Monday, June 30, 2008

Santa Maria Tri-Tip Roast

We've never tried a beef roast on the Egg, so we decided to try this recipe, which features a crust of cayenne and black pepper, garlic, rosemary, and salt. I have a nice picture of the roast ready to go on the Egg, but for some reason Blogger is not cooperating. But you can see what it looked like right before we devoured it:

And yes, it was just as good as it looks! It was pretty pepper-y, so we'll scale that back next time, but it was succulent and juicy and quite a treat! There was enough left over to make one of Mike's favorites, French Dip Sandwiches:

I'm not sure which was better - the roast or the leftovers! We plan on doing this often - it makes a great weekend treat to have a roast, and the leftovers make a great weekday meal.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


(sorry about the bad picture!)

I love making my own salsa, especially since I now grow a lot of the ingredients myself.

My Patio Princess tomatoes have kept us well-supplied with salsa this year, and with what I planted for next year, I should have enough to make salsa and homemade tomato sauce:

Those are my baby tomato plants in the bottom right-hand corner, and the big plants along the left side are my peppers - another delicious addition! I have green bell, banana, jalepeno and cayenne. The banana and bell peppers are pretty mild, but we tried our first jalepeno in our latest salsa batch. Jalepenos are funny because plants vary in their level of heat. They can be very mild to pretty darn hot (although nothing like what Dee's husband grows!) I'm glad I grow my own now, because I know the heat level of that particular plant.

And lemma tell ya, I don't know if it's because they're home-grown, but mine are hot! We had three fairly small peppers, so I decided to put them all in. We actually had to wait until more tomatoes ripened to add to the salsa batch before we could eat it! When something is too spicy for Mike, you know it's hot!

My good friend Jennifer asked me about making salsa, so I wanted to share how incredibly easy it is to make your own. It's also much better than the canned stuff you get at the grocery store. Salsa is great because you can put lots of different things in it, and as little or as much as you like. You need to start with 4 or 5 good-sized tomatoes. You need to decide beforehand whether you want your salsa to be chunky or smooth. If you want it chunky, just chop all the ingredients as fine as you want. If you want it smooth, you will need to put all the ingredients through a food processor (you could use a blender, too). Just a few pulses will do. Chop up the ingredients in rough, large chunks before doing this. Now you need to think about what else you want to add to your salsa. Here is a list to get you started, add as many or as few as you like.

  • One small-to-medium onion (I think red onions are delicious in salsa!)
  • One bell pepper (any color)
  • One pepper of any other type, including banana, chile, cayenne....just be sure you know what heat level you're dealing with!
  • One jalepeno pepper (to me, salsa with a jalepeno tastes more authentic; see note above)
  • 1/2 Cup corn (either frozen or cut off the cob fresh. If you're processing the ingredients, add this afterwards).
  • 1/2 Cup black beans (again, add after processing)
  • 1/2 a zuchinni (I learned this trick from a sneaky mother whose son hates zukes but loves salsa).
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (a must in my house!)

That's all I can think of for now. If you have any other ingredients you add, I'd love to hear about them! You might find your salsa to be very watery, depending on how juicy your tomatoes were. If it is too juicy for your taste, you can always strain it. Catch the juice and freeze it for the next time you make soup - it will blow your mind!

There is one more step that is completely optional, and that is cooking the salsa. Some people like to do this if they are serving the salsa immediately. Cooking helps the flavors meld together. Taste it and see if you think it's necessary; if you think it's fine the way it is, then just enjoy! If you decide to cook it, do it in a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. If you put the salsa in the refrigerator overnight, this will also meld the flavors.

Try out your salsa-making skills - you won't want to go back once you do!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jalepeno Heaven

Mike picked some jalepenos off our plant and I was so taken by the waxy, vibrant color that I just had to take a picture. These went into the freezer until our next batch of tomatoes is ripe for some SALSA!
Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Every blueberry season, I have a collection of fresh blueberry recipes waiting in the wings. I absolutely LOVE blueberries, so I was eager to try this recipe. Dee over at The Daily Stitch first got me interested in the recipe, and since it originally came from Penzey's I figured it had to be good. I made one modification by skipping the walnuts in the struesel topping.

The coffe cake came out very with a very pretty golden top. It was also very fluffy and light - the only thing I would change about the recipe would be to add more blueberries - I like it loaded!

I served the coffee cake at my stitching group get-together last week, and it went over well. Lynn said that her son devoured the pieces I sent home for her, so it has the kid seal of approval, too!

And it almost had the kitty seal of approval!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Black Bean Croquettes

I've made these once before, but apparently I never posted it. Mike actually made them the first time (which may explain why I forgot to post about them), and here they are:

Obviously we enjoyed them, since I made them again. This time I took a lot more pictures:

I had some black beans leftover from the Beef and Black Bean Burritos, so instead of canned beans I used dried (rehydrated, of course). Once I mashed them I worried that I should have cooked the beans, but it turned out fine. They were a little harder to mash, though. I also just threw in some of my homemade salsa instead of messing with their salsa recipe. The corn is frozen and I also threw in some chives instead of scallions....close enough.

You have to take the black bean mixture and make little mounds out of them, then roll in breadcrumbs. Don't mind my messy hands.

Mike used Italian breadcrumbs when he made them, and I used panko. Both were good, but I think I liked the panko a little better.

Plated up after a quick trip to the oven. I served them with fresh salsa on the side and some tortilla scoops, along with some steamed broccoli.

