Adopt a Tomato for Pennies!

This past Sunday, we went to a farmer’s market & bought lots of good yummy stuff.  We asked the seller about “seconds.”  Imperfect tomatoes don’t sell well at full price.  They require a little work but they are so worth it.   Since we were planning to make sauce, these tomatoes were a perfect fit for us.   

(I should add that Eric’s mom first told us about this farm stand and their imperfect tomatoes. She and I canned whole tomatoes last weekend & it was so fun!  We got 8 quarts full out of the box!) 

He didn’t have many then, but said to come back at the end of the day.  We were rewarded with a full box (10 or 12 pounds!) of tomatoes!  We only had to throw away 3 of them that were beyond saving.   And that box of tomatoes only cost $5!  I left a tip, but even at that, these were so cheap!   

It also made me happy that the farm stand was able to offload these less-than-perfects toms, and make a little money (although I do feel like we were undercharged big time.)

So we spent Sunday night in the kitchen,talking, listening to music, & making tomato sauce.  It was great.  

The best way to peel tomatoes is to drop then in boiling water, and then dunking them into ice water.  If you haven’t done this, you are missing out big time.  

So we boiled all 10 lbs of tomatoes, peeled them, cored them, and removed the seeds.  
Here I am, peeling….

 And peeling…

And peeling…

All in all, the peeling/seeding/coring process took about 45 minutes for the two of us.  Eric is the superior cook, so he took on the task of making the sauce in our giant lobster pot.   Everyone has their own recipe, so I won’t bother repeating ours.  All I’ll say is, add a little bit of Worcestershire sauce.  It makes a difference.  

I went to bed, and Eric dutifully stayed up to stir and clean up.  (Love him.)  Tonight I took the sauce & froze it into 16 oz containers.  10 in all.  I somehow found room in the freezer, and now we have lots of sauce for so so so cheap.  Plus, your own sauce is always better! (Or in my house, Eric’s tomato sauce is always better.)  

Here’s the math: 

Tomato sauce on sale: $1.99/26 oz or $0.07/oz (for reasonably good sauce- I’m not comparing against bargain basement sauce here.)

Our sauce: $5/160 oz tomato sauce or $0.03/oz.  Even if you add in the time we spent, it’s totally worth it.  It’s delicious, we know where it came from & what’s in it.  And, it’s ours.  

We’ll be doing this again, for sure.  Lesson learned: Always listen to your mother-in-law.  🙂 

The Cranberries


Remember that band? Weird.
Living in New England is great about 75% of the time.  December to March gets a little dicey but overall, I can’t complain.  I grew up next to a cranberry bog, and it was beautiful during the fall.

So I always knew about cranberries and liked cranberry juice and cranberry sauce, but I never really appreciated them until last week.   I actually bought some locally raised (like in my town) cranberries.  Not only did I feel high-and-mighty for being so environmentally aware, I was really proud of this item that is shipped from my little town, all over the world.

I let all that get in the way of the fact that I had never cooked a cranberry, and really had no idea what you could do with them.

Luckily, Google helped me out & I found a lot of recipes for cranberries that I could use. 
First I made regular old cranberry jam.  It was almost an epic failure when I let them boil over.  But luckily, I somehow managed to save it.  FYI, don’t ever let jam boil over on a glass stove top.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  
Here’s where I found my first recipe: 
I skipped the pectin with no issues.  It’s a little watery without, but honestly, it doesn’t really need the pectin. I canned it into 6 1/2 pint jars.  
It was sweet & tart, just like the cranberry sauce I always have at holidays!  First jam-a success!  Plus Miss Autumn Mae and family approved.  
So then I decided to get crazy.  I couldn’t find anything that was unique enough to feel like I made it my own.  So I consulted the hubs, and we decided on cranberry balsamic jam.  I had seen a recipe for strawberry balsamic jam & figured it would be much the same.  And it worked!  We plan on serving it with pork or turkey, possible as a glaze.  Or maybe with a really strong cheese.  Yum. 
Cranberry  & Balsamic Vinegar Jam
Makes 4 pints
4 cups cranberries, washed & bad stuff picked out
1c orange juice or water
2 cups white sugar
1/2 box low sugar pectin
6 tbs balsamic vinegar
Bring cranberries, sugar, and orange juice to a boil in a large saucepan (watch out! It boils fast!)
Cook for 10 minutes on medium
Use an immersion blender to break up any chunks. (I left it a bit chunky)
OK now add the pectin. 
Stir it in, and bring to a full boil for 1 minute. 
Now add the vinegar.  Stir in and taste.  Doesn’t it taste awesome??
I canned it in 1 pint jars and it made 4 pints with a little bit left over.  Process in a boiling water bath for15 minutes, and you’re done! 
I may skip the pectin next time, but other than that, it was a success! 
And just to showcase my awful photography skills, here are the jars processing: 
That’s all I’ve got for now kids!  

