Category Archives: My Kitchen

I Ate Brain-Boosting Foods All Day!

THE ONE-PAGE ARTICLE*  EXTOLLED the virtues of four foods scientists suggest may have a protective effect to enhance memory and mental abilities into our senior years.  The headline on the magazine article promised we could maintain our cognitive brilliance into old age, if we ate these brain-boosting foods every day.

OK, I’M IN!  Today, I will eat all four (4) of the brain -boosting foods.

BLUEBERRIES

IT SEEMS THAT THE ANTIOXIDANTS in the blueberries may result in more oxygen-rich blood circulating to the brain. The goal is to eat a cup of blueberries daily. In one briefly quoted study of 16,000 women, researchers found the women who ate more blueberries had “younger minds”. .

I LOVE BLEUBERRIES, so this one is easy.  When blueberries are in season, I freeze several large containers for the freezer. Since they can be frozen without being washed, it doesn’t take much time.  They freeze in separate, sweet balls.  Throughout the year, I can grab a handful, rinse them well, and add to cereal, smoothies, muffins, ice cream, or salad.

FOR BREAKFAST TODAY, I add blueberries to wheat chex cereal, with strawberries, bananas and walnuts.  The wheat chex adds additional fiber for a healthy start to the day, and a breakfast so crunchy and sweet tasting.

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LOW-FAT YOGURT

YOGURT THAT IS FORTIFIED with vitamin D  will give us about 20% of this vitamin we need every day. It is suggested that vitamin D may help strengthen connections among the cells of the brain, and some research has found that a loss of cognitive ability is associated with lower levels of vitamin D.

YOGURT CAN BE USED IN MULTIPLE WAYS in the kitchen, such as: a yogurt and dill topping for grouper or talipia; added to muffins for moistness; fruit and yogurt as a dessert or snack.

I DECIDE TO MAKE A YOGURT smoothie today.  I blend the following ingredients in a smoothie blender: ice, yogurt, skim milk, blueberries, strawberries, vanilla flavoring, honey, strawberry Slimfast protein powder.   Hmmm.  So icy and creamy and very filling!

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CABBAGE

I DO LIKE CABBAGE, BUT I don’t know if I want to eat it every single day.  We could have cooked cabbage and potatoes, a favorite of my Scotch-Irish grandmother. Or, cole slaw with carrots and onions and a creamy dressing.

I COULD SWITCH OFF and prepare roasted cauliflower or Brussel sprouts, other cruciferous vegetables with health benefits.  Some studies suggest the glucosinolates in these vegetables may lower rates of forgetfulness.  Wouldn’t it be great if it really were this simple to lower the incidence of Alzheimer’s ? Anyway, it’s recommended we eat 2-3 servings a week to benefit.

FOR DINNER TODAY, I make one of my favorite meals, a hearty vegetable soup, more like a stew with thick vegetables and a savory broth.  In this soup, I cut up the vegetables I have on hand. I like to enjoy each of the different vegetables, so I cut them up in large chunks,…toss them in the crock pot and let them cook for 4 hours until done and the flavors blend: chicken broth, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions, zuchinni, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, bay leaves (3) tomatoes, 1/4 cup red wine.

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THE HOT SOUP smells rich and savory as I sprinkle it with parmesan.  This is a satisfying meal.

ALMOND BUTTER

THE VITAMIN E IN ALMOND BUTTER may be a memory booster for the human brain, by reducing oxidative damage, according to a new study in The Journal of Nutrition , Health and Aging, quoted in the magazine article.  

I HAVE ONLY RECENTLY BEEN BUYING ALMOND BUTTER.  I use it in banana-almond butter smoothies or as an ingredient for an icing for muffins. This evening, I make an evening snack of almond butter toast, drizzled with wildflower honey, and a cup of English breakfast tea.  A spot of tea on a rainy evening with a good book, is a lovely way to end the day.

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WELL, I DID IT!  I ate all four of the brain-boosting foods heralded in the woman’s magazine article in one day.  Now, where is that crossword puzzle I couldn’t finish this morning?

(* Information quoted in this post referencing the 4 brain foods and quoted health benefits were based on: “Eat These to Keep Your Memory Sharp”, p. 63, Redbook Magazine, March 2016)

Sue Marquis Bishop, PhD
2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkins Everywhere in Oatmeal, Smoothies, and …?

