September 29, 2011

Freezing Diced Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce

I have been keeping up with my tomatoes this year and have sooo many!
The kids and I eat the Cherry Tomatoes fresh whenever we walk by…
And these Lemon Plums are sooo sweet!
I planted mostly Romas for canning, sauce, and salsa.
They are a dense, meaty variety and are versatile for many recipes.
We picked a whole fruit box the other day, and then I panicked because I knew I didn’t have the time to can them. Why do I do that?
Luckily, I ran into this post by Serena Thompson of The Farm Chicks.
What a simple and delicious way to preserve tomatoes….just wash, blend, and freeze!
She puts a little Olive oil and sautes garlic in a pan before adding the frozen tomatoes and using them in soups or other recipes.
 Yum!
 I can’t wait to try it!
So, to freeze tomatoes {either diced or pureed}:
Wash them really well.
Take off the stems.
Using a food processor or blender, either dice them or puree.
If you don’t want as much liquid, let tomatoes drain in a colander before freezing.
Pack into freezer bags, seal, and label.
I like to put about 2 cups per quart bag because this is a perfect amount for soups and other recipes.
This was a really fast way to preserve tomatoes and I am sure that the nutritional value is better because everything is so fresh and the skins are included.
I totally needed this…some days I feel overwhelmed with the amount of “To Do’s” on my list.
I think it only took me 30 minutes to process about  35 pounds of tomatoes.
Too fun!
Hope you have a GREAT day:).

~Julia

Joining Amy at Homestead Revival for her Preparedness Challenge:)

September 23, 2011

Freezing Cabbage

I bet you never thought to freeze cabbage!
Cabbage is a great vegetable to include in your diet as it contains more anti-cancer compounds than any other food!
I like to use it in soups through the Winter, so freezing it comes in handy.
 My friend Beth gave me the biggest cabbage I had ever seen a couple of days ago.

I am so thankful to have so much of it in the freezer for later use.

To freeze:
Wash and discard outer leaves.
Cut into wedges or shred in thin cuts.
Blanch wedges for 3 minutes.
If you shred the cabbage, blanch for 1 1/2 minutes.

Cool and drain….I always lay the cabbage out on a clean dish towel on the counter.

When cabbage is fairly dry, pack into quart freezer bags, seal and freeze.

It is that easy!
Have a wonderful day!
~Julia

October 22, 2010

Split Pea Soup

Oooh…this is one of my all time favorite soups!

The delicious aroma floats on waves through the house all day making my mouth water. It is a super simple soup to make and so deliciously healthy and filling.

Here is the recipe: 

You can choose from the following for the ham:
1 ham bone or
 2 lbs. ham shanks or
  2 lbs. hocks or
2 lbs. pressed ham
***
2 1/4 c. split peas {1 lb.}
8 c. water
1 large onion, chopped
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped carrots
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt

Put everything into soup pot or crock pot. For stove top version….boil for 15 minutes, then simmer for at least 3 hours. You want the soup to thicken. 

In the crock pot, just cook on high for at least 6 hours.
Shred or chop ham before serving in the soup. Mine is usually falling apart and I just use a fork to shred.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or crusty rolls and a garden salad. 

Enjoy!


~Julia

September 26, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Spice Bars

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip 
Spice Bars
***** 

I think the name of this recipe says it all!
Yum!!
 

Ingredients
 
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 package {12 oz.} semi-sweet chocolate chips
 
Makes: 24 bars
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil.
You want it to overlap on all sides.
 

 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt.
 

Set aside and get ready for the good stuff:).
 

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until sweet and smooth. 
Add egg and vanilla until combined.
I ran out of pure vanilla, but imitation works just fine!
 

Now, add the pumpkin puree.
The mixture should appear curdled…so don’t worry!
 

Slowly add in the dry ingredients…who have been waiting patiently to join the party:).
Mix until just combined.
 

