Wordless Wednesday: 14 Pounds of Tomatoes!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This picture makes me think of the Italian flag...




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Garden Green Bean Medley

Monday, August 29, 2011

One of my favorite vegetables is green beans. They are so easy to grow and so easy to preserve after harvesting bummer crops. Simply wash, dry thoroughly, pack into Ziploc vacuum bags and freeze.  When you get around to using them, they'll taste as fresh as the day you picked them from your garden.


But don't pack them all for freezing!  Try this recipe to make a delicious, harvest-inspired Garden Green Bean Medley to enjoy now.  I'm even contemplating this instead of my usual green bean casserole for Christmas.  


Garden Green Bean Medley

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 to 3 inch-long pieces

3 tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 large bell pepper, halved and cut into thin strips - choose two different colors from green, yellow, red or orange

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 can sliced ripe olives

1 palm-full dried basil (the way Rachel Ray measures her herbs and spices)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Mix together the beans, tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic, olives, basil, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons each of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a 4 quart slow cooker.   Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top.

2. Cover and cook on LOW about 3 hours, just until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

3. Remove the vegetables from the crock and place into a serving bowl, leaving the cooking liquid behind. Dress with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Based on the recipe Green Beans, Peppers, And Tomatoes With Balsamic Vinegar And Sun Dried Tomatoes in the cookbook The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever by Natalie Haughton. Buy The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever at Barnes&Noble.com.


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Tomato Week: Ratatouille

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ratatouille: a crock pot full of garden goodness
You got to love the French for making a humble vegetable stew sound and taste delicious.  This recipe is a great way to serve and preserve bumper crops of tomatoes, zucchini and bell pepper. I made this using the tomatoes and bell peppers growing my my garden.  This year, my zucchini didn't seem to thrive so I needed to use store-bought ones instead.

I like adding sliced green olives stuffed with pimientos at the end for an extra special and flavorful accent.


I love eating this hot or cold.  Just last night I enjoyed it with a crusty French roll and sardines on the side.  You could also top it with Parmesan or goat cheese or use it as a hearty sauce for meat, fish or poultry.  It even works well over a cheese omelet. 

This recipe freezes beautifully, so you can enjoy this summer time treat on a cold and blustery winter day.


Ratatouille
from The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever


1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes (I leave the skin on for color and texture)
coarse salt
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 large red bell pepper or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch squares
3 medium zucchini, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons dried basil
2 garlic cloves, crushed through a press
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 5 1/2 ounce can pitted ripe olives, drained and chopped coarsely


Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Let drain in the sink 30 minutes to 1 hour. Press out excess moisture, then rinse with cool water and pat dry with paper towels.


Place the eggplant in crock pot. Add the onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, olive oil, basil, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Mix well.


Cover and cook on HIGH about 3 hours or until the vegetables are tender but still hold their shape.


Stir in the tomato paste and olives.


Serve hot, room temperature or chilled.  Refrigerate leftovers or freeze to enjoy later.

Buy The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever at Barnes&Noble.com.


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Tomato Week: Yellow Salsa

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mixing the ingredients for my yellow salsa in the crock pot
You can't think of tomatoes without thinking about salsa, at least here in Los Angeles.  

I can find a plethora of salsa recipes just by doing a quick search on the Internet, but with an overabundance of tomatoes, I wanted a recipe that allowed me to freeze the end result so I could enjoy it later. 


Most of the recipes I found involved canning, which I have never done and which I just don't have the energy to do.  That's because the hardest part of attempting any kind of cooking that involves the stove top is standing, which for this sick chick is hard to do.


So on a whim, I searched for salsa that I could make in my favorite cooking appliance: the slow cooker.  I struck gold.  This recipe yields a lively and tasty condiment that tastes good fresh and after being frozen.  I decided to add a twist by using yellow tomatoes for a sunny change of pace.


