Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Help! What shall I do with all these tomatoes?

And make it easy for me, please!
       So many nice tomatoes — what shall I do with them? Occasionally in the past, I simply, washed, cored, and bagged them whole in the freezer. This was fast, but it took lots of freezer space and left the peelings, hard inner cores, and juice intact. I only used them for chili or soup. Even after running them in a food processor, I found myself picking out obnoxious tough peels that weren’t chopped.
            In recent years, I make tomato sauce. Fresh tomatoes make a lively tart sauce not found in store-bought canned sauce, and it’s quite a money-saver over a year’s time. Prep time is a little more but well worth it. And I've discovered that a slow cooker makes the last step easier -- no more bending over to see and stir in the oven!
            Before making sauce, you will need to decide on a method and whether you want the sauce seasoned or not.
            Method and equipment:     The method to use depends on the smoothness of sauce you like and also on the equipment you have or are willing to buy. If you like a smooth sauce without seeds, pulp, or peel, the best equipment would be a pulp mill or a colander.
            If you want a textured sauce where some seeds and bits of pulp are okay, then you can choose the boiling water bath method for removing peels and a small knife for removing part of the seeds and core. This is the method I use. Check these websites below for clear photos and instructions for the boiling water bath method and seed removal.

            Finally, you will also need a slow cooker or an oven and shallow rimmed pans for cooking and thickening the sauce.

            Seasoned or unseasoned? If you season the sauce, the recommended time for freezer storage is only 3 months due to the possibility of flavor changes. If you don’t add seasonings, the flavor will stay true in the freezer for a year or more, but you will need to add seasoning as you use it in recipes. I don’t season tomato sauce for freezing, partly because I like to add different spices and herbs for lasagna, spaghetti, chili, and pizza sauce, or casseroles.
Preparation: · Check your freezer space and buy freezer bags or other containers. Gather the needed equipment. If you’re doing the hot water bath method, check out the websites listed above which list equipment needed for peeling and seeding.

 Instructions:  1. Select and wash tomatoes. If you have a variety of tomato types, choose about one-half paste type such as Roma or Amish Paste. They have more pulp, fewer seeds, less acid, but a flatter taste. For the remainder, choose regular slicing type tomatoes. They burst with lively flavor but have more seeds and cores. The tomatoes should be fully ripe for best flavor.

Regular slicing

2.   If using a colander or food mill: Cut and core tomatoes. Follow directions with your equipment to make a sauce. If you plan to season the sauce, measure the amount of sauce. (See spaghetti sauce seasoning suggestion at end of this article.) 

     If using the water bath method: Cut an X through the skin on bottom of each tomato. Carefully lower tomatoes one by one into boiling water and leave for about 20 seconds. Remove and dip in ice water. With a knife, pull off peel. Core, removing extra seeds if desired. Puree with a food processor. If you plan to season the sauce, measure the amount of sauce. (See spaghetti sauce seasoning at end of this article.) 

3. Cook the sauce: Pour puree into the slow cooker or rimmed shallow pans. Heat slow cooker on high, or oven to 300. Cook uncovered, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula every 30 minutes. Continue cooking until puree thickens similar to purchased tomato sauce. This may take 3 to 10 hours, depending on the thinness of the puree at start-up.  

Cooked, thickened

4. Bag and freeze: Label bags or containers before filling. A canning funnel makes filling easier. Place an amount in the bags that you often use in recipes. Note: When I am short on tomatoes, I put only one cup in each bag. This can be mixed with purchased canned sauce to perk up canned sauce flavor.

Handy Tip: To speed the thickening process, heat the puree in the microwave, then pour into your slow cooker or oven pans. CAUTION: If using a slow cooker, microwave only to "warm" to avoid cracking the slow cooker. 

Seasoning suggestion for spaghetti sauce: If the measured sauce before cooking is 8 cups, for a mildly seasoned spaghetti sauce add

3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. mild chili powder, or 1/2 tsp. regular
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cumin

After cooking, you will have approximately 4 cups spaghetti sauce for freezing or to use immediately. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

May I Introduce You to.....


     Our youngest grandkids, Em and Dan, along with their parents, just finished a 3-week visit with us. Em is just a month from age 3. After a few days warming up, she made Grandpa her absolute favorite person. “Rock Paper Scissors,”  “I got your nose,” and “Hide the marble” kept them jesting and laughing together day after day.
            Near the end of their vacation, the hullabaloo between the two gained momentum as never before. Em dreamed up her final solution to Grandpa’s wiles with an impish smirk:  “YOU AHR THE MEANEST PAHSON IN MAH WHOLE LIFE!” she yelled emphatically.
            Em's home is filled with love. She hasn't a clue to what the word "mean" really means -- and may she never. Just today via long distance phone Em refused to talk to me. “I want Grandpa…GRANDPA!” she insisted. Grandpa is her king, for now anyhow.
            Like most kids her age, Em’s attention span is about two minutes. “I want play clay, she says. So I find the play clay, but by then she wants a book. I find the book, but by then she’s playing with a train. “Grandma, would you put in a new battery?”
            Sure enough, dead battery. Are today’s kids born knowing electronics?

