Southwest Turkey Wraps

As some of you may have noticed, we haven’t been keeping up with our once per week plan (life happens!), so we have decided to post every other week for the time being…

(Susan)  Several years ago my friend Lynn gave me this recipe, and over time I have experimented with varying the ingredients.  As with many dishes in my repertoire, this recipe is really more a method than a specific recipe. It remains one of our favorite quick, easy and healthier go-to meals, and is always a hit at parties or potlucks as a dip with tortilla chips.

Southwest Turkey Wraps (filling)

  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 small to medium yellow onion, finely diced 
  • 1 can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 package reduced sodium taco seasoning (or 3 tbl dried)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, or to taste (or 1 tbl dried)
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash (onion & herb flavor preferred)
  • 1/2 tsp onion or garlic powder
  • Tortillas, chips, taco shells, etc.
  • Desired toppings

IMG_2394Brown and chop ground turkey and onion in skillet with olive oil using my favorite kitchen tool, the Mix ‘N Chop. Blend taco seasoning into turkey. Mix in Ro-Tel tomatoes, including all the liquid. Add beans, corn, Mrs. Dash, onion powder and cilantro. Cover and simmer over low heat about 15 minutes to blend flavors. IMG_2395

Spoon turkey mixture onto flour tortillas or taco shells, and top with cheese, sour cream, and avocado or other toppings as desired.  Or, place turkey mixture in pie plate and cover with shredded cheese to serve as a dip with tortilla chips and sour cream on the side.  IMG_2402

If you like  spicy food, use hot or cilantro & lime Ro-Tel tomatoes, spicy taco seasoning, or pepper jack cheese. For a tasty vegetarian version, add more veggies such as bell peppers, sweet potatoes or chickpeas, or use a meat substitute.  Another interesting option is to place the mixture into a baking dish, top with cornbread batter and bake according to the cornbread directions. The result is reminiscent of a tamale.

See what I mean about this being a method rather than a specific recipe?🙂


(Erin) This is one of those recipes that is good as is, so I don’t usually make many
substitutions. However, I had lots of bell peppers and two jalapeños so I tossed those in with the onions. While cooking, there may seem like a lot of liquid. Don’t drain it! It is helpful for keeping the turkey from drying out.IMG_9427

We got multiple meals out of this big batch. First, as a dip with melted cheese and plain greek yogurt as a healthy sour cream sub (brand matters though, some plain versions taste sweet!). Second, as a topping for mini-bell pepper nachos. And third, as a wrap.IMG_9430


Logan is traveling this week to a conference in San Francisco and unable to join us. He should be back next time.


What variations would you choose? -CT/MA

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Energy Bites

(Logan) It was Mom’s birthday this week! Happy birthday Mom!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard Mom talk about how the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is basically the best thing on earth. And, in my ongoing hunt for new (to me), vegetarian, lunchbox friendly items, I’ve been seeing lots of recipes for energy or protein bites all over the interwebs. (Looking at you, Pinterest.) They really are easy to make and there are all kinds of flavor variations – check these out:

And so, just for Mom…

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Energy Bites, From Gimme Some Oven

  • 1 cup (dry) oats (use GF oats as needed)
  • 2/3 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine ingredients thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 30 min. Once chilled, roll into balls – size is up to you! Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.


(Logan) I made these using PB2 and the chia seeds. The mix was a bit dry so I added a bit more honey. I was thinking next time about adding some cold brewed coffee to add a bit of caffeine as well as liquid.🙂  I’ve been adding one or two of these every day to my lunchbox and they’ve been great. They hit my sweet tooth need without a sugar crash later. I am definitely going to be making these (and variations) on a regular basis.


(Erin) Erin is preparing for an important meeting this week, and unable to post.  Wish her luck!


(Susan) Yep, it’s my birthday! After a certain age, at least for me, birthdays became more about reflection and gratitude. This year, The Dad’s gift to me was a sweet reminder to make more memories, giving me experiences–cooking classes and a special food/wine pairing event at my favorite restaurant. Logan chose for me a book and CD about the musical traditions carried from Scotland to Appalachia in the colonial era, a period of American history of particular interest to me. And Erin, capturing my love for Scrabble, created an art piece with letter tiles of names and places important in my life. These all remind of my love and gratitude for my sweet little family. Getting a little teary here…  Really, I am so lucky to have these three amazing and inspiring people in my life. And ALL my family and dear friends, you know who you are!🙂

So for the recipe…  Last winter, my good friend Mindy brought me a treat and recipe that was so delicious. That night I went out and gathered up the ingredients to make it myself, and the ingredients sat in my pantry. Life sometimes gets in the way, you know. Anyway, when Logan suggested this recipe, it seemed SO familiar to me. It was the same recipe Mindy gave me months ago!