One Minute Apple pie

You guys, I am eating the most delicious treat right now.  It’s warm and cold, soft and buttery, and tastes of spice and sweetness.  

It’s apple pie and vanilla ice cream.  And it only took me 1 minute to make.  

Ok so it’s not exactly apple pie.  But it tastes JUST like it.  On a Monday night, when I do not feel like making a crust thankyouverymuch…that’ll do.  

So how did I achieve this Monday night amazingness?  Well, a few weeks ago, I bought some apples.  And this: 

Eric and I cored, peeled, and sliced 14 apples in about 7 minutes!  Yes, seriously seven minutes

So, I took my 14 sliced apples and threw them in the crockpot, with a splash of vanilla extract.  

I smashed them with a potato masher for awhile, and then let them cook on low for 10 hours.  I then added 3/4c of brown sugar and 3/4c white sugar (too much, I’ll use less next time,) and some spices (cinnamon & cloves.)

I did all that in 10 minutes the first night and three minutes the next morning before work.  I let it cook all day like that (10 hours on low) and when I came home, I had apple butter! Just like that! 

I put it in the fridge, and then a few days later I reheated and canned it.  

So what is apple butter? (I really had no idea, I just knew it sounded awesome & easy.)

It’s basically apple sauce cooked down to the point that it’s spreadable.  It looks like a can of preserves. 

And it is delicious!  I tasted it during the cooking process & loved it, but I was left with one question: 

So how do you eat apple butter?

I have tried it three ways:

– On toast
– On a banana nut muffin
– On ice cream

Toast:  I don’t want to hate on toast, which is one of my favorite foods (yes I’m boring,) but it was weird to eat something so sweet on toast.  If I were a jelly toast kind of girl, I might feel differently.  

Banana Nut Muffin:  Definitely an improvement over the toast.  Really good.  The apple butter added some great flavor & moisture to my somewhat dry (I made them so I can say it) muffin. 

Ice Cream:  Well, this was just sublime.  It really did taste like apple pie with vanilla ice cream.  

There are a ton of ways people eat apple butter, but that’s how I ate my first jar! 🙂  

How about you? Ever had it? Ever heard of it?  

Believe me,  I will be making more & soon…we haven’t even gone apple picking yet!



I tried to come up with a punny ketchup title but I’ve got nothing.  Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments! (Where’s my think tank at??)


I bought 4 lbs or so of tomatoes at the farmers market Thursday.  The tomatoes looked amazing, and it was a rainy day so I felt for the sellers at the market.  It wasn’t very crowded.

I’m in gift-making mode now, so I wanted to make something more creative than just puree or whole canned tomatoes.  I looked around on FoodInJars for awhile (best canning site ever)  but I just wasn’t finding the right thing. (Although, the tomato jam and tomato butter look amazing!)  So I googled something like “tomato gift canning preserving” and low & behold, a recipe for ketchup!

I have been thinking about homemade gifts for guys.  I’m trying to make as many homemade gifts as possible & gifts for guys is tough!  So I was thinking of BBQ sauce- but I decided this ketchup would be a great starter recipe.  I’m not sure if I’ll gift it, or who to, but I think with some homemade mustard & grill accessories, this could be a great housewarming gift!

Recipe (Yields 4 pints and one adorable half pint, seen above.)

I’m starting to get my food preservation confidence.  I’ll be posting on that at another time.  I don’t know if it was pulling bugs off my kale, or making my first jam, but I’m liking experimenting a bit & finding ways to make recipes my own (safely of course) as I preserve our garden.

4 lbs whole tomatoes (these were beefsteak, I think with Romas you might need less)
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 c white vinegar
3 tbs salt
3/4 c brown sugar
Worcestershire sauce (2 tsp.)
Pinches of:
Chili Powder
Black pepper
Garlic salt
Onion salt

1.  Quarter all tomatoes
2. We used a food processer to puree them in batches (the skins totally disappeared!)
3. Add vinegar, boil on stove 10 minutes
4. Add remaining ingredients, stir & boil for 45-60 minutes.  (We went almost 90 minutes)
5. Once it’s boiled down about 30% remove from heat
6. We put ours in the fridge overnight, as it was very late.
7. Once cool, puree in a blender & use a sieve to remove seeds
8. Bring to a boil for canning

I’m not sure if this is the most efficient way to make ketchup, but it worked! It looks and tastes like fancy ketchup!

