Roasted Tomato and Pepper Salsa

It’s the time of summer when I’m watching my garden’s production dwindle.  The days are finally beginning to stay out of the 90 and 100 degree temperatures and our daylight is getting noticeably shorter.  As much as I love fall, it makes me sad when I know I’m picking what are probably the last of my summer tomatoes and peppers.  After tending my little plot for many months, it is a bit hard to let it go, but I make sure to let nothing go to waste!  This weekend I made a batch of this Roasted Tomato and Pepper Salsa.  It’s such a fresh addition to your favorite foods and also tastes pretty darned good while you sit on the couch with a bag of chips (I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing)! ~Tracy

6 – 7 cups of halved tomatoes (enough to lay flat on 2/3 of a 12×17 baking sheet)

1 large yellow onion, quartered

5-7 jalapeno peppers, halved with seeds and ribs removed

8 – 10 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 T. coarse salt

½ to 1 bunch of cilantro leaves, washed and chopped

Juice from half a lime

Line a 12 x 17 baking sheet with parchment. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice tomatoes in half and lay them skin side up on the baking sheet.  Use enough tomatoes to take up about 2/3 of your baking sheet. You can use Roma tomatoes or any variety that you have on hand.  I grow several varieties in my garden and use a mixture of all of them.

Arrange halved jalapenos on the other end of your baking sheet, skin side up.

Disperse your onion pieces among the tomatoes and peppers. 

Roast the vegetables in the 375 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes, rotating the pan half way through cooking. 

Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow to cool completely.

After the vegetables have cooled, carefully peel the skin from each tomato.  You should be able to pinch the skin on each tomato and peel it off easily.  If you don’t mind the tomato skins in your salsa, you can certainly leave them, but my family prefers that they be removed.

Gently mash each clove of garlic with a knife or back of a spoon (this allows it to mix more evenly into the salsa).

Place the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic into a food processor.  Add the cilantro and salt. Pulse the food processor until the salsa comes to your desired consistency.  Add freshly squeezed lime juice and stir.

Salsa will keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.  Freeze extra in air tight containers or freezer bags.

Salsa is ZERO WW points per serving.

Classic Strawberry Fluff

Sometimes something light and refreshing is just what I need. I have come to love an old classic again. Gelatin salads, or fluffs (that have whipped cream), were very popular when I was young but have seemed to lose popularity over the years. The title of salad is a loose one. A gelatin salad generally has some fruit, but gelatin is definitely the star. They are one of the easiest ways to have a summer (or anytime) dessert without the oven. This recipe is a fluff, which I prefer. It is just the perfect little treat at the end of the day.  

I have tried lots of variations of lots of recipes during these hot summer months, and this one is definitely my family’s favorite. My father-in-law even said he was hoping I’d have some when we came over for dinner one night…that’s a win in my book!! We all love this gelatin fluff (or salad if it makes you feel better). Call it what you want, but I know you will love it too. ~Kathy

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  • 1 large package (4.6 oz.) Cook and Serve Vanilla Pudding
  • 1 large package (6 oz.) Cherry Jell-O   
  • 2 ½ c. water
  • 12 oz. Cool Whip, thawed 
  • 2 heaping c. strawberries, stems removed and sliced
  • 2 c. mini marshmallows

In a sauce pan, combine dry pudding mix, Jell-O powder, and water over medium heat until it comes to a boil, stirring to ensure all the powder is dissolved and well combined.   

Remove from heat and pour carefully into a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool slightly. 

Refrigerate until it has thickened (about 4 to 6 hours, but overnight is fine).

Once it has thickened, using a hand mixer beat until smooth and creamy.  

Fold in Cool Whip (one and a half 8 oz. containers).  This may take a couple of minutes to get well incorporated.  

Fold in strawberries and marshmallows.   

