Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes’

Mexican Bake | Relishing ItSo, what are you planning to do with all of those delicious turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving?  Sandwiches?  Really?  I like a good cold-turkey sandwich as much as anyone, but today I have a recipe that is a great alternative.  And to be honest, even if you don’t have turkey leftovers you should make this dish.  It’s wonderful, and so versatile that you can make it with turkey, chicken, ground beef or even just beans, for a vegetarian option.

Mexican Bake | Relishing It

You’ve probably noticed that I’m into making ‘bakes’ a lot this year.  I’ve been having fun incorporating legumes, grains, and quinoa (technically a seed) into meals.  Aside from being so easy to throw together, they’re incredibly satisfying and a healthy option.  A big bowl of hot food is just what we all need as we gather around the dinner table together while it snows outside.  This particular bake has a Mexican flare. I’ve made it a number of ways depending on what we have in the house. I’ve been challenging myself this year to make meals out of food that we have, rather than running to the store every time an idea enters my brain. Aside from a smaller grocery bill, it cuts down on wasting otherwise-usable food, so that makes me happy.

Mexican Bake | Relishing It

This dish is fabulous with shredded chicken or turkey, but it’s also equally tasty using ground beef (or shredded beef, if you happen to have that).  Substituting beef broth for the chicken broth is an easy swap.  Of course, going completely vegetarian is a no-brainer, too.  Just add more beans and use vegetable broth, or even water.  Just amp up the spices a bit more to compensate. Whatever protein you decide to use, it will pair wonderfully with the brown rice, corn, and beans.

Mexican Bake | Relishing It

You all know that I pretty much can all of my tomatoes that I need to get me through the winter.  However, Red Gold Tomatoes generously sent me some different varieties of canned tomatoes to try (thanks, guys!).   So, I incorporated them in this dish and they were fantastic! I used the the lime juice and cilantro variety.  Of course, you can use any type of canned tomato that you have on hand, but these added a nice zesty flavor to the dish.

Mexican Bake | Relishing It

Load the bake up with as much cheese as you would like– that’s a personal preference.  Before serving, squeeze on some fresh lime juice, sprinkle with cilantro, slice up some jalapeños, and dollop on the sour cream.  Serve it with tortilla chips or plain tortillas and you are set.  You’re going to love this dish!

Mexican Bake | Relishing It

The Recipe: Mexican Bake

(serves 4)

olive oil

about 1 pound (or a bit more) of cooked shredded chicken, turkey, ground or shredded beef (see note)

1 small red or white onion, diced

about 4 garlic cloves, minced

about 14-15 ounces of cooked beans, drained and rinsed (any kind– red, black, pinto, or even white) (when I forget to soak my own, I’ve really been enjoying Simply Balanced Organic Beans (found at Target) for both the texture and the flavor.)

1 cup long grain brown rice, rinsed (any type of rice will work–if wanting to use white, just note that the cooking time will decrease)

1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1-2 teaspoons ground coriander

kosher salt and cracked pepper

about 1 cup frozen corn

1 1/2 cups homemade chicken or beef broth heated (depending upon what protein you are using)

1 15-ounce can Red Gold diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro (or anything similar)

shredded cheese, 1-2 cups  (sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and monterey jack are great options)

chopped fresh cilantro, fresh jalapeños, sour cream, fresh limes, hot sauce, tortilla chips, and/or fresh tortillas for serving

Note:  If wanting to use shredded chicken, simply sauté one pound (or a bit more) of chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper in a skillet with olive oil.  They should take about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending upon how high your heat is.  Check for doneness, then shred with a fork.  Or use rotisserie!

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large Dutch oven add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes over medium-high heat until somewhat soft (you would brown the ground beef just prior to this, if using).  Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander, about 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and cracked pepper to the pan.  Then add the canned tomatoes with juices, beans, rice, meat, corn, and heated broth and continue to cook for a couple of minutes over medium-high heat until everything is hot.

Mix in the meat.  Flatten everything with a spatula so the rice can cook properly in the liquids.  Place in the preheated oven and bake covered for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and add the cheese.  Return to oven, covered, for about 5 more minutes, or until cheese has melted.

Serve with lime wedges, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeños, sour cream, hot sauce, tortilla chips and/or fresh tortillas.  Enjoy!

I hope you all have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving celebrating with your loved ones!  Peace to all.



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Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant | Relishing It

One of my favorite summer meals is panzanella.  If you’re not familiar with this little dish, it is simply a bowlful of seasonal vegetables with homemade croutons or bread and a dressing of some sort.  And it is wonderful.  This fresh version with tomatoes and peppers is one that I make frequently.

Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant | Relishing It

Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant | Relishing It

Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant | Relishing It

Today I wanted to create something just as pleasing, but a bit different.  I wanted to be both delicious and satisfying as well as be loaded with vegetables.  I know I’ve preached this before, but eating vegetables is key to keeping me feeling good, so I really try to pack them in throughout the day.  One of the vegetables that I wanted to rely on for this receipe is eggplant.  Why eggplant?  Well, because I can’t stop buying it at the farmers market– it’s just so darn gorgeous.  I have a weird relationship with this vegetable.  I don’t generally love the flavor, and at times I find the texture to be a bit…unique.  I needed to find a way to appreciate it, aside from the aesthetic, because admiring its beauty while it sits unused on my countertop is a bit wasteful.  And the other recipes I’ve tried have just seemed ho-hum or so loaded with other unhealthy things that it kind of defeated the point of eating healthy.  So that’s why eggplant.

Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant | Relishing It

Thankfully, not only did I find a way to use it, I found a way to actually enjoy it!  This panzanella is everything that I wanted it to be.  Using small globe-like eggplants worked well in this recipe.  The seeds are smaller, which appeals to me.  The vegetables became tender and delicious when roasted.  Tossing them with homemade croutons, a red wine vinaigrette, and feta was a beautiful combination.  The feta melted slightly against the warm vegetables.  It was magical.  The smashed garlic cloves become soft and buttery.  Roast whatever vegetables you have on hand– it will work.  Change up the cheese, if you want.  Goat or ricotta salata will work well, too. Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant | Relishing It

The Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant

(serves 2)

about 10 small eggplants, diced

1-2 red peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces

handful of small cherry tomatoes

1 small red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 hot pepper, optional

olive oil, salt, and pepper

1/4 – 1/2 baguette, cubed

Feta, goat, or ricotta salata cheese crumbles, to garnish

For the Vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

about 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  On a large baking sheet with parchment paper, toss the eggplant, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic cloves together with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, toss the cubed baguette with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread on another baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake on the bottom rack until just crispy, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Make the vinaigrette by mixing the garlic clove, mustard, thyme leaves, and red wine vinegar together.  Then whisk in the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are done roasting, mix them together with the homemade croutons.  Then toss everything with the red wine vinaigrette.  Re-season with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Serve with feta crumbles on top and even a few more thyme leaves.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!








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Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Herbs | Relishing It

The tomatoes have finally arrived here in Minnesota!  Yes, that sentence deserves an exclamation point.  It’s always a long wait for me throughout the year for these babies.  I love tomatoes, but the sad store-bought versions just won’t do.  So, I can or freeze as much as I can to make it through the winter, then patiently wait for them to appear at the farmers markets the next summer.  Every year I somehow trick myself into thinking that they should appear earlier than they really do.  Tomatoes need time and lots of sun.  I have a few plants in my yard again this year that are coming along nicely, but the bulk of my preserving comes from the farmers markets, where I can buy bushel upon bushel of these little red gems.

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Herbs | Relishing It

I’ve mentioned here before that I love to can salsa.  I’ll be makes lots of batches of this recipe in the coming weeks.  I also can plain tomatoes, and a couple different versions of tomato sauce.  The version I’m sharing today is not a canned one–so, you can exhale now.  It’s actually my favorite tomato sauce and I preserve it by freezing it.  Super easy and ridiculously delicious.  I love to can, as it’s a great way to preserve and we happen to have a large storage room in the basement, so it works well for our family.  But, in all honesty, I love the taste of this un-canned sauce even more.  The flavors are spot-on and lemon juice (which is used in canning to keep the ph levels safe) is not needed.  I use roma tomatoes here (they are wonderful for sauces) as they have a lower water content.

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Herbs | Relishing It


Roasting tomatoes is one of my favorite ways to eat them.  Something magical happens when that tomato caramelizes a bit. The flavor intensifies and I simply can’t stop popping them into my mouth.  I love to pair them with some delicious cheese and crusty bread.  Simple summer meals are the best.  When we’ve eaten our fill, I put the rest of the tomatoes, garlic, and herbs into the food processor and give it a few pulses until it become this thick, fragrant tomato sauce that can be used in so many ways.  At this point, I freeze the sauce, unless I want to use it in the next day or so.  Freeze it in whatever you like– freezer bags or vacuum seal it in a special bag (freeze first, then vacuum seal it closed) are both methods that work well.  I use this sauce all winter long and it is always a sad day when I pull the last one from the freezer.  I hope you give this version a try.  Enjoy!