Here’s all my Saturday AM canning projects….lots more to blog about!

Spicy Ratatouille

 Yup, I totally just made up that name.  This recipe was inspired by the garden FULL of tomatoes a few weeks ago.  We had somewhere around 8 lbs of them.  We also had an eggplant, summer squash, corn and zucchini. 

So I turned to my trusty cookbooks and found ratatouille from the Moosewood cookbook.  My mother-in-law gave it to us (it’s her old copy) and it’s an awesome reference for vegetarian recipes.  (  What can I say? Those crazy hippies can cook! 

What I thought was so cool is that ratatouille was basically made up by French women (and men?)  that had all kinds of garden veggies in the summer, and needed a new way to use them.  Anyone that grows zucchini knows that pain!  It’s a rustic stew that needs no real recipe, just an understanding of flavors.  I totally pictured myself making this in the French countryside, possibly on a vineyard, with lots of baguettes and curing meat in the kitchen.  (What? I have an active imagination!)

Anyway, so I had all these fresh veggies, and I basically chopped them all up, and threw them in the trust slow cooker with 2 bay leaves, some water, and salt & pepper.  After an hour I added some garlic & cumin.  

I tasted it, and while it did taste fresh, it really didn’t have a “bite” to it.  We like to have lots of spice in our food.  So I looked around the kitchen & found a package of Gaspar’s chourizo. (I feel like being married to a Portuguese-American guy, I could add chourizo or linguica to anything.  Example: Eggs, ratatouille, sandwiches, brownies…ok not really brownies.)  I decide to take a risk and add it in.  

This is what it looked like:

The chourizo added in texture & created a spicy broth that was absolutely delicious.  We had it for dinner a few nights & froze the rest for lunches. 

This was my first time taking a recipe & modifying it so significantly.  I’m so happy it paid off!! Now to figure out how to grow chourizo in the garden…

So here’s the recipe:
1 large eggplant (I didn’t peel mine but I would next time)
Frozen diced peppers
2 c corn
2 small summer squash
2 small zucchini
Assorted spices
1 package (1 lb) of chourzio
Chop all into 1 inch-ish cubes/slives (I didn’t do this & the eggplant never seemed to catch up with the other veggies)
Slow cooker on high for 4 hours did the trick.
Serve w/ bread to sop up the remaining broth, and a good glass of wine.
I recommend imagining yourself in the set of Beauty and the Beast while you make this, but that’s up to you.  🙂

Punjab Paddy

This is a repost from my old blog (delectable life.)  It was pretty popular & I thought it might interest some new readers as well. 🙂

Anyone know that song by Gaelic Storm? Google it, it’s hilarious.

Saturday Eric and I had some dear friends over for an adventuresome little meal. We decided to make Indian food. I have a real love of Indian food (my few months as a vegetarian introduced me to this amazing cuisine) but I know it’s not for everyone, so we were a little nervous.

El and Mark jumped in with both feet, supplying a great chickpea salad (Recipe, El?)

Eric did not disappoint, making an amazing fried fish with curried red lentils. YUM. I declared it my favorite dish he has ever made (and that is saying something.)

We served it with basmati rice and Naan. I wanted to make the naan but didn’t have time. The store bought was delicious anyway.

If you want to get all crazy and make your own Naan, here’s a great recipe:

The curried lentils were another AllRecipes recipe, found here:

Next time we’ll make the lentils in the Crock Pot to save on time.

Since I don’t know where the camera is, here’s a stock image of our dish:

Ours looked just that good, I promise.

Now for a fun extra, the lyrics to Punjab Paddy. The story of an Irishman who makes his way to India. Seriously google this song, it’s so cute!
I said farewell to Erin, only seven years ago,
When asked where I was headed, I said: “Jaysus, I dunno!?”
I stepped ashore near Bangalore, not a tosser in me hand,
By the time I hit Darjeeling, I was feeling mighty grand!

