Fresh salsa

I know. A salsa recipe! From ME! It’s shocking. I’ll give you a minute while you collect yourself.

This one comes courtesy of my BFF’s boyfriend, and it is so good. Very different from my usual roasted salsa roja, and perfect for right now when the tomatoes are in season and easy to find. Around here we can still find a farmer with a card table of tomatoes and a cigar box for cash sitting out at the end of the driveway. Best tomatoes in the world!

Anyway, the salsa is also easily customizable, so you can make it anywhere from diced tomatoes to melt-your-face-off hot (which, you’ve probably figured out by now, is my preferred level of heat).

Fresh salsa:

  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium-large white onion
  • 3 serrano peppers
  • 1 bunch cilantro*
  • salt, and black pepper to taste
  • 3 large limes

To assemble:

  1. Dice tomatoes, onion, and peppers and stir together in a bowl
  2. Chop the cilantro and add in
  3. Add salt and pepper, then squeeze in the juice from the limes
  4. Stir, and enjoy! The longer it sits, the hotter it gets — just something to keep in mind

*A note on cilantro: for the last three years or so I kind of hate it (pregnancy was weird), so the first time I made this myself I just left it out. And I MISSED it. It really makes that much of a difference, so my advice is to try just a little bit in it even if you think you hate it.

Random: this reminds me so much of the now-defunct Salsa Y’all. Does anyone else remember that?

The meatball recipe

I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I originally found this recipe. It’s been saved in my Evernote for years, simply titled The Meatball Recipe, and I use it a lot. These have great flavor and never dry out on me.

It’s a great go-to recipe because it works for so many different seasons and occasions! I love it any time of year served with dipping sauces: barbecue, sweet chili, and ketchup all work great. They can be grilled in the summer when it’s too hot to fire up the oven. They’re obviously good to throw in a big batch of spaghetti and meatballs, but I also like to divide them up and freeze them in little baggies of three each so I can add them into quick pasta/tomato sauce lunches — instant protein add!

How would YOU use these?

The meatball recipe

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 24 meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb 80% lean ground beef.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. Stir together Panko, eggs, water, cheese, garlic, parsley, seasoning, salt and pepper in a large bowl
  3. Add beef and mix by hand until just barely combined
  4. Scoop up meat mixture and gently roll into meatballs
  5. Bake on baking sheet, 1 1/2 inches apart, for 15 minutes or until internal temp is 165F

Cheese straws

After talking and hemming and hawing about it forever I finally bought a cookie press. It’s so much fun! I can’t believe I waited so long. I just had to try cheese straws first, and they were fantastic.

They also kind of made me want to wear a big hat and drink mint juleps, but that’s for another day.

The cookie press I bought came with a recipe book with this recipe included; I changed it to use butter instead of margarine, because yuck.

Cheese straws

Yield: 5 dozen 3 inch straws

Ingredients

  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, graded
  • 3/4 cup butter, well softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (I used Louisiana)
  • 1 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like the heat)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven 400 F
  2. Blend cheese, butter, egg and hot sauce and set aside
  3. Sift together flour and spices, then knead into butter mixture, either by hand or in a food processor with the metal blade
  4. Use cookie press with star disk, or pipe out of ziptop bag onto ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 10-13 minutes until golden brown. Remove immediately to cooling rack; store in airtight container when completely cooled

By the way, show of hands: who has had cheese straws before? Turns out my lived-in-the-South-all-her-life friend Vanessa had never had them. What about y’all?

Buffalo chicken bites

I always command beg ask my sister to make buffalo chicken dip for football parties, and she does — what a good kid. I wanted to make it for Vanessa’s birthday but I wanted a way to make it a little more portable, so I came up with this!

Buffalo chicken bites

 Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Redhot sauce
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese, plus a little extra shredded mozzarella
  • one chicken breast cooked and shredded
  • 2-3 packages mini phyllo shells

Instructions

  1. Put cream cheese in a bowl and stir it up with a wooden spoon or something up to the task, then add dressing, hot sauce, cheese and shredded chicken and stir well
  2. Just before you’re ready to serve preheat oven to 350F and put shells on a cookie sheet. Scoop chicken dip into shells (I used a small cookie dough scoop) and top with shredded cheese
  3. Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until shells are just barely browning at the edges and chicken mixture is hot

Hello? How easy is this? Go! Go make it now! They’re so warm and yummy when one is snowed in…. which, like me, you probably are.

Myrtle Dip

What, like that’s not a descriptive name?

Kiddo’s Aunt Myrtle (hands seen in picture) made this for me this weekend. We may or may not have eaten it sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace and a chick flick. Ahem.

Myrtle Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1 can RO*TEL, drained
  • 2 cans Super Sweet Yellow & White corn (see picture)

Instructions

  1. Drain the corn and RO*TEL, then stir together in a shallow dish (that’s a double batch in a lasagna pan in the picture up there), then pinch off chunks of the cream cheese and scatter over the RO*TEL/corn mixture; bake at 350F for 15 minutes
  2. Carefully remove from oven and stir together so it’s all incorporated; return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The end!

Y’all know how I love me some easy recipes. Plus, this is really great hot and really great cold. New Year’s Eve anyone?

Enjoy!

Hummus

The first time I tried hummus? Not. A. Fan. I couldn’t even tell you now what I didn’t like about it (it was years and years ago) but I can for sure tell you I didn’t like it. Fast forward to this month when Kiddo’s BFF’s mom made it at her house. Seeing as how it’d been years and years I wanted to try it again, so I sort of held my breath and took a bite. YUM! I don’t know what the difference is, but now I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Vanessa sent me her recipe so I made a big batch of this for last night. Halloween night at our place is hanging out with the neighbors on the front porch with food and wine while we hand out candy; we don’t go trick or treating because Kiddo doesn’t like candy (of course) so we just make it into a party (and I LOVE it!). In the three and a half seconds I spent looking in the grocery store I couldn’t find the tahini Vanessa’s recipe called for so I used natural peanut butter instead, a la Alton Brown.

Hummus

Ingredients

  • Gather up:
  • 1 can chick peas (drain, keep 1/3 c of liquid)
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or tahini)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled or a couple spoonfuls of jarred minced garlic
  • Healthy pinch of salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put everything but the chickpeas in a food processor and process till garlic is well chopped
  2. Add in chickpeas and process till smooth and give it a taste — adjust salt and cayenne as desired
  3. Chill; eat with pita chips and/or baby carrots

Guacamole

On a trip to Hilton Head Island the Yankee and I discovered this dish: guacamole topped with crab meat. This is a win. I set out to recreate it as soon as we got home, and I’m pretty pleased with the result! This is a huge party hit, too; I highly recommend.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • Two ripe avocados
  • Two Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste, but about 1/2 tsp.
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (or some onion powder if you hate the crunch of raw onion)
  • Eight ounces lump crab meat, drained
  • Chips (obviously)

Instructions

  1. Scoop out the avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork
  2. Stir in tomatoes, pepper, cumin, pepper, salt and lime juice, plus onion if you’re using it
  3. Top with crab meat and serve with chips