Marinara Sauce

Yesterday I found a recipe online for a crock pot marinara sauce.  I used that idea and tweaked it a little bit.  The recipe called for canned crushed tomatoes.  I wanted to use all those frozen tomatoes from the garden.  My mom had told me if you run frozen tomatoes under water, the skins will loosen and come off, just like if you dunk them in boiling water.  It worked!  She’s so smart!  I used a colander and just ran the tomatoes under hot water until the skins loosened.

Since the tomatoes were frozen, after I took the skins off, I put them in a bowl of hot water to defrost a little bit.  Then I put them in the blender with some of the water the tomatoes had been soaking in.  (Yep, forgot to take a picture of the blended tomatoes, so all you get is the empty blender…)

I dumped the tomatoes in the crock pot.  I did leave a few whole tomatoes in there for texture.

Then I added about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of minced garlic, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a can of tomato paste (I know, I shouldn’t ruin homemade sauce with paste, but I like the thickness it adds, along with the added flavor.)  I added a good amount of dried basil and italian seasoning.  It was also the first time I used my dehydrated onions.  They were crunchy enough I didn’t need to cut them with a knife.  I just crumbled them up with my fingers.  Some were a little more chewy, so I just left them in bigger pieces.

Ready for a stir…

Ready to turn on the heat

I cooked this on low for about 7 hours, then I was starving and wanted to eat dinner, so I scooped some out.  It was delicious, but still a little runny, so I left it cooking for another 4 hours, then put it in the fridge over night.  Oh, the dehydrated onions turned out perfect.  They re-hydrated and looked and tasted just like a fresh onion.

This is what it looked like this morning.  I put it in some freezer jam containers and put it in the freezer.

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Healthy scrambled eggs

Before I met Kyle, I lived on scrambled eggs on toast.  I ate it for dinner more than breakfast, as it was quick and easy.

Crack three egg whites and one egg yolk in a bowl.  It won’t turn out quite as bright of yellow as normal, but it’s better for you.  I have a hard time doing straight egg whites, as I think all white looks weird, but if I add a little yolk, it doesn’t cause me mental anguish.

Add a little salt and pepper, garlic powder, or Johnny’s seasoning.  I went with Johnny’s.

Toast a piece or two of your favorite bread while prepping the eggs. I went with Dave’s killer bread, since that’s what was in the freezer.

Mix up the eggs.  You can use a whisk or a fork.

I usually use spinach when I make this, but I didn’t have any spinach, but did have some left over broccoli, so I warmed it up.  You could also use peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, you name it.

Add the egg mixture and cook until eggs are almost set.

Sprinkle some cheese on top and let it finish cooking.  I like my cheese scrambled in, so I continue to mix my eggs, but you could wait til the very end if you want it more like an omelette.

Serve on toast.  Yum!

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Tomatoes

I have tried to grow tomatoes for the past three years.  The first two years I planted them in half wine barrels outside our shop.  They did wonderfully until they started to get ripe and the deer ate them all.  This year I got smart, and had my dad plant them in the big garden at the farm, that is surrounded by deer and rabbit fence.  They did wonderfully, except we had used a piece of hog panel for them to grow up, and the plants got bigger than the panel and started falling over.  We lost some tomatoes because they got buried on the ground.  We enjoyed fresh tomatoes during our prolonged summer.  We even had enough to make salsa without having to buy tomatoes.  When the rainy weather hit, my mom and I decided to pick what was left and see what happened.  We knew if there was a little bit of red starting to develop they would continue to ripen, but weren’t sure about complete green ones.  I found a bunch of green ones and thought I’d at least try making fried green tomatoes or something.  To our surprise, they ripened.  Every few days I’d throw the ripened ones in the freezer, and one of these days I’ll whip up some homemade spaghetti sauce.

 

Mom’s tomatoes

My tomatoes.  I’m now down to about 5 that are still ripening

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Laundry Soap

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for over a year now.  It’s the liquid kind that the recipe has been floating around for a while now.  The one with Fels Naptha, washing soda and borax, then you add water.  I’ve been fairly happy with it, but Kyle said it wasn’t getting the grease out of his jeans.  He was right, it wasn’t, even when I added Oxi Clean.  My answer was to stop getting grease on his pants.  His answer was that I should buy some Tide.  He won.  I hate paying 10-20 dollars for laundry soap.  Especially when one day’s worth of work clothes is a load.  I found a recipe a few weeks ago on Pinterest, yes, I love pinterest….For a powdered form, with some different ingredients.  So far, I’ve been really happy with it.  I am putting it to the test this morning with a pair of jeans I found in the laundry room.  When I find them in the laundry room, I know they’re bad.  That means he didn’t even want to wear them in the house!  I think he crawled in a pipe in them.  Yes, literally, a pipe with mud and water.  I should have taken a picture of them for your viewing pleasure, but I don’t usually think about taking my camera out to the laundry room when doing laundry.  If it leaves the residual mud in the washer that it often does, I’ll take a picture for you.  Some day, I will have two washers and dryers.  One for him, one for me.  I am tired of having white shirts with brown stains on them!

