Caribbean Salsa – Eat better, eat healthier, Eat fresher, Eat tastier

 

Everybody paying attention?  In the spirit of my chosen OKK assignment, I CAN COOK THAT, last week I gave you a cooking… truth.  Menu planning is much more than a long shopping list for a week.  In fact, menu planning should be more about using what you buy for the best tasting, freshest tasting, healthiest for you and your family; food on your table week after week, without wasting a gram of food.  Nothing goes into the trash till you have extracted everything possible from what you buy.  Like last week…and the week before… When I bought a rotisserie chicken, ddn’t throw the bones away, but made a fresh Chicken Stock that I used to make an incredibly rich and flavorful Spanish Rice.  In order to make Spanish Rice, I needed to buy onions and red peppers.  I could buy onions and red peppers cheaper if I buy 2 or 3 of each prepackaged by the store.  Sure, these are usually on the far side of still fresh, but close to borderline; and sure, these usually have a bad spot or two hidden by the packaging you don’t see till you get home; BUT, these are to be diced up and cooked same day you buy them.  Cut around the bad spot and dice away… and use up everything you buy.

 

And SALSA!  what a great way to use up veggies.  Make your own, it is very fast, and much healthier than the stuff you buy in the jars.  Read the ingredient list… why is there sugar in a salsa???  and what are those preservatives for… why artificial coloring???  Why all those words with more syllables than there are letters in O-N-I-O-N???  And salt… don’t get me started on salt…  More often than not, salsa is offered to be scooped up by SALTED chips.  You don’t need all that salt.  I know I don’t.
But if not with chips, how about a nice side of fresh salsa (without chips, it can be called a diced tomato side dish if you like), served with Spanish rice and a seafood enchilada…

And while we are using up the red pepper and onion that you bought to flavor the Spanish Rice you were making because you had extra fresh made chicken stock, let’s make this a Caribbean Salsa by using up that pineapple that you bought in order to garnish your wife’s rum drink.
Here’s what I did…

 

 

My salsa recipe is a matter of proportions.  You don’t have to measure accurately to the smallest gram weight.  If you have a little more onion, fine, if you have a little less pineapple, fine, but here’s how to make it in what ever quantities you need…
1 part (either 1 cup, 2 cups, or 1 TBS) of diced Onion
1 part (either 1 cup, 2 cups, or 1 TBS) of diced Red Bell Pepper
1 part (either 1 cup, 2 cups, or 1 TBS) of diced Pineapple
2 part (either 2 cup, 4 cups, or 2 TBS) of diced Roma Tomatoes
A NOTE ABOUT DICING – try to dice everything the same size
1/2 part (either 1/2 cup, 1 cups, or 1/2 TBS) of minced Parsley
1/2 part (either 1/2 cup, 1 cups, or 1/2 TBS) of not your Grandmother’s HERBES de PROVENCE
Juice of 1 lime


And if you like a runny salsa, more dip-able, take 1/4 part of additional tomatoes and run them through a mini chopper till they are liquefied.
 
Mix it all together, and you have fresh made salsa!
 
Use what you buy, eat better tasting food, eat healthier food, think about what is in your fridge and what you can do with it.
 
By the way, I LOVE making up a batch of “not your Grandmother’s HERBES de PROVENCE“.  It is a GREAT way to always have an herb mixture on hand.  I make up about 2 months worth at a time, and my “not your Grandmother’s HERBES de PROVENCE” is far fresher than what you find in those little packages you buy in the store pre-assembled.  Here’s my formula…
 

I use this almost anytime a recipe calls for a mixture of two or three herb spices.  It tastes great on a focaccia bread, add to oil and balsamic for a great bread dipping oil.  I add to fish and chicken for a light taste accent. It is just great to have sitting around… ready

5 TBS dried Tarragon
5 TBS dried Oregano
5 TBS dried Dill
5 TBS dried Thyme
5 TBS dried Rosemary
5 TBS dried Garlic Flakes
2 TBS Sea Salt
2 TBS Fresh ground Pepper
1 TBS dried Lemon Zest

Store in a sealed plastic ziplock bag, airtight in a dark drawer, and stays fresh for 6 months or more.  
 
Better tasting and it will save you money in the long run!
 
Come back next week when I finally get around to the main course… A wonderful seafood enchilada!


Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  


 … I CAN COOK THAT! 


