Homemade Hot Sauce


Let me start by saying that I love hot sauce.  I will put it on almost anything and it is definitely my favorite condiment in the refrigerator.  When a friend brought over dinner for us the other day, she included some hot sauce that she had made herself last year.  I kid you not, when I say that I almost licked the bowl clean.  The hot sauce recipe was from The Pantry at Delancey, a fabulous new hands-on cooking school in the Ballard area of Seattle.  My friend, M, went to one of The Pantry classes last year and learned how to make this delicious sauce (along with yummy fried chicken and succotash).  I have yet to attend a class at The Pantry, as their classes sell out very quickly, but it is high on my list of things to do.  (Anyone want to join me?)  So when M suggested we make this hot sauce together a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance!

This southern-style hot sauce is so fun because you control the heat.  The recipe was easy to follow.  The most time consuming thing about it is pushing the roasted chile puree through the strainer.  Next time I will look for a strainer with just a little bigger holes to make it go a bit faster.  We added a few habaneros, as well as all the peppers you see below, and the result was delicious.  It is spicy, but not burn-your-tongue-off-spicy and the white vinegar adds a nice balancing effect.  We doubled the recipe below and it made approximately 6 half-pint jars.  You store this sauce in the fridge, but I doubt it will be there for long.  I am already into our second jar and it is going quick!  I will definitely be making this again sometime soon.

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the Pantry at Delancey’s Southern-Style Hot Sauce

yield: 2 cups

8 ounces sweet chiles (we used bell peppers)

6 1/2 ounces medium chiles

1 1/2 ounces hot chiles

1 cup distilled vinegar

1-2 tablespoons water

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt (to taste)

Trim the stems off of the chiles, leaving the base that the stem attaches to.  Toss the chiles in enough olive oil to coat them.  Roast them in the oven or on the grill until you get a nice char on them.  Set aside to cool.  If desired, peel the skins from the chiles (we did not peel the skins off).  Puree the roasted chiles in a food processor or blender with enough vinegar to keep them moving.  Push the pureed chiles through a strainer, extracting as much of the pulp as possible.  Add the water, salt and the rest of the vinegar and chill in the fridge for a few days.  You can eat it immediately, but it gets better with time.  Store in the fridge.

Enjoy on just about anything.  This hot sauce dresses up a basic quesadilla or eggs and would be a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of chili con carne!



Artichoke Spinach Lasagna

So our family is going through this kindergarten transition very well, but there are some signs of stress.  My baby is becoming a young man and I feel so, so proud of him.  The day feels long without him and even though I was ready to sell him to a band of gypsies by the end of this summer, I miss him.

So, when I feel a little out of control, I either make lists or I make food to freeze.  I guess the idea is that even if I don’t know what is coming around the bend, at least there will be food to eat in the freezer.  I am someone who does not love to cook.  But, I do like projects.  So I enjoy cooking recipes in large batches and then breaking them down and freezing them in sizes that make sense for different sized gatherings.  Then, on any given day (when things get even crazier than they are today), I have a bunch of homemade meals ready to thaw in my freezer.  We have our standbys, our favorites and these meals are fabulous because they make the house smell wonderful and like someone has been cooking all day.  But, it wasn’t me… at least not that day.

So for the last three days, since Sam started Kindergarten, we have been cooking nonstop.  I have FILLED, and I mean FILLED our freezer.  Mission accomplished.  This mama is feeling the intensity of big changes in our family…

This recipe is adapted from an Artichoke Spinach Lasagna I found on allrecipes.com.  Double the below quantities to make enough to freeze.  Not only is this a great method of cooking for busy families, but it is great to have some meals available to share with friends or for impromptu entertaining.

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Artichoke Spinach Lasagna

yield: 8 servings

olive oil cooking spray

9 uncooked lasagna noodles (I prefer no-cook Barilla)

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable or chicken broth

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 (14 ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1 (28 ounce) jar tomato sauce

salt & pepper to taste

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1 (4 ounce) package herb and garlic feta, crumbled

(double or triple for freezing of multiple future meals)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a lage pot of lightly salted water to boil.  Add noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente; drain.  (Or skip this step if using no-boil lasagna noodles).

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium high.  Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes, or until onion is tender-crisp.  Stir in broth and rosemary; bring to a boil.  Stir in artichoke hearts and spinach; reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in tomato sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/4 of the artichoke mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish; top with 3 noodles.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese over noodles.  Repeat layers two more times, ending with the artichoke mixture and mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle crumbled feta on top.

