Freezer Salsa

tomatoesI talk a lot about canning tomatoes this time of year, but I get that canning isn’t for everyone. This recipe is an easy way to “put up” some of the summer’s bounty of fresh tomatoes.  I really like the way this salsa holds up to freezing. The secret is to thicken it with Clear Gel or cornstarch before freezing. It keeps the salsa from getting watery after thawing. Feel free to spice it up to the heat level you prefer. I often add more hot sauce after thawing, depending on who is going to be eating it.


Freezer Salsa


12 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 T. olive oil

4 large onions, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

4-5 chopped sweet red, yellow or green peppers

1-2 T. cumin, or to taste

1 T. chili powder

salt to taste

chopped hot peppers to taste, or hot pepper flakes or hot sauce

1 1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro

1/4-1/2 c. Clear-gel* or corn starch


Place oil in heavy saucepan and add onion, cooking until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook until tomatoes are softened, about 20-30 minutes. Add peppers and seasonings and cook until peppers just start to soften. Adjust seasonings. Combine Clear-Gel with a little water or tomato juice and pour into simmering salsa until mixture thickens. Don’t add all at once because the amount of moisture in your vegetables may vary. Mixture will thicken as it cools. Cool salsa and divide among freezer containers. Label and freeze. This is NOT a recipe that is safe for canning.  Makes about 12-16 cups. Great with chips, tacos and quesadillas. I actually like it served over pasta, too.

*Clear Gel is modified cornstarch, available online and in some specialty food markets. It is often found in stores in Amish communities.

Beet Relish

Beet Relish

Beet Relish

Beets are in season around here and I thought I would share this recipe. I love this relish, and make several batches every year. It is like a sweet pickle relish, only made with beets.  You can add it to sandwiches or salads, and if you put some in your chicken or pasta salads, it turns them the nicest shade of pink. I like to serve beet relish with cheeses and crusty bread as an appetizer. If you have some extra beets laying around, you might want to try it.

Beet Relish

1 qt. chopped cooked beets, about 12 medium

1 quart chopped cabbage, about 1 small head

1 c. chopped onion

1 c. chopped red sweet pepper

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 T. prepared horseradish

1 T. canning salt ( non-iodized)

3 c. vinegar, white or cider- I prefer cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes. Bring mixture to a boil. Pack hot relish into hot jars leaving 1/4 -inch head space. Seal jars and process in a boiling water bath 15 minutes. Yield about 10 half-pint jars.

Source: Ball Blue Book

Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

I had some spinach and wanted a quick meal. Its been hot, but I wasn’t in the mood for a salad. I had some tortillas and a few Portobello mushrooms.  Throw in a little cheese- and I had a pretty nice dinner. The spinach and mushrooms worked really nicely together. I had Swiss cheese, so that is what I used, but I could see using a smoked Gouda instead, or maybe a sharp cheddar.  I just cooked the quesadillas in a skillet,  but you could also bake them in the oven, or brush with oil and cook them on the grill. You can serve them as is- or maybe top with some salsa or sour cream. I had mine with some fresh, sliced tomatoes.



 Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas

1 (10 ounce) package fresh spinach

2 cups shredded cheese, I used Swiss

2-3 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot sauce to taste

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas

1 tablespoon oil

Saute spinach in a little  butter until wilted. Cool and chop. Set aside. Melt the remaining butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes. Mix in spinach, and continue cooking 5 minutes. Add seasonings to suit your taste. Place a quarter of the mixture on one side of each tortilla. Top with a quarter of cheese. Fold tortillas in half over the filling. Heat oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Place quesadillas in the skillet, and cook 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges to serve.

Just Peachy Chef Salad

Peachy Chef Salad

Peachy Chef Salad

I was asked to do a cooking demo using local, seasonal produce. I made several dishes that night, including a salad made with fresh peaches. It’s a simple recipe, that is a great meal for a hot day. Homemade Honey-French dressing is combined with fresh, diced peaches then served over a bed of greens. You can top the salad with cheese, meats or both. I like to add some nuts, too. I made it for lunch today and topped the salad with sharp cheddar cheese and bacon. I really liked the combination of the sweet fruit with the smoky bacon.