Refrigerate until served.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

My husband’s family is well known for amazing cooks. This recipe is from one of those ladies. Aunt Mary, as she is affectionately known by everyone in the tri-county area, turned 100 years old this year. She is still sharp as a tack and one of the sweetest women you will ever meet. Everyone that knows her loves her. She makes the most delicious treats, and until just the last couple of years, she would always send you home with a sack full of something fabulous. My mother-in-law taught me how to make this jam, and I am not sorry! It tastes so fresh and is so easy to make, you will never buy store bought again. When I say it’s easy to make, I really mean easy to make! Now that strawberries are at their best is the time to make a batch (or two or three)!! ~Kathy

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  • 2 c. strawberries
  • 4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 box Sure Jell Original Fruit Pectin (1.75 oz)

Wash and remove stems from the strawberries. Place in blender and pulse, leaving a few smaller chunks (a little texture is okay). Measure blended strawberries to reach amount needed. Place in large bowl.  Add sugar.  Mix well.   Stir every few minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.  (This could take up to 45 minutes).  This is important to make sure you do not have grainy jam.  Once the sugar has dissolved, proceed to the next step.

In a medium sauce pan, add water and whisk in pectin. Bring to a boil, and keep at a boil for one minute. Immediately pour into strawberry/sugar mixture. Stir gently just to combine.

Pour into prepared pint jars, leaving a little room in the jar as it will expand a bit as it freezes.  Wipe the rim with a damp cloth; then seal with the lid and ring.

Allow to cool then place in the freezer. Will keep in the freezer for months.

Yield:  About 3 pints

 

 

Lemon Zucchini Pasta

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My sisters and I grew up with grandparents who had huge gardens!  They may not have been as big as my childhood memories make them seem,  but my sisters and I helped harvest more goodies than you can imagine. We learned to dig potatoes and peanuts, how to pick okra and how to shuck corn, and of course we learned how to snap beans.  I remember sitting outside in the summer and eating fresh watermelon (with salt, of course).  I think that’s one of the reasons that I’ve developed such a nostalgia about growing anything that I can manage, and I love using those things in my kitchen.  The fresh zucchini and basil in this dish are so summery tasting!  I wish I could say that I grew the dill.  Our Mammaw often had dill growing in her back flower beds, and it smelled better than any flower.  Good food is a source of such good memories – and this is definitely good food! ~Tracy 

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

Zest from 1 lemon

½ c. finely chopped white or yellow onion

2 c. zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ tsp. salt

2 T. finely chopped capers

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

1 lb. spaghetti noodles

3 T. finely chopped fresh dill

3 T. finely chopped fresh basil

2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ c. fresh grated parmesan

½ c. crumbled feta cheese

1 c. reserved hot pasta water from spaghetti

Cook spaghetti in large pot, with salted water, according to package directions.

While spaghetti is cooking, heat olive oil in large, high-sided skillet. Saute onion and zucchini until zucchini begins to soften and onion begins to become translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and capers, continuing to simmer on low for another minute or two.  

Add cooked and drained spaghetti to the pan with the zucchini. Add in lemon juice, lemon zest, dill, and basil.  Toss the entire mixture with the spaghetti to combine. Add in ½ c. of the reserved pasta water and stir (you can gradually add a little at a time before serving if pasta appears too dry). Remove from heat and allow to sit for two to three minutes to begin the cooling process.  Then toss in both the parmesan and feta cheese.

Serve immediately with grilled chicken or enjoy as a tasty meatless pasta dish.

This recipe makes 8 servings at 9 points per serving on all three WW plans. 

Summer Zucchini Skillet

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We started a Quarantine Garden!  Is that what we are going to call them in history books?  Folks during WWII had victory gardens; we have quarantine gardens.  We planted zucchini squash, sweet banana peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, basil, and cilantro.  Y’all, we had zucchini running out our ears from only a few plants!  One of my favorite dishes to make with our plentiful harvest is this Summer Zucchini Skillet.  It’s so fresh and summery, hence the name.  It pairs perfectly with some grilled chicken and sliced avocado.  I chop my chicken and avocado in small bites and mix everything together on my plate.  It’s a perfect summer meal!  ~Erin

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1 – 1 ½  lbs zucchini, stems cut off and chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 T. olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

2 small-medium tomatoes (such as Roma), seeded and chopped

½ a small red onion (about 1/3 c. chopped)

1 – 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

10 ounces frozen or fresh corn kernels, thawed if frozen

1 T. chopped fresh cilantro

The juice of half a lime

Chili Lime salt to taste (I like Tajin brand, low sodium version)

Heat olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook a few minutes, until it starts to look translucent.  Stir in the garlic and corn and cook until fragrant (a couple minutes).  Add the zucchini, tomatoes, and jalapeno and cook until zucchini starts to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  Lastly, add the cilantro and lime juice and stir until heated through.  Remove from heat and add chili lime salt to taste. This is delicious served with grilled meat and avocado (will change the WW points).

