Bay leaves and red peppers are both plentiful in the garden now. A quick way to preserve both is to dry them using the dehydrator.
Wash the bay leaves and let them air dry on a towel. Place in a single layer in the food dehydrator and dry according to the manufacturer’s recommended time. Mine took a couple of hours in my Sunbeam dehydrator. Store in a glass jar and use within a year or place in the freezer to keep them fresh even longer.
Follow the same process to dry the peppers, but first, while wearing gloves, cut each in half and scrape out the seeds and veins. I used cayenne and jalapeno peppers in this batch and they took about five hours to dry. After they were dry, I crushed them using my Pampered Chef chopper and then stored in a glass jar with a shaker top. I’ll be sprinkling this on pizza soon!
One of the reasons I preserve produce from the garden is so I have options available when the garden isn’t producing much. Right now, we’ re in between harvests…only peppers are left from the spring planting and most of the fall garden veggies aren’t quite ready. That’s why today was the perfect time to cook up a batch of chicken tortilla soup. This recipe uses fresh bell pepper, jalapeno, and kale that I can pick from the garden now, as well as tomatoes that I canned last summer and marjoram that I dried last fall.
First, I assembled my ingredients. (Oops–I noticed later that I didn’t include ALL the ingredients in the picture).
I cubed the chicken and seared it in some oil. While it was cooking, I seasoned it with cumin, dried marjoram, salt and pepper. When the chicken was almost cooked through, I removed it from the pot so that it would not get overdone (it will finish cooking when you add it back to the pot later).
In the same pot, I added diced onion and garlic and sautéed it until translucent. I had to add a little bit of oil at this step. There is lots of flavor in the little chicken bits that were stuck to the bottom of the pan, so I scraped these up and mixed into the onion and garlic as they cooked.
Then I added the diced bell pepper and jalapeno and cooked until softened.
Next, I added the chili powder, diced tomatoes, crumbled tortillas, chicken stock, chopped kale and hominy and then stirred in the chicken.
I added about a teaspoon of salt and a few cranks of black pepper. I brought it to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer uncovered about thirty minutes. I stirred in some chopped cilantro once the soup was finished cooking.
Soup’s ready! I serve this with grated cheese, sour cream and avocado slices. This recipe makes a lot of soup; usually about 9 cups.