Tomato Time

Because tomatoes are abundant in the garden and at the market right now, I wanted to share a quick tip as you process and possibly can all those scrumptious, ruby orbs.

If you like to make your own sauce, you’ll find recipes that tell you how to peel, core, etc. Personally, I like to skip that step and use a device to do that. I have an attachment for my stand mixer that strains out all the skins and seeds and leaves me with the pure juiced, tomatoes.

The first thing I do is wash them and take off the stem. Then, in a big pot on the stove, place a few halves in a bottom layer and cook on low until the juices come out. After that, you can add more tomatoes, a layer at a time until the pot is full. Put the lid on the pot and cook just until the tomatoes are softened. At this point, you can run them through the strainer, manual or electric.

Before: 1 liter tomato juice

After: 600 ml juice and 400 ml tomato water

I collect the juice in large pitchers and catch the seeds and stems in a bowl. Then I place the pitchers in the refrigerator overnight and let the solids settle to the bottom. In the morning, I ladle off the top layer of liquid. This tomato water is an intensely flavored and refreshing drink that will revive you on the hottest day of summer. Test me and see if I’m wrong.

The remaining ‘juice’ can be canned as is, or cooked down for tomato sauce and frozen or canned. If you are canning, just make sure you use  a safe tested recipe. This website is a guaranteed safe source.

If you are very thrifty or adventurous, spread the skins and seeds that would normally be thrown out onto a sheet tray lined with parchment and dehydrate in your oven on the lowest setting you have. My oven has a dehydrate feature, but if yours doesn’t you have a couple of options. For a gas oven, the pilot light is often enough to dehydrate most things overnight or all day. In an electric oven, you may be able to do the same thing with just the oven light on. You’re looking for a temperature of about 150F.

Once the skins and seeds are dry, they look really gross. Like scabs. That’s how you know they’re done. Sorry. You can grind this up with your spice grinder, that is, a cheap coffee grinder that you use only for spices. It is great for thickening soups and stews and for making dips.

Be thrifty, be healthy, eat well!


Pickle brine

Quick and Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Pickle brine

Have it your way. Make your own refrigerator pickles and you can add whatever you like. Peppers, hot or mild, onions, carrots, even cucumbers. Ha. I’m writing this up rather quickly because things are hopping in the hippo kitchen as I bake for two markets every week and still people WANT TO EAT DINNER. The nerve. That is to say, if you have questions or the recipe isn’t clear, please leave me a comment or message me on Facebook.

Anywho, because it’s summer and all, I dug this recipe out of the little wooden Ketepa Tea box that has a billion hand written recipes on various colored index cards and has traveled so much over the last morethanadecade that it should have its own passport.

Feel free to vary the spices or veg in this recipe to make it your own. This is how I am doing it today with some oddly large, crisp and mild flavored cucumber that my firstborn son grew in my father’s garden.

Quick and Easy Refrigerator Pickles
Recipe type: Easy
Cuisine: Pickles
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 jar
Vary the spices to suit your taste. You can eat this after a few days, but they are better after about a week.
  • 1-1/2 c water
  • 1-1/4 c vinegar, white or apple cider
  • 1 c sugar
  • ¼ c salt, I use kosher
  • 1 tsp each turmeric, dill seed, mustard seed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  1. Place the water, vinegar,sugar and salt in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Let cool.
  2. While it's cooling, wash and slice your cucumbers. They work best if you leave the peel on but if the peel is blistered or whatever, just remove it.
  3. Place the cucumbers in a large jar and add the spices, dill, and garlic.
  4. Once the vinegar mixture has cooled, pour it over the cucumbers in the jar, and refrigerate for several days. Taste develops best after 5-7 days.


Salmon Pasta Salad with Fresh Dill

This is an easy recipe and good for summer lunch. Originally, I used tarragon and dill, and I used red wine vinegar in the dressing. Lately, however, I like the addition of dill pickles and some of the pickle brine to amp up the dill flavor. Your choice. Also, I use whole wheat pasta for the nutritional value, but you can substitue white flour pasta at your own peril, if you wish. Kidding. But if you are trying to eat more whole grains, I’ve found switching to whole grain pasta a painless and barely noticeable difference.

