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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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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More vacuum sealing

I like to stock up on vacuum sealed meals when I have time to actually cook, then they’re ready for when I don’t have time.  Rocket science huh?  The past couple weeks I’ve been trying to cook some “real” meals and put the extra in the freezer.  I could have done this sooner, but we had a chest freezer and it was full to the gills, and everything kept getting lost.  Well, I finally traded in the chest for an upright, which has rocked my world!  I LOVE being able to actually see what’s in it.  It’s in our laundry room, which is in our shop.  Sometimes when I go out to do laundry, I just open the door and stare at all the stuff in the freezer that I can actually find.  Amazing!  Last week I made a batch of chili and made some meat loaf.  Today I finally had time to seal them up.  (Don’t worry, they haven’t been rotting in the fridge all week.  I put them in the freezer right after serving them!)

My collection to be sealed

Ready for the freezer

Oh, it’s beautiful!  Only slightly unorganized!

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The vacuum sealer, my love

I have a slight addiction to my vacuum sealer.  This started last year sometime, but really took off this summer when I started talking to a friend who is a rafter.  They often go on week long rafting trips, so he was interested in ways to use cooler space and raft space more efficiently.  I have never been known to pack light for any occasion.  My theory is you should always be prepared for anything.  You know, hurricane, tornado, drought, you name it, I’m ready for it!  When I go camping, my cooking supplies usually take up a good portion of our totes.  After talking to our friend I decided to make it my personal challenge to pack lighter.  I tested out this theory when Kyle and I went away for our anniversary.  We were staying at a friends’ cabin and Kyle didn’t want to turn on the propane, so I was cooking on our coleman stove with no hot water.  I didn’t want to spend the weekend doing dishes, so I started rooting around in the freezer.  I came up with a vacuum sealed package of chili.  I had heard you could make an omelette in a ziploc bag, so thought shoot, I could do that in a vacuum seal bag.  I cracked some eggs, stirred them up, added some grated cheese and cooked sausage and sealed it up.  (I tried this again later with pre-cooked bacon instead of sausage and froze it first so I could vacuum it also.  Both ways worked fine.)  I managed to cook dinner and breakfast using a pot and some boiling water.  I just dropped the bag of chili in and let it cook til it was hot.  I did the same thing with the eggs, just cooking them until they were done.  I was hooked!

We went on a camping trip later this summer and feasted on sloppy joes, green beans, squash, breakfast burritos, mini chicken pot pies, all vacuum sealed and cooked in boiling water. I got our numerous cooking and food totes down to one tote.  I also took individual packets of coffee, lemonade, mayonnaise, mustard, ranch dressing and coffee creamer that I had made.  I figured why take the entire bottle of creamer when I only needed two cups of coffee worth, or take a huge jar of mayonnaise for two sandwiches.  Kyle thinks I’m nuts, but when he has to pack less stuff, he doesn’t complain!

The single serving  vacuum sealed entrees work great when Kyle and I are working late and need a quick dinner, or when his cousins come over, starving.  I also sent a bunch of meals to elk camp this year.  Who wants to cook after spending all day hunting?  Not me!

I took my sealing to a level that really made Kyle worry when I went to visit him at elk camp.  Remember I said I’m not a light packer?  Well, I didn’t want to take too much with me, so I started thinking about toiletry items that I only needed a little of.  I really didn’t need the entire bottle of face lotion, just a couple dabs.  Same with shampoo, conditioner, and hair goo.  So I got busy sealing and made individual packets.  I was able to fit all my toiletries in my toiletry bag without bringing along another bag full of hair products!

I’ve been busy vacuum sealing these past couple weeks, but I’ll write more about that later…



My love!

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Freezing Zucchini

A couple weeks ago I was swimming in zucchini.  I then started swimming in pumpkin activities on the farm and am just sitting down to tell you about zucchini.  I even remembered to take pictures.  I even figured out how to download pictures from my phone to my computer.  Hey!  Things are looking up!

  This is what I found in my car on multiple occasions.  Thanks dad!  I started by washing the zucchini. Then I hooked up my favorite contraption.  My kitchen is extremely small, which is why I do all my canning at my mom’s house.  However, I try to prep all my food for freezing and drying at my house.  Due to the size of my kitchen, I love that my kitchen aid is multi-functional.  Next I cut the zucchini into chunks.   I put the chunks in the kitchen aid and turn it on a slow speed.  Not the slowest, but a couple notches faster than the slowest.  You don’t want it to go crazy, but you don’t want it to not grate.     I found if I go a little bit slower the zucchini separates a little better than if I go too fast.     Once I get a bowl full of shreds I start measuring it out.  I usually do 2 or 4 cup increments, since that is what my zucchini bread recipe calls for.     I measure the zucchini into plastic containers and push it down a little bit.  (I like to pre-freeze everything before I vacuum seal it.  I find it gives me more uniform cubes to put in the freezer and it keeps all the liquid from coming out when I vacuum it.)  I put it in the freezer over night, or until I have a chance to seal it.  Sometimes I’ll wait a few days until I have a collection of items, then get the vacuum sealer out and do them all at once.

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Freezing Beans

I’m beginning to fear going to work, or going to visit my parents.  They live right next door, so avoiding them is rather difficult, but every time I go to the farm, I find a big box of produce outside my car when I leave.  I suppose this is a good thing, but when I have to figure out what to do with the never ending supply of fruit and vegetables, sometimes I wish I could just stay home.  Last week I found a box of plums along with a box of oversized zucchini and a bunch of beans.  Monday I finally dealt with the beans.  I have a confession to make, I am obsessed with my vacuum sealer.  All summer long I have been vacuum sealing anything and everything.  I will write another post on that another day.  For now, I’ll stick to the beans.  After canning and freezing a ton of beans already this year, my mom finally refused to let my dad bring any more home, which is why I have been blessed with his gift.  I did two big batches, one last week and one this week.  Here’s what I did:

1. I borrowed a pot from my mom, that I think is made for blanching.  It has a nifty basket that goes in it.

2. I cut the ends off the beans, and since some were a good 8 inches long, I cut them into more manageable pieces.  I’m sure I was probably supposed to wash them before I did that, but I figured they were getting dumped in boiling water, so they would get sterilized that way.

3.  I dumped them in boiling hot water, which is called blanching.  (it helps them last longer, kills the bad stuff, and makes them turn a pretty bright green color.)  I set the timer for 2 minutes.

4. When the timer went off, I pulled out the basket, let it drain, and dumped the beans into a bowl of ice water.  I stirred them around and let the set for a few minutes until they were cool.

5. I put them in a plastic container and put them in the freezer.  (I freeze everything before I vacuum seal it.  My sealer doesn’t like to do anything that has moisture in it, so I find it’s easier to freeze it first.  Plus if it’s anything with liquid it it, I can shape it into a nice square shape that stacks better in the freezer.)

6. After the beans were frozen, I put them into vacuum sealer bags and sealed them up.  (I recently found pint size vacuum sealer bags.  They are my new favorite.  My husband doesn’t like most vegetables, so I like to make individual size servings.)

Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the beans.  I didn’t think about taking any.

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