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Herbs | Relishing It

The Recipe: Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Herbs

Roma tomatoes, cut in half (as many as will fit on 1-2 baking sheets–depending upon how many you want to roast)

1 bulb of garlic, peeled and cloves separated (per baking sheet)

handful of freshly chopped herbs: basil, thyme, oregano, parsley (per baking sheet)

olive oil

kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line 1-2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (depending upon how many tomatoes you want to roast).  Fit the tomatoes snuggly, cut-side up, in a single-layer onto the pan, they will decrease in size as they cook.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Roast for about 40-50 minutes (if using two pans, rotate them half-way through).  Then increase temperature to 400°F and roast for at least another 10 minutes to caramelize the tomatoes, sometimes a bit longer.  Check the bottom of them for a dark caramel color.  Remove from oven when done.  If wanting to make sauce, place all of the roasted ingredients into a food processor, juices too (or by hand).  Pulse for a few times until mixed.  Place in freezer bags or bags that can be vacuum sealed (freeze first, then seal), or any other container you want to store them in.  Enjoy throughout the winter!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!




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Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers | Relishing It

I’m willing to place a sizable bet that most of you are a little tired of turkey leftovers.  Well let’s switch it up then, with this little dish to revive your tastebuds.  This is one of those quick, healthy meals that I promised you a few weeks ago.  It’s loaded with healthy ingredients and the combination of flavors is one of my favorites– sauerkraut and beef.  (Remember this galette?)  This time I’ve also added the tang of tomatoes and the ever-so-slight crunch of green peppers.  Lovely.

Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers | Relishing It

A few comments on how I’ve titled this dish.  Let me go on record as saying I’m not a huge fan of the word “deconstructed” when it come to food.  It’s often misleading, pretentious, or both.  I know others have the same gripe about describing oneself as a “foodie”.  (Personally, I’m fine with foodie).  Anyway…here I couldn’t really come up with another way to describe this dish.  The fact is, it takes all of the wonderful components of stuffed peppers, and, well, deconstructs them.  There’s really no other way to describe it unless I decided to go with “pile of peppers, rice, ground beef, sauerkraut, and tomatoes”.  And for some reason that just doesn’t seem quite as appealing.

Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers | Relishing It

Just because this variation comes together more quickly, don’t for a moment think they aren’t as good as the original.  That would be a huge mistake, because this dish is about 10 times better than any traditional version.  Here’s why– you know that moment when you cut into what used to be a vibrant green pepper, and the liquid just floods out on to your plate because the pepper has baked far too long to ensure the filling reached the right temp?  Yeah, that doesn’t happen here.  No disappointing mushiness to the green pepper, no pieces of hamburger submerged in puddles of tomato-y water.  Here, the green peppers retain their vibrant green color and a bit of their crunch, because you decide what texture you’d like them to be.  The tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes), whichever you choose to use, are the perfect base for the rice and ground beef.  The whole dish is finished with a healthy dose of really good sauerkraut to add that wonderful zip.  Use this saurkraut recipe to make your own, or buy a good quality version.  Bubbies has wonderful fermented products.  The entire dish takes only the amount of time that you need to make the brown rice.  So…get going, time’s a ‘wasting!   Enjoy!

Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers | Relishing It

The Recipe: Deconstructed Stuffed Peppers

(makes enough for 4 people)

1 cup dry long grain brown rice, rinsed

1 pound grass-fed ground beef

2 large green bell peppers, cut into large bite-size chunks

1 small white onion, diced

1/2 quart homemade tomato sauce, or a bit more  (your favorite purchased sauce or crushed tomatoes will work, too)

1 cup good quality sauerkraut

fresh parsley, for garnish

salt and pepper, to taste

Place the rinsed brown rice in a large saucepan with 2 cups of cold water and a sprinkle of salt.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium simmer and let rice cook for about 30 minutes or until it is tender and the water has been absorbed.  Fluff with fork.

Meanwhile, when the rice is about halfway through it’s cooking time, begin to brown the beef  over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  For this dish, I like to leave the beef in somewhat big chunks.  When it is cooked, drain and discard the grease.  Season the beef with salt and pepper and add add the onion to the pan.  Cook the onion until it begins to get tender, just 2-3 minutes.  Add the green peppers and cook just a few minutes until they are a bit tender, but still have a slight crunch to them.  Add the tomato sauce and warm through.  When the rice is ready, add it to the skillet and stir.  If the dish is hot enough, add the sauerkraut and stir just enough to warm the kraut, but not enough to cook it.  It’s lovely when it has a bit of a crunch to it.  Re-season with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.  Enjoy!

