salsa de chile ancho.

Salsas are so easy to make, yet except for the occasional pico de gallo, I pretty much always purchase them. How about you?

A few years ago, my dad and I made a whole bunch of salsa during our epic canning/preserving weekend. I loved it, but my dad thought it left something to be desired. I’ve always been intrigued by the varieties of dried chiles you can find in those little plastic boxes at the grocery store, but they always seemed like they would be such a chore.

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Oh, how wrong I was! I bought anchos for a four-pepper chili recipe, and was pleasantly surprised at how simple they were to prepare. Although they are dried, they still maintain some flexibility and pliability, and although I softened them in some stock for that recipe, this salsa recipe has you toast them and then prepare them dried, and I promise it is a breeze! This salsa will take you less than 10 minutes start to finish, and it is so completely worth it.

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Anchos are the dried version of a poblano chile, and they have a deep, complex flavor that is often described as having a similar flavor to a spicy raisin. Sounds weird, I know. But trust me, you’ll love it. Removing the seeds allows for the finished salsa to be warm with a mellow heat that will appeal to a wide variety of palates.

I used some crushed tomatoes that I had hanging out in the fridge, but you could certainly swap in a fresh tomato or two (I would use plum/roma tomatoes). Where I live, fresh tomatoes are amazing for 3 months out of the year, other than that, I always turn to canned, as out of season fresh ones tend to be mealy and bland. Yuck.

Note that this recipe is flexible and adaptable, as salsas can be customized in pretty much any way your heart and stomach desire! Eat with chips, add to tacos/quesadillas/burrito bowls, or my favorite way, mixed in with homemade tortilla chips for chilaquiles, topped with a fried egg. Mmmm. I know what I’m having for brunch!

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salsa de chile ancho.
adapted from https://kathleeniscookinginmexico.wordpress.com. 

ingredients
4-5 dried ancho chiles
3/4 cup tomatoes (I used canned diced)
1/2 small white onion
4 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
pinch of sea salt
1/2-1 cup hot water

directions
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the ancho chiles, and toast for 30 seconds on each side. Make sure not to blacken them, as it will impart a very bitter flavor. Remove from heat, cut the stems off, and scrap out seeds. Keep the skillet on medium low heat.

In a blender, add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, ancho chiles, oregano and salt. Process in a blender. The mixture may “get stuck”, this is when you’ll add the water. Process for 10-15 seconds longer, making sure not to process the salsa too smooth/runny. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon without it running right off.

Add one teaspoon of oil to the skillet. Add the salsa and cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the salsa to cook, lightly bubbling. Taste and add additional salt if desired.

Store in a small glass container for up to 10 days. Makes 1.5 cups.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

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arugula walnut pesto (vegan!).

Sometimes you have lightbulb moments in cooking. Whether it’s realizing that you can freeze pasta or rice and it’ll still taste great when thawed and reheated, or finding out that bacon drippings make devilishly delicious salad dressings, I love those ‘ah ha!’ moments. One that happened recently to me is the realization that you can make pesto out of pretty much anything. I love classic basil pesto, but always hesitated because pine nuts are just so freaking expensive. Once I learned that you can use pretty much any nut you want, well, it was the starting point of my pesto revolution. Walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, even sunflower seeds work in pesto!

Revolution might sound crazy, but it’s true! What happens when you are craving bright, fresh pesto and all the fresh basil at your store looks, well, not so fresh in the middle of January? Swap in any green you like! My love for arugula is well documented on this site, it’s peppery flavor is just perfection, especially since we want a strong punch of flavor in this pesto, as it’s vegan!

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That’s right – no parmesan cheese here! Trust me, you won’t even miss it. Peppery arugula, rich walnuts packed full of anti-inflammatory nutrients, garlic and lemon zest make for an incredibly delicious spread. Make sure to use very good extra-virgin olive oil, and ice cold water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is delicious mixed into pasta, spread on toast topped blistered cherry tomatoes, or mixed into plain Greek yogurt and served as a dip alongside crudite. The possibilities are endless.

arugula walnut pesto.

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ingredients

1 cup (packed) baby arugula, washed and dried
1/3 cup parsley, leaves and stems
1/4 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cold water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

directions

In a food processor fitted with the blade, add the arugula, parsley, walnuts, garlic lemon zest, cold water, salt and pepper (if desired). Process for 30 seconds or until chopped and combined, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until well combined. If too thick, add more cold water by the tablespoon until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Makes about 1 cup. Use immediately or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

roasted poblano salsa verde.

