Garden Fresh Salsa

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So, rolling with the tomato theme – the other way my husband will eat fresh tomatoes! You knew this was coming, didn’t you?

I’m loving this version because we have tomatoes, onions and hot peppers in the garden currently  – so I can walk out the back door and grab the ingredients whenever I want and mix this up in about ten minutes.

I’m going to miss the garden when the season is over!

Garden Fresh Salsa
(slightly adapted from
Makes about 2 cups

4 Roma tomatoes
1/2 small onion
1 hot pepper (I used a Serrano pepper)
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse one of the tomatoes, onion, hot pepper and garlic until finely chopped but still chunky. Transfer to a bowl.

Dice remaining tomatoes. Stir into the processed mixture. Stir in lime juice and sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make it Yourself Monday: Ranch Veggie Dip

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Raw veggies are a dinner staple around here. On nights I’m too busy (or, too lazy) to make a real side, we’ll just toss whatever veggies are in the fridge on the table for munching. Occasionally, we’ll buy a veggie dip to go with it – but when I realized how unhealthy our favorite one is, it started making the grocery list less and less often.

When we volunteered to bring a veggie tray for Easter, I knew I wanted to make my own dip to go with it. When I asked around, Branny offered up this version. It looked a lot healthier than our store-bought go-to, so it won out – and it was delightful. After making this, I can honestly say we won’t be buying it again!


Ranch Veggie Dip
(from Branny Boils Over)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried dill
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Make it Yourself Monday: Taco Seasoning

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Most of my Make it Yourslef Monday projects come from a desire to replace a store-bought product. This one happened simply because I forgot to pick up taco seasoning at the store. It was a few years ago, back when I was a new cook and the realization competely flustered me. I started googling for a substitution – and found a ton of really easy ideas. Whew!

I’ve tried a bunch of different versions since then, but I keep coming back to this one. It’s got a great flavor and all of the spices included are ones I always have in the pantry. This recipe makes just enough to replace one store-bought package.

Taco Seasoning
(slightly adapted from AllRecipes)
Makes enough to replace 1 package

1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

Whisk together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Make It Yourself Monday: Pumpkin Pie Spice

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Hello, September. Hello, pumpkin season! I’ve seen so much excitement over pumpkin-flavored everything that I thought it was appropriate to kick off September with this recipe.

Pumpkin pie spice is essentially in lots of pumpkin recipes and it’s super easy to whip up at home. Chances are, you already have everything you need in your pantry!

Pumpkin Pie Spice
(from Annie’s Eats)
Makes about 4 Tablespoons

2 T. ground cinnamon
1 T. ground ginger
1 1/2 t. ground allspice
1 1/2 t. ground cloves
3/4 t. ground nutmeg

Whisk together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Make It Yourself Monday: Classic Hummus

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When I introduced the Make It Yourself Monday series back in the beginning of January, I envisioned it to be a regular feature of the blog. I wanted it to be the push for me to make more “basics” myself. Since then, I’ve put up a whopping two posts. What happened? Well, I’m just really not doing as well with the cooking-from-scratch things as I hoped.

But, the beauty of a June birthday is that it’s like another reset button mid-year. I’ll be celebrating my birthday on Wednesday and this year there will be more cooking from scratch!

Hummus is something I’ve wanted to make for a while. I’d planned on trying it a few years ago and then couldn’t find tahini. I just happened to turn around in the grocery store a few weeks ago and noticed tahini on the shelf! It went into the cart immediately and I made this as soon as I got home.

The most tedious part of this recipe is peeling the chick peas, but it’s so worth it! The end result is the smoothest hummus I’ve ever had.

Classic Hummus
(from Branny Boils Over)
Makes about 3 cups

2 (15 oz.) cans chick peas, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. tahini
2-4 T. water, as needed to reach desired consistency
1/2-1 t. fine grain sea salt
1/4 t. ground coriander seeds

To peel the chick peas: drain them from the cans and rinse thoroughly. If you squeeze the chick peas lightly, they should pop out of their skins.

Add the peeled chick peas to a food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until very smooth.


Introducing Make It Yourself Mondays and DIY Vanilla Extract

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For the last few years, one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to make more from scratch. While we’re not perfect, we’ve made huge improvements. It’s incredibly gratifying to make things yourself – and I’m often surprised at just how easy and doable it is. I’m starting a new series today, Make It Yourself Mondays, to highlight kitchen projects you can tackle yourself.

The first one I’m sharing is for something I use all the time – vanilla extract. Even when I started cooking more from scratch, vanilla extract is not something I thought I’d ever consider making myself. And then I learned how easy it was. There’s no cooking, and minimal prep and measuring – all you really need is some patience.

I purchased these vanilla beans from Amazon, because they were the best price I found (vanilla beans are expensive!). I got my bottles from Specialty Bottle (also the best price I found). Not only is this a great pantry staple, but it makes a really cute gift. If you want to dress up your bottles, lots of bloggers offer free, printable labels (like here, here, here and here).

Vanilla Extract
(inspired by Beantown Baker)

2 vanilla beans
1 c. vodka
Glass jar with lid

Split vanilla beans lengthwise (no need to scrape!) and place into jar. Pour vodka over the beans and cover. Place in a cool, dark place for approximately two months, shaking occasionally, before using.

Store in a cool, dark place.

DIY Hot Chocolate Mix

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I’m not a coffee drinker. Or a tea drinker. Hot chocolate, though, I could drink by the gallon. I keep some in my desk at work and always have some in the house – even in the summer months. We could seriously go broke on cocoa mix.

