Roasted Salsa Verde

DSC_0039My family loves salsa, and we keep tons of it in the pantry at all times. I usually go for the store bought jars for onvenience, but sometimes I just want the real deal. I was having one of those days recently, when I was craving a homemade salsa. My plan was to make chicken enchiladas, and my salsa of choice when it comes to enchiladas is almost always salsa verde which simply means green salsa. I had almost everything on hand, except for tomatillos and jalapenos, so a quick trip to the store later, I was armed and ready to go.

If you have never tried salsa verde before, you are totally missing out. It is such a great breakaway from the usual red salsa, and goes great with chicken. Of course you could just dip your tortilla chips too ūüôā I won’t judge. Tomatillos look a lot like green tomatoes once you take the peel off, but they are actually not from the same family. They are pretty easy to find now at almost every grocery store in the US, even Walmart carries them now.¬† The best way to select the ones with the best flavor is to look for those that have smooth, firm skin(underneath the peel), and to pick smaller ones. The big ones are more bland in flavor. You could boil them, but I find that I prefer roasting them for depth of flavor. To prepare them for roasting, just take the peel off, and wash them. The peel makes the tomatillos feel waxy, but a good wash will remedy this.

DSC_0020My family loves spicy food, but the 3 jalapeno turned out to be just a little too spicy for one of my kids (my two year old handled it just fine, but the older one ended up mixing some sour cream in with her salsa to tone it down). That being said, please adjust the jalapeno to suit your taste. I took the seeds and ribs off two of the jalapenos, and left the seeds in one. I might just take all the seeds out next time. Removing the seeds and the ribs of the peppers makes them less spicy. You could even omit the peppers all together for a mild but still flavorful sauce.

The recipe yielded about 3  cups of salsa(which is a lot!), which we ate with chips and then used for chicken enchiladas on day 2. The sauce should keep well in the fridge for a few days, and can also be canned for longer storage. You can easily half this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 pounds tomatillos, cleaned and halved
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
3 jalapenos, quartered (and seeded, if you prefer)
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Directions:

1. Adjust your rack in the oven 3/4 way to the top, and turn your oven on broil. Arrange your tomatillos, onion, jalapeno and garlic on a cookie sheet.

DSC_00242. Put the in the oven and broil for about 8 minutes, until the vegetables start to get a little charred, but not burned. Pull the pan out and set aside to cool down until it is cool enough to handle.

DSC_00253. Peel the garlic and put in a blender with the other vegetables. Add in the lime juice, cilantro, cumin and salt. Pulse the blender until you achieve your desired consistency. I like a slightly chunky salsa.

DSC_0028

Enjoy!

DSC_0035

Devotion For The Day:

For the last week, I have been studying the book of Nehemiah. I would highly recommend reading it. It’s not terribly long (13 chapters), but has such an incredible story. The jist of the story is that the Israelites having rebelled against God, in judgement were taken captive by the Babylonians, and their glorious city of Jerusalem was reduced to ruins. After many decades had passed, many of the exiles had returned to Jerusalem, but it was still in ruins, and they were very vulnerable. At this time, Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, and was devastated when he heard of the state of the city. After much prayer, he felt compelled to lead the efforts to rebuild the city. He prayed every step of the way, and his godly leadership led the people of Israel to rebuild the city in record time, as well as to recommit themselves to God.

The verses that I’m sharing today are from Nehemiah 9. At this point, the city is rebuilt, and Nehemiah is their new governor. He leads the people into a time of fasting and praying as they confess their past sin and rebellion, and also recommit themselves to following God’s laws that they had turned away from. As a people, in chapter 9 they are reflecting on their past, and God’s faithfulness and provision for them, but also their unfaithfulness and rebellion to Him. I totally loved verse 19. They paint such a perfect picture of who God is, even in the face of who we are… fallen and unfaithful. His love and compassion never fails.

Nehemiah 9:19-21. “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet become swollen”.