And so can you!
Piña Colada Dip – A taste of the Caribbean ala Year on the Grill

OK, you thought of it when you read the title, may as well go ahead and click the play button and hum along while you read the post…

I love food.  I love recipes and I love bloggers that put it out there everyday.  I am not the kind of person that writes about a recipe that fails, I will usually find something positive about that recipe that I can talk about with out bringing up negative aspects.  I am just a positive fun loving guy.
 
So, having said all that, when I do come across a recipe that will change my life… Well, my eating life anyway… I am often at a loss for words for how to convey how much a recipe DOES succeed at every level.  This is one of those recipes that is so simple, yet so perfect in every way…
 
Low calories
Very healthy
But best of all, incredibly tasty!
 
First, credit is due COOKING TIP OF THE DAY where I saw this recipe earlier in the week.  I happened to have had everything I needed handy and a variety of fresh vegetables suitable for Linda’s dip.  If you check original post of the recipe (HERE), you will read that Linda recommended this for fruit (pineapple, bananas, apples, etc.).  This would make a GREAT dessert.  But I used it as a substitute for vegetables.  Either way, I can not hype this treat too much…
 
here’s what I did…
 
1 low fat Vanilla Yogurt
2 TBS shaved Coconut (toasted)
1 TSP Flavored Rum (Pineapple, Coconut, Black Cherry, Banana or in this case… Mango)
Raw vegetables cut for dipping… Carrots, Celery, Bell peppers, Mushrooms… Whatever happens to be in your fridge).
 
Toast the coconut by placing a thin layer of coconut on a sheet of parchment paper.  I put this under the broiler for just 3-5 minutes.  Keep an eye on it, fine line between toasted and burnt.
 
Mix 1/2 the coconut with the rum and yogurt, add the remaining coconut on the top to look pretty.
 
Dip and serve and you will lick the bottom of the bowl.
 
I have eaten pretty good on the island since I have arrived.  My cooking, as well as two or three restaurants a week… No exaggeration, this is the best thing I have eaten on the island.
 
In fact, next night I made almost the same thing…
 
 
Except I made the dip with Black Cherry Rum… Yum!
 
 
And as an aside, I came across a store that sells those rotisserie cooked chickens.  You’ve seen them, most larger stores seem to have them these days, certainly Wal-mart, Sam’s Club, etc. sell them.  I just sliced a few hunks of meat and served that with the veggies and dip.  A wonderful lower cal dish (I know, i could have taken the skin off, but it tastes sooooo good!).
 
I actually have two asides… First, imagine this dip with a peppery hot spicy chicken wing.  heat and sweet, a great combination.
 
And second, even here on the island where everything is expensive, the whole COOKED and very tasty chickens are only $6 and a raw uncooked chicken is $9… Does anyone have a reason???
 
 
Don’t be afraid of the rum, there is only 1 teaspoon… Just enough to add a bit of za za zing.
 
Thanks Linda, GREAT recipe idea.
 
 
I have been on island now for nearly three weeks, and all is going very smooth.  I am updating three blogs now with my adventures.  One is a scrapbook type with almost no wording, and just a bunch of photos from my day.  Yesterday I went snorkeling out my back door (beach is only 30 yards away).  Come see my photos I took of all the pretty fishies… 

FISH EVERYWHERE! Snorkeling out my back yard

I also have a blog that is featuring more Caribbean food ideas.  Right now I am trying to greet my hard working wife at the door at the end of her hard day with different frozen drinks, so I have done several posts on them lately.  As well as restaurant reviews and exotic ingredients…

A Kansas Foodie in the Virgin Islands

 
And as always, 
 

Who knew it was that easy!
Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. As always, I was SO surprised to learn that I CAN COOK THAT!!!

Give me a little taste of home, and stop by the comment section. Let me know you won’t forget me while I am gone!

 
 
Oh, and one more update and question before I leave you all for a week –
 

Just in case you all think i am turning into a rummy since I landed, I have started (and kept up with) a 90 minute a day walk/explore the island, 10,000 aerobic steps a day diet (no change in food intake, but the theory is that if you walk 10,000 steps a day, you will lose weight).  I do not have a scale, but all the clothes I brought are fitting better.
 
But I do wonder, Does this Ass make my my Donkey look fat???  This was taken after I walked 3 miles ALL UPHILL to the highest lookout spot on the island.  the sweat stains were not photoshopped in.
 