IT’S FALL!  PUMPKINS ARE EVERYWHERE, ..and they  offer so much more, than jack-0-lanterns for Halloween, and pie for Thanksgiving.  Aside from decorating our front entrances and hearths, pumpkins can be enjoyed in so many sweet and savory foods…and it seems they are healthy too!

THE TEMPERATURE WAS IN THE HIGH 60’S  and sunny early this morning… a great morning for oatmeal. As I opened the pantry to prepare breakfast, I noticed a can of Libby’s pure pumpkin puree. The label on the can suggests pumpkin is chock full of vitamins.  Pumpkin is an “excellent source of vitamin A and fiber” and is very low in fat (no trans fat or saturated fat), only “4 g sugar and no preservatives” added.  That’s a lot of healthy beta-carotene!

WHY NOT PUMPKIN OATMEAL?   I added a couple of tablespoons pureed pumpkin to each bowl, along with raisins, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Pumpkin oatmeal,  orange juice, whole wheat toast, coffee and the morning paper.  What a comforting way to begin a Fall day!

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AFTER AN AFTERNOON WALK walk with our dog Bear, I enjoyed an icy… rich tasting… pumpkin smoothie.
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/4 tsp almond  flavoring
1 scoop vanilla slimfast protein powder
dash of pumpkin spice and Splenda
ice cubes
After blending,  a dash of grated nutmeg was added on top.   Hmmm. So refreshing.

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WHEN I WENT GROCERY SHOPPING LATER at Trader Joe’s store, I found that pumpkins had taken over the store! There was pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin corn bread, pumpkin pita bread, pumpkin cereal, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin latte coffee, pumpkin ravioli.  pumpkin muffin mix, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin butter, …and more.  WOW. I had no idea.

I PLAN TO KEEP SOME CANS of pumpkin puree on hand this Fall to see where the pumpkin inspiration takes me.  For now, it’s time to savor the transition to Fall and plan a weekend in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Raising Seafood in the Midwest! What?

“Indiana could become the shrimp capitol of the world”, according to the  Brown family, who raises shrimp in a land-locked farm.  No!  That can’t be!  Can it?

My family moved to the flatlands of southern Indiana from the mountain state of West Virginia when I was a teenager. Neither of these states is situated near the coast for easy access to all kinds of seafood, with the exception of lake fishing.  In the Midwest, corn and soybeans are common crops.  Is Indiana, in the heartland of America, on the way to becoming a major center for farming shrimp? Really?

I didn’t know about the rich variety of seafood available when I was young, as there was a limited selection of seafood available at the local Kroger store  in Madison, Indiana where Mom did her weekly shopping. (Changes in distribution and frozen foods have increased seafood choices in the Midwest from the years when I was growing up.)

 I learned to cook a variety of foods from my mother who was a good cook.  Mom prepared a full sit down dinner every night, and our family of six ate together in the dining room. Our plates were stacked in front of Dad who sat at one end of the table, and he dished the plates with food and passed them around.

Our meat entrees included pork chops, roast cooked with vegetables, hamburgers, chicken and turkey.  Mom bought a lot of ground beef each week and we helped her patty them out with a wooden hamburger smasher.  My younger brothers were picky eaters and hamburgers were one thing they would eat without complaining. We had potatoes every meal – usually baked potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, or homemade French fries.

We also enjoyed mom’s desserts – pies, baked custard and ice cream most often, and she always baked each of us a birthday cake for our special day.

Our culinary fare in seafood was limited.  We ate our share of tuna salad sandwiches, baked salmon loaf made from canned salmon, and as children we seemed to like the fish sticks that mom heated from a frozen food package.  What did we know?  We were kids.  Grouper? tilapia? Never heard of them or knew what fresh salmon or tuna filets looked like .   Lobster? Never saw a live one up close.  We would have likely said “yuck” when we saw the insect-appearing critter anyway, just like we refused to eat frog legs someone gave our family.

