The Gardens end…

Well, she’s just about gone.  The glorious garden that has given us so much this year is gone.   The only thing left are celery leaves, no actual celery (I have no idea why), just leaves which I’ll harvest and freeze for stocks…works the same, 🙂

The glorious garden that gave us fresh veggies all summer, all that we could eat, is no more.  At one point this summer, I couldn’t eat another cucumber… now, my onion dip is lonely and I’d love a garden cuke, but alas winter is near.

For our first large garden, she was very, very good to us…

Lettuces were eaten fresh and shared with others all summer

Tomatoes were plentiful and made into salsas, pizza sauces, marinara, soups, sauces

Cucumbers gave us canned and refigerator pickles and relish

Radishes were pickled and already eaten 😉

Squash is cured and waiting the the basement for a cold winter dinner

Corn is frozen and canned in soups

Green beans are canned in soups and frozen too

Snap peas, frozen awaiting stir frys

Zucchini, ever so abundant is canned into salsas and frozen for soups

Carrots are frozen for soups and stocks

And hot peppers are fermenting for our first try at hot sauce.

And finally chicken bones from processing this week are bubbling away as stock to be canned for the cold months.

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I cannot complain at all.  The work that we did this spring and summer has more than paid off and has given us a renewed sense of pride in growing food for our family and an excitement for next year.  It was a trial year for us and we have some kinks to work out but we are happy and grateful to say the least.

We have a few things left to do to get ready for winter.  Garlic goes in the ground this weekend, cleaning out the gardens, pig processing in a few weeks and closing up the bees are the major things left to get done before it gets colder.

Then we can start seed and chick researching for next year…maybe finally some fruit trees too!

Organic Salted Caramel Popcorn!

 

 

 

 

Organic and Homemade Salted Caramel Popcorn!

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Seriously…It’s too easy not to make this for any occasion!  Movie night!  Teacher appreciation!  Road Trip!  Sneak it into the movies!!

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Wanna Know how??

Pop some organic popcorn, PLEASE make it organic.  It doesn’t cost much more for organic popcorn and corn is most definitely one of those nasty GMO crops.

Ok…so off the soap box and onto caramel corn…

1) Pop some organic popcorn

2) Heat up your homemade salted caramel

3) Pour warm caramel over popcorn, mix to coat all of the popcorn

4) Add anything you’d like…nuts, shredded coconut…whatever!

5) Spread flat onto a parchment lined sheet pan

6) Bake in a 250 degree oven for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

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There…you are now a magician! After all, who makes their own salted caramel popcorn! Oh wait, you do!!

Wanna be super bad??? Drizzle some melted organic chocolate chips onto the finished caramel corn once it has cooled.


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If you bring this to any party, rest assured that you will ALWAYS be invited back, it’s that good!

Enjoy!

Salted Caramel….

So seriously…

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YOU.MUST.MAKE.THIS.NOW

I have made this salted caramel over and over again and it is amazing!  I have tried others and compared to this recipe…they taste blah.

Be warned though….

*You will NOT wait until it has cooled down to taste it.   The smell will be so captivating that you will eat it right out of the pot and burn your tongue so, if you must taste anything of the remainder of the day…do so before you make this caramel

*Even though your tongue will feel like you’ve directly licked the sun at high noon, you will continue to sneak bites.  It won’t matter, you can’t feel anything on your tongue anyway.

*You will not be satisfied with the little bites here and there as it cools from molten lava, so just grab a shot glass…you will and up drinking some caramel.  I did. 😉

What to do with it now??

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If there is any left once it cools down you can drizzle it on anything!  Ice cream, baked goods, jar it and give it away…you are sure to make new BFF’s this way.

One of my newest ways to use salted caramel is to make caramel popcorn with it.  I said it….HOMEMADE salted caramel popcorn!

Want more yum??  Take your favorite kettle potato chips and drizzle this amazing caramel and then some homemade hot fudge on them.  Let them set up and turn on Netflix.  Plop yourself  on the couch and munch the evening away!

Put some in your coffee…OMG!

Before I get ahead of myself….let’s get the recipe for the caramel going.