If you’re looking for gift ideas for the favorite foodie in your life, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites.  Stop over to Becki’s site, “Shopping’s My Cardio” and have a look!  Thanks for stopping by Relishing It today.  xo

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Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary and Thyme | Relishing It

Alright, I’m using “sun-dried” very loosely here, as these little beauties are not…well…sun-dried at all.  I just couldn’t bring myself to call these “sitting on a counter in a dehydrator” tomatoes.  No, I like to imagine that they were patiently crafted in Italy, with tables upon tables of tomatoes laying out in the sun, as I sipped a Chianti and and read a good book.  Alas, my reality is Minnesota, and I used a food dehydrator.  Not quite as romantic, is it?  Even so, these tomatoes are fantastic, and seriously recommend you give making them a try.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary and Thyme | Relishing It

I love having a nice supply of sun-dried tomatoes to get me through the winter.  Buying jarred versions at the market can be expensive, and to be honest, they’re just so simple to make.  You can use any type of tomato, though smaller ones will require less cooking time.  Roma’s are a fantastic choice– simply cut them in half or quarters.  The tomatoes take time to dehydrate– perhaps a day or more for the thicker end pieces.  I sprinkle mine with rosemary, thyme, with a little sea salt and cracked black pepper.   The flavors are wonderful!

Su-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary and Thyme | Relishing It

You can snack on them as soon as they’re dried, or preserve them to use later.  As for the texture, some like them a bit chewier– I made sure mine were completely dry since I intended to preserve them.  It’s really up to you how dry you want them to be.  These tomatoes can be kept in airtight containers (plastic bags work well), vacuum sealed, or even stored in the freezer.  I also made a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, and they are ridiculously delicious.  These would make fabulous gifts around the holidays if you’re looking for something homemade to share.  I hope you give these a try!

Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary and Thyme | Relishing It

Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary and Thyme | Relishing It

The Recipe:  Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Rosemary and Thyme

any variety of tomatoes, sliced or halved

fresh rosemary, chopped

fresh thyme, chopped

sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

To Dehydrate the Tomatoes:  Slice the tomatoes or half them, depending upon their size.   Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, salt and pepper.  It will take about 24 hours to dehydrate a full load, sometimes longer depending upon how thick the tomatoes are sliced.  Store in a resealable bag and use within a few weeks.  Freeze any amount you want to keep longer.

To Oven-Dry them:  Preheat oven to 200°F.  Slice tomatoes and sprinkle with chopped herbs, salt and pepper.  Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  It will generally take between 2-6 hours (possibly more) to dry the tomatoes– much will depend upon how thickly they are sliced.  Store in a resealable bag and use within a few weeks.  Freeze any amount you want to keep longer.

To make Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil:  Prepare dehydrated tomatoes by dipping them in white wine vinegar (this help keep bacterial growth from occuring) and shaking off any excess.  Place in a small jar along with 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar.  Then fill the jar up with olive oil.  Make sure that all of the tomatoes are submerged.  Store in the refrigerator and try to use within 2 weeks.  If placing fresh herbs or garlic into your mix, you must use up the jar within 1 week.  The olive oil will become hard in the refrigerator, simple let sit at room temperature for a few minutes before using.  Be mindful to use clean utensils when removing the tomatoes from the jar.

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It today!


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Perfect Canned Summer Salsa | Relishing It

Alright everybody, this post has been a long time coming.  We have here one of my most cherished recipes.  It’s the salsa that causes me to miss out on the first few weeks of fall.  I’m busy chopping tomatoes and canning so many batches that I don’t get a chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Sounds a bit exaggerated, I know.  But, it’s not.  Now don’t let my canning-in-bulk experience deter you from making this wonderful salsa.  Obviously you need not make as many batches as I do, and realistically you should be able to get everything done in one sitting.  That is, until your friends and family get a taste of it…

Perfect Canned Summer Salsa | Relishing It

I know that was a bit of bragging, but the truth is, nearly everyone I’ve share this salsa with has loved it.  I started small, giving a few jars here and there to family.  Then friends had a chance to sample it at get-togethers, and suddenly I was spending a few weeks every September in the kitchen making batch after batch.  Even now, I inevitably run out of jars to give away by winter’s end.  For me, all the time spent with boxes of tomatoes and piles of peppers is worth it.  I like to share–it’s like giving a little part of myself to those closest to me.  Sometimes, the easiest way for me to say I care is through food.