Peachy Chef Salad

Honey French Dressing:
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 t. paprika
1 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. olive oil

3 cups chopped peaches


6 c. torn salad greens
12 oz. cooked chicken, turkey, ham etc, cut into strips
1 c. cubed cheese

1/2 c. cashews, optional

In blender, combine first five ingredients and start running machine on high. Add oil in a slow stream until mixture becomes thickened. Pour into bowl and stir in peaches and chill, several hours if you can. When ready to serve arrange greens on one large platter or on smaller salad plates. Arrange meat and cheese on platter or plates. Spoon over the dressing, add cashews, then serve. Serves 4-6.

Peachy Chef Salad with Cheese and Bacon

Peachy Chef Salad with Cheese and Bacon

Homemade Peach Brandy

Homemade Peach Brandy

Homemade Peach Brandy

I like to think of making flavored brandy, and other liqueurs, as just one more type of food preservation. I make jams and jelly with seasonal fruit, so why not preserve some of Summer’s bounty in alcohol?  Peach brandy is one of my favorites. Pretty simple, really. Just combine peaches with brandy and allow the mixture to steep. Once enough time had passed, drain out the fruit. After straining out the fruit I also filter the brandy through either coffee filters or cheesecloth to get it nice and clear. Sweetening is optional. Poured into pretty bottles, they can make fun gifts, too.



Peach Brandy

10 medium sized ripe peaches
3 c. brandy
1 c. sugar syrup – optional – recipe follows*

Peel and pit peaches reserving only the fruit. Place in jar with brandy and steep at least a week, shaking several times. You can leave the fruit in for up to two weeks. Strain, squeezing out as much juice from the fruit as possible. Filter through cheesecloth, fine mesh strainer or coffee filters for a clearer product. Add sugar syrup, if desired,  and mature 4-6 weeks. Makes 4 cups.

*Sweetening– Simple syrup is made from 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cool. You will have 1 cup of syrup. Some recipes call for plain sugar and others for honey. Watch when you substitute honey for sugar, as it is sweeter and stronger flavored. Better to use orange or clover honey.


Streusel Peach Muffins

Streusel Peach Muffins

Streusel Peach Muffins

I can’t get enough of peaches these days. I have been eating them fresh, making preserves, freezing peaches and cooking with them. This recipe is one of my favorites. I hadn’t made them in a long time, so I decided today was the day. Now I remember why I liked them so much. Perfect crumbly texture, not too sweet, and that streusel topping. While they are really great warm from the oven, these muffins are still fine the next day, or even the day after that, assuming they last that long. They freeze, well, too.

Streusel Peach Muffins

Streusel topping:
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
½ t. nutmeg
4 T. cold butter

2 c. flour
½ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. salt
½ c. cold butter- 1 stick
2 eggs
¾ c. half and half or buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
1 c. finely chopped fresh peaches, about 1 large
½ c. finely chopped pecans, optional

Heat oven to 375. Line 15 muffin tins with paper liners or grease them. Set aside. Make streusel by mixing together flour, sugar and nutmeg in a small bowl. Use your fingers, or a pastry blender, to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. Make batter: In medium bowl combine flour with sugars and other dry ingredients. Mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl beat eggs and add half and half and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture and fold in until just mixed. Mixture will look lumpy. Fold in peaches and nuts, if using. Scoop batter into prepared tins, filling about ¾ full. I get more than 12 from this recipe- normally about15, but it depends on how full you fill them. Sprinkle the tops with streusel. Place muffin tins on a baking sheet and bake for 20 or until golden brown. Cool a little before serving, if you can wait.

Canning Yellow and Orange Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

I was asked several times in recent canning classes, if it is safe to can yellow or orange tomatoes. We have all heard that yellow and orange tomatoes are lower in acid, so are they still safe to can?




