I can’t believe I’m constructing a rooster tail out of chicken wire and feather boas right now. The hubby has a work trip next week which includes attending a costume party so in true form, he wants to go as a giant, ahem, “rooster” except that’s not the word he used ;-) He’s got himself a rooster hat, a rooster themed tee shirt and I’m in charge of using my skills from my former years in the apparel industry by fashioning him a rooster tail that attaches to his belt. It’s a pretty comical sight. A sight that I nonetheless need a break from for a little slice of heaven. Right now, nothing says “heaven” to me besides this perfectly spiced pork tenderloin with tomatillo sauce.
Pork tenderloin is the best cut of meat you can get from a hog if you ask me. Not only is it very tender, but the tenderloin is also lower in fat content while still providing tons of flavor. It’s easy to roast with any combination of spices. In this case, I used a Cajun spice blend with a touch of smoked salt. I then sliced it and covered it with tomatillo salsa, corn kernels and pickled jalapeños, both compliments of my abundant garden. Paired with cilantro lime rice it’s a winning dinner combination!
Last weekend, we had a photographer come out to our acreage to do a little family photo shoot. I also had her take some updated pics of me so I can finally update my photos here on the blog (soon!). I was re-living the senior picture experience all over again… except that I was posing with produce, ha! Between photos and family time, I froze some corn in prep for Thanksgiving and had a few corn kernel escapees to toss into this quick and easy cilantro lime rice.
Cilantro lime rice has such a great flavor and is a perfect sidekick to tacos, enchiladas, or to toss into a salad for some extra carbolicious bite. When making rice (or quinoa), I often cook the grains in a chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. Doing so significantly increases the flavor of the dish and adds complexity. In this case, the cilantro lime rice is cooked in chicken broth. Then, a quick addition of garlic, lime juice and cilantro completes the dish in seconds!
I’m beginning to question the sanity of having such a large garden. I do really enjoy gardening and all beautiful fresh edible things that it produces. The catch is that during “harvest” time it takes up a lot of my free time to preserve the bounty. My dehydrator has been getting a workout with drying herbs, kale and chard to use during the winter months. I’ve also been canning a lot of tomato sauces, ghost pepper strawberry jam (OMG so delicious!!), jalepeno jelly and this amazing roasted salsa verde. I never realized one tomatillo plant could produce so many fruits! Not a problem really, I’ve canned this salsa verde to be used for dipping and topping enchiladas all winter long!
My tomatillo plants don’t realize that fall is here. They’re still producing like crazy so I see a few more batches of tomatillo salsa verde making in the near future. Salsa verde is very easy to make and also easy to can. I roast all of the vegetables for about 15 minutes first to get a little char on the edges. Roasting also brings out a sweet, slightly smoky flavor that makes for irresistible eats. You can make this salsa as spicy as you want by using hotter peppers or more of them. I used a mix of anaheim, serrano, jalapeno and tossed in a ghost pepper for heat. Using a variety of peppers allows for a deeper flavor profile in addition to heat.
Aside from the abundance of tomatillos, the rest of the garden is looking a bit sparse. There’s a handful of squash and pie pumpkins hanging around waiting for me to pick and store as well as some hardy greens like kale and chard. I’ll be a busy gal the next few weeks finishing the process of preservation and then cleaning out the plants to compost. My chickens make great helpers cleaning out the plants from the garden. Or maybe they just like to keep me company because so many bugs get uprooted in the process. Either way, I have my work cut out for me this weekend with the rest of the garden cleanup and I’ll be sure to make time to have a sample of salsa verde, or two or three!
1 pound tomatillos (about 8 medium size), husked and rinsed
4-5 mixed hot peppers (Anaheim, jalepeno, serrano, ghost, etc), stemmed
1 small white onion, sliced into large rings
3-4 garlic cloves
½ cup water
⅓ cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (optional if making/eating fresh but necessary for canning)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat.
Place tomatillos, peppers, onion and garlic on baking sheet.
Roast in oven about 15 minutes, turning once halfway, until vegetables are charred and tomatillos are softened. If the peppers, onions or garlic begin to burn, take them out earlier.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Place the roasted vegetables and any accumulated juices in a blender or food processor.
Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth.
For canning, pour salsa into sterilized canning jars leaving ¼" of headspace. Wipe rims of jars and place lid and ring on tightly. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Recipe yields about 2 cups. For canning, you may want to triple the batch to get about 6 cups of salsa. Fresh salsa will keep in fridge about one week. Canned salsa will keep unopened for about a year.
I walked into the kitchen last night expecting to start dinner late since I had been outside enjoying the early evening with my neighbor. What I found was a delightful surprise. My husband was deep in the trenches of chopping vegetables and spiralizing a zucchini for our stir-fry. My jaw dropped. After I regained my composure, I refilled my red solo cup and went back outside. I didn’t want to disturb this precious moment by stepping in to help. I let him be the king of the kitchen for the night and it turned out amazingly delicious. I’ll have to let him cook more often! Most of the produce used in his stir-fry came straight from our garden of wonders. This recipe for chorizo stuffed peppers also uses peppers picked minutes before and combines a touch of sweet corn and fresh tomatoes to use the last of my garden’s abundance.
