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Tomato Salsa

Last month I wrote about how to grow your own tomatoes.  If you missed that post, check it out HERE.

As of this month, my two little plants have produced over 20 tomatoes!  So, with all these tomatoes, I need to find a good use for them!  Of course, I can always chop them up and freeze them to use in sauces later, but I’d also like to try and eat a lot of them fresh out of the garden!

So, I asked Molly to help me brainstorm a few ideas, and we decided I could make some tomato salsa.  Tomato salsa is one of Molly’s favorite things, so I wonder where she got the idea! 😉

Here’s my recipe for fresh Tomato Salsa:

You’ll need the following ingredients:

1_Ingredients

2 large or 3 small to medium tomatoes

1/8 red onion

1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves

1/2 to 1 jalapeño (depending on how spicy you want the salsa)

juice of 1 to 1 1/2 limes, depending on how juicy your limes are

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp plus 1/8 tsp regular salt)

 

First, begin to prep your ingredients.

Rough chop the tomatoes and onion and remove most of the stems from the cilantro (to end up with around 1/4 cup of leaves):

2_RoughChoppedVeggies

Next, rough chop your jalapeño.  I recommend wearing plastic, food safe (not powdered!) gloves for this step as the essential oils from the jalapeño can stay on your hands for hours – even after washing them with soap!  If you touch your eye with jalapeño essential oils on your fingers, you’ll feel like you just maced yourself, so wearing gloves is really important!  (If you don’t have any gloves, but you’d still like to forge ahead with the salsa recipe, you can also cut up the jalapeño with a knife and fork or make use of any other method that will keep you from touching the jalapeño directly.)

So, once you’re properly gloved-up, rough chop your jalapeño:

 3_RoughChoppedJalapeno

For mild salsa, cut the jalapeño in half, remove the seeds and ribs before chopping it, and only use 1/2 of the jalapeño in the salsa.  Alternately, if you like your salsa spicy, you can add more of the jalapeño – up to the entire pepper.  Or, for extra spicy salsa, leave some to all of the seeds and ribs.  Most of the heat in a jalapeño is in the seeds and ribs, so leaving them in will really give it a kick!

Next, add all the ingredients to a food processor (starting with the juice of only 1 lime):

4_IngredientsInFoodPro

Pulse at least 3 or 4 times (1 second pulses) to more finely chop and combine the ingredients.  If the salsa still isn’t diced finely enough for you, continue pulsing until everything is as small as desired.

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Finally, taste the salsa to see if you’ve added enough lime juice.  If not, use a spatula or large spoon to mix in a little more at a time, tasting the salsa after each addition.

Transfer your salsa to a small to medium serving bowl.  Serve immediately, or to chill the salsa, refrigerate it for at least a couple hours before serving.

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Makes 8-10 servings.

Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite salsa recipe?  Or, do you have another favorite way to prepare and eat fresh tomatoes?  We’d love to hear all about it!

Love,tami

Growing Tomatoes

My dad is a wonderful gardener.  Every spring, for as long as I can remember, he’s tenderly cared for all kinds of vegetables including lettuce, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes.  All of his veggies are great, but nothing can beat my dad’s tomatoes.  They’re the best tomatoes you’ll ever eat, hands down.

This year, my dad me asked if I’d like to grow some tomatoes of my own.  I wasn’t sure at first… Did my yard have a spot with enough sun?  Would I accidently kill them or worse yet, would they become breakfast for the millions of bunnies in our town?

Finally, I agreed to try.  By the end of March, Dad had already started several plants from seed.  He gave me a large pot and two of his tiny little plants.  He recommended that I also get a trellis (my kind neighbor gave me one he didn’t need anymore!), special tomato fertilizer, and a roll of stretchy plant tie, and then I’d be ready to go!

I was instantly protective of my little plants.  For the first couple weeks, it was still too chilly to plant them in their pot outside, so I set them in the sun each day and then brought them back inside each night to keep them warm.  After a couple more weeks, they were ready to be transplanted to my pot.  I surveyed my yard to find the perfect spot, and replanted them.

Here they are just after replanting:

1_BabyTomatoPlants

After a few days, I decided that spot wasn’t as perfect as I originally thought!  As spring progressed and other plants in our yard started filling in, they began to block the sunlight getting to my tomatoes, so I moved them to the other side of the yard.

Here they are in their second spot – growing well!

2_TomatoPlants_Growing

After a few more weeks, our side yard finally became sunny again, so I moved them there behind our fence to make sure they would be safe from bunnies.

Here they are in their final resting place.  With regular watering and fertilizing, they grew so fast that I could see daily growth!

3_MediumTomatoPlants

By early May, they had also developed flowers, which my dad said would turn into tomatoes! I was very excited!  Spring was a little chilly this year, however, and tomatoes like the heat, so while the plants looked great and were growing well, it felt like a LONG time before they finally grew any tomatoes.  One tomato finally started around the end of May.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic of it, but here’s a pic of another one.  It’s so cute!

4_BabyTomato

In the beginning of July, my first tomato turned red!  I read online that tomatoes are ripe once they turn red and feel firm, but not hard.  This one still needed a few more days to soften a bit.

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My baby plants are now huge and thriving and full of tomatoes growing larger every day.  They’re also now over a foot taller than their trellis!

6_HugeTomatoPlants

I’m excited to harvest them and be able to eat tomatoes from my own garden for the first time!

To grow your own tomatoes, you’ll need the following:

1)    Tomato seeds or small plants – you want to make sure you’ll end up with at least 2 plants to plant together for cross-pollination.

2)    A large pot (at least 1 ½ ft. wide for 2 plants), a large raised bed, or a large spot in your garden for planting.

3)    Potting or garden soil for vegetables.