Perfect Canned Summer Salsa | Relishing It

I started making a version of this salsa years ago– Radd’s aunt shared her base recipe with me.  Over time and many, many experimental batches, the recipe evolved into what you see here.  As you likely know, we like things spicy in our house.  For those less-courageous friends, as well as our kids, I make a much milder version.  The point is, you really have full control over how fiery you want this salsa to be.  If you have questions on how much heat a specific type of pepper adds, take a look here for comparison.  This year I made my mild version, but for my hotter “Inferno” batches I used a pile of habaneros.  And this weekend I tracked down some Bhut Jolokia “Ghost” peppers  (1,000,000+ Scovilles!) for a batch that I hope will be face-meltingly hot for my husband, who is crazy.

Perfect Canned Summer Salsa | Relishing It

Aside from control of the heat, you can also vary how chunky you want the salsa to be.  Over the years I’ve changed my method.  I used to roughly chop everything and then use an immersion blender at the end for a very smooth texture.  More recently, I’ve stopped doing that, since I like my salsa to have a few more chunks.  Instead, I pulse everything in the food processor before cooking it.  It cooks down to the perfect consistency for my taste.  If you don’t have a food processor– you can just chop, chop chop!  To be honest, the bulk of the work in making salsa is chopping the ingredients– the rest is a waiting game.  Waiting for it to become the right consistency.  Waiting for it to process in the water bath.  All in all, it generally takes me about 3-4 hours from start to finish.  But it’s well worth the time.  Especially when you get to open up a jar and settle in front of the t.v. during a January snowstorm.

Perfect Canned Summer Salsa | Relishing It

Just a few notes on preserving your salsa.  Since this recipe is my own, it obviously doesn’t come from a canning website.  Canning is a big responsibility.  It’s not difficult, but there can be risks.  I’ve poked around the internet to compare this recipe with others for safety purposes.  The amounts and ratios of vinegar, tomatoes, and peppers is typical of many from canning sites.  I’ve made my salsa this way for about 15 years and have never encountered a problem.  Even so, if you do have any concerns, I suggest taking a look at one of the many websites and blogs devoted to canning.

Perfect Canned Summer Salsa | Relishing It

So, for those of you who have been patiently waiting for me to share this recipe– here you go!  I hope you love it so much that you make batches upon batches for your family and friends, as well.  Cheers.

The Recipe: Perfect Canned Summer Salsa

(makes about 14-15 pints.  Though I generally get different amounts each batch.  Much will depend on the water content of your tomatoes and how long you cook the salsa.)

16 cups chopped tomatoes  *measured in a liquid measuring cup after they have been through the food processor  (about 8 pounds) I use big, huge canning tomatoes– no need to peel them

3 large green bell peppers, chopped

3 large white onions, chopped

2 bulbs of garlic, chopped  (not 2 cloves–2 entire bulbs!)

hot peppers, seeds too  (to your liking)  *See Note

5 tablespoons ancho chili powder

3 tablespoons canning salt

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon of EACH of these:

ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and oregano

1 cup plus a splash extra cider vinegar

15 ounce can of plain tomato sauce- preferably organic and definitely without added sugar  (Muir Glen works well)

Note:  You can make this salsa as hot or as mild as you want.  I would suggest using about 3 jalapeños for a mild version.  I chop the seeds and all.  It won’t be spicy, but the jalapeños will give it a great flavor.  For our favorite version that we call “Inferno”, I use: 12 habaneros, 5 jalapeños, 12 chilis, and 8 serranos.  If you do enjoy hot salsa, I would encourage you to seek out some habaneros, as their unique, almost sweet-like flavor cannot be beat.  When working with the very spicy peppers, it is a good idea to use plastic or latex gloves, if possible.  Be very careful about what you touch.  Also, be careful about inhaling too closely to the chopped peppers.  

Note: Jars and rims can be re-used over and over again.  Lids (the flat piece with a glue-like substance)  needs to be replaced every time you can something.  

You will need:  A very large heavy-bottomed canning kettle to hold all of the chopped ingredients.  Another very large kettle (or two) to process the filled jars of salsa, and hopefully a rack to set on the bottom of it (though you’ll be fine without, too).   A small saucepan to boil the lids and tongs to lift them out of the hot water.  A ladle to fill the jars.  A jar lifter, to remove the processed salsa from the hot water bath.  Paper towels, for wiping the edge of the jars clean.  15-16 pint jars with lids and rims.