Salmon Pasta Salad with Fresh Dill
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
Easy to make and you can add in any fresh veggies that are in season. Diced zucchini is a good one; cucumbers, celery, bell pepper also work well.
  • 8 oz whole wheat pasta shells, spiral, elbow - your choice
  • 7-8 oz cooked salmon (canned, poached, or baked)
  • 1-2 tsp fresh dill,chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped (optional)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or pickle juice
  • 1 rib finely chopped celery
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle (optional)
  1. Cook pasta per package directions in a large pot of salted, boiling water until tender and drain.
  2. While pasta is cooking, mix all other ingredients except salmon together in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  4. Once pasta is done and well drained, add it to the mixture in your bowl.
  5. Add the salmon and serve at room temperature or chill in fridge for an hour or more.


Puff pastry

Mock Puff Pastry

I got this recipe from a dear friend when we were all new to Kenya and trying to learn how to feed our families in this unfamiliar place. This was during our language school days, when we also spent hours in a classroom learning Swahili and East African culture.

Puff pastryTrust me when I tell you one of the major stressors during this time was having to relearn a new way of doing practically everything. In the US, I was quite adept at feeding my family. Here, I couldn’t even buy ketchup or flour without help. I can laugh about it now, but then, I was nearly in tears the first time I had to go grocery shopping. You rarely read the label name when you go shopping; you look for the familiar packaging. Quick, what color is the Gold Medal flour sack and logo? Exactly. Fortunately, there was another friend to save me from myself and he took my list and showed me where things were and which brands were best.

My language school friend got the recipe from her mother-in-law, who I’m told is a fabulous cook. I believe it.

This is a quick way to have a tender, rich dough for sweet or savory turnovers and other things. It’s the one you see in my recipe for plum galette.

Besides being easy, the other magical quality it has is that it freezes beautifully, allowing you to always have on hand the makings for a quick desert or dinner. Empanadas, anyone?

Mock Puff Pastry
Recipe type: Pastry
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Using only four ingredients, this pastry comes together quickly and tastes great. It's very versatile and freezes quite well.
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (optional: use for a sweet pastry)
  • 1 cup cold butter (unsalted), cut into tablespoon sized pieces
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  1. Stir the salt and sugar into the flour with a whisk.
  2. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or other method. Many cooks use their hands and rub the butter into the flour. I prefer to do all this first part in the food processor. It goes really fast.
  3. You just place the flour, salt, and sugar in the processor, pulse once or twice. Then add the pieces of butter and pulse till it looks like coarse sand.
  4. At this point, dump the mixture into a large bowl and add the heavy cream.
  5. Mix in the cream with a fork until the flour is moistened and the dough begins to come together.
  6. From here, I like to tip it onto my board and gently knead it together or directly onto cling film and use that to bring it together.
  7. Divide in half. Shape each half into a disk and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour or two and proceed with your pastry making.
  8. Or place the wrapped disks in a freezer bag and store in the freezer until you're ready to use them.


Coffee and Carrots

Early morning mist at Brackenhurst

Early morning mist at Brackenhurst

The first snack I was ever served in Kenya were carrot sticks. It was the summer of 1996, and the mister and I had arrived to spend 3 weeks volunteering at a conference for 1st term missionaries. We arrived in Nairobi after 2 days of flying, with a long layover in London, exhausted and hungry. They were the best carrots I ever tasted.

Our welcome to Kenya dinner that evening was BBQ (Texas style) and it was then I learned about the great cooking and generous hospitality that runs rampant in missionary circles.

The next morning we left to go on safari for a couple of days before heading to our conference.

Located in the breathtaking highlands of Kenya’s tea fields, Brackenhurst Conference Center sits like a jewel of remembrance in the colonial crown. It’s lush landscape is a perfect picture of ever green.

The mornings were cold and shrouded in fog. The afternoons were a time for playing in the sun, followed by evenings with dinner by a roaring fire, if you were quick enough to get to that table in the huge dining hall first. Nighttime was just plain cold in those old concrete block dormitories.

Tea time was a twice daily occurrence and while chai is the main drink, I was encouraged to try the coffee. “I don’t drink coffee,” I said. “Ah, but you have never tried ours. It is the best in the world,” he explained. Kenyans are some of the most insistently hospitable people in the world, so I tried ‘his’ coffee. He was right.

