Sunday, January 10, 2016

(How to) Can Fabulous Salsa

Last summer my dad grew more tomatoes than I can even describe to you. No lie. Buckets and buckets.

This is my Bitty Baby. She's 19 months old. Hurts my heart. 
I was thrilled. I made tomato sauce and froze it. We ate fresh tomatoes every day. I made fresh pico all the time. And (drumroll please) I canned salsa!

Canning salsa has been on my bucket list for quite some time. (Remember, we're not to judge others' bucket lists.)


You're gonna wanna do this, peeps. Eat it with a spoon, drink it with a straw, just get it in your mouth.


I shared it with my family and my brother said it was the perfect amount of "sweet and heat." Mission accomplished.


Once I became a pro at canning salsa, I went to town canning pears & apples from our orchard. By next summer, I'm going to be a canning machine. Watch out. It's juicy, messy & sloppy but so worth it.

Here's how I did it.

(How to) Can Fabulous Salsa

8-10 cups of peeled, chopped & drained tomatoes (I used Roma tomatoes & plum tomatoes)
2 large sweet onions, chopped
2 green peppers
1/2 cup jalapeno peppers, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 T cumin
2 tsp pepper
2 T kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
15 oz. can tomato sauce
12 oz. can tomato paste
Juice of 2 limes
Bunch of cilantro, chopped fine

Place all ingredients except for lime juice & cilantro into a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to create the consistency you want. I like it pretty pureed (though not completely). Taste it and see what you think. You can always add more heat, salt, sugar, whatever, to suit your taste. Stir in the cilantro & lime juice. Ladle into canning jars, seal with lids and cook in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

*Just a canning tip: the jars may not feel completely sealed on top when you remove them from the water; if the lids don't pop after the jar has cooled, you know you have a good seal. If it still pops, process in the water for another 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Barbecue Chicken Nachos

I just noticed that I last posted in September. That was four months ago. It's now 2016. I'm not even going to ask you where my life is going because I know you don't have an answer either.

So. What's happened in the last 4 months. Matthew and I stayed awake ALL THE WAY TO MIDNIGHT on New Year's Eve!!! This is news, people. We haven't rang in a new year since we had children.

Exciting item #2. We acquired a new family member. It is a baby kitten! Ugh. Kittens one of God's cutest creations. We named him Tubby. He's clearly a smart cat since he chose our house to come howl in front of. And I'm a total sucker for animals. And my dad is a vet! Told you Tubs is smart.

It was a dark and stormy evening (for real), my dad dropped Matthew off from their afternoon of hunting and we heard a kitten crying in the bushes. My dad and I hunted around in the bushes, using our flashlights because it was dark as night and raining and calling "here, kitty" about a thousand times. We caught him and the rest is history. Tubby is adorable and sweet and positively adores our children. Well, he adores the two older girls. The two littles are a bit rough with him. He's sweet and tolerant anyway.



It goes with the territory. I just remind Tubby that he picked us. He loves our dogs, he loves our other cat, Harry, and I'm sure he will love the bunny we're getting this spring when Mary Beth turns 8. (We're on our way to a petting zoo. Just how I planned it. Don't say I didn't warn you.)



Christmas break was wonderful...I love all of my kids home with me. I considered not sending them back to school this semester. Learning is overrated, no? (Matthew does not share these thoughts. Hence the reason children need mothers AND fathers. That is not a political statement. It's just a factual statement.)


Christmas break...where was I...oh, yes, these nachos. Um, yum is all I can say about these. My sister-in-law makes these and my brother loves them and she told me all about them and I said yes I'll be making those soon and so I made them in December. Matthew and I LOVED them!!!


Quantities are approximate because it simply doesn't matter. (Plus, I don't have time to measure anymore. I just empty out the refrigerator and dump stuff in. Things turn out okay. Usually, anyway.) A pile of chips, a pile of cheese, chicken, bake. Top with green onions, sour cream, BBQ sauce & pickled jalapeno slices. Devour.