            Dan, age 6, is quieter and more serious. He spent much of his time building with Grandma's
fabulous yard sale find: A large magnet building set -- fun and educational. We searched through the house with him to find how magnets are used in surprising places. Electric can openers? Yes. Refrigerator and freezer door seals? Yes. On my sewing machine holding pins? Uh-huh.

            A large box of borrowed Legos® was another hit with him. He loves to invent his own gadgets. And thanks to his parent’s teaching, bandaloom® rubber bracelets were fun for him to not only make, but to give away. One for Grandma, one for Grandpa, one for Mom, one for Dad, and ten for Dan!           

     During the last week, we dug out our kids old card games. We ended up playing The Lorax. Dan loved the simple challenges of making "sets" and protecting them from the Once-lers and Bar-ba-loots. He also made "Battleship" his favorite game at his Aunt's home.     
 Gardening was another learning activity. I soaked beans overnight to help them to a speedy start. Dan carefully planted them, covered and watered them, a new experience for him. For exercise and extra fun, Em and Dan hiked with their parents and visited Dragon Hollow and Missoula Carousel.

            On their last evening here, as we finished supper, Em delivered a riot act of entertainment. Beating on an old water canteen, she stomped round and round the table bellowing out a song of her own invention. PANDABEAR PANDABEAR PANDABEAR PANDABEAR……  No one knows where she came up with “Pandabear” -- books probably, as she has been read hundreds almost from the day of her birth.

            Oh the joys of grand parenting! Now things are quiet. It’s an effort to get back to talking -- and behaving --  as adults once again!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Every Child Needs a Dad

A little girl marched into her classroom with a beautiful mahogany crayon box made by her father. She set it down on her desk and said proudly, "Daddy made it for me." 

Three days later, when she opened the box, all the crayons were broken.

Who? She never knew, but suspicions ran high that jealousy had overcome a classmate whose Daddy doesn't come home.

Studies show that, in most situations, a father’s presence and involvement with the children from birth is just as important as a mother’s. The father who actively engages with his children is especially helpful to the mental health and adjustment of the children, even into adulthood. Girls without fathers have lower self-esteem and more depression, while boys are more likely to become delinquent. Children from fatherless homes have exceedingly high percentages of homelessness, chemical abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, incarceration, and dropping out of high school.  

Every child needs a Dad -- a Dad who comes home and gives hugs, who makes funny faces no one else can make, who tells funny stories, who molds Play Dough® frogs and little cherry pies. A Dad who shapes pancakes into bunny faces. A Dad who helps kids play ball and do homework, who cuts rows in the garden so you can plant seeds to grow beans or flowers. A Dad who teaches you to use pliers and screwdrivers and how to cut wire and tie knots. 

Every child needs a Dad -- a Dad who takes you to parks and games and merry-go-rounds and the Fair.  A Dad who holds your hand to keep you safe. A Dad who plucks splinters out for you, who puts up hooks for your coats and things. A Dad who talks with your teacher about you and sees you sing or toot or speak in programs at school and church.

Every child needs a Dad.

A Dad buys you shoes and sometimes a fishing pole or a sled. A Dad shows you how to put a worm on a hook, and he likes the picture you drew for him. Sometimes a Dad makes you pull weeds, or save your money, but you know it's good. A Daddy tells you when you've done wrong, but he tells you when you've done right, too. Sometimes a Dad makes mistakes, but you know he tries to be a good Dad.

Your Dad is strong, but he is also tender and kind, especially to your mom. If you're a boy, you think you would like to be like him someday, and if you're a girl, you think that someday you will marry someone just like him. 

A Dad loves your mom and his heritage and God, and you learn from him. Sometimes they talk about you, and you know they love you and want good things for you. A Dad and mom leave you memories you like and a legacy you can't forget, and you are glad. 

A Dad is there with your mom when you get your diploma and when you leave home for the service or for a job or for college, and they are happy at your wedding, but they cry because it's time to let you go and they love you so much. 

