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October 2015
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Facebook Recipe: Caramel Apple Sheet Cake

Every day I would say there are dozens of recipes that scroll across my facebook feed.  There are many that catch my eye, but then I’m frequently disappointed when I click on them and they end up being something that started with cake mix or cookie dough or some other product that I might not use.  I expected this cake to be the same, and was surprised when I clicked on it and discovered that it was an actual scratch cake.  That very same day Andy asked if I could possibly be persuaded to make him a pan of Gooey Apple Sheet Cake to take to a work party for Monday Night Football.  It was serendipitous, and I told him I would definitely make the cake, but it would be a Caramel Apple Sheet Cake instead.  I mean, how could that be bad?

It came together quickly, and also baked quickly, but since it was going to a party, I was unable to sample anything more than a few swipes of batter.  Monday night the report came in that it was a huge success, practically gone within 10 minutes of being unveiled.  My sweet husband directed all his co-workers to this blog for the recipe, and then texted me that I needed to post the recipe on the blog.

While I was happy to accommodate, what kind of food blogger would I be to post and review a recipe that I hadn’t actually sampled?

And so a second sheet cake came into being this week.  It IS quite good- gooey and buttery and full of apple flavor, but for the sake of full disclosure, I have to confess that I think it’s missing something.   I did alter the original recipe a touch by adding salt to both the cake and the glaze, and I’m sure that was a good call.  But I still think there is something missing.  I thought about adding a half cup of chopped pecans, and the only reason I didn’t is because Zander is not crazy about nuts in his baked goods.  It turns out that I could have added the nuts because he doesn’t care for the cake anyway.

Since Andy is working out of town these days, it’s a bit of a challenge for us ladies to consume an entire sheet cake, and because it’s so gooey, it’s not really shareable.  But it IS good, and I definitely recommend it.  The next time I will sprinkle the finished product with toasted pecans before the glaze sets up- I think that may take care of the thing that is missing.

Follow the directions carefully on this one- the process is a little strange with melting things together and adding them to the flour, but it worked.


Caramel Apple Sheet Cake

2 cups flour plus 2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 cup water
½ cup shortening
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups peeled and chopped green apples

½ cup butter
6 Tablespoons milk
3½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
? cup caramel sauce- ice cream topping is good


In a large mixing bowl, measure flour, sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine. Set aside.

In medium sauce pan combine butter, water, and shorting. Bring to a boil. After mixture reaches a boil add it to the four mixture and stir to combine.

Add buttermilk, then baking soda, then eggs, then vanilla in that order, mixing in between each addition. Stir in apples.

Pour into a 15×13 inch greased jelly roll pan.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes.

While cake is cooling, make frosting by combining butter, and milk in a medium mixing bowl. Microwave until butter is melted. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and caramel sauce and stir until smooth. Pour frosting evenly over cooled cake.

Lacto-Fermented Salsa

I have wanted to try this recipe for a very long time.  Every time I see the recipe or have a discussion about fermented foods (what, you don’t have those?) my thoughts drift to this salsa and I wonder what it tastes like.  Yet, I’ve never done it, mostly because it doesn’t make sense in my head.  Have you smelled rotting tomatoes?  Very unpleasant.  I just couldn’t see wanting to eat that smell, you know?

But this week my garden gave me an unexpected parting gift of a whole basket of fresh tomatoes.  They are not the best of the season, but they were certainly unexpected.  Since they were a bonus, I decided this was the time to try the lacto-fermented salsa recipe in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon.  I followed the recipe precisely, except when it came to the tomatoes.  I did not peel or seed the tomatoes as directed, as I never do when I make salsa.   Oh, and I also eliminated the oregano.  Not a big fan, and I wanted to try the salsa without it.

I mixed all the ingredients together in my quart jar, and then added a two-piece lid.  Then it sat on my counter.  The next day I popped the lid for just a moment- in case there was any gas in there that needed to be released.  The second day I did the same- especially after I pressed down on the lid and met no resistance.  That day I decided I should give the salsa a stir, since the liquid had separated out and it looked as though the salsa were floating on tqo inches of water.  Today being the third day, I opened up the top and found a fine layer of white mold all over the top.  A quick google search told me this was normal- as long as the mold was white and not black, brown or green, it could be removed.  So I scraped off the top bit of moldy salsa, stirred the rest up, and when in for a taste.