Ingredients that you will need:

* Willpower to not eat it all in one setting

2 cups organic sugar

1.5 sticks of room temp organic butter cubed

1 cup organic heavy cream

1.5 Tbl seat salt, pink Himalayan salt or the like.

Digital thermometer…very important!

Method of Prep:

Have all of your ingredients ready and next to the stove…once the sugar melts, it goes fast, so be ready

In a large sauce pan (the caramel will bubble in a few reps so make sure your pot is big…3 qts or so) put the sugar in over med-high heat.

Whisk the sugar as it melts.  It will clump and begin to brown.  Keep on a whisking until all of the sugar melts, then stop.

Place your thermometer into the sugar.  It will continue to darken as it bubbles away.  It will look a dark amber color. BE CAREFUL…it can go from perfect to burnt in no time…so watch carefully.  It will be worth the fuss…trust me!

Once your thermometer reaches 350 degrees, put all of the butter in and whisk quickly.  This is the first time it will bubble up angrily…so be careful.  Whisk until the butter is melted.  Turn off the heat.

Take the pan off the stove and add the cream….this is the second bubbling, so be careful.  Whisk until incorporated then add the salt.

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Deny the feeling to dive into the pot…you will want to, but let it cool.  Meh….who am I kidding…you will get a spoon, everyone does.  I’ve made this recipe probably 15 times and I dip into the lava every time.  It’s a ritual now. 😉

Let it cool for a while and if there is any left, place it into a jar and store in the fridge.  Please reheat in a pan on low heat.  Don’t let the microwave destroy this nectar.

That’s it!

Let me know how you’ve used this recipe!  I’d love to know!

 Oh..I’d also like to know that I am not the only one to dive in and scald my tongue…let me know when you’ve joined the scalded tongue club. 😉

What to do with that fresh ham steak??

Last year when we butchered our first batch of pigs, we kept the ham fresh because the butcher used nitrates in curing and that is something that we don’t want in our food so we decided that we’d cure it ourselves.

It was a BIG ham and we’d never done anything like that before.  Long story short, because it was so big, the cure didn’t penetrate through the whole thing and only the outer 3 inches tasted like ham, the rest like a delicious pork roast.  No harm, no foul…it was still delicious.  Just not “ham” as we know it.

Fast forward to this year with a new butcher (still nitrate curing) and fresh ham steaks vs. a whole ham.  2 of the ham steaks I threw in the crock pot with apples and onions and they were good, but drier then I’d like.  This week I pulled out the last 2 steaks and decided to try curing them, again.

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Cured ham steak

For 2 steaks about 3/4 inch thick

In a large shallow baking dish for the brine:

1.5 qt of water

1/3 cup organic brown sugar

1/3 cup organic maple syrup

1/2 cup sea salt

1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla

Mix it all up until the sugar and salt are dissolved.  Put in the ham steaks in and made sure that they stayed submerged (you can weight it down with a plate if you need to).

Place it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

After 24 hours, rinse the brine of well.  Dry off the ham steaks very well.  Pan sear the steaks in a frying pan with some butter or even better bacon fat!!! Mmmmm..

When they are browned on both sides, place the pan (make sure it is oven safe) in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Depending on the thickness of the steaks, it may take longer or less time to cook.  Make sure your pork is 145 degrees in the thickest part.

Pull out of the oven and let rest for a few minutes…then eat!! Yummy!!

I served this with sliced potatoes roasted in bacon fat and sea salt and steamed cauliflower finished in the oven.

It felt like a frontier meal to me (minus the cauliflower of course). 😉

The kids gobbled it up and the hubs was in awe of the impromptu ham experiment.

All in all a great meal and the leftovers of ham and potatoes made an excellent breakfast skillet the next morning. 🙂

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Cured Ham Steak

The Dinner Party….

Our son hosted his first dinner party this past week!

He’s 7. 🙂

This child has been groomed to be a foodie.  He was never given the option to eat or not eat.  His only option was try it once, if you really don’t like it, then you don’t have to eat it.  To this very day he eats everything, except mushrooms

Lately his favorite show to watch is the Pioneer Woman!  He loves to watch her cook and his favorite episode is “Ranching in the mist”.  He has watched this particular episode so many times that he knows the recipes and the wording by heart.  The last time he watched this episode, he asked again if I could make the pop pulled pork.  Well, we don’t really drink soda , so cooking with it is out of the question for me, so I’ve said  no in the past to that recipe.

