Pineapple-Mango Salsa

On New Year’s Eve this past year, a friend brought over a chutney-like salsa that she had purchased at a deli. We were both so enamored by the product that I immediately vowed to recreate it at home, and this is what I came up with. This salsa is so fresh and flavorful, sweet yet tangy, that I just can’t get enough of it.

This salsa can be served with tortilla chips, used as a garnish over fish, or just eaten by the spoonful (which is what I like to do!)

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced (about 1 cup, measured)
1 c. diced pineapple
1/3 c. chopped red pepper
1/3 c. chopped red onion (rinsed under cold water after chopping)
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
1 tsp. finely chopped jalapeño (optional)
a pinch of chili powder (optional)
Salt and pepper

Prep all the ingredients. Combine the mango, pineapple, red pepper, red onion, cilantro, garlic, and jalapeño (if using) in a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle with the chili powder, a pinch or two of salt, and a twist of freshly ground pepper, then squeeze the lime juice over everything and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 1/2 hour before serving to allow the flavors to mix. Enjoy!

TDB Homemade: Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Who doesn’t love shrimp cocktail? I often have a supply of pre-cooked shrimp in my freezer, just waiting to be thawed out for a quick snack or dinner ingredient. I do not, however, stock my fridge with cocktail sauce because (as my mother taught me long ago) making it on my own is just as quick and easy as opening a jar. There are just two ingredients that are necessary – ketchup and horseradish. Now, granted, commercially prepared ketchup is not always one of the most highly regarded condiments on the shelf when it comes to healthy eating, but there are quite a few brands now that make it organic, low salt, low sugar, or all-natural, and almost every home has some of it sitting around. And, to be honest, I think this cocktail sauce is just as good as any kind I’ve had in a restaurant or out of a jar. Try it, and see if you can tell the difference! So here’s the basic recipe:

2 Tbsp. ketchup + 1 Tbsp. horseradish — stir it together in a small bowl, and it’s ready to serve.

Add more or less horseradish to your liking. Other items may be added to enhance the flavor to your taste, such as hot sauce, a twist of lemon, Worcestershire sauce, or wasabi powder, but I don’t find any of those necessary and usually stick with what’s simple.

So, here you go – something quick and easy that you can make in less than 30 seconds. Serve with cold cooked shrimp, and enjoy!

Taco Layer Dip

I often see this dip sold in the prepared foods section of grocery stores. It’s very easy to make and can be prepared with higher quality ingredients at less than half the cost of the store version. So with 30 minutes of time, why not make it yourself? It’s also a bit healthier than many typical cheesy chip dips, and I’ve watched this disappear in a matter of minutes at quite a few parties. There are as many versions for this dip as there are people who prepare it, so feel free to customize it to your taste.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. sour cream
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. cumin
1 can re-fried beans
1/2 c. your favorite homemade or jarred salsa
4 oz. finely shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese (or a combination of the two)
1 c. diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c. chopped lettuce
1/4 c. chopped green onion
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/4 c. sliced olives (your choice of black or green)
1 avocado, sliced and coated with a squeeze of lime juice (about 1/4 lime)

Choose a serving dish with straight side walls at least two inches high, such as a 9×13 Pyrex pan or a more decorative deep-walled pie dish. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Mix in the chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin. Spread the mixture as your bottom layer in your chosen dish. Next mix the re-fried beans with the salsa, adjusting the amount of salsa to your taste.  Spread it on top of the cream cheese mixture. Next, sprinkle the cheese and then the tomatoes. Toss the lettuce, green onions, and cilantro together and spread it over the tomatoes. Then drop the olives evenly over the top. Lay the avocado slices on top just before serving (so they don’t have enough time to discolor too much). Serve with your choice of fresh tortilla chips, and enjoy!

Tips and alternatives:

  • You can use a prepared taco seasoning instead of chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin. Start out with 1/2 tablespoon of the mixture, taste, then add more to suit your preference.
  • You can keep the beans and salsa as separate layers, or even omit the beans altogether if a bean dip isn’t your thing.
  • Instead of avocado slices, you can spread 1 cup of prepared guacamole as a layer on top of the beans and salsa.

