Thursday, August 27, 2015

Roasted Tomato Sauce with a kick

This year was so hot….  Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but seriously…  this summer was SO hot!  And hot summers mean TOMATOES. 

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The 80* weather started sometime in May and hasn’t stopped since.  We have gotten two rain storm days, which were, of course, on Cyan’s birthday party day and on my friends 25th wedding anniversary party.  But aside from bad timing, we have had an epically long summer.  What does that mean to the homesteaders?   Tomatoes coming out of our ears!  Off my 14 plants I have gotten over 70 lbs of tomatoes and they are still coming.  This gives me a ton of extra work but it also gives me some room to play with my yearly recipes and test out new ideas and flavors.  This one has just become a new favorite in the making.

This sauce is best made with a variety of tomatoes. I plant a variety of heirloom tomatoes such as Amish Paste, Sun Gold, Purple Plum, and Old German specifically for this sauce now.  I love the flavors that the cherry tomatoes bring to the sauce!  And with the jalapeno it has a depth of flavor that is amazing.  So fresh and delicious. Enjoy!

Jalapeno Roasted Tomato Sauce


  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Italian Seasoning

First, cut all tomatoes at least in half. Even the cherries. If you don't do this, they 'pop' later in cooking and give your sauce a watery consistency. Fill a baking pan with the cut tomatoes about a layer and a half deep. Crush a head of garlic into each baking dish. I know it sounds like a lot, but the roasting process takes a lot of the bite out of the garlic and it adds an amazing flavor.  Add a sliced jalapeno to each pan.  Whole thing, seeds and all.  If you are really daring, add two.  Winking smile 

Drizzle with olive oil, 2 Tbs or more of balsamic vinegar*, sea salt, and pepper.

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Mix well and put in a 400* oven for 40 minutes. About a half hour into the roasting you will smell the tomato sauce. When your timer goes off, your sauce should look like this:

I only did one full batch (7 pints) of the jalapeno sauce and three 9X13 pans of tomatoes were the perfect amount.  I added the sauce into a large stock pot when it was finished, turned on the burner (med) and stick blended the whole thing until it was a beautiful consistency.  During this step, add your Italian Seasoning and any salt and pepper you might need to your taste and blend it right in.  Be sure to taste it so you know if it needs more salt and pepper. 

This is what mine looks like when I am done:

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At this point, it is the perfect place to let the sauce cool, and put it into bags for the freezer if you so desire. Make sure it is cooled completely before adding it to the freezer bags. It will separate if you freeze it warm.

You can also waterbath can this recipe for 35 minutes for pints and quarts:

*The vinegar raises the PH enough for waterbath canning.  If you are canning this sauce this step is essential.  Do not skip it!

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Here I sautéed a bunch of mushrooms, onions, fresh tomatoes, and basil then tossed in a bunch of zucchini noodles and added this delicious sauce.  Over the top I put small dollops of full fat ricotta cheese.  It may have been the most incredible dinner I have ever had and 90% of it came out of my garden!  Talk about feeling successful at homesteading.  YUM!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

For the glory of determined people

I am one of those people.  I will find a way to do just about anything and I have no issue with doing some things twice or even three times before I get it right.  But dog-on-it, I will do anything I set my mind to.  So when I want to spend my time writing again now that life has calmed down, I am going to do it.  With my trusty sidekicks beside me.  Who are just as determined as I am.  Watch out world…  I spawned 4 of me.  Winking smile


See you soon, blogland.  I’ll be back.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Man, does this little boy look like his sister…

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Now tell me, couldn’t these be the same kid?  Except that the second picture is a boy and it’s 10 years later.  lol!  But yep.  My little boy looks just like his sister!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Seasonal Focus – successful blog writing through the seasons

I sit here, this morning and I have lots of thoughts of success and passions running through my head.  There are 11 years worth of consistent blog posts on this blog address.  I have been posting here for most of my adult-ish life.  I have posts from when my, now teenage, children were babies! 

{October 2004 – a year after I started this blog}

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{June 2015}

So how do I turn this blog into something successful for my life?  Because it is a wealth of memories and tutorials and little tidbits of things that I want to share.  In my heart of hearts, I am a teacher.  It is who I am.  I teach about everything.  I used to post tutorials about things I had just done once before, because teaching is part of how I learn. 