Easy Crock Pot Salsa


8 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half 
( I used my yellow pear cherry tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
4 jalapeno peppers, stems removed and chopped (remove seeds for a milder salsa)
1 bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp. sea salt


Place tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos and cilantro into the crock pot.  

Stir to mix the ingredients.

Cover and cook on high for approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the vegetables are soft.
 
When cool, combine the tomato mixture and salt in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

Refrigerate or freeze to enjoy later.




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Wordless Wednesday: So Many Tomatoes

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

          Gurney's cold set tomatoes (started from seed)




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Tomato Week: Easy Tomato Sauce

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

TomatoImage via WikipediaWith so many tomatoes coming ripe right now, I'm declaring this tomato week and planning to share plenty of tomato harvest recipes with you.

My tomato plants did really well this year and right now there are just too many to eat before they start to spoil. So it's time to pull out my crock pot slow cooker and turn those tomatoes into something I can prepare, freeze and enjoy later.



My first project is yummy tomato sauce. I'm looking forward to using it for spaghetti and meatballs and in homemade lasagna.

My strategy to make this oh-so-easy is to split the prep work into small sessions and store the ingredients inside the ceramic crock pot liner in the refrigerator until the recipe is ready for the slow cooker.


Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce
from The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever

makes about 7 cups

4 pounds ripe tomatoes chopped
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 large onion chopped
2-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves minced
3 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

In 4 quart crock pot mix together the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, onion, olive oil, garlic, Italian herbs, sea salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 4 1/2 hrs.

Stir in sugar and balsamic vinegar. Increase the heat to HIGH and cook, uncovered, 1/2 hr longer to thicken the sauce.


This sauce freezes well so stash a few containers in the freezer.

Buy The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever at Barnes&Noble.com.




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In Search of a Natural Red Velvet Cake - Take One

Friday, August 19, 2011

I really like red velvet cake, but when I recently learned that it takes 2 1 oz. bottle of red food coloring to get that red hue, I was shocked and a little sickened. I mean, who needs all that red food coloring in their system. Yuck.


So I started search for a recipe that went back to the roots of red velvet.


Apparently, red velvet was a poor person's cake, made when a household didn't have quite enough chocolate to make a chocolate cake. Also, back in the first few decades of the 1900's, cocoa powder was processed a bit differently and had a more reddish hue. So when it was mixed with acidic ingredients, like buttermilk, vinegar or lemon juice, it gave the cake a red color.


I also thought that maybe the cake's color came from beets, since beets are used to make sugar. Turns out, sugar beets are actually white and the sugar from them is actually a tan color. There are recipes for beet cakes, a Southern recipe, but again, I'm not sure beets had anything to do with the original red velvet cake.


So it was off to the internet to find a red velvet recipe that was the original--minus the red food coloring--or used something more natural to create the red hue. I have to admit that once I started looking, I found a lot of variations on the red velvet theme. Needless to say, that left my head spinning.


OK, so I had to start somewhere. Here is the first recipe that I tried and I have included brand names of some of the ingredients used because, especially in the case of the chocolate, it makes a HUGE difference.


Thergamoid's Red Velvet Beet Cake


1 1/4 c whole wheat cake flour
(NOTE: I didn't have cake flour, so I measured 1 1/4 c whole wheat white flour, subtracted 2 T and 1 1/2 t of flour, then added back 2 T and 1 1/2 t cornstarch)
1 1/4 c sugar
(NOTE: I used Sugar in the Raw)
5 T natural cocoa powder (not dutch processed. this is very important for redness)
(NOTE: I used Scharffen Berger cocoa powder.)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 c pureed roasted beets
(NOTE: I used a 15 oz. can of sliced beets. I drained the liquid and just put the slices into a blender and processed until they had the consistency of baby food. A 15 oz. can of beets will make about 1 cup of puree.)
1/3 c light tasting olive oil
(NOTE: I used canola oil.)
1/3 c lemon juice --- lucky me, I have a lemon tree in my backyard
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs




Cream Cheese Frosting


1 pkg cream cheese
2 sticks butter
2 c sifted powdered sugar
2 t vanilla extract
pinch salt


For the cake, sift together the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients making sure not to over-mix. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes for cupcakes, about 38 minutes for 1 8-inch cake.


