Thursday, April 28

Interactive meals with friends

Occasionally, we will have friends over for dinner. I enjoy cooking for others and it is a great way to just catch up. Planning these meals isn't always the easiest though. Sometimes, people have different food needs and tastes. Usually, I get confirmation the same day that they will be coming, so sometimes I find that going simple and easy with meals is a way to please varying taste buds.

However, simple doesn't have to mean boring. one of my favorite things to do when friends come over is an interactive meal. Things like fondue night, burrito night, or baked potato bars are great interactive meals. Something toy guests can take part in, it gives a closer feeling to the group. Passing dishes, talking about dishes, and even watching how each other chooses to build their food, provides a great time and usually a few laughs.

My favorite is build your own burrito, provide one or two filling, a few condiments, wraps, and sauce and you are ready to go! I tend to go a little over board but my list is the following;

Savory Pork Burrito filling
Sauteed Mushrooms, onions, and veggies

Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream
Chopped Avocados
Fresh Salsa

Green Verde mild
Hot sauce
Jalapeno sauce

I tend to get 8" wraps and try to provide at least 3 per person. Also, have a side dish to accompany this, it allows people to choose to put it in out on the side. I use black beans and rice! Give it a whirl the next time friends are over, the smiles and laughs are sure to come

Savory Pork Burrito Filling


This is a great way to prepare a savory filling for your burritos. Add more or less spice to suit your taste buds!

Include it in a build your own burrito night and the smiles are sure to follow!

Will serve 4-6
Full time: 3 hours

You will need:

2 -3 lb pork roast trimmed of fat, boneless
1 small onion, chopped into large chunks
6 long green hot peppers, chopped into 1/4" rounds
2 sprigs fresh cilantro
2 cups fresh salsa (located usually in produce section of store, or make your own. Jar will work but find one with as little liquid content as possible)
2 can slice black jalapeno olives (these are black olive in jalapeno preserves. Sub sliced black olives for less heat)
1 can green peppers
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Let us begin:

Start by placing the pork roast in a pot, you want a pot that the roast fits in with little side room.

Fill pot with water just above the top of the roast

Place onions, hot peppers, oregano, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper into pot. Try to get onions and peppers along the sides of the roast

Bring to boil over high heat uncovered.

Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook 21/2 hours.

Check water level occasionally if it gets to be less then an inch of water add just enough to bring up to an inch deep.

After 2 hours the pork will be ready to shred, using two forks just poke into the pork and pull it apart in the pot. (image is of shredded pork I removed a few pieces from pot for better view)

Once you have shredded the pork, stir in all remaining ingredients.

Heat over med/high heat until salsa and olives are warmed through
Serve alongside toppings such as, shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, lettuce, salsa, avocados, and more! Don't forget the fajita/burrito wraps!

Tuesday, April 19

Keeping your Garden Goodies

It is that time a year, gardens are getting planted, seeds are being spread, and the bounties are just around the corner. 

As we get ready to start planting a good thing to know is what we will be doing with our endless bounty. You don't need a detailed plan but, having a general idea for the excess is a good start. You want to make sure that your planting will meet your needs.

A few great things to think of ahead of time are:

How many fresh fruits and vegetables does my family/myself consume a day/week?

Being an organic person it is important to remember that properly grown fruits and vegetables without any form of preserving, chemicals do not last very long on your counter. Think 4 to 8 days at the most for the best taste.

What can I use my fresh fruits and vegetables in? Sauces, salsas, jams, pickled, or even dried...the garden can be great year round if you prepare them a the peak of picking season.

All your garden goodies can be there for you, year round, filled with all the best flavor you can give them!

Dried Fruits can last 3 to 6 months if stored in air tight containers.

Fresh Fruit Preserves can last 6 months to a year if sealed in jam jars

Fresh made Sauces and Salsas can last 6 months to a year if sealed in jam jars.

Pickled and Preserved items can last up to 2 years if sealed in jam jars.

As always with sealing things in jam jars. Make sure to use only sterilized jars. Look for cracks in seal that will allow air in. Check every now and then to make sure seal is still intact. If it looks like air has gotten in at all, through out the contents do not eat!

MAKE IT: Yummy Dried Friut

Dried fruit is one of my favorite things. Having the lasting taste of summer favorites all year long is a must! Easy to transport and eat where ever you go.

Some people use dehydrators to do this, but it as just as easy with out one! use this recipe for apples, pears, pineapple, apricots, papayas.....whatever you want.

Full time: 3 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours

You will need:

Ripe fruit
4 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

Let us begin:

In a large bowl mix water, salt, lemon juice

To prepare fruit it needs to be cored or pitted. Sliced or diced, into the size you feel is best for you to eat. Place in the holding liquid as soon as you have the fruit ready to go. This will stop browning, which will lead to bitterness.

