Friday, August 31, 2012

The Animals Thank Me

The animals around here thank me....
for releasing them from their Hurricane Isaac prison.

After three days of confinement in Mississippi, the clouds have finally begun to break up.

Rush especially is enjoying his free Friday, even if our yard is a bit disheveled.


So we are stretching our legs.

Putting away our hurricane gear,

And praying for those in our area who were less fortunate that we were.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The "Not-So Pretty"

I try to make my world pretty.

But sometimes, it's just not.


As we stare down tropical storm Isaac, we are faced with plenty of un-pretties, like
outside stuff stacked inside, and crabby cats thrown off their routines...

Prayers to all those affected. Be diligent, and please stay safe!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to Make and Can Homemade Tomato Sauce

This summer, my tomatoes have by far been the jewels of my garden.  The main way I've been putting them to use (besides using them in wonderful mozzarella, basil, and tomato sandwiches) since we can't possibly eat or give them all away is by making and canning my own tomato sauce.

I have Better Boy and Roma varieties growing out back, and I toss them all into the mix.

Making and canning your own tomato sauce is not a difficult process, but it is somewhat time-consuming and involves numerous steps.  However, it's very rewarding and worth it this winter.  Just don't wear white.

Here we go!

Pint jars (these come with the rings and lids)
Jar grabbers
Blender/food processor
3 pounds of tomatoes at least, any variety
Tomato paste
Olive oil
Garlic salt
Bottled lemon juice

1.  Sterilize your jars, rings, and lids.  You do this by submerging them in boiling water for five minutes.  Remove everything from the water and place them on a clean tea towel and allow to try completely

Be extremely careful when dealing with sterilizing the jars or with any of the steps involving boiling water.  Please consider getting a jar grabber (below).  This one cost $3, and it's an absolute necessity when doing any canning.  It's almost impossible to do this without one!

2.  Submerge the tomatoes, several at a time, in a boiling pot of water (I sometimes use the same pot as the one used to sterilize the jars).  They only need to boil for 30-45 seconds, just long enough to soften the skin.  It's ok if they split slightly. 

3. After you remove the tomatoes from the boiling water, place them immediately into a large bowl of cold water (you may want to add some ice periodically to keep the water cold) to stop the cooking process and cool the tomatoes so they can be peeled.

4.  Once you have boiled all the tomatoes to soften the skin and cooled them in the ice water, you can carefully remove all the skins.  They should be soft and slide easily from the tomatoes. Also remove any bruised or soft spots from the tomatoes.

5.  Here comes the messy part.  Remove the juice and seeds from the tomatoes. In your sauce, you want to include the walls of the tomato.  The easiest way to do this is by chopping the tomatoes in half and sweeping the "guts" of the tomato out with your fingers. 

6. Once you have isolated the "good" parts of the tomatoes, place them in a colandar to drain further.  Continue to press and stir with a wooden spoon over the sink to squeeze out any remaining juice, which will cause your sauce to be runny.

7.  Process or chop your tomatoes.  If you are processing a larger amount of tomatoes, you can use a blender, but I usually do smaller quantities at a time, so my Magic Bullet works just fine.  If you prefer a chunkier sauce, you can chop your tomatoes as opposed to blending.

8. Place your tomatoes in a saucepan to prepare for cooking.  Add two tablespoons of olive oil and three teaspoons of garlic salt.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer.  Add two tablespoons of tomato paste to thicken.  These are all the ingredients you need to add to the tomato sauce at this point before canning with a water bath (which is the method we are using).  The key to preserving food is acid.  Tomatoes are naturally acidic, but if you go ahead and add in other ingredients, such as onion, fresh garlic and basil, onion, and mushrooms, you lower the acid levels in your sauce and therefore make it "unpreservable."  You just want to can to can the plain tomato sauce, and you can add in other ingredients later when you're ready to use it.
Simmer for one hour.  Remove from heat.

9.  Spoon sauce into sterilized jars.  Leave 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar.  Put one teaspoon of bottled lemon juice into the tops of the jars.  (Remember that it is important to use commercial, bottled lemon juice.  Fresh-squeezed lemon juice may vary in its acid content.)  Wipe away any sauce that may have gotten on the necks of the jars that would interfere with the seal, and place the lids and rings securely on the jars

10.  Process the jars.  You do this by taking a large stock pot and placing the jars of sealed tomato sauce inside.  Fill the pot with water.  Make sure that the heads of the jars are covered with at least an inch of water at all times.  Bring the pot to a rolling boil for 45 minutes.  (Click here for a chart of processing times for different altitudes.)

11.  Leave the jars undisturbed in a cool location overnight.  You may here a popping noise, which is the jars sealing.  After you have left them overnight, press down firmly in the center of the lid.  If the lid is hard and sucked firmly down, your jar has processed correctly and is ready to be stored.  If the lid pops up and down, your jar has not sealed properly.  Place it in the refrigerator, and use the sauce within several days.  It will not be suitable for long-term storage.  It is not recommended to attempt to re-process it.

Store your sauce in the cupboard or pantry along with all your other groceries.

You can use a jar of tomato sauce to create marinara, salsa, spaghetti sauce, and any other sauce with a tomato base.  Just pop open the jar and add the ingredients as needed.


National Center for Home Food Preservation
Disclaimer: Please follow instructions here and instructions on links carefully, as preserving food is a delicate process.  All authors including blog author assume no responsibility for food canned incorrectly.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Starburst Crochet Scrubbers

I love to crochet washcloths and dishcloths, but when I saw these starburst crochet scrubbers on Ravelry, I thought they would make a more sturdy alternative to a dishcloth.

It only takes about thirty minutes to whip one up.

The variegated yarns look especially lovely in the spiral pattern of the scrubby.

Sturdy and easy-to-grip, these measure about three inches in diameter.

I can't wait to make more!

There is also a video tutorial available here.

Scrub away!

P.S.  I'm linking to the following linky parties:

Making Monday Marvelous
Motivate Me Monday
Craft O Maniac Monday
Made with Love

Monday, August 6, 2012

Winner of Core Bamboo Giveaway!

Thanks to everyone who entered the Core Bamboo giveaway.

The winner, according to, is #24, Rebecca!  Congrats! I've sent you an email!

Stay tuned for more great giveaways, and thanks again to everyone who entered.

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