Day 185–Starting Week 28–Budget and Menu

green beans

This week has been a busy one! The mid-week Independence Day holiday has my schedule all mixed up, and I’m a bit late getting out our weekly budget and menu, but that is life, right? We are a bit over budget this week (mostly meat for the holiday) at $105.70. Since I had to work on July 4th (outside!) I was not about to cook. Mae Farms prepared pulled pork gave us more than one meal and prevented me from having to cook (I love them!) Here is the list of what we bought this week:

  • The Produce Box (tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, corn, green beans, squash, snow peas, plums): $28.00
  • Mae Farm (pulled pork barbecue, steaks): $38.00
  • Other farmers market (cantaloupe, blackberries, potatoes): $10
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, soy milk, butter, yogurt, wine, turbinado sugar): $29.70

What are we eating for the kingly sum? Here is our weekly menu!

  • Wednesday–Pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, potato salad, cantaloupe
  • Thursday–Tomato sandwiches, watermelon and blackberry fruit salad
  • Friday–Grilled steaks, corn on the cob, snow peas; peach cobbler
  • Saturday–Out–date night!
  • Sunday–Pasta with grilled eggplant, squash and tomatoes
  • Monday–BLT sandwiches, homemade pickles
  • Tuesday–leftovers and/or quiche
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Day 184–Freezing Through the Summer

Whole green beans in a carton.

I’ve been canning a lot of food lately, trying to make sure we can eat locally all year AND trying to reduce the amount of food we toss into the compost because we can’t eat it fast enough. I have to admit–I love canning. It was scary at first, but I have my own little system now and that makes things more efficient and comfortable. The fact that I haven’t killed anyone with my jam also boosts my confidence significantly 🙂

But putting up food for the winter months includes freezing and drying foods, too. I still don’t have a deep freeze, but I did manage to put up a LOT of strawberries this spring. Where are they? They have all been eaten–mostly turned into fruit/yogurt smoothies, which we have every morning. It make me realize just how much fruit we plow through each week. ARRGGHH. So, come winter, I will not have strawberries. I am, however, going to try again with peaches, blueberries and blackberries. And I’ll try some vegetables as well. Yesterday while waiting for my marinara sauce to cook, I blanched and froze some summer corn and some green beans. I’m on my way to rebuilding my stock of foods for winter–not that we mind kale, collards and sweet potatoes, but won’t it be nice to have fresh tasting corn as well? As long as we don’t have corn smoothies, I think we’ll be more successful with vegetables!

Here are some foods that freeze well (some of these surprised me):

  • Corn (blanch, strip from the cob and freeze the kernels)
  • Whole tomatoes (Tip: once frozen, the skins just slip off during thawing)
  • Peaches
  • Kale/collards (cook first)
  • Green beans
  • All berries
  • Peppers
  • Chopped herbs (put them in an ice-cube tray and fill the compartments with olive oil!)
  • Onions (chop them and freeze them in bags in 1 c. portions)

 

Day 183–Making Marinara Sauce

Tomatoes

I came home from working an event on July 4th to find two lovely boxes of tomatoes on my doorstep, left by The Produce Box! The two, 10 pound boxes of field tomatoes are part of my next big challenge–making marinara sauce from scratch. If nothing, this make me more appreciative of all the mammas and nonas before me who made sauce with no air conditioning. As I type this, the sauce is simmering away (and will for another few hours) and my house smells AMAZING. In fact, I am starving and it’s only 10:00 in the morning–I’m sure this has much to do with the incredible aroma wafting through the house.

While making tomato sauce does take some work, much of the actual work is done on the stove while you can do other things around the house. The recipe I have called for blanching and peeling the tomatoes. I decided to skip that part and instead used a food mill to process the partially cooked tomatoes. MUCH faster and I didn’t add a lot of unnecessary heat to my kitchen. I’m keeping my sauce pretty simple. I’ve added some diced onion, minced garlic, and basil leaves, but that’s it. Since I don’t know how I’ll be using the sauce, I’m leaving any additional seasoning for when I open the jars to use them.

