Review: Jake’s Atomic Salsa

I first heard of Jake in an article in Chile Pepper Magazine. Jake is a youngster that lives in Texas that makes his Jake’s Atomic Salsa to help pay for college. I figured, well, if nothing else I gotta give the guy major kudos for looking down the road and planning for his future. So I went online and ordered a few bottles of each heat level of Jake’s Atomic Salsa. And boy am I ever glad I did.

Jake’s salsa has a great texture to it. It reminds me of the authentic table salsa at our local Mexican restaurant. Not mega chunky, not at all. Not thick and gloppy, nope. Nice and smooth and not runny. Perfect for tortilla chip dippin’ because you don’t have to worry about the salsa running off your chip before you get it to your mouth.

This salsa is not overly tomatoey, not overly anything. Just good stuff with the right mix of everything. This is my kind of salsa. Authentic stuff, with a fresh taste and feel to it. As Jake says, it’s “straight from the grill to the mason jar” with a nice light char to it.
Jake’s Atomic Salsa comes in 4 levels of heat.

Molecular Mild is pretty darned mild, and is perfect for well, my mom or dad. They can’t handle the heat and I know they’d thoroughly enjoy the mild.

Foreshock Medium is your pretty-much-fantastic salsa for a crowd. No one is going to run out the door screaming that their mouth is on fire, but the head-lovers (like me) will still be happy.

Things start to take a turn with the Aftershock Hot salsa.Oh yes, it has a burn, but it’s a very pleasant heat. It’s a very addicting heat. All of a sudden you’re like… where did all my salsa go?

… and then there’s Nuclear Atomic. As Jake says, “Don’t say [I] didn’t warn you”. Yeah, well, it’s hot. Very hot. Get ready to sweat. A lot. If you can’t handle it, tame it down a bit by mixing in some mild or medium.

My only complaint about Jake’s Atomic Salsa is that I can’t get it here in Indianapolis. I bet that’ll change, because this is mighty good salsa. In the meantime, I’ll keep ordering it online. The salsa is reasonably priced, packaged well, shipped quickly, and rates highly on my ‘Mater Rater.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

This is it. My absolute favorite black-eyed pea salad. I could eat it all day. I could slurp up the dressing with a straw. I could dream about it. And I have. It has everything I love in every (big) bite. A bit of heat. Hints of mustard and vinegar. Crunchy fresh vegetables. There’s nothing boring about this black-eyed pea salad.
black-eyed-pea-saladAs with all great pea or bean salads, this one gets even better the next day. And the day after that. So make a double batch because you’ll want to have this salad on hand as long as you possibly can.

If you weren’t raised on black-eyed peas or love them as much as I do, you could substitute kidney beans instead and you’ll be just as happy as I was using black-eyed peas.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
For the salad
  • 1 (10 ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1 medium jalapeno, seeded, minced
For the dressing
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add the dressing ingredients. Toss to coat.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Toss again before serving.
For the dressing
  1. Whisk together all ingredients until smooth.


Cajun Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Wow, talk about amazingly good. The heck with the main dish, just load me up on some of these Cajun shrimp-stuffed poblano peppers. A slight kick of heat, perfect shrimp and creamy melted cheese. What’s not to love?
cajun-shrimp-stuffed-pobalno-peppersYou could use green bell peppers instead, if you want. I love poblanos because they are a little spicier than a bell pepper without just completely drowning out a dish in heat.

For extra kick, substitute shredded pepper jack cheese for the feta and mozzarella and add a few diced roasted jalapenos into the shrimp mixture. That’ll definitely liven up the party.

Cajun Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
  • 2 large poblano peppers
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, raw or pre-cooked, 24-30 count, peeled, deveined
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (if you are using raw shrimp)
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/4 cup ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  1. Note: You can use pre-cooked shrimp if you desire. Just toss the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning and do not cook.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  3. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Remove any stems or seeds.
  4. If using cooked shrimp, toss the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning in a large bowl.
  5. If using raw shrimp, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the shrimp, sprinkle with the seasoning, and cook, turning, until done, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. Add the cheeses, basil and hot sauce to the shrimp Stir.
  7. Transfer shrimp mixture to the poblanos and place on a baking dish.
  8. Place in oven and bake 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the peppers are softened.
  9. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.



Stromboli Sandwich

The meat sauce in this stromboli sandwich is absolutely fantastic. It will be my go-to meat sauce from this day forward, for everything from lasagna, to spaghetti, and of course, more stromboli sandwiches. Nice and thick, but not too thick, it is packed with Italian-inspired flavors.
stromboli-sandwichNext time I make a batch, I’ll probably quadruple it and store the leftovers in the freezer. A quick defrost, some cooked pasta, and I have a great main dish done in no time. You can also make this meatless and you’ll have the perfect sausage for grilled sausage sandwiches or serve it up with warmed meatballs over pasta or on French bread for a meatball sandwich.

Stromboli Sandwich
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 pound ground beef (or substitute Italian sausage)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces small mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup condensed tomato soup
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 12 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Vienna bread
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large skillet, crumble the beef and brown along with the onion. Drain any excess fat.
  3. Add the mushrooms and bell pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes or until they are just starting to get soft.
  4. Add the tomato sauce, tomato soup, garlic powder, dried oregano, chili powder, tomato paste and black pepper. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for at least 10 minutes, the longer the more the flavors will meld. If the sauce gets too thick add a bit of water.
  5. Cut bread in half lengthwise and scoop out as much of the bread as you can.
  6. Transfer bread to a sheet of aluminum foil.
  7. Fill insides with the meat mixture.
  8. Top with cheese and cover in foil.
  9. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  10. Serve with lots of napkins.