And thus began a dual romance that my heart carries on till today: coffee, and Kenya. Thank you, Dunston, for giving me both.



Foolproof Fish

If you’re afraid to cook fish because you feel you don’t know how, this is the recipe for you. Quick, tasty, and so simple you can teach your kids to make it. Wink, wink.

I use tilapia, but any white fish will work. You can also prepare the packets ahead of time even if the fish is frozen. Do it the night before or in the morning, and store them in the fridge. They’ll thaw and be ready to throw in the oven by dinner time.

You can also substitute coconut oil for the butter, if you like.

Foolproof Fish
Recipe type: Easy
Cuisine: Healthy
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4 servings
Such a simple, quick, nutritious meal. It's called Foolproof for a reason.
  • Tilapia fillets (3-4)
  • Foil
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp garlic powder
  • 3-4 tsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to preheat 400F.
  2. Mix all the spices together and sprinkle liberally over both sides of fish.
  3. Place each fish fillet on a separate square of foil.
  4. Dot each piece of fish with about a teaspoon of butter.
  5. Wrap the fish in the foil and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Carefully open the foil packets to avoid being burned by the steam. You can let them sit for 2-5 minutes if you wish.
  8. If you have any left over (planned or not) you can use them for fish tacos the next day.



Mexican Pork Roast

Mexican Pork Roast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10 servings
If you cook the meat longer (until meat is falling apart), you can shred it with 2 forks and use for sandwiches or tacos served in flour tortillas. Delicious paired with caramelized onion, avocado, salsa, and/or sour cream! Makes great fajitas, tacos and BBQ sandwiches. Even tamales!
  • Mexican Pork Roast
  • 2-3 lb. pork loin or roast
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder (or use 3 cloves garlic and add into crock pot with onions)
  • ¼ tsp. red (cayenne pepper) can omit or increase, depending on level of heat you want in final dish
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 TBL. brown sugar
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup regular cola
  1. Mix all the spices together and rub into the pork.
  2. Place onion and garlic cloves (if using fresh) into the pot.
  3. Place meat on top of onions.
  4. Pour the chicken stock and cola in the crock pot and cover.
  5. Cook 6 hours on medium in crock pot for large roast; 4 hours for a smaller one.
  6. Remove from pot when meat is tender and place on a platter.
  7. While meat is resting, strain the solids out of the liquid left in the crock pot.
  8. Place in a sauce pan and add in a slurry made from 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 tablespoons water. Heat until bubbling and thickened.
  9. Slice meat and serve with sauce.

Why You Might Need An Instant Pot

I thought about buying one of these for a long time, but I don’t like to spend on things I don’t need. I do, however, like to buy quality on things I’ll use a lot and I don’t mind spending a little to get good things.

But I left my slow cooker in Africa because it needed replacing anyway.  And I wanted a nice one so I was prepared to spend. I have a stove top presssure cooker and I know how to use it, so I didn’t think I needed an electric gadget that did that. However, this pot was about the same as I was going to spend on a slow cooker, so I decided to try it.

Worth it.

In addition to replacing two things, namely the slow cooker and stove top pressure cooker, it has other functions. A rice cooker, which I haven’t tried. A sear function, which I love. You can brown your meat right in the stainless steel pot and then add your other things and pressure cook or slow cook. The liner is removable and stainless is the safe metal of the current thinking. No aluminum. Removable makes it easy to clean. And lightweight and easy to handle, unlike a stoneware crock. I hate those.

Also, ya’ll. I was a dufus not to realize how much simpler an electric pressure cooker is to use. If you’re afraid of a stove top pressure cooker, then you should try one of these. It is set it and forget it. No watching the jiggly thing on the lid and adjusting the burner on the stove. I absolutely love it.

No, I don’t have any affiliate links.

If you’re thinking ahead, you chunk your stuff in a leave it to slow cook. It will turn itself off and keep it warm and such.

If you need to get it ready fast, you chunk your stuff in and push a button to pressure cook. Then go run your errands and it shuts itself off for you. Holy moly. What a game changer.