That same week we were all struck with the flu…boooo!  The hubs came back from the store with a natural soda called Dr. Better, because sometimes you just need something carbonated and it tasted just like Dr. Pepper!!  Light bulb!!  When everyone was feeling better and Ree Drummond was again on the screen, he asked again and this time I said sure!

He did the entire meal by himself!  I put everything in the oven and made the dough (which was Gluten free) but he did the rest from chopping onions to peeling and slicing the apples for the pie.

The hubs took the little one away for a few hours so we could have some space alone to work, and work he did!  He started at 11:30 am and finished when dinner was served.

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Cutting Onions

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Seasoning the pork shoulder

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Adding a little Dr. Better

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Slicing apples for the flat apple pie

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Cutting the cabbage for slaw

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Mixing up the slaw

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Making the potato au gratin (yes, he diced all of the potatoes) 🙂

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The finished pop pulled pork!

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Dinner is served!!

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Making caramel for the pie

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Pie is done!

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My guy! Sorry for the bad picture. 

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The whole meal was delicious!  The gluten free dough was so good!  You could never tell that there was no wheat in it at all.  The caramel was not my favorite recipe…it was a quick caramel and it lacked the depth that I love in caramel, but I wanted to stay true to the Pioneer woman evening, so we made all of her recipes.  I would certainly make them all again, with the addition of this salted caramel. 😉

I loved the feeling of pride that I saw on my little guys face when everyone was eating HIS dinner!  He was exhausted when bedtime rolled around and I think a little bit more appreciative of the meals that we eat…knowing a little bit better what actually goes into them.

He is already planning his next party with meatballs, pasta and cake.  I love that he loves being in the kitchen and I love even more the time that we get to spend together cooking.

Gluten Free Sunday Morning Potato Pancakes…

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Sunday Mornings around here are usually a slower pace, or we try to make them that way after the CRAZY busy year that we’ve had.

We always sit down to breakfast together and one of our favorite additions to breakfast is the potato pancake.

Easy, buttery goodness!  Not from a box or a mix it takes minutes to make and is a great sunday morning comfort food.

Ingredients:

(Organic if possible)

Medium Peeled Russet Potatoes ( you can use what you have, but russets work best and don’t brown as fast)

Butter

Salt and Pepper

Onion powder

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Put a large skillet on medium and add a tablespoon of butter.   Shred the potatoes 2 at a time into a bowl.

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Once the skillet is warm and the butter melted, grab about 1/3 cup of potato shreds and put it into the skillet.  Flatten with your hand.  Repeat until the skillet is full or until you need to shred more.   Sprinkle with salt, pepper and onion powder.  Cook until nicely browned, flip and cook until browned again.  You can hold these in a 200 degree oven until you are ready to serve them.

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Voila! Easy-peasy potato pancakes!  No fillers, no crap… Just delish!

Make extra and freeze ’em!  The freeze great and reheat in an oven or in a skillet super quick!!

These would be a great side to any meal as well, not just breakfast!  You can add rosemary and roasted garlic or jalapeño and cheese…the combinations are endless!

Give ’em a try and let me know what you think! 🙂

Bone Broth aka Stock… So good for you!

Quite a bit has been said lately about bone broth ( I call it stock) and it’s health benefits from keeping the immune system healthy to remineralizing teeth!!

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Crock-Pot Stock

I make stock at least once a week.  Usually from chicken, but sometime from beef.  Stock is an amazing way to use up veggies and bones from other meals like roasted chicken or beef short ribs.   If I am pressed for time (who isn’t), I usually throw the ingredients in a crock pot on low before bedtime and strain it in the morning.  The recipe below is for a stove top simmer, but if you are pressed for time or want a great meal when you get home from work, just throw it into a crock pot in the AM and set it to high.  When you get home, strain it and add some veggies, beans, rice, tomato paste…so many options!