 

 

Mango and Avocado Salsa

DSC_0008
The spring has arrived with a bang, and I am loving the warmer weather. I know that living in Alabama I should not be whining about the cold since Southern winters are pretty mild, but I can’t stand the cold. After a week of winter, I’m usually ready to call it a wrap. One of my favorite things about the spring is the bountiful fruits and vegetables available. I had long since given up on finding mangoes that taste anything like what I knew growing up eating in Kenya, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find really sweet mangoes at my local publix store. This recipe is one of the many ways we are enjoying our weekly mango stash. My kids love guacamole, and this is a welcome alternative to our usual recipe. I wasn’t sure how the mango was going to taste mixed with tomato, and I almost left the tomatoes out. I’m glad I didn’t. It was the perfect balance of flavors.I changed very little from the original recipe, except for reducing the oil, taking the seeds out of the tomatoes before dicing them, and using extra lime juice. If you like things really spicy, leave the seeds in the jalapeno. I was going for a milder salsa since this was a dinner side that the kids would be eating. I served the salsa with grilled chicken, and dinner was delicious, and done in less than 30 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes. Serves 6 as snack, or 4 as a dinner side.
Ingredients:
1 mango – peeled, seeded and diced
1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice ( I used juice from two limes)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil (I just used 1 tbsp)
 DSC_0001
In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil. To blend the flavors, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.
DSC_0005
Devotion For The Day:

Today we are getting some very welcome rain. We have been covered in pollen the last couple of weeks, and the yellow dust has been EVERYWHERE. Little yellow streams are running down the driveway currently, and we are really glad to see the actual color on our cars (the yellow was quite unbecoming). The only downside today is that there is the possibility of tornadoes as I live in Alabama (read.. tornado central). My two year old absolutely hates thunder, and the sound of rain makes her very anxious as she anticipates the thunder that might follow. I was just watching her a few minutes ago, and for the 20th time this hour she peeked out the window and said “I scare-red Mommy”. It just occurred to me though, that as much as she is scared, she is perfectly fine as long as she sees Mommy or Daddy. Somehow she knows that she will be OK. The trust that she has in us overshadows her fears.¬† Contrasting this with moments when she’s alone and the¬† thunder cracks, it’s a different story all together. She screams her little heart out until we come to the “rescue”.
As I pondered over the situation, it hit me that the same child’s faith she has in us is the same faith that God calls me to have with Him. As long as she knows we are with her, she knows she will be OK.¬†¬†Psalms 34:4¬†I¬†sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears”. I think this verse sums up perfectly what I need to do when a scary situation comes my way. Seek the Lord, and trust Him. He shall deliver me from my fears.

Chocolate covered Strawberries

DSC_0055

I have thought about this post for a few days now, and talked myself into, and then out of posting this recipe. After all… it’s a week after Valentine’s Day! Who wants to read about chocolate covered strawberries now? After much back and forth, I decided I had to post it, for a number of reasons. First, who said we can only have these delightful treasures on Valentine’s day. Secondly, how easy and inexpensive they are (it cost me $14 for the chocolate and a big pack of strawberries). That reason alone is good enough to make me post this. You see, I was at some store the other day, and casually walked by the chocolate covered strawberries, thinking how pretty they were, and how they needed to come home with me. This was before I looked at the price tag, and almost burst into a sprint in the opposite direction. $12 for 4 strawberries????? Seriously????? There was no way I could justify it. The third reason is that it’s a kid friendly recipe. It’s really hard to mess this up, so it’s perfect for little hands. My daughter had fun with this one.

My daughters woke up to a Valentine’s card and chocolate from their Daddy last Thursday, and my oldest wanted to do something special to thank Daddy. Since I am terrible with artsy stuff, a craft was WAY out of the question. The only option I really had was to cook something. I wanted to make something pretty that would not take us all afternoon, but could greatly involve her in the process. This was the perfect thing. She also wanted to share some treats with our sweet neighbors who have become her adopted grandparents. This way, we were able to kill two birds with one stone. Making these was a ton of fun for both of us. I could be a bit more relaxed since there weren’t a bunch of steps for her to follow (I am terrible when it comes to relinquishing control of my kitchen. I’m trying to learn….), and she had fun licking the chocolate bowl when we were done.

