Homemade Tomato Salsa

Homemade, original salsa makes good gifts, freezes safely and can be enjoyed with a myriad of foods. 

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You might be thinking I finally harvested my bumber crop of tomatoes..
IMG_2470It isn’t  so.  Nevertheless, I am blessed.  Nothing makes me happier than when friends share  basketfuls of homegrown vegetables from their summer gardens. Because I can’t eat these fast enough, (and because I’d like to preserve the taste of summer for at least a little longer), I made homemade salsa. It’s so good I couldn’t resist eating it right out of the jar…IMG_2497

And here’s something I ‘m just learning: unless I want to send my salsa to a laboratory for testing, I’m taking a chance if I can the stuff!  Salsa is a combination of acid and low acid ingredients; it is only appropriate for boiling water canning, if and only if, the level of acidity is adequate to prevent botulism. Hmm, I’m going to forego even caring about the level of acidity in  my original salsa because: freezing is a safe option for preserving untested, original salsa.  And it’s sooo much easier than canning… so go this route ( unless your planning on gobbling it all up, straight from the jar in the next week!)

Just in case you can’t eat it up fast enough,  here are a few more options to make sure  your homemade, original salsa doesn’t go to waste. Give it away to friends, family, your kids’ teachers, or  the next person who walks down the street (you’ll be hailed a culinary goddess,  because nobody can buy salsa this good!)  Use your imagination and serve  food with mucho salsa all week. For inspiration, some ideas are below.

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Homemade Tomato Salsa

(make about 3 1/2 pints)

by Diane Boyd

Ingredients

  • 12 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/3 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 8 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (pure without any additives)
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Instructions

1. In a large sauce pan, cook tomatoes, uncovered, over medium heat 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid. Return to the pot.

2. Stir in green peppers, onions, red pepper,  celery, garlic, jalapeno, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar,  salt, hot pepper sauce and reserved tomato liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered, 1 hour, stirring frequently. Store in refrigerator for up to one week or freeze.

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Peachy Grilled Zucchini Caprese Stacks or Summer Stacked Salad

A twist on the classic caprese salad includes  grilled zucchini  and fresh ripe peaches.

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Disclosure: I have received a Produce Box mentioned in this post free of charge. I was not financially compensated for my time for writing this post. Opinions are my own.

The concerns of someone with a food and nutrition career are diverse. Today my  thoughts focus on a ginormous problem: food waste:  Estimates conclude  1/3 of our food is wasted, and the problem  occurs throughout the entire food chain, from agricultural production, manufacturing and processing, transportation, in retail, restaurants and ultimately in homes.

Don’t be discouraged. We are good people! Individuals and organizations are working to change  the situation. Case in point, The Produce Box is one local organization using farm to fork solutions aimed at the problem: 

•  They have expanded their services to include state-wide direct delivery. Now all residents are able to support NC farmers. If you live in North Carolina, sign up here.

•  Outreach programs send fresh produce to families not able to afford it. Every week they send hundreds of pounds of extra bulk produce to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina . Last week 114 Hero Boxes were delivered to local veterans across North Carolina.

• During the  summer, Produce Boxes were dropped off at YMCAs for kids living in food deserts to share at home.

• Everytime you order from the Produce Box, a portion of the proceeds go to helping those who need a helping hand.

•Finally,  the Blogger Box, a new  marketing campaign, is helping to ensure 100% of the harvests from all 40 Produce Box farmers is put to good use. Last week, the  folks at the Produce Box asked me to build a box,  and they put my name on it.  How cool is that?  The box, available for delivery this week, features produce I love (selected  from a list of items ready for immediate harvest),   along with a personal recipe  for using the ingredients.

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My recipe, using local, in-season produce was inspired by what I ‘m seeing in culinary magazines and on restaurant  menus this summer. I’m putting a twist on the classic caprese salad by adding  grilled zucchini  and fresh ripe peaches. Here ‘s the resultIMG_2542

Remember, by eating local and in-season,  you not only nourish your body with healthy and delicious foods,  you support your farm-neighbors, give back to the community, and aid the efforts to reduce food waste.