If you did them like this, they'd make great tapas!!

These croquettes made for a satisfying, guilt-free meal. I plan on making these often to stretch our budget, because it doesn't feel like a "cheap" meal. And get this: even Sophie liked them!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beef and Black Bean Burritos

I decided to try a twist on the traditional beef burritos that are pretty common in this house. I'm always looking for ways to stretch our food budget, so the addition of black beans to the beef seemed like a great idea to me!

I had a lovely picture of the beef/bean mixture to show you guys, and for some reason Blogger keeps downloading it sideways. So just imagine a nice mixture of beef and black beans with cumin, coriander, and chili powder. I also added some corn I cut off the cob, and the reason I did this is because of these guy:

I had some salsa ingredients I picked from the garden, and I wanted to add some of the corn that my in-laws brought from St. Augustine. Since I had about half a cob's worth of corn left, I decided to add it into the beef and beef mixture.

Here's the end product, along with some green beans. We both really enjoyed this - it was nice change. Mike ate three of them, I had two, and I still had enough left over to make five more! We'll have enough for two lunches, so for two meals feeding two people, it costed me:*
$4.00 for 1.25 lbs. lean ground beef
$2.00 for 10 flour tortillas
50 cents for the seasonings and onion
Since the tomatoes and peppers for the salsa came from my garden, we'll say about $1.00 for the seeds, plus irrigation, etc.
$2.00 for the toppings - cheese, sour cream, etc.
50 cents for the black beans - I used dried instead of canned
NOTHING for the corn (thanks, in-laws!)
The green beans were brought fresh, and I washed, snapped and froze them myself. I'd say the 2 servings we ate cost about 50 cents.
For a total of $5.25 per meal for two people, or $2.62 per person, per meal! How's THAT for frugal?!?
*all figures are approximate

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Bounty for Today

My banana pepper is EXPLODING! I picked eight of them today, and there's lots more on the bush! Three of them were shared with the neighbors, three went into the freezer, and the others went into a salsa along with the tomatoes. This year is my first growing tomatoes, and I remember reading that once your tomatoes start to ripen, it's like a tidal wave. Whoever said that was right...I picked these this morning, and by evening four more were ready to be picked! But we're not complaning - just making ourselves fat on chips and salsa!
Pork Chops in Garlicky Sauce

This recipe came from Cooking from the Heart of Spain, a cookbook I got from the library. I was drawn to the use of fresh herbs. Pork chops aren't usually something I am enthusiastic about, which is partly the reason why I chose this recipe - garlic makes everything tasty!

I did make several adaptation to the recipe, including not peeling the potatoes and skipping the bitter pimenton, which I've never even heard of. All of my adaptations are in italics. In the above picture I had just added the potatoes, and on the back burner is brown Basmati rice, a recent find of mine at Publix. Mike LOVES Basmati rice, so I was happy to find a brown version. It was called "popcorn rice" on the package, and I couldn't figure out why until the fragrance filled the house - it really does smell kind of like popcorn!

Just about ready! At this point Mike and I were both standing over the stove about ready to reach in the skillet and dig in! The combination of garlic and parsley added at the last minute smelled SO good!

I didn't realize until I got to the table that I prepared two starches...whoops! I don't think I've EVER made that mistake! This was the first time that I really, truly enjoyed pork chops - I definitely plan on making these again! TRY THIS RECIPE!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In the Garden

We're still getting some growth in the garden, depsite the full onset of summer here in sunny Florida!

My banana pepper plant continues to surprise me with how well it's doing. Clickity for biggity to see all the babies on that plant!!

Snap beans - waiting for a trellis! :)

In the background is the basil, which I've been religiously pinching off to encourage bushier growth. I swear, one day I trim it down and the next it looks exactly the same! The mint in the foreground isn't quite as fast a grower, but it's starting to spill down the sides of the pot! Time to make more Mint Ice Cream!

My Patio Princess tomatoes. I've been thrilled at thier production! They produce a fruit that's a little bigger than a cherry tomato. I got these from Burpee before I decided to grow mostly heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, but I've been so impressed with them that I planted the rest of the seed packet I had! I am also starting some Brandywine (heirloom) and Salsa tomatoes, which are specifically for making one of the very favorites foods. Mmmmm...salsa!

This morning I re-potted this orange tree into the tub you see here. I got the tub on sale, and although it's not really for growing plants, I put a layer of river rocks in the bottom for drainage and I think it will work just fine. Much cheaper than the other options I was looking at! It will make a fine home for this Page orange until it's big enough to go in the ground.

The bounty for today!

All washed up. The banana and bell peppers and the carrots will go into a stir-fry for tonight (stay tuned!) and the tomato will most likely go into Mike's mouth before I can do anything with it :) Our bounty is small this year, but hopefully next year we will have enough to really make a dent in our grocery bill and health goals!
Howie the guniea pig was more than happy to take care of the carrot tops for me. Gardening benefits us all!!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Just a quick post to share some pictures from a recent family get-together. My mom made her famous Fruit Pizza - a perfect summer dessert!

The beauty of this recipe is the pairing of the sugar cookie crust with the cream cheese. The fresh fruit and orange glaze make it absolutely perfect!
Living in Florida, Memorial Day represents the start of summer for my family. Usually my great-aunt and uncle host a shindig at their place in Dunnelon, but they're away this year, so we hosted a shrimp boil. Yum!