Sunday, August 17, 2014

~ Fresh from the Garden Recipies ~

I am writing this post on a dark and rainy Sunday afternoon . I have dishes to wash and one more batch of salsa to make , but I just couldn't wait to share with you my newest "ta-da's" !! I love learning new things and I love sharing what I've learned with others . I hope on this dreary evening you enjoy this post with a cup of coffee and a note pad . Perhaps these recipes will inspire you to do a little creating for future snacks , meals , and gifts ! Love you all !! Happy Rainy Sunday !!

A glimpse at the garden goodies fresh from the picking.
You know me ! I love a new recipe , home grown goodies , and learning something new . I also love making the most of whatever I have . Not letting one bit go to waste if I can help it . Some of my past garden / seasonal ideas can be read here , here and here . This summer has been no different . My dad grew a garden and I have benefited from its produce in more ways than one . This years harvest produced cucumbers , corn , and tomatoes . I feel like an abundance of each have found their way to my kitchen . Now , as you know with produce your time for making the most of them can be short . I was in a near mental panic trying to think of ways to use this vegetable treasure trove before it expired . I had shared some of the goodies with my gparents and used a few of them for the normal BLT sandwich , corn on the cob yumminess and cucumbers ( as is ) when I remembered that a friend of mine had made home made salsa before . That got my mind going toward what else could be made that would be 1 . stored well 2 . a possible gift to give 3 . something I would enjoy having access too through out the winter months . Those questions got me googling and pinterest-ing . After doing some research online as well as touching base with some friends who have made things from scratch I decided to make a run to the grocery for the extra items I needed and to get to cookin' !
These golden beauties required some shuckin' prior to use .
That's how it goes when your produce is garden fresh .
Something to keep in mind when starting a from scratch project is that it is usually going to take some time . For me this process took several days . I didn't wanna feel rushed , though I was extremely excited to see what would turn out . I had to get a few things from the grocery and research recipes deciding what might work for me . You probably know by now that I pick and choose from recipes . I rarely like a recipe top to bottom so I do a mix match to create one perfect for me and my wants / needs .  This was no different . First and foremost for this project was prepping the produce . As I mentioned before the stars of the show are straight from the garden so they needed to be shucked , de - silked , capped ( top stems taken off  ) and given a good wash prior to their use . I actually enjoy this part of the process . Doing things like sitting on the porch and shuckin' corn reminds me of my great grandma Hannah . I use to spend summers and after school with her when I was younger and I think she would be so proud to know that I have not only remembered , but put to good use some of the lessons she taught me . Being that I was one of her more restless grand kids I am also believe she would be surprised to find me sitting on a porch shuckin' corn or breakin' beans . It requires a calm that I have never really had . LOL !
Cherry Tomatoes taking a bath .
Once all the veggies were ready for use I started with the idea of home made salsa . SideNote: When picking up smellier items at the grocery I use the plastic bag that they offer near the veggie display as a bit of a glove . I put my hand in the bag , use it to pick up the item , for example a onion , then pull the bag down and off around my hand and the item in it . Then poof , the item is in the bag and my hands are free of onion smell !
Pretend this baggy is one of those thin plastic bags the grocery
store keeps near the fruits and veggies . Not the best
illustration , but will hopefully give you the idea .
Senorita Stacie's Salsa ~
This recipe made about 2 & 1/2 pints for me I think . The ingredients I ended up using are .....

1/4 th of a halved large red onion ( diced , this is my preference , some people will use much more )
1 Garlic Clove ( minced - cut into the smallest tiny pieces you can )
1 Jalapeño ( diced - I kept the seeds some people think they make it too spicy and don't use them )
1 Green Pepper ( diced into nice chunks - perhaps the size of a fourth of a dime )
Corn ( cooked and cut from the cob ) depending on size 1-2 cobs
Tomatoes - medium to large , core cut out , 4-5 used depending on size - cut into hearty chunks ( I use everything but the core and stem from the tomato )
Cilantro - I don't really like cilantro so I used a minimal amount minced
Lemon Juice ( some people use lime ) - half a large lemon squeezed and you don't use the seeds . If you don't have a fresh lemon I have used the kind that is in a lemon shaped plastic container and it works too .
Salt ( it's all about preference )
SideNote: I Save the lemon carnage to rub across the counter and on my hands post onion , cilantro , and garlic . It helps a little with removing the smell .

