Aug 26, 2014

You Say Tomato, I Say TomAto....

Modern prep for an old fashion task

It all started out so innocently...I walked into the TV room and found my barber husband watching the shopping channel. Yes, the shopping channel. A channel, I will say, that I have never even watched once. So now I am wondering if I have closet shopper under my roof? He is watching a infomercial about the Vitamix mixer/chopper/processor. This pricey piece of kitchen equipment is something we both have mentioned that "someday" we would like to have. Well, 20 minutes later, we are pulling out the charge card and  counting the days until it arrives. 

The real reason I got it at this particular moment? Well, a lady on the infomercial stated that she uses it a lot to prepare her goodies for canning. And bingo! Just the excuse I needed to get our tomatoes are coming in VERY sporadically this summer. It has been way too cool for our tomatoes (but great for us) and after consulting with many gardeners, yes, they too, have more green tomatoes than red. This time last year, I was canning 50lbs of tomatoes at once - fresh off the vine. The photo above is from my last year harvest. And the photo below. This was just one of three bowlfuls I canned in just one day.

This year, I barely harvested 20 pounds and they are not nearly as pretty. See below:

While not as pretty, they sure do taste great, though. But the biggest problem isn't about beauty, but rather bounty. Not having lots to harvest at the same time, it isn't worth the work and effort to can just two or three cans of tomatoes. So what to do?

I decided to chop up my tomatoes in our new Vitamix, and then freeze the harvest until I have enough frozen to properly can them. What makes it so easy is that I can so quickly prep all my tomatoes - even the cherry tomatoes. This year I grew yellow cherry tomatoes (which taste wonderful) and today, I decided to process them for the freezer and thought I would share.

After cutting off the ends, and a good scrubbing (although we grow organically and never use a single chemical), I plop them into the Vitamix and chop them up - skins and seeds and all! Depending on what I am going to cook, I can strain the seeds, and crush even more, if needed. Or, keep them coarsely chopped for salsa...mmmm!

After briefly chopping them, I pour my little golden nuggets into a freezer storage bag and plop it in the freezer along with a couple of processed tomatoes to be canned later next month. 

My little frozen stacks of tomatoes are adding up and I have about two more bags left to process tomorrow until more are ripe enough to harvest. While I prefer to can the tomatoes the day I pick them, the weather isn't cooperating, and so I must do what I do. With them all  prepped, I am now free to either can them as is, or make a sauce or even a soup and process that as well. 

This is one of the best parts about my new toy. It is super easy to clean up. Just fill it halfway with water, a dash of liquid soap, and then blend on high for 30 seconds, and presto! All clean!

This soapy water looks good enough to drink - like a shake! 

Clean up is so quick, I don't have time to clean up my scraps while the blender is cleaning itself. I never toss out good, organic scraps. I save it for my compost. I bag it up...

Drop it in my heavy duty vintage creamer can...

And eventually, the contents go into the compost pile.

After I am done with the tomatoes, my herbs will be nice and dry and ready for processing soon. More on that later. These herbs are drying on my vintage wall dryer in my kitchen - smells so good in here! While my barber husband tells me he loves the way our kitchen smells, he also tells me that he loves the way I smell even more. But, when I stop and think about it, I am pretty sure I just smell like our kitchen.

Go figure.  

Whatever makes him happy. :-)

from my house to your house, 


Aug 8, 2014

iPhone Foodies

iPhone Foodies!

Hello my lovely readers,

I hope August is starting out good for you. You know, I think if we were able to peek into someone's iPhone pics, we would see the usual friends' photos, children, grand babies, a few travel pics, and always gatherings. But, then again, I think we would also see another side of the iPhone's owner if all their pics were revealed. Well, that is what happened to me just last night. I got a notice on my phone telling me that my "iCloud" was full and I should delete data or buy more space. Not one to be ordered around by a phone, I decided to take a gander at what was taking up so much room. It seems to be photos...go figure. Yes, I had the usual travel pics, several future possible antique purchases, our kitties, and even a selfie of our seven-year anniversary on the very date we first met in the park (above). We are sitting on the very bench where we first exchanged our flirting, and where I was asked to be the barber's wife. BTW, I am digging the barber's beard...and it is even longer now. I think it is masculine and sexy. I tease him that he is just excited to be able to grow something above his neck after decades of being clean-shaven both on chin and head....hahaha.

