Make It Monday #145

As promised, I’m sharing the card sets I made for my Circle of Friends (a group of women I’ve known for over 35 years). I’m reposting for Papertrey’s Make It Monday #145 Al la Carte.

Gift Set 001c

Gift Set 002Aren’t the onesies cute? My family joked that I was setting up a nursery. I left the cards blank so the girls could fill them out and send as a congrats card, but I can see this used as an adorable baby shower invite as well.

The set included a birthday card and matching envelopes. Danielle Flanders made a really cute boxed set of cards using Papertrey’s plastic containers here. Great idea! I saved the packaging from Papertrey stamp sets I’ve ordered in the past. It fit the cards perfectly. With a little more time, I could probably fit another two cards in each box…say, a wedding and just-a-note card?

Here’s a close-up of the onesies:

Onesie 001 Onesie 002 Onesie 003 Onesie 010 Onesie 005 Onesie 006 Onesie 007 Onesie 011 Onesie 008 Onesie 009


Onsies Group

I could make these all day! Again, just using little bits and pieces to dress them up.

Using the onesie die from Papertrey, I cut the card base onesie and then another in whatever paper I was using for the top. Paper piecing tip: If you cut your decorative onesie in half, you have a top and a bottom that you can mix and match on two different cards. The little raised dot embellishments are made with Liquid Pearls. Also used tiny snaps, tiny buttons, flowers, lace, trim, ribbon and border dies. All rubber stamping and animals are from Papertrey stamp and die sets: Bitty Baby Blessings and Sweet Baby.

I finished the box off with a wrap-around sleeve and then added Everyday Photo Finishers. I love how the set turned out. So much so that I made two of every card so I could keep one. I think I need help.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit. Have a very merry Christmas!

WMS Pajama Party Christmas

Salt Shakers 001cHere’s another project for the Waltzingmouse pajama party to create something Christmas. I love this project!

I’ve been collecting little Christmas bell jars for years and this year I decided to make one of my own. After an unsuccessful and exhaustive search for an affordable small glass globe, I happened upon some salt shakers. Just about the right size to fit tiny Christmas trees. These little Christmas shakers were born. I hope you love them, too.

Although no Waltzingmouse in this project, you could easily add an adorable little WMS tag. I’m new to WMS and I see quite a few sets that would be cute with this idea. I just might try a garden theme with a nest and little eggs. Wouldn’t that look adorable for spring?


Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

Here’s an easy crock pot meal. Similar to something I like to order at Chipotle.

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

There is even enough for leftovers tomorrow night.

3-4 boneless chicken breasts
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 (15 oz.) can black beans
8 oz. fresh or frozen corn
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
avocado and sour cream, if desired

For rice:
1/4 cup lime juice
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup rice

Combine ingredients (except rice ingredients) in crock pot with chicken on top.

Cook on low for about 10 hours or on high for about 6 hours.

Remove chicken and shred with fork. Add shredded chicken back to crock pot and keep warm until serving.
Serve over rice. Garnish with sliced avocado and/or a dollop of sour cream.

Pomegranate Hard Candy

pomegranate candy

Our little pomegranate tree put out almost two gallons of juice this year. This does not include the poms we left on the tree for the birds. After 40 jars of pomegranate jelly we were left with about three cups of juice. Bring on the candy!

Pomegranate Hard Candy

1 cup pomegranate juice
2/3 cup corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Put all ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Turn on high heat and stir until all sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil (without stirring) and let it boil until it reaches 290° – hard crack candy stage. Watch closely and you may even want to reduce heat when you are close to 290°. Immediately remove when it reaches temperature.
2. Pour onto a marble surface or alternatively, a lightly sprayed  jelly roll pan. Immediately score with knife or pizza cutter into 1-inch pieces. When cooled, break into squares.
3. Dust with powdered sugar by placing sugar and candy into a bowl and stir or large Ziplock and shake. Use a kitchen (paint) brush to brush off excess powdered sugar to give a more professional look.
4. Store in sealed jars.
Things I learned:
– Don’t use cooking spray if you pour onto marble. It makes the candy oily to the touch and affected the powdered sugar coating. I didn’t try the baking sheets.
Immediately remove when it reaches temperature because if you leave it on too long, it will turn from red to brown quickly. Don’t fret if it browns; it still tastes good, but the color changes and the candy looks like broken beer bottle glass instead of deep red pomegranate glass.
-Keep stored in sealed jars (I prefer small mason jars) because if you just put it in a bowl on your counter, then I guarantee you will have a giant hunk of candy that will be nearly impossible to chip off a piece. 😉

Surprising Results in Pumpkin Purée Blind Taste

Pumpkin in the house!
We had a blind taste of pumpkin purée this evening with very surprising results.

Pumpkins1) Grocery store Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin purée
2) Libby’s canned pumpkin purée – 100% pumpkin with no additives
3) Homegrown Sugar Pie pumpkin purée

All three purées were similarly prepared. I baked both the homegrown and grocery store pumpkins and then processed and used an immersion blender for a smooth consistency. I did not add anything to the purées so it was just 100% pumpkin. Pumpkin is not a sweet squash, but a great addition to recipes.


First Place: Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin was the sweetest of the three and our favorite.

Second Place: Sugar Pie pumpkin. It was a close second behind the Jack-o-Lantern. This pumpkin was grown last year, processed and frozen until yesterday. It was good, but not quite as sweet as the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin.