Anyway, I’ll let you know how the laundry soap does.  If it is successful, I’ll post the recipe.  If it works, I may just cry a little though, as I just bought a new bottle of Tide….

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I love it when a plan comes together!

I love to cook, but hate trying to figure out what to make for dinner, especially when I’ve been at work all day and am tired and hungry and grumpy.

Every once in a while I have a day where I actually decide what to make for dinner before dinner time.  I’m trying to plan out a week’s worth of meals at a time, or at least an idea of a week’s worth of meals.  Last night I tried an orange chicken recipe, so while I was thawing chicken for it, I threw some more chicken in the oven to use tonight.  Kyle LOVES chicken pot pie.  He would be happy if I made it twice a week.  My waist line would not be happy if I did.  A couple years ago I got The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook.  She has the BEST chicken pot pie recipe, and pie crust recipe.  To find her recipes, go to her website, http://www.thepioneerwoman.com.  She has seriously changed my life.  Well, at least kept  my husband from leaving me!  Her recipes are not diet friendly, but they are husband friendly, especially if your husband likes meat and potatoes, or good ole comfort food.

I try to cut down on the fat in her recipes when I can, for example, her chicken pot pie recipe calls for cream.  I usually just use milk, but since I had cream today, I did use it.  I wanted to see what the difference was in taste.

The pioneer woman’s pie crust recipe makes two crusts.  The other day I found some blackberries buried in the freezer and decided I should use them up.  So yesterday I thought hmmm….if I make chicken pot pie, I’ll have an extra crust, what if I just make blackberry pie too.  (I know, sometimes my geniusness amazes me!)

I now have a blackberry pie cooling on the counter and my chicken pot pie filling waiting for me to toss the crust on and stick in the oven. Oh, and the dishes drying in the rack.  All before 4:00.

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Caramel Apple Cider

I love Starbucks caramel apple cider.  I love coffee, but in the fall, I often get the cider instead because it is sooo yummy.  I love the whipped cream and the caramel on top, and how it mixes with the cider as you drink it, making a cool and warm, yummy deliciousness in your mouth.  I know, totally NOT proper English there, and from a former English teacher no less, but when it comes to cider, my brain goes out the window!  Anyway, I found a recipe on pinterest the other day, and finally rounded up the ingredients to try it.  If you would like the recipe, here’s the link to the blog where I found it.  http://www.budgetsavvydiva.com/2012/04/copy-cat-recipe-starbucks-caramel-apple-spice/

Thank you budget savvy diva, you have changed my life, and probably saved me quite a few dollars!

I bought some frozen apple juice concentrate the other day for my little project, but found it leaking all over the freezer later.  (There was a slice in the can.)  Not knowing how long the slice had been there or where it came from, I decided it would probably be a good idea to throw it away.  Well, thankfully, Kyle’s uncle Jim came to the rescue and dropped off a gallon of fresh squeezed apple cider.  Wooohooo!  I love apple cider!

The recipe calls for some cinnamon dolce syrup, but gives a recipe to make your own, so I whipped that together, then decided to use my whipping cream I picked up on my grocery run this week, and make some homemade whipped cream for my cider.  (I did take pictures but can’t seem to find the cable to download them at this moment, so I’ll add them later.)  When whipping cream, I remember why I wanted a kitchen aid so bad!  Just turn it on and let it go while you continue on with other things.

You might think whipping up a bowl of whipped cream for one drink is a little excessive.  It probably is, and if anyone wants to buy me one of those cool Co2 cartridge whipped cream makers, I wouldn’t be opposed….I had a plan in my head that I was going to make blackberry pie for dessert tonight, so figured I’d use the rest of the whipped cream then.

While my cream was whipping, I heated up my cider, then added some caramel sauce to the bottom of the cup.  (I was on my way to work, so I made this in my to go cup covered with pictures.)  I know, classy!

I added some powdered sugar to the whipped cream.  (A little trick I picked up from my mom, it fluffs into the cream instead of leaving a grainy texture like regular granulated sugar does.)

I added my cinnamon dolce flavoring to the cup, then the cider, then topped it off with the fresh whipped cream and caramel.  It was delicious!  I think next time I’ll skip the cider part and just fill the cup with whipped cream and caramel!  Just kidding….sort of!