Bake, covered, for 40 minutes.  Uncover, and bake 15 minutes more, or until hot and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy tonight or 3 months from now!


Side note:  Another important thing I want to mention is how happy it makes me that Muir Glen brand of tomatoes has decided to get rid of the BPA in their cans.  Tomatoes are notoriously difficult to deal with for corporations because of their high acidity.  They lead the industry in their choice to take the chemical of BPA out of their canned goods.  More and more companies are trying to get with the program, but for now, I trust and applaud Muir Glen for making the choice to help us keep our families safe from chemicals in our food.  Just FYI, the way you can tell if your cans are free of BPA (when talking about tomatoes only) is the copper lining color that you see below.  Thanks, Muir Glen!


Apricot Jam (3 intriguing ways!)


So, (surprise, surprise) things don’t seem to be slowing down around here!  Despite the fact it is summer, we just seem to have more things we want to see, do, and eat!  We were at the farmer’s market last Sunday and I noticed that apricots are in season.  For some reason I thought it would be later!  Well, the guy said it was time, so we bought 25 pounds of apricots.  As I look back at the blog though, this is the exact same time as last year.  I posted Apricot Rosemary Jam on July 25th, so I guess we are right on schedule!  Between the time we bought them and when we made the jam, we ate a whole lot of apricots and also took out the pits… and were left with approximately 12 pounds of apricots.  So, we made four small batches of jam!


As pleased as I was with the interesting herbal quality of the Apricot Rosemary Jam, I wanted to try something new this year.  One of my other favorites from last year was the Heirloom Tomato Basil Jam, but I didn’t love how long that recipe took to make.  So, this year, I decided to try Apricot-Basil Jam to try to get the best of both worlds.  As I mentioned in last year’s post, apricot jam is one of my favorites because it retains so much brightness in the flavor.  It is also very, very easy.  The prep is simple and quick and those are all important elements for those of us who enjoy preserving, but don’t have loads of time.  This is a fruit worth preserving!


I also happened upon a great magazine this summer that I want to share with you.  Better Homes and Gardens produces some Special Interest Publications that seem to be seasonal in nature.  I saw that this year they have a Canning: preserving, freezing, drying edition of their magazine this summer (supposed to be displayed until September 9th and is $9.99).  It is a great guide to the basics of preserving.  The magazine is affordable and contains so much great information as well as both traditional and innovative recipes.  If you are curious about preserving food and want to learn more, but don’t feel like buying a bunch of books, this would be a great first step in learning more!  As I was flipping through the magazine I saw that they created some fantastic variations to try.  They were making peach jam and some of their variations were quite nice: cardamom-peach, sweet basil-peach, bourbon-peach, and chipotle-peach – intriguing, no?  Based on their great ideas, I decided to follow their example and try some of these variations for our apricot jams.

Without further ado, Apricot Jam 2013!

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Apricot Jam

yield: makes 7 half pints

6 cups (3 lbs) apricots (halved and pitted)

6 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mash apricots, not necessary for them to all be the same size.  Place apricots, water, and sugar in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil.  Stir fruit mixture regularly.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until fruit thickens and runs slowly and thickly off back of spoon.  Remove pot from heat.

Ladle jam into half-pint jars.  Wipe rims of jars with wet paper towel, apply lids and rings and process in your boiling water canner for 5 minutes.

Remove jars from pot.  Let cool.  After about 20 minutes, turn jars upside-down to disperse fruit.  When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals.  If seals are good, store jars in a cool, dark place.  If any of the jars did not seal, place those jars in the fridge and use within a month or two.

apricot jam with cream cheese on crackers (clockwise: apricot-rye whiskey, chipotle-apricot, sweet basil-apricot)


Sweet Basil-Apricot Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 1 cup chopped fresh basil after skimming off foam.

Apricot-Rye Whiskey Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 1/2 cup whiskey with the sugar, apricots, lemon juice and water.

Chipotle-Apricot Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce with the sugar, apricots, lemon juice and water.


Sing For You

I have friends whose lives run parallel to mine, but none of us are in the exact same boat.  Even if we both agree that we are in a boat, yours might be metal and mine might be wood… yours could be blue, while mine is red.  To me, this speaks of the unique experience we all have as humans.  Even though we go through experiences that can be qualified as universal, rarely do we go through something at the exact same rate or pace as our peers.


