Roasted Salsa

This is the time of year when I have vegetables I have gathered from the garden strewn on my kitchen counter waiting till I have time to freeze, can or cook them for a meal. Today when I got up, staggered into the kitchen for my first dose of coffee the first thing my eyes landed on were tomatoes and peppers. It is time for salsa. Every year I give dozens of jars of canned goods including my roasted tomato salsa as Christmas gifts. It always gets raves and I am embarrassed at how easy it is. So I decided to share my secrets.

First it must be noted that no 2 batches are ever the same. It depends on what I have coming out of the garden that week. If you are a creative cook willing to take risks, you will love this method.

I let my tomatoes accumulate, ripening on the counter until is have 30 or so, a mix of roma and regular eating tomatoes. I have a large deep stainless steel roasting pan that is drizzle olive oil into. Then I take 2 large onions and do a rough chop, an entire head of garlic cleaned and separated, cloves whole and add them to the pan shaking to coat them with oil. Now I cut off the stem end of the tomatoes and place them cut side down between the onions so that then are in contact with the pan. Crowd them in there.
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Next I take my sweet peppers, (today I used 5 long marconi peppers) and rough chop them layering them on top of the tomatoes. Then I add any hot peppers, the quantity depends on how spicy hot you want the salsa.

Now take the whole thing and place it on a hot grill (450degrees) and close the lid or in the oven for about 30 min to an hour depending on how thick you want your sauce.
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After 30 min or so, you can go in and slip off the skins from the tomatoes if you want. I generally leave them. Stir and continue cooking till you have a thick chunky sauce.

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Take it off the grill and cool enough to handle. Now I add a tablespoon of salt, 1/4 c apple cider vinegar, 1/4 c sugar. 1 Tablespoon of cumin and a cup of fresh cilanto. Then pulse in batches in food processor until you have the consistency you want. Place in clean hot jars and process in hot water bath for 30 min.

Today this made 6 pints of a very spicy salsa.
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Resolutions vs repentance

I hang out at youth group on Wednesday nights.  I am a 58 year old woman with multiple unused gifts who felt an urging to be useful.  Here.  I think God wants me here.  Now. I feel totally inadequate.  The book that the youth leader gave to us to read says we are supposed to love teenagers.  Hmmm.  I don’t know about that, but I do know God can use an empty vessel.  Here I am, Lord.

Tonights message was from Ephesians 4:17-24.  Basically Paul is telling the Ephesians to be different than they were, than those people they used to hang out with, to take off the old and put on the new.  But is is not about trying harder, doing better or doing more.  It is not about looking different on the outside; putting on a facade or mask.  Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.  Seek after spiritual things, not material; things of lasting importance not perishable.  Look to the One who can initiate change, give you the power to change.  In other words, it isn’t about making resolutions, those things that we fail at every year.  It is about repentance, turning back, changing focus.

Be real about who you are but take your eyes off of yourself and look up.

I don’t know how great of a group leader i will be, but I can promise that you will see the real me: a flawed human learning to be in Christ not trying to do more stuff to be like Him.

Soup weather

Brrrrr! It is currently 17 degrees here in West Plains, with a brisk wind! Everyone is bundled up looking to stay warm.  I’m thinking it is a soup night.  I just happen to have some chicken lentil soup in the freezer.  I always make a huge batch and then freeze some for later use.  But here are some of my ideas for a quick satisfying winter meal.

Packets of home made soup mixes are a great base.  Our school had a fundraiser going on featuring Supper Table soup mixes so I bought several flavors including Tortilla soup, Broccoli cheese and potato.  I use these as a starter and add whatever meat and vegetable I have in the freezer.  They cook up quickly and taste great.  With a hunk of french bread, corn bread or tortilla, they make a hearty meal.  Have some beef broth?  Throw some cabbage, carrots, stewed tomatoes and tome tortellini in with some italian spices.  Meat or no, it makes a great soup.  Want a creamy soup?  Start with chicken broth, add chunks of chicken, celery, greens and half a cube of Neufchatel or low cal cream cheese to thicken.  Are you needing a white bean fix?  Throw 3 cups of dried northern beans in a pot, bring them to a boil then let them set over night.  In the morning put them in the crock pot with chili seasoning, chicken broth, chunks of chicken and bell peppers.  At the end of the day, add 4 oz of light cream cheese and maybe a bit of salsa.  Once that cream cheese melts, you have a heavenly concoction.  Here is the only problem… my soups never taste the same twice.  Since I use whatever I have on hand, they are always different.

Folks, it isn’t hard to stay away from canned soups which are heavily processed and often have salt and preservatives you do NOT want to put in your bodies.  Take some time to get some fresh ingredients and be creative.  It doesn’t take that much more time… it just takes planning.

Be healthy and stay warm!