 

I found the missing cord for my phone so here are the promised pictures!

 

Cinnamon Dolce Syrup

Whipped Cream!  Yummmm!

Finished!

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Freezing Carrots and Celery

We ended up with a abundance of carrots this year.  My mom and I canned some, but got to the point where we were tired of canning.  I needed to do something with them, so decided to chop them up and freeze them.  I decided to buy some celery and chop it up also.  I even made some vacuum sealed packets of carrots and celery mixed.  (Perfect to dump in stew or soup, or for Kyle’s favorite, chicken pot pie.  I love cooking, but have a kitchen that is smaller than most walk in closets, and counter space is at a premium.  Trying to make something like chicken pot pie, where you have to chop, stir, mix, make a pie crust, just isn’t very feasible in my tiny kitchen.  If I can cut out a few steps, like chopping vegetables, it makes it a lot easier, plus saves time.

 

 

This was one batch of carrots.  Yep, I have a few crookneck squash too.  If you pick the squash when they’re little and the skin is soft still, you can just slice them up and eat them raw with some hummus or ranch, just like cucumber slices, and they are delicious.  Back to freezing …

 

Directions for freezing:

1.  Wash carrots

2. Peel carrots and cut off ends.  If you’re really fancy, you can save the peelings to make chicken broth, or feed them to the pigs or the chickens, or compost them.  I wasn’t that fancy….

 

3.  Slice into rounds, or dice into small chunks.

4. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, then put in ice water to stop the cooking.  (Blanching kills anything that may be growing, and helps bring out the color in the vegetables.  Boil some water, dump the veggies in for the suggested time, then put it in ice water.)  You can use a pasta pot with the draining insert, or dig the vegetables out with a strainer.

5. Drain the carrots, chop.  If they are still pretty damp, either dry on some paper towels, or freeze over night, then vacuum seal.

 

You can either make big bags of carrots, then just take out what you need and re-seal, or put in 1 or 2 cup increments.  You can also chop up celery and mix that with the carrots.  (If you were really thinking, you could add peas and onions too, then you’d really be ready to go when it was time to cook dinner.)

 

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Classic homemade macaroni and cheese

I have to confess, I love cheese and I love pasta.  Always have, always will.  When I was probably 10 years old I made the macaroni and cheese recipe on the back of the macaroni package, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I have tried different recipes, that use a variety of expensive and yummy cheeses, but always go back to my classic.  I’ve experimented with additions to this recipe also, most of which are good, but the plain classic is always delicious!

I had three cheddar brats in my freezer from the summer that needed to be used up last night.  My first plan was chili dogs (I know, gross, right….yet somehow….delicious….)  My hot dog buns had seen better days though so I needed another use for the dogs.  I like my mac n’ cheese just plain and cheesy,  with a salad or some broccoli or something, but Kyle doesn’t consider it dinner unless it has meat.  I’ve started adding ham to it to keep him happy, but since I had the dogs, thought I’d throw them in instead.

When I was 10 and first started making this recipe, I thought it took HOURS to cook, so only made it when bribed by my parents.  I have come to realize it really doesn’t take that long, so make it more often.

Here’s the recipe:

1/4 c. butter

3 T. flour

1/8 t. dry mustard

1/8 t. salt

1/8 t. pepper

2 c. milk

2 c. grated cheese

2 c. uncooked macaroni noodles

(I’ve made this recipe enough that I don’t really follow the recipe….I measure the 3 T. of flour, then just add the salt, pepper and mustard til it looks good.  I actually like to add a little more mustard than 1/8 t.  Usually more like 1 t.)

1.Cook macaroni according to package directions in sauce pan.

2.Melt butter, blend in flour, dry mustard, salt and pepper.  Cook until smooth.  (I usually use a little dish and measure the flour, mustard, salt and pepper before I get started.  That way I can just dump it in and don’t have to worry about the butter burning while I’m trying to measure ingredients.)

3. Gradually add milk.  Cook and stir until mixture boils.  Boil 1 minute.  Gradually stir in cheese.  Stir until smooth.  Add pasta.  Mix lightly.  Bake in casserole dish at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

This recipe makes an 8×8 dish.  I usually double it for a 9×13.

Variations:

*Add chopped hot dogs or diced ham

*Add cooked, chopped bacon and caramelized onions (So good!)

*Use different cheeses.  (I usually use medium cheddar, but sharp is good, or you can use half cheddar and half parmesan.)

