Refrigerator smack down by-product: Black bean peach salsa soup
I suddenly just want to get organized. I blame it on the season. This fall, I’m like a squirrel collecting nuts. I’m pretty sure getting everything organized will allow me a winter of sitting, stoking the fire in the fireplace and snoozing while the sounds of football fill the room. (Not likely, but one can dream right?)
My organizing urge seems to be stronger than the nesting instinct I experienced before either of my kids were born.
So I have dreams:
- Being a better meal planner: I started a Google calendar for our meal plan. Now, if Corey gets home before me, he knows what to do for dinner. And in theory, we waste less food.
- Organizing my kitchen: I’m going to have a freezer/pantry smack down. I would like to only buy fresh foods for an amount of time (milk, eggs, cheese, veggies) to help me pare down the disorganization getting all up in my cupboards, not to mention my freezer.
There are many areas where I excel in the kitchen. Though conversely there are plenty of areas where I could use improvement. (Don’t ask Corey about my dishwashing skills. Thankfully, it is an inherited family trait for him.)
One area I could improve happens to be the, ahem, disorganization of my refrigerator. Gosh it’s embarrassing. I promise I didn’t move a thing before I took this picture.
I mean, hello!, have you heard of a produce drawer, Vilhauer? Use it. This is why we end up with two jars of tomato sauce being opened at the same time … or two jars of peach salsa.
So when my homemade peach salsa was in danger of being wasted, I had to do something. I’m not letting my canning efforts get wasted! Enter peach salsa black bean soup. (Hey, I didn’t say I was good at naming my recipes!)
This recipe was part of my refrigerator smack down obviously still in progress. It was delicious … though I’m not sure I could recreate perfectly. Either way, I’m pretty sure that if you put a bunch of good food in a pot together it will taste good. That, my friend, is the beauty of soup season.
Peach salsa black bean soup
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 jar of peach salsa (I used 1 quart of homemade, but I’m sure store bought would be fine)
1 15 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups of cooked black beans (Or 1 can black beans, rinsed)
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
Cilantro and lime juice for garnish
Saute garlic and onion a few minutes over medium heat. Add jalapeno and and cumin. Saute until translucent. Add all of the remaining ingredients and simmer.
- Comments 2 Comments
- Categories Cook, Easy Eats
- Author Kerrie
Autumn = cinnamon roasted almonds
So, it’s officially fall.
I know, I know… falling back on the weather to get the story rolling. But I digress. Fall equals time to turn on that oven again (especially when I’m not ready to turn on the furnace and it’s cold in the house). What? You don’t do that?
While fall brings us crunchy leaves, fresh air and crisp apples, it also makes me crave roasted almonds. And, more specifically cinnamon roasted almonds. Yum.
One of my favorite memories of roasted almonds was at an Oktoberfest in Wisconsin with a few of my college friends. (I still have the “beer drinking glove” to prove I was there in 2005.) After a long day of watching crazy people and standing on cement, we were ready for a snack … and in swooped roasted almonds to save the day.
I talked to an 80ish-year-old woman who was on the Germanfest accordion circuit with her husband. I was so wrapped up in her story that I got separated from my friends … and got reprimanded. The things you remember when you start thinking about food.
Anywho. I’ve had a ginormous bag of almonds in my pantry staring me in the face since last spring. It’s high time I roast those babies, warm up the house AND make it smell good … in one fell swoop.
If you’ve never had Vietnamese cinnamon, I suggest you try to get your hands on some. (Try Penzey’s Spices.) The stuff is amazing. It is stronger than your typical cinnamon, so if the dish is not something you want a strong cinnamon flavor in, you might want to use a bit less than you would regularly put in. For these almonds, I go full boar with the Vietnamese cinnamon.
The almonds in this recipe are pretty covered with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. It is helpful to have a Silpat. I can honestly say the Silpat is one of my best kitchen tool purchases. Love. It.
Cinnamon roasted almonds
2 egg whites
splash of water
5 cups of raw almonds
1/2 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon
½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Whip up egg whites and water until frothy. Mix in nuts. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine with almond mixture and spread over jelly roll pan covered with a Silpat. (If you don’t have a Silpat, try Parchment paper or oil your pan.)
Roast at 250 degrees for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until toasty and golden.
As a side note, the almonds will seem chewy when they are still hot. They will crunch up once they are cooled down.
