Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Feel That Salsa Rhythm

“Come on, shake your body, baby, do the conga.

I know you can't control yourself any longer.

Come on, shake your body, baby, do the conga.

I know you can't control yourself any longer.”


Miami Sound Machine Featuring Gloria Estefan

Here we are, the end of August and the official start of autumn is less than a month away.  Fall Equinox, aka Mabon, will be on September 22nd, and it will also be the celebration of the second harvest.  Colder temperatures will be moving in, and those vegetable plants that need more heat will be giving up their final gifts.

Our jalapeno and Roma tomato plants were full and ready for the picking, a lovely abundance of green and red.  Would I be making pasta sauce with those tomatoes this year?  Sadly no, as the tomato plants were not as fruitful as gallons of sauce would require.  However, those jalapeno peppers were screaming at me, “Don’t you want your taste buds to dance with us?”

Who was I to argue with hot peppers, so being agreeable, I pulled out salt, garlic, onions, cilantro and lime juice to join the conga line.  It was salsa making time!

What is salsa, and who invented it first.  Salsa is typically, in our modern world, a combination of chopped, diced, minced tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers with seasonings added for flavor boosting.  However, when the Spanish invaded…. umm, discovered and explored, Mexico and Central America, the recipe consisted of tomatoes, chile peppers and squash seeds.  While we think of salsa being a traditional Mexican dish, it can be traced back to the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans.  The Maya were native people of Mexico and Central America, while the Aztec were located mainly in northern Mesoamerica (today’s countries of northern Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and central to southern Mexico) between 1345 and 1521 BCE.  The Inca lived in ancient Peru between 1400 and 1533 BCE, and extended across western South America.  Then the Spanish came in the 1500s, and changed up, not just life and culture, but the native cuisines.

The overall flavor of salsa is dependent, not just upon ingredients used, but how it is created; raw or cooked.  Then there is the chile peppers used, each having its own discernible flavor, and heat intensity, which can also be changed via drying or cooking.  The peppers get their heat primarily from the seeds, so keeping them in the recipe will gauge mild to medium to hot.  When I make salsa, for a two-cup recipe, usually one large jalapeno with seeds and white pith (aka ribs) removed.  The heat of the pepper tingles the lips, and the edges of the tongue; however, full flavor of the tomatoes, onions and garlic are front and center.  That is how we like it, and dicing and mincing via knife skills, creates a chunky, not watered down, mixture.

Have I purchased jarred salsa off the market shelf?  Sure have, but I drain the contents, saving the juice for when I make enchilada sauce.  Chunky salsa plus starter for enchilada sauce; sounds like a win-win situation for me.  Of course, homemade salsa does not contain the preservatives that store bought must have to avoid spoilage.  So, when making a large batch, have in mind how to store; canning or freezing.  Be aware that the water content of tomatoes will affect the salsa by breaking down the texture of the tomatoes.  That is why I like using Roma tomatoes, for sauce and salsa, as they are meatier, have less seeds and less water content.

Salsa is a trifecta of dip, condiment or snack/meal that will make your taste buds dance.  Might as well put on some music, and have your entire body dance to the rhythm as well.


Homemade Salsa


½ cup diced onion

1 Tbsp.  minced garlic

1 large jalapeno, seeds and white pith removed, diced

1 and ½ cups diced tomatoes (4 medium size Roma – more meat, less seeds & juice)

¼ tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, minced (1 Tbsp. for dried and crushed)

3 Tbsp. lime juice

Option: ¼ tsp.  ground cumin (adds smoky flavor) 





 Roma Tomatoes - meatier, less seeds, less juice; perfect for making homemade pasta sauce too.







In large bowl, mix all ingredients together.  Let settle for 15 minutes; mix again before serving.

Refrigerate leftovers in airtight container, will last 5 days.

Makes 2 cups.







To Freeze

Place in airtight container, or freezer bag pressing out as much air as possible.

Water content in the tomatoes can break down texture, so use within two months; except if using Roma tomatoes, then three months.



Quick Cook Salsa


1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (why cherry tomatoes, the aesthetics!)

1 small onion, diced

1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced

¼ cup dried cilantro leaves

¼ tsp. salt 


In a medium skillet, or small Wok, heat oil on medium heat; add tomatoes and cook for five minutes to release juice from the tomatoes.

Increase heat to medium-high, add remaining ingredients, mix well and let cook until the liquid reduces by 3/4s.






Use as garnish for meat, pork or chicken; use as dip or condiment.

Makes 2 cups.

Mary Cokenour



Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Avocados Are More Than Guacamole.