Fold in the chocolate chips…my favorite!
Spread the batter evenly into your prepared dish.
Bake until edges begin to pull away from the sides or a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached. 
This should take 35-40 minutes.
 
Make sure to let the cake cool completely.
Next, just lift it out of the pan, remove foil and cut into 24 perfect squares. 
 

Enjoy a scrumptious Fall treat!
 
Original recipe from Martha.
If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can make it!
Just mix together:
 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
 3/4 tsp. ginger
 1/2 tsp.nutmeg
 1/2 tsp ground all spice
  1/2 tsp. ground cloves
 
~Julia
 
Sharing this delicious recipe here.

August 15, 2010

Make a Canning Jar Soap Dispenser

I fell in love with this idea the minute I saw it… 
 

Canning jar soap dispensers are a fun and easy gift or useful item to make!
I have used our pump everyday for over a year now and it has held up beautifully.
That is saying a lot when you have four kids and a farmer husband.

 
I picked up the jar for 50 cents and a lid for $2 at a tag sale…so the whole project was really economical.



If you are interested in purchasing the antique zinc lids and blue Ball canning jars, Ebay or Craigslist are a great place to search.
I typed in “zinc canning jar lids” on Ebay and there were so many available for a reasonable price!
The same was true when I searched under “blue Ball canning jars.”
 I loved that there were so many different sized blue jars! 
Tags sales are also a good avenue.
If you find it too pricey to get your hands on zinc lids, ANY canning jar lid will do!! 
The lids and rings, as well as the plastic lids are great!

The pump is from a bottle of Suave lotion. It was the perfect zinc color.
You can also buy pumps from a craft supply store or online HERE.
I like to use what I have on hand, so the pump from the Suave lotion is perfect:).
To clean the pump out, just put it in a jar of warm soapy water and pump away until it is clean.

 

 

To make the soap/lotion dispenser:
 
 Measure the width of the top portion of your pump… the part with the spring in it.
Mine measured 1.5cm wide.


Mark the center of your lid {on the top} with a small dot.

 The inside of the lid has a ceramic underside. You will need to remove it.



To do this, place the lid right side up with the ceramic side down on a hard surface.
Using a nail, or thin screw driver, tap a hole through the top….right on your mark.
This way, the ceramic is face down and will not shatter in your face:).

 



After you make the hole, this is what the underside will look like…



To remove the ceramic cap, I try to just tap it really hard right side up.
Most of the time, it will just fall out. If it won’t budge, use protective gloves and remove it manually.
Be careful! You are dealing with sharp objects:).

Next, you will want to make a mark on the underside to use as a guide for your hole to put the pump in.
I {roughly} measure 1.5 cm in an “X” pattern to give me my dimensions.

Using needle nose pliers, slowly start to peel back the zinc. It is a light metal and easily bendable.
Remember, you are not going for perfection….just a hole big enough to fit the pump in.
It doesn’t need to be perfectly round!
It is better to be on the snug side, as a hole too big will make the pump tend to be a bit floppy.
So, err on the side of being too small, test your pump as you go.
It is so easy to make the hole a little bigger!

 When the hole is sufficient to hold the pump, crimp the remaining tin back flat with your pliers so there are no sharp edges.
At this point, you have the option of sealing your lid with a clear polyurethane so that it won’t corrode. 
{Thanks Jody for the tip!!}
Make sure it is completely dry before inserting the pump:).


Now, insert the pump. It should be nice and snug and the top will cover the hole nicely.


Now to glue it in place.
I use my good old hot glue gun.
There are probably other great alternatives out there, but so far hot glue has held up wonderfully!
I tried Gorilla Glue once and it was a mistake for this project. So, if you are wanting to try something other than hot glue, just look for a waterproof product that dries quickly and doesn’t expand.

Making sure the pump is firmly in place, first glue right along the base of the pump to the underside of the lid.

Next, add a little more glue to the pump… adhering a little more to the underside.
You want it to have a good base to hold it securely in place.