Every child needs a Dad. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fred’s No-Sugar Blueberry Topping Sauce

At our house, we’ve been on diets lately. Oh, not the kind where you eat grapefruit or apples all day, but sensible diets that only zap your FAVORITE foods from your meals. After a few days of this, you suddenly loose it -- you collect all your favorite foods together for a lip-smacking PIG-OUT, stuff yourself as fast as you can, and then you say, “I wish I wouldn’t have done that.”

We're trying to change our habits slowly but surely, substituting better tasting low calorie foods where we once ate high calorie starches.

This No-Sugar Blueberry Topping Spread is one area we've had success. In recent years, Fred has made his own high nutrition breakfast pancakes almost everyday for his breakfast. The problem is, he smothers them with close to ½ cup of strawberry preserves! I told him he might just as well pour the sugar bowl on his pancakes – honest, I looked it up – just one tablespoon of sugar is 45 calories; a tablespoon of strawberry preserves is 50 calories!

That means the one-half cup preserves he's been eating is 400 calories -- all carbohydrates. You see where this is going, don’t you?

No more preserves on the pancakes?

But he’s not a quitter! Recently, he brought home a 5-pound bag of frozen blueberries. “I’m going to make a sugarless jam,” he announced. "I want some sweetener, but I don’t want to add any sugar,” he said. "What can I use?"

“Well, there’s honey, but it’s even higher than sugar in calories. We also have stevia and Sweet‘N Low® on hand,” I suggested.

I heard clattering kettles, bang bang, whir whir, then silence from the kitchen. Then another question: “Is there a way to thicken cooked blueberries to spread like jam?” he asked?

“Well, you could try unflavored gelatin. There’s Knox® in the cupboard – look for a box with some orange coloring on it.”

So began a series of trials, all edible, but not exactly like he wanted. I chimed in to help, and together we came up with the recipe below with only 6 calories per tablespoon, or 48 in one-half cup! To top it off, blueberries are like little beads of antioxidants – they have one of the highest antioxidant ratings among all fruits and vegetables.

Eat your heart out, dear Husband.

Fred’s No Sugar Blueberry Topping Sauce    
Makes 3 ½ C. topping;
Time required to make:  about 20 minutes, plus chilling overnight


4 C. frozen blueberries (1 pound 2 oz)
1  C. water  + ½  C. more water set aside for softening gelatin (room temperature is fine)
1 envelope Knox® unflavored gelatin
2  tsp. dry type Sweet and Low® sweetener (zero calories) or sweeten to taste with your preferred sweetener measured to equal ¼ to 1/3 Cup sugar)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)


1) For accuracy, measure whole blueberries while frozen, or weigh on a kitchen scale
4 Cups frozen blueberries, or 1 pound 2 ounces by weight

2) After measuring, thaw the blueberries in the microwave

3) Place berries in a food processor for a few short spurts to chop coarsely.

4) Place 1 C. water in a large kettle. Add the blueberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes to cook berries, stirring occasionally.

5) In a small wide bowl, such as a cereal bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/2 C. water. Allow gelatin to set and soften without stirring. 

6) Sprinkle no-sugar sweetener and cinnamon (optional) over the cooked blueberries, stirring well

7) Slowly add the softened gelatin to the berries, continuing to stir to mix well

8) Pour cooked sauce into containers. Cool to room temperature.

9) Refrigerate 12 or more hours to set the gel.

10) Before serving, it's a good idea to stir to bottom of jar to evenly distribute berries that may have settled.

Topping keeps 3 or more weeks in refrigerator -- I can't say exactly how long because we eat a double batch in only three weeks!

CAVEATS:  In developing this recipe, we learned that the gel set may vary slightly due to any of the following:

  •        Inaccurate measurements of blueberries or water
  •        The gelatin does not soften completely due to lumps or timing
  •        The gel packet may have leaked or was inaccurately filled in the factory
  •        Liquid evaporated during simmering because the lid was off

CALORIES  in 1 Tablespoon:  6;       in 1/2 cup:  48

CARBOHYDRATES in 1 Tablespoon: 1.5 g.; in 1/2 cup: 12


1) Great topping for ice cream.
       2) Blueberry yogurt: Stir 1/3 C. topping into 16 ounces of plain yogurt. Add sweetener to taste.

COMMENTS? Would you like more posts of this type?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Try this recipe and send us your diet food rating (in comments) of from one to five stars: One star – the worst; Five stars – Great.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Motherhood Cracks Me Up

From the beginning, Mamas talk funny.  “Goo goo goo.  KutchieKutchieKooo.  I wov ooo – ”

Cherub understands perfectly, dampens diaper.

Other changes happen automatically in a new Mom’s vocabulary: ME, MYSELF and I are obliterated. The phrase, “Baby needs” is added.
And from now on, all “selfies,” if she has time for any, include Baby!