Getting the produce out of my garden and using or preserving it all has been quite the challenge. I’m happy to use the ingredients fresh as often as I can in recipes like these chorizo stuffed peppers. Chorizo is a Spanish style sausage that you can purchase ground or as links. If you can only get it in links, simply remove the casing and remove the ground chorizo. The filling starts with an easy skillet mix of chorizo browned with onions. Add pre-cooked quinoa, black beans, corn and diced tomato for a south of the border twist. Stuff each half of the peppers with a generous amount of filling and bake. You can top with cheese and cilantro if desired. These are flavorful, filling and mild enough in the spice department for kids to enjoy them too. If you want to kick up the heat, add a minced hot pepper (like serrano or jalepeno) to the filling while it’s cooking to meld the flavors or use a hot salsa in place of the diced tomatoes!
I have the worst luck this week. My fridge freezer decided to stop freezing food over the weekend resulting in soft “frozen” veggies that I fed to my chickens. The peeps were overjoyed with the demise of the veggies, however, since they got a super special treat. I had to toss a few meat items that had un-frozen as well. Sigh. It should be fixed in time for this weekend which is a necessity since we’re picking up meat in bulk from the farm and need a place for it. As if that wasn’t enough of a problem to deal with, my dishwasher has decided to play hooky too and is now apparently on strike. My girls got the privilege of learning how to do about three loads of dishes the “old-fashioned” way in the sink this morning. In the interest of doing less dishes, I’ve made this awesome spiced potato salad in one pot and I’ll be serving it hillbilly style straight from the pot on the table tonight too!
This spiced potato salad is a German style potato salad meaning that it’s not creamy and isn’t made with any mayo or eggs. It’s sweet and savory spice combo comes from mustard, ginger and harissa sauce. Add some diced crunchy cooked bacon (because bacon makes EVERYTHING better!) and a touch of cilantro and it’s ready to rock your next picnic. Since this salad doesn’t contain mayo or eggs, it can be served warm or cold and is able to sit out without refrigeration longer than the creamy style salads. You still need to refrigerate it but it’s a bit safer for pot luck picnics outdoors since the bacon is cured and cooked. Take this marvelous spiced potato salad to your Labor Day picnic and it’ll be the hit of the party!
I’m just going to hit pause on the awesomely easy summer strawberry salad for a sec… I get to go dancing in two days!!! Maybe that’s not exciting for you, but it is for me :) The hubby and I used to do fun things like take latin dance lessons. Of course, this was before kids when we actually had extra time and extra cash. We (mostly) remember the steps and what we don’t, we improvise and pretend it looks good. Throw in a twirl here and there and everyone thinks you’re great even if you don’t know what you’re doing. Ha! This weekend is my step-brother’s wedding so just as exciting as dancing with my hubby, is dancing with my dear old dad. Growing up, my parents used to belong to a country dance club so every now and then we’d push the kitchen table out of the way and dance until our feet ached and our hearts were full. I’m sure my dad and I will get a good swing going and probably a two-step or two before the night is through. My heart will be full this weekend. I will be seeing a lovely couple get married, celebrate with extended family I haven’t seen for quite some time and will be able to laugh it up, dancing the night away.
Let’s move off the dance floor and back to the summer strawberry salad (I know, less exciting perhaps but so delicious!!!). This is my go-to salad when I need to bring something that everyone is guaranteed to enjoy. It’s also an amazing salad-as-dessert since it has the sweetness of strawberries both in the salad as well as the strawberry poppyseed dressing. Tossed with a little celery and pecans for crunch, the Havarti cheese gives it a little bit of cozy creaminess that says “I’m eating something naughty!”… but you’re not! If you would rather not make the dressing, I’ve found that Marzetti’s makes a great all natural, no preservatives strawberry poppyseed dressing that is quite tasty. You can also use a raspberry vinaigrette or a more creamy poppyseed dressing if you like. All taste wonderful and after a bite of this summer strawberry salad, your heart will be full too!
It’s FRIDAY and I’m feeling great! My kids were in vacation bible school every morning this week which meant I actually had some bona-fide alone time to get things done. I checked off item after item on my summer to-do list and am finally caught up. I also submitted two pieces of a big project that I’m working on so that makes me smile. My garden has been producing like crazy. Like, it’s on steroids kind of crazy. So I’ve already had to start preserving some of the abundance. Not a bad problem to have, especially when it comes to strawberries and basil. An abundance of strawberries and fresh grown herbs just in time for the weekend can only mean one thing… it’s strawberry basil mojito time!