As I scrolled through all my iPhone images, I started to see a pattern. A lot of darn food shots. I realize that just about all the food shots were taken in haste, so I could text it to my barber husband while he is at work.  You see, I believe we are what I call "iPhone Foodies." My shots were not taken for "beauty" but for "boost." My beloved is a real foodie - and I love that about him. He is on his feet all day long, cutting hair, shaving men, and being an ear to the customer who shares a tale or two. It is just exhausting work, as he comes home and needs to soak in the hot bath to soothe his aching back and feet. 

It's not a big secret that I truly enjoy cooking - especially from scratch. I never realized how many food images I take, and how many I have deleted in the past (100's!). I discovered that my beloved gets a boost when I quickly text him what I am doing in the kitchen - especially if I am making dinner. His reply text is almost always, "Mmmmm! Looks good!" His text always makes me smile, but I realize that a quick pic also makes him smile, hopefully takes his mind of his feet, and most importantly, will make him a happy husband who can't wait to get home (to me...not just dinner :-)

So last night, as I was about to delete even more food pics, I thought about you all. I thought it would be fun to show you a side of us - iPhone Foodies - that actually is a big part of who we are.  Not so pretty pics (some pretty darn blurry), but lots of love and work behind the-less-than-perfect shots. If quick pics make my beloved smile, then maybe they will bring a smile to you too.


This was a bread making experiment day. I like to take a pic of the steps and text them so my barber husband can feel like a part of it, and like I said, to maybe distract him a bit from all his standing.

I was making artisan bread with a very "quick and easy" recipe. And actually, it was! The bread turned out to be delicious and just the perfect size for the two of us.

This was my first time to make cabbage rolls. They turned out great and I am happy to say that since then, I no longer need toothpicks to hold them together. I simmer them over sauerkraut and serve them with a red sauce and a dab of sour cream. Another hit according to my beloved. In fact, he was so impressed, he insisted on giving his Polish friend (cabbage roll expert) a bag full. I just recently got a report from said Polish friend, and he said they were wonderful.

It looks like I had to take a bite and then took a pic....actually, I seemed to have several photos of food with bites taken out of them. I get so busy in the kitchen, I almost forget to take a pic before I go on to the next step.

Sometimes, my foodie pics come straight from the garden. Below are some harvested greens and herbs that I snapped and text to my better half, "Look how much today!"

After harvesting the above herbs, I dry them, and then store them in vintage jars. The purple basil is by far, our favorite. I use it in my tomato basil soup - very creamy!!

Sometimes, I don't text any pics until it is all this farm-raised hen and lots of vegetables (some from our garden).  I think it helps him get through the last hour of work - he knows I set it out to "rest" for quite a while to get the juices going. I have an antique graniteware roaster that has a tight lid and a little, tiny, steam flap that I barely open, letting only a little steam out.

I will share a sweet something about my sweetie. He loves a little nightcap. His "nightcap" is a bite of something sweet and some milk. I try to always make him something that is "healthy" and at the very least, not from a box with chemicals. Below is some "healthy" oatmeal cookies with some chocolate chunks. He LOVES them - he doesn't realize that I use a little almond extract to give it a little kick. My reasoning is I am using real eggs, real butter, good oats, and good milk. No chemicals, not a lot of sugar. But when I text him these cookies...I already know if I don't have milk in the fridge, he will stop on the way home to get some.

And speaking at stopping at the store for milk...I laughed when I came across this pic last night. I am guessing I took it to show him I went grocery shopping as it was most likely over due! How funny that he is such a foodie, that the food can still be in bags, and that makes him happy. How cute.