When I moved to Florida, and later North Carolina, as an adult, my love affair with all things seafood began, and I learned to prepare a variety of delicious foods for my family that were harvested from the sea.  How wonderful that they are more healthy than the heavy dose of red meats I grew up eating each week.  In her senior years, my mother enjoyed new seafood dishes in my home that she had not tasted before.CIMG3146

Tonight, I prepared a simple dinner with baked tilapia… seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, rolled in panko crumbs, baked and topped with sour cream/dill sauce.  We also had baked sweet potatoes, grillled zuchinni and cooked cinnamon apples. Comfort food on a cool September day.

New technology is creating seafood farming options for land-locked areas of the country. The Brown aquaculture farm, one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, is becoming a leader in the inland farming of shrimp in the U.S, and is one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, seven added just in the past four years. The Browns who previously raised hogs before switching to shrimp, hope to expand to tank farming of oysters, talapia and crawfish (Popular Science, 2015).

 An article in the October Popular Science (2015), entitled “The Midwest is Our New Ocean”, describes the low-tech methods developed by Texas A & M that is enabling land-locked areas to enter seafood farming. Basically, the tanks don’t need to be filtered, as bacteria held in a liquid suspension keep the tanks clean and with no need for antibiotics. The article states that this sustainable method of in-land farming may be critical for our future, as our “ocean is dying unless we change our ways”.

It’s exciting news that research has devised a way for in-land farming of seafood in cost-effective and healthy ways in the Midwest, with other possibilities on the horizon.  This new technology creates jobs and provides healthy food for a growing population.

But, I can’t be so cavalier about the oceans becoming toxic. It will not be so simple to have any quality of life on the planet if we destroy our oceans, even if we increase the farming of seafood in the Midwest. Reducing over-fishing and curbing pollution remain huge environmental concerns.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2015

RedBirds, Southern Snow and Lebanese Porkchops

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WE’VE WAITED ALL WINTER for a decent snowfall in the sunny south and it’s finally arriving.  It was dark when it began to snow, and I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the snow coming down in huge snowflakes, blanketing our world outside.

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OUR 3-4 INCHES OF SNOW will melt in two days, but we enjoy it while it’s here.

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THE SHOWY REDBIRDS  gather at the backyard feeders as the snow  begins to fall.

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THE RED BELLIED WOODPECKER family visits to sample the peanut suet.

TWO CROWS stop in briefly and the small birds arrive and walk under the feeders catching the fall out.

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TIME TO THINK ABOUT DINNER. The slow cooker is a welcome fixture in my kitchen, especially on a cold winter day, when I want to prepare an easy meal.  I decide to make Lebanese Pork Chops. Each Lebanese cook creates her own mixture of spices, based on family tradition.  This is my version of Lebanese Seven Spices Seasoning, modified from a recipe I found several years ago in The Week (no author).

5 Tablespoons  Allspice

5 Tablespoons Cloves

3 1/2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

4 Tablespoons Ginger

4 Tablespoons Greek seasoning

4 Tablespoons Nutmeg

3 1/2 Tablespoons Pepper

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COAT THE PORK CHOPS well  with the Lebanese Seven Spices mixture and rub into meat. Brown each side In a hot skillet with a splash of olive oil to seal in juice

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MOVE PORK CHOPS TO CROCK POT (slow cooker). Wash and cut sweet potatoes into large chunks and add to crock pot.

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ADD ABOUT 1/2 CUP OF ORANGE JUICE.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours until pork shops are done.  Then, I peeled apples and cooked them with butter and brown sugar in the microwave oven. (Sometimes I  add the apples to the crock pot later in the cooking  time )

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WHILE THE PORK CHOPS WERE COOKING,   I  baked some mini apple caramel cakes for dessert by adding diced apples and spices to a cake batter and topped with a caramel topping.

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It’s difficult to catch the woodpecker with the camera, but I finally caught him two days later, as the snow melted away.

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Sue Marquis Bishop February 28, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup for an October Lunch with Friends

Fall is in the air in the Carolinas and it’s the perfect time for making hearty soups and arranging friendly gatherings.  One of my favorite soups this time of year is butternut squash soup.

My sister-in-law Yvonne is visiting from Kentucky and we invited our friend Barbara to join us for lunch.  The table is set in the breakfast room to enjoy the outside view from the adjacent Carolina Room.

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I love to make hearty soups… seems like magic to add, blend and stir…and  end up with something new and warm to enjoy. I make it differently each time based on what I have available and want to try.  This is the soup for this day.