As far as the recipe goes, I will give you my instructions that are microwave directions. I had every intention of using a double boiler on the stovetop to melt my chocolate, until I realized my bowl would not fit on the saucepan that I had. The microwave was my last option, but proved to be so easy, I will do it this way every time from here on. I used semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate, but any chocolate would do. Feel free to substitute milk or dark chocolate. I also think it would be fun to play around with different toppings next time, like shredded coconut or nuts. Just dip the strawberries in chocolate, then roll in the toppings before the chocolate dries. Have fun, and make them your own.

One more thing. I had big blocks of¬†Styrofoam from an appliance we had just purchased, so I used that to hold the toothpicks until the chocolate dried. If you don’t have some handy, just line a pan with some parchment paper, or wax paper and lay them on it. They will be a little flat on one side when they dry, but just as good.¬†You could also do this without the toothpicks, and just hold the strawberries by the stem. I just like the less messy method with the toothpick.

We had a pretty big packet of strawberries, so we were able to get a little over 30 covered berries. If you want to make less than that, be sure to adjust your chocolate accordingly. These make excellent packaged gifts.

Ingredients.

32 strawberries

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

6 ounces white chocolate

1. Stick a toothpick on the stem end of the strawberries. Make sure the strawberries are totally dry, or the chocolate will not adhere to them.

2.Put your semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe dish. Set the microwave to half power, and heat for a minute at a time, stirring after each time. You want the chocolate just melted (too much and it will seize up on you, and become un-usable). Mine took just over 2 minutes. Once it is melted, if you choose to, add in a tablespoon of vegetable oil (this makes it more glossy, and helps with the texture).

DSC_0047

3. Working quickly, hold the toothpick and dip into the chocolate about 3/4 way up the strawberry. Dip the berries, and then  twist them a little to get the excess chocolate off. Place on the styrofoam block, or parchment lined tray.

DSC_0048

4. Put the white chocolate in a Ziploc bag. Melt in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until just barely melted. Mine took 1 1/2 minutes. Cut a very small hole on one end and squeeze to decorate over the dark chocolate. The smaller the hole, the better. (You could also melt the chocolate in a bowl and use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate).

5. Set aside to dry. It takes about 30 minutes.

DSC_0049

Devotion For The Day:

It’s still February, the month of love! I think of all the cards and flowers, chocolate and other gifts that go out every¬†February as we take the time to celebrate our loved ones. I have been reminded a lot in the last few days though, about the ultimate love. God’s love. The kind of love that chases after me with¬†reckless¬†abandon. The kind of love that I don’t have to earn, ¬†and that never diminishes. Today I want to share one of my favorite verses, because it really helps me grasp how deep and unconditional God’s ¬†love for us is.

Romans 5:8. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Apricot White Chocolate Scones

Apricot White Chocolate Scones

I wonder if you are like me. You make grand plans on Saturday night to sleep in Sunday morning. The kids have been given the ” you’re sleeping in tomorrow” talk. Aaah.. we are all set. Until 7 AM Sunday morning rolls around, and you are WIDE awake. That was me yesterday. After staring at the ceiling for half an hour, I started day dreaming about scones. A nice… hot-out-of-the-oven scone. It had to be done. I have a recipe for cranberry orange scones by Ina Garten that I use often, but yesterday, I was in the mood for something new. A quick sweep of my pantry yielded some dried apricots and white chocolate. SOLD! I mean…. everything tastes better with chocolate!

Scones sound really intimidating to make, but they are really not hard at all. Some basic rules apply, though.First, unlike cake baking where you want to use room temperature ingredients, with scones, the colder the better. This helps make them flaky, not dense. The other trick is not to mix in the butter completely. You want pea size pieces in the dough. This also helps make them soft and flaky. The easiest way to make the dough is using a food processor if you have one. A few pulses brings the dough together. A large stand mixer works well too, but since I’m still kicking it old school with a small stand mixer, I chose to use a pastry cutter. It is an awesome tool to have around if you are thinking of making pie crust or scones by hand. It cuts the butter into the flour without warming it, which you would do if you used your hands. (As a side note, I have made the scone dough by hand before. Just use your finger tips not your palms, and work quick. I also put the dough in the freezer for a few minutes before rolling out since I was worried about melting the butter with my hands. It worked out perfectly). Note that the steps I use are for dough by hand using a pastry cutter, so if using an electric mixer or food processor, click the link below for Ina’s recipe.