Go into any Mexican eatery, whether a fine, family oriented or fast food, restaurant and guacamole is on the menu.  It is easily created, and a tasty condiment to add to any dish, or just snack with tortilla chips.  The main ingredient is avocado, botanically a large berry containing a single large seed; in other words, a fruit.  The soft, buttery “meat” of the fruit is contained within a dark leathery skin; pear shaped, but unlike Weebles, do fall down when stood up on its wide end.

While they are high in calories (50/ounce) and fat, the fat is monosaturated which is a “good fat” that helps to lower bad cholesterol.  Per a 100-gram serving (2/3s of a medium sized) of avocado contains:

    485 milligrams of potassium

    81 micrograms of folate

    0.257 milligrams of vitamin B6

    10 milligrams of vitamin C

    2.07 milligrams of vitamin E

…and the health benefits affect cancer and heart risks, depression, vision and pregnancy.  However, a typical serving size is only 1/3 of a medium sized avocado, due to the high caloric and fat content.  Too much, of a good thing, can be bad in the long run.

For 2022, if you have not noticed yet, avocados have become quite expensive, if they are available at all.  Yes, another shortage has appeared, and troubles with the trucking and shipping industries are not the main reason.  Thank the severe drought California, and Mexico, are experiencing, since they are the major producers of this fruit.  The basic math, for growing them is, “On average, if we're producing 100,000 pounds per acre, that takes about a million gallons of water, so 100 gallons per pound, so it'd be about 50 gallons per 8-ounce fruit.”  (  Add fertilizer, pruning, picking, processing, labor force, and this becomes one pricey piece of fruit.

What is a consumer to do?  Buy premade avocado products?  The companies that make these products are having the same stock issues that supermarkets and local markets are having.  A 6-ounce package of guacamole, which cost $3.99 in 2019, has doubled in price; and do not forget that preservatives are used in these products.  Making it fresh, at home, is not as costly, but you have to be smart about storage.  Avocados are not shelf friendly, and once ripened will go brown quickly.  Lemon juice and salt can slow the decomposition, and adds flavor.

In our home, my husband is the avocado lover; personally, I think they are gross.  However, I will make food items for him that I will not touch, and that is an example of love.  I will make a huge batch of guacamole, put one cup in a refrigerator storage container just for his enjoyment, and then freeze the balance in snack size baggies (one cup/bag).  That way, when he wants a snack, put on a meal, or in a wrap, it is available.


Guacamole (simple recipe and Roy loves it)


2 medium avocados

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 and ½ tsp. minced garlic

¼ tsp. salt

¼ cup diced red onion

Pinch of ground cayenne pepper (more if you like it very spicy, or use diced jalapenos)




Smash up avocado “meat” and lemon juice with a fork or potato masher until desired consistency (smooth, or a little lumpy).  Mix in garlic, salt, red onion, and hot pepper.


Makes 2 cups.


Avocados can also be frozen.  Remove the meat from the skin, cut into slices, chunks, or leave the halves whole.  Place on a baking sheet, lined with wax paper, and put in the freezer for two hours.  Remove from the wax paper, put pieces in a freezer bag, label and date the bag, and return to the freezer.  It will last 4-6 months dependent on whether preservatives were used, such as lemon juice and salt.


Besides making guacamole, or eating the avocado as is, did you know you can bake with them?

Due to the high fat content, and the smooth texture of the “meat”, avocados can replace butter or shortening in a baking recipe.  Bread, cake, and even brownie recipes can be adapted to use avocados as the fat, instead of dairy or oil products.

As with many other breads, like banana and zucchini, loaves can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 3 months.  The recipe I will give is for a dessert like/snacking bread.  However, if a savory bread is desired, mix in the ingredients (cut the sugar back to ½ cup, only use the ¼ tsp. salt) from the guacamole recipe, and you have guacamole bread! 


Avocado Bread


2 very ripe medium avocados (Equals 2 cups smashed)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour (add 2 Tbsp. for high altitude)

1 and 1/2 tsps. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9”x5” loaf pan with baking spray.


Cream together avocados and sugar until smooth; if a little lumpy, do not worry over it.   Add the eggs and beat together thoroughly.

 In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a spatula. The batter will be thick.


Scoop the batter into the loaf pan; bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf.  Let pan cool on wire rack before removing bread.

 Makes 9 servings.


When you can get avocados, now you have more options on how to store them for the future, and not feel forced to eat them immediately.  …and need a project for the kids?  Try and grow your own avocado tree from the pit.

Mary Cokenour