Friday, July 30, 2010

Classic Pico de Gallo & Guacomole

Cooking 4 Fun - Pico de Gallo & Guacamole

This is not a contest entry, just a standard in my life worth sharing. A classic pico de gallo and the simplest guacamole. All the best summer has to offers in a bowl. I make big batches of both and just eat it with tortilla chips. Love this stuff!

Pico de Gallo

3 Big Fresh Tomatoes
2 Fresh Tomotillos
Big Bunch Fresh Cilantro chopped maybe 1/2 cup, really as much as you want, I like lots of cilantro!
1 Medium Onion Chopped
1 Jalepeno seeds removed and chopped small
Juice from 1/2 a Lemon
Splash of Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Chop all ingredients small and mix well. The qualities can be changed to meet your taste or based on what is super fresh and available. One of those recipes where simpler is better!


2-3 large ripe avocados
1 clove minced garlic - maybe 1/2 clove if it is big
Big dash Kosher salt
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 small tomato - Roma is best, chopped small

Mash avocado in a bowl with a fork. Add garlic, salt, lemon juice and mash till smooth and well mixed. Stir in chopped tomato. Enjoy! Simple is best.

A heaping bunch of fresh ingredients.

Bowl of Guac. Bowl of Pico. Where are the chips!?!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Contesting Update

Summer seems to be the "off season" for contests. Not a lot going on now, which is good, I don't really have the time or interest in the summer to work the contest circuit too hard. I have found a few interesting ones coming up. There are two sites I follow to find what contests are going on and The contests are listed in order of due dates which helps, the foodreference site seems to include more of the small and local contests so I check both sites to ensure I don't miss a thing. I should be entering every contest, but I pick and choose the ones that really interest me the most. The following are a few I am considering or thinking about now.

Aunt Nellie's "Say Yes to Beets!" 8/31
- With all the fresh beets in my fridge I should do something with this contest. There is a Beet Drink catagory.... beet mojito? Hmmm. Not sure where to go here, but will think about it.
Hood New England Dairy Cook Off 9/31 - This is the first contest I ever entered, and of course lost. My odds have to be better since only residents from the 6 New England states can enter. I will work hard on this one to see if maybe I can't get my first win from my first interest.

Some of the current Monthly Contests - I have never entered this site's contests. Think I'll start looking at it closer. This month's contests look good, but I seem to have missed the due dates. Will follow more closely.
Athena Phyllo Dough - I put some real effort into this product last year. I am not quite a phyllo expert, but like to keep up with their contests. It is a fun product to play with, maybe we can make a phyllo emplanada?
This month the two categories are Corn and Grilling.
Mixing Bowl - I discovered this site this past winter and was very active for awhile. This week I noticed I am somehow the "showcase member". Yikes! I have entered several of their contests, still haven't won, but getting good feedback and I really enjoy the site. I could do this snack contest.
Quick & Easy Outdoor Snacks - due date 8/15
Best Lean Beef Recipe - 7/31

Monday, July 26, 2010

Uncle Joe's Empanadas

Cooking For Fun Recipe - Uncle Joe's Empanadas

"The Uncles", my Uncle Bernie and his husband Uncle Joe, live a charmed life. They have spent the last two winters in Argentina Tango dancing. Nice life if you can get it and it seems they can. The routine in Buenos Aries is to Tango all night then eat empanadas at 2 am on your way home from dancing. The uncles have brought this tradition home. Since their return from Argentina this year, every family gathering has included making empanadas. We made them in Houston with left over BBQ, then we made them at Lake Winnipesaukee with my CSA veggies and fruit. The very process of making empanadas pulls family together. There is plenty of room for creativity, use for everything in the fridge and you can assembly line the process allowing everyone to get involved. Here is a very rough recipe for the wide variety of empanadas that Uncle Joe has been cooking up lately.