WW info:  This recipe makes 4 large servings.  On Green plan, each serving is 4 points.  On Blue or Purple, each serving is 1 point.

Sunday Picnic Chicken Salad

Many years ago, Barry worked at a certain chicken sandwich place — for three years in high school and all five years of college, in fact. When he started working there, he learned to make chicken salad from a VHS training video (nope, we are not spring chickens).

Many years later, he tried to make it from memory – he did not remember. 🙂 His creation was nothing like what they had – it was much better! While I tend to think of chicken salad as a summertime dish, my kids ask for it all year, and they don’t really have to twist my arm to get me to make it any time.

This is such an easy make & take recipe for a big gathering – or a small one. I am persnickety about my hot food being really hot, so when we picnic at the lake (which is one of our favorite family activities after work while we continue to social distance) this chicken salad is a frequent choice for us. I really love it served on a King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll for a slider sized sandwich, but Barry prefers it on the King’s Hawaiian sandwich slices. Either way, it’s fantastic; I’m really glad he couldn’t remember the chicken joint’s recipe! ~Robin

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Trim any excess fat from the chicken, then cut into chunks to boil. Remove chicken from the water carefully once it’s cooked using tongs and place on a large cutting board (make sure it’s completely opaque in the center). Then finely chop the chicken and place in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill before serving.

WW Info: This makes 8 generous 2/3 c. servings. On purple or blue, it’s 3 points. On green, it’s 4. Remember to calculate your choice of bread separately.

Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce

As I write this, most states are just coming out of quarantine due to the Covid-19.  While people are beginning to return to work, and some returning to play, I am still enjoying this ‘excuse’ for avoiding those heavy-duty grocery shopping trips.  Since I’m not wandering stores, a lot of those things that end up in my cart as I walk by them, are absent from my fridge and pantry these days.  Like a lot of you, I’ve ended up making the best of what happens to be in the house when planning for dinner.  I have always used canned enchilada sauce before and been fine with it – sometimes that’s just all you have time for! This homemade version, though, has rescued my dinner plans, is easy to make, and can be doubled easily.  I have some in my deep freeze right now for future use! ~Tracy

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3 T. vegetable oil

2 ½ T. chili powder

2 T. all-purpose flour

1 can (14.5 oz.) fat free chicken broth

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 tsp. cumin

½ tsp. unsweetened cocoa

½ tsp. sugar

½ tsp. onion powder

½ tsp. garlic salt

1 pinch cinnamon

dash cayenne pepper

In a medium sauce pan, mix oil, chili powder, and flour.  Mix until smooth and allow this mixture to heat on low for 2 – 3 minutes.  This allows your flour to cook and the chili powder flavor to ‘bloom.’

Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, and all other spices.  Bring to a boil.  Immediately reduced heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Makes 3 cups.  For ¼ cup serving, this sauce is 1 @WW point on the Blue, Green, and Purple Plans.

Scotcharoos

The Scotcharoo recipe was originally printed on the side of a Rice Krispies box in the mid 1960s.  That recipe became an instant classic, but we’ve updated our version to make it even better!  One of the best things about these treats is that they’re the perfect dessert for a hot summer night when you don’t want to turn on your oven. Our version adds the perfect amount of gooeyness that we always thought was missing from the original recipe.   Even if you once thought you didn’t love Scotcharoos, we think you’ll love ours. Make them when you want something sweet that also has a sense of nostalgia!   ~Kathy

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1 c. creamy peanut butter

1 c. plus 1 T. light corn syrup

¾ c. firmly packed brown sugar

3 T. butter

1/8 tsp. salt

½ tsp. vanilla

1 c. miniature marshmallows

5 c. Rice Krispies cereal

1 c. chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate, but semi-sweet would work fine)

½ c. butterscotch chips

Instructions:

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray.