You can keep your forty shades of green, they only make me blue,
You can stick your eggs and bacon, boys, I’ll have a Vindaloo,
I found a place in India, so far across the foam,
You can call me Punjab Paddy, boys, I’m never comin’ home.
I dreamed I got a letter from me darling Josephine,
She asked me would I marry her, back home in Skibbereen,
But the girls out here have almond eyes and jasmine-scented hair,
And there’s things in the Kama Sutra that they never do in Clare!
So I’ll spend me days relaxing in me Punjab paradise,
No more I’ll dig the praties, I’ll stick to tea and rice.
I’ll be sippin’ mango lassi with the lassies in the shade,
While yer man called Ravi Shankar plays “The Boys of the Oul’ Brigade!”

You can keep your Miltown Malbay, you can chuck yer Galway Bay,
You’ll never see the sun go down on Delhi or Bombay,
I found a place in India, so far across the foam,
You can call me Punjab Paddy, boys, I’m never comin’ home.
From Bohola to Benares, Inchigeela to Lahore
Kamakura, Siliguri, Peshawar, Sahrunapore
Amritsar to Sanawar, Simla, and Pinjore
I got trolleyed on Dewali, and I’m going back for more!
Someday I’ll be a holy man with saffron on me nose,
I’ll shave my head like Gandhi and I’ll never wear no clothes,
To see the Irish Guru, they’ll come from near and far,
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Whiskey in the Jar!

You can keep your Michael Flatley with his tattoos on his chest,
Fare thee well, Sweet Anna Liffey, it’s the Ganges I love best,
I found a place in India so far across the foam,
You can call me Punjab Paddy, boys, I’m never comin’ home,
I’m never comin’ home!
I’m never comin’ home!

Preserving this week (9/17/11)

Just keeping track:

This week we canned:

6 pints of apple butter
6 pints of picked peppers
4 pints of dilly beans
4 quarts tomatoes ($5 for a huge box of bruised tomatoes! Love that!)
4 gallon bags kale, cooked down & frozen
3 pints peach butter (in fridge, to be canned.)
1 qt refrigerator dill pickles

We also bought 20 lbs potatoes for $0.50/lb.

Plans for next week:

Fresh Cranberries (about a gallon)
Apples (how long will apples keep in the cellar? Have to find that out.)
Possibly more tomatoes?

2011 Garden Recap

This weekend we closed the garden down, pretty much.

I should have journal-ed all season and written down what varieties we planted,etc. I didn’t.  So I’ll say this.  The garden was, overall, more productive than last year.  Our tomatoes were great- enough to eat and give away some, too.  We didn’t preserve any (but that’s partly because I didn’t plan ahead.)  We planted 14 plants total, about 1/2 cherry and 1/2 regular.  No roma.  I didn’t miss the roma for salads, etc.  but I have heard they are the best to preserve so we may add them in next year.  We didn’t stake the properly so they were kind of a mess to look at, but we lost very few tomatoes.  I have 6 green tomatoes on the counter & that’s it!  
Our peppers were sad this year.  Really sad.  Only 3 hot peppers.  We think they were overwhelmed by the tomatoes and/or they didn’t get enough sun.  Our thought for next year is to plant them in pots on the front steps, which get afternoon sun.  I plan to grow hot peppers & red bell peppers for canning or freezing.  
Kale:  The kale was great.  We gave away a lot, used little, and froze about 3 gallon bags full (blanched) for next year.  
Swiss Chard:  Worked, grew, but no idea what to do with it.  
Herbs:  All the herbs are awesome.  We really, really lucked out.  The Genovese basil was fabulous.  Next year, the goal would be to preserve some of the herbs.  Every time I dry anything, it grows mold.  Eric made pesto & I loved it.  I would probably double our basil next year.  
Goal for next year would be to find out what the herbs look like before they go to seed so we can preserve it.  
We didn’t grow eggplant, zucchini, or summer squash this year.  I missed the eggplant, and I did not miss the other two.  
Our neighbors grew cantaloupes & watermelons, and now I have major garden envy.  I can’t wait until next year!  I’d also like to grow some cool weather squashes. 
For next year:
More tomatoes! 
Peppers (front steps) 
Strawberries/Blueberries/Raspberries? (Ours get eaten but I’d like to try growing a fenced-in patch.) 
Extra basil
Peas and/or beans
Asparagus! I have to look into that project. 
Skip: curry, swiss chard
I also want to grow garlic, so I need to find out how to plant that in November or so.  
So those are my notes!  Hopefully next year I’ll accomplish my goal of a real garden journal. 🙂