Truth is, that yellow and orange tomatoes have just as much acid as red tomatoes.

Well, for the most part at least. In terms of acidity or Ph, yellow and orange tomatoes are about average. Some cultivars have more, some less.  Bottom line is that all tomatoes are safe to can- as long as you acidify them.

Adding salt is optional and is for flavor only. Use canning/pickling salt or non-iodized salt when canning.


Here are some popular canning recipes to get you started. All follow the NCHFP (National Center for Home Food Preservation) recommended procedures.

Crushed Tomatoes


Peel and core tomatoes , trim off any bad spots and quarter. Place about 1/4 of your prepared tomatoes in the kettle and cook, stirring constantly over high heat. Use a potato masher to crush tomatoes and extract juices. Once they are boiling add remaining tomatoes, stirring constantly. You don’t need to crush these tomatoes. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. In clean, hot jars add needed acidity listed below. You can also add 1 teaspoon of canning salt per quart if desired. Ladle in hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims clean and adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath. Pints 35 minutes, quarts, 45 minutes. 1,000-3000 ft over sea level add 5 minutes. Twenty-two pounds of tomatoes will yield about 7 quarts of tomatoes.


Whole Tomatoes in Juice


Use any extra tomatoes to make juice. I use tomatoes that are too big to can whole, or those that have blemishes that need to be trimmed. Cut up clean, unpeeled tomatoes in a kettle and cook, stirring often until tomatoes are mushy. Strain mixture, pressing on solids or run through a food mill or tomato juice extractor. Set aside,. Place peeled, whole tomatoes in kettle and add enough tomato juice to cover them. Heat to a simmer and simmer gently 5 minutes. Add lemon juice or citric acid to jars, using amounts listed below. Add salt, if desired. Add tomatoes and cover with hot juice, leaving 1/2 -inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process both pints and quarts 85 minutes in a boiling water bath.


Tomato Juice

Wash, stem and trim bruises off tomatoes. Cut into chunks. Add about 1 pound of tomatoes to kettle and bring to a boil while crushing. Continue to add additional cut up tomatoes slowly, keeping mixture boiling. This will keep the juice from separating later. Simmer an additional 5 minutes once the tomatoes have all been added. Press mixture through a strainer , sieve or food mill to remove seeds and skins. Add lemon juice or citric acid to jars according to directions listed below. Add salt if desired. Return juice to boil and add to prepared jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process n a boiling water bath pints 35 minutes and quarts 40 minutes. Add 5 minutes processing time at elevations between 1,001 and 3,000 ft.

Tomato Sauce


Prepare as for juice. After juice is made return to pot and start cooking down to desired thickness. You’ll lose about 1/3 of the volume for thin sauce and 1/2 of the volume for thick. Add lemon juice or citric acid to prepared jars as described below. Add salt if desired. Add boiling sauce leaving 1/4 -inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts. Add five minutes at 1,001-3,000 ft. elevation.

 Acidity and Tomatoes

Tomatoes must be acidified before canning. When canning either whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes you must add either 2 T. bottled lemon juice per quart or 1/2 t. citric acid . For pint use 1 T. lemon juice or 1/4 t. citric acid. You can also use 4 T. (5%) vinegar per quart, but it will alter the flavor and is not recommended. You can add a little sugar to offset the flavor, if you like.




Ricotta and Sausage Pie

Ricotta and Sausage Pie

Ricotta and Sausage Pie

The plan was to make quiche for brunch for a recent weekend away with friends. Plans change sometimes. As I assembled the ingredients, I decided to go in a different direction. Something denser, without the custard-like filling of a quiche. It was all about the ricotta at that point. So I put this together and served it for brunch. Everyone loved it and I was so happy with it I thought I would share the recipe with you. We didn’t have fresh herbs with us- I had forgotten to pick some before leaving- so I used dried, but I could see using fresh herbs instead. I know I will be making this again- perhaps with spinach and artichokes as the base next time.