- Comments 1 Comment
- Categories Bake
- Author Kerrie
The freezer: Preservin’ all my herbs
I’ve already whined and whinnied about my dreadful garden this year (I did get one basket of smallish tomatoes off of *ahem* eight plants.) But I have yet to brag about the bountiful harvest of my herb garden.
Fresh herbs make any dish. If a recipe calls for two tablespoons of fresh parsley and you substitute dried (1/3 the amount asked for, mind you), you have essentially changed the entire recipe. It’s just not the same.
That said, in the winter I can become quite frugal in that I have a hard time paying $3.99 for a plastic clam-shell of rosemary. So indeed dried does get substituted. Don’t get me wrong I do buy fresh at times, but if I want to keep my grocery budget somewhat reasonable I turn to my good friend, the freezer.
My mint, lemon balm and lavender when they were just wee babies on the bike ride home from Lewis Drug. It seems like yesterday.
The recent almost freeze (thank goodness it didn’t actually happen at my house) had me covering up my two-inch eggplant (the only eggplant to (hopefully) be harvested at my house) and hacking up my herb plants.
So what do I do to save that “little bit of summer” (thanks, Greg Brown) at my house?
Pesto freezes really well. Just don’t add the cheese.
I go a step easier (especially when I’m whirring up herbs at 11:30 at night). I clean, wash and dry the basil leaves, throw them in the Cuisinart with enough olive oil to make them spin. Then, once it’s all pesto-like, I divide the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze it.
When I’m ready to use the basil I defrost it, add garlic, salt, Parmesan and more oil as necessary to make real pesto. I use this mixture for pizza and just plain ol’ pasta dishes.
Did I mentioned that I have killed a mint plant? I’m probably the only person on the face of the earth who has done so. I heard that in order to not have the mint take over your entire garden that you should plant it in a container and then bury the container. Well apparently, the container I used didn’t adequately suck up groundwater, because that poor plant dried out and died (while everything around it thrived, of course). Yeah, yeah, don’t tell me I should have actually watered mint!
I don’t use a lot of mint in my cooking, but I do like the flavor in my water and tea. I also really like it with fresh peaches and mozzarella cheese.
But to be honest, the only reason I wanted to grow this plant again is for once recipe: Jamie Oliver’s mini shell mac and cheese recipe.
So my goal here is to save enough mint for the winter until my plant comes out of hibernation.
Mint, all washed up with nowhere to go.
Here’s what I do: hack the plant off and remove the leaves from the stems. Wash the leaves. Chop them up, shove them in ice cube trays and cover with water.
The best part of this is you can either thaw the cube and use it in any recipe OR be really fancy and put mint ice cubes in your beverages (be prepared for a swamp).
Rosemary and thyme:
Get ready, pay attention, this is complicated: I cut off the stems. I wash them. I dry them. I put them in a freezer bag (or ball jar) and put them in the freezer. Woah. The leaves of both rosemary and thyme, once frozen, fall off the stem.
Flavored oils:Buy yourself some fancy oil jars ($2 a piece at World Market), stick a sprig or two of rosemary into the jar and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Fill with olive oil. You now have yourself some swanky flavored olive oil (that you didn’t pay $20 for). Be sure you let it steep for a while … true flavor takes time.
House plant: I’m no botanist but I have cut the top couple inches off of a basil plant and a rosemary plant, stuck them in water until they grow roots. Then, I throw them (er, plant them) in a pot of dirt. I don’t usually have enough action on the plants to pick them too much for my cooking needs, but if I can keep them alive until say, the 10th of May I can replant them and not have to buy a new plant.
Did I mention that I’m frugal sometimes? Sigh.
What do you do with your herbs?
- Comments 0 Comments
- Categories Garden
- Author Kerrie
All I really want in my garden life is too many tomatoes. Is that too much to ask?
I’m guessing by the state of affairs in my back nine, too many tomatoes ain’t happening this year. But I am one hell of a cucumber farmer. (Not to mention pumpkins and lettuce, too.) The rest of it … I’m not going to write off, but I do need a change of attitude. Someday I will pay more attention to my sad little plot. (Oh, the emotions of being a gardener.)
So for now, I’ll just make me some pickles. But after working a full day and playing with the kiddos, the idea of a serious canning session ain’t happening. But chopping up some cukes and onions I can handle. I mean, c’mon, that’s just stress release.