I was very pleasantly surprised!  The flavors all melded together beautifully.  There is this tang in the finish that can only come from a fermented product, but it is only slightly there.  The overall flavor of the salsa is simply delicious.  The cilantro really comes through, as does the onion, but not in an overwhelming way at all.  Andy thinks he could sit down and polish off the jar in one sitting.   I popped it in the fridge to chill before we tried it with chips, and it’s even better cold.   It is a touch on the salty side, as expected, but it’s not overly so.  I think if you followed the direction to use extra salt instead of whey that it would be borderline inedible.  It’s not hard to let a bit of yogurt strain for a few minutes to get 1/4 cup of whey, and I wholeheartedly recommend that method.

Overall it’s a surprise hit.  The one thing I would change for next time would be to seed the tomatoes.  I still would leave the peels on, because the peels don’t bother me, but the salsa is very, very liquidy, and I think that would be reduced some if I’d seeded the tomatoes as suggested in the first place.

Post Script:  I had to come back and add just one final note for anyone looking at this salsa and having dubious thoughts like I did.  I really, really, really dislike the taste of a a lot of fermenting foods.  I like sauerkraut and flavored kefir and that’s about it.  I dislike beer very much, and I also dislike sourdough and other breads like rye that have that distinctive yeasty-fermenting taste.  This fermented salsa does not have that funky taste at all.  It’s pleasant and it makes me keep going back for another bite.


Lacto-Fermented Salsa from Nourishing Traditions

4 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced
2 small onion finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped chile pepper, hot or mild
1 bunch cilantro chopped
1 Tbs fresh oregano chopped
lemons juiced
1 Tbs sea salt
4 Tbs whey (or additional 1 Tbs salt)
1/4 cup filtered water


Mix all ingredients and place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar. Press down lightly with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer, adding more water if necessary to cover the vegetables. The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 2 days before transferring to cold storage.

A Simple Hot Pepper Sauce

I have a confession to make.

I’m getting tired from processing the garden.  This is a fabulous place to be, because it means that I’ve been getting a decent harvest this year and am putting all kinds of tasty treasures away for winter.  This week I’ve frozen a second batch of blanched zucchini, a whole pile of roasted eggplant for pizza and pasta, and I also harvested the carrot patch and put that in the freezer.  I meant to can the beets this week, but closer inspection of the patch showed me that Peter Rabbit found the beets to his liking, and once he’d sampled a beet, the slugs moved in.  The whole patch went into the compost pile.  So that was a little discouraging, but since there are plenty of other treasures to be had yet, I continue harvesting and preserving what I can.

Today’s treasure came from the pepper patch.  I’ve lost a great deal of peppers this year to rodents- could be mice, could be rabbit, could be mole… I’ve yet to actually see the critter, but I definitely see the debris left behind, and unless a pepper is high in the air, it’s not safe from the rodent, regardless of heat level.  That’s a bit of a bummer overall, as I’d been looking forward to roasting green chilies for the freezer, pickling more pepperoncini, and making some cowboy candy.  Alas, I’ve had enough peppers for salsa making, and today I thought that if I harvested everything that was ripe I would have enough for a batch of Basic Aged Pepper Sauce.  I was right on the money, I had exactly two pounds of hot peppers on my plants that were ripe and ready.  Some were blazing superhots, like the Red Fatalii, Yellow Fatalii, Madame Jeanette and Bahamian Goat, some were much more mild, like the Mild Habanero, Aji Fantasy, Barro Do Ribeiro, Aleppo, and Cherry Bomb.  Then there were the medium-hots, the ones that I left the seeds in, hoping their seeds would contribute some heat, but not so much to make the end sauce overwhelming.  I would place my Serrano, Hanoi Market Peppers and Bulgarian Carrot peppers into that category.


All together, these peppers smelled amazing!  This hot sauce really couldn’t be easier.  I went through the peppers one by one, cutting off the tops, removing seeds and spongy placenta, and then tossed them in the food processor.  Once the peppers were pulverized into small bits, they went into a stockpot with a bit of vinegar and salt, and boiled for just a few minutes.  I poured that all into a jar, added a lid, and now we wait until Christmas to taste.  It really is that easy.  When the sauce is finished, there is the optional step of straining, but I like my hot sauces chunky, so we usually use it just as it is.