Not a skinny cook.

Road Trip

Last September my daughter mentioned that she and a girlfriend wanted to go to a Passion conference in Atlanta.  Hmmmm.  A road trip.  Two 18 year old girls.  Over 600 miles away navigating through major cities with very little prior experience long distance driving.  Not happening.  However, being the stellar mom that I am, I recognized a great teaching, mentoring opportunity.  I agreed to go with them, teaching them how to plan and execute a safe, enjoyable road trip.  So this past weekend, I found myself in the back seat with my google map application in full swing trying to keep my “teaching” comments to a minimum.

As I sat in that seat, I reflected on how strange it was to have taught three very different kids how to drive.  My oldest, a son, was the most confident.  Terrifyingly so.  He knew everything.  As I recall he barely passed his physical driving test due to pushing the limits.  Several accidents and 4 cars later he has survived his 23rd birthday and even he shakes his head at his driving record.  My second son was the most fun.  Literally.  He was terrified.  I had to force him to drive at all and then prod him to get up to the speed limit.  He would scream like a girl whenever a car came toward us from the opposite direction in ITS OWN LANE! Really, I was laughing so hard that I forgot to be scared. (You might have gathered that I have a sick sense of humor and probably laughed at my kids way more that is appropriate.) Then came the girl.  A good mix of healthy fear with excitement accompanied by the memory of both of her brothers driving skills.  By this time, I had no adrenaline left.  Eh… whatever!  If we die, we see Jesus all the sooner.

So here she was, negotiating 3 lanes of 70 mph traffic merging with three more lanes, road work, speeding drivers and very confusing freeway signage like a champ.  No screams, no tears, no overconfidence… okay, she did make it clear by her sarcasm once that some of my “teaching” comments were a bit redundant.  Those 2 girls did most of the driving and navigated all the way home safely with the music cranked up.  They had gotten themselves to and from the conference venue from the hotel, made sure they ate at the appropriate times and really enjoyed themselves.  It was a great way to boost their confidence (and mine).  I feel like it was time well spent.

Of course, the bonus was that I got to spend time with 2 great young women (and they got to spend time with ME!).

Be with your kids, people.

Blessings,  Not a skinny cook.

Wading through wet cement

That is how I describe how I feel trying to do normal activities of daily living when I am overwhelmed… “wading through wet cement”.  I am avoiding the “d” word (depression) because, well, I just don’t want to go there.

This holiday break has been rife with family illness slow to pass involving 2 of my kids and doctors visits and a very sick horse involving daily dosing of medication.  It kind of sounds silly in light of what COULD be happening.  But I feel helpless.  My family comes to be as medical problem solver, comforter and giver of wisdom.  I hate saying “I don’t know what to tell you.” and “wait it out”.

As a result, feeling cold and teary, I crawled into bed, put a pillow over my head and slept.  Oh, Lord, how patient You are with YOUR children.  Help me to wait on Your timing and your healing, whatever form that may take.  I will trust You.  You are the lifter of my head.  You hear when I call out to You.  I will crawl through these bleak winter days knowing that You are there.

That is all.

Well, not exactly.  I did get out of bed and cook… A nice warm stew with bacon ends flavoring the veggies and hunks of beef.  The house smells glorious.  I may not have all the answers, but I can feed those I love tasty food.

Forget it. Move on.

I just heard from an old friend whose husband had a disagreement with mine that she decided that taking time to spend a few hours with me was not right for her just now.  Hmmm.  I am struggling with how another so called Christian woman would deny another some healing fellowship.  Is it worth the trouble to hug someone, to tell them in person that you are sad for the rift between families? Feeling bereft.

I think I’ll go cook something… while drinking wine.

 

Cooking from the pantry

My family will tell you that I am rabid about having some sort of vegetable with ( or in) the dinners that I prepare.  My kids still suffer the trauma of finding veggies “hidden”  in all kinds of foods.  Yes, I put carrots and cabbage in my meatloaf.  I have been known to serve spaghetti squash under a meat sauce and tell my kids that it is pasta.  Then there is the well accepted zucchini bread.

So as I began to prepare a meal on this winter weekend, I wanted something warm, hearty but, of course, with vegetables and not too much prep.  Hmmmm.  Nothing in the veggie drawer but a half of cabbage and some celery. A perusal of the freezer revealed some home grown green beans and a quick look in the pantry… AH! home canned curry sauce.  Drag some chicken breasts out of the freezer, partially thaw and dice then stir fry them all together with the veggies and sauce.  Served with home made naan and some potstickers I found in the freezer… Voila!  A spicey, tangy, delicious meal to share.

Folks, if you don’t can your own stuff, keep an eye out at the market for various sauces with which you can create quick, tasty and healthy meals.  Be sure to read the labels for fat and salt content!  Healthy eating!