Mindy’s recipe was slightly different, so I decided to try both versions, with my usual twists. I followed the recipe above fairly closely except subbing for the regular peanut butter 2 tablespoons of PB2 and 2 tablespoons of cold brewed coffee. Logan and I had the same idea! We must have ESPN or something. Lol.IMG_2372

Mindy’s version called for semi-sweet mini chocolate chips instead of cocoa powder, and I went a little crazy and used real peanut butter (Simply JIF with lower sodium and 33% less sugar, had to cut back somewhere!).

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Yes, they look like meatballs.

Both versions are so. good. The real peanut butter version is a bit sweeter and made a few more with the extra volume of peanut butter. The cocoa/PB2 version was less sweet, with a more pronounced dark chocolate flavor.

This recipe is so fast and easy, like 10 minutes start to finish, not counting the 30 minute chill time. Every morning at work, I get hunger pangs around 10:30. Starting tomorrow, I am going to snack on one of these goodies to hold those pangs at bay until lunch hour at 1.

And yes, God DID intend for peanut butter and chocolate to be eaten together. Amen.

[Note: I mistakenly purchased whole flaxseed instead of ground flaxseed. Not a problem! Just process the seeds in an old coffee grinder. Also, about the toasted coconut… spread coconut on a cookie sheet, and bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. If you have an insulated cookie sheet, use it to keep the coconut from scorching. I don’t have one, so I just nested two cookie sheets together!]


What other variations did you come up with?  How long did you last before just eating every single one? -CT/MA

Tomato Bacon Jam

 

(Erin)  Now that you have a million tomatoes, what can you do with them that isn’t a BLT, salsa, or caprese salad? Tomato bacon jam, of course! After reviewing several recipes, we ended up with this one. It requires far less sugar and weird ingredients than some others and seems like a simple enough procedure. YouIMG_9355 might be hesitant about this recipe. But just go with it, you’ll see.


(Erin)  I didn’t have all the spices listed so I made a few substitutions. First, the smoked paprika…I didn’t have any paprika, so my first thought was cumin. Cumin has an earthy, smoky flavor. But alas, I was out of that as well.  So I used chili powder instead, which contains cumin. Next, the ground mustard. I used a bit of ground ginger (fresh would work too) to give that bite the mustard would have offered. Both of these substitutions worked out well! I also only used 12 oz. of bacon, since that was the size of the package and used closer to 2 lbs of tomatoes.

After the one hour of simmering, my jam was still pretty runny so I let it continue for another hour or so until it was the consistency I liked. Man oh man is this stuff tasty! It is sweet, salty, smoky, spicy, and bacon-y. I ate it on top of baked chicken with a side of roasted broccoli. Yum. But would also be good just to eat with crackers and cheese…or a spoon.


(Susan)  For once, I actually followed a recipe exactly, with no variations at all! I’ve never made jam, let alone tomato jam, so I thought it a good idea to play nice and follow the rules.IMG_2348

There’s a breakfast/brunch place downtown, Rooster Cafe, that serves tomato jam with egg dishes, and it is sublime: spicy, smokey, tart, and sweet all at once. Every time I go I try to figure out how it is made, and what are the ingredients. I think this recipe comes pretty close. The bacon adds salt to the flavor profile, a welcome addition I think. And you know the saying about bacon…

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Just started simmering and it smells divine already!

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After simmering an hour – look how much it has reduced!

Anyway, this jam is like summer and comfort all rolled into one amazing bite. It would be delicious on crackers, a grilled cheese sandwich, chicken, pork, all by itself.

 

(Note:  This stuff has quite a kick! If you don’t care for really spicy food, think about cutting the red pepper flakes from 1/2 tsp to 1/4 tsp, or even just a dash.)


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All these for only $3!

Logan is unable to join our post this week😦 but in place of his contribution, a little more about tomatoes!! I’m sure after reading last week’s post you were eager to check out your farmers’ market this week, or at least I hope so. Something you may or may not have noticed were “seconds” tomatoes. A lot of farmers will bring their “seconds”, or ugly produce, to the market and sell for a bit cheaper. I’ve seen these as cheap as $0.50/lb and as much as $2.50/lb. Seconds tomatoes are sometimes misshapen, unevenly colored, have cracked skin or soft spots. Basically they’re less than perfect, but not worth tossing.  While maybe not great for a fancy dinner party, these still have wonderful flavor and are perfect for canning and recipes like this where appearance doesn’t matter. And you’ll save a couple bucks! Especially towards the end of tomato season you’ll see these popping up. Ask the farmers if you don’t see any advertised.