Ricotta Sausage Pie

2 pie crusts, home made or store bought, recipe follows

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled

½ c. diced fresh tomatoes

½ c. diced sweet peppers

1 (15oz.) carton ricotta cheese

8 eggs

½ c. grated Asiago cheese

¾ c. half and half

Salt and pepper to taste

2 t. dried parsley or 2 T. fresh

1 t. dried basil or 1 T. fresh


Roll out crusts and fit into 9-inch deep dish pie pans. Divide mozzarella cheese, sausage and veggies between the two pans, sprinkling them evenly over the bottom. Combine remaining ingredients, beating until well mixed. Pour egg mixture over the sausage mixture in each pie pan, dividing evenly. Place pans on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until knife inserted off center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Makes 2.


Flaky Pie Crust

2 c. flour

1 t. salt

3/4 c. shortening, lard or coconut oil, chilled

1 T. cider vinegar

4-5 T. cold water

Combine flour and salt and cut in shortening, lard or coconut oil. Toss in vinegar and water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough holds together. Use a fork to toss the ingredients together and as soon as the mixture holds together stop adding water. Makes 2. Chill well before using.


Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven


Lentil and Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers

Lentil and Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers

Lentil and Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers

A friend was in town and stopping by. I wanted to offer her dinner. Since I know she doesn’t eat meat- I knew we’d be going vegetarian.  While I do eat meat- I sometimes forgo it for meatless options. I had just picked up some beautiful sweet peppers at the local produce market. I knew I would use them in the dish. Stuffed peppers seemed like a fun way to go. I precooked most of the ingredients so I wouldn’t have to watch them too carefully once in the oven. That way, we were free to visit. I did top them with cheese- but you could omit it, if you prefer.

Lentil and Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers

1 onion, chopped


¾ c. uncooked brown rice- I used brown jasmine rice

Water or vegetable stock – probably around 3 cups or a bit more

¾ c. lentils, rinsed and drained

2 c. peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes- or 2 c. canned tomatoes

2 – 3 sweet peppers, cut in half and seeded

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

¼ c. Marsala wine

2 T. apple cider vinegar

¼ c. chopped parsley

2 T. fresh chopped basil

1 T. fresh oregano or 1 t. dried

1 t. chopped rosemary

Hot sauce to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Romano or Parmesan cheese- optional

In soup pot, heat oil and cook onion until it gets tender and a little golden. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice in the oil. Toast the rice a couple of minutes. Add 2 cups stock or water to cover the rice, and then bring up to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes. While rice is cooking, place the peppers in a pot of boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and drain peppers. After the rice has been cooking for 20 minutes, add the lentils, garlic and tomatoes, wine, vinegar and seasonings and continue cooking, covered, until the rice and lentils are tender, about 25 more minutes Add more stock, if needed. Rice mixture should be a little runny. Place peppers, cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Spoon in the lentil mixture, dividing it among the 4 pepper halves. Cover dish with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Mixture will be heated through and peppers will be tender. Serve as is – or top with some cheese and return to the oven until cheese melts- about 5 minutes. Makes 4 pepper halves.


Cherry Vanilla Liqueur

 Cherry Vanilla Liqueur

Cherry Vanilla Liqueur

I bought a lot of cherries, with plans to make jam and to dehydrate some. Maybe even make pie filling. But it is really hot here today, so I  decided to use some of the cherries to make cherry liqueur, instead. It is easy, and the reward is having this lovely liqueur to enjoy even when cherries aren’t in season. I added a couple of vanilla beans to mine, but you can leave them out, if you prefer. You could also add 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.


Cherry Vanilla Liqueur

2 c. granulated sugar
4 c. vodka or brandy
1 lb. large, washed, stemmed and pitted sweet cherries
2 (6-7 inch) vanilla beans, broken into several pieces

Place sugar and vodka or brandy in a large jar- I used a half gallon canning jar. Stir until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add cherries and vanilla and cover jar. Do not stir. Place in a cool, dark place for 3 months, without stirring or shaking. Strain and filter. Divine! Makes 4-6 cups.

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