Last year for Christmas, I made this mix for family members, and fell in love with it. It’s a great gift, or just great to have in your pantry.

DIY Hot Chocolate Mix
(from Brown Eyed Baker)
Makes approx. 20 servings

3 c. nonfat dry milk powder
2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2  c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/4 t. salt

Whisk all ingredients together and then, working in batches, pulse in a food processor until everything in finely ground and well combined. Store in an air-tight container for up to three months.

To prepare: Mix 1/3 c. hot chocolate mix with 1 c. hot milk.

Honey-Lime Chicken Enchiladas and Green Enchilada Sauce

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For the latest Blogger’s Choice recipe swap, I was assigned Prevention RD. Her blog is awesome and it’s not just me that thinks so – Nicole recently announced that she’s writing a cookbook based on her blog. How cool is that!

The hardest part of this swap was settling on just one recipe. I decided on these because, as much as I love enchiladas, I’d never made them with a green sauce.  Nicole used canned enchilada sauce but mentioned in her post that next time she would try making it herself. My garden is currently over-flowing with tomatillos so I decided to make these a totally-from-scratch endeavor. The recipe I used for green enchilada sauce is below. You can see the recipe I used for the tortillas here.

These are probably my favorite enchiladas to date. The honey lime works so well and gives it a really light, summery feel. Hubby and I totally fought over the leftovers!

Honey-Lime Chicken Enchiladas
(from Prevention RD)
Serves 5 (2 enchiladas each)

5 T. honey
5 T. lime juice, from 2-3 limes
1 T. chili powder
1/2 T. cumin
1/2 t. garlic powder
12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
10 flour tortillas
1 1/2 c.  Colby/Monterrey Jack blend, shredded, divided
2 c. green enchilada sauce (recipe below)
1 c. fat-free half & half

In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder. Add cooked, shredded chicken and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or several hours) to marinade.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Add 1/2 c. green enchilada sauce to the bottom of a 9″x11″ baking dish and spread out to coat the whole bottom.

Stir half of the cheese into the marinated chicken. Divide chicken mixture between 12 tortillas. Roll up and place seam-side down in baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.

Whisk together half and half and remaining enchilada sauce. Pour evenly over the enchiladas.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Green Enchilada Sauce
(from Our Best Bites)
Makes about 3 cups

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed
3/4 lb. tomatillos, husked and quartered or halved
1/4 c. cilantro, coarsely chopped
3/4 t. Kosher salt
Pinch of black pepper
3/4 t. cumin
2 c. chicken broth

In a large saucepan, heat oil until shimmering and then add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine tomatillos, green pepper, jalapeno and cilantro. Blend until smooth. (If it’s not blending well, add some of the chicken broth to help smooth things out.)

Add tomatillo mixture to cooked onions and stir in cumin, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until sauce is reduced to about 3 cups.

Linked up with Eat at Home’s Ingredient Spotlight: Tortillas 2013

Flour Tortillas

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I’m a self-taught cook. One of my biggest self-imposed obstacles is that I assume everything is going to be hard to make.

I’ve had this tortilla recipe bookmarked for nearly a year but making my own tortillas seemed like such a project. I finally had time last weekend to do some kitchen projects and decided to make these. Imagine my surprise when I was done in a half hour! These weren’t hard at all and they were so much better than store-bought.

Have you tackled any recipes that intimidate you recently?

Flour Tortillas
(from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
Makes 12

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 heaping t. salt
5 T. shortening, lard, softened butter, or olive oil (I used shortening)
3/4 c. warm water

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated and the mixture is crumbly.

With the food processor running, slowly add the water until a ball of dough forms. Continue to process for another 30 seconds to knead the dough.

On a floured surface, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Cover with a towel to avoid drying out. Taking one piece at a time, roll into a 8″ circle.

In a heated pan, add one tortilla at a time, cooking for 10-20 seconds, flipping and cooking for another 10-20 seconds. Remove to a plate and keep covered with a towel to keep warm.

Island Jerk Burgers with Zesty Coleslaw

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Oh, how I loved these burgers. There’s really not much else to say.

The warm jerk-seasoned burgers coupled with the cool, crunchy  coleslaw is not a combo I would have ever thought up myself, but it works so well. I used the homemade jerk seasoning listed below, but a store-bought seasoning would also work fine.

Island Jerk Burgers with Zesty Coleslaw
(from Pennies on a Platter)
Serves 4

2 c. shredded cabbage mixture for coleslaw
1/2 medium red onion, peeled, halved and sliced very thin
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely sliced
1/2 c. mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)
1 t. hot sauce
Zest and juice of 1 small lime
1 t. honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1.5 pounds ground beef
4 t. jerk seasoning (recipe below)
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 burger buns

Combine the cabbage, red onion and bell pepper in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, hot sauce, lime zest and juice, honey, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss it into the cabbage mixture to coat. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to 24 hours.

Heat up your grill. Shape the beef into 4 individual patties. Rub each patty with the jerk seasoning, adding additional salt and pepper as desired. Grill the burgers until cooked to desired doneness, flipping once. Lightly toast the buns of the grill. Place a slice of cheese on the bottom half of the buns and heat briefly to melt. Assemble burgers on top of the cheese and topped with a pile of coleslaw.

Jerk Seasoning
(from Pennies on a Platter)
Makes 1/4 cup

2 T. dried minced onion
1 1/2 t. dried thyme
2 t. ground allspice
2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. salt

Place all ingredients in a small jar. Secure the lid and shake to thoroughly combine. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

To use: Rub surface of meat with oil and then the seasoning. Or, use in any recipe calling for jerk seasoning.