Today I’m going to lunch with friends, then I have a pretty full day shopping for supplies and baking. I have a pork roast thawing and when I get back, I’m going to rub it with a spice mixture and pressure cook it for Mexican Pork Roast. We’ll eat it today with a black bean salad I made to go with burgers last night. And later in the week, we’ll use it for pork tacos. Yummity, yum yum. It also makes good BBQ sandwiches if you add some sauce. But then, you’ll want potato salad.

Do you have one of these? What is your favorite kitchen gadget?


A Different Kind of Mother’s Day



I’m not sure how she’ll do it. But I know she will.

My friend asks if she puts on a brave face. I answer yes. And then, no.

Because a face implies that it’s false. And it isn’t.

Her bravery is real.

Any joy she shows is true.

Her optimism is genuine. She has displayed this trait my whole life. It is her nature.

She is without her soulmate for the first Mother’s Day in 66 years.

And if you ask her how she is, she will answer, “I’m okay.” Which is not to say without grief, but acknowledging all she does have to be grateful for, understanding that, and working to embrace it. If you can learn gratitude, you can get through a lot of hard times. If you’ve seen it modeled so well, as I have, then it will go all the easier for you.

I couldn’t be more grateful for her example and influence on my life. My mother has taught me so many things it would be impossible to list them all. A short list would include character, consistency, kindness, thrift, the joy of cooking well and sharing it with others, the importance of paying attention to nature’s gifts, the names of birds, and flowers, wild and cultivated.

A friend of mine’s dad also passed away recently, so we talked about our moms for a little while this week. After I describe all the brave and positive ways my mom is dealing with this loss, my friend says, “I think you’re a lot like your mom.”

Best. Compliment. Ever.
I sure hope it’s true.
Love you, mom.
Happy Mother’s Day





Farmer’s Market Dinner

The one where I show you how to have a relaxed weekend dinner from your farmer’s market goods.

You’ve bought all those lovely things. Fresh produce, meat, olive oil, etc. It was a beautiful day at the market. The sun was out, the sky was clear and all was right with the world. Now, it’s Sunday evening, you’re facing the upcoming work week and people want food.
Stay calm.
Assemble the following.

Sheet tray
Olive oil
Vegs (beets, onions, peppers) Because that’s what I bought.
Meat (chicken sausage) see above

6:29 preheat oven to 400F
Line your sheet tray with a piece of foil for easy clean up.
Wash and trim beets. Place on (a separate) large foil square. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt. Bring all the ends of the foil together to seal and pop the whole thing into the oven.
6:34 Wash and trim peppers and onions.
6:38 Go drink your beverage and sit a minute. Have a couple of Rosemary-Raisin Hippo Crisps to tide you over.
Somewhere around 7, take the sheet pan out of the oven and slide the foil packet of beets to one end, keeping it wrapped. Place the sausages and the veggies on the tray. Drizzle the veg with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Return the tray back to the oven and roast a further 30 mins until the sausages are cooked through.

Sit back down and watch Martha Bakes on KERA Create. If you knew how much I learned watching cooking shows for decades (!), you’d be watching, too. Or, not.
7:30 Beets should be tender by now. Take the tray out and check. Open the foil and test for tenderness with a sharp knife. You can drizzle them with a good vinegar if you want, but I like them as is. They are great refrigerated and you can pull one or two out during the week to eat on a salad, with beans, whatever. So nutritious, delicious, and easy to prepare. Cook once, eat them all week.

Basically, once the sausages are cooked, you can eat the rest at any stage of doneness you like. Cook your veg more or less. It’s your veg in your kitchen. You the boss.

Plate this up and serve with a nice crusty bread. Maybe you bought that at the market, too. If you want to try making your own at home, I suggest this overnight loaf. Yes, you have to plan it ahead, but it’s super simple. I bought a very good baby boule today at Sprouts that tasted so similar to my homemade, I’m not sure if it’s a compliment to them or to me. Either way, bread is good. Butter is best.

Scale this recipe up or down as you need. Open a can of white beans to add to it if you need to stretch for more mouths.

Tomorrow, you can put all the stuff on slices of leftover bread (haha) and have a great open-face sandwich. Top with cheese and melt if you dare.
FOOD See you at the market!

PS – I did not forget desert. Whose daughter do you think I am? Fresh berries with one of Hippos’ all butter vanilla pound cakes. Or a slice of carrot bread if you have any of that loaf left. What? You ate it all already? Better get 2 next Saturday. 😉