Homemade Jam

Since we discussed peanut butter earlier, (and what’s PB without the J?) I think it only fair to include a small piece on the topic of homemade jam. I know, I know…..it’s much easier to pick up a bottle of jam or preserves at the grocery store than it is to make your own. Or is it? Honestly, it’s not so hard. And there’s nothing more divine than biting into a PB&J sandwich with homemade summer strawberry jam! If you are lucky enough to have a farmer’s market near your home during the summer months, pick up some fruit of your choice, and just see how easy it is to make your own jam. Jam lasts for about six monthsin the refrigerator, so once you’ve made it, you will be set for a while. (That is, unless your family consumes copious amounts of jam!)  

**Of course, since we’re now in the thick of dreary winter, and that summer strawberry seems like a distant memory, there is always the option to use frozen fruit instead. Most grocery stores carry a wide variety of different fruit. If you are planning on using frozen fruit, first let it thaw out. You also will not have to cook it as long as you would if you were using fresh fruit.**

My favorite jams to make are strawberry, apricot, and fig. The beauty about making jam is that you really don’t have to measure anything accurately. Before you go to bed, cut up your fruit, put it in a heavy bottomed pan, add a splash or two of whiskey (you can omit this if you like), some sugar, and then cover the lid.

Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, either add more or less sugar to your liking. For example, if I use a pint of strawberries, which is 2 cups, I would add 1-1 ½ cups of sugar. However, if I am making apricot jam, I would add at least 2 cups of sugar to 2 cups apricots. It truly depends on your palate. I don’t like jam that is too sweet because, in my opinion, I lose the flavor of the fruit.

In the morning, you will see that the fruit will have released a majority of its liquid. Place the pan onto a stove burner and turn the heat to high. Keep a close eye on your liquid to make sure it doesn’t boil too long, resulting in a super sticky burned bottom, which is practically impossible to scrub clean. (Obviously I am trying to teach from my own mistakes!) When the jam begins to thicken, turn off the heat. Allow to cool and place in a clean glass jar. Voilá! C’est magnifique! You will now know exactly what ingredients are being consumed by your family. And it feels great to be able to boast to your children that they are consuming PB&J sandwiches with their mother’s homemade jam!

Freshly Ground Peanut Butter (A gift from the gods??)

While we’re on the topic of sodium, when was the last time you looked at the ingredient list of your favorite brand of peanut butter? I am blessed to have a wonderful food market near my home, which carries freshly ground peanut butter. Of course you could start grinding your own peanut butter at home. (I know it sounds like too much work, but it really doesn’t take too much effort to produce the heavenly goodness of homemade PB.) But if you don’t feel up to it, make sure the brand you do purchase does not have any added sodium (AKA sodium chloride), sugar, or hydrogenated oils. I mean, isn’t peanut butter supposed to be simply ground nuts? Why is all that other stuff in there in the first place???? There are a few organic brands out there on the market, which do not have any added fillers. Simply turn the jar over and take a peek for yourself.

***

I started making my own peanut butter a couple of years ago…it’s way easy, takes just minutes of time, and it tastes REALLY good. No recipe is needed. All you need is a food processor, raw peanuts, some peanut oil, and, if you want, honey and salt.

Step 1 – Dry roast the raw peanuts on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they start to brown and smell good. Take them out and let them cool to room temperature.

Note:  If you want to skip Step 1 and use peanuts that are already roasted, that’s fine.  It’ll still be good, just not quite as good.

Step 2 – Put the peanuts in the food processor with the honey. Begin to process them while drizzling the peanut oil. Add as much oil as is needed to make the peanut butter soft and almost drippy. It’ll take several minutes of processing for the peanut butter to reach the right consistency.

Amounts of the ingredients are up to your discretion. The amount of oil necessary depends on the kind of peanuts you get — some are oilier than others. How much honey and salt you use (if any) is for your taste buds to decide. For 2 cups of peanuts, I usually use about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of oil, several large spoonfuls of honey, and no salt (the freshly roasted peanuts don’t need it).

The first batch of this I made lasted for about a day. Everyone in the house kept eating it by the spoon! Now, I can’t recommend that homemade peanut butter be used for baking — the commercially made stuff is much smoother — but the flavor can’t compare. Plus, you’ll know exactly what is (or is not) going into your PB&J!