In a heavy large pot combine the peanut butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter and salt. Place over medium high heat. Stir continuously; the sugar should completely dissolved and the mixture should be smooth and creamy. Remove from heat just as it begins to bubble. Immediately add marshmallows and vanilla. Stir until they are completely incorporated. Add rice cereal and mix carefully to completely coat.

Spread into prepared pan using a spatula. Be careful not to compact it tightly.  Set aside to cool.

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave chocolate and butterscotch chips in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until it is completely melted and smooth. Pour over cereal mixture and spread evenly.

Allow to cool (or refrigerate briefly) until the topping is set. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Crock Pot Pork Roast in Gravy

I don’t know about y’all, but pantry-friendly recipes are my go-to right now.  I need meals that don’t require grocery runs because that’s not happening.  This is one of those recipes.  My kids love it and I love how easy it is to make.  In literally 5 minutes, I can have supper going in the Crockpot.  Eight hours later, I’ll bake up some potatoes, open up a salad mix and BAM dinner is on the table… hot and delicious with minimal work.  That’s my kind of meal.  ~Erin20200507_182133

Ingredients:

2 ½ pound pork roast, trimmed

1 (10.5 oz.) can Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom soup

1 (10.5 oz.) can Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Celery soup

1 soup can full of water

1 (1 oz.) packet Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup and Dip Mix

Baked potatoes, for serving

Place the trimmed pork roast in a slow-cooker pot.   In a medium bowl, stir together all other ingredients.  Pour the mixture over the roast.  Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours, until meat is cooked and shreds easily.  Shred the roast and stir it to incorporate the gravy/sauce.  Serve over baked potatoes.

WW info.:  This recipe makes 6 1-cup servings.  Each serving is 6 points on all plans, not including the baked potato.

Taco Poblanos

After a long day with Zoom meetings sprinkled throughout for everybody (which is, I’ll go ahead ahead and tell you as a 100% biased mama, super cute for Kindergarten) the last thing I want to do is cook a complicated meal.  Is “Zoom fatigue” an official thing yet?  Just me?

Anyway, who doesn’t love all forms of tacos?  Whether you’re reducing carbs, going full Keto, or you’re like me and just love peppers, this really easy taco recipe is just what your taco repertoire needs. ~Robin

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A poblano is a really large, slightly sweet pepper, especially once it’s roasted so you’re not going to get a ton of heat, but they can still have a little heat once roasted.  It’s a good idea to use gloves when you’re handling them raw.  In this case, since the meat will be cooked and you’ll just be heating everything together, you’re going to roast the peppers first.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (97% fat free)
  • 1 packet of your favorite taco seasoning
  • 1.5 avocados
  • 3 oz. low fat Colby Jack or Mexi-blend cheese (I prefer Colby Jack because its flavor is a little bolder)
  • Pam cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Wash and cut the peppers in half length-wise so you have two pretty equal halves.  Remove the stem from whichever side it ends up on.
  3. Place the halves open side down in an oven-safe skillet, spraying the top of the peppers with cooking spray well.
  4. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until the skin of the peppers begins to blister quite a bit.
  5. Remove skillet from the oven carefully and set aside.
  6. On medium heat in a separate skillet, cook your beef, seasoning with taco seasoning using instructions on the seasoning packet.
  7. Flip the peppers over in the oven-safe skillet so they’re open on top.  The spoon in about 1/8 of the beef into each pepper half.  They may flatten a little but they’ll still hold the contents.
  8. Wash, then cut your avocado in half, lengthwise.  Remove the pit.  Then cube in about ½” sized cubes.
  9. Sprinkle the avocado chunks across the tacos fairly evenly.
  10. Finally, sprinkle with your cheese evenly and return to the oven.
  11. You’re just going to roast these again until they’re heated through well and the cheese is nice and melted – around 8-10 minutes but keep an eye on them.
  12. Serve with your favorite salsa.

WW info:  Makes 8 poblano tacos – On Green, Blue, or Purple:  1 taco = 3 points; 2 = 7 points; 3 = 10 points.