Americans love salsa. We eat more of it than ketchup these days. When I think of salsa I think of a tomato based sauce with hot peppers used as a dip. However, more and more salsas are using fruit as the main ingredient. With warm weather coming soon (thank goodness) many fruits will be in season so they will be abundant and lower in cost.
Common fruits which are used in salsa are: kiwi, strawberry, watermelon, mango, peaches, berries, pineapple, and cantaloupe.
Fruit salsa is a wonderful way to use ripe fruit. Ripe fruit has the best flavor and when you make salsa you can remove any bruises or blemishes. Most salsa recipes include a small amount of sweetener such as white or brown sugar, honey, fruit jelly or preserves, or syrups to draw out the juice in the fruit. Fruit salsas can also include onions, hot peppers and/or cilantro. Many of these recipes are designed to be served with meat, poultry, or fish.
We have an easy Fruit Salsa recipe and Baked Cinnamon Chips on the SpendSmart.EatSmart website, but fresh fruit salsa is a great opportunity to experiment and create your own recipe. However, if you are thinking of canning your own salsa make sure you use a tested recipe so you know it is safe to eat.
This morning I got an email from my sister:
“Want to make salsa with the big tomatoes from the garden? How about Friday night?”
I found a great publication called Preserving Food: Sensational Salsas on the University of Georgia website. It not only has several tomato salsas, but also directions on how to can Mango Salsa, Peach Apple Salsa, and Spicy Cranberry Salsa.
It is true that we have lots of gorgeous tomatoes and, with all the sun and heat, they are ripening faster than usual. We need to do something with them in addition to eating our fill and giving them away.
Canning, freezing, and making salsa are the best alternatives I can think of.
Here is my chart of pros and cons:
||Fastest, no special equipment needed, can do in small batches.
||Heats up the kitchen when you blanch them, but not as much as the other methods. Freezing breaks down the cell walls so they are best used in soups and stews. Uses up space in my refrigerator/freezer.
||Good flavor and texture compared to frozen; stores on the shelf.
||Requires a water bath or pressure canner, and new lids (we already have canning jars or we would have to buy them also).Heats up the kitchen.
||Makes a nice little gift if it turns out.Uses peppers and onions from the garden. Stores on the shelf.
||Requires processing in a hot water bath. Takes time to chop up the vegetables. Heats up the kitchen.
I am not sure what we will do with the tomatoes, but I am following the directions from a university. I do not want to take the chance on wasting my time and energy with spoiled food. If canning or freezing are your choice here is a link to Iowa State’s food preservation resources.
Our featured recipe this month is Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake. It is a very easy recipe that costs about $.80 a serving. You can use any combination of 4 cups of meat and beans that you have. The recipe also calls for salsa. I use medium, but if you want a little more heat you could use a spicier salsa, add a hot pepper, or add a little hot sauce. Be sure you save a little of the enchilada filling to spread on top of the enchiladas.
When I make this dish, I put the enchiladas in two baking pans. I cook one and I freeze one. Then all you have to do is add fruit and milk. The frozen enchiladas will take about 30 minutes at 350⁰ F to thaw and heat through.
Chicken Safety Tip: Washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. Rinsing or soaking chicken does not destroy bacteria. Any bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken are destroyed only by cooking. Also, make sure you wash the cutting board and knife right after you use them.
Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2 cups)
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 can (15-ounce) low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup salsa
- 8 whole wheat tortillas
- Cooking spray
- ½ cup 2%-fat shredded cheddar cheese
- Cut chicken breast into 4-5 chunks. Simmer in a large saucepan with water and chili powder. Cook until internal temperature is 165° F (about 10 minutes).
- Remove chicken from pan. Cut or shred into small chunks and return to pan. Add beans, corn, and salsa to saucepan. Cook until hot, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Spread 1/2 cup of chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam-side down in greased 9×13 pan.
- Spread any leftover chicken mixture over the top of the enchiladas.
- Bake at 375o F for 12-15 minutes.
- Sprinkle cheese on top of the enchiladas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Serve immediately.
My entire family enjoys snacking on baked taco chips and salsa for an easy snack. We usually just eat tomato salsa that I buy at the store until our home grown tomatoes are ready from the garden. But, for something a little different, I tried adding some plain yogurt to it along with some fat free sour cream. It was a big hit with my son and husband – the yogurt was cool but there was still the spiciness of the salsa for a great flavor combination. It couldn’t be any easier to make – equal parts of salsa, fat free sour cream and nonfat plain yogurt. Just a 2 tablespoon serving yields 2% of the daily value for calcium and it only costs $ .15 a serving. I also liked the fact that it tasted great with vegetables. There was just enough spice to make you keep eating and that IS what I need – ideas to keep me eating more nutrient rich vegetables. At only 25 calories for a 2 tablespoon serving of this South of the Border Dip, you can enjoy this guilt free, inexpensive snack.
-contributed by Jan Temple