Let’s get started!  Use a food processor (or a knife and cutting board) and pulse each type  of vegetable separately.  I do mix the onions and garlic together.  You will not want large chunks and you will not want it finely puréed, but something in between.  Place all of the ingredients for the salsa into a large heavy-bottomed kettle and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium (uncovered) and let cook for about an hour (or more), or until it is your desired consistency.  It should be bubbling, but not at a rolling boil.  You may need to cook it longer to get it as thick as you want it.  A lot will depend on your tomatoes and their water content.  Make sure to stir frequently, to avoid scorching.

Meanwhile, fill a large canning kettle (or two) halfway full of water and begin to heat.   You will be using this to give your filled jars a hot water bath.  I used to use two smaller kettles for this, but recently discovered that my husbands huge kettle for brewing beer worked very well.  If you can fit a cooling rack on the bottom, do it.  It’s good to not have the jars on direct heat– but, you should be fine if you don’t have one.  At this point, you should have decided how you want to sterilize your jars and rims.  Some people like to dip them in the boiling water to do so.  I use my dishwasher on the “sterilize cycle” and time it out for them to be done just as the salsa is ready to be jarred.  You will also want to fill a small saucepan with water and place the lids in it.  Turn it on low/medium– this is an important step as it not only sterilizes the lids, but more importantly, it softens the glue-substance, so it can seal properly.

When your salsa is ready, begin ladling each jar with salsa.  Make sure to leave about 1/4 – 1/2-inch space at the top.  Wipe the edge of the jar clean with a wet paper towel.  Place a lid (using tongs to grab them out of the hot water), and then a rim on each jar.  Repeat until all the jars are full and the salsa is gone.  Next,  use a jar lifter to gently place the filled jars into the hot water bath.  Fit as many as you can into the kettle.  The jars should be covered with boiling water.  Cover and process for 20 minutes.  Remove using the jar lifter and place on a kitchen towel.  You will most likely hear the seals start to pop within minutes.  This is a good thing.   Repeat until all the jars are processed.  After a few hours, touch the tops of the jars, they should all be flat against the jar and not make a sound if tapped.   If not, it did not seal properly and you should place that particular jar in the refrigerator and use first.

Alright!  You did it– let me know if you have anymore questions.  I hope I covered everything.  Your first canning experience may seen lengthy, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become.  Enjoy!

As always, thanks for stopping by Relishing It!



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I just returned from my nine-hour-each-way road trip to North Dakota.  I do my best to eat healthy when I travel, but sometimes I end up failing miserably.  This trip I had a hard time saying no to the most delicious bacon cheeseburger in the universe– again.  And it went downhill from there.  Now I’m making up for my gluttony by trying to eat my weight in vegetables, and today’s post is a good start.

I’ve been craving a crisp spinach salad for awhile now.  Not the pre-packaged spinach that has “bag smell”, but fresh garden spinach that you can find at almost every farmers’ market.  I’m talking about the kind that is curly, has loads of wrinkles, and personality.  And although tomatoes aren’t quite in-season here in Minnesota, I knew I could get a few greenhouse-grown beauties.  Along with the veggies, I wanted a few crunchy bacon crumbles– not much, just a enough to add a nice saltiness.  Since I was thinking about a salad that could serve as a complete meal, I mixed in a whole grain.  You’ve probably noticed that I do this a lot with my salads.  This one and this one are two earlier favorites.  This time around, I chose farro.  It comes from the wheat family and has a nice, toothsome bite.  Finally, I wanted to bring it all these fresh ingredients together with a creamy gorgonzola dressing.

I know there are a many of you that purchase bottles of salad dressing from the grocery store.  My goal for today is to convince you to start making your own for every salad.  It’s easy, and tastes amazing.  No preservatives, and you know exactly what is going into your dressing.  Plus, you can play around with the ingredients.  Switch out the gorgonzola for blue cheese.  If you have extra yogurt on hand, use that instead of the buttermilk.  Just give it a try.  I’m guessing you’ll like it enough that you won’t buy bottles again.  This particular dressing is simple and beautiful.

One last note about Spring spinach.  You’ll need to clean it thoroughly– more than just a spray of water and throwing it in the salad spinner.  Instead, soak it in a large bowl of cold water for a minute or so to allow the dirt to settle to the bottom.  You don’t want to ruin this beautiful salad by biting into a fresh green leaf that still has dirt hidden in one of the folds.  Enjoy!

