Thursday, July 21, 2011

Romas are "Plum" Delicious & How to Roast a Roma

Our Roma Tomatoes

The Roma Tomatoes in our garden are coming in daily by the dozens! The Roma, also known as a Plum Tomato or Italian Plum Tomato, is a dense, meaty, pear- or plum-shaped tomato variety. It is a great canning, paste, soup and sauce tomato because of its texture, few seeds and low moisture content. Romas can be yellow, orange, pink or red, but the red is the most commonly found in supermarkets and vegetable gardens in the United States. Leave them on the vine until they are red and evenly colored and the temperature outdoors reaches about 90°F. When it gets warmer than that, pick them when they first start to color and continue ripening them indoors, preferably in a sunny window, at about 70°F, until they are fully ripened. If you have tomatoes still on the vine and a frost is predicted, pick the tomatoes! Ripen more mature tomatoes by placing them on a sunny window sill, stem side up (placing them stem side down causes them to rot more quickly.) If the tomatoes are green, hard and immature, wrap them in newspaper and store them no more than two layers deep in a box. Ripening will take between three and four weeks, so check their progress weekly.  If you have a few tomatoes and don't want to go to all the trouble of wrapping and storing, place your green tomatoes in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple. The apple gives off ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process. Check the tomatoes daily. Keep the tomatoes above 60°F to ensure ripening. If you don't want to ripen the tomatoes, but don't want to throw them away or leave them for the frost to kill, there are dozens of green tomato recipes out there to turn your end-of-the-season stragglers into something yummy...and you don't miss out on a single Roma tomato that you lovingly grew!

Serving Suggestions: Slice ripe, uncooked, Roma Tomatoes and layer them in a circular manner, on a plate or platter, with Buffalo Mozzarella and fresh Basil Leaves, alternating each one. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper for a Caprese Salad.  Or, make a fabulous veggie quiche and layer the top, just under the cheese, with Roma tomato slices. Roast your ripe Romas in the oven and make soup out of them. They are truly magnificent for this purpose.

Fabulous Veggie Quiche
with Roma Tomatoes

Roasting Roma Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Wash Romas in cold water and drain in a colander.
Cut tomatoes in halves, removing the stems and any hard cores.
Place tomato halves on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, cut side up.
Drizzle each tomato half with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh coarse-ground or cracked black pepper.
Roast for 30 minutes; remove from oven and cool on baking sheet.
Store in refrigerator or freezer, or use immediately for Roasted Tomato Soup!

This style of roasting yields a juicier roasted tomato which is perfect for soups. If you desire a drier tomato with less juice and a "meatier" texture, start with a 225° oven and roast them for about 3 hours. This process yields a more shriveled, drier tomato with a little bit of juice left inside. You can adjust the length of roasting time (add or subtract) depending on a) the type of tomato you are roasting and b) the desired end result. Let your eyes be your guide!

My Own Recipe for
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup...Heavenly!

Buon Appetito!

Check out my recipe at Foodista!
Just click the link below!
Oven-Roasted Roma Tomatoes Two Ways on FoodistaOven-Roasted Roma Tomatoes Two Ways

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jezebel Sauce & From Queen to Cuisine

Jezebel. What image comes to mind when you hear that name? There's something...well I'll be as polite as possible here...rather "naughty" about Jezebel. Two images surface in my memory when I think of Jezebel. One is of the original Jezebel, a beautiful, vain and superfluously adorned wife, queen and "power behind the throne" of Ahab, king of North Israel in the books of I and II Kings in the Bible. She practiced and promoted the worship of the false god Baal, led her husband and other people astray with false prophesy and met a less-than-desirable end when she was hurled out a window and her lifeless body left as a buffet for the dogs living in the streets. Queen to cuisine...literally.