*Use whole wheat macaroni

*I was on a kick last year of pureeing veggies and adding them to sauces, since Kyle doesn’t really like vegetables, but after having bright pink spaghetti sauce from beets, and many sauces that looked like pesto, but certainly didn’t taste like it, from spinach, I had to give up on that plan.  The only one I’ve found I can get away with is sweet potatoes.  You can add some pureed sweet potatoes to this recipe and you can’t even tell.  Just stir it in when you add the cheese and it adds to the creaminess.

*Add bread crumbs, crushed crackers, crushed chips, or cheese to the top.  (I always add grated cheddar to the top, then after baking, I broil for a few minutes until it gets nice and crunchy.  That’s my favorite part!)

This may have been the left overs for breakfast this morning!  Hey!  Don’t judge!  It was delicious!  Yes, it may be on a paper plate….I don’t have a dishwasher, so I have to cut back where I can!

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Dehydrating Onions

Every year my dad grows potatoes and onions and every year they go bad before I ever use them.  (I don’t really have a good place to store them that stays an even cool temperature.)  I had my box of onions sitting in the shop for a while, which I don’t think was appreciated by Kyle, so I finally had to do something with them.  I thought about chopping them up and freezing them, as I do that quite frequently, but wanted to try something different.

I decided to try dehydrating instead.  I forgot to take pictures….Please forgive me….Next time, I promise!

I cut the onions in half, then sliced them in fairly thin slices.  I laid them on the dehydrator, turned it on to 135 degrees and let it do its’ thing until they were dry.  I turned a box of onions, probably 10-15 pounds, into a gallon size ziploc bag of dried onions.  (And that is what I love about dehydrating!  It’s a total space saver!)

Please note, drying onions produces a horrible smell, so I highly suggest not doing it in your house.  If you can dry them on the porch, or the garage, or fa,r far away from your house, do it.  I do all my drying in my laundry room, in the shop, which works fine as long as my husband doesn’t have to go in the shop.  Then he realizes that the laundry room reeks like BO from my onions!  (I know, a strange smell to come from onions, but it was kind of nasty.)  It did go away, after a week or two, of leaving the door open.

So, on that note, happy drying!

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Dehydrating Plums

A while ago I noticed there was fruit on some trees that grow along the edge of our driveway.  At first Kyle and I thought they were cherries.  Around September I realized they were little plums.  There were tons of them.  Kyle actually had to cut off some limbs because they were so loaded, they were hitting our car when we drove by.  I decided I would like to dry some plums, as I am a huge fan of dried plums.  I asked the neighbors, since technically the trees are theirs.  They said they don’t do anything with them, so go for it.  Around the same time my dad picked a bunch of plums from the farm, so for a couple weeks I had plums galore.

A couple years ago I ran off with my mom’s food dehydrator that was collecting dust in her pantry.  Around the time I got the lifetime supply of plums, my mom had a bunch of pears that were starting to go, and needed a dehydrator.  Long story short, somehow I ended up with an early Christmas present from my mom, in the form of a dehydrator.

How to dehydrate plums:

1.  Wash plums and toss out any bad ones.

2. The smaller plums from my yard, I just cut in half.  The larger ones my dad  brought me, shown below, I cut into quarters.  If they’re not ripe, the seed is a little difficult to remove, but cutting in quarters helps.

3. Place plums on the dryer trays.  (Here’s my tip….Although it is more difficult to get them to stand upright if you put them skin down, you will thank me when you try to remove the dried ones.  So put the skin down, or else spray the trays with some non-stick spray.  I don’t like the non-stick spray, as I think it makes the fruit feel like of greasy after it’s dried.  when I did my first batch, I put the cut side down and my fingers hurt for days after prying the fruit off the trays.

4. Dehydrate for 12-30 hours or until the plums are leathery, at 135 degrees.  My new dehydrator has a timer on it, so I set it for around 10 hours, checked the fruit then set it again.  My fan is on the top of my trays instead of on the bottom, like my old one.  Supposedly that is supposed to make it so you don’t have to rotate the trays, but I still had to.

5. Once the plums are dry, I suggest putting them in the freezer for a couple days.  It kills any bugs that could be lurking.  You can then store them in the freezer, or in a jar.  If you put them in a jar, shake them every day for a week or so to help get any residual moisture out.  (The dryer prunes will absorb the moisture from the less dry ones.)  I like to store them in the freezer, as I kind of like them frozen, and I don’t have to worry about them being completely dry.  I think I would cry if they started to mold or something.  The nice part is once dry, they take up only a fraction of the room in the freezer that they would before drying, so it’s easy to find a corner for them.  I love dried fruit as a snack.  I always crave something sweet after meals, and dried fruit is a nice little treat.

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