The Recipe:  Spinach, Farro, and Bacon Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing

1 large bunch fresh spinach

small bite-sized tomatoes

8 ounces bacon, cooked

handful of homemade croutons

1/2 cup farro, cooked


4 ounces (1/4 pound) gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup buttermilk

sea salt and cracked black pepper

To start, rinse the farro in a mesh strainer.  Place the farro in a small saucepan and cover with water by about an inch.  Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a small/medium simmer.  When the farro is tender, but still has a toothsome bite to it,  remove from the heat — about 15-20 minutes.  Pour into a strainer and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare the homemade croutons by cubing about 1/4 of a fresh or day old baguette.  Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil (about 2 teaspoons) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Place in the oven and toast for about 10-15 minutes, stirring a couple of times.  They are done when they are golden brown and have a nice crunch to them.

Prepare the dressing by placing the gorgonzola cheese in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the buttermilk.  Mash with a fork until it is mostly incorporated.  Be careful to leave some small chunks of cheese, as it adds to the texture of the dressing.  Add a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper, to taste.  Set aside.

Fill a large bowl with cold water.  Place the spinach in the bowl and swish it around a bit, then leave it alone.  All the of the dirt will sink to the bottom.  Gently remove the spinach and place in a salad spinner.  Give it another rinse with running water and then spin it dry.

In a large salad bowl, place the spinach, tomatoes,  farro, and bacon.  Pour some of the dressing on it.  Toss and top with croutons.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It  — have a lovely day!


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I seems like I’ve been preaching the ‘Spring vegetable gospel’ for the last few weeks.  I can’t help it.  That’s how excited I get about them.  For this dish, I decided to incorporate one of those Spring gems– fava beans.  They aren’t available for very long, so I grab them when I can.  Preparing fava beans is a little out-of-the-ordinary.  They need to first be shelled, then peeled.  Once you’ve removed the shells, boil for a few minutes and place them in an ice bath.  The light green peel then comes off easily.  It’s a bit of a process, but it’s worth it.  Fava beans are soft and delicious, and again, they’re versatile.  They’re perfect mixed into sauces, tossed into salads, or mashed into a fantastic bruschetta topping.

Fava beans are a great addition to the typical meat sauce like this one.  Here, they add an interesting texture, and pair wonderfully with the sweet Italian sausage and tomatoes.  I buy a local sausage that has plenty of seasoning, so I didn’t add much.  In fact, I didn’t use one grain of salt– the sausage and grana padano cheese added enough.  Test your sauce as you go, add seasonings and salt as you see fit.  I also didn’t have white wine on hand, but would have added a glug or two if I did.  Even my freezer wine stock was empty.  As an aside, you can freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays and add them to sauces as you need them.  Slick, huh?  For the pasta, you can use dry pappardelle, or if you want that silkiness of fresh pasta, use this recipe.  It’ll be more time-consuming, but the texture is amazing.  If you make it fresh, note that you’ll need to cut the pasta a bit wider than shown in the recipe.  Hope you give this pasta with fava beans a whirl.

The Recipe:  Pappardelle with Italian Sausage and Fava Beans

(serves 4)

1 pound fresh or dried pappardelle pasta (you can use this recipe for fresh pasta)

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

1 1/2 cups shelled fava beans

1/2 medium white onion, chopped (about 3/4 scant cup)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 cups crushed canned tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

cracked black pepper

grated grana padano or parmesean-reggiano, for garnish

To begin, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Once it is boiling, add the fava beans that have been shelled.  Boil for 1 1/2  to  2 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain, and immerse the beans into an ice bath (a bowl of cold water with ice in it).  Let cool in the water for a couple of minutes.  Next, remove the light green “peel” from the beans using your hands.  The fava beans will be dark green in color.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  Meanwhile, begin making the sauce.  Heat a large skillet and add the Italian sausage to it.  When it is cooked, drain and discard any grease.  Add the onion and garlic to the pan of Italian sausage and continue to cook for a few minutes over medium-high heat until the onions start to become somewhat tender.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and cracked black pepper.  Cook for a few minutes until the flavors have combined a bit and the sauce has thickened.  Add the fava beans and cook a few more minutes.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings.

Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water when the sauce is nearly done.  Cook pasta until al dente.  Reserve a bit of the pasta water, in case you need to loosen your sauce with it.  Drain pasta and combine with the sauce.  Serve sprinkled with generous amounts of grana padano cheese!  Enjoy!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend — do you have any big plans?  I’m looking forward to having some fun with my family and hopefully getting a chance to do some relaxing and a little cooking/baking.  See you next week!