4)    Tomato fertilizer – Miracle Grow for tomatoes worked great for me, but any kind you prefer is fine.

5)    Trellises – 1 trellis per 2 or 3 plants, depending on the size of your trellis.

6)    Stretchy green plant tie.

7)    A spot in your yard or garden, which gets at least 5 hours of full sun or more – tomatoes love heat and lots of sun.

If starting from seed, plant your seeds in late February or early March.  My dad started them in soil in medium sized Styrofoam drinking cups with a small hole in the bottom for drainage – one plant per cup.  If you prefer not to use Styrofoam, plastic cups or anything similar that can stand up to soil and water would be fine.

If you plan to buy baby plants, you can buy them anytime in the spring, but sometime in late March to mid April is probably best, depending on your weather.

Transplant baby plants to your garden or pots around mid April, or once the weather is consistently in the high 60’s to low 70’s during the day.  Plant your plants in front of their trellises – about 6 to 8 inches from the trellis is fine.

Once your plants are about 1 ½ ft. high and/or have developed some flowers, begin gently tying stems to the trellis.  The goal is not to tie them up so they’re touching the trellis, but to tie them so the trellis is helping support their weight.

Here are a couple of examples of stems tied to their trellis.

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As the plants grow, continue tying up any stems that seem to need extra support.

Also, keep in mind that tomato stems can be very delicate and can break off easily – especially once they’re supporting the weight of tomatoes – so work with them carefully.

Water your plants every other day until the weather is consistently in the mid 70’s each day.  After that, water them every day, and if possible, at about the same time of day.  Give them just enough water so that the soil stays moist each day.  Once tomatoes form, be careful not to get any water on them or they might split while growing.

Fertilize your plants about every 2 weeks.

If any stems/leaves turn completely yellow and shriveled, pinch them off at the base of the yellow stem.  You shouldn’t get too many of these, but they may occur near the lower part of more mature plants.

Regularly check stems and the underside of leaves for bugs.  Pull or wipe them off if you find any. If desired, protect your plants from snails by sprinkling snail repellant around the base of your pots or around your plants in the garden (try to keep it as far from your plants as possible, while still close enough to make a difference).

Harvest tomatoes once they have turned red and feel firm, but no longer feel hard to the touch.  Feel them very gently, so as not to accidentally pick them before they’re ready!

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Do you love to garden or are you just a beginning gardener like I am?  I’d love to hear if you have any questions or extra tomato growing tips!  Or, do you have another favorite vegetable or herb you love to grow?tami

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Random Things About Tami

We are on Part 2 of our series on Random Things to know about the Throne of Grace team. If you missed last week’s post revealing the confessions of Molly, you can catch up HERE.

This week, we get to know Tami a little better! Tami has been a part of Throne of Grace since August of 2011. She keeps us all on-track, organized, and well-fed — among a long list of her other talents! Let’s see what she has to share today…

1. I LOVE chocolate, but when given the option of a lemon or chocolate tart, cake, or pie, I’ll often pick the lemon one. 

Here’s a pic of a lemon chiffon pie, which my mom sometimes makes for special occasions.  I always loved it and still consider it one of my favorite desserts.  I have a feeling it’s what influenced my lemon dessert preference.

1_LemonPie

2. Growing up my favorite color was blue.  I still like blue a lot, but I now tend to prefer red.

3. I have a California accent.

When I first met my husband’s Grandmother (who was from a small town in rural South Carolina), she told me I was a little hard to understand and had a “twang”.  I’d never thought of my accent that way before! Lol!  I tend to pick up on any accent I’m around for any length of time, however, so whenever we’d visit her, I’d make an effort to make my accent more southern, and she seemed to have an easier time understanding me. 🙂

2_KylesGrandma01_cropped

Meanwhile, I loved hearing her country accent and old-fashioned phrasing – some of which I’d never heard before!  We were able to video tape her a few years later talking about her life and growing up on a farm.  She died only a few weeks later, so my husband and I both cherish that footage of her!

4. I love to bake and often bake things from scratch, but for some reason I’m terrible at baking cakes. 

About a year and a half ago I made these cake balls for a baby shower from the cake disaster I had to try and quickly salvage.

3_CakeBalls

Thankfully, this batch of cake balls came out well, but I’ve even made cake ball disasters!

5. My mom is a math teacher and my dad is an engineer, but I can hardly do simple arithmetic in my head. 

The apple fell pretty far from the tree on that one…

6. I would much rather go to a geeky sci-fi movie than a romantic comedy chick flick. 

My husband is so lucky 😉

7. I was a theater major in college, but I never waited tables.

8. I’m really clumsy.

I’ll often do things like bump against a wall or doorway, bang dishes together, or trip over air.  My husband isn’t sure if he should believe me that I used to take ballet, but I have pics to prove it 🙂

4_BalletPic_cropped

9. My husband’s allergic to cats and dogs so we don’t have any pets, but if I had to choose, I’d say I’m much more of a cat person. 

We tried to have a couple dogs growing up, but it never worked out.  We had our cat, Scotia (aka Scoey), however, until she died when I was in college.

5_MeAndScoey_cropped

1o. I have actually been inside of and eaten lunch at Club 33 at Disneyland!

6_Club33_cropped

If you’ve never heard of Club 33, it’s an exclusive, little-known, members-only club tucked away in the New Orleans section.  I got to go with my family for an event through my dad’s work.  As you can see from the above pic, we went when I was 8 or 9, so I don’t remember it very well, but I do remember it being pretty cool!

So, that’s 10 random things about me!  I’d love to hear something random about you, too!

Have you ever eaten anywhere exclusive?  Do you have an unexpected favorite dessert?  Or – what I’m secretly hoping for – do you have any tips about baking cakes?? 🙂

Love,tami