One word of caution about making hot sauce.  There’s the obvious precaution of wearing gloves when handling hot peppers that a lot of people use (I don’t), but the first time I made this sauce several years ago, I gassed my family.  The kids literally had to leave the house from the fumes while the hot peppers and vinegar boiled.  So this time, when I cooked the hot sauce, I did it while the kids were at dance and Andy was gone.  The windows were also wide open.  Since this sauce cooks for a very short amount of time, it clears out quickly, but for those with breathing issues, please make sure you make this (or any) hot sauce with proper ventilation in place.


Basic Aged Hot Sauce

2 pounds hot peppers, de-seeded and chopped
3 cups white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

Finely chop the hot peppers in a food processor, then add to a non-reactive saucepot.  Add the vinegar and salt, and bring to a boil.  Boil gently for ten minutes.

Pour into a mason jar and allow to cool so that you can touch the jar without scalding. Add two piece lid.  Set in a cool, dark space and allow to rest, undisturbed for three months.

After three months the sauce is ready!  If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can strain the solids out and discard.  Store in the refrigerator.

If you’d like to can this, you need to bring it back to a boil after aging and pour into 4-ounce or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Ham & Chard Stuffed Shells from Eating Well

This dish was a HUGE winner for the Waz household.  Everyone enjoyed it immensely, and Zander even cleaned his plate- swiss chard and all.  I really expected that he would sit with his stuffed shells and pick as many green bits out that he could.  But he didn’t, and he devoured every bit of stuffed shell from his plate.

Earning this recipe a top spot in the instant repeater category.

The only thing I didn’t love about this recipe was the shells themselves.  I always have terrible luck boiling up the large shells- so many end up shredded or in pieces, so I have to boil up so many more than I actually need, with the hopes that I will have enough in the end.  Since this dinner was so tasty, it’s worth the trouble.

I did use more chard than suggested, but I have plenty of it growing in the backyard.  The result of that change was that I thought the filling was just a touch on the bitter side from all the greens, so next time I will probably stick with the recommended amount.  I think I probably ended up with about 3 cups of cooked chard- it’s so hard to gauge what a pound is when you are harvesting chard fresh from the garden.

For the ham, I purchased ham already cooked and diced for me.  Next time I hope to have some leftover ham floating around, as the ham flavor will be more pronounced that way.  It really was a great addition to stuffed shells and made everyone happy.

Since it was the heart of tomato season when I made this, I simply used 4 cups of freshly diced tomatoes instead of the 2 cans of fire-roasted tomatoes called for.  I’m sure there was a bit of a flavor difference in the end because of that, but I’m sure the roasted tomatoes made it taste even better, so I look forward to using them when the fresh specimens are no longer available.   In a time pinch?  Eliminate the homemade sauce and use your favorite jarred sauce- I promise I won’t tell.


Ham & Chard Stuffed Shells

from Eating Well magazine, Sept/Oct 2015

Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 14-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup slivered fresh basil

Stuffed Shells:

24 jumbo pasta shells
1 pound chard (about 1 large bunch)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced ham
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


To prepare sauce: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, water, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Stir in basil. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

To prepare shells: Cook shells in boiling water until not quite tender, about 9 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Dry the pot.

Rinse chard well and thoroughly pat dry with a clean towel. Separate the leaves from the stems. Thinly slice the leaves and dice the stems; keep separate.

Heat oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the chard stems, ham and shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the chard leaves and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vinegar and pepper; let stand, stirring occasionally, until cooled slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in ricotta and Parmesan.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce; spread the remaining sauce in a 9-by-13-inch pan (or similar-size 3-quart baking dish). Stuff each shell with about 2 tablespoons of filling; place in the pan. Spoon the reserved sauce over the shells. Coat a piece of foil with cooking spray and tightly cover the pan, sprayed-side down.

Bake until the filling is steaming and the sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes.

Onions For The Freezer

This is the first year that I have successfully grown regular onions in my garden.  I’ve tried in years past, but always from seed, and I never got nice bulbs at the end of the onion.  Green onions I can grow without thinking about, but bulbing onions eluded me for years.