So easy. Please make these. And by all means, use Neely's BBQ sauce recipe (I tweaked it a bit and blogged it here). Bottled BBQ sauce is just too...gloppy. Neely's is perfect. You'll lick your plate, despite your New Year's resolutions!

Barbecue Chicken Nachos

Tortilla Chips
Shredded Cheese (I used a combo of Pepper Jack & Cheddar)
Cooked chicken, chopped (I used grilled but sauteed or even rotisserie would work!)
Black beans (I just used canned, drained & rinsed)
BBQ Sauce

Toppings:
Sliced green onions
Sour Cream
Pickled jalapeno peppers

On a large baking sheet, spread a layer of tortilla chips and top with cheese & chicken. Spread another layer of chips on top with cheese & chicken. Bake in a 375 degree oven until cheese is melty & bubbly. Remove from oven and generously top with BBQ sauce. (If you put the BBQ sauce on the chips before you put it in the oven, the chips get soggy. Just FYI.) Sprinkle green onions on top. Top each serving with sour cream and jalapenos.

My mouth is watering. Can't wait to make these again.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies (soft. coconut oil. so good)

For cryin' out loud, y'all. It's SEPTEMBER. What in the world.

I know you're dying for an update on my exciting life, so I'll oblige. We bought a house. We sold our old house. We moved.

Did you know that moving entails packing every single itty bitty item you own, putting it in a box, putting the box in a vehicle and driving it to a different location?

I won't even get into unpacking every little thing.

If I had thought that through, I might have thought twice about moving. Oh my word. Children have a lot of little bitty things. Times four. And I had stuck a lot of things in a lot of places. Wow.

But we're moved and it was all totally worth it. More than worth it. So worth it, we're never doing it again. Ever.

We love our new place. All of us. Especially the dogs and the kids. They run and romp and dig holes (this applies to kids & dogs alike). The kids play in the dirt and run in the field and help their daddy prune trees. Kids are supposed to be dirty and sweaty, you know? Also, most of us have shared poison ivy (that was fun).

I have a long list of farm animals I plan to procure at some point. And no, the list does not include goats. Nearly everyone has asked me this. What is the deal with goats? To quote my dad: "If a fence won't hold water, it won't hold a goat." There ya go. No goats on this land.

But I would consider a burro (that's the Spanish word for donkey, but it sounds much better in Spanish don't you think?).


So I do cook occasionally, but it would be embarrassing if I told you what I make (I'm using the words "cook" and "make" very loosely in this context). But we do eat on our screened-in porch every night. It's awesome. It might get a bit cold in the winter, but kids are messy and at least one person spills their milk every night, so I think we'll just suffer through.


On an unrelated note, I tried yet another recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I tweaked it a bit and I think they're pretty delicious. I fell in love with coconut oil during my Whole30 and so I just applied that healthy oil to baking (I'm sure the creators of Whole30 would be thrilled with that). Don't skip the step of chilling the batter because your cookies will be puddles when you bake them. Just follow the directions and your life will go as planned.

Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 cup melted coconut oil (measure the melted oil to equal 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup dark chocolate chips (Ghiradelli chips are the best)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Stir together the oil, butter & sugar until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and combine. Add the salt, soda, powder & flour with the chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Scoop into mounds (I use a cookie scoop) and chill for at least 3 hours. Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 7-8 minutes, until not quite done (they will set up as they cool).

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Banana Pudding (quick, easy & no-cook)

It's been awhile, y'all.  So I'll just begin by telling you some of the random thoughts that swirl around in my head.
  • School is out. For the summer. Could I please just press pause for a year or so? I used to be all for continued education but now I firmly believe that a first grade education is adequate. Plus, I'm now one of those annoying people that thinks "life goes so fast once you have kids in school." I'm not actually one of those people saying that, though, because that would make me actually annoying. But I'm totally thinking it.
  • This is my baby. She is almost 1. Year Old. I just birthed her, so I'm not sure how she's turning one. Because I just had her the other day. Although she has nursed approximately 5,000 times in the last 12 months. I kept count.

