Sunday, February 01, 2009

Homemade Salsa (even in the dead of winter!)

Every summer, I plant a weed patch/garden and then work toward the goal of canning the produce so that we can enjoy the bounty during the winter months. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't... This year was, unfortunately a "doesn't," as I lost my legal assistant right as the tomatoes and jalapenos were ready and I was very busy at the office and my produce went to waste. I literally have not gone near my garden since late summer, because it is a sad reminder of that very fact. Oh well - there is always this year!!

Today's Primary Suspects:

Roma tomatoes (about 7), half of a large red onion, 2-3 jalapenos, and one bunch of cilantro

We'll talk about the rest of the ingredients later.

One of our very favorite things to make and can is homemade salsa! Last week, I found some nice-looking Roma tomatoes on sale and decided to give it a go at making some fresh salsa with lowly grocerystore produce. I figured that if it tasted good enough, I could close my eyes and pretend like it's July and there isn't a foot of snow on the ground here. It was delish!

I have just in the last year decided that cilantro is an herb of the gods. Like, I can't cook Mexican food without a big bunch of it being involved. Like I dream of it at night. Like I want to marry it. OK, it's not really that great, but you get the idea. You do NOT want to use the dried stuff that comes in a jar. Ick. I mean, it's probably okay if you have never tasted fresh cilantro, but I honestly wouldn't even bother making fresh salsa unless I have the fresh cilantro - it's just that darn good.

Anyway, the challenge with cooking with it is that it has rather tough stems and it is very time-consuming to pull all those little leaves off before chopping. So, I figured out a trick that makes it much less bothersome. I hold the bunch of cilantro with my left hand (the leaves pointing toward the right). Next, I hold a fork with my right hand and put the tines down so that the tines are pointing straight down amongst the stems and pull the fork to the right, keeping the tines against the cutting board. I continue doing this until my left hand is left pretty much just holding stems. The leaves pull right off of the stems as I drag the fork.

Does that make even one little whit of sense at all? I hope.

Here is the cutting board filled with everything chopped up. Ta-da! Mucho beautiful. Or something like that.

Now, I want you to meet my long-time best friend in the kitchen. It is sometimes called a Bench Scraper and I have also heard it called a Dough Scraper. I call it The Metal Scraper-Thing. Whatever you call it, you want one in your kitchen. I almost always include one when I give a wedding shower gift.

It works great for scooping up the veggies and putting them into the bowl. Another day, I will show you its awesomeness when working with dough. Before then, go buy one. If you want to. Or not. Nevermind.

After you have all the veggies in the bowl, we move on to the "extras." Start with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. You can use regular salt. Or Kosher salt. Or solar-evaporated sea salt. Now us, since it's wintertime here and we're on a tight budget, I usually just go scrape some off of the road after the salt truck passes through. Using my Dough Scraper, of course. Just kidding. Maybe. I also could, in a pinch, go out to the dairy barn and scrape some off of the cows' salt block. I doubt if a little cow saliva ever killed anyone.

I just squirt about 2 teaspoons or so of lime juice in the bowl, but I don't really measure. I also scoop in about 2 tablespoons of minced garlic. That is enough to keep vampires away, so use less if you are going to be in the same room with another person in the next 24 hours. Just a warning.

After making tons of homemade salsa over the years, I have found that the number one mistake people make is not adding enough salt. The right amount of salt really brings out the freshness of the ingredients. Add it slowly, however, because you don't want it to taste salty, but rather just have enough to enhance the flavors.

Ta-da! The finished product. Just grab some tortilla chips and dig in. The men in the house will love you forever for makin this.

S.B. Mom

Saturday, January 10, 2009

100 Things About Me

Ok, so I have visited blogs where they celebrate their 100th post by posting a "100 Things About Me List." At the pace I am posting, I will be in a nursing home before I hit 10o posts, so I decided to just do it now. Because I don't like to procrastinate. (And family, if any of you are reading this post, please don't disclose the lie in that statement when you leave a comment) So, here goes, in no particular order.

I just made the executive decision to post 10 each day for 10 days. I am sure you won't be able to sleep at night from the anticipation this will cause, but take some Ambien or something, okay?

