Mexico, North America

simple summer salsa

This recipe is not some new discovery. I’ve been making this since high school when I ordered my “Kitchen Quick” off of t.v. Saying “off of t.v.” feels really weird. But it wasn’t online. I had my mom call to order this kitchen quick for me and it came with a recipe for salsa. This Kitchen Quick really catapulted my cooking love.  It was basically a hand-powered food processor. My friends would tease me that I would never come and hang out on the weekends anymore because I wanted to stay home and make “sals” (right, Min). The salsa recipe called for fresh cilantro, but this was ’98 in Iowa and we only had dried. By about 2000, you could easily find fresh cilantro in the stores.  The first time I used the fresh I about croaked. Disgusting! Now I love it. I can’t get enough.

I realize that this is the most basic salsa, but I think that’s what makes it so good! This is so easy, and there are so many GOOD tomatoes out there right now. So take advantage! You only really need a chef’s knife and a cutting board, but if you like a more blended salsa, use a food processor (I’ve had this one for 11 years) or blender.

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 jalapenõ
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lime
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  1. chop the onion
  2. rinse the onion (rick bayless trick)
  3. chop all the veggies OR cut the veggies into large pieces and then put into the food processor or blender- including cilantro so skip step 5
  4. juice the lime and add it to the veggies
  5. chop and add the cilantro
  6. season with salt.

*besides fresh cilantro, I think that having a fresh salsa with enough lime and salt is key. It’s so important that it can make up for the fact that you have bad tomatoes.  Speaking of which, make this salsa even if you DON’T have tomatoes. Still good!

*I searched and searched for the Kitchen Quick infomercial youtube but I couldn’t find it.   I did find this creepy one though.

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Iowa, North America

easter feast part three: mini ham loaves

Mini ham loaves or ham balls, however you shape these tasty little things you’ll love them. Both my grandma’s used to make ham balls. They were one of my favorite things they made. Ham balls have that sweet, salty, tangy factor. In Iowa and other parts of the Midwest you can buy pre-mixed ham loaf. It’s usually a mixture of ham and pork or ham, pork, and beef. In Denver, you really can’t find this premixtire of ground meats. I had to really ask around several meat counters before I found one willing to grind up ham and pork for me. Special thanks to Marczy’s Fine Foods on 17th in Denver for happily accepting this special order!

I didn’t have my grandma’s recipe so I called my mom and she gave me a recipe that was not my grandma’s exact recipe but she thought it was “pretty close”. This recipe had graham crackers as a binding agent and tomato soup in the sauce. Oh my. As she was reading me the recipe my aunt, who happened to be visiting my mom, yelled out that she didn’t think grandma used Graham crackers and she KNEW that her sauce didn’t have tomato soup. Uh oh. I needed to find out more! After that I messaged my cousin and my sister because I knew they would have the best memory of the ham balls and maybe the best resources. They didn’t dissappoint. My cousin even had grandma’s recipe card! 


My aunt was right. No grahams and no tomato soup. We also decided that grandma’s recipe was most likely not developed because it was her preferred method, but rather because she didn’t have those ingredients on hand and she did without, or she thought they were too expensive and it was “just fine” without. I plan on trying the graham cracker, tomato soup version soon, but for the sake of authenticity, I’m making grandma’s simple version for my Easter feast. 

grandma’s mini ham loaves

ingredients:

2 1/2 lbs ground ham loaf mixture- a combo of ham, pork, and beef. I just had them grind together 1 1/2 lbs ham and 1 lb ground pork (not lean)

2 cups fresh bread crumbs- put a few slices of bread in the food processor

2 eggs

1 cup milk

sauce:

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup white or apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the meat mixture, bread crumbs, eggs, and milk. Shape the mixture into small little loaves. They should look sort of like little footballs. About 2 inches wide and 3 inches long. Place them in a 9×13 casserole pan. Mix together the sauce ingredients and pour over the little loaves. Bake, uncovered for about an hour and a half. 

Let me know what you think! Did you like this retro Midwest recipe? 

Iowa, North America

easter feast part one: deviled eggs

2 egg

Deviled eggs happen to be another early high school cooking class recipe.  Our teacher taught us how to make deviled eggs using a plastic sandwich bag to mash all the ingredients together in.  Then, you snip off the corner and squeeze it into the egg white.  I remember going home that day and making them after school.  Thinking back, I find it really funny that I would make myself deviled eggs for an after school snack.