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Slow Simmering Stock

Ingredients:

Please us organic ingredients if at all possible.  Sometime I use whatever I have on hand to make a stock. Leeks, red onions…whatever herbs I have around as well.  The Recipe below is a standard recipe to follow.

  • A 4 pound  chicken
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
  • 4 ribs celery and tops, cut in 1/2
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 gallons cold water

Directions

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer.  Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. After about 2 hours, remove the chicken, pick off all of the meat and return the bones to the stock for additional simmering.  Allow the meat to cool and use in the finished soup, shred and season for chicken burritos, chop chilled chicken and mix with mayo, lemon juice and thyme for chicken salad….so many options!!
Back to the stock…Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids (or eating them as a warm snack..yum!!). You can finish the stock by making into any stock based soup of your choice or cool immediately in  a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid (you can keep the fat to sauté in or freeze it for use in roux) and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Use as a base for soups and sauces.

Gluten Free Eating and Apple and Onion Roasted Pork…

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So….I’ve embarked on this gluten-free journey and so far so good!

 I have been so tired with a general feeling of crapiness for such a long time now, that I figured it was time to try something different.  Years ago, when the low carb craze hit, I did it and felt great (of course, I was a lot less fluffy then *wink, wink*)…but I remember feeling great.

 We eat great quality foods.  We eat organic foods with no preservatives or GMO.  We eat lots of fresh produce and meats that we raise ourselves (organically) or that we buy from friends who also grown organically.  We cook almost all of our meals at home, so we know what goes into them.  We don’t use chemicals in our home and use homeopathy as a means of getting ourselves well and  food based remedies as well.    We eat raw garlic and I make a bone broth (stock) at least once a week.  Why in the world am I so tired and icky??  I’ve been feeling that wheat/gluten is the culprit for a while but haven’t made the jump until now.  You see….I LOVE bread!  It is what I eat when I don’t feel good, it is what I eat when I do feel good, some form of flour is always being eaten here at home as a meal or with a meal.

I thought that the transition would be harder, but honestly, it hasn’t been!!  I feel better, have more energy (I’m not ready to run a marathon yet…) and am not craving the bread like I thought I would. Yay!

Sooo…as I embark on this journey I will create new recipes, I will try new recipes and let you know how they turn out!

My first official GF recipe is a Roasted Apple and Onion Pork Shoulder.  You could easily use a pork roast or tenderloin too!

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Ingredients:

4-6 lb Pork Shoulder (Pasture or organically raised if possible)

Bacon Fat saved from breakfast (you can use olive oil and butter or coconut oil)

5 Cloves of sliced Organic garlic

2-3 Medium Organic Onions, sliced

2-3  Organic Apples, sliced (skin on)

16 oz (or so) of organic chicken stock (homemade would be best)

1.5 Tbl Organic Balsamic Vinegar

3 Tbl Organic Maple Syrup

3 Tsp Organic Cinnamon

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put about a TBL of bacon fat into the Dutch oven on the stove on a med-high heat and sauté the onions  and garlic.  Once they are beginning to brown, add the apples, cinnamon and the balsamic vinegar.  Cook for a few more minutes then  remove from the pan.  Add about a TBL of bacon fat to the pan.  Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork shoulder.  Sear all sides of the pork to create a beautiful brown crust.  Once all sides are browned, add the chicken stock (should come  about 1/2 way up the pork) and scrape the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all of the yummy splatters into the sauce.  Add the onions, garlic, apples and maple syrup to the pot.   Cover and place in the oven for 2.5- 3 hours or until the roast is easily pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the roast (or roast pieces as it will probably fall apart) from the pan and set aside.  With an immersion blender directly in the pot, buzz the juices, apples and onions together to create an amazing gravy.  I may have splashed a bit of maple syrup into the gravy before buzzing… 😉

Crock pot Option:  I would assume that you could throw all of this into a crock pot, put it on low, go to work and return to an amazing dinner too!!

Although I did not get any pictures of it, I served this with organic carrot sticks roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper and with roasted organic acorn squash.

Roasted Acorn Squash:

Halve the squash carefully as they have a tough skin

Scoop out the seeds

Add a small pat of butter to each half of the squash

I added a teaspoon of brown sugar, salt and pepper to the squash

Roast for at least an hour at 350 degrees or until very tender.  Spoon the juices from the middle of the squash over the squash and scoop out onto the plates.

