I have a bad habit… Whenever Bruce and I have guests at our home, I tend to put out too much food. Our guests always go home happy and with their bellies full but, dealing with party leftovers can be a pain. Just like what happened over the past weekend. We had a pound of leftover strawberries sitting in a bowl on the counter after our brunch and there’s only two of us living in the home. Ugh! I can’t believe I thought it and even worse, I can’t even believe that I said it out loud. I bought way too many strawberries…
Strawberry Barbecue Sauce
I have learned over the years that sometimes you just need to get creative to use up the ingredients you have on hand. I personally like to use ingredients and flavor combinations in ways that most people would never think or even dream of. A great example is my sweet and tangy homemade Strawberry Barbecue Sauce with spicy ancho chili, sweet and sticky Indonesian soy sauce and my favorite soda, Dr Pepper. The flavor of my Strawberry Barbecue sauce is smoky, sweet and complex but on the other hand, it’s really easy to make.
Strawberry Barbecue Sauce
1 pound of strawberries (cleaned, hulled and quartered)
1 can Dr Pepper
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Indonesian soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp seasoning salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder (use more for a spicy kick)
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp granulated onion
1/2 tsp black pepper or to taste
Add all ingredients to saucepan. Cook on medium low, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes. Blend with hand blender to make the barbecue sauce smooth. Taste and correct your seasonings. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes about 3 cups. Any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Brush it on barbecue beef, chicken, or pork..
Now that the sauce is done… Let’s fire up the Q!
Strawberry Barbecue Chicken
6 pounds chicken (I like to use legs or thighs)
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper (or to taste)
3 cups Strawberry Barbecue Sauce (or to taste)
Fire up your barbecue or grill pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Grill on medium high heat until juices run clear or about 15 minutes. Brush with sauce and cook a few minutes more… Serve chicken with sauce on the side. Makes about 12 servings. Enjoy! Tessa
I love spring. It’s without a doubt my favorite time of year. By the time April rolls around I’m tired of preparing stews and soups for dinner and I am so ready for backyard barbeques and fresh picked produce. This time of the year I am starting to find fresh local lettuce, spinach and chard in our farmers markets. The perennial herbs like mint, chives and tarragon are also available. In just a few short months we will be dealing with the onslaught of fresh zucchini, corn, tomatoes and beans. I can’t even wait. Store bought tomatoes can be so disappointing…
Miniature narcissus and spearmint from my garden.
It has been a few weeks since I planted my little pocket garden and I found that I have lettuce that needs to be thinned and picked. The heads are not quite mature but I have learned that if I steal a few leaves from each plant when I want to make salad, nobody (not even the plants) seems to notice. Today when I got home from work I made a beautiful green salad drizzled with my Red Wine Vinaigrette. My Red Wine Vinaigrette tastes great on a pasta or red quinoa salad. It’s made with kalamata olive oil, sweet basil, garlic, red wine vinegar and a few other ingredients. It’s quick and easy and you will not want to buy store bought vinaigrette ever again. Makes about 1 cup. Enjoy! Tessa
1/4 cup kalamata olive oil (substitute olive oil if you want)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp dried sweet basil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Whisk all ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Store in tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Keeps about 1 week. Makes about 1 cup.
I gotta tell you… My brother in law makes the best fish tacos. Better than anyone that I know. And lucky for us, we were invited to dinner last night. I am not one to ever go to someone’s home empty handed so I made some salsas to share. First of all, I made my Black Bean Salsa and a yummy Restaurant Style Salsa by Tia at iamsimplytia.com.
My black bean salsa is good for you and super simple to make. It has tender black beans, red onion, juicy grape tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, lime, and spices. Both salsas were great additions to last night’s dinner. As far as the fish tacos go… I will share the recipe at a later date. They were simply scrumptious. Meanwhile, I hope that you enjoy the Black Bean Salsa. We sure did! Tessa
Black Bean Salsa Ingredients:
1 15 ounce can black beans
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp jalapeno pepper finely chopped (I like to use more)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper or to taste
Begin by grabbing a medium sized mixing bowl. Drain and rinse the black beans and add to the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Lightly toss and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors marry. Serve with chips, put in burritos, tacos, salads or serve as a side dish. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.
Tia’s Restaurant Style Salsa. You gotta try it, it’s really good! Thanks Tia! Click here to get the recipe.
The Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon is known worldwide for its wonderful pears. Pear orchards surround our towns and much of our local economy depends on our pear crops. There are so many varieties grown here such as comice, anjou, seckel, bosc and bartlett. I must say that my favorite pears are the bartlett variety because they are sweet, juicy and very versatile. I bought some local bartlett pears the other day to share at a meeting that I had hosted earlier this week. Luckily for Bruce and I, there were three leftover… Bruce reminded me this morning as he was heading out the door that we had some pears that were really ripe and needed to be eaten up.
It’s been a while since I made homemade Pear Sauce. Pear Sauce is similar to apple sauce but you use way less water in the cooking process. The reason is that ripe pears are really juicy and when you start to cook them, the water is quickly released from the fruit. As a result, you end may end up with pear soup rather than pear sauce.
If you have any leftover pears or if you want to try something a bit different than applesauce then by all means prepare this dish. Makes about 2 cups. Enjoy! Tessa
3 ripe pears (I used Bartlett)
1 Tbs water
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Begin by washing, peeling, coring and chopping your pears. Toss all ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan. Over medium low heat, uncovered, cook for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. If the pears look a bit too watery, drain some of the water off. Remove from heat. Using a potato masher or stick blender puree the pear mixture. Let cool. Top with a bit of brown sugar for garnish and serve. Makes about 2 cups.