Deviled eggs are a fun, retro type snack that everybody loves. You always see people getting real excited when you bring them to a party. Everyone has to really hold themselves back from not taking too many.  I found quickly that the secret to good deviled eggs is having enough salt and vinegar. You need that yolk mixture to be just a little too strong to eat on its own so that the egg white shell balances it.  I’ve eaten quite a few amazing deviled egg combinations: green goddess (avocado with tarragon), deviled eggs with bacon and sriracha, and deviled eggs with smoked salmon and capers.  All these combinations are amazing and I love trying really unique deviled egg recipes.  This recipe, however, is very basic, but also my favorite. If I had to pick one recipe to stick with my whole life long, this would be it!

classic deviled eggs

serves 6

ingredients:

6 eggs

1/2 cup mayo

4 teaspoons yellow mustard (I prefer 2 tsp. Colman’s and 2 tsp. regular yellow mustard)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 tablespoon white vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Fresh chives and or paprika for garnish

 

mustard
I used 2 teaspoons of Coman’s mustard and 2 teaspoons regular yellow mustard. The Colman’s has a sharper, slightly spicy flavor to it. Quite strong.

 

Method:

Boil the eggs for 10 minutes and then put them into an ice water bath immediately.  I’ve heard the secret to easy peeling eggs is that they are cold when you peel them.  You can find all sort of tips on the internet about this but what I’ve found is that none of them work.  It’s all luck.  Either that or I’m horrible about peeling eggs.  I usually make my husband do it and laugh when he gets really mad with how poorly he can peel them.  

Once the eggs are peeled (you’re now either really satisfied because it went well, or pissed off about how ugly your whites look), slice them in half the long way and gently scoop out the yolks into a medium sized bowl.  Add the mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix with a fork or potato masher until desired smoothness. Carefully spoon the yolk mixture into the egg whites. Sprinkle with freshly chopped chives and or a little paprika.  Be sure to remind people to savor them because peeling them was such a pain.  People sometimes need a little guilt with their deviled eggs 🙂

1 egg

*This is the first post in my Easter feast series.  I’ll soon be adding recipes for my grandmother’s ham balls, a spring snap pea and snow pea salad with shallots, walnuts, and dates, and also a recipe for truffled twice-cooked new potatoes. If you’re wanting to try the ham balls and you don’t live in the midwest, call your butcher now to have them ground together 2 pounds of ham and 2 pounds of ground pork. They won’t be happy about it because they will have to clean out their grinder and then clean it again.  I’ve been told it’s a real pain. 

By the way, do you have any tips for me on how to easily peel eggs? Tell me what works for you. Please! And Mom, I know you’re reading this.  Is this pretty close to how you make deviled eggs?

 

 

Carribbean, North America

salted caramel Creole banana cake

So, I’m definitely not much of a baker.  I don’t really have a sweet tooth, I’ve always had more of a salt tooth instead.  My husband is quite polite about all this and doesn’t complain about the lack of desserts. However, I’ve noticed when there are sweets around, or it’s the rare occasion that I’ve baked something, he acts really happy.  I was reading through my Share cookbook the other day and I saw this recipe for “Magic Banana Creole Cake”. I didn’t have enough bananas but that doesn’t usually stop me.  This is why I usually can’t bake. I need to improvise because I never want to go to the store! Luckily my improvisations worked here.  I cut the recipe in half.  I also used store-bought salted caramel sauce instead of making the syrup from sugar and water. So good.

I’ve also been experimenting with essential oils in my cooking so I decided to add a drop each of ginger and clove; both flavors that I knew would compliment this cake.  I took a cue from Mid-West banana bread and added a super overly ripe banana to the batter.  My husband thought it was a little strange when I yelled “yes!” as I found what looked like to him a rotten banana in our freezer.

salted caramel Creole banana cake- adapted from the recipe “Magical banana Creole Cake” by Najat Kaanache, found in the “Share” cookbook by Women for Women International

serves 8

ingredients:

1/4 cup oil such as olive or avocado

1 tablespoon coconut oil

8-10 ounces salted caramel sauce

1 super overly ripe banana

2 very ripe bananas (sliced)

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

1 drop each clove and ginger essential oils* (optional)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup half and half (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in the bottom of a 9 inch round cake pan (I used a springform pan). Spread the jar of salted caramel sauce over that. Arrange the banana slices evenly over the caramel.

Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks with the 1/4 cup of oil and brown sugar. It should be creamy and foamy. Stir in the yogurt and maple syrup. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients, alternating with milk. Stir in the super overly ripe banana (we’re talking a frozen, liquidy one) If you’re using the essential oils, add them now.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks foam (ow, my arm!). This takes a minute and if you have the upper body strength of a T-Rex, like I do, your arm will be tired. Gently fold in the egg whites to the batter. You want everything to be mixed but if you overmix, it will make the cake kind of tough. Pour the batter over the top of the caramel sauce and bananas. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up your half and half over medium-low heat.  Be careful that it doesn’t scorch. Now, place a large plate on the top of the cake and turn over your pan so now the plate is on the bottom.

Lift off the pan. Voila! Now the caramelly bananas are exposed!

Serve the cake in a bowl and pour the warm half and half over the top. Gooey, creamy, good.