First Ten Things About Me:

1. I am a grammar Nazi. Get your conjunctions and you're pronouns correct or your gonna drive people like me insane. (Please please please tell me you caught them...)

2. I am an attorney. Yes, I understand that you might think that all attorneys are lying, cheating, greedy thieves, but when you need one, you will be glad we exist.

3. My husband is a dairy farmer. Our dinnertime conversation might cover things like castration, a cow falling in the 15-ft. deep manure pit, or even a new mom (cow mom) having a retained placenta. All just part of the charm of living on a farm, I guess.

4. We have 5 kids. No, we are not Catholic; yes, we know what causes it; and the one I hate the most - no, we did not have a lot of kids so that we would have more help on the farm.

5. My second toe is really long. In fact, it is exactly as long as my pinky finger! Take your sock off now and compare yours...I know you want to.

6. We are new owners of a vacation rental! Woo-hoo. You can visit the website at

7. My favorite food is potatoes. Baked, fried, mashed, grilled, sliced, diced, you name it. I have never let one of my kids' fries ever make it from their fast food tray to the trash bin. For that, I am very proud. Okay, not really, but it is true.

8. I love candles. I almost always have at least one burning when I am at home.

9. I drive a Suburban. It's my sixth child - I love it so much.

10. I have an awesome 12 year old dog named Samantha Josephine ( aka "Sammy"). She has to take laxatives (it's a long story). Everytime someone asks G-man (our 5 year old son) if he has a dog he says the same dramatic thing: "Her name is Sammy and is she doesn't poop, she'll die!" Talk about an awkward conversation piece. You wouldn't believe how many people he has left speechless with this response.

Ok, that's enough delving into the odd recesses of my life for today. Check back for more later.

Friday Night Pizza

Every Friday that we are home is officially Homemade Pizza Night at our house. The girls take turns helping me prepare the pizzas and the evening is always full of laughing and special time together. Sheesh...I sound like a Hallmark card - let's just get back to cooking.

Anyway, we have tried many varieties of topping over the 3 or so years that we have had this tradition going, and we tried a new one last night that is really worth sharing. Hubs and Zippy (our 11 year old son) are huge fans of buffalo hot wings. They like things spicy, but not put-the-toilet-paper-in-the-freezer hot, so I set out to come up with a recipe for pizza that would have some of the hot wing flavor but be not too hot.

I will discuss how to make an awesome homemade pizza crust another day, but trust me when I say it is very simple and sooooo worth the effort!!

Here is what I came up with:

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into small pieces
2 T. butter
3/4 c. Frank's Red Hot
1/4 c. BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's)
1 c. ranch dressing
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
prepared 16-inch pizza crust

Preheat the oven to 425°. After you cook the chicken, take it out of the pan and cut into small pieces (sort of diced). Throw the chicken back into the pan over medium heat and add the butter, Red Hot, and BBQ sauce. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Spread the ranch dressing over the pizza crust to within about an inch of the edge. Okay, the thing you have to understand about my cooking is that I am all about excess. Like if a little ranch is good, keep on adding more until it's almost too much, but not quite. Follow that? Anyway, I probably added about 1 1/4 cup or so. Next, spread the chicken mixture over the ranch dressing and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes. Watch it carefully, though because at this high temp, there is a fine line between done and "oh crap-the smoke detector is going off and one of the kids needs to go out and throw this thing over the fence into the pasture."

One last nugget of info regarding pizza - I discovered about 6 months ago that if you mix up 1-2 T of melted butter with about a half a teaspoon of garlic salt mixed into it, and brush that on the crust as soon as the pizza comes out of the oven, you will have people begging for your "secret recipe." There is just something about warm, melty butter and garlic that makes everything better. Of course, you are listening to someone who, as a teenager, would put garlic butter on her toast in the morning when we didn't have jelly, so consider the source, ok?