Peachy Grilled Zucchini  Caprese Stacks

by Diane Boyd

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 2 zucchini (about 3/4 pound) each cut diagonally into 12 slices
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 4 vine ripe field tomatoes, cut into 6 (1/4 inch thick slices)
  • fresh basil
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 16 slices
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 medium peaches, pitted and sliced

Instructions

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

2. Coat both sides of zucchini with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place on hot grill racks and grill 4 minutes per side.

3. Combine canola oil, white wine vinegar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and honey in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

4. Arrange 8 tomato slices on a platter, top with basil leaf and stack with 1 zucchini slice, and 1 cheese slice. Add to stack (continuing to tuck basil between layers) with 1 zucchini slice, 1 tomato slice 1 cheese slice and 1 zucchini slice.

5. Drizzle with honey mixture. Sprinkle with cherry tomato halves , sliced peaches and fresh basil.

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Copycat Farmer’s Market Salad + Getting Back to the Dinner Table

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So you want a healthier lifestyle for yourself and your family. Maybe you purchase organic produce?  Scrutinize food labels?   Chosing foods wisely for your family is a noble endeaver. Today I want to discuss a way to add value to your meals that maybe you haven’t thought about, and it  ties into this month’s  Recipe Redux theme: getting back to the dinner table.

Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed.  It may come as a surprise,  but  when we gather around the kitchen table in  North Carolina, my family looks forward to the salads I serve .  How do I know? If it’s not on the table, they ask for it! Even their friends come for my salad.  Today I ‘m making one inspired by my recent trip to Maine. The first meal I had in Portland, shared with blogger friends, (Regan Jones RD, Deanna Seagrave- Daly RD  and Kita Roberts ) was  a farmer’s market salad along with flatbread pizza. Today’s recipe is  my rendition of that spectacular summer salad : organic arugula, cucumber, wild blueberries, feta cheese, and a ginger vinaigrette.  My version isn’t any healthier than what’s served at the Flatbread Company in Portland,  Maine. But here’s an idea to add value to this salad, or any food for that matter: enjoy it together.   The benefits of family/shared meals go far beyond the fact that they are more likely to be nutritious. Please consider the research that suggests:

• Kids who eat regularly with their families, are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods and more likely to eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

• Children having frequent dinners with their parents  are less likely to smoke, drink or use other drugs.

• Family meals positively impacts the development of lifelong healthy eating behaviors for youth.

• Family meals are associated with better academic performance.

The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to start making family meals a routine.  Don’t get discouraged if you can’t sit down every night.  Benefits can be reaped by sitting down together on occasion. Please visit the links at the bottom of this post for more inspiration for getting back to the dinner table!

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Copy Cat: Farmer’s Market Salad

by Diane Boyd

Ingredients ( serves 4)

  • 5 oz package organic arugula
  • seedless cucumber, sliced
  • feta cheese, 1/2 cup
  • blueberries, 1 cup

for the vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

1. In a large bowl or on a plater, arrange fresh arugula. Top with slice cucumbers, feta cheese and blueberries.

2. Combine ingredients for vinaigrette. Whisk and drizzle over salad. Toss. Serve immediately.

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Fresh Fig Galette + Cabot Cheese Giveaway

This charming rustic tart combines fresh figs baked on top of a  buttery, crisp crust  and served with Monterey Jack cheese. Fresh_FigDisclosure: Along with my sponsorship to the TD Beach 2 Beacon, Cabot Creamery is providing me with a $25 gift box to giveaway on my blog. I was not financially compensated for my time. Opinions are my own.

All food fits! It’s  my personal belief that including a wide range of real foods,  varied daily, is the best way to meet nutritional needs. Of course we should include more nutrient rich foods such as: lean protein sources, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and  low fat dairy.  But an occasional treat like thisphoto-315is a -ok. As a matter of fact, food choices should honor both your health and your taste buds. Perfect eating doesn’t exist and feeling satisfied is a worthy goal. That said, I’m not ashamed to share my fig galette. It’s simple to make; I used a boxed pie crust mix , fresh figs  and topped it with Monterey Jack Cheese. My fig galette, eaten for breakfast on a Sunday morning,  instead of a bowl of oatmeal topped with Greek yogurt,  isn’t going to make me gain weight. It’s what we do consistently that matters.