  • She is a complete joy. She screams if I don't feed her fast enough. She loves to swing. She still nurses as many times during the hours when normal people are sleeping as she did eight months ago. I let her because someday I will be sad when she doesn't want to nurse anymore. (Does that make me weird?) It's good to be the baby of the family, let me tell you. She's a regular celebrity around here.
  • So the last time I blogged, we had just gotten Pip, our adorable and tiny chick. He didn't even have feathers. Just fuzz. Or whatever the scientific term of chicken fur is. Approximately 16 hours after we brought him home, he turned into an awkward, half-grown chicken with feathers. He grew something odd-looking on his face and his legs got long. He was not nearly as cute as he had been the day before. Then our mini longhaired dachshund attacked him. She was fierce. He suffered nerve damage in his leg (my vet confirmed this diagnosis) but he compensated well for his handicap. Then he escaped his pen (I use the term "pen" loosely for the box he lived in). We have not seen him since, though my children have been known to wander around the yard calling, "Pip!" as if he's going to saunter up to them. They were even looking for him at the Arboretum during a walk the other day.
  • I haven't the heart to tell him that he got eaten by an animal. If you run into my children, please don't mention that our pet chicken was probably was someone's midnight snack.
  • Our house is on the market. If you're shocked, sorry. I haven't had time to text and/or call and/or email my entire contact list. The good news about this is that my house is really clean. The bad news is that all I do now is clean my house. That's why I haven't told you that my house is on the market. I've been mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, picking up toys, emptying trash cans (where do kids get all of this trash they throw away???), folding blankets (someone makes a fort around here approximately every 4 hours), picking up pillows (all good forts require lots of pillows), putting the dogs out, letting the dogs in, feeding and watering the dogs, feeding and watering the children, cleaning up spilled milk (whoever said not to cry over spilled milk didn't have 4 children), changing lightbulbs (put your house on the market and within 12 hours half of your lightbulbs will have blown. guaranteed.), and wiping snot/spit/drool/yogurt/milk/banana sticky fingers/some unknown sticky or gooey substance off of every glass door and window that can be reached by the tongues and/or fingers and/or feet of little people.
  • Following the advice of our wonderful realtor (if you want her name, let me know. She's awesome and I couldn't recommend her any more highly), I cleaned off our refrigerator, freeing it from the invitations, birth announcements, pictures, chip clips, calendars, magnets, memory work & art work that had accumulated there. Bubby (he's 2 1/2) thinks we got a new refrigerator. Just because it's clean. "Wook at our new fridge!" he announces every couple of hours. It's pretty funny. It actually does look pretty new because it has been protected by a nice thick layer of the items mentioned above.

  • Our peonies bloomed. This is always a momentous occasion in our family because all of my bridesmaids and I carried bouquets of peonies at our wedding...12 years ago. The groomsmen even wore the large buds of peonies in their boutineers. It was fabulous. So now we have a long line of peonies in our yard, and every May when the bloom, it reminds us of our wonderful wedding. And we tell our children about it. And I cut big bunches and put them in our house. Yes, ants come into the house on the flowers. Life goes on.
  • I'll be digging up every last one of my peonies bushes when we move and transplanting them to our new house. This announcement counts as a legal disclosure.
  • So we just re-paved our driveway. It was worth every penny for the entertainment provided to these two middles. They loved all of the equipment, from the steamrollers & bulldozer right down to the sledgehammer.
Your eyes do not deceive you. That is, in fact, Tinkerbell on the left.
  • I haven't really cooked a whole lot of new or exciting things lately. I did a Whole30 challenge. Have you heard of that? Think paleo on steroids. It's insane and awesome at the same time. Basically I turned into a carnivorous rabbit. Bottom lime: in the end it was worth it and I was glad I did it. But during that month I wasn't exactly fixing cheesy, saucy enchiladas, pasta dishes or peanut butter cookies - you know, the types of things that people want to read about and look at on a food blog. I did eat good food, but I was too hungry to even think about blogging. Just bein' honest, ya'll.