So, here’s my go-to refrigerator pickle recipe. The key here is really cute jars. Cute jars make everything taste better.
I’ve made the following recipe with all types of cucumbers (I’ve grown some crazy heirloom varieties in my lifetime) and had good success. The man of the house especially likes these pickles with hot dogs. Go figure. Oh, and you’re safe to go ahead and just double this recipe.
Refrigerator pickles (From Cooking Light)
6 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
2 cups sliced Vidalia (or sweet) onion
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (heck, throw in some more)
Mix cucumber and onion in a bowl.
Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute and pour over the cucumbers and onion. Cool and pack into cute jars. Refrigerate at least 4 days.
Cooking Light says they last a month. Mine never last that long (because they get eaten silly!).
I think I really like this recipe because it lets me use lots of spices in my spice drawer.
I do hope to make some dill pickles some day. But we killed the dill plant. Go figure. Oh well, we won’t starve, we at least have our pumpkins.
- Comments 3 Comments
- Categories Cook, Garden
- Author Kerrie
This time of year, I’m not so much into cooking. Dinner can be anything that doesn’t involve the stove or oven: watermelon, salad, cucumbers, pistachios, yard beer. Er, well, no, we don’t drink beer for dinner. But it’s so hot that beverages for dinner doesn’t sound half bad.
I’m not a soda pop drinker. I’ll take a Vitamin Water here or there but other than that, flavored beverages for me equal coffee, beer and tea (in that order), thank you very much.
I recently saw a giant bag of limes on sale. And, duh, I bought them. Who wouldn’t? They make for a beautiful table decoration.
But soon memories of my first pregnancy and weekly trips to Sonic entered my conscious. Seriously. That place and their limeade. Yum.
I’m not positive what’s in that drink other than likely a Sprite-like beverage and some squeezed limes. But I knew I had to make an attempt. Here’s my take on limeade.
Juice of five or six limes
Make a simple syrup. Heat ¾ cup sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside until cool-ish.
Squeeze limes. For me, five limes yielded about a cup of juice. (An aside: Microwave your limes for about 15 or 20 seconds prior to squeezing and they yield more juice!) Mix in 2 cups of cold water. Combine with the simple syrup.
Adjust water to taste. Or more sugar, or honey, or juice. This is not an exact science! Shoot, if you have soda water use that!
Pour over ice.
Throw in a couple blueberries and a sprig of mint. Enjoy.
The foo-foo nah-nah on top really makes the drink. Lemon verbena, mint, berries of some sort, a cube of watermelon, add whatever you’d like to the top. (A small drink umbrella would also be appropriate here.) The hardest part is trying not to gulp this stuff down.
And while we’re talking cold beverages … iced coffee, people. One of the most delicious and simple to make beverage ev-ahhh!
If you’re a coffee person and having a difficult time enjoying it in the morning due to the heat and humidity, I encourage you to try making your own iced coffee. It tastes just as good as what I’ve gotten from a local coffee show and the ROI is through the roof!
Click through to the Pioneer Woman’s website for a very thorough explanation of her method. I do basically the same thing. I’m including it here for my own reference.
12 ounces of coffee, ground for a French press
A gallon and a half of water
Mix coffee and water together in a large container the evening before you want the beverage. Cover and let sit on counter. The next morning, poor coffee into a French press in batches. Press down and pour into new container. Voila!
Pour coffee over ice and dilute as needed.
Store coffee in the refrigerator.
I found a restaurant quality Rubbermaid container with a lid at Sam’s Club that works well, it even comes in a two-pack! I know other people use cheesecloth or filters to separate the grounds. This, for me, is messy and time consuming. I used a French press (with coffee ground for a French press!) with good results.
One time, I did use pre-ground coffee from the grocery store in a pinch and this was a mild, messy disaster. It worked, but the pressing method was not as smooth. I highly recommend having the coffee ground for you at a coffee shop, or using the grocery store grinder set to the French press setting.
I’m not a flavored coffee person so much, but I can’t help but put a small glug of caramel syrup and a tablespoon of milk into this!
Pioneer Woman tells me it is good in the fridge for a month. I say, good luck having it last that long!
No wonder I’m not cooking as much … with all of the beverages I’ve been consuming lately, there’s no room in the fridge!
- Comments 2 Comments
- Categories Eat
- Author Kerrie