1 large onion, minced

4 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon butter and splash of olive oil

Wash and slice one large onion and sauté in a splash of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.  (Adding minced pieces of celery is optional.) When the onion is nearly translucent, add 4 garlic cloves, salt and pepper and heat for a few minutes longer..

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In a large pot, whisk together squash, vegetable stock, honey and cornstarch. When well mixed, set pot on heat and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.

1 can butternut squash

1 large carton vegetable stock (broth) (chicken stock OK too)

1/4 cup honey

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 Tablespoon butter

1 cup cooked carrots, sliced  (or one can of carrots with liquid)

1 large white potato, previously baked and cut in bite size chunks

Spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, thyme, curry

When squash mixture boils, add cooked onions and garlic, cooked carrots, baked potato, butter and spices. Begin adding spices at 1/4 teaspoon and increase to get the flavor you prefer.  Use a pinch of curry, as a little goes a long way.  (I use curry with 2-3  basil leaves stored in the big curry jar to infuse savory basil flavor… as suggested by my dear Chinese friend Leai).

When the soup returns to a boil, turn heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes to blend flavors. The last couple of minutes on the heat, gently whisk in the milk. . Serve soup with a tiny sprinkling of nutmeg to enhance the aroma. Serve with great breads and crackers and a tossed salad with strawberries or other fruit.

The breadbasket for this meal holds raisin bread, pumpkin bread (not the sweet bread) and crackers. (I crocheted an edge on some material I liked for napkins.  I think it adds a nice touch.  I don’t do any fancy crocheting… just the basics.)

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What could  be  better  than  homemade  squash  soup, a sunny Fall day and  good conversation with friends. CIMG2181

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

What is Carolina Tomato Marmalade? A Delicacy of the Tomato Season

MAKING TOMATO MARMALADE is a richly rewarding way to approach the end of the tomato season.  AND… jars of this homemade jewel of a sweet treat make fabulous holiday gifts.  

WE HAVE ENJOYED EVERY DAY of the long tomato season this Summer with a bounty of tomatoes, from only eight tomato plants.  We have eaten our fill of bacon and tomato sandwiches, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato salsa and chutney and more.  Today, I made a simple  lunch with tuna salad and tomato. 

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TWO YEARS AGO, when our daughter Heather spent a week with us in our cabin in the North Carolina mountains, she asked if I would show her how to make jelly or jam.  We had just purchased some large candy stripe tomatoes from the farmer’s market in Burnsville. The tomatoes were  mustard yellow, with narrow  ruby-red stripes that were, widely spaced around the tomatoes from stem to bottom. I hadn’t made any jellies or  jams for a few years and didn’t have any old recipes with me.  So, we created a new recipe using these wonderful tomatoes.

THE CANDY STRIPE TOMATO MARMALADE we made not only tasted fantastic, but the deep yellow and red colors in the jar were striking. We only made 6 jars and hoarded them for ourselves, bringing out a taste when company came.  Heather tried to take her 3 jars home on the plane and they wouldn’t let her board with them, so she mailed her jars to her house

I DIDN’T HAVE any candy stripe tomatoes this year, but did have several red varieties, so I used our same recipe with red tomatoes and named this version Carolina Tomato Marmalade. (The recipe can be doubled with good results. )

Carolina Tomato Marmalade

WASH AND STERILIZE jam or jelly jars.  Leave lids and rings in hot gently boiling water until use. Leave jars in hot dishwasher after washing until use or sterilize in boiling water. . 

  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 1 medium orange, thinly sliced and seeded (thin skin orange)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated gingerroot (peel and grate)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves

CHOP EACH LEMON SLICE into quarters and orange slices into eight pieces. Remove white center segment and seeds. Then chop into thin pieces and add to saucepan.  Add sugar, orange juice, grated gingerroot, cinnamon stick and cloves.

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Bring to boil and reduce to gentle simmer until liquid is reducd and lemon and orange slices are translucent, tender and “candied”.  Stir often to prevent burning.  Remove from heat.  Remove cloves, cinnamon stick and discard.

WHILE LEMONS AND ORANGE MIXTURE is simmering, prepare tomato mixture.

  • 5 cups tomatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 Tablespoons fruit pectin
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

WASH AND IMMERSE TOMATOES in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skins so they will peel off easily. 