Six months after giving birth, the new Mom (in this case, me) becomes a dedicated speech and vocabulary teacher. “Da-da. Can ooo say Da-da?”
“Dink? You wanna dink? Say DINK!”
“Hot. No! Don’t touch! Hot! No, no!”

Two daughters turn three and four. It’s Saturday. Mom & Dad sleep late.
Mom, hearing chatter: “The girls are up – guess I’ll have to get up too.”
He: Wiping sleep from eyes. “What’s going on? They’re laughing in the kitchen.”
She: “I’ll go see.”
Down the hall, around the corner. Her eyes zoom in on a mutilated loaf of homemade bread. .

“You were hungry!”  

“We’re not hungry now, Mama!”  


Mom the Investigator: Three cherubs now, wee morning hours:
He, waking up: “I hear someone in the kitchen!”
She: "I heard it too. Sounds like shuffling feet. I think he’s about 3 years old.”
He: “He’s moving to the living room –  over by the fish tank.”
She: “I’d better check.” Props eyelids, meanders out. Focuses on cute little boy in blue blanket suit holding salt and pepper shakers.
Little Boy Blue: “Me salt and pepper fish!”

Duh. We had fish for supper last night.

Three years later: Little Boy Blue walks home from school all by himself (these were the days when it was safe).

LBB, excitedly: “Mom, MOM!”
Mom: “What is it, my dear child?”
LBB: “Can you fix this cat?”

 Mom, in unbelief, eyeing cat curled into a ball, almost smiling with eyes closed -- STIFF AS A BOARD –  held lovingly by LBB:  “Uh….where did you find him?”

LBB, proud of his find: “On the way home! He was by the curb!”

Mom, still in shock: “Uh…. Uh….Ugh. I’m sorry, but I can’t fix him. He’s….uh…. dead!”

LBB: “Can we take him to the vet?”

Mom: “Uh… when something is dead, it’s heart isn’t beating anymore. He can’t breathe. He can’t eat. I’m sorry, but the vet can’t fix him either. He has gone to cat heaven. We’ll have a funeral for him, poor thing.”

Mom the Chauffeur: Driving teens to school, 15 years after dramatic 17-hour birth of the first one.

(Note: Promotion to Chauffeur includes the description, “Fuddy-Duddy.”) Her hair sticks out, she forgets her lipstick, her shoes have laces, and she drives an old car (seven years, according to teenagers, is old — very old).

Teenies, pressing themselves down as low as they can in the back seat: “Mom! Go around the back way! We don’t want anyone to see us!”

Mom the Culinary Expert: A few years later, at suppertime.

Teenie #4: “Why can’t we ever have MASHED potatoes instead of plain old BOILED potatoes?”

Culinary Expert: “It’s extra work, but I’ll make an extra effort next time, just for you.”

Next day: Culinary Expert serves mashed potatoes. Notices Teenie #4 not eating potatoes.

Culinary Expert: “How come you’re not eating the mashed potatoes?”

Teenie: “I’m tired of potatoes.”

Motherhood: In 30 years, all cherubs pass GO at age 18.

"Oh Hello Husband. It’s time for us now....
Always and Forever."

Friday, May 2, 2014

(He's) Early and (I am) Late

  There are only a few things that my husband and I have had a problem with, and one is, that he is early, and I am late. His philosophy has always been to be early for meetings, in time to hear the band tune up and the "Testing 1-2-3."
  My logic is quite the opposite. Why leave early? It's a waste of time to sit and wait. I have it all figured out, with my grade school math, that if we attend two meetings a week, and we are 15 minutes early each time, in 20 years of marriage we will have wasted 520 HOURS of time!
  During that amount of time, I could have gobbled up 10,852 chocolate chip cookies or read 2,079 Dave Berry columns on time management and other nonsense!
  I'm not always late though. I got to the hospital on time for our four children. For the first one, I was 17 hours early!
  Through the years, this early/late problem between my husband and me escalated to the point where I knew I would have to do a study on the problem.
  According to experts, there are four ways to handle it:
 1. Divorce. This is the quickest way to go, but neither of us cares to step into a second set of problems. The ones we have are quite adequate!
2. We could go separately to meetings, but then, the neighbors would talk.
3. The late person should change (i.e., ME).

  Are you serious? Remember those old telephone cords with the coils? Well, that's how my coils are set. Actually, I have stretched them a few times to be early, but -- boiiiiiiiing! They coil back again. Only one solution remains.
4. If both the early coils and the late coils persons are stretched just a few minutes for each meeting, two can boiiiiiing out the door together. Boiiiiiing, boiiiiiing!