Homemade Salsa

Just in time for March Madness! Make enough to get you from the Sweet Sixteen to the Final Four, and you won’t be sorry. Here’s what you need:

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Tomatoes, canned jalapenos, fresh cilantro, and — my secret ingredient, cribbed from The Pioneer Woman’s salsa — two cans of Rotel. Here’s her original post, where she also makes some killer nachos. This fresh salsa is awesome with heirloom tomatoes from your garden or the farmer’s market, but regular old supermarket tomatoes will do just fine, too.

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Homemade Salsa


  • 2 1/2 cups tomatoes (about 3 heirloom) or 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cans (10 oz) Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, mild or medium
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • jalapenos to taste (start with a few slices and add if needed)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • juice of 1 lime


Using a large food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients until you get the consistency you desire. I err on the side of chunky and not smooth. Test the seasonings, refrigerate for an hour and serve! This makes a pretty good-sized batch, so you can definitely bring plenty to a party and still have leftovers (or, if you have a huge family, just eat it all at one sitting).

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I used this handy guide to figure out how many garden tomatoes would give me the same quantity as a 28 oz. jar of the whole canned variety (the answer: about 2 1/2 cups). So if you have no choice but to sub in the canned kind, that’s the size you want to grab.

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This salsa has a satisfying smooth yet chunky texture with a tiny bit of heat, but not too much. In my opinion the fresh cilantro really makes it, but you can certainly adjust to your preference if cilantro isn’t really your thing!

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***IMPORTANT!!!*** If you are considering canning your salsa, please consult a guide such as the Ball Canning Book or a reputable reference for proper food preservation — this website is a good place to start — because you can’t just take any old salsa recipe and throw it in a hot water bath to preserve it long-term. There are USDA guidelines over the ratio of acidic foods to alkaline ingredients to prevent spoilage and growth of dangerous bacteria. Unless you are using a pressure canner, please be very careful while canning salsa or similar sauces! Mine are pictured in Mason jars because I gave them out as gifts the day after I made them, so they’re safe to keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

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Want to learn how to make jam? Check out my how-to guide for fruit preserves.

Grow Your Own Way

Early Spring Gardening

What’s more fitting for the first day of spring than to get an early start on this year’s garden? After being a little disorganized and haphazard in laying out our garden last year, we have decided to take a more proactive approach for 2013, starting with this handy seed starter kit available through Amazon or Home Depot:

So far, it’s working great! Here’s what you do (cat assistance optional):

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The kit comes with these soil pods in each compartment. They’re designed to expand when you add water. 

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See? They more than triple in size.

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Even them out a little by hand.

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Add your seeds (we did about four per pod). The kit comes with a chart so you can write down which seeds you put in which compartment. Photo Mar 16, 5 51 16 PM

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Water again, then place the lid on the entire kit and in about a week you should see some sprouting!

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Give it a warm location outside direct sunlight, and await germination.

We are also working on some strawberries! They were chillin’ on the porch, but we had a couple freezing nights and had to bring them indoors to the kitchen window:

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The garden is Mark’s baby, and I feel very loved by the way he plans it out, cultivates it, and provides us with fresh produce all summer and fall. I really don’t have to do a thing except enjoy the bounty, and I’m not sure how I got so lucky! 🙂

Looking for more gardening resources? Check out, which is handy for all types of gardening advice, from planning your plot to making the most of what you reap through cooking, canning and preserving. Or, if you’re in the Boston area, visit Allandale Farm in Brookline for seeds, compost, mulch and more along with expert advice for starting your garden. TreeHugger also posted a cool article this week about high-tech indoor gardening tools.

PS — if you haven’t already, check out! It’s a great new site where you can filter blog content by your interests, and they’re starting with food & drink. Check it out here or follow the button on my homepage (to the right).


Spicy Penne Rosa with Shrimp

This has a nice subtle heat that will call to mind shrimp fra diavolo. Made with whole wheat pasta, spinach and a creamy sauce of fire-roasted tomatoes and non-fat Greek yogurt, it packs a healthy punch that will keep you feeling fuller longer. Tons of great protein and flavor in here!



  • 1 package whole wheat penne
  • 1/3 cup 0% Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, such as Muir Glen
  • 4 cups fresh spinach (eyeball it to your taste)
  • frozen shrimp, deveined and without tails (about 1 cup)
  • small jar of marinara sauce or tomato soup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (add more if you like heat!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for the pan
  • parmesan, shaved, for topping



In a good-sized skillet, heat a couple swirls of olive oil over medium heat until warm. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (more or less to your taste) until the garlic begins to soften but hasn’t browned. Meanwhile, put a pan of water on to boil for the penne.

Once the garlic and red pepper flakes are ready, add the tomatoes to the pan with salt and pepper. You can also use fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 2 medium tomatoes, or 1/2 a pound). Cook about 5 minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium-high, and add the shrimp. Next, add the spinach until it starts to wilt. You might, like me, find yourself wanting to add more once you see how much it wilts down.


Cook for a few minutes, until the spinach have just wilted and the shrimp are pinkish and see-through. Add the cooked penne, the Greek yogurt (adding more from the container to taste, if you like it) and then add either the marinara sauce or a splash of tomato soup (I thought of this in a pinch) to loosen the sauce.



Stir until it is well mixed, taste for seasoning and desired thickness, and top with grated parmesan cheese. Divide into pasta bowls and serve warm. Voila!


Inspiration for this recipe came from Back To Her Roots. I only altered one thing in the original recipe: Mark hates mushrooms, so I omitted them.