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DISCARD PEELING and cut tomatoes in 4-8 pieces. In large pan, add tomatoes, butter and pectin and stir to mix well.  (Use of pectin will decrease amount of foam to be skimmed off later.)  Leave pan off heat for 10 minutes.

STIR TOMATO MIXTURE again and place on medium high heat.  When the mixture hits full rolling boil, add sugar and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly

TURN HEAT TO MEDIUM TO MEDIUM-HIGH.  Add candied lemon and orange mixture from small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup orange juice, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground allspice and black pepper.  Let it boil (low boil) until it begins to get thick, about 20-30 minutes. (We found it took longer to thicken in the high altitude of the mountains.) You can check how it is thickening, by adding a teaspoonful in a small dish and cooling it, or seeing it flow off the spoon in a thicker sheet (as opposed to a single drip).

WHEN IT BEGINS TO THICKEN, remove from heat and skim off foam on top with a metal spoon. 

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FILL JARS leaving 1/8 inch at top.  Wipe sides and top edges of jar to remove any spillage and tighten lids and rings.  Move jars to deep pot on stove and till with water 1-2 inches over the tops of the jars.  Place cover on pan and bring to boil.  Boil for 10 minutes.

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THIS CANNING POT allowed the lowering of the jars into the water on a rack.  When we made it in the mountains, we did not have a canning pot, but used a deep pan.

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SET PAN OFF HEAT and allow to cool. When jars are cool, check lids and rings.  Lids are sealed when center of lid is pushed down and will not release up. The Carolina Tomato Marmalade was a deep burgundy color with pieces of yellow lemon and orange rinds visible among the tomato seeds.  Lovely!  

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I PREPARED A SIMPLE dinner of  ham, mashed potatoes and green beans,  and made biscuits for dinner, so we could enjoy the new treat.  My Dad so loved tomato preserves. As I put the biscuits in the oven, I thought of how Dad would have enjoyed this dinner, ..and I remembered the day my daughter and I created the tomato marmalade recipe.  Such warm memories make my life that much richer.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014   

Tomato Peach Salsa Takes Talapia, Chicken or Pork Roast to a Starring Role on Your Table

The bounty of luscious and plentiful fruit and vegetables of warm Summer days stimulate creative days in the kitchen.  Today was such a day when I used available foods and spices to make a tomato-peach salsa.  Sooo good with a meat entre for dinner!!

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Our tomatoes are producing generously this year.  We are enjoying our fill of bacon and tomato sandwiches, tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad, sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, as a side dish of breaded tomatoes.  The best is grabbing the salt shaker and eating a freshly picked whole tomato warm from the Summer sun…tomato juice dripping through our fingers, as we hold our heads over the sink..

Today, I noticed two peaches sitting on the kitchen counter beside the basket of tomatoes we had just harvested.  The thought occurred that I might develop a salsa recipe that we could use with the pork roast I had cooking in the crock pot.

The first step was to wash the tomatoes and cover them with boiling water for 30-45 seconds so the peelings will  come off easily. One of the features in our new house that I love is the boiling water faucet in the kitchen (Thanks Peggy, for including it in the kitchen remodel!.).

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And, it really works too.  So much easier than trying to peel the tomato skins off.

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When I am creating a new recipe, it’s a little of this and a pinch or splash of that.  So, I will share the approximate measurements.  You may want to adjust several of the ingredients for your own tastes.

The salsa I made today includes peeled and quartered tomatoes (about 5 cups), two peaches, lemon juice (about 1/4 cup),apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 cup), honey to taste (1/2 cup), 1/2 diced green bell pepper, 1 tablespoon minced basil, 1 tablespoon  minced gingerroot, 1 medium diced onion, black pepper, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup raisins.

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Cook at gentle boil until thickened, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

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The tomato-peach salsa was processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal canning jars.

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The crock pot pork roast was tender and juicy and ready for dinner when the salsa was done.  The meat-salsa combination was delicious… spicy and sweet-tart.

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We munched on turkey sandwiches on sour dough rolls for lunch the next day.  The tomato-peach salsa made the sandwiches extra special with icy orange-ice tea.  I’m so glad I made enough for another day.

Sue Marquis Bishop   2014