Here is the recipe I am using. There are so many tomato sauce recipes out there that you can find one to suit your preference fairly easily.

Easy Marinara Sauce

  • 20 lbs. tomatoes
  • 3 large onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice per quart jar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt per quart jar
  • 2 washed basil leaves per quart jar
  1. Wash, trim and quarter the tomatoes, making sure to cut off any bruised or damaged areas.
  2. Add about 1/4 of the tomatoes to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher to extract the juices.
  3. Continue adding the cut tomatoes to the pot in batches and continue mashing with the potato masher until all the tomatoes are in the pot (NOTE: at this point, I needed two stock pots because even my biggest one wouldn’t hold all the tomatoes. Later, as the tomatoes cooked down, I was able to get everything in one pot).
  4. Simmer the tomatoes for about 30 minutes. Let cool a bit and add the tomatoes in small batches to a food mill set with a fine mesh blade over a large bowl. Continue processing the tomatoes through the food mill to remove skins and seeds. You will need to empty the food mill several times (save the skins and seeds for compost!).
  5. Return the tomato juice and puree to the pot(s). Add the onion and garlic and let simmer over medium low heat for about 3 hours (this will depend on how much water your tomatoes contain).
  6. Prepare and sterilize quart sized canning jars (5-6). Add 3 Tbsp. of lemon juice, 2 basil leaves and 1 tsp. of kosher salt to each jar. Ladle the sauce into the hot jars, leaving 1/2 ” of headspace. Release any trapped air. Wipe the rims, place lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let jars sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars from the canner and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals. Store for up to 1 year.

Day 181–Peach Salsa

I feel like I have been canning like a fiend, but there is still so much to do! I’ve mentioned my farmer’s market hoarding tendencies and it’s all I can do not to buy up everything in sight. But I do know that is a recipe for DISASTER! I did manage to can some peach salsa last week and we tried it out with some smoky grilled pork tender

loin. It was magic! We would definitely enjoy it with chips and salsa or on quesadillas. Yum, yum! Here is the recipe in case you want to give it a try. The original is from Sherry Brooks Vinton’s book, Put ‘Em Up, which I think is the best canning recipe book I have. This week, I’ll be canning tomato sauce–new territory for preserving my local food bounty!

Spicy Peach Salsa

  • 3 lbs. peaches, whole
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
  1. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, cumin and salt in a large, nonreactive pot. Peel, pit and dice the peaches, adding them quickly to the brine so they do not brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and jalapeno and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes (this will in part depend on how juicy your peaches are).
  4. Remove from heat and refrigerate or can using the boiling water bath method.
  5. Ladle salsa into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Release the trapped air.
  6. Wipe the rims clean, put lids and bands on the jars and process in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars rest for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the seals and then store for up to 1 year.

Day 180–A Mosquito Challenge

Ochlerotatus notoscriptus, Tasmania, Australia

Watering the garden last night, I was besieged by mosquitoes. Those tiny little devils love me (or at least, they love my blood). I’m not very good about putting bug spray on unless I’m camping and I never did get around to ordering that mesh beekeeping suit. The only products that work on me involve DEET. But who wants a known carcinogen on their body? And would I really wear the beekeeping suit when it’s 106 outside? And while we’re at it, why me??? What makes me such a popular mosquito destination while others get left alone? I’ve heard many theories about this including my estrogen level, how close my blood vessels are to the surface of my skin and–most recently–that I was born in The North.

I recently read about a homeopathic remedy that supposedly works from the inside out (regardless of where you’re from). It involves natures miracle–that’s right–vinegar. The goal of this treatment is to change your skin’s chemical composition to make it more acidic. I’m going to start this tonight and see if in a week I have any difference in my mosquito appeal. And if it doesn’t, well, it certainly can’t hurt. Here is the recipe:

  • 1 c. warm water
  • 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Add the cider vinegar to the cup of warm water and drink. Consume one cup per day. Here’s to research!