This year I bought onion sets in the spring and planted a double row all around my community garden plot as a natural animal repellent.  I think the animal repellent part worked rather well.  I still had some critters doing damage, but not enough to really complain about.  When the salsa pot fired up at the beginning of August it was pure joy to harvest my own onions to put into my homemade salsa.  Those first few batches of salsa utilized only vegetables that I grew myself- something I am quite proud of.

But as I’ve harvested the larger onions over the last month for salsa, what remains are of a much smaller diameter.


They are too small to pull and cure for long term storage just as they are, but with a quick run through the food processor, freezing these onions in ready-to-use packaging is the perfect solution.  After harvesting this morning I washed them, peeled them and cut them into chunks before letting the processor chop them into bits.

I packed the chopped onions into pint freezer bags in 1 cup amounts- so many recipes call for 1 cup of chopped onion, or one medium onion- which is about 1 cup or so.  Then I placed the pint freezer bags into a larger gallon sized freezer bag.  This is the vital step in freezing onions- the double bag in freezer bags.  Vacuum sealing will work also, but again, you must double bag.  The first year I froze onions I used one freezer bag and the entire freezer began smelling and tasting like onions!  Take the time to double bag.


I harvested just one corner of the garden this morning, and my afternoon of work produced 11 cups of frozen, chopped onions.  That’s about 11 pots of soup, chili, curry or stew worth of onions!  I expect I’ll be able to do this two more times before using all the onions up.  Next I’ll package them in 1 1/2 cups per pint bag for those times I need just a few more onions.  A small bit of work now for big rewards in the months ahead.


Spanakopita Loaded Potatoes

It’s no secret that I am a foodie magazine junkie.  I love receiving them in the mail, and then sitting down during a quiet afternoon/evening with a cup of coffee or tea and going through them.  I’m always on the lookout for new meal inspiration that fits into a busy lifestyle.  This time of year, I’m also on the lookout for recipes that use some of my garden bounty in a new way.

A few weeks ago the new Eating Well hit my mailbox, and boy, was it a welcome site!  A feature on dark leafy greens caught my attention for immediate exploration, as did an article on beets, another one on butternut squash, and for the cooler days to come, a soup article and a noodle article promise very good things.

I turned my attention to the article on dark leafy greens, and a recipe for Spanakopita Loaded Potatoes.  It seemed so simple, and while the recipe called for spinach, I planned to use a couple handfuls of the Swiss Chard always on hand in the garden.   I did go lightly on the chard so that I didn’t overwhelm my kids who are still not entirely fond of greens.  The recipe calls for 1 pound of fresh spinach, or 4 cups cooked and frozen, and I would say I probably had two cups of chard once it was wilted.

The results were fabulous.  These potatoes were delicious, and practically a meal all by themselves.  Andy and Abigail both loved them, as did I.  I don’t think Zander ended up even giving them a taste.  Usually twice baked potatoes are a less-than-healthy affair, loaded with butter, cheeses, bacons, and all kinds of creamy goodness.  These potatoes were even better than those versions, and I’m looking forward to making them again soon.

Since twice baked potatoes freeze nicely, I suspect that these would also.  I would like to try that sometime.  I think I would prep them through stuffing the skins, and then freeze at that point.


Spanakopita Loaded Potatoes

from Eating Well magazine

4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 pound fresh spinach, or 4 cups frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup crumbled feta, divided


Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Pierce potatoes in several places with a fork.  Bake directly on the center rack until tender, about 50 to 60 minutes.  Let stand until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 2 to 4 minutes. Add spinach, garlic and oregano; cook, stirring until hot, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Reduce oven temperature to 375ºF.

Cut the potatoes in half and scoop the insides into a bowl.  Place the skins on a baking sheet or 9×13 pan.  Add the cream cheese, salt and pepper to the bowl.  Beat with a hand mixer or mash with a potato masher until smooth.  Stir in the spinach mixture and 1/2 cup of the feta cheese.  Stuff each potato skin with about 3/4 cup of the potato mixture. Top each with 1 tablespoon of the remaining feta.

Bake until the filling is steaming and the feat is browned 25 to 35 minutes.

Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes

For years I’ve been dreaming of the perfect cherry tomato garden.  YEARS!  I have long wanted cherry tomatoes in every color so that I can have bowls of a beautiful rainbow to have and to share.  Well, this is the year I succeeded on that front, and my tune has changed a bit from “Oh, look at the tomatoey rainbow” to “What the heck was I thinking!?”  I have so many more than we can consume, even if we ate tomatoes at every meal.  I keep giving them away, and still, the bowl is never-ending.  16 plants devoted to bite sized tomatoes may be a few too many.

I thought briefly about investing in a food dehydrator.  One of those kitchen tools that we bought but never used, so sold it in a rummage sale for two dollars many years ago. That was before I discovered vegetable gardening, of course.  But since the one I really want is rather pricey, and I’m still not completely convinced that I’ll use it all that much, I thought I’d try drying some cherry tomatoes in the oven.

Have you ever purchased sun-dried tomatoes?  While they aren’t the most expensive item in the grocery store, they are on the pricey side for a tiny little bottle of dried tomatoes.  But they add the most spectacular flavor to whatever you use them in.  Pasta, pizza, sandwiches, dips, you name it, you can add some dried tomato goodness to it.  The trick to drying them correctly is getting them at the right temperature, and then keeping an eye on them once they really start to dry.  I did one batch of tomatoes at 200 degrees, and that literally took all day to do.  The second batch I did at 220, and while that was faster, the dryness of the tomatoes was inconsistent. Some were getting to the crispy stage while some were still rather moist on the interior.  What I am looking for is more of a dry/chewy texture- like a raisin.  I have found that 210 degrees seems to be perfect.

So I start with the tomatoes.  Use ones that are roughly the same size, as they will dry the most evenly.  Cut them all in half, and spread them out on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil.  Spread them so the cut side is facing up/  Then give them a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.  You can also add some herbs if you want your tomatoes flavored, but I am choosing to avoid the herbs and just go for a pure tomato flavor.  I’ve seen some people add a drizzle of oil, but I don’t really think that is necessary if you’re drying them for storage purposes.


Pop the pans into your pre-heated oven and let it do its thing.   This is still going to take a while.  I start checking the pans at the two hour mark, and since I have two pans in the oven, I rotate them then.  After that, check them every 30 minutes until they are the dryness you desire.  Mine are done around the 4 hour mark.


For storage, I am storing mine in pint mason jars in the freezer.  Because I left some moisture in to get the chewy texture, I feel they are probably going to keep the longest in the freezer.  Then I can just scoop out what I need at the time and put the rest back in the freezer.  My long-term plan is to keep a small half-pint jar in the fridge, ready to use at all times.  That one I will put the tomatoes in and then cover with a good quality olive oil so the oil will also be flavored.

I am already thinking of the sun dried tomato pesto I will be making this winter.  It’s making me smile every time I bring in another massive bowl of cherry tomatoes.  This will be totally worth the effort.

However, next year, I will definitely be planting a few less cherry tomato plants.

How To Freeze Zucchini

It’s that time of year!  The time of year where zucchini growers can be found on every street corner begging for people to take their over-sized vegetables.  Most people will happily take one or two, but then there are SO many left.  Zucchini plants can produce like gangbusters, or just put out a few fruit- you never know, and that inconsistency is why zucchini growers tend to plant a few too many in the spring.

For fresh eating, most people prefer the smaller sized zucchini (or summer squash), as you don’t have to worry about the seeds getting in the way.  But honestly, the larger zucchini are just as delicious if you take the time to scoop out the seeds and inner membranes.   For most people, the question of preserving them for another time usually leads to making quick breads and freezing those, or the oddly textured zucchini pickle.  In the past, I’ve shredded zucchini to use later in quick breads, but I’ve always wondered about freezing zucchini in chunks.  You can buy it in the freezer section at the grocery store, and I find the quality very good, so why can’t I do it at home?

The answer is that you can, and it’s really easy.

Start with your zucchini or summer squash.  If you have small ones, cut them up into 1-inch coins.  If your zucchini are larger, as mine are, cut them open and scrape out the seeds and fibers with a spoon.   Cut the zucchini into uniform pieces to they will cook uniformly.


While you get the zucchini cut up, you can get a pot on the stove with water and bring it to a gentle boil.  I pretty much cut up one zucchini at a time.  Once your water is boiling, the whole process is very fast.


Once you have about 4 or 5 cups of cubed squash ready, drop it in the boiling water and set the timer for just 3 minutes.