Everything in my opinion is done by preference in a recipe like this one . As I mentioned before I did a lot of reading on varied other salsa recipes but this mash up of several is the one that works best for my preferences . I like my salsa chunky so there was no need for a food processor or blender . However , if I had chosen to chop it up a few pulses in the food processor would have done the job . I am not a huge cilantro fan so for my personal batch I did not use it , but I did use it in several other batches that I'll be giving away . SideNote: Salt is done by preference , but is usually a fairly small amount like 1/4th or 1/8th of a TEAspoon . Keeping in mind that the onion , garlic , pepper and jalapeno all bring a salted flavor to the mix . I have learned through making guacamole that adding the salt post tomato helps the mixture to dilute / get juicy . The salt is a agitator when mixed in with everything helping to produce the juice that comes along with chunky salsa . Once everything was mixed and jarred I placed it in the fridge over night so that all the flavors could blend together . Every now and then giving it a shake to make sure it was all mixed well .
Fresh Salsa in the making .
The next day I tested my salsa with chicken nachos and loved it ! I also gave a jar to my dad and step - mom who have reported back that they too enjoyed it . I feel more confident knowing that someone else liked it . Perhaps that makes me a insecure cook , but since it was my first time trying to make it I needed the encouragement . Along with the chunky salsa I also made a batch of cucumber salsa . All the same ingredients above , minus a tomato or two and replaced with cucumbers . I used one cucumber because it was GIANT . It made the salsa more refreshing and different . I have just enough ingredients to make one more batch of the chunky salsa which I hope to do today .

Mama Stacie's Marinara Sauce ~
I really wanted to find a good use for these tomatoes before they went bad y'all !! So my next experiment was home made marinara . Again , after some research online and chatting with a friend who majored in such things I got to cooking . This process was longer than the salsa even with the veggies already prepared for use . The ingredients I used are ..............

5-6 Medium to Large Tomatoes cut in fourths and peeled . To peel a tomato you cut a shallow X into its skin , place it in a large pot of water with several other tomatoes , let them boil / simmer for 2-3 minutes or until you see the X start to pucker , remove from water ( carefully they'll be hot ) and the peel should come off easily . I removed the core as well . Some people remove the seeds because they can be bitter . I did not remove them nor did I find them bitter . I suppose it depends on the tomato .

1 White Onion - cut into quarters or sliced ( however you prefer )
1 Green Pepper - cut into quarters or sliced ( per your preference )

All put into a roasting pan , drizzled with olive oil , salt and pepper . Then placed into a preheated oven of 250 degrees and left to roast on the top rack for close to 45 minutes ( depends on your oven ) . I kept a  close watch on them to be sure that nothing burned / charred . They will start to cook down in this process , but won't completely . Remove from oven , let cool a bit , then place all the tomato goodness with a minced half clove of garlic into the food processor ( I used only a half because I would use the other half in preparing the sauce pan for the mixture , but you can do as you choose )  . I gave the mixture 3-4 pulses before it was liquid . I then poured the mixture into a large pot that I had simmering on low with olive oil with the rest of my garlic clove ( I removed the garlic that had been simmering first , I had gotten the best of its flavor infused into the olive oil while it simmered and didn't want little pieces of garlic in my sauce when all was said and done ) .

I then added the pepper and onion that had roasted with the tomatoes into the sauce . Now it is time for the spices . I have been making my Mamaw Daugherty's spaghetti recipe for yearsssssssssss . It is a handy & inexpensive thing to make when I have a house full of guests . Plus once you have purchased the spices in powder form they last for quiet a while . Great to have on hand for other Italian recipes and since I use most of them so rarely I don't mind that they aren't "fresh" . Also , as I mentioned before , so many recipes are "per taste" . Some people will use much more or less of what I use . It is all about what works for you and yours . I encourage tasting as you go .

1 tbs Oregano
2 tsp Parsley
2 tsp Basil
(sometimes these can be found in an "Italian mix" spice bottle . If I use a "mix" I am sure to read what other herbs / spices are involved and then decide my measurements based on that . For example if I use a mix that indeed has oregano , parsley and basil I may use 1 1/2 tbs all together)
2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp sugar ( I know that sounds odd , but it balances out all the acidity from the spices and veggies . I can't even taste it in the mix . )

I also added 3 cans of Campbells Tomato Juice ( they are similar in size to a "red bull" can ) to help thicken up my mixture . I didn't have tomato paste or I may have added 2 - 6 oz cans of that as that is what I usually use to make a tomato base when I am not using fresh tomatoes . SideNote: If you are NOT starting with a base of fresh tomatoes use 2 cans of peeled tomatoes along with the paste and juice mentioned above . You can find them in the canned goods isle at the grocery not the pasta or sauce section . Also , if you are not starting with fresh tomatoes you will skip the roasting section above .