I enjoy working with brands having similar values, like the dairy farm families of Cabot. They know that wellness isn’t just about what we consume. It includes how we move, how we interact, support and share with one another. Read about Cabot’s goal -to help people in their community live healthier, smarter lives.  Please enter below to win a $25 Cabot Cheese Gift Box!

Fresh Fig Galette

(makes 2 free form tarts, each serving 10)

Cut the recipe in half for a single rustic tart.

by Diane Boyd

Ingredients

  • 1- 15 oz. box King Arthur Flour classic pie crust mix
  • 2 pound fresh Brown Turkey figs, halved or quartered
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 4 oz. grated Cabot Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions

1. Prepare pie crust according to directions on box. Divide dough into 2 separate pieces, equal in size. Refrigerate 30 minutes before rolling out.

2. Place figs in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar. Gently toss to combine.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

4. Place each ball of refrigerated dough on platic wrap and roll into a 12 inch free form circle.

5. Spoon figs onto each circle of dough leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges of dough over filling to partially cover.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until fruit juices bubble and crust is brown. Remove from oven. Allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes. Top with cheese. Cut each tart into 10 wedges and serve immediately.

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Contest ends August 24, 12 p.m. Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 year old to enter.

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My trek to fast: Comfort Zone Breakaway

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Disclosure: Newton Running is a sponsor of  the  2015 Cabot Fit Team providing a new pair of running shoes for the race. I was not expected to write this post. I was not financially compensated for my time. Opinions are my own. 

When was the last time you challenged yourself? Last month I tested my ablilty to run faster. It really wasn’t something I woke up one morning enthusiatic about achieving. But for some time now, my son has  suggested the benefits  I might gain by training  shorter, faster distances. After being invited to join the Cabot Fit Team to participate in the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race,  I decided it was  the perfect time to expand my fitness.

So for the month of July, I was going to find out the answer to this

 Is it possible to increase your running speed in 4 weeks?

I cut back on my overall distance (25 miles/ week–>15 miles/week) focusing  on shorter, faster distances. In July, most of my runs were short (under 2 miles) and I  only ran  3 miles or greater distance on occasion. Here’s  the single 6.2 miles distance I completed in early July (I consider this my baseline for a 10K or 6.2 mile run)photo-9-2

Most of the month I spent running shorter distances like thisphoto-11-2

along with some interval training  with  1 minute 30 second rest between each mile.

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In addition to changing my running routine, there is I one more thing I changed. Again, NOT MY IDEA. In the middle of July,  I learned that Newton Running was sponsoring our team; we were all getting new running shoes! What girl isn’t excited about a new pair of shoes?  But honestly, I didn’t take trying out a new shoe lightly. Changing shoes is, in my opinion, a BIG deal.  Shoes are the most critical equipment a runner owns. They’re the transition between your feet and the pavement. If your feet aren’t comfortable, it’s hard to be fast.

Familiar with the Newton brand as a forefront running shoe, I was glad to hear they had expanded their line with shoes for every runner (because I need a stability shoe).  I had been wearing another brand shoe for over 20 years, but was willing to give Newton’s  at least one good whirl. I was excited the  day  UPS delivered my shoes; they looked really fast.  When I first laced them up,  I immediately noticed lightness in my feet, which I assumed would translate into speed.  The next day, it was off to break them in; I felt a perfect match and believed these would only be an advantage in trying to meet my goal, run the Beach 2 Beacon 10 K in a sub 8 minute mile pace.

For the next two weeks I trained in my Newton’s and one week before the race I ran a longer distance (five miles) in them feeling pretty good..photo-13-2

Did I meet my race goal? You bet I did…

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with the combination of fast shoes and  increased training pace.race_1443_photo_23181273-2

If you want to run faster,  break away from your comfort zone. Keep in touch as I will have continued updates on my attempt to perform better.

 

 

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