How did you use your jam? Let us know in the comments! -CT/MA

Tomatoes: Why Local Tastes Better!

(Erin:) No recipe this week! Just a lot of information you can use to prepare for our special tomato recipe next week. Oh, and bear with me, my master’s project involves tomatoes…

It is tomato season! They’re at the store, the farmer’s market, roadside stands, your neighbor grows them, you may even grow them. They’re everywhere, so you should just get them anywhere because they’re all tomatoes, right? Wrong!

There are many cultivars that can be very different.  “Cultivar” is a plant-people term that is short for “cultivated variety.” Remember back to grade school? Kingdom, phylum, class … species — cultivar is essentially a step beyond species. Cultivars are created because there is something unique about them, such as flower color or shape, fruit taste, disease resistance, drought tolerance, etc. For tomatoes, most are created for their fruit appearance and taste. Look at this bounty I grabbed at the farmer’s market last week!

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There are lots of cultivars on the market, especially if you’re starting your own plants from seed. So be adventurous! Try a “black” tomato, a yellow pear, or an orange roma. Even if you’re good with your regular red slicing tomatoes, there are a few other things to keep in mind….

Beyond the very important concept of supporting your local economy and farmers, there is a difference in the tomatoes themselves. Here’s why homegrown and/or locally grown tomatoes taste better than store bought:

  1. Tomato cultivars available at the store are NOT grown for their flavor. They’re grown for other reasons like disease resistance or thicker skin, which is helpful for shipping purposes.
  2. IMG_9276Look at this beautiful display…..of pale tomatoes. This happens because store-bought tomatoes are picked when they’re green and firm (perfect for shipping) and ripen/redden along the way, sometimes artificially with ethylene gas. On top of it, there’s a whole thing about the term ‘vine-ripened’ which basically just means it was starting to turn from green to red when it was picked. And then you pay 2x as much for it! I’m pretty sure your local farmer will let it stay on the vine a bit longer than that; their livelihood depends on that tomato tasting good!
  3. As soon as vegetables (not just tomatoes) are picked, their quality decreases. Sugars start turning to starch and flavors begin changing. Depending on where you live, your food can travel thousands of miles.  Think of how much time it takes to make that trip and how much the flavor has changed. Now if you’re buying at your local farmers’ market, the farthest your food is coming is probably not more than 100 miles and was picked only a couple days ago at peak ripeness……..or you could grow your own. Can’t get much more local than that!

I’m not saying store-bought tomatoes are evil and that you shouldn’t use them. They have their purpose, especially when you’re desperate in the middle of winter. But don’t expect to make a spectacular caprese salad with the same crap tomatoes sub shops always seem to have.

Tune in next week for one of our favorite ways to use tomatoes!

Strawberry Sorbet

(Susan) Right about now, your grocery store is brimming with seasonal fruit, especially strawberries. Because they are so beautiful, I have a tendency to buy too large a container, and after 2 or 3 days in the fridge, they are a little mushy for my taste.  But don’t let them go to waste — you can make this quick, easy and divine strawberry sorbet instead!

Sensational Strawberry Sorbet

  • 1 lb ripe strawberries
  • 1/2 cup strawberry preserves
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water

That’s it!  Really.

  1. Rinse and hull the berries and put them in a food processor (or blender) with 1/2 cup of the preserves and the salt. Purée until smooth. Add the lemon juice and water and pulse to mix. Taste and add more preserves, lemon juice or salt as necessary. (The purée should taste a little bit sweeter than you think it should.)
  2. Scrape the mixture into a shallow pan, cover, and freeze until hard, 3 to 4 hours.
  3. Break the frozen mixture into chunks with a fork and process in the food processor or blender until there are no more frozen pieces. Continue to process, stopping to redistribute the mixture from time to time, until it is smooth and creamy and lightened in color. It may be frozen enough to serve right out of the food processor, or you can return it to the freezer until needed. If the sorbet freezes too hard, let it soften in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

If you have one of those nifty inexpensive small batch ice cream freezers like this one, just chill the mixture for an hour or so and then freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.


(Susan) One pint of store-bought strawberry sorbet costs about $4.00, and has 120 calories per 1/2 cup serving. One-half cup of this sorbet is only about 70 calories and, if you use no sugar added preserves, no high fructose corn syrup!