What I do not want to do is sit at my computer until my eyeballs bleed.  I am not interested in spending hours here, nor do I want to ignore my children  to get my blogging done (which used to be done more than I wanted to admit).  There have been huge breaks in my consistent blogging in the past couple years because I found myself obsessed with getting the memories down on the blog instead of being IN THEM with my children.  So now I take pictures in the moment, and I blog later. And ‘later’ has more recently turned into ‘never’. 

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{Yes.  Those are carrots in my purse.  My kids are hilarious.} 

So how can I be successful and still be present and accounted for in my actual life?  The life off the page?  The one I am quickly learning goes by so very fast with fleeting years that stomp on me when I look at how much of my time I have dedicated to tasks that DON’T MATTER?

I have read, over and over, successful blogs where writers just up and quit one day because they are burnt out and realized that they were not spending time with their children as much as grasping at every good moment and then running to the computer to make sure it was documented on the blog.  I do not want to do that.  So I have been studying long term bloggers to see what they do.  Here are a few things I have learned:

They repost.  They will take a recipe, or craft, or whatever, and they will repost it in an appropriate season so that they have ‘new’ material on the blog but only took 15 minutes to write up.

They roundup.  They will gather 5 or 6 posts that are relevant to a season of blogging and have that post be their newest material.

They post pictures and very little words.  A picture says a thousand words…. but only takes a moment to take a picture and to write a thousand words would take SO MANY MORE MOMENTS.  So they are smart, and take pictures.  They write a paragraph and then post that paragraph with 7 pictures. 

When they have time, they do new posts, new recipes, new tutorials…  but those other posts are what is usually on the first page of their blogs.  I am not sure if that is the best way to go or if it is the best way to save your sanity.  But at some point, the blog has to work for you and your family as much as you are working for the blog.  I don’t have the following I did 4 years ago before the magnitude of this life hit me and I took so many breaks from recording every craft we ever did, and I am not sure I will get that type of following back, now that I am on page 3 of the Google search.  But I am going to try to buff and polish this blog and get her running again.  Because I did enjoy it and I do miss it.  It’s a part of me I am not willing to lose, but ‘collecting the moments’ has to come after ‘living the moments’ in my life and I am getting ready to make that happen.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Super Simple Cherry Pie Filling


Another year, another cherry season!  Cherries are almost done now, so it is time to put up cherry pie filling!  This is the recipe I used last year and it was delicious! 


Super Simple Cherry Pie Filling

  • 5 cups of pitted tart cherries
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbs corn starch

Place pitted cherries in a large pot and add in sugar and lemon juice.  Turn heat on med and allow cherries to get hot and start cooking down and releasing all of that yummy cherry juice.  Stir often.

Mix water and corn starch together in a small bowl and add into the hot cherries.  Bring it to a boil. 

When the mixture starts to get nice and thick, you may can it (according to the Ball Complete Book of Preserving that means “waterbath process for 35 minutes for both pint and quart jars”) or you can place it in a prebaked piecrust and eat the amazing pie you have ever eaten or you can do what we did and eat with a spoon!

(Review after 1 year – The cherry pie filling did separate after about 9 months of being in the pantry.  But just last week I used our very last jar for a cherry pie and it worked beautifully and firmed up as it got cold so I have no issue with using this recipe every year forever!)

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This year, I got delicious Bing cherries along with pie cherries.  There were so many that I added them into pie filling (1/2 and 1/2 ratio).  At first it would NOT firm up at all.  So I added some vanilla extract (2-3 Tbs per batch of cherries) and boiled it down, thinking that the fruit would reduce and make a jam-like preserve.  It made the most delicious cherry compote I have ever tasted!  It would make incredible scone filling or a delicious cherry tart.  I now have 3 quarts of vanilla cherry compote and 8 quarts of pie filling.

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So far it’s been a very sweet summer!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nature Notebook for Summer Time

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Here are a few samples from my Nature Notebook from our summer trips.  This summer has been full of travel so far.  Lots of car rides, sleeping in strange beds, hikes on the beach, hikes in the woods, a little bit of camping, a few food factory tours, lots of amazing animals to watch, and lots of wonderful family time.