This week feels like a perfect storm as our oldest child turns six years old and I wean our youngest (and last) babe.  I have had a baby in the house for six years straight and I am having a difficult time imagining how it will feel to move out of this phase.  As the children continue to grow, leaving behind these markers of babyhood, I realize that they are not the only ones leaving the baby years behind.  I am too.  Of course there is excitement in these changes, but they are bittersweet as well.  I can say that I have been expecting these moments, but I still find myself feeling caught off-guard.  In this moment, I take solace in a book I happen to be re-reading right now.  Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a favorite of mine.  Originally published in 1955, it is a meditation on relationships through various stages of life.  I happened to pick up the book again because I felt the need for centering and calming.  How happy I am to be reminded of some of Lindbergh’s meanderings, as I, myself, find myself wandering once again through unchartered territory.


I have gone through the weaning of babies twice before, which makes me think it should get easier.  I am mistaken, as each time is its own experience – each child unique.  My brain is aware that we will move through this stage and there will be lovely snuggles on the other side.  Cognitively, I know that I will continue to have a strong relationship with my child post-nursing.  But my heart will miss the solitary time together amidst the current chaos of our life.  The unique bond between baby and mother, “In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of two people existing only for each other, the tranquil sky reflected on the face of the mother nursing her child…” (Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Gift from the Sea. New York: Pantheon, 1955. Print.)


Try as I might, I cannot freeze time.  Even if I could, that would be limiting for everyone.  That’s the thing about life, and parenthood specifically; one is forced to live in the present.  The raising of children keeps one moving forward, even when we, as adults, are hesitant to desire this.  What I am feeling right this minute is a powerful force; a push towards the future and a nostalgic pull back towards my memories of my children as babies.  I realize how immediate these feelings are.  They will pass and become difficult to remember as they are now.  As I think back to friends that have been in this spot, I truly hope the advice I gave to them was thoughtful.  I’m sure I tried to remember the best I could, but I have to think the words I found were rather vanilla.  I don’t believe that my brain could pinpoint the actual feelings attached to the intensity of the situation.

As I begin the steps of leaving my children’s childhoods in the past, Tracy Chapman’s beautiful lyrics run through my head and heart.

Soft and low when the evening comes

Holding you, sleeping in my arms

I remember there was a time

When I used to sing for you

Tracy Chapman : Sing For You (recording)

Song has been an important element in my relationships with the children since the time of their birth.  Songs that remind me of nights spent awake in their infancies, as we grew to know one another.  As with nursing, song has been a soothing practice for us all, but is something that remains.  As we say goodbye to the baby years and move bravely forward, I hold these memories in my heart.  My children love to sing and be sung to at bedtime.  That will probably change someday too, but for now I will hold onto it and enjoy the moment.


Bean Bag Balls

It is Spring Break and that means lots of time for kid crafts and adventures!

We found a great project on Spoonful.com; bean bag balls!  These are cheap and easy to make, and best of all they turned out just like the picture!  I love that.  Once made, these squishy balls can be used for a game of toss or would be ideal for the novice juggler.  The feel also remind me of those “stress balls” from years ago… It is quite possible that this mama will be using them by the end of this fun, busy week!

What you’ll need:

  • 9 (11-inch) balloons (for 3 balls)
  • Funnel
  • 2 1/4 cups of dried lentils
  • Scissors
  • Skewer or chop stick (not included on the original directions, but we found it helpful to push the lentils down the funnel.)

How to make it:

  1. Stretch the first balloon by inflating it halfway, holding it closed for about 30 seconds, and deflating it.
  2. Place a funnel in the balloon’s neck and gradually pour in 3/4 cup of lentils, pushing them in as you go. The balloon should be firm but squeezable.
  3. Snip off the balloon’s thick rubber lip. Cut the neck off a second balloon and gently stretch the opening.
  4. Ease the second balloon over the filled balloon, tucking in the neck as you go.
  5. Cut the neck off the third balloon, stretch the opening, and ease it over the other two. Repeat this process to make a set of three balls, or however many you’d like.

Tips:  We ended up using about 1/2 cup of lentils instead of the 3/4 cup recommended.  It was extremely helpful to inflate the first balloon all the way before holding it for the thirty seconds.  This helps to make sure the balloon is stretched out before beginning the funnel step.  A nicely stretched out balloon made filling much easier!  We also used a skewer to help push the lentils down the funnel.  The kids had a great time picking out their personal color combinations and helping both to measure and fill.

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This was a fun project that I would definitely recommend.  And, since making the balls didn’t use all the balloons we purchased, we had the secondary activity of blowing up the rest of the balloons and playing in the backyard for the afternoon!

Happy Spring Break!

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