Third Place: Libby’s canned pumpkin. Bleh! Not nearly as good as the fresh pumpkin. Tasted a little like the can.

We did not try this year’s fresh homegrown Sugar Pie as I had already processed and froze it all.

I was sure the canned pumpkin was going to be the one to beat.  Fresh pumpkin purée is easy to make and a favorite to use in recipes, but I was very surprised at the noticeable difference in taste. Easy to grow, but just as easy to use your Jack-o-Lantern after you’ve carved it for Halloween. We used a battery-powered candle inside the Jack-o-Lantern instead of a flamed candle. This keeps the pumpkin from “cooking” before I’m ready to process the whole thing. When carving your pumpkin, make sure you are thorough in removing the inside seeds and pulp and bake the next day because you don’t want fuzz to start to grow.


Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish

I love this soup. In my opinion, the relish makes the soup so you may want to double or even triple the relish. Pumpkin soup by itself was a little bland, but the added spicy relish puts it over-the-top good. I made this soup for a neighborhood progressive dinner and kept it in the crock pot until serving. Both the soup and the relish keep well in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish

1 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
1 fresh bay leaf
2 ribs celery with greens, finely chopped
1 med. onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
3 Tbs. flour
2 tsp. ground thyme
2 tsp. hot sauce, or to taste
6 cups chicken stock
1 (28-oz) can cooked pumpkin purée (Or fresh if you have it.)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1 crisp apple, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup dried or fresh cranberries, chopped
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add the oil and melt the butter. Add bay, celery, and onion, salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Add flour, thyme and hot sauce, then cook flour a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in pumpkin. Simmer for a few minutes and then add in cream and nutmeg. Reduce heat until ready to serve.

Relish: Combine apple, onion, lemon juice, cranberries, chili powder, honey and cinnamon.

Serve soup in shallow bowls with a few spoonfuls of relish.

Note: I love the cool crunchy relish in the warm soup and I like a bit of relish with every bite, so make extra.

Pumpkins 101: Seeds and Fresh Purée

Halloween is here and I am busy with pumpkins! Homegrown sugar pie pumpkins have been refrigerated since ripening on the vine. I also bought a few large pumpkins from the grocery store for pumpkin seeds and roasting pumpkin to use later in the season.

Sugar Pie Pumpkin from the garden.

Sugar Pie Pumpkin from the garden.

First up are the pumpkin seeds from the store-bought carving pumpkins.

This year I decided to look for a new pumpkin seed recipe; I searched through a lot of recipes. My family likes traditional roasted seeds so kicking it up with sweet or spicy isn’t an option. A few recipes call for boiling the seeds before roasting and this process seems to help with a nice, even salty flavor. Apparently, boiling also helps with digestion. The seeds were delicious, crunchy and gone before the night’s end.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh pumpkin seeds
Olive Oil

1. Carve your pumpkin, saving the seeds in one bowl and pulp in another bowl. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse well under water to remove all the remaining pulp.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2. Add seeds to a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. (For every 1 cup of seeds use 4 quarts of water and 3 Tablespoons of salt.) Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

3. Drain the seeds and coat with 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  Spread seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle salt over seeds. Roast seeds at 325 degrees until golden brown. Do not over bake and watch the seeds carefully so they do not burn.

Note from Whole Foods Market: “For spicy pumpkin seeds, mix 1/2 teaspoon each garlic salt, cumin, coriander and cardamom with seeds and oil before roasting. For sweet pumpkin seeds, mix 1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger and 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar with seeds and oil before roasting.”

Sugar Pie pumpkins are the preferred pumpkin for baking and I started growing my own last year. I freeze the pumpkin purée, but I’d like to try to pressure can it some day.

Fresh Pumpkin Purée

Roasted Pumpkins

Roasted Pumpkins

1. Break off the stem from the pumpkin. Slice each pumpkin in half from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp into two separate bowls. Seeds will be saved for next year’s crop and pulp will go in the compost bin.

2. Place the pumpkins with cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° until soft, about an hour or more, depending on the size.

3. When pumpkins have cooled, scoop out all the flesh and place into a colander. Skins go into the composter. Let the flesh drain in the colander for an hour or two.

4. I like to put all of the purée into my Vitamix for a minute or two to get a really smooth texture.

5. Scoop pulp into a freezer bag or seal-a-meal. Label and freeze. Since recipes usually call for a 16-oz can, I like to freeze in two-cup increments.

Use the purée throughout the year, adding to soups, baked goods and smoothies. I have a wonderful pumpkin soup recipe that I’ll post later.

Golden Pumpkin Puree

Golden Pumpkin Puree

After the Halloween festivities have died down, grab your Jack-O-Lanterns and process in your pressure cooker as follows:

Jack-O-Lantern Purée

pressure cooker

Pressure Cooker, not to be confused with a pressure canner.

1. Cut up Jack-O-Lanterns into 4 to 5 inch chunks and place in your pressure cooker with one cup of water. Cook on High Pressure for 10 minutes. Release pressure, remove pumpkin and separate pulp from skin. We usually have a few pumpkins so it takes a few batches to cook it all. Process purée from nos. 3-5 above.

Happy Halloween!

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

1/2 lb. diced bacon
2 Tbs. flour
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups potatoes, cubed
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups corn (fresh, frozen and/or creamed-style)
2 tsp. salt
ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups half and half

1. Cook bacon in a large pot until crispy. Drain liquid, reserving 2 tablespoons in the pot. Add flour to make a roux.

2. Add onion to pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add broth, corn, potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover pot and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Slowly add half and half, while stirring. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Cranberry Jalapeño Pepper Jelly

Here’s a jelly you are going to want to make! Terrific and beautiful jelly for gift-giving during the holidays. Don’t forget to include crackers.