  • After my Whole30 experience, it was my husband's birthday. He requested Banana Pudding. It's his fave. I love it too. He prefers the no-cook version and since it WAS his birthday and all, I obliged. But this is my favorite - with homemade vanilla pudding. Mmmm. How bad could that be. But the no-cook version is way faster and easier and you don't have to worry about curdling your eggs in your hot custard or scorching the bottom of the custard because you forgot to stir, stir, stir. (Been there, done that. Scorched and/or curdled pudding must go straight in the trash. There is no redemptive plan for such a mistake.) And this no-cook recipe is a very delicious version. I've already educated you Yankees on banana pudding, so if you need a refresher, read this post.
I'm off to clean up some mess that someone made in the time I wrote this post. I'm not sure who did it, how it happened or what spilled, but I guarantee someone did something somewhere. I just tell myself that sticky won't exist in heaven. And I'll just leave you with this picture of our perfect family, where no one cries or whines and everyone always is happy to have their picture taken.



Banana Pudding (quick, easy & no-cook)

2 large boxes instant vanilla pudding
3 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
1 box vanilla wafers (don't buy generic please)
6 bananas (give or take...depending on size, just don't be skimpy)

Whisk together the pudding mix and milk in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Whisk in the sour cream. Use a spatula to fold in the Cool Whip.

In a large serving bowl (think a salad bowl - and it's nice if it's clear glass so you can see the layers), start with a layer of vanilla wafers (cover the bottom), sliced bananas (cover the vanilla wafers), and pudding (use about 1/3 of the pudding mixture). Continue layers - you'll do 3 of each - ending with the pudding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chili Mac & Cheese

Since it's been a long time since I posted, I thought I'd introduce you to the newest member of our family.

Pip.


Can you tell that my biggest girl is pretty excited. Pip is a chick (can you tell?). Yes, as in a chicken. 

No, we haven't moved to the country since we last talked. Why do you ask?

So anyway.


Chili Mac & Cheese. Comfort food, I think it's safe to say.

My mom used to make this for us. It's just really good. These things just go together. So you really should make it.


It's easy. It's good. It's cheesy. That's enough for now.

Chili Mac & Cheese

8 oz macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked), cooked according to package directions
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups shredded)

Brown the beef with the onion and bell pepper in a large skillet, crumbling the beef and cooking until no longer pink. Drain any grease. 

Add the garlic, tomatoes, cumin, oregano, basil, salt & pepper and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Combine with the pasta and pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top with the cheese and bake in 350 degree oven until bubbly and hot (about 20 minutes or so).

Friday, February 27, 2015

French Silk Pie

It's Friday! Therefore, we should definitely eat chocolate pie.

French Silk chocolate pie, to be specific.


I have made this several times, and I love making it because it's fun to make!

And it's a totally bizarre process.

Here's what you do. Mix up some butter & sugar, pour in some melted chocolate (cooled, please), and then crack in an egg every five minutes while your mixer is on.


So the pie filling takes over 20 minutes just to make. Four eggs x 5 minutes between each egg (plus a couple minutes to beat the sugar & butter together). I mean, that's weird. Who in the world figured out that you could get a fabulous, fluffy pie filling this way?

I mean, who has that much time on their hands?

I don't actually really care. I'm just thankful that someone made this discovery and that I made the discovery of this recipe on Pinterest.

Actually, my mom has known about this pie for decades. I can't believe she was holding out on me. When I mentioned that I was going to make this pie, she casually said, "Oh, yeah, I used to make that pie."

Really. Thanks for enlightening me. Spread the fabulousness around, y'all. Don't hold out on those that you love. Make this pie for them.

French Silk Pie

2 sticks butter (yes, I said a cup of butter), softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled
4 eggs
1 baked pie shell, cooled
Whipped cream, for serving (make the real stuff or use the canned Redi-Whip but please don't ruin this delicious pie with Cool Whip)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Beat it on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until fluffy. Add the vanilla and chocolate and combine.  Set your mixer on medium speed and add an egg every 5 minutes (this will take 20 minutes to add the eggs). Scrape the bowl well (especially the bottom) each time you add an egg. Beat for another 5 minutes. Pour the filling into the baked pie shell.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

Cauliflower is so cool now. I mean, for a vegetable that used to not be the cool kid, it certainly has turned its life around.