I like to DVR old cooking shows that play during the day while I’m at work. Does anyone else do this? Some of my favorites are Simply Ming, Barefoot Contessa, From Farm to Table, and anything with Emeril. One show I used to watch and recently rediscovered is Cook Yourself Thin, which followed 3 chefs remake participants’ favorite dishes into healthier, lower calorie versions. While I don’t always agree with the low cal swaps (beware that  some low fat and fat free items are often heavily processed), I do think their recipes often sound delicious. I was watching one on Saturday morning while I was doing laundry and the green chile enchiladas they were making looked yummy. In particular, I was especially intrigued by the sauce for the enchiladas: a homemade roasted poblano sauce that was used instead of the normal red sauce. I love poblanos, they are naturally smoky and not too hot, especially when the seeds and ribs are removed. See, hot peppers hold all their heat in their ribs and seeds, so you can vary their heat in your recipes by choosing to include or omit them. As I like things on the spicy side, I left them in tact for the salsa, but they are easily removed by slicing the pepper open (after it’s been roasted, steamed and peeled) and scraping out the seeds.

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This is a very herbaceous salsa, that is full of fresh cilantro flavor (or parsley if use half and half) and a slightly smoky flavor from the poblanos.  You can use this in a variety of ways just like you would any other salsa or rustic sauce. I used it as a base for stacked enchiladas, which I’ll post later this week. This would be delicious in huevos rancheros, or over grilled chicken or fish!

roasted poblano salsa verde.
inspired by green chile enchiladas on Cook Yourself Thin.

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ingredients

2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only (about scant 1 cup) (see notes)
2 garlic cloves
Juice and zest of one lime
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

directions

To roast the pepper: Turn your broiler on high. Place the peppers underneath the broiler and let cook, turning the pepper frequently until blistered and charred on all sides. Once blackened, place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow them to steam for 7-10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, peel off all skin.

Add peppers, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and zest, stock, salt and pepper to blender or food processor. Blend until a rustic-smooth puree forms.

Yield one cup. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Serve as you would any salsa verde. Delicious over poached eggs or with chips.

Notes: You can sub 1/2 cilantro and 1/2 flat leaf parsley instead of all cilantro. I’ve made it both ways and both are good.

easy roasted red pepper sauce.

One thing I never can have enough of is simple, impressive looking recipes in my arsenal. Something that is very easy to whip up, but looks impressive enough for a dinner guest or just when you want to impress yourself! To me, the easiest way to elevate a dish is with a sauce (pan or otherwise). A baked chicken breast is great, but spoon a sauce over it. Instantly elegant, and without all the stress.

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I made a super simple roasted red pepper sauce the other night and it was so delicious, I couldn’t wait to share it with you! This is made with pantry staples, and in less than fifteen minutes you have a super light and flavorful sauce that can go on just about anything! Swap it out for your favorite marinara sauce over pasta, or do as I did and spoon it over some lightly breaded pork chops.

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I went really, really easy with this one and used jarred roasted red peppers. You can definitely roast, steam and peel fresh peppers, but I didn’t have those and was feeling mighty lazy. Plus, by using pantry staples, you can make this on a moment’s notice and who doesn’t love that??  You can easily make this vegan by swapping the half and half for soy or another non dairy creamer. I had some half and half hanging out in my fridge and wanted to use that up, plus it gives the sauce some richness.

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I hope you try this out soon and enjoy it over pasta, meat or fish. It would be delicious over pan seared shrimp or scallops. Mmmmmm.

easy roasted red pepper sauce.

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12 oz. jar roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons half and half (can use non dairy creamer)

directions

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add oil. Once shimmering and hot, add onions and garlic and saute until soft and translucent (but not browned), about 3-5 minutes. Add oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper and stir to coat the onions and garlic. Add peppers and vegetable stock and heat to boiling. Reduce and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to blender and puree.

Pour back into saucepan, add half and half and heat over low heat. Stir, taste for seasonings, and add more salt or pepper if desired. Toss with cooked pasta or spoon over cooked meats. Cool and store in refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes about 2 cups of sauce.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**

whole berry cranberry sauce with orange + ginger.

I know what you’re thinking. Who in their right mind posts a recipe for cranberry sauce the day AFTER Thanksgiving?? I’m a rebel. And I think cranberry sauce is the unsung hero of the Thanksgiving Day table, and its tartness shouldn’t regulated to just one day of the year. In fact, cranberry sauce is the perfect spread to slather on those leftover turkey and stuffing sandwiches, and the perfect thing to smear on your leftover biscuits or rolls.

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I actually really enjoy it because its tart and sometimes bitter flavor can be a welcome reprieve from the wonderfully rich and decadent food. I’ve never been a gravy girl (I know, I know), so I love it slathered on my turkey.