Uncle Joe's Empanadas
Preheat oven to 375

  • Frozen Premade Empanada Dough Discs - a couple brands, Goya of course, but there is another one that is better, don't have the name.
  • Frozen chopped spinach or other green such as kale or collar greens, if using fresh cook down and drain first
  • Chopped Onion
  • Fresh Minced Garlic
  • Diced Red Bell Peppers or your favorite variety of pepper
  • Diced Carrotts
  • Chopped Parsely,
Saute all of the above in olive oil with fresh oregano, salt, pepper and your favorite spices. Saute till veggies are soft. You can stop here and just make veggie empanadas or keep going and add some meat.
  • Other ingredients you might add; sun dried tomatoes, olives with pimento chopped, red pepper flakes, capers & coriander
  • Italian sausage with ground beef
  • Ground pork
  • Chicken
  • Golden raisins are a great addition to meat filled empanadas
  • Add any cheese you love. Cheddar, Asiago, Mozzarella or what ever you have on hand.
Brown meat then mix with the sauteed vegetables. Drain vegetables and meats well before filling dough. Place a few tablespoons of filling in empanada disc, top with cheese if desired. Fold over and seal with a fork or fingers. Brush with egg yolk then bake. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Fruit Empanada
Mix your favorite fruits with powdered sugar and fill dough discs. We have put a spoonful of jam or marmalade with fruit. Mixing apples and pear with berries is good, it helps soak up the runny berries. Fruit empanadas are bit more delicate, they tend to leak but still cook up delicious every time!

Preparations for brisket empanadas. Used green olives, brisket, carrots, spinach and onions.

Uncle Joe with a skillet full of veggies. He bought that ridiculous hat at Fiesta, the crazy international super market in Houston. Love Fiesta!

Joe is artist even with a skillet. I think he might have put pickles in this one. We had a lot left over from a catered BBQ.

Filling up the disc.

Sealing up the disc.

Production line. Making pretty pockets!

Fresh from the oven. Golden brown or as Joe calls it the "Golden Sunset".

These are fruit empanadas. You can see the dark berries through the crust. They leak a bit but are still full of juicy fruit and jam.

Irresistible to all! Really, the kids have loved every variation we have made. There is nothing handier with a large crowd then a big batch of empanadas. We make them for lunch one day then they are snacks anytime of day for the rest of the weekend. Love them!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CSA Week 4 & 5

CORN IS HERE!! Got 10 ears last week and 14 ears this week! Thinking corn chowder? Meals have been simple the past few weeks. We traveled a little, spending a few nights up at Lake Winnepesaukee and since we returned have been hanging low. This summer has been very busy and we really needed a few weeks of the simple home life. I will share a few of the interesting things I have done over the past weeks; cabbage rolls, more pesto, and Uncle Joe's Empanadas. I am going to need to find something to do with all these cucumbers and Thai Basil. Oh and more chard. Will need to do some Googling.

Week 4 Box
Lettuce only 2 this week, thank goodness!
Kohlrabi 2 total; 1 green and 1 purple
Basil (2 types)
Yellow Squash
Potatoes (2 types)
Onions - 2 big bulbs
Last Week's Box in Review

Week 5 Box
Corn - 14 ears!
2 heads lettuce
Cucumbers - 6, yea 6!
Swiss Chard
Thai Basil

Here are some of the simple but good meals we have been making over the past few weeks.

Favorite way to make yellow squash and zucchini. Olive oil, salt/pepper - toss it on the grill. Can't be beat!

Kids meal! Fresh potatoes mashed, carrots, corn and some Panko chicken strips. A simple and unprocessed meal for children, this is what school lunches should look like.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CSA - Pesto

Presto! We have pesto! It is sooo easy to make. I used the whole batch in one recipe, but I have read in several magazines that you can put pesto in ice cube trays and freeze it. Use your little frozen pesto cubes in dishes throughout the year. I will be making a batch of pesto to freeze before the summer is up, it is suggested not to put cheese in your frozen pesto. You can actually make pesto out of any fresh herb. I saw a recipe for cilantro pesto. My cilantro plant is out of control and just blossomed buds this week, turning to coriander, time to chop it up and try some cilantro pesto.

Found the following chicken pesto orzo salad recipe on another blog. I needed a good dish to travel with and wanted to use up my fresh basil, this looked like a perfect match. Very simple and easy to make. It used the whole batch of pesto.

Simple Pesto
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oi
Chicken Pesto Orzo Salad
Source - lost the original blog I saw it on, but found so many variations all similar.