There. Now you have the perfect recipe to keep those men in the family very happy. My dad once told me: "There are two ways to a man's heart, and you better go through his stomach!" Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Christmas Love Story

I have been thinking this Christmas about a client of mine that is having a tough year. He has a wife who is in the later stages of Alzheimers. Thing is, he is still dearly in love with his wife and is still willing to do whatever it takes to keep her at home. He came to me to do planning for the possible need for nursing home care for his wife, but considers that to be a last resort. Every time he leaves the office with his wife, my secretary and myself are practically in tears. They are just so sweet and hold hands and, even though she is to the point of having really no meaningful understanding of her surroundings, her husband will always ask her if she has any questions about what I have been saying. He'll put his hand on her knee and lean in close and slowly and gently ask her, and then just hang on her every word. She usually just smiles and says, "no" but to look at him waiting for her answer, you can tell that he isn't just asking, he really cares. He always says, "She took care of me and the kids for all those years, I won't desert her and dump her in a nursing home!"

He reminisces about the old days when her mind was healthy and has the sweetest smile and his eyes just twinkle. These are the times that I don't mind having a client who wants to go on and on about matters that are not related to my work for them. Just seeing the love in this man's eyes when he talks about his wife, who now sits next to him oblivious to her surroundings, and hearing how much he appreciates her and would do anything for her, makes me want to go home and be the best wife and mom I can possibly be. Because I want my hubs, in 45 years, to have that same twinkle in his eyes talking about me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What do Christmas and porn have in common?

Stay tuned to find out. My Grandma is a one-of-a-kind. Some might use the word "crazy" but I love her dearly. Gram and Gramps are respectively Agnostic and Atheist, so Christmas is just a time for visiting and there is no spiritual meaning at all (this is a very difficult issue I pray about a lot). So she calls Christmas morning at 8:30am and says, "we are leaving now and we are going to be at your house in half an hour, so be ready." My kids aren't even all up yet, and we haven't eaten breakfast, but Gram assures me there is no time to waste because they have dinner plans for 5:00pm. Nowhere else to go until 5, but when Gram gets something in her head, it's law. "We want to drop off gifts and get a picture in front of your tree and leave." The "Drive-by Christmas". So Gram comes in and right away wants to tell us about the funeral she was at for her ex-brother-in-law (Joe). She starts in about how Joe's son, Timmy, was giving the eulogy and she stops and says, "Timmy is sort of shy. He goes into hotels and puts in porno onto the tv's. He's not a social person." It was all I could do to not burst out laughing. "Merry Christmas and cousin Timmy likes porn!" Turns out he installs pay-per-views in hotel rooms. Presumably he installs a selection that includes more than "porno," but Gram seemed to hone in on the naughty aspect of his job rather well. She's like that. Go for the shock value. Fortunately, the kids didn't ask me to expound on what "porno" is. Whew. (Am I going to attract all sorts of Pervy Pervs from Google now with this post?) After they left, our 10-year-old daughter, "M", said, in the sweetest, hushed voice, "isn't Grandma kind of old to be so weird?" She meant it in the sweetest way. Honest.

This is the same Grandma that was asking me last Maundy Thursday what the meaning of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday was, and when I was finished, said, "That is interesting; someone should write a book explaining all that!" She was so. Totally. Serious.

A few months ago, I was having lunch with her and all the kids were with me. My 9-year-old son, "Zippy," was picking on his sister, so Gram took matters into her own Agnostic hands and said, "WHY DON'T YOU FOLLOW THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND 'DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU??!' " Zippy knows the Bible well (makes his Mama proud) and he was bursting at the seams to correct her, but he just winked at me and quit bothering his sister.

So, there, now you know that, in one very unfortunate house in the Midwest, on Christmas morning, an 85-year-old Grandma was discussing porno. Enough said.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry STINKIN' Christmas (and WFMW)

Literally. I got home from Christmas shopping last night and noticed a stink in the house. Turns out the toilets wouldn't flush (but the kids still had to poop). I told Hubby this morning he should have cut off all food and water from the kids when he discovered the problem (just kidding, just kidding)! Hubby removed the toilets from the floor, thinking something had been flushed and was stuck, but one wedged bar of soap, one 1/32nd scale John Deere Skidsteer and a golf ball later, they still wouldn't work. (Did I mention our 3 year old has a penchant for flushing large objects down the commode?) We had our septic tank pumped out recently, so we knew that wasn't the problem. But...turns out our "leech bed" (perhaps the grossest-sounding phrase related to my home) is not good. All I know aboput leech beds is that when you live in the country, you need one. That works. They are coming to dig up our backyard this afternoon with a backhoe, which normally would bother me, but anything that will allow me permission to poop in my home again is welcome here.