Cranberry and Jalapeño Pepper Jelly

Pepper Jelly
Pepper Jelly

1 1/2 cups cranberry juice (not low-calorie)
1 cup vinegar
2 to 4 medium fresh jalapeño chili peppers, halved and seeded*
5 cups sugar
3 oz. package (1 foil pouch) liquid pectin
5 small fresh red serrano peppers

1. Start boiling water in a water bath canner. Add half-pint jars to canner to get hot. Also start a small pot of water for the seals.

2. In medium stainless-steel, heavy bottomed pot, combine cranberry juice, vinegar and jalapeño peppers. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-meshed sieve and discard peppers. Measure out 2 cups liquid. I have never ended up with two full cups of liquid, so add hot water to make up the difference (probably about 1/4 cup).

2. In pot, combine the 2 cups liquid and the sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Stir in pectin and serrano peppers. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with a metal spoon.

3. Remove hot jars from canner. Ladle hot jelly into hot canning jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Add a serrano pepper to each jar. The peppers will probably float up. I like to use a chopstick to push the pepper down, but they never seem to stay. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids to finger tight.

4. Process filled jars in your boiling-water canner for 5 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner to cool on a clean dish towel.

Makes 5 half-pints.

*I used 3 jalapeños, without seeds, and one fresh green serrano in each jar. Although it has a distinct pepper taste, there isn’t any heat. Very mild.  For heat-loving friends, include some seeds in #1 above.

Original recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens special addition of Canning, pub. 2012 with comments and modifications from yours truly.

One Watermelon

One Watermelon

One watermelon = 2 1/2 quarts of dehydrated red flesh, 4 pints of pickled watermelon, 1 tub of peels to compost and enough dried seeds to grow another garden full of watermelon next year.

Sadly, I don’t have enough room in my garden to grow many sprawling plants, so I purchased my seedless melon. Here’s a thought: As consumers we’ve grown accustomed to seedless watermelons. No seed, no plant, no diversity. Just sayin’.

Watermelon – Dehydrated

Slice up your melon into 1 inch slices.

Slice up the red flesh of the watermelon and place on your dehydrator at 135°. I left mine overnight – so about 12 hours. Fruit will be pliable.

I have an Excalibur dehydrator named Guenevere.  Get it?  {chuckle}


I sealed my melon in jars with the Food Saver Mason Jar Sealer. Isn’t it beautiful?

Watermelon 005

Watermelon Rind – Pickled

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the rinds. Slice off any meat. You want just the white part of the rind. Throw all the trimmings into the composter.


Place the white rind (I had about 2 quarts of rind) into a bowl with 3 quarts of water. I also added about 2 cups of ice cubes. Add 3/4 cup pickling salt. Put in refrigerator overnight.


Now comes the fun part. There are many, many recipes out there for pickled watermelon. Most either use peppercorn/mustard seeds OR cinnamon/lemon/cloves. I started with a recipe from Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine pub. July/August 2010 with the peppercorn/mustard seeds.

The original recipe calls for 4 quarts of watermelon rind. Since I only had 2 quarts of watermelon rind (1 medium-sized watermelon), I halved the recipe as follows:

2 quarts watermelon rind, prepared as above
1 gallon of water
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 tsp. mustard seed
1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns
3 1/2 cups sugar
4 pint canning jars with lids

The first thing I like to do is to get my canning pot of water started and bring to a boil for processing. It always takes awhile to bring the water to boil so do this first! Add your pint jars to get hot. Also prepare a small saucepan of water for the lids.

Meanwhile, place rinds in a colander and drain off water, thoroughly rinsing. In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook watermelon rinds with 1 gallon of water. (I buy well water, but you can use bottled water and here’s why.) Cook the rinds until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Return the pot to heat and add vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add watermelon rinds and cook until translucent, about 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place lids in the small saucepan of hot water. Remove hot jars and spoon rind in the jars. Pour vinegar solution over rinds, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth and seal jars with lids and rings, finger tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water bath and allow to cool on a clean towel on the counter overnight.


Sweet and delicious.

White Chili with Chicken

Since my last post on preserving corn, I have been looking for a new recipe to use up the leftover corn. I found a recipe on Pinterest (Cooking Classy) and it was a huge hit at my house. Daughter said, “Add this to the recipe book, immediately.” So, here it is with a few modifications from yours truly:

White Chili with Chicken

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut up into small chunks
1 med. onion, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
1 small can diced green chilies
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground coriander or 1/3 bunch of fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (8 oz.) pkg light cream cheese
1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 (15 oz.) cans Cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
Monterrey Jack cheese, for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add chicken and diced onion. Saute until chicken is cooked through. Add garlic and saute a minute longer.

2. Add chicken broth, green chilies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then simmer 15 minutes.

3. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Stir in corn and cannellini beans. Simmer for another 10 minutes uncovered.

4. Using an immersion blender, blend until its smooth but still a little chunky. Simmer another 15 minutes. Stir in fresh lime juice.

5. Garnish with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and chopped cilantro. My family likes to add additional lime juice to their bowls.