Repeat on all pieces of fruit

Heat oven to 170 (like good Barbecue low and slow is the way to go)

Place a baking/cooling rack on a cooking sheet and place parchment or cheesecloth on top

Remove fruit from holding liquid, pat dry, and place in a single layer on rack

Roast in oven for one hour

Vent oven by leaving the door open a slight bit

Roast for 3 to 6 hours until dry, it will depend on the size you cut

Remove from oven and let cool

Store in airtight container

Friday, April 15

Eastern Style Chicken with Sausage and Vegetables

Looking for something with a little extra zing? Tired of the usual chicken and veggies? Try this great spin on a classic which adds a little kick by mixing in some savory Eastern tastes!

Serves 2-4
Full time: 1 1/2 hours to 1 hour 45 minutes

You will need:

4 chicken thighs
1 pound sausage
8 carrots, diced (Try to match Potato size)
4 celery stalks, diced (Try to match Potato size)
4 potatoes, diced
1 onion, cut into 8 chunks
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dill weed


Let us begin:

Make a rub by combining garlic powder, ginger, salt, pepper, cinnamon. Season Chicken pieces with half of the rub. Spindle dill weed onto chicken

Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large baking dish place Diced vegetables with spice mixture and mix, making sure veggies are coated.

Sprinkle on garlic.

Arrange Chicken on top of vegetables. Coil sausage around chicken.

Cover and cook 45  minutes at 400 degrees. 

Remover cover and lower heat to 325 and cook 15 mins longer.  Or until chicken is fully cooked

Saturday, April 9

BAKE IT: Pizza Dough

Here is a great, easy, low oil dough! Be careful not to over work the dough or it will become to hard and will not rise right.

This will make 4 personal size, approx 9" pizzas
Full time: 1 1/2 hours
You will need:

2 cup warm water
6 cups flour
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast

Let us begin:

In large bowl place warm water, sprinkle yeast over top

Gently pour in olive oil, honey, salt

Gently work in flour, knead only enough to turn into a elastic smooth dough

Form dough into ball and let rise for one hour.

Punch down and rise one hour.

Turn out onto floured board and knead a few times.

Cut dough into 4 pieces, gently roll out on floured board.

Top with your favorite toppings, bake and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5

Potatoes and Vegetables in a Savory Cream Sauce

This is one of my all time favorite sides! Mixing all the yummy goodness of both potatoes and vegetables, along with a thick cream sauce! Goes great with any meal and is a great comfort to eat.

Serves 2 - 4
Full time: 30-40 minutes

You will need:

2 medium potatoes diced large
1/4 cup onion chopped
2 cups frozen peas, I actually use the corn and pea mix
2 cups baby carrots or 6 carrots diced large
2 cups milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1tsp black pepper

Let us begin:

In a medium stock pot place potatoes and carrots, fill with water. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to med/high and cook covered for 15 minutes or until tender

Add frozen peas to pot. Cook for 5 minutes

Remove from heat, drain, and set aside

In same pot cook onions in butter until tender, about 5 minutes

Move onions over to 1 side for a moment and add in flour, salt, pepper. Whisk to ensure no lumps.

Slowly pour in milk and mix onions into flour mixture.

Cook over med heat until it begins to bubble and become thick approximately 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes.

Gently return potatoes and vegetables to pot, fold into sauce

Cook for 5 minutes over med heat

Serve and enjoy!

Friday, April 1

Sesame Shrimp and Vegetables

This is one of my favorite meals. Loaded with taste, assorted vegetables, and few calories!

Cook in two saute pans and toss together for perfectly tender veggies and firm crisp shrimp.

Serves 2-4
Full time: approximately 40 minutes

You will need:

1 bag fresh spinach
1 pound large shrimp (I like the 35/40 count size)
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Let us begin:
In a large saucepan, with lid, saute the celery, onions, carrots, pepper, and mushrooms in olive oil over med heat.

Once the onions begin to turn translucent pour in 1/2 cup soy sauce and 1/2 cup white wine. Cover and reduce heat to med/low and let cook down for 20-30 minutes until carrots are tender.

Once vegetables are cooked down, in a separate saute pan. Cook shrimp in the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/2 cup wine over med/high heat.  This should take only 5-8 minutes

Once shrimp begin to turn pink, add in sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Top with spinach, increase heat to high. The spinach will look very high and almost appear to be too much, however it will cook down quickly.

While the spinach cooks down, remove the lid from the vegetable pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.
When spinach is completely wilted and cooked down give the shrimp and sauce a quick stir to full incorporate all the ingredients,

Remove from heat and pour into the pan with the vegetables. Stir add let sit for ten minutes on simmer.

Serve and enjoy!