And another grocery shopping pic...there is  story here. About a week prior to taking this pic, my foodie and I were in the grocery store. I was all the way on the other side when I discovered I needed a small can of diced tomatoes. I sent him to go get a SMALL can of diced tomatoes, and I told him I would meet him at the counter. He shows up, and says there aren't any small cans of diced tomatoes only huge ones - and shows me the one he found. Exasperated, as he has a very well-earned reputation of not finding most things, I tell him that I KNOW there are small cans of it, as it is a store staple. He insists there isn't. I shake my head, and tell him again, I KNOW there is, he just didn't find it. He was adamant that I was wrong and betted me $5 that there are none. 

So I head for the aisle and tell him I am 100% sure they have diced tomatoes.  Well, you can guess how the story ends. There was NO small cans of diced tomatoes...and I stood there dumbfounded and whining, "How in the world can a store not have small cans of diced tomatoes??! That's like not having any loaves of bread!" I look up and his hand is out for payment, and a big grin on his face.  Determined not "to lose" I point to rows and rows of small cans of crushed tomatoes and point to them and say, "Well, see here, here are the small cans!" And he is very quick to correct me that the can says "CRUSHED not DICED." And I try to convince him (to no avail) that he should have known that crushed would work as well as diced...sigh...I can only imagine what the customers thought as they walked past our conversation.

Well, the story continues...only days later, I made a quick stop at the same store, and happened to go down the tomato aisle, and well, well, well, what do I see? CASES of diced tomatoes. So I snapped a quick pic (pretty blurry) and quickly texted him, "SEE...I TOLD you they have it...." to which he texted back, "Not the day you said they did though." Darn it. (I think I still owe him $5 - don't tell him.)

We had a bumper crop of spinach this year. So I found myself making lots of spinach and cheese quiche. So quick, so easy and so good! LOTS of spinach in it, and it refrigerates and keeps so well.

After a few quiches, I decided that we should probably not be eating so much crust, so I started to make crustless quiche. It was a big hit, and very simple as well. Plus, I think him getting a pic of a different type of quiche added to the excitement...hahaha.

I almost didn't include the pic of mushrooms below, as that is the only pic to the story. However, I thought it would be fun to show you that sometimes I even take a quick pic of just the ingredients to let him guess what I am making. But when he sees a pile of sliced mushrooms, he knows I am going to be making rich mushroom soup (one of his favorites).  I had to laugh at myself when I saw this pic...almost as bad as the bags of groceries!

This year we did pretty well with the potatoes. We estimated we got about 40 pounds or so. It was fun (but hard work) digging them up. I think once I get a pressure canner, I will make lots of potato soup and can it. I make the soup with homemade stock, bits of bacon, onion, and lots of potatoes and of course, some cream. It is so hardy and perfect for a snowy day.

It's hard to believe that such huge potatoes started out like this below:

But until I can get a good pressure canner, I am preserving my potatoes for winter in other ways. I don't have a root cellar, so I am freezing potatoes both in sticks and whole as well. Those little ones below in the bowl, will be frozen whole after I blanch them. 

I just blanched the sticks and now I am "flash freezing" them before I bag them up.

I made twice baked potatoes, as well as roasted potatoes with our own grown herbs. I see my foodie popping them in his mouth as if they were candy.  

We didn't get a lot of apples this year - I think the hard winter had a lot to do with it, as local orchards have small crops this year also. So with the few apples we did manage to harvest, I made an apple crumb cake just the other day. It turned out so delicious. 

I hope you enjoyed my little iPhone food tour. After looking at these, I realize I need to hold the phone more stable. Or, maybe get out my good camera and use that instead. But, when in the kitchen, and pans, bowls, and ingredients everywhere, I just don't think about getting out the Canon.  I think I will try to take a pic here and there of when I serve it...but then again, that may not go well for Mr. Foodie. When my dish is served to my beloved, it is meant to be eaten, and not serve as a model. :-)

I'm very lucky to have a better half that appreciates and compliments every meal (EVERY meal) and that makes spending time in the kitchen all the more enjoyable. That, and using fresh ingredients, homegrown produce, while supporting the local farms. I hope your meals, be it fast food, homemade, or out of a box, is eaten with gusto - and with a loved one -that is the secret recipe for a really grand dish!

from my house to your house

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