Preserving Sweet Corn

Last week was a week of corn.  I froze corn – I canned corn kernels – I canned corn relish – I dehydrated corn. Five ears for $1.00 is a decent price for corn around here, so I filled my bag. Forty ears of corn for $8.00 produced 4 quarts of frozen corn kernels, 8 pints of pressure canned corn kernels, 6 pints of water bath canned corn relish and 1 pint of dehydrated corn. What a cost savings! I think next year I’ll put up more corn relish for family and friends because visitors are threatening to walk off with a jar or two.

By the way, here’s an awesome Pinterest tip: Cut corn from the cob by placing the ear of corn in the center of a bundt pan and run a knife down the cob. The kernels collect in the bundt pan. Works like a charm.

Want to bump up a hamburger or hotdog? This is the relish.

Corn Relish  Water Bath

5 to 6 pint canning jars


8 cups corn kernels (abt. 8-9 ears corn)
3 cups water
3 cups celery, chopped (6 ribs)
1 1/2 cups sweet red peppers, chopped (2 med.)
1 1/2 cups green peppers, chopped (2 med.)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. pickling salt
2 tsp. celery seeds
1 tsp. ground turmeric
3 Tbs. cornstarch
3 Tbs. water

1. Get your water bath canner going with hot water and add your canning jars. Start another small saucepan with hot water for the seals. Remove husks from corn. Scrub to remove the silks and rinse. Cut kernels from cobs.

2. In a large stainless-steel heavy pot, combine 8 cups of corn kernels and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 4 to 5 minutes or until corn is nearly tender. Drain.

3. In the same pot, combine corn, celery, sweet peppers, and onion. Stir in vinegar, sugar, mustard, pickling salt, celery seeds, and turmeric. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water. Add to corn mixture. Over medium heat, stir until mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir for 2 minutes more.

5. Remove hot jars. Ladle hot relish into canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids, finger-tight.

6. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner and cool on a dish towel.

Corn Kernels  Frozen

1. Remove husks from corn. Scrub to remove silks and rinse.

2. Blanch the corn cobs in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove the corn and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

3. When cooled, cut kernels from cob.

Shucked corn ready for processing.
Shucked corn ready for processing.

4. Place corn kernels in freezer bags or Seal-A-Meal (corn will freeze in a solid chunk). If you want loose corn kernels, then spread out on a baking sheet and freeze. After frozen, remove from baking sheet, Seal-A-Meal in bags and label.

Raw Pack Corn Kernels  Pressure Canned

6-8 pint canning jars

1. Start a large pot of water to boil. Add pint jars to pot to get hot.

2. Remove husks from corn. Scrub with a stiff brush to remove silks and rinse.

3. Cut kernels from cob. Scrape the cob to get the inner part of the kernels for a creamed corn.

4. Remove pint jars from hot water. Add cut kernels. Pour boiling water over the corn, leaving 1 inch headspace. Add seals and rings.

5. Follow your pressure canner instructions for processing. My canning instructions recommend processing the corn-filled pint jars for 55 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure.

Corn Kernels  Dehydrated

1. Start a large pot of water to boil.

2. Remove husks from corn. Scrub to remove silks and rinse.

3. Blanch the corn cobs in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove the corn and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

4. When cooled, cut kernels from cob.

5. Spread corn kernels on a sheet in your dehydrator. Follow your dehydrator’s instruction manual for dehydrating vegetables. I have an Excalibur Dehydrator so I set on vegetable setting, 125° for 6-10 hours. Corn should be brittle.

6. Vacuum pack in a mason jar with your Seal-A-Meal.

Creamed-Style Corn   Pressure Canned

See the Ball recipe for creamed-styled corn at:

Let’s Salsa!

There are just some things you have to know if you live in California. Making a decent salsa is one. Whether it’s a chunky tomato salsa, green salsa, or mango salsa, I don’t think it matters.  It’s all good!  Today I’m sharing our favorite chunky red tomato salsa recipe.


As you can see, I used a variety of garden heirlooms for this batch. Use whatever you have on hand.

Salsa Daunis

10 Roma tomatoes, chopped*
6 tomatillos, steamed, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 chili peppers, seeded and chopped**
15 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lime
salt, to taste
1 can tomato paste

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Remove about 2-3 cups from bowl and pulse in blender until pureed. Add mixture back to bowl. This adds a nice smooth texture; not too chunky and not too watery. You may want to add a bit more salt to taste. Refrigerate and stir before serving.

Makes about 1/2 gallon.


A big bowl of salsa.

* Roma tomatoes are a firm paste tomato and make a nice salsa. However, If you are using a variety of tomatoes, such as heirlooms, you may want to add more or less to the blender to get a preferred consistency.
** Depending on heat desired, use a variety of chilies (jalapenos, serranos, yellows), with or without seeds.

Summertime Macaroni Salad

I’ll just start by saying I love The Pioneer Woman. Her website is usually the first I visit for a recipe. I was looking for something similar to my mom’s macaroni salad. Here’s a link to PW’s recipe. I basically followed her recipe, however, I made a few adjustments (more like Mom’s).  If you like a macaroni salad with some color and a bit of something extra in every bite, try this one out.

Summertime Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad

4 cups elbow macaroni
3/4 cup of black olives, chopped fine
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
3/4 cup sweet pickles, chopped fine
4 hard-boiled eggs, diced
3/4 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
2 Tbs. distilled vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper, or more as needed
extra pickle juice from jar to taste

1. Cook the macaroni in lightly salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Set aside.

2. Mix together mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Place cooked macaroni in a large bowl and pour 3/4 of the dressing over the macaroni. Toss and add more dressing if needed. (Dressing will seem a little thin, but it will thicken up as salad chills.)