Multiple Bunk Bed Baskets on the Char-Broil Big Easy

I’m always on a search for ways to add more cooking capacity to my Char-Broil Big Easy. I started with my homemade Wingin’ator 3000, which works great but you do have to make it yourself. Then Char-Broil came out with a cooking rack that gave you 5 cooking levels. Sadly, the rack wasn’t available for sale for long. A reader of Life’s A Tomato mentioned something to me the other day that should’ve occurred to me long ago: you can use two of the Char-Broil Bunk Bed Baskets at once, giving you 3 cooking levels! Doh!
It’s as easy as it looks. Grab the basket that comes with your Big Easy and just lower two bunk bed baskets down into it, securing it with the handles on the sides. You’ll need to offset the two baskets by 90 degrees, otherwise the handles from the lower basket will interfere with the top basket. You can kind of see that in the picture on the right, above.

You’ll get about 3″ of cooking room on each level, plenty for wings or drumsticks. You can fit up to 6 chicken breasts on too, if they aren’t too huge. All in all, it’s a win-win!

The nice thing about this approach is that all of the baskets are dishwasher-safe, readily available, and easy to use. You don’t get quite as much cooking room as with a Wingin’ator 3000 or the (now unavailable) cooking rack, but 3 levels is plenty for a good cookout!

Giardiniera Meatball Sandwich

Maybe it’s because I don’t get out enough, but I’d never heard of putting Giardiniera on a meatball sandwich before. Whomever came up with the idea should be knighted (if we knighted folks in the US). Add a bit of roasted red bell pepper and you have a super-easy-to-make incredibly yummy sandwich. Perfect any time, but also great because I almost always have the ingredients to make Giardiniera meatball sandwiches on hand.
Giardiniera Meatball SandwichI used mild Giardiniera when making these meatball sandwiches, but hot would be fantastic too. Just chop it up a bit before spooning it on top.

I did ‘cheat’ and use frozen meatballs. If I’d had more time to throw dinner together, I would’ve made a batch of my Italian meatballs. I try to keep some on hand at all times, but truth is, they are just so good that there’s just never any leftovers.

Giardiniera Meatball Sandwich
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 servings
  • 1 12" loaf French bread, sliced horizontally
  • 10-12 cooked meatballs, warmed (if using frozen store-bought, bake per package instructions first)
  • 4 slices Provolone cheese
  • Giardiniera, chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
  1. Hollow out as much of the bread as you can to make room for the meatballs and toppings.
  2. Place on a sheet pan under the broiler for a minute or two until the bread starts to get crunchy.
  3. Add cheese and meatballs. Place under the broiler for another minute or two until the cheese melts.
  4. Add Giardiniera and bell pepper strips.
  5. Slice into two 6" sandwiches and serve.


Review: John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day

John Currence's Big Bad BreakfastThe Amazon Kindle has a great bookmark feature. You just tap the upper right corner of the screen to ‘dog ear’ a page for future reference. You can tell when I really, really like a cookbook by how many bookmarks I make. In the case of John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day, I bookmarked almost every single page in the book. Page after page, I kept finding recipes I am going to make, and make soon.

Even though I rarely eat a real breakfast in the morning, I often make a big breakfast for dinner, and this book definitely gave me tons of new recipes and ideas for better and bigger breakfasts. Big Bad Breakfast is wonderfully written, and it’s even quite funny in places. Actually, it’s very funny and it’s a great read. Even though there are tons of recipes, it’s almost like a novel in ways.

In case you’re not up on these things, Chef John Currence is a James Beard-winning chef that has been on tons of TV shows and in lots of magazines. Big Bad Breakfast (the book) is a result of Chef John’s years of owning Big Bad Breakfast (the restaurant) in Oxford, Mississippi. Oxford remains on my bucket list to visit because of it’s fantastic restaurant scene. BBB is another great example.

Big Bad Breakfast (back to the book) covers every aspect of breakfast, starting with breads and muffins (lots of great sweets), proceeding to eggs (with a fantastic detailed lesson on how to cook eggs the various ways), omelets and frittatas, pancakes (the Silver Dollar pancakes are #1 on my list for this week), cereals (homemade Frosted Flakes!!!), sandwiches, sides, and drinks. See? Everything you could ever want for a great big breakfast.

John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day is packed with tons and tons of great breakfast recipes and a few great stories and tidbits and advice to boot. It’s well worth the price, and then some. I scored the book high on the ‘Mater Rater.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Atomic BBQ Sauce

I’ve made mustard-based BBQ sauces before, but nothing even comes close to this Atomic BBQ sauce. It takes mustardy sauces to a whole new place, thanks mostly to the addition of pickled banana peppers. Of course, there’s a pretty good kick to the sauce. It is called Atomic BBQ sauce for a reason. Perfect on a rack of smoked St. Louis-style ribs, and outstanding on a pulled pork sandwich.
atomic-bbq-sauceFor a little extra kick, substitute spicy banana peppers. Don’t want the heat? Substitute jalapenos for the habaneros. You’ll still get a kick, but it’ll be tame enough for just about anyone.

Atomic BBQ sauce is a great thing. Definitely my new favorite when it comes to non-ketchup-based BBQ sauces.

5 from 1 reviews
Atomic BBQ Sauce
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup pickled banana peppers, chopped fine plus 2 tablespoons of the pickling liquid
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 habanero chiles, stemmed and minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Whisk all ingredients except salt and pepper together in a bowl.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. For a less chunky sauce process in a blender until smooth before using.