I’m using Ina Garten’s cranberry orange scone recipe as a base, and just changing some of the ingredients and steps. The dough produced 15 scones, so I cut the shapes out an only baked 7. I lay the other 8 on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them. Once they are frozen, I transfer them to a ziploc freezer bag. That way, when we need scones in the future, I just thaw them out for about half hour, and then bake them. They actually seem to taste better than the first batch that was never frozen.

Ingredients:

4 Cups, plus 1/4 cup All- Purpose Flour

1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

2 Tablespoons Baking Powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 Poud Cold Unsalted Butter, Diced

4 Extra Large Eggs

1 Cup Cold Heavy Cream

1 Cup Chopped Dried Apricots

3/4 Cup White Chocolate chips

1 egg beaten with 2 Tablespoons Water or Milk, for eggwash

1. Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees F.

2. In a bowl, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cubed cold butter and use the pastry cutter (or fingertips) to mix until the butter is the size of peas. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl, and add the heavy cream. Mix egg mixture into the flour mixture until JUST blended. The dough should be lumpy. Combine the apricots and the white chocolate with the 1/4 cup flour (this keeps the pieces fro clumping up when you add to the dough). Add them to the dough and mix until blended.

Pastry Cutter
Add in cold cubed butter to flour mixture
Mix Apricots & Choc with flour. Add to dough

3. Dump the dough onto a well floured surface, and knead into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin, and roll the dough 3/4 inch thick (I actually just patted it out with my hands, and skipped the rolling pin). You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough around so it doesn’t stick. Cut the dough into desired shapes. (I like triangles and used a pizza cutter, but Ina uses circles). You should get 14-16 scones.

Roll out (or pat with hands) and cut.
Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops of scones with the egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully cooked. The scones will be firm to the touch.

Enjoy!

Devotion For the Day.

Bad Company Corrupts:
Please don’t glaze over on me. I know you might read this title and go.. DUH! Anyone with kids have told our children a million and one times to pick their friends wisely. We have probably wagged our finger at the trouble making kid on the block and asked our child to stay away from them. If you don’t have kids, just think of the many times as a teenager that you got the “speech” from your folks. Why, because bad company corrupts (I think I heard a few people say it aloud with me). It’s funny though that sometimes as we grow older and (ahem) wiser, we forget that the same truths that apply to our kids also apply to us. I think I have caught myself a few times thinking that even though some “chick” I am hanging out with is probably not the best company, I am mature enough to not let her get to me. Well, today’s bible reading put me in my place. Solomon, son of David was the wisest man in history. When he took over as king from his father David, his love and dedication so pleased God that the Lord asked him to name whatever he wished and it would be granted. Solomon asked God to give him wisdom that he may rule the people of Israel well. In 1st Kings 3:12, God responded “I will therefore give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before, and there will never be again“. Solomon in his lifetime did amazing things that had people coming from far and wide to witness. Israel prospered so much under his reign that other countries were in awe. Even the Queen of Sheba had to travel all the way to Jerusalem to witness for herself this wise king everyone was raving about.
I’m sure you get the picture. This man was out of this world wise. Discerning beyond anything the nations had ever seen. Yet even he is recorded in the bible as having been corrupted by the company he kept. It is recorded in 1st Kings 11 that even after all the years of serving the Lord, in his old age, Solomon became unfaithful to God because of the foreign wives that he had married that were worshiping other gods. Even though God had strictly warned the Israelites not to intermarry with the other pagan worshiping nations, Solomon loved these women and took them as his wives and concubines (700 wives and 300 concubines). 1st Kings 11:4, ¬†these foreign wives “seduced him to follow other gods. His heart was not completely with the Lord his God as his father David had been“. He built alters for these foreign gods, which greatly angered God. As a result, God told Solomon that the kingdom would be torn away from his son’s hands.
Reading this today reminded me that I am not above being influenced by the people I surround myself with. As wise as I may think I am, even the wisest man in the world turned his eyes away from God due to the bad company he kept. It’s a slow fade. Let’s surround ourselves with people that have the same values we hold, and are headed in the same direction we hope to go. Seriously, bad company does corrupt.