4. Stir in olives, onion, pickles and celery.

5. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with celery leaf.

Note: Just go with what you think as far as the ingredients to get the desired consistency you like. This recipe is just a guideline.

My Cheese-Making Adventure

Last month I took a cheese making class. The instructor was amazing and very knowledgeable. I learned the chemistry behind cheese and came away with confidence that I could make my own cheese. Making your own delicious cheese at home is easy and it doesn’t take a lot of time.

This is a cheese platter I made up for a neighborhood party. See the white cheese on the top tray to the right? That was my homemade cheese! “Was” being the key word here. It was devoured and guests were telling me it was their favorite cheese on the platter. As a beginning cheese maker, I felt accomplished.


Some tools are required to make cheese so it’s important to make a list of the items you’ll need. A good book is key. I recommend Artisan Cheese Making At Home, by Mary Karlin. This book is very detailed and includes photos and lots of recipes. It’s a beautiful book. Did I mention recipes? How about a Dill Havarti or a Lavender Chevre? Or maybe start out with a cream cheese, Queso Fresco or Ricotta Salata.

The first cheese I made from this book was a basic goat’s milk Chevre. It didn’t last long. Incidentally, finding goat’s milk is not easy. Some stores carry goat’s milk, but it is “ultra” pasteurized and the “ultra” is not what you want. Just “pasteurized.” I finally found some at one Henry’s location. Apparently, dairies started ultra pasteurizing because it lasts on the shelf longer. Unfortunately, this is not good for getting the curds to set properly. Cheese making is all about the chemistry. Did you know that unlike cow’s milk, goat’s milk is naturally homogenized?


Curds draining in the mold. After draining overnight, the cheese will be placed in a brine for a few hours.

Next I tried a Crescenza with cow’s milk (in the photo above). Crescenza is an Italian soft cheese with a salt brine. It is not aged and is great for spreading on crackers. I ended up with two pounds of Crescenza.

Parsnip and Leek Soup or Pasta Sauce?

Ya’ll know that I get this box of gorgeous produce each week from my local CSA, right? Well, I have never in my life cooked with parsnips and leeks and guess what was inside my box this week? Among the beautiful produce I found parsnips and leeks. So, today I was trying to figure out what to do with one, or the other, and I found a recipe on the Internet for parsnip soup with leeks and parsley. Hey, parsley was also in my box this week. A trifecta! Looks like soup for dinner.

The soup was easy to make and it tasted good, too. A thin soup; not a hearty soup so definitely not going to satisfy for dinner. We were trying to decide what to have with the soup when I decided to put the soup through a reduction to thicken it up. I also added some heavy cream. Then it happened… that bright idea. What if I thicken it up and add it to a pasta, like orecchiette? Maybe some fresh parmesan on top?

We couldn’t get over how delicious this dish turned out. Different than anything I’ve had before and very flavorful. Seriously good and I have now added leeks and parsnips to my list of things to grow in the garden. The dish is super easy and cost just pennies to make. Here’s the original soup recipe link from Modifications for a thicker sauce from yours truly is below.

Pasta Sauce

Parsnip and Leek Pasta Sauce

2 Tbs. butter
3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced lengthwise, cleaned, then sliced crosswise 1/4 inch
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 to 1 lbs. parsnips, peeled and chopped (I used 1/2 lb. baby parsnips and didn’t peel)
2 strips lemon zest, 1 x 2 inches each
1 tsp. salt
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups fresh parsley, finely chopped
3-4 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
fresh ground pepper to taste
Orecchiette pasta
Parmesan cheese

1. Heat butter in a large soup pot on medium heat. Stir in the chopped leeks. When leeks are heated enough so they begin to sizzle in the pot, turn heat to low and cover the pot. Cook until soft, but not browned.

2. Stir in parsnips, olive oil and salt. Add stock and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook until parsnips are completely tender, at least 30 minutes.

3. Remove and discard the lemon zest. Add parsley. Puree the soup until smooth using your immersion blender.

4. Stir in lemon juice. Slowly add the cream. Stir over high heat until reduced to desired thickness. Meanwhile, get your water boiling and cook the Orecchiette pasta al dente.

5. Serve over Orecchiette pasta with a little fresh parmesan cheese over the top.

Arugula Shmugula

Okay, so I’m not a big fan of arugula. It’s just – strong and peppery. So, when I received a big bunch in my CSA farmstand box last week, I rinsed the bunch and put it in my fridge until the day arrives when I have to throw it out because it is no longer edible. And when I remove the slimy, no-longer-recognizable arugula from the fridge, I won’t feel bad because at least I compost kitchen waste.

Fast-forward to this morning when I was going through some old magazines before tossing them to the curb. Cooking Light One-Dish Meals. Oh ya, I wanted to make that yummy-looking pasta dish on the cover! Actually several of the recipes inside looked yummy. And then I came to page 94. Arugula, Grape and Sunflower Seed Salad. Well, I am hungry and I do have all of the ingredients. Why not?


Guess what? I like arugula. I found a salad that is actually pretty darn tasty using arugula. The grapes and dressing add a little sweet to the peppery greens and the sunflower seeds give a little crunch. In fact, I liked it so much that I’m adding it to my recipe binder with a couple modifications.