I love all things lime and vanilla, so I used fresh lime juice in place of lemon, plus a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Also, I think strawberry and basil are the perfect combination, so I threw into the food processor about 8 nice basil leaves from my little container garden.

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How pretty is this?

My friend Linda has one of those neat ice cream freezers, so she let me borrow it for the weekend in exchange for some of the sorbet.🙂 Not having prepared the refrigerator/freezer version for comparison, I can’t say which is better, but the ice cream freezer version was so fast and easy. The sorbet is smooth and creamy, even with no dairy!

This is such a beautiful dessert, fancy enough for a dinner party, yet simple and refreshing. The basil adds just the right counterpoint to the sweetness and tartness of the strawberries. While the savory component might not be for everyone, The Dad and I loved it. I think I need one of these freezer things!


(Logan) I made mine using homemade jam and without an ice cream maker/freezer. Every August, I go with friends to a nearby blueberry farm and we pick as much as we can. Then we spend the next few days making blueberry-everything. I use most of mine to make a batch of cinnamon berry jam that lasts me through the year (for all those PBJs I mentioned in the last post) plus some to give away. It’s pretty good, if you ask me.🙂

2015-07-23 17.11.57Anyway, I started by freezing the strawberries overnight, just to hurry along the process for when I actually made the sorbet. Then I let them set at room temperature for maybe 10min before adding my jam and then pureeing. Once smooth, I put in a tupperware and let freeze. I didn’t puree a second time. This was super delicious and I couldn’t get over how fast and easy it was, especially with freezing the fruit first. I will be trying this and lots of other flavors from now on!

 


(Erin) Okay, I guess I’m the boring one. I made it pretty much like the recipe, but used raspberry preserves instead to make it a little more tart. I’ve tried to make stuff like this before and the texture is always weird or you have to eat it with an ice pick. That is not the case with this sorbet! It was perfect right out of the blender. Sweet and tart, but not too much of either, and relatively healthy. This is a great base recipe for just about any fruit. I think I’ll try peaches next!

Special note: If you plan to serve this for a dinner party or anything, save that final blending step for serving time. It doesn’t scoop out quite as pretty as the picture after freezing again.


How’d you make it? What’s your favorite summer dessert? -CT/MA

Peanut Soba Noodle Salad

(Logan) Being a vegetarian at lunchtime is sometimes a pain. I try to pack my own lunch, but I can only eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so many times. As a grad student, I tend to work more often in coffeeshops than in my campus office, so I also usually want something that’s still good at room temperature. I’ve been trying lately to find new ideas that tackle both these problems. (Tough life I have over here.)

This recipe from Vegetarian Times was my most recent attempt at packing a vegetarian lunchbox. It’s gluten free, and it can also be vegan if you get vegan soba noodles! I found vegan ones at Whole Foods for about $3, and non-vegan ones were similarly priced.

Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing

  • 6 oz. low-sodium buckwheat soba noodles
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup brown rice vinegar (white rice vinegar is also fine)
  • 1 Tbs agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tbs lime juice
  • 1 tsp fresh lime zest
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced (1½ cups)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, grated (½ cup)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped peanuts, optional

1. Cook the noodles according to the package, and when complete, drain and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking further.
2. Combine the peanut butter, vinegar, agave/maple syrup, ginger, soy sauce, lime and zest, and cilantro. (Use this microplane for easy zesting!) Puree until smooth. If needed, add warm water, a tablespoon at a time, to thin.
3. Toss the noodles, dressing, and chopped vegetables. Garnish with extra cilantro and peanuts, if using.


Logan: I used vegan soba noodles but otherwise made this almost exactly to recipe. (I found both regular and vegan noodles at Whole Foods for $2-4 depending on the brand.) I also added some fresh snow peas that I got from my CSA this week!  Overall, I thought the recipe could’ve used some stronger flavors, so I’d recommend more ginger and cilantro, and possibly some cayenne or sriracha. Or maybe I just used too much peanut butter. While it was better the second day, after that it didn’t keep as well: the dressing started to separate and I had a lot of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. I’d also recommend halving the recipe if you’re cooking for one – unless you plan to eat this for more than just lunch! I will try this again and play with the flavors.


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(Erin) I tried an entree version of this recipe by making it warm, sautéing the veggies, and adding chicken. I also tossed in shiitake mushrooms and jicama just for kicks, and because it was warm I left out the cucumber. Jicama is a versatile ingredient (think of it like a savory apple) that gave the dish the fresh crunch cucumbers would have given.  Anyway, I wasn’t entirely impressed with this recipe, mainly because the sauce/noodles got really gummy even after trying to thin it out, but that could’ve been the difference between hot vs. cold. I definitely agree with Logan that there was too much peanut butter. It overpowered the other flavors. Next time I’d try it with a little PB2 (powdered peanut butter) to give the peanut flavor without that gummy thickness and all the fat/calories.