OK, since I am on the topic of POOP, I might as well stay gross and leave an appropriate Works for Me Wednesday topic! Having 5 little ones has taught me how to be an awesome barf cleaner-upper (I should put that on my resume). After many frustrating incidents of using papertowels to clean it up and, instead, smearing it into the carpet, I dough scraper. I got one quite a few years ago and love using it for working with dough for homemade cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, etc and for cleaning the flour off the countertop efficiently and scraping up dried dough bits. What they don't advertise are the vomit cleanup benefits. Whether on carpet or a hard floor, you just put it at a 45-degree angle and "scoop" up the yuck. I also use this tool for cleaning up messes like a broken bottle of relish, a dumped out ketchup bottle, and an emptied bottle of dishwashing soap. The uses are endless. The first time Hubby saw me using my dough scraper on vomit, he about vomitted, but I clean it really well and disinfect it - I promise. Mine is all stainless steel, so it is very easy to feel confident that I have it totally clean.

Now, back to waiting on the poop fairy (aka backhoe operator). And I promise, no more gross posts in the future (assuming they get this problem fixed today, that is).

For more WFMW ideas, be sure to visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brutal honesty from a 5 year-old Princess

I fondly remember when our oldest child (now almost 11) was about 5 and we asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Her response would have melted even the Scrooge-iest heart. "Mom, I don't need any toys; there are lots of other kids that don't have toys and Santa can take the toys to them." Ahhhhh.....we are such good parents. We basked in the generosity of her comment for a long time and repeated it to anyone who would listen (and probably some who didn't). OK, so now fast-forward to today in the parking lot of Toys-R-Us. I have G-man (our 3 year-old son) and Princess C (our 5-year old villain) with me to get some last-minute shopping done for the other kids. As we are heading into the store, we have the following exchange:

Princess: "I wish I could have written a letter to Santa, but I don't even know how to write a letter and you didn't help me..." (yes, this was fully intended to instill guilt into me, I am sure. Didn't work)
Me: "What would you have told him you wanted?"
Princess: "Everything."
Me: "But then Santa might think you are a greedy little girl."
Princess: "I am."

Sheesh. There's a heart-warming story for the Christmas newsletter. Oh, and speaking of the Christmas newsletter - I am soooo glad I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning working on them so I could get them mailed out first thing this morning only to be too sleepy today to remember to mail them at all!! Yes, I drove around all day with them in a Wal-Mart bag on the back seat, ready to me mailed out, only to remember it 10 minutes after the post office was closed. Grrrrrr.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Ok, after months of much take and no give, I am going to post my first "Works-for-Me-Wednesday" post. I totally discovered this "trick" when I was driving down the road and one of the kids kicked over my Super Biggie Jumbo iced tea. All over the passenger-side floor of my beloved Suburban. (It's like my fifth child...I love it dearly). I pull over to the side of the road and am rooting through all kinds of papers and trash trying to find SOMETHING, ANYTHING absorbent. Then it came to me...a disposable diaper!! (A clean one, preferably :o) ) Worked like a charm to suck up every last drop of that tea. I just opened the diaper up and pressed it down hard on the carpet and it worked great! So, now, even though my youngest is (finally) out of diapers, I still keep several disposable diapers in our vehicle for such spills. Of course, when you are finished with it, you can just wrap and tuck and tape that baby up. Did you ever notice that you can tell how experienced a woman is in diaper changing by observing her "wrapped" dirty diaper? A first-time mother leaves a loosely wrapped diaper the size of a softball. By the fifth child, I could wrap and tuck a size 6 diaper to where it would fit in a pill bottle. Yea for me.

For more great tips, be sure to visit Rocks in My Dryer at