in season. As soon as we got back to Dallas I snatched up all the ingredients to make this including tomatillos, limes, poblanos, jalapenos, serranos, onion, garlic, and of course a few cactus pads.

This is a somewhat involved salsa recipe because it involves prepping several different things and cooking the final product for a few minutes, but the results are worth the effort. And if you like, you can even process this in a hot water bath canner and save for future use.

Cactus Salsa
(printable recipe)

2-4 cactus pads (about 2 cups diced)
8 tomatillos (plum sized)
2 poblanos
2 jalapenos*
1-2 serranos
1/2 white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 c lime juice
1 tsp. comino
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
handful chopped cilantro, if serving fresh (do not add cilantro if you choose to can the salsa)

Lets start with the tomatillos. Bring a pot of water to boil, meanwhile remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse them to remove the sticky residue. Toss them in the boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, until they change color and begin to soften. Be sure to remove them before they burst and save the pot of water, you'll use it to cook the cactus.

While you are watching your tomatillos you can prepare all the remaining veggies on a comal (or cast iron skillet). Place them on a hot dry comal and turn occasionally, making sure all sides are blackened.

Once they are done place the poblanos in a paper bag for a few minutes, then remove the skin (leave the skin on the other peppers). Remove the stems and seeds from all the peppers (leave in the seeds to add more heat if you like) and place them all in a food processor with the tomatillos.

To prepare the nopales, take each pad and run it across an open flame to burn off the needles.
Then remove the nubs with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. Chop and place in boiling water for 2 minutes. Rinse in cold water and put in food processor with other ingredients.
Run the food processor to achieve desired consistency. Pour off into a pan and add lime juice, vinegar, and seasonings. Stir and bring to a gentle boil for 5 minutes.
At this point you can ladle the salsa into 4 half pint jars (see Canning Basics) and process for 10 minutes. Or if you'd like enjoy the salsa now, top with a handful of chopped cilantro and serve with warm tortilla chips.

*I used one green and one red jalapeno for color. I actually saved the red jalapeno and put it in the food processor at the last minute to get bigger chunks throughout.