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!


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.



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?


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. 😉

Texas Honeybee Guild

Slow Cooker Honey-Balsamic Pork Loin

Texas Honeybee GuildIt’s been too long since I’ve given you a super easy, delicious recipe. Baking for several days to prepare for 2 days of selling tends to leave me not wanting to cook anything complicated for dinner. But people still want to eat, which is probably true at your house, too, so here we go.

Mix together a few spices in a small bowl. This will do about a 3 lb. pork roast, tenderloin, boneless loin or whatever cut of pork you have.

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper (less if you want less spicy, more if you want more) I used Turkish pepper because it’s mildly hot, if that makes sense.

Rub the spices all over the pork loin and plop it in the slow cooker.

Balsamic vinegarIn a measuring cup, put 1/3 cup water or chicken broth, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon each of worcestershire and honey. Mix it all together and pour over the pork.

Cook this on low for 4-6 hours or on high 2-3 hours. You can add some carrots in there if you want to do a veg with it. The flavors go well with them.

That’s it. You’ll have dinner for tonight and leftovers.

Recipe done, here’s the chatty, bloggy bit.

I am fortunate enough to be weekly rubbing shoulders with farmers and food producers so I’ve started trying some of the things they sell. It’s easier for me to shop while I’m working at the market than to make another trip to a grocery store. Yes, it’s more expensive in some ways, but guess what? My grocery budget has not increased. I’m still spending the same amount and we are eating a better quality of food. Yes, better. Yes, local. When you shop first at your farmer’s market, you don’t waste all that extra money buying un-food stuff they sell at the “grocery” store.  Many of us could eat higher quality food if we would just use our money to buy real, good food first and ice cream, potato chips, and convenience foods last.

The balsamic vinegar I’ve used here is amazing. The local honey is sustainably sourced and so yummy. Now that the season is here, why not check out what’s up at your local farmer’s market? And if you’re in Dallas, come see me at Good Local Market ,White Rock or Tyler St. locations.


image of bowl of red pepper bisque

Red Pepper Bisque

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

This is a favorite of mine.

I love things that are tasty and nutritionally perfect. (I get to define perfect.)

If you make it all completely from scratch, it’s a little time intensive. But fear not! There are short cuts! I like to keep broth in the freezer so I can make soup when the weather says, “make soup!” And I love pureed vegetable soups because they are a great way to get veggies in your diet. You can also get delicious results by using jarred red peppers and canned tomatoes, and it will cut your prep time in half. If you use ready made broth, choose a low salt version.

This soup is great served with crusty no knead bread, topped with melted mozzarella.

Here’s a little video on how to roast your own tomatoes and peppers, as well as blending the soup in a blender.

Red Pepper Bisque
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: healthy
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 cups
Red peppers and tomatoes combined in a flavor-filled and healthy soup. Enhanced with not one, but two or three types of dried pepper spice.
  • 3 roasted red peppers
  • 3 roma tomatoes, roasted
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2-3 pints broth, chicken or vegetable
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. Aleppo pepper
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ⅛ tsp. white pepper
  • ½ pint heavy cream
  1. Saute the diced carrot, celery and onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium to low heat just until softened. You don't want any color on the veg.
  2. Add 1 cup of broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer about 15 mins until the veg are completely soft. The carrots will take the longest so test them with a fork.
  3. Add in the tomatoes, peppers and 2 cups of broth. Remove from heat.
  4. Puree the mixture. An immersion blender is the easiest way to do this, but you can do it in a regular blender if you remove the stopper from the lid and cover that with a towel, being very careful to do it in small batches so you do not burn yourself. See my YouTube video (link above) for tips on this.
  5. At this point I recommend you strain the mixture so that you have a nice, smooth soup. You don't have to, but I like it better this way.
  6. If the soup is too thick, add more broth.
  7. Return the mixture to the pan and heat, then add the spices and taste. Season as desired.
  8. Finish by adding ½ to 1 cup of heavy cream. Your choice! Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.









Cold Brew Coffee

The best cold brew is the one you make yourself

The best cold brew is the one you make yourself.

Oh my goat. If I see another commercial talking about cold brew coffee like it’s some mystical creature they just discovered, I’m going to go broke. We have been making this admittedly magical black liquid in our home for years. I found the recipe in Southern Living forever ago.  All you do is mix ground coffee with water and let it steep overnight. Strain it all out and keep the concentrate in the fridge. Use it to make your iced coffee. Every day. You can mix it with water, milk, flavored creamer or a combination.

8 oz ground coffee
7 cups cold water
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, if desired.

Stir together the coffee and water in a 2 quart pitcher until all grounds are wet. Let mixture set 12 hours (overnight or whatever) at room temperature. Using a slotted or perforated spoon, scoop out as much of the wet grounds as you can. Next, pour the mixture through a strainer and discard the grounds. Lastly, place a paper coffee filter in the strainer and pour coffee mixture through that. It will take a few minutes and need to be done in batches. Add the vanilla (if using) and store the concentrate in the fridge.

To make your iced coffee, use 1/4 to 1/2 cup concentrate and add an equal amount of milk or water. Sweeten with a simple syrup or your favorite flavor of liquid creamer, if desired. Stir, top with ice and enjoy!

CoffeesicleYou can use this same concentrate to make frozen coffee-sicles. Don’t use milk to dilute the concentrate, however, as it will separate during the freezing process. Use liquid creamer, water, heavy cream, or any combination. You can also use it to make a cappuccino ice cream. Or affogato, which is just espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream and might be the best thing ever invented.