See you all in a week!

 

Texas Caviar ~ Simply Delicious Sunday

While researching black eyed peas (not an easy thing to do with a band by the same name) I ran across a reference to Texas Caviar. I read and read all those recipes and found the 2 consistent ingredients are black eyed peas and Italian dressing. So I started with those ingredients and from there added the ingredients I like most. We loved the results. We ate it for New Year’s day with fresh tortilla chips, prime rib and twice baked potatoes. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity. See what you think. I also found it ironic, at least in my case that since my family is from and for the majority in Texas that I had never heard of this before.

Texas Caviar

TEXAS CAVIAR
1 pound black eyed peas
2 cups Italian salad dressing
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 large shallot, chopped
1 bunch finely chopped green onions (tops too)
finely chopped jalapeno peppers to taste
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
Salt & hot pepper sauce to taste (I used Frank’s red pepper sauce)
Tortilla chips
  • Soak peas in enough water to cover overnight.
  • Drain well. Pick out bad beans.
  • Transfer peas to saucepan. Add enough fresh water to cover.
  • Over high heat bring to boil.
  • Let slow boil until tender, about an hour or so, but do not overcook.
  • While peas are cooking chop remaining ingredients and mix well with dressing.
  • Drain peas well.
  • Blend into dressing mixture and let cool.
  • Chill several hours.
  • Serve with tortilla chips.

Originally native to India, but widely grown in many countries in Asia, the black-eyed pea was introduced into the West Indies and from there to the Southern United States as early as the 1600s in Virginia. Most of the black-eye pea cultivation in the region, however, took firmer hold in Florida and the Carolinas during the 1700s, reaching Virginia in full force following the American Revolution. The crop would also eventually prove popular in Texas. Throughout the South, the black-eyed pea is still a widely used ingredient in soul food and various types of Southern U.S. cuisine. The planting of crops of black-eyed peas was promoted by George Washington Carver because, as a legume, it adds nitrogen to the soil and has high nutritional value. Black-eyed peas are an excellent source of calcium. Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful? I learn something every day!

Artichoke, Feta Cheese and Garlic Puffs – Martha’s Monday Munchies


Here ya go, artichoke, feta cheese and garlic puffs! I’ve been on a puff pastry kick lately and decided to experiment a bit. These turned out delectable and they were super easy!

Just thaw puff pastry and cut into small squares. Mix a jar of artichoke hearts, a package of feta cheese, a heaping spoon of minced garlic, a little Parmesan cheese, and some fresh ground pepper – lightly mix. Spoon a small amount of mixture onto one corner of the pastry, fold over to form triangle, seal edges and bake at 350 for 20 minutes – YUMMY!

Originally posted at Menagerie

Sweet and Spicy Bacon Wrapped Chicken – Monday Munchies

I found the recipe for this yummy bacon wrapped sweet and spicy chicken over at Full Bellies, Happy Kids. These make a terrific main dish, but they are also terrific for the appetizer buffet!

Here’s the recipe …

4 chicken breasts cut in thirds (12 pieces)
Bacon slices
Salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder
Chili powder
Brown sugar

Cut each breast into 3 pieces, season all the chicken with the spices, then wrap a bacon slice around each piece, roll in brown sugar and place into an oven proof dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and bacon is nice and brown and crispy.

The only thing I did any different from the recipe was to turn them upside down right at the end and did a quick broil to get the bacon on the bottom nice and crisp too!

These are so yummy – definitely a family favorite here!

*Recipe previously posted at Menagerie

Appetizer Pizzas – Martha’s Monday Munchies

These little appetizer pizzas are so easy and they are a great addition to the party buffet.

Just cut French bread into slices, brush both sides of each slice with olive oil, place a thin slice of tomato on each, top with fresh mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with oregano, basil and minced garlic (optional), bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and just starting to brown.

I can’t wait to see what you have on your party buffet!

Please join me today over at The Motivation Station for some menu planning ideas and suggestions.

Cocktail Meatballs – Martha’s Monday Munchies
There are so many different ways to make these yummy little meatball appetizers. This time we went with homemade since I was cooking regular meatballs to freeze for pasta dinners at the same time, and because I had a helper too. Don’t worry, I’m all about easy and will give you several really easy alternatives at the end of this entry if you don’t want to start from scratch 🙂

Meatballs

  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of fresh minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Sauce

  • 16 oz can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 12 oz chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

These are so sweet, tart and tangy all at the same time – really yummy! Just mix all ingredients for meatballs, make up small meatballs and pan fry or bake for about 30 minutes at 350 (I’m Italian so all meatballs get pan fried here).