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We came home to a flourishing garden each time.  This very hot and dry weather has been pushing the timeline of the garden up by at least 3 weeks.  My peas and strawberries are done, my beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes are starting.  And it isn’t even the 4th of July.  I have been trying to capture the bounty in my pantry and in my notebook:

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I am excited that my skills are improving from my first nature notebook.  I do use better supplies now because I have learned that they are really helpful… but most of all, I just didn’t stop drawing when I felt like I wasn’t getting it right.  Even if I have to cut out and paste (as I did on this last picture with my cauliflower because cauliflower is HARD to draw!).  I have many people talk about how I am ‘talented’ and I always appriciate the compliment, but in truth, I started no more talented than anyone else.  I just didn’t allow my lack of natural talent to stop me. I kept drawing.  I am proud of my drawing improvements as I would be of toned arm muscles after working out for a year.  I worked for them! 

I really hope that this will inspire other, equally talent-lacking folks, to tackle the art of drawing nature.  Nature is too beautiful not to study and capture!

Friday, June 26, 2015

{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It’s going to get worse, before it gets better…

This is the last thing anyone wants to hear.  Especially from a medical professional who is supposed to help you get out of pain. 

8 years ago, I brought a beautiful little boy into the world.  My birth was incredible and easy.  It was the first birth I had where I didn’t have MAJOR after effects and blood loss.  Logan was happy, healthy and nearly 10 pounds!  I was thrilled.  But during the birth, I pulled something in my back… and it healed badly, creating a weak spot in my back.  In the last year that spot has turned into a mild annoyance to a regular migraine cause, taking me out of my regular day at least once a month and usually more like once a week. 

When I saw my naturopathic doctor about it, she sent me to a back specialist.  A wonderful, but sometimes cocky, man who specializes in non-forceful corrective chiropractic.  A mix of massage, heat, and slow manipulating joints back where they are supposed to be.  But the first thing he said after our initial exam was ‘it’s going to get worse, before it gets better…” 

That was 9 weeks ago.  For the past 9 weeks I have seen him and two different massage therapists regularly and my life is forever changed.  I have adjusted many things about my life to help my back; the way I wear my bras, the pillow I sleep on, the direction I allow myself to look at the computer…  but most of all, my body is healing.  It was a slow start, and it stopped me from enjoying life for a few weeks.  I have to admit to feeling like I was getting nowhere around week 3 of physical therapy, chiropractic, and massage.  That is the most frustrating thing!  But I had a week of ‘really awful’ followed by a week of ‘incredible progress’ and things have been going smoothly and steadily better and better since then. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The biggest thing that happened in our house this year

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There is something that happens when your oldest graduates.  A definite sense or relief along with some bittersweet that can overwhelm you with ‘what-ifs’ easily and without warning. 

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A lot of feelings, but mostly, just proud relief.  He’s done with school.  Hopefully the rest of his life will be easier than school was for him.  Already, in the last few days, he has changed.  His entire being was profoundly stressed by schooling.  So many things didn’t seem to have a defined purpose when following the standards for modern education.  It held no meaning that he may use it later, or that he should do it because ‘everyone has to’.  Graduating has taken a huge load of stress off of his shoulders.

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He will be entering the Army in August, just weeks after his 19th birthday.  Then the next part of his life will start and we will have one out of the nest.  What an interesting thing to contemplate…

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Apple Culling

Gardening is *not* a spectator sport, part 1.

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Culling Apples. As this season goes on and all things become plump and abundant, I have hard choices to make. Tomatoes to prune, carrots to thin, and apples to cull. On apple trees, the flowers grow in clusters of 6-10. On happy years, buzzy little pollinators come in and every one of those flowers turn into a sweet, green, baby apple. And then I come out with my mini-scissors, like some demigod of destruction, and cut then all down. Clipping, one by one. My trees (4 in all) are given the chance to keep the best apples and turn them into something glorious instead of clusters of apples that have disease, rust, or housing for insects like Apple Maggot. I spent the evening with my clippers, cutting down infant apples, one by one. My dogs hang out below the tree, waiting to gobbled them up. When they had their fill, they take them into the yard, so the kids could throw them, like undersized tennis balls. Although this isn't a chore I love, it is necessary to do.

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This type of thing is why I spend the time taking out all but one apple per cluster. I also prune my trees down to 6 ft each winter (when they are completely dormant) so that I can reach all the branches. Pruning has made my trees produce far more than I would have thought. It's like they enjoy the process of being taken care of like a group of high-maintenance women.  I've been doing this for 6 years now, and the one apple tree that was on the property before (pictured - I planted the others) was clearly overgrown and dying when we got here. Last year I got 2 full bushels of apples from it!

Summer pruning is the next apple tree job, and that’s for another post!