Using a slotted spoon, you can give the zucchini a toss once or twice.  This 3 minutes goes by very quickly, giving you just enough time to get a bowl filled with ice water.  When the 3 minutes are up, remove the zucchini from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, and toss into ice water to stop the cooking.


Once cooled, spread out the zucchini chunks on several layers of paper towel, or use kitchen towels as I do.   You can pat them dry if you like, but I found that if I just spread them out on a few towels with the ceiling fan going over them, they dried just fine on their own.


Now, at this point, I was originally going to spread out my zucchini on baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray and freeze them individually.  Then I would put them in a gallon freezer bag once frozen, so I could remove the precise amounts of zucchini I wanted to use at the time.  Alas, once I had my sheet pans ready, I realized I was out of gallon bags, so instead, I just piled the blanched cubes into quart freezer bags this time.


Make sure you label your bags with a sharpie!  I put the contents on the bag, along with the month and the year for the date.  You would think you would remember what these were come February, but you’d be surprised how many times one glances past a bag of something mysterious in the freezer…

It took longer to bring the water to a boil than anything else.  In about 10 minutes time I had 4 quarts of zucchini ready for the freezer.   This zucchini is ready to be added to soups or stews, or to spread out on a baking sheet and roast with salt, pepper and olive oil.   I’m looking forward to letting more zucchini grow to epic proportions!


Pickled Peperoncini Peppers

Oh my, these are good!  These are SO good!  Even better when I look at these jars and realize that I grew these peppers, as well as the garlic flavoring the brine.

A few weeks ago I looked at my Peperoncini plants and realized that there were an awful lot of peppers dangling from the branches.  For a lot of peppers, I let them turn colors before doing anything with them, but I’ve always seen peperoncini’s in the their jars green.  I decided I had enough to try a few pints anyway, so I plucked them from the branches and set about finding a recipe.

I didn’t have to look far.  The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich had just what I was looking for- a small batch recipe that I could cut in half easily, as I had enough peppers for just two pints.

Seriously, these couldn’t be easier.  With very little effort on my part I had two jars of pickled peppers sitting on my table.  The only thing that I will change in the future about this recipe is that when you pour the brine over the peppers, it says to leave a good 1/2-inch head space.  I followed that direction, but my peppers sucked up quite a bit of the brine and the brine level ended up below the peppers.  Next time I will play with that measurement and see if a 1/4-inch headspace at the beginning will give me a better end result.

This is the first time I’ve ever added olive oil to a canning recipe.  Usually that’s a no-no, but as the author here is a master canner, I’m trusting that she knows what she’s doing.  The peppers are delicious, and I like that pulling one out of the jar you get a little coat of olive oil on the way to your mouth.    I only waited 3 days before tasting and they are delicious.


Pickled Peperoncini

8 small garlic cloves
2 small Mediterranean bay leaves, torn in half
2 pounds straight green peperoncini, each slit once lengthwise, stems trimmed to about 1/4 inch
2 cups cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or straight white
2 cups water
4 teaspoons pickling salt
1/4 cup olive oil


Divide the garlic piece and bay leaf evenly among 4 pint jars.  Pack the peppers vertically into the jars.

In a nonreactive saucepan, bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil.  Pour the hot liquid over the peppers, leaving slightly more than 1/2-inch headspace, and then pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into each jar.  Close the jars with two-piece caps (make sure the rims are free of oil, which could affect the seal).  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Store the cooled jars in a cool dry place for at least 3 weeks before eating the peppers.  Store in a refrigerator once opened.

Re-Post: Our Favorite Peach Salsa

Dear Tummy Treasure readers, I’ve never done this before, but today I’m republishing an older blog post.  I’ve been working my way through a bushel of peaches, and this salsa is as spectacular this year as it was when we first made it five years ago.  The peaches are amazing right now, so do yourself a favor, get some, and make this salsa.  More peach recipes to come soon…

I was going to save the best for last, because this salsa was the real surprise of the bunch, not to mention the most stunning one to look at visually.  But I decided to share it first because quality peaches at the markets may be dwindling, and you definitely want to make this salsa for yourself or to give as gifts.