Having trouble finding soba noodles? Me too. I think good ol’ ramen noodles (minus the flavor packets) would be an okay substitute, but I decided to hunt further at my local asian market. I found all kinds of great stuff there! I bought a huge package of dried shiitakes and my soba noodles for about $5.50 total. The noodles even come in bundles so you don’t have to guess what a serving is (and like always, never make the correct amount)

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(Susan)  Did you know that 1/2 cup peanut butter has a whopping 750 calories? Neither did I until I looked it up. Did you know that 3 tablespoons of PB2 has only 67 calories? Guess which ingredient I used in my version of this dish?🙂

Once the choice was made to substitute PB2 for regular peanut butter, I needed other changes to the recipe to compensate for the lost volume and texture of the creamy peanut butter.  As inspiration for this dish, I looked to another Asian recipe in my repertoire that uses a granny smith apple in the dressing component.  Here’s what I used:

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  • 3 Tbs PB2
  • 1 granny smith apple peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs brown rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 Tbs lime juice
  • zest of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • pinch cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.  My version stayed true to the flavors of the original recipe, while eliminating over 600 calories and solving the gummy texture problem rendered by regular peanut butter.

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Otherwise, I followed the recipe fairly closely, adding only rotisserie chicken (hey, another use for rotisserie chicken!!) to be more entree-ish, as Erin did.

While this isn’t the prettiest dish — those soba noodles are a little unappealing looking — I thought my version tasted great, and I would make it again, though maybe with linguini instead.

Note:  I used only about 1/2 of the dressing, which was plenty.  You could double the noodles and still have enough veggies and dressing.


How’d you make it? What do you pack for lunch? -CT/MA

Summer Party – Cooking Together, INCHES Apart!

Hello all, sorry we’ve missed you! We have been busy with traveling, work, school, etc. and then we unfortunately lost one of our precious puppies. She was the sweetest little orange girl…

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On a happier note, part of the reason we missed you was because all of us were back together in St. Louis preparing for and hosting a 4th of July party! And as you know, we are all foodies so we can’t just do a regular bbq. Susan’s idea was to do whatever we could bite-sized! Here’s what we served:

Appetizers/Side Dishes

  • Fresh fruit tray with a simple strawberry yogurt dip  (just a container of low fat strawberry yogurt blended with a small tub of lite Cool Whip!)IMG_9070
  • Fresh veggies with roasted red pepper hummus and spinach dip
  • Caprese bites with balsamic glaze
  • Homemade salsa/pico de gallo (one of Susan’s favorite foods and her own recipe! see below!)
  • Mexican bean salad (Logan’s favorite summer dish!)
  • “Party potatoes” (aka cheesy hash brown casserole)

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Entrees

  • All on fresh dollar rolls
    • Pulled chicken sliders
    • Hamburger sliders
    • Mini hot dogs (used lil’ smokies)

Desserts

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies made by Baked Perfection IMG_9074 mini boston cream pies


Susan’s Famous Salsa

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This salsa turns out different every time I make it.  It depends SO much on the tomatoes.  Also the time of year, how much I have of each veggie, etc.

  • 2 to 3 cups diced tomatoes (homegrown are the best but if you can’t get those romas or cherry tomatoes are the next best – dice the tomatoes and drain off the juice in a sieve to keep the salsa from getting too soupy)
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • ½ orange pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ to 1 large vidalia or red onion, finely diced  (amount and type to taste)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and very finely diced (be careful to wash your hands very thoroughly afterward)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 3 or 4 shakes hot pepper sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-3 teaspoons sugar to cut the acidity  (add a little at a time and taste, depends on the acid level of the tomatoes)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves finely chopped, about a cup or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash (onion & herb) or italian herb blend, to taste

This may sound like a lot of chopping, but using this “Chop & Measure” from Williams Sonoma cuts the time in half.🙂

Mix everything together and adjust seasonings if necessary.  The salsa is best at room temperature, after it has set for awhile to allow the flavors to mingle.  Serve with crispy tortilla chips, and enjoy!


It was great for our family to all be together for the holiday, and to cook together IN THE SAME KITCHEN!!

How did you spend your holiday, and what dishes did you prepare for your celebration? Remember to spend some extra time today with your doggies or kittens. -CT/MA