For the frosting, put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Whip. Once cake/cupcakes are cool, frost and enjoy!


My take on this recipe? The cupcakes looked more reddish when they came out of the oven. In the photo, I see a reddish hue (but I am also a bit color blind!) I really liked how air and light these cupcakes were. They taste more chocolatey than most red velvet I have tasted previously, but that is OK with me. I loved the cream cheese frosting, but hubs said it was not sweet enough.


I need to try this recipe again using a sugar substitute, like Truvia or Splenda for Baking mix (which is sucralose and sugar.) Because I made this batch for a friend of mine who isn't diabetic, so I used the "real thing".


If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.





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Wordless Wednesday: Harvest

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In the tubtrug: pickling cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, cherry tomatoes, mini yellow pear tomatoes, yellow, green and purple bush beans and mini bell peppers




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When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Jelly

Monday, August 15, 2011

The rind of a lemon is exceptionally bitter, w...
Image via Wikipedia
I recently rediscovered my copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook and in it a great recipe for homemade gelatin, what she calls "dessert jelly." 

The great thing about making your own gelatin desserts is that you can controlled the type of sweetener you use in the process. This time I used Splenda granulated, but I also want to try this with Truvia, maple sugar and agave syrup. This recipe has the added benefit of some actual nutrition from the lemon juice, unlike its powdered and processed cousin at the grocery store.  Since I am trying to avoid aspartame, which unfortunately is still in many sugar-free products, this recipe was a great alternative.

I also am guilty of not using very many of the lemons that my lemon tree produces.  I know, what a shame, right?  Well with recipes like this one, those days may be coming to an end!

Lemon Jelly

Sprinkle 3 envelopes of Knox unflavored gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water and let soften for 5 minutes. 
Bring two cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of Splenda granulated, 1 cup lemon juice and the softened gelatin. 
Continue to cook over low heat for stirring constantly for 3 minutes until the gelatin dissolves and the liquid is clear.
Pour into a large bowl or individual dishes and chill until firm.

This was delicious; tangy, bright and cool all at the same time.  And the great thing is that I can repeat this recipe with lime juice...that is when my dwarf lime tree has some fruit on it.  I might even try my hand at my own version of lemon-lime.  

This experiment opened my eyes to a whole world of fresh, homemade gelatin waiting to be discovered and I plan to experiment with this easy. low calorie dessert idea in many different forms. 


Buy The Fannie Farmer Cookbook at BarnesandNoble.com.


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Too Many Cukes? Freeze Slices for Later

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I don't know about you, but I have been inundated with a plethora of cucumbers (say that three time fast!)  I don't want them to go to waste, but I can't possibly eat all those cucumber before they start to turn to compost.


Thank goodness for one of my favorite books this time of year, The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick.  She actually has a recipe for freezing cucumbers, which I decided to try this year.  I'm sharing her method for preparing them below, which reminds me of the method I use to make Japanese salt pickles:


Freezing Cucumber Slices


Take two quarts (8 cups) of thinly sliced cucumbers and 1 thinly sliced medium onion and combine with two tablespoons salt in a colander. Place the colander in a bowl and let stand two hours to drain moisture from the cucumbers. Wash and drain the mixture, then wash and drain it a second time to remove all the salt.

In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers and onion with 2/3 cup each of sugar, vinegar and oil and 1 teaspoon of celery seed. Let stand one full day in refrigerator. The package the cumbers in containers leaving 1 inch of head space and freeze.  

Enjoy them after one week in the freezer.  Once defrosted, they will be good for several weeks in the refrigerator.



Buy The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick at BarnesandNoble.com.

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