As I mentioned the other day, neither my brother or myself have made fruit salsas before.  It didn’t really interest either one of us- so don’t ask us how it is we ended up making TWO fruit salsas in the same day.  But we’re so glad we did.  In the case of this salsa, the peaches take the place of tomatoes- which are also sweet in their own way.  Add some deliciously spicy jalapenos, some tangy vinegar, herbaceous cilantro and a few more things, and those peaches make magic.  This was amazing scarfed up with a few tortilla chips.  We all agreed that this salsa would be AMAZING on fish tacos, but the possibilities with this lightly fruity salsa are numerous.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving recommends that when you make this salsa, measure your vinegar into the pot first, and then dump in your peaches as you chop them, and toss together.  This will prevent the peaches from browning any and turning the salsa an unpleasant color.  We also left the seeds and the ribs in the jalapenos for some heat.   As I’m reading this recipe through again, I’m reminded how quick and easy this was to put together.  Please note that the recipe and processing time is for half-pint jars.  Since it gives no recommended time for processing pints, to do so could be unsafe- and should be avoided.

Peach Salsa

from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

makes about eight 8-ounce jars

1/2 cup white vinegar
6 cups chopped pitted peeled peaches
1 1/4 cups chopped red onion
4 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed finely chopped cilantro
2 TBS liquid honey
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper


Prepare canner, jars and lids.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine the vinegar and peaches.  Add onion, jalapeno peppers, red pepper, cilantro, honey, garlic, cumin and cayenne.   Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Ladle hot salsa into jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Easy and Garlicky Grilled Salmon

It’s decided to be a bit muggy here in Wisconsin this week, so I’ve been avoiding the stove.  Anything I can do to reduce the heat in our non-air conditioned home is essential on days like this, so on these days, meals are salads and things that can be done on the grill.

Yesterday it was a lovely side of salmon that I’d cut into six healthy looking portions.  I can’t tell you how the simple act of cutting the salmon into portions has made grilling salmon SO much easier!  It’s much easier to flip a handful of small fillets than it is to try and maneuver a pair of spatulas under a whole side of salmon.  It’s also nice because I can pull the thinner portions of salmon off the fire when they are done instead of letting some of it get overcooked while I wait for the rest to finish.

I went back and forth on how I was going to season yesterday’s salmon.  In the end though, I’d picked some fresh basil from the garden and picked up a package of campari tomatoes from the store, so I wanted to salmon to have a kind of Italian flare to it.  I chopped my garlic, added a healthy dose of Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset seasoning, salt, pepper and olive oil, and then let the fish sit in that for about 30 minutes before cooking it on the grill.


I cooked the fish for about 5 minutes on the first side, flipped it, and then cooked for just two more.  It was tender and juicy on the inside, but still cooked through, which is how we prefer it.  A fresh sprinkle of sea salt to finish, and we had a spectacular salmon dinner.   We all enjoyed it a lot, and Zander even went in for a second piece of fish, so you know it had to have been good!  Leftover salmon will be tossed in a salad tonight, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that is going to turn out for us.

If you don’t have Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset seasoning, you can use whatever Italian style blend you prefer.


Garlicky Grilled Salmon

4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 teapoons Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset seasoning blend
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 fresh salmon fillets


Combine the garlic, Tuscan Sunset, salt, black pepper and olive oil in a small bowl.  Mix well.  Drizzle mixture over the salmon fillets, rubbing it in gently.  Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking in your desired manner.

I Made The Best Chicken Salad The Other Day…

But I don’t have a picture.

There is a story here though.

It was Sunday, July 5th, the tail end of a busy holiday weekend, and a busy last week in the kitchen preserving fruit.  Because it was a holiday weekend, we had the unexpected bonus of not having an evening service at church, so I found myself with time to make a decent dinner.  Except I’ve also been nursing a head cold, and my energy comes and goes in spurts.  So I went back and forth on dinner.  Everything rolled through my brain and then rolled back out.  I really wanted to make pancakes, because it was quick and easy.  But poor Andy hasn’t really eaten good, scratch food in over two weeks.  We were gone for 9 days to Florida, and he left to work out of town before we even got home.  Then when he was home, it was holiday run-around, with good grill food, but not a great meal made with love here at home.  And since Sunday was the only opportunity for a decent meal before he left again for another week…

I went out to the garden and surveyed what I had out there. I had tons of peas to be harvested.  They were snap peas, but a lack of rain this last week made them more like snow peas- the peas were not swollen and puffy.  No worries, I like snow peas too.  So I picked peas, and then I picked more peas, and was amazed when I practically filled the bowl I had with me.  I even left peas on the plant for another day!  Then I wandered over by the kale and pulled off a few leaves of dinosaur kale, and decided that I should make a stir-fry for dinner with all these peas and a bit of kale.  I mentioned that to the kids and they begged me to make the ground beef stir fry.  Only, when I went to pull the ground beef out of the freezer, I saw I had a lot more frozen chicken breasts and decided to go in that direction instead.  I’m so glad I did!