Arugula, Grape and Sunflower Seed Salad

3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. stone-ground mustard
2 tsp. grape seed oil
baby arugula
2 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
2 Tbs. unsalted sunflower seed kernels
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Gradually add oil, stirring with a whisk.

2. Combine arugula, grapes, seeds, and thyme in a large bowl. Add dressing over salad and toss gently to coat. Use fresh ground pepper to taste.

*Side note on grape seed oil. If you don’t have any, add it right now to your shopping list. You won’t regret it. Grape seed oil is so much lighter and will really add something special to your salad dressings.

Basil and Perfectly Delicious Pesto

Basil is one of my favorite herbs. The smell alone sends me into a zen-like state. Did you know that you can grow basil from cuttings? You will want to pinch back your basil to keep it bushy, so why not use that pinch and start a new plant? I used to pinch it back at just the tops when it began to flower. However, a few years ago I learned from a hydroponics farmer that for a fuller plant, you actually want to pinch the stems lower, just above the node. So when you pinch it back you have a nice little cutting to root and grow into another beautiful basil plant. I don’t know about you, but the more basil, the better!

Basil Cutting wm

This basil top fell off the plant on the way home from the nursery. See the little roots forming?

Here’s some tips if you can’t use all your basil at once:

  • Freeze your fresh basil and you’ll have basil all winter.  Use the frozen basil in your soups. Add with some strawberries to infuse an otherwise boring glass of water. Add frozen basil to smoothies.
  • Make a batch of pesto and freeze the extra pesto in ice cube trays.

Speaking of pesto, here’s the pesto recipe we use at our house. Use homegrown basil and parsley for the freshest taste.

Pesto wm


2 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
1/2 cup fresh parsley, firmly packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil or enough for desired texture

Place all ingredients except oil in food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With processor running, pour oil into mixture. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

We use pesto a lot.

  • Spread on sourdough baguette slices and put under the broiler until just bubbly.
  • Spread onto pizza dough with chicken and sliced mozzarella slices for a delicious chicken pesto pizza.
  • Add to a pot of hot pasta for a light and delicious quick dinner.

Dehydrator Madness

apples wm

It’s a dehydrator. It’s not a puppy. This is what I keep telling myself as I lay awake at night trying to come up with a really great nickname for my new Excalibur dehydrator. This baby works like a dream.

To date, I’ve experimented with:

Lemons – Sliced up thinly, I store in a mason jar and add a slice to my iced water for a refreshing beverage. Put a few through my blender and now I always have lemon zest on hand.

Oranges – Same thing as with the lemons.

Bananas – A mason jar full of dried bananas does not last long on my counter.

Apples – By far a favorite of the family to date. I’d like to try a pie with the slices but they don’t last long enough. Slice the apples and place in a bowl of water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice while you’re slicing the rest of the lemons. This will keep them from turning brown. Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator for a little extra crispness. Awesome healthy alternative snack!

Mixed Frozen Vegetables – I read that frozen veggies are great in the dehydrator and there is no prep to the veggies since they were prepared prior to freezing. So, I bought a 5 lb. bag of mixed veggies on sale and loaded up the trays. Five pounds dried down to 1 1/8 qt. mason jar. Amazing! I rehydrated as a test and it took about 20 minutes. The corn was the last to plump up and was a little tough, but I’m told the dried veggies are terrific to add to a soup. A great solution if you have limited freezer space.

Frozen Veggies

Croutons/Bread Crumbs – Leftover herb bread from the bread machine makes terrific croutons.

Kale – Mixed with a little olive oil and sea salt. Family didn’t like them, but the dog loved them. I throw on the floor for her like popcorn.

Beets – Dried into beautiful chips. Still sweet and earthy tasting. I need to experiment with this one a little more. I think sea salt may be the ticket.

Bagel Chips – Another yummy treat that I will make again.

Kiwi – I had a bunch of kiwi in my CSA farmer’s box. More than we could eat so into the dehydrator it went.

So, so happy with my purchase. I know it’s something I’ll use for years to come. Nickname suggestions anyone?

Garden Vegetable Soup

Who doesn’t love a good veggie soup recipe? This is one that my kiddos request so I’m adding to the recipe page for them. I’m not sure where the original recipe came from. I add whatever veggies I have on hand and it is always good. It just feels good to eat it, ya know what I mean? The following list is just a guideline. If you have more or less of each ingredient, just add it. Trust me – it always turns out great. Oh, and the last time I made porcupine meatballs, I added the leftover meatballs to the soup and LOVED it!

Garden Vegetable Soup

1/4  cup  olive oil
2     cup  onion, chopped
2     Tbs  garlic, minced
2     cup  carrots, chopped into rounds
2     cup  potatoes, diced
2     cup  green beans, broken or cut
2     qts. (64 oz) chicken or veggie stock
4     cup tomatoes, chopped or crushed
1     can  tomato paste
1     can  chickpeas, drained
2     cup  corn  (I like 1 kernel, 1 creamed corn)
1/2  tsp.   black pepper, freshly ground
1/4  tsp.  dijon mustard
1/4  cup  parsley leaves, chopped
1-2  tsp.  lemon juice
salt and herbs to taste

Optional additions: yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, kidney beans, pumpkin, celery, broccoli, basil leaves, 1 tsp. coriander or 2 tsp. cumin or 2 tsp. termeric, kale, collards, swiss chard, creamed corn. Whatever is fresh from the garden goes in the soup!