"Jezebel" from the Bible

The second image that comes to mind is one of Bette Davis portraying a beautiful, vain, spoiled, satin-and-lace-wearing, Southern schemer named appropriately, "Jezebel," who would go to just about any lengths to get what she wanted (especially the man she wanted), including thumbing her nose at the genteel folk of Old South society, playing cat-and-mouse games with suitors' affections and pitting one good man against the other to the point where duels were involved. Both representations of "Jezebel" are women who were masters at the arts of manipulation and seduction, simultaneously sweet and spicy, desirable and dangerous. Both dressed in all her finery, made-up and bejeweled, deliberately symbolic, believing in her own dignity and royal status...determined to go out with a bang!

Bette Davis as "Jezebel"

Jezebel Sauce was named after women such as these...sweet, spicy, intense, beautiful and irresistible. The flavor is tantalizing and its color and texture make an attractive presentation on your table. Once you start consuming it, it consumes you, creating a craving that's hard to walk away from. Its roots have been traced to the Gulf Coast, more specifically the Mississippi Gulf Coast somewhere around Gulfport. It was frequently served at church dinners along the Gulf Coast and the Delta, which is a little odd considering it was named for a Biblical idol-worshipping harlot who painted her face and dressed in showy regal attire to meet such a nasty and unsavory end. It's one of those things that make you go "Hmmm."

Jezebel Sauce

18 oz. apple jelly
12 oz. pineapple preserves or Smucker's pinapple ice cream topping + a little sugar (sometimes the preserves are hard to find!)
18 oz. peach preserves
12 oz. orange marmalade
1 (5-oz.) jar horseradish, well-drained (do NOT use prepared horseradish made with mayo!)
1 (1.12-oz.) tin dry mustard
1 Tbsp. cracked or coarsely-ground black pepper

In a saucepan, whisk or beat apple jelly over low heat until clumps of jelly are broken up. Add pineapple preserves, peach preserves and orange marmalade and whisk until well-blended. Stir in well-drained horseradish, dry mustard and black pepper. Heat and whisk just until mixture is of uniform consistency. Chill.

Place in clean jars. This sauce will keep for about two weeks if refrigerated. If planning to keep long-term or make to give away, place mixture in sterilized jars and preserve in water bath as if making jelly.

Jezebel Sauce is delish served over a block of softened cream cheese with water crackers for dipping. Pour over baked Brie and serve with crusty French bread or crackers. Baste and/or serve Jezebel Sauce with ham for a wonderful main dish!

Makes About 4 Pints

Frankie Laine

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creamy Dill Cucumbers

We have a plethora of cucumbers ready in our garden! Daily, we've eaten them washed, sliced and with a healthy sprinkle of sea salt. As much as we love cucumbers straight from the garden, we look for new ways to serve them...after all, variety is the spice of life!

Here is a simple, delicious recipe in a fun Smilebox format, complete with music. Take a bowl of Creamy Dill Cucumbers to your next cookout, picnic or church social!

Click to play this Smilebox recipe
Create your own recipe - Powered by Smilebox
Customize your own free recipe card design

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Boys Love Cookies & Remembering Patrick

Today is a day filled with memories, deep longing and sadness for me and my family. Six years ago, today, our beautiful son passed away. He was 26 years old and had battled a "mysterious" illness from his Junior year in high school. Finally, years later, he would be diagnosed with the same illness that took my mother's life and that I battle daily...a misunderstood, multi-symptom intruder called "lupus." It has been an unwelcome visitor to my family for many, many years and has robbed me and my family of so son, my mother and my health. There are different kinds of lupus, but my son, mother and I were diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, its organs and systems, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. For more information on lupus, go to the website of an organization of which I am a Member and Advocate: The Lupus Foundation of America. The LFA estimates that 1.5 million Americans, and at least 5 million people worldwide, have a form of lupus, with those numbers climbing daily. Please find out more about this disease and what you can do to help by visiting the LFA.

Remembering Patrick...A Beautiful Soul

"Tears in Heaven"
Eric Clapton
(Who lost his own son.)

Boys loves little boy did, even when he wasn't so little anymore. He loved oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies the best. So, in tribute to my son, here is a great cookie recipe that combines both. I would give anything to have him sit down at my kitchen table with a plate of my fresh-from-the-oven cookies again. I love and miss you, son, so very much...and I always will. If there are cookies in Heaven, I know they are even better than mine.

