Making your own Mexican seasonings

img_4016Tacos, fajitas, Mexican of any kind is among my favorite meals. So naturally, I wanted to make them as much from the garden as possible.

In the summer, I have tomatoes for the tacos and peppers and onions for the fajitas, as well as homemade salsa, but surely there was more I could do.

Then it came to me. Seasonings. I was sure I had most of what they are made up of.

I started experimenting and looking at other recipes and came up with a fajita seasoning mix and a taco seasoning mix.

To create my own ingredients, I ground up some of my chili peppers and cayenne peppers.

Note: where a mask over your nose and mouth when grinding the peppers so you don’t inhale them.

You can even make your own paprika. I like to dehydrate and grind up red Hungarian wax peppers to make the paprika, but I have red you can use any number of red peppers depending on how hot you want it to be.

For the fajita mix it takes: 1 T. cornstarch, 2 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp. cumin. Even the small amount of cayenne pepper will add some kick to the seasoning, so if you want it milder, I would leave the cayenne out all together.

For taco seasoning, you will need: 1 T. chili powder, 3/4 tsp. garlic powder, 3/4 tsp. onion powder, 3/4 tsp. dried oregano, 1 1/2 tsp. paprika, 4 1/2 tsp. cumin, 3 tsp. sea salt and 3 tsp. pepper. Note: 3 T. of seasoning equals one packet of store bought seasoning.

After mixing each of these, they can be stored in airtight jars on your shelf until needed.
They add some great flavor to Mexican dishes, using a lot of homegrown ingredients.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.


More pecans than you know what to do with

img_5389Have you been seeing all of the pecans falling from the trees the last few weeks? I have and I couldn’t wait to gather some. I planted some nut trees this spring, so I have several years to wait for mine to produce. Luckily, I know someone who has a giant pecan tree in their front yard so I could gather all I wanted.

Since I don’t have any way to reach the high ones, I found it easier to simply pick up the ones that had fallen to the ground, being on the lookout for the really light ones that were rotten.

With two sacks full of pecans, now the question was what to do with them all. I certainly wouldn’t be able to eat them all while they were still good.

After a little research, I found the best way to save pecans is by freezing, and with all of the rest of my garden done for the winter, I have plenty of time to sit and crack pecans.

While it’s not hard, it is definitely time consuming. I decided the entire bowl was a bit too much to do at once, so I would work on the pecans for about an hour a night, making pretty good progress.

Pecans are one of the easiest things I have preserved so far. Once the pecans are shelled just toss them into a freezer ziplock bag and they are done. You can add to the bag as you go.

I look forward to having my own pecans on hand throughout the winter for all of those tasty recipes. There are so many times I simply leave the nuts out of a recipe I decide to do on the spur of the moment because I don’t have nuts on hand.

I froze mine whole, but you could chop them if you wanted before freezing. I’ll just chop mine as I go.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Pecan-apple pancakes

Half cup chopped pecans (or to taste)
Half  large green apple, chopped  (or to taste)
Pancake mix

Prepare the pancake mix according to the directions, then mix in the pecans and apples. Cook until golden brown.

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Cooking with cilantro, corriander


Believe it or not, I still have a little bit of cilantro hanging on in my garden. My other herbs have given up and I even chopped down my droopy sage this past weekend so I can cover the herb bed with hay before it drops into the teens later this week.
As I was trimming the sage and chives back, I noticed some green leaves still filling the cilantro area of the raised bed. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve had several frosts already. Some of the leaves are looking a little brown but not all, which I was excited about.

Cilantro is an herb with a very bold taste, that I can only describe as fresh and summery. It adds so much to any dish in which it is used.

One obvious use for cilantro is in salsa. Whether making fresh or using canned salsa, the fresh cilantro adds a burst of flavor. Chopping up a little fresh cilantro and adding it to a jar of salsa before serving is a nice addition.

Another recipe recently shared with me by Janell Jessup was for Mexican Pot Roast. It’s a delicious and unique way to eat pot roast, and a great way to incorporate cilantro into a meal. I used dried cilantro, but I think fresh would be best if you have it available. Unlike all other herbs, cilantro seems to lose some flavor when dried, causing me to use a large amount of dried cilantro to get enough flavor – at least for me.

Another option for cilantro is to let the plants go to seed, then collect those and let them hang in a paper bag until the seeds dry and start to fall off. This produces coriander, which also has a cilantro-like flavor and stores well. Just grind it up and add it to your recipe.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Mexican Pork Roast

Chopped peppers and onions (you can use the frozen combo package from Dillons or whatever you have frozen from your garden)
1 pork roast (about 3 pounds)
1 16 oz. jar salsa
1 bunch of cilantro

Layer onions and peppers on bottom of slow cooker. Set roast on top. Top roast with salsa and chopped cilantro. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours. When the roast is fall-apart tender, remove it, shred and mix back into the salsa, peppers and onions. Serve over Mexican rice or in a tortilla with cheese and sour cream, top with toppings of your choice, ie: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, black onions, etc.
~ recipe submitted by Janell Jessup

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Oregano has many uses, adds great flavor

img_3856After a little break, let’s get back to some more herbs.

This week I want to look at oregano.

There are so many uses for this herb – especially if you love Italian food as much as I do.
Of course, it is good to add to your spaghetti sauce, but here are some other uses as well.

Homemade pizza dough is a favorite recipe that I have created from combining and altering several dough recipes. This makes homemade pizza better than any other, and it uses a lot of herbs from the garden.

Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
3 T. olive oil
3 T. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cilantro (or crushed corriander)
1 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast

Add ingredients in order to your bread machine and select the dough cycle. After finished, remove dough, cover and let rise 30 minutes. Divide in half and roll out.
Tip: Put cornmeal on your pizza pan before laying the pizza dough on so it doesn’t stick.
Create your pizza, cook and enjoy!

As long as we’re in the Italian mode, I always like some bread and dipping oil with meals.
Dipping oil can be expensive though, so I thought, why not make some? I started mixing some herbs until I got a flavor I liked. Here it is.

Dipping Oil Mix
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. dried crushed rosemary
1 T. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 T. parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp.

Mix all ingredients and store in a jar. To use, sprinkle some onto a saucer and add olive oil.

Here’s one more good winter recipe just for fun. And yes, it has oregano, too.

Dutch Oven White Chili
1 16 oz. bag Great Northern Beans
3 cans chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 turkey creak, cooked and shredded
2 jalapenoes, chopped
2 poblano peppers, chopped

After beans have soaked, then been simmering according to instructions for one hour, take preheated Dutch oven out of 350 degree oven and add all ingredients except beans. Put back in oven for 30 minutes. Then add drained beans to Dutch oven, stir and cook for one hour at 350 degrees. Serve topped with Monterey Jack cheese.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.