Speaking of turkey and Thanksgiving, how was your holiday? Did you eat early to rush out to the crazy sales? If so, you’re braver than I. I’ve only ever partaken in the Black Friday madness once, and I hesitate to even qualify my experience, as my mom and I went to a department store at 11:00am on Friday to purchase a chaise at a discounted price. But the middle of the night madness? No thank you. I have enough trouble in crowds as it is, so frantic shoppers who may be hungover (from the food or the cocktails!), makes me avoid the retailers like mad.

Anyway, back the sauce. I like a cranberry sauce with some body and texture, so I like to leave some of the berries whole or just burst. We’re using a scant one cup of coconut palm sugar and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to add in a depth of flavor, and the juice and zest of one orange from our liquid. Citrus and cranberries are best of friends, and using the juice allows for a bright finished sauce. I also added in a ½ inch piece of grated fresh ginger, because, well, why not? It’s spicy, plays well with both cranberries and orange, and adds a fragrance that cannot be beat. Simply cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved and berries have softened and burst. Let cool and serve. I highly recommend for all kinds of roasted meats – pork tenderloin, a roast chicken, duck… all very good candidates for this sauce. Me? I’ll be spooning mine on some puff pastry, topping with a bit of leftover brie, folding over and baking. Mmmmmmmmmm. A recipe for another time.

cranberry sauce with orange + ginger.

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12 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed.
1 medium navel orange, zested and juiced
½ inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
scant one cup coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional, can use additional white or coconut sugar)
sea salt and pepper to taste

directions

Heat a small saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and orange juice and stir together until sugars have mostly dissolved. Add in cranberries, ginger and orange zest and stir together, making sure to coat the cranberries well. Let cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries soften and begin to burst, thickening the sauce.

Allow to cook until the sauce has reached your desired texture. I find that 15 minutes is the sweet spot for a thick sauce/relish that retains a good amount of burst berries that mostly retain their shape.

Makes about 3 cups worth.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**

quick and easy tomato vodka sauce.

You know when you are the on the exact same page with someone regarding a particular topic? When you both just intrinsically know what the other is going to say about (fill in the blank here)? Well, I happen to have one of those people at work. One the physicians I work with refers to me as his “food wife”, as we are always, 100 percent on the same page regarding food/restaurants/dishes/cocktails. My job requires regular dinner meetings every few months, and once a restaurant is chosen, he and I can be counted on for scouring the menu and deciding on what looks most pleasing. We both usually lean toward more eclectic dishes.

I told him since I love to cook, I like to reserve dining out for dishes and dining experiences that I cannot easily replicate at home (I’m looking at you, favorite German sausage shop!). He agreed, and said “yes, like Italian!”. I remember whipping around in the hallway and saying “no way! That’s exactly what I say about Italian restaurants!”. Now, nothing against the many amazing Italian restaurants out there, but my palate tends to crave spicy flavors from Asia, South America, Africa. When I DO get a craving for Italian food, the recipe below always hits the spot. Easy, spicy vodka sauce that can made on a weeknight with ease.

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This is after the tomatoes have cooked down a bit, but before the addition of the cream. I left my sauce fairly chunky and ‘rustic’, but you could process the tomatoes to make a smoother sauce. 

Vodka sauce was not something I ever ate growing up. My mom used to make skillet lasagna, and chicken and veal parmesan were regulars. I first had “vodka pasta” with my ex-boyfriend, who made it on the regular for his kids. And oh boy, is it delicious! I could see why they absolutely loved it and leftovers were nearly non-exisistent. I make it a little differently than the original recipe, which called for adding the pasta prior to the vodka and cream and then mixing it all together.

I hope you try this out the next time you’re craving “pink sauce”!

easy tomato vodka sauce.
inspired by K’s penne with vodka and spicy tomato cream sauce.

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ingredients

1/2 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
28 oz can whole roma or plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
3/4 cup heavy cream (can sub half and half)
3 tbsp. vodka
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh basil or parsley if desired for garnish
salt and pepper

directions

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook garlic, onions, crushed red pepper and salt over medium heat until onions are translucent and garlic is golden but not brown, about 3 minutes.

Add vodka, being careful to stand back in case the alcohol flames. Let cook for about a minute to allow the  alcohol to cook out.

Add tomatoes, oregano and basil. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, gently mash the tomatoes until roughly crushed (alternatively, you can crush tomatoes in a food processor prior to adding them to the skillet). Stir to blend all together, and let simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 15 mintues. Reduce heat to low and add in cream. Stir and let it simmer over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. If using, add in fresh basil and parsley. Serve over your favorite tubular pasta or over roasted spaghetti squash (like I did tonight)!

Serves 4-6.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**