Oatmeal Raisinets® Cookie Tower
Can't Eat Just One!

Oatmeal Raisinets® Cookies
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 3/4 c. chocolate covered raisins (Raisinets®...I love the DARK chocolate, but you can use your choice of dark or milk chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped 
Take Your Pick...
I Chose Dark Chocolate
Preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream together butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture.
Cream Butter, Brown Sugar,
Egg and Vanilla

Creamy, Yummy Batter

Add the Dry Ingredients

Add the Raisinets® and Walnuts

Stir in the oats, Raisinets® and walnuts.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart. Place baking sheets in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Okay, confession time...I was in such a hurry to make these beauties, I didn't refrigerate the batter at all! They turned out fine.)

Into the Oven They Go!
Bake cookies in preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the tops look a little undercooked (I usually go a full minute under the least amount of time recommended when baking cookies...that's why I have a reputation for such good cookies that are never hard!) Allow cookies to sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Yes...yes these ARE that GOOD! Mmmm.
Now, all you need is a glass of cold MILK!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Zucchini Bread & Growing Where Planted

When we relocated back to my hometown in January, much had to be done to reacclimate ourselves. This time around, I was bringing back a father who was recovering from a stroke and the loss of my mother. At first, it was difficult...there were so many memories in every nook and cranny, in familiar faces and in the geography, itself. Sometimes it's difficult to go "home," especially when home has changed so much and precious people who were a part of home are gone. But, I believe that we were led here, not by accident or chance, but for a purpose and a plan. Each day, we see a little bit more of that plan unfolding and sometimes we have to exercise patience as we wait for the next part of the plan to be revealed. So, first things first...we set about getting my father settled again and taking care of business. As the cold weather turned warm, my father started talking about a garden. That was exciting news because my husband and I had already been talking of trying our hands at growing some things we hadn't grown before, so it was on! After much hard work, blood (yeah, we hurt ourselves a couple of times), sweat and tears (okay, mine, not my husband's), some crazy weather (unseasonably cold and hot spells, rain similar to monsoon season in the tropics and a tornado or three or four) we started seeing the fruits of our labors. My husband is like a proud new father to a whole brood of vegetables, with new ones joining the family each day. We have gorged ourselves on tomatoes and cucumbers...oh, how will we ever go back to store-bought when these taste straight from Heaven? The yellow squash and zucchini are coming in, so we've been making quiches, casseroles and breads. The spaghetti squash are getting plump, but aren't quite mature yet, but we check their progress daily. It's wonderful when you have so many goodies to enjoy and many more to share with family and friends.

All of this planting and working and growing got me to really thinking about God's goodness, as well as His purpose for us. I am reminded daily that nothing in life is guaranteed except His love, goodness and grace, He is there through every kind of weather, He asks us to sow seeds, nurture important living things, keep our soil fertile, to not grow weary and leave the rest of it to Him. If we are prepared and willing to do a little work, we can grow wherever He chooses to plant us...and He brings the sunshine just in time.

"Kiss of the sun for pardon.
Song of the birds for mirth.
You're closer to God's heart in a garden
than any place else on earth." 
~~  Dorothy Frances Gurney

Zucchini Bread

Stir Together:
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

  • 2 c. unpeeled, grated zucchini, well-drained (I squeeze all the liquid out that I can and blot with paper towels)
  • 1 c. finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 c. golden raisins or currants
  • 1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, well-drained (I squeeze all the liquid out of this, too.)
As you can see, I opted to use currants.

Beat Together:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. cooking oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add zucchini mixture to dry ingredients, mixing just until well-blended.

Pour egg mixture into zucchini/dry mixture and stir just until moistened - do NOT over-mix.

Grease and flour two loaf pans; put parchment paper in the bottom of the pans, if desired. Evenly distribute mixture between the two loaf pans.

