Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sunshine Salsa

A funny thing happened this late winter. One friend, then another, and another, along with myself and even others, decided to grow some vegetables from seed. I blame the cold, dark, gray Ohio winter.

Sometime around late February, I found myself at a local nursery, salivating over the seed packets. The thought of growing fresh produce seemed like a crazy fantasy, what with it being freezing cold outside and all.

I bought some seeds, some soil-less grow mix, even constructed a tray under a florescent light so my seedlings could have sufficient light and my neighbors would wonder what I was growing in the basement. I dutifully misted them daily, checking on their progress.

A few weeks into my seed growing experiment my friend Erin sweetly shared some Heirloom Teardrop Yellow Tomato seeds. I added them to the growing seedlings, but truth be told, by the time they made their way into the soil, they were the puniest of my puny seedlings.

These puny little seedlings have grown to over 7, yes 7 feet tall. An adjacent pine tree is serving as the perfect support for these two tomato plants which are producing freshly yellowed pear-shaped tomatoes daily.

While they are just perfect for popping in your mouth, G and I came up with a fresh salsa recipe using the yellow tomatoes. We call it Sunshine Salsa, and I'm sure I'll be thinking of it come next February.

Sunshine Salsa

1 cup diced yellow tomato
1/4 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
juice of half a lime

Mix all ingredients together. Tastes best if let to marinate for a bit before eating.

Life is Sweet,

Monday, August 29, 2011

Full swing

First, a big shout-out to all my many East Coast family and friends. We were thinking of you all late last week and into the weekend, gathering updates from North Carolina to Boston, and everywhere in between. Thankfully, as I type, it seems that things are relatively better than expected.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We're starting the first full week of school this week with R as a 2nd grader. Last week was a fun start to school for R, but it was, truth be told, a bit of an adjustment. R came home exhausted each day, G was bursting at the seams each day to play with his best-brother-buddy R and I was thrust into remembering how going back to school can be an, eh-em, transition for us all.

G was sad each morning that R was leaving for school without him. R came home, needing a little down-time, and G was not happy that R wasn't jumping up and down to see him too. So all of us enjoyed a low-key weekend to regroup and gear up before this week began.

One side note from this weekend that made me smile and sentimental: my parents gave me back the old dollhouse I used to meticulously decorate and design. It hasn't been played with in nearly 20 years, and it is showing its age. Not sure when I will get time to repaint the walls or hang dollhouse wallpaper, but in the meantime, I am glad it is seeing some use:

All in all, we're ready for a new week and some new recipes:

Oven Baked Breaded Flounder, Pureed Cauliflower and Sauteed Bok Choy
Seafood and Vegetable Enchiladas
Layered Taco Salad
Slow Cooker Moo Shu Pork, Stir-fried Japanese Eggplant
Balsamic Herb Chicken, CSA Vegetables and Sides

Have a sweet week!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jill's Fruit Salsa

My cousin Jill is due annnny day now with baby #2. Already a fantastic mom to sweet baby boy I (okay, technically a toddler, but we've been calling him "Baby I" for nearly two years now, and habits are hard to break), Jill can't wait to meet her new little baby girl or boy.

Jill has earned the title "salsa queen" in my book. Last year she gave me the amazing Watermelon Salsa recipe I eat by the cupful. Honestly, if you haven't tried it, you must.

This year she shared a new take on a fruit salsa. This dessert-ish salsa is served with cinnamon sugar tortilla triangles (or buy cinnamon sugar pita chips) and is fairly addictive. You've been warned.

Jill's Fruit Salsa

2 medium green apples, such as Granny Smith
2 cups+ strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
1-2 kiwi, peeled and sliced
zest and juice of one orange
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple jelly

Core and slice the apple, but do not peel. Cut into slices.

Combine the apple, strawberries and kiwi and either chop with a food chopper (you know, the ones you press up and down on a counter to dice and chop food) -OR- finely dice the fruit.

Place the diced fruit in a bowl. Add the orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar and apple jelly. Stir well until the apple jelly is fully incorporated.

Best if chilled for 1-2 hours before serving, or overnight.

Makes about 3 cups salsa.

Life is sweet,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Roll-'em-out, Roll-'em-up Lunch Rolls

So after a long weekend of unpacking, laundry and trying to get all the school forms in order after being gone for 13 days, we're celebrating "Back to School Eve." Today the boys are having a lazy morning, we're meeting some good friends for a picnic lunch and tonight R has chosen the meal for dinner (salmon, scallops, twice baked potatoes, okra and mango).

School starts tomorrow!

While we were away, we experimented with some new lunch ideas for R's lunch box. Our favorite?

Roll-'em-out, Roll-'em-up Lunch Rolls.

This simple idea evolved from the fact that sometimes the tortillas we use for our Taco Roll-ups split and crack (simply warming the tortilla for about 10 seconds in the microwave before rolling helps).

