Sunday, August 26, 2012

Prize Winning Salsa Recipe

Prize Winning Rainbow Salsa
 A few years ago Olivia started buying heirloom tomato plants for me as part of my Mother's Day present.  It started a love of heirloom tomato varieties for me.  Knowing how much I enjoy them, Olivia suggested she and I attend the Heirloom Tomato Festival in Pierceton, IN last weekend so I could get my fill of all things related to heirloom tomatoes.  What started out to be a nice little outing for me ended up being a red letter day for Olivia too!

The festival was a quaint, quintessentially small town gathering of vendors selling products relating to tomatoes and some not so related.  We listened to a talk on beekeeping and even stumbled upon a wonderful booth selling vintage linens. 

The real excitement came when we wandered into the old train depot and found out they were having a "chopped" style salsa making competition.  Potential contenders could sign up and and have fifteen minutes to complete their salsa creations.  Unlike the Food Network version, ingredients were not presented to the competitors in baskets, but rather a table with numerous ingredients the contestants could choose from once the clock started ticking.  When finished, four judges sampled the results.

After some encouragement on my part, Olivia decided to enter the competition.  I really thought she would have a decent shot at winning since she knows well that people eat with their eyes first.  She picked colorful ingredients that made beautiful salsa!  I knew when she added pineapple, black beans, and plenty of pepper and hot sauce that she was as they say, "in it to win it."  

Against what looked like three other very good salsa offerings...Olivia's won!  She won tickets to a musical production in Middlebury and the title (one I gave her) of Heirloom Tomato Salsa Queen!  :)

We had so much fun at this small town festival.  We created fun memories and a fantastic salsa!

Olivia's beautiful salsa creation!
Olivia concentrating on her salsa.

Rainbow Salsa

2 red heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 yellow heirloom tomato, chopped
1 small purple onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 small gypsy (sweet) peppers, chopped
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, slightly drained
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
sprinkle of Kosher salt
dash of black pepper
juice of 1 lime
dash of hot sauce

Combine all of the above ingredients and serve immediately.  For a more blended flavor, allow to refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Canning Awards

Best of Show and Other Great Canning Stories
My great grandmother Smith was a short stout woman who wore sensible shoes, thin white anklet socks, sensible dresses, dark rimmed glasses and wore her hair in a bun.  I can remember visiting her farm over fifty years ago.  A wood fired furnace provided heat in the living room--always and warmest room in the house, and then heat radiated in various degrees from there.  It was a plain, utilitarian place, but cozy and inviting nonetheless.  Grandma Smith was a great cook, seamstress, and home canner.

She died when I was very young, but I grew up with an idealized notion of what that kind of life represented.  Somehow it appealed to me to be so in tune with the land, your surroundings, and the needs of your family.  I developed an interest in cooking, some early interest in sewing (although I was never really good at it), and nurtured a love of home canning.  In my younger years, I canned more advanced things like lime pickles (a week long process), pear honey, chutney, and a wide variety of other things.  Today I stick with more basic things like vegetables, fruit, and meat.

Needless to say, I was happy when Olivia showed an early interest in cooking (she is now a far better cook than I will ever be) and I was even happier when she started canning.  Since she is a teacher and has the summer off, she has filled the specially built shelves in her basement with a huge variety of home canned goods from vegetables, salsas, fruits, meats, sauces,  and herb concoctions.  She wholeheartedly embraces the concept of capturing summer's bounty and freshness for another day--a day not so warm, not so glorious and relishing in the comfort that experience brings.

I encouraged her this year to enter some of her canned goods in the county fair competition.  She somewhat reluctantly did so, but I told her it would be fun to just see what happened.  Well, what happened was two first place finishes, a second place finish, and a champion Best of Show placement in the meat division.  She was thrilled and I felt blessed that somehow and some way, a bit of Grandma Smith-- a woman born in another century--and maybe even a bit of myself,  transferred our tiny spark to the next generation.  I felt myself smiling with Grandma Smith (as I am sure she was in heaven).

Such tactile and basic connection to the land and our food is less apparent now than it was in Grandma Smith's day.  Her connection was a necessary one.  Ours is by choice and an act of love.

If you have ever thought about home canning, consider it well.  The joys to be had and the memories to be made are priceless.  Olivia and I have shared many hours prepping food, processing it, talking all the while, and listening later as each lid "pings" to let us know it is properly sealed.Who knows?  You could start creating your own fair ribbon collection!

If you have questions about canning or would like us to share any of our recipes, please contact us.  We love to share!
- Nanette

Canned Chicken - Champion in Meats Division & Best of Show
Canned Green Beans - First Place in Vegetables Division
Canned Pepper & Onion Relish - Second Place in Condiments Division
Canned Chipolte BBQ Sauce - First Place in Miscellaneous Division

Monday, August 13, 2012

Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever

You may ask yourself, "Is this just another peanut butter cookie recipe?"  The answer is an emphatic, "No!"  What makes this recipe so extraordinary is that it has no flour, has a very light and delicate texture, and melts in your mouth. When Olivia made these and allowed me to try them, I was hooked.  You may never use another peanut butter cookie recipe again.  It is just that good!  I hope you share our enthusiasm for this great cookie recipe.

Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever
Recipe from:

2 cups peanut butter
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2. In a medium bowl, stir peanut butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Press a criss-cross into the top using the back of a fork.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Stuffed Peppers!!
    This is not going to be your average blah blah blah recipe.  Instead let's just have a chat about peppers because they are coming on like gangbusters right now and the time is right for making stuffed peppers.  There are 101 ways to make stuffed peppers but if you are like I am, you may revert the same old, same old recipe you've used for a hundred years.  Let's throw open the pantry door and get creative!

    First there is the pepper itself. 
     Most of us used the plain old green pepper.  This time of year, yellow peppers, red peppers, banana peppers, and a host of pepper varieties are out there at the farmers market.  Pick something new or something you haven't tried stuffing.  Clean it, take the seeds out and either cut the top off to stuff or cut it lengthwise.

    Second let's talk about what to stuff in it.  I usually resort to the somewhat boring combination of ground beef, egg, maybe some finely chopped onion, maybe some cracker crumbs or a dash of milk, salt, pepper, other spices if I have them, parsley, and of course worcestershire sauce and ketchup.  The trick is to add just enough egg and milk to make it so it won't be dry and hard.  You can still use these ingredients, but how about considering the following as add ins:
    -chopped tomatoes

    -any variety of shredded cheese
    -drained black beans
    -feta cheese
    -in addition to ground beef, try ground chicken, turkey, sausage or some combination of meats
    -shredded zucchini
    -chopped mushrooms
    -chopped olives
    -your favorite vegetable finely chopped
    -canned drained corn
    Lastly there is the topping and baking.  You can top with the traditional ketchup that turns into carmelized deliciousness or how about barbecue sauce, hoison sauce, salsa,  sweet and sour sauce, a slice of tomato, or a slice of cheese?  

    The great thing about stuffed peppers is you can freeze them.  Be sure to blanch the cleaned and seed free peppers for at least a minute before stuffing.  This keeps them from being a mushy, slimy mess when you finally bake them.

    Bake your thawed or fresh stuffed  peppers at 350 degrees for about one hour.  Pulling out frozen stuffed peppers to cook in the winter helps recall the wonderful freshness of the summer harvest!  Mix it up and enjoy!