Place in oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, depending on your oven, or until a toothpick inserted into middle of loaves comes out clean. Cool for five minutes, run a knife around edges of each loaf and turn out on wire racks to continue cooling.

You can completely cool the bread or serve it warm. This bread may have a little more spice than you are used to, but we like it that way around our house. The recipe makes two loaves, so you can keep one and give one to a friend, freeze the second one or eat them both. The bread is especially good the next day, after all the wonderful flavors meld...if it lasts that long!

Psst...the fresh mint garnish 
came from my herb garden!

"So neither the one who plants
nor the one who waters is anything,
but only God, who makes things grow."
~~ 1 Corinthians 3:7

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Posole & Mexican Cornbread

Posole is a traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico. It is as rich in flavor as it is in history. Nixtamal, corn kernels treated in an alkaline process (aka hominy), is the base of the dish, which is combined with chili peppers, various spices and meat...traditionally pork, but turkey or chicken was sometimes used. Vegan Posole is made by simply omitting the meat. Corn was considered sacred by the Aztecs, so Posole, despite its simplicity, was a "special occasion" food. It was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion.

We love spicy food around our house, but I don't usually like it as spicy as other members of my family. Typically, I will make my dishes mild, but provide  "hot" additions to spice things up a bit for those in my family with cast iron stomachs and Teflon taste buds. This Posole recipe is a somewhat "Americanized" version. You can spice it up to your liking...but I'm going to let my taste buds and stomach live to eat another day!

Mild Posole

1 dried ancho chili
1 dried guajillo chili
1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 small red onion, diced (or 1 tsp. onion powder)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes - do NOT drain!
1 4-oz. can green chili peppers, diced
1/2 tsp. cumin, or more to taste
1 Tbsp. Mexican oregano
1 tsp. salt
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
5 cups vegetable broth or vegetarian stock (try 5 cups water + 4 tsp. vegetable base + 2 tsp. commercial black, red or green mole)
2 15-oz, cans hominy, rinsed and drained
Juice of 2 limes

For a "with meat" version, add browned lean ground beef, pork shoulder or roast that has been simmered in water for 2 or more hours, or until tender, stewed boneless, skinless chicken or leftover Thanksgiving turkey that has been boned and skinned.

Garnish Suggestions
Cilantro, chopped
Onion, finely diced
Radishes, thinly sliced
Limes, cut into wedges
Avocado, diced
Lettuce, chopped
Tomato, chopped
Red Sweet Peppers, finely diced

Soak chilies in hot water for 20 minutes. Discard any stems and as many seeds as you choose to adjust the "fire" factor. Puree in a blender. Heat oil in a medium-size pot and saute garlic and onion (if using onion powder, don't add yet!) on low for 10 minutes. Add vegetable broth, tomatoes (with juice), chili puree (add a small amount and adjust at the end of cooking), green chilies, salt and spices (and onion powder if using in place of onion). Simmer the soup/stew for 10 minutes. Add hominy and pinto beans, return to boil and simmer for additional 15 to 20 minutes. Add lime juice. Taste and, if necessary, add more salt, lime juice or chili puree. Ladle into individual serving bowls and set out garnishes from which your guests can choose to make it their own! Serve with Mexican cornbread.

Mexican Cornbread

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 15-oz. can cream-style corn
1 4-oz. can green chilies, well-drained
1 2-oz. jar pimientos, well-drained
Sliced jalapenos, if desired (add fresh or can make it as hot as you like!)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup Mexican blend cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white cornmeal
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cooking oil


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Coat the bottom of a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with oil and place in the oven. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Blend in cream corn, chilies, jalapeno (if using), pimiento, spices and cheese.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Slowly add flour/cornmeal mixture to cream corn mixture and stir until well-blended. Pour batter into hot pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cornbread comes out clean. Serve with Posole.

Note: I usually do not like ANY sugar in my cornbread. In this recipe, however, I put a little sugar in it, as the cream corn already imparts some sweetness. If you desire a more savory cornbread, omit the sugar!
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