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Yeah, you read correctly.  I’ve decided to class this place up with a chip dip recipe that has a swear word in the title.  We’re talking very sophisticated gourmet fare here.  Alright, this post isn’t exactly champagne and gougéres, but in the right environment there’s no better snack than Kick-Ass Dip.  Why is it called ‘Kick-Ass’?  Well, because it’s that damn good.  This is one of those recipes that somehow emerged, fully-formed, from our college years.  We’ve been making it for years– from Super Bowl gatherings to our pre-children New Year’s Eve parties.  And this dip is always a huge hit.  Always.  I’m not going to try to convince you that this is, in any way, healthy.  But take a look at the ingredient list.  It’s not as bad as you might think.  And anyway, once in awhile you just need salty chips and dip.

The combination of flavors here is genius.  The spiced sausage and silky cream cheese are wonderful.  There are also those tomatoes with the nice kick of green chilies, and my favorite part of the dip– the corn kernels.  They’re slightly sweet, and stay just firm enough to add nice texture.  And it’s all brought together by fresh, brilliant cilantro.  Open a cold beer, pull the chips close, and enjoy.   If you plan on getting together with friends for the Super Bowl, or any other event where you park it in front of the television, get this dip simmering in your crockpot.  You’ll end up passing the recipe on to others, because it really does kick ass.

The Recipe:  Kick-Ass Dip

2  – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese

1 pound ground mild breakfast sausage

1 pound ground spicy breakfast sausage

2 – 10 ounce cans of Original Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chilies (do not drain)

2 cups frozen corn

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the breakfast sausage until cooked through.  Drain the grease.  In a large crockpot, combine the cream cheese and tomatoes.  If your crockpot has a removable stone,  I usually microwave the tomatoes and cream cheese for about 3-5 minutes, until it has melted.  Stirring occasionally.  If it doesn’t have a removable stone, just continue with the recipe.  Add the breakfast sausage, corn, and cilantro to the crockpot.  Cook on high until the mixture is very hot and bubbly, about 1 hour,  stirring often (and trying to snitch very little — good luck with that).  Reduce heat to low and enjoy with loads of chips and many friends!

Hope you all have a wonderful and fun-filled weekend!


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Tomato Jam

You are looking at my latest addiction– tomato jam.  You read correctly, it’s  jam made from tomatoes.  I’ve been eating this heavenly spread on everything lately.  Now you may not have heard of tomato jam, but in food circles it seems as though everyone is talking about it.  The recipe is simple and easily adaptable into both sweet and savory versions.  To me, it’s perfection in a jar.

So how simple is it?  Just chop up the tomatoes, add a few spices, and plop everything in a kettle.  Stir.  Wait an hour, or so for it to thicken. Done.  Depending on what you add, you can make it as sweet or savory as you like.  I’ve been using both versions… a lot.  The sweet jam pairs beautifully with crusty bread and a rich cheese, like a nice white cheddar or goat cheese.  Or how about serving it on top of a beautiful round of brie, with cocktails?  The savory jam is a perfect match for eggs, bacon, or braised meat sandwiches.  And that’s just the start.  Once you taste this topping– like me, you’ll spread it on everything.

Like any other jam, you’ll want to refrigerate this one (it should be used within 2 weeks).  You can also ‘can’ the jam for later by following basic canning instructions.  That way you’ll have it available throughout the winter.  It’s a good idea to double or triple (or more) the batch if you’re going to go through the work of canning it.  It’ll need 20 minutes in a hot water bath.  I’ll certainly be canning several jars, because for the past few weeks I’ve been starting my day off with an egg and tomato jam breakfast sandwich.  And I don’t want this new-found favorite to end anytime soon.  It’s so quick and easy.  Try it, you’ll be happy you did!

The Recipes: Tomato Jam: Two Ways

Somewhat  Sweet Version:

(Makes a bit more than 1 pint)

2 pounds tomatoes, chopped  (Roma are best,  though I used regular)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons lime juice  (may substitute lemon)

1 serrano pepper, minced (or any hot pepper of choice)

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

Combine all ingredients into a large, heavy- bottomed sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered.  Make sure to stir often.  Cook for roughly 1 hour, or until it reaches your desired consistency for jam.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Place in a jar and refrigerate.

Source:  Adapted from Mark Bittman via The New York Times

Smokey, Savory Version:

(Makes 1 pint)

1 pound tomatoes , chopped

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

pinch of kosher salt

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 serrano pepper, minced (or any hot pepper you prefer)

Combine ingredients into a medium, heavy -bottomed sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered, stirring frequently.  Cook for roughly 45 minutes, or until the mixture has reached your desired jam consistency.   Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate.

Source:  Adapted from Molly Hermann from Tastebud Tart Catering via Fresh Tart @ Minnesota Monthly Magazine

I hope you enjoy both versions of tomato jam.  Have a wonderful day and thanks for stopping by.


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