Yes, I know mojitos are usually made with mint but strawberries and basil taste SO great together. I could have just added strawberries to my original honey based mojito but the basil gives it a great little flavor punch. The rest of the ingredients are the same. It’s a summery fresh easy drink. Pour yourself a glass and welcome the weekend with a strawberry basil mojito!
Ahhhhh. That’s the sound of a happy mom who’s getting a little bit of a break! My two daughters are away for the week spending time with their grandparents on the farm. They will be showing goats and exhibiting their culinary and artistic creations at the county fair that I grew up attending. It’s SO much quieter with just one kid in the house. The grandparents came to pick up my little ladies on Monday so I served them these amazing Greek style beef gyros with tzatziki yogurt sauce for a quick easy lunch.
I used beef in this recipe instead of a more traditional lamb. Beef is usually a bit more palatable since lamb can sometime be VERY gamey. Plus, I have plenty of beef on hand since we get beef from the farm in large quantities. A good rub with Greek seasonings like oregano, garlic, rosemary and marjoram followed by a searing on the grill, locks in the Mediterranean flavor. Then the roast is slow cooked for 6-8 hours to be fall-of-the-bone tender. Shredded into bite size bits and placed in a whole wheat pita, the meat is topped with a tzatziki yogurt sauce that becomes the flavor punch that makes these gyros all come together.
Tzatziki sauce is a traditional Greek sauce that combines plain unsweetened Greek yogurt (you can use coconut milk yogurt for dairy free), cucumber, dill and garlic. This sauce is awesome for dipping vegetables into as well. Another spoonful? Don’t mind if I do… and I’ll gladly lick that spoon too!
Half of the summer is nearly gone already! How does that happen?!? At least that’s how I’ve always perceived the 4th of July holiday. It’s always marked the halfway point in my mind though we really do have two full months left until school starts up again. I shouldn’t be surprised that the 4th is already here but for some reason the busy-ness of the past month or so has caught me off guard and left me feeling drained and in need of a vacation. Soon enough I’ll get that vacay! In the meantime, I’ll focus on easy to make salads-as-a-meal like this southwest salad with chipotle dressing!
Southwest salad has a few layers of healthy greens as the base. Then it’s topped with fiberlicious black beans, grilled corn on the cob, scallions, grape tomatoes and a light summery chipotle dressing that has a little kick to it. Depending on how hungry I am, I’ll add avocado for the healthy fats or you can add grilled steak or chicken to it as well for a more filling dish. Add crushed tortilla chips for a little crunch and this southwest salad will be your go-to easy meal!
Oh boy. My girls are officially on summer vacation and I’m happy they’re around. Not so happy about all the “I’m bored!” statements that are happening already. Lucky for them, I have all sorts of fun tasks to solve their boredom (insert maniacal laugh here). I’m betting they won’t tell me they’re bored after weeding all of the mulch in the backyard and helping pick up sticks that have littered the yard after the last wind storm. See, I’m a problem solver. My next problem that needed solving was that I’d NEVER made a risotto. I’ve been leery to try making it because I kept hearing that it’s “so hard to get right”. So, this wonderful mushroom leek risotto happened last night and I can tell you it is NOT hard. I’m happy to report that it’s WAY easier than I thought to make and just as deliciously creamy as I had imagined. Nailed it!
To get the perfect mushroom leek risotto you will need a large wide bottom sauce pan. I used a 12-inch skillet, which worked awesome. You will need to keep a separate saucepan with warm broth ready to add a ladle full at a time to the larger skillet after all of the main ingredients are added. Making risotto is really not difficult and it comes together in less than thirty minutes with no need to attend to it the whole time. The trick to knowing when to add more broth is simple: drag your stirring spoon through the rice mixture and if the space left by your spoon does not immediately fill with liquid, it’s time to add more broth. Simple as that. After you’ve added all of the broth, add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking until the rice grains are suspended in the creamy brothiness but not sticking together. It shouldn’t look as fluid as soup yet not as thick as cookie dough either. More like a loose oatmeal consistency is what you’re going for. Keep in mind the rice will continue to absorb liquid as it cools so pull it off the heat just as it starts to get to the right consistency. If you let it cook a little too longer and it’s too thick, easy to fix – just add a bit more broth!
In a separate wide bottom saucepan or skillet, add olive oil, mushrooms, leek and garlic and sauté about 5 minutes until mushrooms have given up most of their moisture and leek is beginning to soften.
Add rice and stir until it's coated with the oil.
Pour in white wine and let that absorb into the rice. Be careful not to let the pan go dry.
Add a couple ladles of hot broth to the rice and stir occasionally. To check if it's time to add more broth, drag your stirring spoon through the rice. If the space left by the spoon does not immediately fill in with liquid, add another ladle of broth. Continue this until all the broth is added.
After all of the broth is added, stir in the salt and sundried tomatoes.
Cook mixture until it resembles a loose oatmeal. Rice should still be al dente but look creamy.
Remove from heat and add parmesan if using. The risotto will continue to absorb liquid as it cools to get to the perfect creamy consistency.