1. Heat olive oil in large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium low heat. Once hot, add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt until all  begins to soften, about 7-8 minutes.
2. Add carrots and potatoes (and any other hearty veggies). Continue to cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add stock. Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add tomatoes, tomato paste, corn, and pepper. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until veggies are fork tender, approximately 25-30 minutes.
4. Don’t add tender veggies like green beans, peas, chard, etc. until about 5 minutes before end to keep bright colors and flavor.
5. Remove from heat and add parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and herbs, if desired.
6. Serve immediately. Keep in refrigerator about a week. Can be frozen for 2-3 months.

Note: Soup can be as simple or complex as you like. Add whatever you have on hand or in the garden, whether fresh, frozen, dehydrated or canned.

Roasted Potatoes with Garlic Butter

I came across a recipe yesterday in Taste of Home for Roasted Potatoes with Garlic Butter. We don’t eat a lot of potatoes and since my potato bin is getting quite full due my weekly box from the local CSA, it was time to find a really good potato side dish. This one is a winner and I’m adding it to my family recipe book with some changes. I loved the different colors and flavors of the potatoes and the added thyme from the garden was perfect. Here’s my take on the recipe:

Roasted Potatoes with Garlic Butter

Roasted Potatoes
10 med. potatoes – I like a variety of red potatoes, German Butterball potatoes and sweet potatoes
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Additional minced fresh thyme, optional

1. Cut potatoes into 1/8 inch slices. Toss with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on lightly greased baking sheets at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.

2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add garlic and thyme. Stir for one minute. Transfer roasted potatoes to a large bowl and add butter mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and toss to coat.  Top with additional thyme.

Notes: My mother never peeled her potatoes and said all the good nutrients were in the skin of the potato. We grew up eating mashed potatoes with skin and all. I always wondered why recipes said to peel the potatoes. Just make sure you wash them well.

Pizza Dough


Chicken pesto pizza – my favorite. A close second is chicken, serrano and cilantro pizza.

Pizza Dough

3 cups flour
2 Tbs. yeast
3 Tbs. sugar (or a little honey)
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/4 cups water
Cornmeal (used for sliding pizza in and out of the oven)

Mix first four ingredients together. Add olive oil and water. Mix well until smooth and springy. Let rise in bowl until it doubles in size. Punch down and let dough rise again until it doubles in size.

Preheat pizza stone in oven at 400 to 450 degrees.

Punch down and roll into round pizza shape to fit on peel. [Note: Sprinkle a little corn meal onto pizza peel before placing dough round on it. This will help slide the dough onto the stone.] Place pizza round onto peel.

Build pizza. Spread sauce and desired toppings onto dough as it sits on the peel. Slide completed pizza onto stone with a shaking motion, tilting peel slightly to back of stove.

Bake pizza at 400 to 450 degrees until hot and bubbly.

Use pizza peel to withdraw pizza from oven and cool slightly on cutting board.

Puttin’ up poms – Pomegranate Jelly

This was a good year for our little pomegranate tree.

It was also a good year for the birds that discovered the little pomegranate tree.

Thankfully I was able to steal away from the birds enough pomegranates for a few batches of jelly.


I usually use  a simple recipe from a lovely book called, The Glass Pantryby Georgeanne Brennan. This book would make a wonderful gift for any friend who enjoys canning; the photographs are gorgeous. However, this year I tried a new recipe that seemed to set a little better. Here’s the recipe with a few of my modifications.

Pomegranate Jelly
4 cups of pomegranate juice
1 package of dry fruit pectin
1/3 cup bottled lemon juice
5 cups of sugar

1. Cut pomegranates in half. Squeeze each half in your juicer. Place juice in large jar and save mash in a large bowl. I like to use a food press to get every drop of juice. Hang a jelly bag over a bowl. Strain all the juice through the jelly bag. Let the strained juice sit overnight in the refrigerator. Toss the mash in your composter.

2.  The next morning, you will notice a separation of juice and dregs. I don’t use the dregs in my jelly. Start your water bath canner heating up your water. I have to use bottled or spring water because our tap water is very hard. The hard water will give my canning jars a terrible white film. Start warming up another small saucepan of water for the lids.

2. Pour 4 cups of juice into a stainless steel, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the pectin and lemon juice and stir for several minutes to dissolve the pectin thoroughly. Place pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

3. Add the sugar and continue to stir constantly until the mixture is a rolling boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then begin to test for jell point. Alternatively, use a candy thermometer. Jelly is done when it reaches 220°.

4. Remove from heat. Ladle or pour hot jelly into prepared hot jelly jars to 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with damp cloth. Cover with lids and then the rings, finger tight.

5. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove and enjoy the pop of the jar lids. Label, remove rings and store jars in a cool, dark place.

Pomegranate jelly in the cupboard makes me very happy.

Canning Stout Beer Jelly

What? Stout beer jelly?

My family was skeptical…I was intrigued.

Of course, I had to try it.

After the first batch, I made a run to the store for more jars. Yum!

Great gift for friends and family on St. Patrick’s Day.

Original recipe from Grow It, Cook It, Can It  via  Punk Domestic:

Stout Beer Jelly
makes 4-5 half pint jars

2 12-oz bottles of Guinness beer
1 package powdered Sure-Jell pectin
3 1/2 cups sugar
1. Get your water heating in your canner. Start heating a separate small pot of water for seals.
2. Place jars in canner to get hot.
2. In a large, non-reactive pot, bring the beer and powdered pectin to a rolling boil. Stir in sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Cook on high heat for two minutes.
3. Remove hot jars from canner. Pour hot jelly into jars. As the original recipe suggested, I left a layer of foam on the top of the jelly so it looks like freshly poured beer in a mug. Wipe rims clean and place seals and rings on the jars. Process half-pint jars in your water bath canner for five minutes.