The kids LOVED this entire meal…I thought the Hubs was going to dive into the pan, he was nuts over it.  I’m glad that I wrote it down!

Bacon and Sausage everywhere!!

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Bacon and Sausage everywhere!!  After the processing of the pigs, it is always bacon and sausage time.  With each of the 8 bellies weighing about 9 lbs and about 100 lbs of ground pork, we were in for a busy weekend.

We started by curing the bellies with a traditional salt, sugar, molasses and herb dry rub for 7 days.  On day 3 of the cure, we drained the liquid that had been purged and re-rubbed with more cure.  Using salt as a cure allows us to NOT use pink salt ( sodium nitrite/nitrate).

After day 7, we smoked the bacon with apple, pecan and cherry wood and froze the whole bellies and were ready to slice!

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Once it was frozen, we sliced and packaged the bacon…maybe we ate a bit too.  I’ll never tell!

 Homemade bacon from organically raised pigs is so different from store-bought bacon.  It’s flavor is so concentrated that you really only need to eat a few slices to get your fill.  Even the most carnivorous of folks get their fill after a few pieces.

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There is something so amazingly cool about making/growing your own food.  Actually it is not all that difficult and mainly requires a time commitment.  There are plenty of folks out there that do it and work a full-time job outside the home..it is entirely possible to do, if you really want to. 🙂

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The sausage…it really is the stuff  that dreams are made of!  Last year we went to a different butcher and for some unknown reason, the ground pork that we got wasn’t the best as it had hard chunks in it…gross sounding, I know.  The really unfortunate part was that we didn’t realize until it was too late and we had made 100 lbs of sausage with it and sent it off to our family and friends.  😦  We always taste test the sausage before we stuff it, but didn’t find anything odd in the samples that we tried.  That was last year…this year a different butcher and AMAZING Sausage!  We played around with maple syrup in the sausage, but found that it often burned when cooked, as pure sugar will.   I was poking around Amazon and found this maple syrup powder and thought we’d give it a whirl.

The stuff is amazing and was perfect for our maple breakfast sausage!!  We used quite a bit to get the flavor that we were looking for.  It turned out so yummy!  One word of caution..it is a very fine powder so it will get everywhere if spilled or mixed to fast.

We also made an italian sausage, neither sweet nor spicy…just in the middle and oh so yummy with fresh garlic, rosemary, fennel and other spices!!

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For the past 2 years of sausage and bacon making, we look at each other and say “we are not doing this again next year!”  I am not going to lie…it’s a lot to add to our plate, especially this year.  But, when we get the feedback from those who eat it and want to order again already for next year…it all seems worth it!

 There is a really great feeling that happens when feeding those you care about great, wholesome food.

**sigh**   I do love doing this. 🙂

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Ps…I wanted to add a picture of us making the sausage…but I couldn’t seem to take one that wasn’t terribly phallic. 😉

A litte bit of Mexico…

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Perhaps the hubs was longing for our honeymoon to Mexico…Perhaps he looked around and saw nothing in the house to eat??

Anyway…

When the man is home on a weekend that we aren’t running around…then he is cooking Which is fine by me!!.   Enter the homemade corn tortillas.

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As I finished my own work, he was busy mixing and resting dough.  He had his Sous Chefs by his side and together they were rolling while the littlest Sous was pressing.  My little guy was so incredibly proud of himself that he showed me each and every tortilla before they were cooked.  Which left me getting very little work done, but hey…them be some yummy tortillas made by a super kid!  I am very lucky. 🙂

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While Mj pressed, Mark cooked.

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This went on for a good while until we had a giant stack of warm, salty, corny (he, he) tortillas.

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We ended up with tostada like yumminess topped with grass-fed beef, our own canned beans, organic corn, organic salsa and the BEST sour cream out there…Wallaby!

 Seriously, this stuff is almost drinkable!

Anywho…Here is the link to the recipe that was used.  We were able to find organic masa harina too!  NO GMO corn here…ever! 😉

Give it a try…It is super fun for the kids too!