Anywhere and Everywhere, Mexico, North America

chill chihuahua


I recently had the most fantastic lavender greyhound cocktail at the Arvada Tavern in Arvada, CO. I’ve always been a fan of greyhounds. Both the dog and the cocktail. The cocktail of course is very simple and allows the grapefruit juice shine. Adding lavender adds this super mellow, relaxing quality. I went to recreate this cocktail at home but I didn’t have any vodka. I discovered that tequila was an easy alternative. I made a simple syrup with just one drop of lavender essential oil. Only use an essential oil that has been labeled safe for ingestion. I use Young Living’s Vitality line. I use a sugar rim to add to the easy going nature of this drink. It’s just a shot of lavender syrup, the juice of a red grapefruit, and a shot of tequila. And I’m pretty sure this combo produces its own shot of dopamine. I can’t can’t wait for you to try it and see what I mean! 

chill chihuahua

serves 1

ingredients:

1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) tequila blanco

1 red or pink grapefruit, juiced or 4-6 ounces grapefruit juice. 

1 1/2 oz. lavender simple syrup 

First make the lavender simple syrup. Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup water in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the syrup starts to get a little bubbly. Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes. While the syrup is chilling, use a juicer to juice your grapefruit. You could certainly use store bought juice here but try to get the really fresh kind (not from concentrate). Transfer the syrup to a jar that uses a screw top lid. Add one drop of lavender essential oil. Be careful to just add one drop. If you add more, it may taste a little soapy. Screw the lid on the jar and shake it up. In a martinit shaker, combine the juice, 1 1/2 oz. syrup, 1 1/2 oz tequila, and ice cubes. After that, find a little plate to put some sugar on for you sugar rim. Take a short cocktail glass and spread some of the simple syrup on the rim and side of the glass with you finger. Carefully roll that part in the sugar for a sugar rim and side. Place a large whiskey ice cube in your glass. Shake up the contents in the martini shaker and pour it into your glass. Dont try to pour the cocktail in before the sugar rim. You’ll feel real dumb. Sip. Mmmm…isn’t it lovely? 

 Don’t have any lavender essential oil that is safe for ingestion? Send me your email or go to my essential oils page to buy some! 

North America

butternut squash corn chowder with goat cheese, bacon, and fried sage

It was about 8 years ago. We were invited to over to our new friend’s place for some drinks and snacks before we were going to go do….something.  I forget what we did! Really, the only thing I remember about that night was the food and friends part. Especially the part when my friend brought out this gorgeous little cup of chowder with all these luxuriously fancy toppings.  This chowder made quite the impression on me.  I immediately asked her to send me the recipe the next day.  It was quite involved, so I adapted it to be super easy for any night.  Instead of peeling, dicing and then roasting a butternut squash, I use frozen. Yes! Instead of boiling corn on the cob and sheering it off the cob, I use frozen. Yes! There is no doubt that using the fresh ingredients would taste amazing. But have you ever tried peeling a butternut squash and then dicing it? It will probably make you angry. Choose happiness!

One piece of equipment that makes this soup a breeze is my handy (ha) immersion blender.  You can definitely transfer the hot vegetables and broth to a blender and it will be just fine, but what a pain.  Go buy an here if you don’t have one.  That is the one I own and love.

butternut squash corn chowder with goat cheese, bacon, and fried sage

serves 4

ingredients:

10 oz. frozen butternut squash

10 oz. frozen sweet corn

1 quart chicken stock (this is my favorite kind)

1 chipotle pepper with about a spoonful of adobo sauce

1 yellow onion (sliced)

2 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

1 bay leaf

2 Tablespoons coconut or avocado oil (I prefer these two because of health reasons but you can use any oil, or butter!)

salt and pepper

toppings:

5 slices of bacon (sliced into 1/2 inch pieces)

20 fresh sage leaves

4-6 oz. goat cheese (crumbled)

Pour the oil into a large pot and heat to medium high. Add the sliced onion and season with salt and pepper.  Fry the onion until fairly soft and then add the garlic, chipotle pepper with the sauce, and bay leaf.  Fry about 30 more seconds and then add the frozen butternut squash and corn.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let that cook about 5-7 more minutes. Pour in the stock and turn the heat to medium low.  Simmer everything for a good half hour. Meanwhile, heat a non stick or cast-iron skillet to medium high and add your bacon pieces.  Fry until crisp. Take the bacon out with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings behind.   Add the sage leaves to the bacon fat and fry until crip but not burned.

 

 

Take out the leaves with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Immediately season with salt.  Take out 3 small bowls for each of your toppings like this:

When the soup is done simmering for a half hour, get out your immersion blender and careful start to blend it up.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you’ll have to transfer the soup in batches to your regular blender and then transfer it back to the pot.  You’ll want the soup to be fairly smooth and blended.  Taste it.  Needs more salt? Probably.  Try to keep in mind that you’ll be adding salty bacon, goat cheese and fried sage to your bowl.  Dish the chowder into a bowl and top with the toppings.  This would be delicious served with a simple green salad with olive oil and lemon juice and also some corn bread. Yes, the sweet kind!