Let it dry thoroughly.
Last, you will need to trim off a small amount from the straw portion of the pump.
Insert it into the jar and estimate about how much needs to come off.
I like the bottom of the straw to be about 1/4 of an inch from the base of the jar.
Measure your straw and then measure the height of the jar to the rim.
This will help you determine where to cut.
I cut off about 1/2 inch of the Suave Lotion pump and had a quart sized jar.

Screw on the lid and whalaa!
You are finished….now wasn’t that easy?

The dispensers are great gifts for birthdays, Christmas, hostess gifts, or just to use in your own home!
They pair really well with handmade dish towels:).
Any canning jar will do.
I personally have a clear jar as well as the antique blue version and both look beautiful!
Here is another example from Heather Bullard….

http://heatherbullard.typepad.com/heather_bullard_collectio/2010/02/diy-mason-jar-soap-dispenser.html




You can fill your jar with soap {or lotion}. I use mine in the bathroom and by the kitchen sink. I really like a clear soap. Costco’s environmentally safe dish soap is wonderful and the scent is delicious!

The soap lasts forever and you have to fill it up so infrequently. 
With four kids and a farm we do a lot of hand washing around here:). 


Have a great day!


~Julia

June 2, 2010

A Simple Changing Pad: My Favorite Baby Gift

When our youngest was born, I was blessed to receive a perfect changing pad from a dear friend.

 

 

 

 She is so talented and I have absolutely LOVED this gift. I loved it so much, I have given one as a new baby gift to many friends and family members. It is completely simple to make and quick to put together. Everyone has really enjoyed and USED the changing pads throughout the course of diapering. It is great for a quick trip into the store or doctors office, and has pockets for wipes, diapers, and a bottle.

 

Here is how you can make one, too.
 
Materials
 
1/2 yard of chenille
1 yard coordinating cotton fabric
1 yard ribbon
Fray Check


 
 
Cut chenille to 22″x18″. 

Cut coordinating top fabric to the same size.
 
To make the pocket: cut out a 9″ x 17″ piece of the coordinating fabric.

 

 
You will be placing the pocket on the lower left hand side, so hem the top and right sides of the pocket.
 
Attach to the top and secure with pins.

 

Stitch along the right hand edge, right over the exposed hem. 
Now here is the tricky part. Make a light mark with a fabric pencil 4 1/2 inches from the right side in. You need to do this at the top and bottom of the pocket. This is going to be a smaller pocket for a sippy cup or bottle.  Sew a straight line, using your marks as a guide. Backstitch at the top for extra strength.



Place ribbon on the left hand side, half way down the pocket. This is about 4 1/2 ” up from the left bottom corner. Stitch in place. Seal the ends with a little Fray Check. This makes it so the ribbon won’t unravel in the wash.



Pin right sides together, making sure that the loose ends of the ribbon are not going to be attached where they shouldn’t.

 
Carefully sew around the edges. This can be a little tricky because the chenille tends to stretch. I like to pick a spot in the middle of a side, and sew one direction. Go back to the center and sew the opposite direction on the same side. 

This seems to create and even amount of tension.
Leave a three inch gap somewhere to turn it inside out.

 
Turn right side out. You will still have a little gap. I will show you what to do with this next. Make sure to use a small blunt object to poke the corners out flat. 
 



Iron out. PLEASE NOTE…my ribbon is in the WRONG spot! Can you believe that? I had to go back and attach it 4 1/2″ up from the bottom left corner. Pretend that is what you see:).



Pin the gap closed, matching edges. Sew a 1/4 ” top stitch around the entire edge of the changing pad.  Easy as pie!



You are finished!



One side is soft and warm to lay baby down.

 
The other side ready to fill with necessities.
 



 To secure, fold half way down, roll up, and tie with a bow. The pad fits nicely into a purse. Best of all, if it gets dirty just throw it into the wash and dry it on low heat.



~Julia