Once all is mixed I let it simmer on low or warm (depending on your oven ) for 2 hours
stirring & tasting occasionally . Yes , 2 hours ! The low heat and slow cooking time allows all the flavors to blend with out the fear of burning something off or out of the mix . I didn't use the mix immediately so I jarred it , but if you plan to take it straight from pot to pasta I would suggest adding mushrooms and perhaps removing the green pepper and onion chunks to cut them into more manageable / eatable pieces . If I am adding the sauce to meat below is my normal "go - to" recipe .....

1lb ground turkey ( most people use beef , but I don't like the grease that comes from using beef so I use low fat percentage ground turkey as a substitution and think it's just as good if not better ) - simmered with olive oil , salt , pepper , powdered parmesan cheese and half a clove of garlic then cooked on med- med/hi until cooked through . I then lower the heat back to low and add in some of the sauce , enough to cover all the meat with some extra to spare . I pour the sauce meat mix over pasta (which I am sure you already know how to cook so I won't waste your time) , garnish with some parmesan cheese and chow down ( I usually use powdered parmesan cause it lasts longer ) .
I had to get resourceful . I didn't have a food funnel
on hand so I used a extra and CLEAN underneath
of a stove eye that I happen to have . IDK what
this item is actually called . LOL !!! Anyway , it worked !!!
This is the marinara jarred . The recipe above made just over
2 pints , but not quiet 2 1/2 pints .

Pasta salad pre - crouton .
Stacie's Summer Pasta Salad ~
The third use of my tomatoes and cucumbers is a pasta salad . No , I am not done with the tomatoes !! I used a spiral whole wheat pasta as the base of the recipe . Again , since I am sure you know how to cook pasta I won't worry with explaining that . Once the pasta was cooked I transferred it to a Tupperware type bowl to cool . Once cooled I added........

cherry tomatoes ( pictured above in a bath ) , I removed their little stems pre-wash
1 cucumber sliced and cut in halves
mozzarella cheese ( about 1/2 cup worth or so )
sometimes I add raw carrots cut into nickel sized pieces , but this time I didn't
1/8th cup of fresh chives ( aka green onions )
Italian dressing , I probably used 1/4th cup of dressing , but it is again up to your preference . I would think that Caesar dressing would be good too .

I placed the mix into the fridge over night , giving it a shake now and then to make sure everything was mixed well and when serving I added a few Texas Toast brand croutons . Such a yummy addition !!! I think having pasta salad in the fridge in the summer is a must . It is a great side dish or spice up to most meals and is yummy all on its own as a snack .

Fried Tomatoes ~
OK!! My last Tomato to-do . After all this experimenting I decided to get back to my southern roots and FRY the tomato . I had saved several light orange / yellow tomatoes hoping that they would work similar to green tomatoes . Green tomatoes are unripen , freshly bloomed tomatoes that are the norm for frying tomatoes . I used......

Corn Meal

Mixed the powdered ingredients into a bowl . I then dipped the sliced tomatoes into the mixture and transferred the covered tomato to a waiting pan of hot oil . Carefully placing it into the hot oil I let it fry for 2-3 minutes before turning it onto it's other side . Now , in full disclosure I did mess up several slices before I got one right . Normally when preparing something to fry you dip it in a liquid mixture such as milk or eggs, but since the tomato is obviously moist I didn't do that step . I just dunked it into the corn meal mix and let it go . Also , I think I waited too long to use these tomatoes . They were too far on their way to ripening . So , while I only got one good slice out of this attempt I did learn a valuable lesson . A green unripe tomato is the best because it isn't soft to begin with . Now I know and now you do too !!!
Pre- Fry . Aren't they gorg ?!
Perhaps I should have named this post simply , " Tomatoes " , LOL !! In all fairness the cucumbers and corn are vital ingredients too . I am very happy to have learned how to make fresh salsa and marinara . I feel so very domestic and resourceful after these experiments . Next I clearly need to learn the art of canning . SideNote: None of the above recipes are for dry storage . All are to be stored in the fridge or frozen until used .  I really wasn't sure when I started if these experiments would turn out or just have to be tossed . I am glad it was the first . I hope that these recipes are helpful for you as well ! What have you been making this summer ? Do you have any recipes to share ? Please feel free to do so ? We are all in this together . We might as well share survival tips !!

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