Mix and heat all ingredients for the sauce, bring to a slight bubbling boil stirring often until all well blended. Put cooked meatballs into a crock pot, pour sauce over the top. Keep on low until serving time.

I like to make them the day before so the meatballs have time to marinate in the sauce (they can be frozen too so make extras!). Then just put in the slow cooker to heat.

The Super Easy Versions – Buy small frozen meatballs and just add the sauce. Even easier versions of the sauce is simply a jar of chili sauce or BBQ sauce with a can of cranberry sauce or grape jelly – mix and match, it doesn’t matter which you choose. Some people use a bottle of BBQ sauce and a bottle of beer! Or you can always just use a brown gravy too. I’ve tried them all and they’ve been a hit each and every time!

Another Tip – I like to freeze some plain to serve over egg noodles with brown gravy for a quick main dish meal for another time.

Healthy Alternative – I’ve never tried it but I’m sure turkey, chicken or vegetarian meatballs would work great too.

*This entry previously posted at Menagerie

Martha’s Monday Munchies – Beef Wellington Appetizers!

Welcome to the all new Monday Munchies hosted by me – Martha! This week featuring Beef Wellington appetizers …

Ingredients: Leftover beef (I used eye-round roast) cut into bite sized cubes, fresh mushrooms(minced), white wine, cream, puff pastry (thawed)

Sauté mushrooms for 3-5 minutes in a splash of white wine, reduce until almost dry. Add a splash of cream and reduce until consistency is like a spread. Season the mushroom mixture with salt and pepper to taste, set aside to cool.

Place puff pastry sheets on a floured work surface, cut into small squares. Place a beef cube on each. Top each beef cube with a small amount of the mushroom mixture. Wrap edges up to seal around each. Twist ends at the top. Place on a parchment lined pan and bake at 350 until crisp – about 15 minutes.

Alternatives: You could use just about any kind of beef in these appetizers. I’ve used leftover steak, London broil, meatloaf and once even used little store bought cocktail meatballs when making for a large crowd. They have been a big hit every single time!

It’s also a great way to turn small amounts of leftovers into an elegant light meal by serving on the side with a nice salad.

I can’t wait to see your recipes!

 

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Cultural Connections: Guisadong Hipon

Hipon is the Filipino version of a shrimp paste. It is done fresh, made into paste and I’m sure how it is done but it really is a good appetizer for us. One simply has to add tomatoes, onions and garlic cut into thin slices. Firstly by sauteing the garlic until appropriate, then add the tomatoes and onions. When appropriate, add the shrimp paste, season with a teaspoonful of sugar since the paste is kinda salty. Best served with a few slices of lemon. And this is a great appetizer. You can also add cubed pork bits if you like.

P.S. I’m still on a blog break and will be back online soon and will be visiting your posts as well. Thanks for joining in.

Monday Munchies – Cold Veggie Pizza
Hi, it’s Martha from Simple Supper Saturday here to host Monday Munchies from now on. Unfortunately our friend Cheryl is unable to continue with us here for Monday Munchies due to a rigorous schedule at college this semester. I will be hosting Simple Supper Saturday this week as well as Monday Munchies. The following week one of my great foodie friends will be taking over on Saturdays. Details coming soon.

I will be featuring snacks, appetizers, dips, etc. here at Monday Munchies. You’ll be armed and ready with great food for game days during football season this year and ready for a party in a flash!My first appetizer is one I featured a few months ago over at Menagerie – Cold veggie pizza. It’s like a veggie tray and dip served pizza style. It’s a great addition to any appetizer buffet and works perfectly for any “chick food” events like baby and bridal showers and pot luck luncheons. It’s very inexpensive to make and it can be made ahead!


This is so easy to make and so good! Just roll out a can of Pillsbury crescent rolls on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. While that’s in the oven put about a 1/4 cup of raw broccoli, 1/4 cup of raw cauliflower and 1/4 of raw carrots in a chopper or food processor, chop very fine. Once the dough is finished let it cool and then spread with a light layer of cream cheese, top with the veggies and refrigerate until chilled. It’s always a big hit!

I can’t wait to see your favorite appetizers and party foods!