Just ask Pinterest. There you can find cauliflower-turned-pizza-crust. Or cauliflower that supposedly tastes exactly like rice! Allegedly.

Well, I made some soup with the vegetable. And it was really good.  I think it was good because I roasted the cauliflower.

I. Love. Roasted. Vegetables.

All of them.  Well, most of them.  Like roasted Brussels sprouts. We're really into those right now.


Anyway, this soup was really good. It doesn't boast any absurd claims, like a chocolate chip cookie made from cauliflower or anything. But that's okay. It just is a soup made with cauliflower, some other veggies, and finished with some half-and-half and cheese. Believe it or not, it was very delicious.

Oh, and I used fat-free half & half.  Whatever the heck that is.

I must say, though…not bad, my friends. Not bad.

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Cooking Classy

1 head cauliflower
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 T butter
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped or shredded
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Heaping 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk (I used 1 cup fat-free half-and-half)
10 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded

Break apart the cauliflower into florets, trimming the hard part of the stem off and discarding.  Spread the florets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until it is tender and has some brown edges.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot. Add the celery, carrots and onion. Sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir, cooking for a minute. Add the salt & pepper.  Whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from the heat and add the roasted cauliflower, milk & cheddar. Stir to combine and to melt the cheese.

You can puree this soup for a finer texture. I used a hand blender and pulsed just a few times to break up some of the chunks but I didn't want it pureed into a smooth texture. It is also good just the way it is!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Green Chile Egg Puff

I had to take an egg casserole to MOPS last week. I needed something different.

So I consulted my friend Pinterest.  And this is what I found.


I made it. I took it to my friends. I liked it. They liked it.

I'll make it again.

You already know my philosophy regarding any recipe containing a pound of cheese.

I'm too tired to say anything else right now.

Green Chile Egg Puff
Adapted from Smell Good Kitchen

12 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
16 oz. small curd cottage cheese
1/2 stick (4 T) butter, melted & cooled
1 lb Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (this is 4 cups shredded; I have also used a combo of Pepper Jack/regular Monterey Jack)
8 oz. can chopped green chiles

Crack the eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Pour into a greased 9x13 casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes until set when you jiggle the dish.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hot Corn Dip

This is Pioneer Woman's invention.  I just made it and added my own little twists to it to make it a little spicier.


People can't stop eating this dip.  Myself included.  It's creamy, spicy, sweet from the onions and peppers and cheesy.

And you eat it with chips. Maybe you should make it for the Super Bowl.

If you're into that kind of thing.

Hot Corn Dip
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 4 oz. cans chopped green chiles
16 oz. frozen corn
8 oz. jalapeño cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

In a medium skillet over high heat (I like to use an iron skillet for this), melt the butter and saute the onion and both peppers.  You want the veggies to get nice and caramelized with flavor - it really makes a difference in the dip.  Add the garlic and green chiles and cook for another minute.  Add the corn and stir until thawed.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and Monterey jack cheese.  Pour into a greased 8x8 casserole dish and top with the Pepper Jack.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes until bubbly.  Serve with tortilla chips or Fritos scoops.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Amaretto Pound Cake

I made this last month for our annual cousin gathering.  Yesterday my cousin reminded me that I still hadn't posted the recipe...

So here ya go.


My hairdresser was sweet enough to share this recipe with me a few years ago, and I love it.  She said it's an old Southern Living recipe that she's been making for years, and she passed it along to me.

The cake is simple to make and unbelievably moist.  I must say that my cousins loved it.

Amaretto Pound Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
3/4 cup amaretto liqueur
1/4 tsp almond extract

6 T amaretto liqueur
1 cup powdered sugar

Mix together ingredients for cake.  Mix for about a minute until completely combined.  Pour into a well-greased bunt pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few crumbs sticking to it.

Whisk together the glaze ingredients.  Use a toothpick (or the tines of a fork) to poke holes in the cake while it's still in the pan.  Pour the glaze on top.  Let the cake sit for 2 hours in the pan before inverting on a cake stand.  Cool completely before slicing.