I don’t know about you but I hate food allergies. I love to cook and try new foods but I always have to ask the question “Are there any nuts in that?” Unfortunately, I found out the hard way about ten years ago that I am allergic to tree nuts. You can only imagine my reaction to the bad news. I thought to myself really? You mean I got to carry around an EpiPen? Seriously? Tree nuts? For those who may not know exactly what tree nuts are they include nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamias, brazil nuts, and the list goes on. Fortunately, I can still eat peanuts (they don’t grow on trees, but, I still have to be careful!). Anyone who has a food allergy or has a friend or family member who has one knows exactly what I am talking about. You learn quickly that when you have a food allergy your scope of food choices just got severely limited.
Well, in the meantime, I ain’t dead yet and I have learned to adapt. For the past several years I have worked on creating some of my favorite recipes using pepitas as a nut substitute. Pepitas are little green pumpkin seeds that are similar to nuts in texture and crunch. I love to use them in my pesto. My Pepita Basil Pesto is a vibrant green basil pesto with olive oil, garlic, fresh shaved Parmesan cheese and crunchy little pepitas. Use it as you would use any pesto. Put it on crostini, toss it in some pasta, or spread it on a sandwich. Make this Pepita Basil Pesto and you will change your pesto making ways. Enjoy! Tessa
2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pepitas
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Let’s begin by washing the fresh basil leaves, removing stems and flower buds. Lightly pack into 2 cups. Add the olive oil, pepitas, garlic, lemon juice and salt to food processor. Blend until it is a thick paste, scraping sides of processor with a spatula. Add basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Blend until basil is well incorporated. Keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Can be frozen. Makes about one cup.
My sister called me the other day and said that she was stopping by for she had picked some goodies out of her garden for me. Every year, she grows the most gorgeous tomatoes that I have ever seen, so naturally that is what I expected to get. Well, she surprised me instead with a bag of mixed green chili peppers. In the bag there were jalapeños, a couple small anaheims and a bunch little serrano peppers that were wickedly hot. Fortunately, she also brought me a couple of big fat juicy tomatoes. Within minutes, I knew what I was going to make with those peppers… Sambal!
One of my most favorite condiments in the world is sambal oelek. It’s a red chili pepper paste that sets my mouth on fire. My grandmother used to make her own sambal oelek from scratch by using a mortar called a cobek and an unusually shaped pestle called an ulek-ulek. Sometimes she would add some dried shrimp paste (trassi) or garlic to the mixture for extra flavor. Ask any member of my family and they would tell you that my grandmother’s culinary skills were legendary. I could only hope to be a cook half as good as she was.
My Grandmother’s cobek and ulek-ulek. Without a doubt one of my most treasured possessions.
My green chili sambal is prepared similarly to the traditional sambal oelek. It just tastes milder than the usual red sambal oelek that you would find in a grocery store. So what are we waiting for? Let’s make some green chili sambal!
1 pound green chilies (stemmed and seeded)
1 cup water
1 tsp. sugar
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. white vinegar
Let’s begin by stemming and seeding your chilies. While you are working with the chilies it is a really good idea to not touch your face or wipe your eyes. Let me tell you from experience… You will cry. And when you are done prepping the chilies, wash your hands well with soap and water. Place the chilies in a food processor (you can use the cobek and ulek-ulek if you want to but I find the food processor is so much faster). Process until chopped and be careful not to over chop or puree your mixture.
Place the chili mixture in a saucepan and add all the ingredients except the vinegar. Cook over medium heat until reduced and until the chilies are softened. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Let cool. Place in a clean jar with a lid. Keeps in the refrigerator for about 2 – 3 weeks. Makes two cups. Enjoy! Tessa
Note: To make a traditional sambal oelek, just use red chilies instead of the green. In this version, I simply used the chilies that I had on hand.
Peanut Sauce… Those are the magic words you say when you want people to show up at your home for dinner. Everybody loves it. I serve this dish at nearly every backyard BBQ that we have at our home. Peanut sauce is so versatile, easy to make and compliments all sorts of dishes. Drizzle it on chicken satay, dip cucumbers in it, use it as a salad dressing, put it in a stir fry, or serve over a bed of fluffy white jasmine rice. When I see that nobody is looking, I will eat it plain… The uses for peanut sauce are endless. Enjoy! Tessa
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp. garlic paste
1 tsp. ground ginger
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbls. Indonesian soy sauce
1 Tbls. sweet chili sauce
regular soy sauce (optional, to taste)
sambal oelek or red pepper flakes (optional)
Let’s begin. Grab a medium sauce pan or saucier. Find a whisk. Add all ingredients to the pan and cook on low heat for 20 – 30 minutes, whisking constantly. You want the flavors to marry and the sauce to thicken. Taste it. If it is too sweet for your liking, add some soy sauce. If you want it spicier, feel free to add some sambal oelek or some red pepper flakes. Remove from heat and let it cool. Pour into a serving dish. Garnish with chopped peanuts or sriracha sauce. Makes nearly 1 1/2 cups. When cooking for a crowd it’s a good idea to double the recipe. Keeps in the refrigerator for about a week, if it even lasts that long…