I had my peas, chicken and kale, and went in search of a new way to put them together.  I wanted the peas to be barely cooked in the stir fry, and I really wanted a light sauce- similar to a moo goo gai pan that you would get at a Chinese take out place.  I came upon this recipe at Eating Well for a Warm Snow Pea and Chicken Salad.  Go ahead and go look at that, because the picture there is what inspired my chicken salad.  I thought the recipe sounded just a little different and fun, and I decided I wanted to make it.

I started with the chicken breasts that were now about half thawed.  I put them in a pot with 2 cups of homemade chicken stock, and then decided to add a tablespoon of soy sauce to the broth as well.  I brought the broth up to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer, added a lid, and let the chicken poach for about 15 minutes- turning it once or twice as it cooked.

While the chicken did it’s thing, though, I kept reading that recipe and in the end, I decided that I did not want a warm salad at all, and I also did not want the sauce called for in that recipe.  I thought about what it would be like to sit and sliver up my pile of peas like the picture showed, and I thought about how fresh they were and how crunchy they would be.  I wanted that crunch!

So I slivered up my entire pile of peas.  I probably ended up with 4-5 cups of slivered snap/snow peas.   Then I grabbed half a red bell pepper from the fridge and sliced that up thinly for some color contrast and added that to the peas.  The chicken finished cooking, so I pulled that out to cool.  I tasted a bit of the chicken and thought it needed salt, so I also sprinkled the chicken with salt and pepper.  Once it was cool, I shredded that up and added it to the peas as well.  I was really wishing I had some green onion at this point.

So I wandered back out to the garden and pulled up about 5 teeny-tiny baby scallions.  Really, they looked more like chives,but they were packed with onion flavor, and even better than them being full sized scallions, when I chopped them up finely and added them to the salad, they spread the onion flavor throughout- without adding obvious bites of onion.   Finally, I took a tablespoon of sesame seeds and put them in a pan to toast up.

I still needed a sauce though.  I thought really hard about going easy and just grabbing a bottle of salad dressing from the fridge and using that.  I have plenty of options on hand!  But then I thought of how long ago I’d made a chicken salad from Ina Garten that used a peanut sauce.  The sauce then ended up WAY salty, but I thought the peanut flavor would be perfect with the peas and chicken.  Then, as I read through that old blog post I realized I was coming awfully close to making her salad anyway- only I was using slivered snap peas instead of the asparagus!

I modified the dressing, using very scant amounts of everything, because I wanted a scant amount of dressing on the whole thing.  Tossed it up, added another pinch of salt, and dinner was served with some fresh Florida watermelon on the side.  The salad was absolutely delicious.  Andy loved it, I loved it, the kids loved it.  Even better, Andy took the remains with him to work on Monday and texted that it was still delicious- AND the peas were still crunchy.  I will most definitely be making this salad again.  It’s a perfect summer salad that could be made ahead well in advance of when you need it.  Next time though, I will take a picture.

Here is my modified peanutty dressing.  This would  be good in so many applications.  As a salad dressing as I used it, or as a dip for veggies or spring rolls.  It was nice and light, but still full of flavor.  This dressing as made fully dressed about 8 cups of chunky salad without being too heavy and cloying.  It would multiply easily if you wanted more dressing.

A Lighter Peanut Dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt 
few grinds of black pepper


Whisk everything together in a small bowl until fully combined.  If your peanut butter is really thick, you may need to add an extra splash of liquid to the bowl.  You can use water or extra vinegar- taste it to see what you would prefer.

You also may need more or less salt depending on the soy sauce you use.  I use a brand I find in the Asian aisle of the grocery store, so it’s a touch more salty than the regular brands.

Makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.