Monday, June 30, 2014

Simple Small Batch Homemade Tomato Sauce for the Freezer

Growing up in the farm belt of rural Ohio, I came to believe that canning and freezing had to be done in mass quantities. It was referred to as "putting food by" for winter and it was done out of tradition, family, and love. I remember waiting with delight for the jars that had just come out of the boiling water bath and were now lined up on the counter to cool to pop as their lids sealed due to the pressure change. I remember being horrified of the pressure cooker, afraid it was going to explode like a bomb and kill us all. 

As an adult, freezing is by far my favorite method of "putting food by". Especially here in south Texas where turning on your stove in the hot summer and standing over a steaming water bath is about as pleasant as finding a scorpion in your shoe. Since my garden is small, as is my family, preserving the bounty in small batches just makes more sense for us. I don't need 20 quarts of tomato sauce for me and the boys and I don't have enough tomatoes ripe enough at one time to make a lot anyway, nor the storage space. So I was delighted when I was able to make two quarts out of the first batch of ripe tomatoes.

I did some searching on the internet and combined a couple recipes to come up with what I was looking for, easy, full of flavor, and didn't require large quantities of tomatoes. Oh, and I could simply store the sauce in my freezer. If you are looking for easy and small, this one's for you.

Simple Freezer Tomato Sauce

  • 3 quarts plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, finely chopped
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • small handful chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar
Stew chopped tomatoes with garlic over medium low heat in covered pan until desired consistency. Add fresh basil, salt, pepper, and sugar. Remove from heat and allow to cool. For a smoother sauce, run through a food processor on puree setting. Fill jars, leaving about a half inch at the top. Label and freeze.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chai Tea Ice Cream Recipe

For our second batch of homemade ice cream this summer my oldest son picked this delicious, exotic treat. If you love chai tea, you are going to love it as ice cream. It is sweet, spicy, and oh, so creamy. It is a rich, heavy ice cream so a couple scoops is quite satisfying. Serve it up with some ginger snaps or top with graham cracker crumbs for a really special treat.

Chai Tea Ice Cream

  • 1 C milk
  • 2 C whipping cream
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 6 tea bags (Darjeeling or English Breakfast)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk or 3/4 C sugar

Mix milk and cream in large pan. Add spices and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add tea bags, and cover pan to steep for 45 minutes to an hour. 

After mixture is finished steeping, remove tea bags and strain through cheesecloth or a wire strainer. Add egg yolks to empty pan. Slowly stir in milk mixture, especially if still warm, to avoid cooking egg yolks. Bring to low boil over medium heat while stirring. Add desired sweetener and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool several hours or overnight.

Once mixture is cool, freeze according to your ice cream maker's specifications. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Basic Repair and Maintenance Skills Every Woman Should Know

As a single mom I've had to acquire a new skill set to keep things running around here. It ain't always easy, that is for sure. If you are a single parent, you know you have a lot on your plate. You don't have a partner to help out, and if you are on a tight budget like me, can't always hire a plumber, mechanic, or handyman.

Don't let it intimidate you. Most of the things I've had to learn how to do myself are actually quite simple. You can do it. And you will feel great having done so. Believe it or not, it can be very empowering fixing a leaking toilet for the first time. Too often we women rely on other people, our father's, our spouses, people we hire to do these things for us when we are quite capable of handling it ourselves. Then, when we find ourselves unexpectedly living alone, we are overwhelmed by what we don't know how to take care of. Of course, when you have a partner helping you out with the day to day tasks of running a home, it is our natural tendency to split the things that need done into his and hers, and usually that means he does the repairs or calls someone to make them. But now that you are on your own, as you well know, everything falls upon you to get taken care of. 

But let me say it can do it. And here is a handy list of tutorials to guide you through some of the repairs and maintenance you may need to take care of:

Toilet Repairs

So far I have had to replace a toilet seat, a broken chain, and I will be changing the flush valve seal tomorrow. Oh, and then there is the basic unclogging a toilet. In fact, toilet repairs seem to be the most common I've had. How Stuff Works has a great tutorial on basic toilet repairs that is easy to follow:

How to Patch a Hole in the Wall

Been there, done that. Door stops fall out and someone hits the wall with the door knob. Moving awkward furniture, you bump into a wall and leave a big hole. You pull a nail and a chunk of drywall comes with it. Patching a hole in the wall is another one of those common skills it is important to know, especially if, like me, you have kids in the house. The blog, View Along The Way, has a great tutorial to show you how to patch that hole like a pro: Repairing Drywall Like a BOSS. There is also a cute little bonus video on how to remove a popcorn ceiling if you ever need to.

How to Jump Start Your Car

One evening while getting out of the car, my little man decided to see what the switch did that turned on the overhead lights in the car. Well, this tired momma just wanted to get into the house and make dinner so I failed to notice that the light was on. Yeah, your guessed it. Dead battery the next morning. It's going to happen and you can't depend on the car you flag down to know how to put the jumper cables on properly. I found this visual over at Fantastic Home. Print it out and keep it in your car. You will need it one day.

Basic Car Maintenance

I drive an older car with lots of, uhm, character. We have nicknamed the car the Rattletrap Car, after a children's story book by that name. And she does. She rattles, she creeks, the power steering hums. I rely on this car to get me to work, take the little one to appointments or soccer practice, run errands. I can not afford to be without it, nor can I afford to repair major issues or replace it at this time. So basic car maintenance is a must. It should be for any car in order to extend the life of the car and keep it running smoothly. The folks over at Lifehacker have a great article on taking care of your car: The Preventive Maintenance You Need to Do On Your Car (And When)

There will be other things that come up. Where is that dang furnace filter? Ugh, the kitchen faucet is leaking everywhere! Why is the lawn mower puttering? One good resource for do it yourself reapir and maintenance help is the website The Family Handyman. They have an excellent list of tutorials and videos. Meanwhile, if I come across any other great links I'll update them here.