Last week though, we wanted to try some roll-ups at Grandma and Papa's house, but didn't have enough tortillas. The solution? Use bread!

Get out your rolling pin:

Roll until flat:

Layer on your ingredients (we were making a hummus garden roll-up, but any flat toppings work great!):

Roll and slice:

A simple idea, but the bread really worked well, and held much better than tortillas.


So after a nearly two week hiatus from my kitchen, I am gearing up for a week of cooking!

Our meals for the week:

Maple Chili Salmon, Scallops, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Fried Okra and Mango (R's favorites!)
Greek Orzo Pasta Salad, Salad Caprese
Tofu and Green Bean Stir-fry
Sesame Ginger Chicken Burgers, CSA sides
Black Bean and Avocado Tostadas

Life is sweet,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Continuing On...

In the last three days, the boys and I left Chautauqua...

Stopped ever so briefly through our old stompin' grounds to see my old roomie...

And give the boys a quick look at some DC favorites...

both downtown and in our old neighborhood...

Before letting the boys spend some one on one time with Grandma and Papa before heading out to C'ville...where others are doing the cooking...

Summer, you've been good to us. We'll miss you, but we're ready for our new fall and school adventures!

Back soon with more back-to-school food talk.

Life is sweet,

PS--Need to get your creative juices going on some back-to-school lunch ideas? Click here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Breathe in...

Breathe out...

R, G, Sweet Pea Grandma and I are at Chautauqua for our annual visit to this most special place. R is enjoying his first year of Boy's Club, G his second year of Children's School and Me? I am loving the slow, refreshing pace.

Should I take the rest of the week off from blogging? I think I shall.

After all, this week I celebrate the 4th Anniversary of Sweet Peas and Pumpkins. I'll be back next week to rev up for back-to-school.

Need a Sweet Pea Chef fix? Check out some of my scheduled posts this week on, like today's Easy Greek Zucchini Salad. Delish!

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo and Cilantro Dip

The best recipes in the world are tried and true and tweaked until tasty. This recipe is from my good friend Jenn, who with her husband Brian, have cooked up some of the best meals on record. I took Jenn’s recipe and added a new twist: roasting the tomatillos. I took this dip to our family reunion this weekend and I had multiple, “can you share this recipe?” requests.

Tomatillos resemble green tomatoes wrapped in a husk. They are bright in flavor with a little bit of a citrus edge to them. Roasting the tomatillos intensifies their flavor, just be sure to remove the husks first!

Roasted Tomatillo and Cilantro Dip

6 tomatillos, husks removed and cut in half or quartered
a good handful fresh cilantro (about ½ cup)
1 small Vidalia or sweet onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3-5 pickled jalapeno slices (or more if you like heat)
1 – 8 ounce package fat-free or light cream cheese
½ cup fat-free Greek yogurt or light sour cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place the tomatillos, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, place the cilantro, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cream cheese and yogurt or sour cream in a food processor. Add the cooled tomatillo. Process until smooth. Scrape the sides.

Add the parsley, dill, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Process again. Scrape the sides, process one last time.

Makes about 1 ½ cups dip.

Perhaps the greatest thing about this dip is that it can be used in countless ways: as a salad dressing, as a sauce on top of grilled meat or fish, as a topping on baked potatoes, as a dip for cut up vegetables or tortilla chips, even as the sauce in my Taco Lasagna.

Peas and love,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Popsicles in the Pool

We’re back from a three night camping (okay, in a cabin, but that’s still camping, right?) trip with my mom’s side of the family. Hiking, roasting marshmallows, lots of exploring, swimming and just like every year, eating and more eating.

There were 27 of us this year, with 2 more on the way. Of the 10 cousins and cousins-to-be in R and G’s generation, there are/will be at least 8 boys. Sweet I is the only girl, and one of cousins-to-be is going to be a surprise, so at most, there will be 2 girls and 8 boys. The oldest cousin is 9, so these guys are getting to be really tight. I mean, nothing bonds hearts together than eating homemade popsicles in a kiddie pool, right?

(All the cousins, minus sweet Baby Boy I, who was napping)

While all the food was fabulous, my cousin J shared her recipe for homemade fruit salsa. It was addictive, and so healthful! I’ll share the recipe this week, along with the homemade cinnamon sugar tortilla chips she served as dippers.

My parents and our immediate family served up chicken and portabella fajitas for our meal, and thankfully we had some leftovers. It’s so wonderful to come back after being away and not have to worry about dinner preparation! Our meals this week:

Reunion Fajitas and all the Fixin’s
Eggplant Parmesan with Pasta and Green Beans
Baked Couscous with a Berry Salad
Rookie Cookie’s Thai Peanut Wraps
Northstar Burgers and Whatever sides come from our CSA this week

Have a great week all—can you believe it is August?!