1 batch fresh basil pesto
1 lb orzo pasta cooked
2 chicken breast chopped and cooked
12 cherry or grape tomatoes quartered
2-3 tablespoons white vinegar
olive oil to moisten if necessary

Mix it all up, chill and serve! There are many variations and mix-ins including: asparagus spears, arugula, green beans, grilled shrimp, grilled summer squash.... you get the idea, the list goes on and on. Hmm wonder how kohlrabi would taste?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A&E - Sell This House! - Airs July 10th 9:30 AM THIS SATURDAY

Our episode of Sell This House airs on July 10th at 9:30 AM eastern standard time. Set your DVRs! I am scared to watch. We go no preview of what the final show will be. They taped over 12 hours of film for the 26 minute episode. Who knows what it will be like. I hate seeing and hearing myself on film. It could be traumatizing.

Here is the link to our show's listing:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

CSA Week 3

It was 100 degrees in New England today. They packed the box with an ice bag. We didn't do as well last week completing our box. I still had 2 heads of lettuce, beets, the cabbage and of course radishes in the fridge today when I got my new box. Thank goodness there were no radishes today, but they gave us another whopping batch of lettuce and greens. A great week of produce! Glad to see potatoes, carrots and 5 huge yellow squash. Heading up to Lake Winnipesaukee to meet The Uncles this week and bringing most of my CSA box with me. There should be some cool creations. The Uncles will know what to do withthe Thai Basil and Lemon Thyme. Hopefully I'll have some good pics and fun results this week. Till then - we are gone fishing!

Week 3 Box
Lemon Thyme
Italian Basil
Thai Basil
2 heads Lettuce
New White Potatoes
New Red Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Yellow Squash
Green Beans

Thursday, July 1, 2010

CSA - Beets

I hated beets as a kid, maybe because my mom always gave us pickled beets. As an adult, I have come to appreciate beets, but still do not actively pursue them at the market. The CSA box gave us 3 varieties the first week. I roasted one of each for a simple side dish. The orange beets were sweet and honestly much better than the traditional ones. Think they are called Golden Beets. I also made a simple beet spread with roasted beets and goat cheese.

Week two of the CSA box came with more beets. I figured I better do some serious beet research as they may become a staple during CSA season. Found some great beet information in my favorite cook book, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I am a bit beet ignorant, here are a few pointers I found useful:

1. They keep for weeks. Best stored by removing the greens, all but an inch of stem, then placing beets in a plastic bag in the fridge. Good to know, I figured they would keep like potatoes and have left them in the pantry. Moving to the fridge!

2. When roasting, leave beets whole. Don't trip the tops off completely, just the greens. I was taking a 1/2 inch off the top to open them, this only allows them to leak and make a mess.

3. When roasting beets in tin foil, you can keep them in that foil in the fridge until you are ready to use them. You can roast all your beets on Sunday then use them throughout the week in different dishes or on salads. Love it!

4. You don't have to roast beets in the oven, you can microwave beets in a covered dish with a few tablespoons of water then microwave for 6-10 minutes. I actually used this method to cook the beets I used in my beet spread below.

Roasted Beets
Source: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Bunch of beets
Aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash beets well. Wrap each beet in foil and place on baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to a 1 1/2 hours until they are soft when pierced with a knife or fork. Remove from oven, let cool, slice and serve or save them for later. So simple!

Three different beets, scrubbed clean and ready to prep for roasting. According to Mark Bittman, this is how they should look when you wrap them up to roast.

This is how I prepped my first beets to roast. You should not cut the tops off as the juice will leak out and can stain, but it lets you peek in and see the different beets.

Bad picture, I was rushed with screaming kids. But the three beets made a beautiful rainbow side dish. Delicious!

Beet Spread
Source: variation on Beet Crostini recipe found on

2 Beets
4 oz Goat Cheese
Fresh French Bread
Bit of olive oil

Roast beets or microwave to cook thoroughly. Once beets are cool, puree in a food processor with goat cheese. Slice French bread into 1/2 inch slices. Brush with olive oil and toast in oven under the broiler. Serve beet spread on bread or on the side as a dip. Could be great as a fresh vegetable dip too.