The label is printed on thin cardstock and adhered to a plain white cupcake wrapper for that bit of frill peeking out from the rim of the ring. Tie it off with a piece of jute.

Pickled Red Onions

Hey folks.  Gorgeous Saturday! I picked a few pounds of Meyer lemons this morning from the trees and while I’m waiting for them to boil (I’m making Meyer Lemon Marmalade) I want to share another recipe I found on Pinterest for pickled red onions. Sounds intriguing, right?

The best sandwich I ever had was cilantro chicken pita from a restaurant – sorry, I don’t remember the name – and it had pickled red onions on it. Boy, was it delicious. I even grabbed the menu to right down everything that was in the sandwich so I could make it at home. The pickled red onions is the key to the sweet and sour taste. The kids have been forking them right out of the jar and I have a feeling I will have to keep some in the refrigerator at all times. Perfect addition to a salad, too.

This is my test batch and I think next time I’ll use a smaller jar to store them. The spices add to the flavor. Easy to do so make up a batch and tell me what you think.

Pickled Red Onions
1 lb. red onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
dash of red pepper flakes
2 slices of fresh ginger

Thinly slice the onions. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the onions for 2 minutes, then drain. In another pot, bring to a boil the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf, star anise, red pepper flakes, and ginger. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, then add the cooked onions. Cook another minute or two. Remove from heat and pour into a glass jar. The pickles will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Puttin’ Up Pickles

Just before adding the brine.

Tonight we put up some delicious pickles – 7 quarts of beautiful green pickles.

I couldn’t decide which recipe to use.  Everybody has a favorite recipe. We ended up following and combining a couple.
We put a grape leaf from our vines in the bottom of each jar along with garlic cloves and fresh dill.  I keep staring at the beautiful jars. In two of the jars I added a little bit of pepper flakes that I made from dried peppers from the garden for grins.
The finished product.

Do I really have to wait until Thanksgiving to try them?!

Update: Tried the pickles on Thanksgiving and they were delicious! I will definitely use this recipe again. Pickles were crisp and yummy.

Dragon Fruit

Yesterday we went to 99 Ranch Market to buy oysters for the BBQ. As I was browsing through the produce I saw this crazy looking…something…I wasn’t really sure what it was. It was interesting looking: bright, pretty and about the size of a softball. A fruit I imagined, but what kind of fruit? The sign was labeled Dragon Fruit and I remembered that I had recently seen a Dragon Fruit plant for sale at Lowe’s. The tag at Lowe’s said it is a super fruit – antioxidants, vitamin C and low in calories. A cactus-like plant.

Seeing the Dragon Fruit in person peeked my curiosity and I had to purchase it. We brought it home and I looked it up to see how to cut and eat this Dragon Fruit. The whole family gathered around as I cut it open. What a beauty!

I scooped out the inside of the Dragon Fruit and then diced it up and placed it back inside the “bowl” of the fruit like I had seen in articles on the Internet.

The flesh is soft, bland and just slightly sweet. It smells like a plant. The seeds are very crunchy but easy to chew. It reminded us all of kiwi. I think it would make a nice addition to a fruit salad. Definitely a show stopper in the color and contrast. I may buy it again to add to a salad, but I’m not running down to Lowe’s to purchase the plant for the garden.

Zucchini Relish

Just getting around to sharing the zucchini relish recipe we use. It’s a wonderful recipe and tastes like pickle relish so we use it on hamburgers, hotdogs, etc.  In fact, now we don’t buy pickle relish from the grocery store.

Zucchini Relish

4 to 4 1/2 lb. zucchini squash
2 medium onions
1 sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cut up vegetables and grind in food chopper using course blade.  Add salt; cover and refrigerate overnight.  Rinse well in cold water and drain well.

In 4 to 5 quart kettle, combine vegetable mixture and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.  Cover and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Ladle hot mixture into hot, clean pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Prepare lids according to manufacturer’s directions.  Wipe jar rim.  Adjust lid.  Process jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Start timing when water returns to a boil.

Yield: 4 to 5 pints

Papertrey March Blog Hop Challenge

Hello bloggers. This month’s challenge at PTI is to use embroidery floss.  I’m happy to share my little card with you all.
Baby Card
Stamps are from Bitty Baby Blessings. Aren’t they so sweet? The cardstock was really thick so I used a paper piercer to pierce the holes and then ran a backstitch.
Thanks for looking and enjoy today’s blog hop!

Sarah’s Birthday & Blogoversary Sketch

Hi friends. There’s a celebration going on over at Sarah’s blog and I couldn’t help but want to participate.

What a fun sketch! All of the blog hop creations are fabulous and so very different from one another. Very inspiring. Here’s my project…

I punched out the flower from the background paper to place inside the Rollabind disks. Then I filled them with glossy accents. Note to self: Don’t rush the drying process of glossy accents! I tried using my heat tool to speed up the drying process and that didn’t work so well. Had to start over with one of them. Sentiment is from Papertrey.

I think I’ve mentioned this in past posts, but I am really loving the Liquid Pearls by Ranger.

This may be one of my favorite cards and I’m filing away the sketch for future use.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.  Thanks for visiting.