Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kitchen Tip

Today I canned 2 quarts of pizza sauce, and made about 1/8 pint of tomato paste.

I feel great about actually writing 3 posts on this blog in 2 days, but sad because I don't know if my posts are turning out very informative. I love to read bloggers who have instructions, recipes, photos, and info packed into every post...and here I am, having to confess yet again that I don't have a recipe to share. Or any photos. Just comments.

The recipe (shhh!) was my own. And it actually turned out okay. I like it better than any homemade sauce I've had before, yet not as much as store-bought sauce. Traitor? Yes, I know, but an honest traitor.

I've been having fun with recipe creations lately. My poor brothers. This morning I was mixing up another try on my "Banana Oat Bars," (long story). Curtis walked through the kitchen, saw what I was making, and said in his best morning voice "I'm really getting tired of oats."

Poor guy.

I've been making "Amber's Cookie Breakfast" (oatmeal cookies, that is), "Amber's Granola" (featuring oats), "Amber's Regular Soaked Oatmeal," and now "Amber's Banana Oat Bar" for breakfast just about once a week for quite some time now. It's like a challenge to see how many different ways I can serve the same food for the same meal.

But I go through phases. My first craze was pancakes, years ago. I burnt them, flipped them under the stove, added too much baking soda, forgot the soda, and flipped many a cake across the kitchen before I finally made a decent batch.

Then I wanted to learn bread-making. That's a post in itself.

Then I was into biscuits. Those piles of burnt biscuits, too-salty biscuits, flat biscuits (lots of those!), and unsavory biscuits finally led to the creation of "Amber's Biscuits" - my first real success at creating my own recipe.

After that, I was hooked. It takes only an idea now, to get me hankering to be puttering around in the kitchen. I'm so blessed to have a mother who lets me do that! I love to have half the refrigerator and all the cupboard contents out on the kitchen table, along with a huge mixing bowl, and all our measuring spoons and cups.

One of my driving goals in creating my own recipes is to either eliminate or reduce an ingredient such as sugar, wheat, or milk in certain dishes, or to use a food in a totally new way - like making pie crust out of rice crispies. I usually create one or more flops before coming up with something enjoyable. Most of the flops were eaten, but the looks on my family's faces encouraged me to do much better the next time if I wanted them to continue eating!

I post a lot about my flops on here. I even have a category devoted to those tales. My recipes I share less freely, being afraid that perhaps no one will like them. But - may I share a secret? - I have recently been thinking about a bigger project. I've been considering writing a cookbook. Wouldn't that be interesting? It would take awhile. But you never know....

But enough. I do have one bit of info for you today; one "tip" for use in the kitchen.

Blueberry season has finally hit us! Dad, Heather, and I went blueberry picking this Saturday, and picked three gallon-buckets full of those delightful blue balls of sweetness. Upon arriving home, I volunteered to take care of "putting them up."

We freeze our blueberries. It seems to be the easiest way to preserve them. From the freezer, they're easy to dump in smoothies, cereal, baked goods....and OH so good plain as a cold treat! In past years we've washed the berries carefully, laid them out on cookie sheets lined with wax paper, and put them in the freezer. Once they were frozen, we poured the berries into gallon-size freezer bags and stored them that way. Doing this kept the berries from sticking together. If we just washed them and dumped them into the baggies, they'd be so wet that, when frozen, we'd have one solid clump of berries in each bag - a big mess.

But this process takes awhile. It also can become a bad thing if someone (ahem - no names mentioned) forgets about the berries sitting in the freezer on cookie sheets until the next day, and the berries therefore get freezer burn.

BUT, this year I had one of those hankerings to experiment in the kitchen! I washed the berries in the kitchen sink, putting a little peroxide in the water to remove the spray on the berries. (No, sadly these berries were not organic.) Then I scooped them into a strainer, and from there into our salad spinner.

Yes - our salad spinner! It worked like a charm. I was careful not to overload it, and handled the berries carefully so they would not "squoosh." From the spinner, I dumped them onto an old kitchen towel, and patted them dry the rest of the way (that didn't take long). Then I scooped up the corners of the towel, and poured the now-dry berries into gallon freezer bags. It took about 3 spinner-fulls to fill a bag, and I filled 3 bags, with a little left over for fresh eating. I toted the bags down to our storage freezer, placed them on the shelves, shut the door, and...walla! Finished!

So simple. Fun, too.

Oh yes - I have one more tip for the day.

When I made my pizza sauce today, (inventing the recipe as I went) I had some left-over tomato liquid. I decided to see if I could boil it down and make tomato paste. And I did! It took about 4 hours, but it boiled down lovely.

Have you ever eaten plain tomato paste, just to see what it tastes like?

Here's my tip:


Never, ever, ever.


Whoooo! I can still taste it.


Anna said...

I would LOVE you have your cookbook if you wrote one. I am not very creative in that area. And you should post more recipes. Like your pizza sauce recipe! If nothing else I would like to see how it differs from tomato sauce. We eat a lot of different things and would probably like most of them! And we do the same thing with our berries! We do strawberries too. Am I remembering right that ya'll have strawberries? What kind? We are planning on planting some soon but we don't know much about them.
OH, and I have tried tomato paste, and I actually like it. =D Not like I would go around eating it by the spoonful, and that was the canned stuff, so maybe your's was different.
Your website looks great! I will definitely keep that in mind if I need to buy clothes. That is a great idea!!

Amber said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Anna!
Yes, we have strawberries. I can't remember the name for sure right now, but it has the word "jewel" in it. They are the sweetest, best-est strawberries I've ever had ...and I've had a lot! :):) ...But I haven't heard of planting strawberries in the summer before. We planted ours in really early spring. Not that it means much that I haven't heard of something...I'm no expert on strawberries. :) Hope yours turn out well!

Tania said...

You are so funny about the tomato paste! Thanks for your tips!

Anna said...

Well, We're getting the beds ready now, but we're planning to do them late fall, I think.

Leah said...

I've made pizza sauce and tomato paste, though I froze it instead of canning. It took at least 12 hours to boil down the sauce, maybe I should try it it smaller batches next time... :)

It would be great to have a recipe book from you, how fun!

We usually pick wild blueberries, but this year there were none, too dry up here I guess. We miss them! Thank you for the tip, I'll keep it in mind for next year.

Anonymous said...

that is so funny about the tomato paste. I made and canned 8 pints of pizza sauce two days ago. I also had so many tomatoes this year I canned 35 pints of salsa (3 different heats) Made 7 quarts of spaghetti sauce, and 6 quarts of stewed tomatoes. WOW what a tomato summer, plus gave a lot to a homeless shelter and to my church.And sold a lot too. All in the last 2 weeks. What a blessing this crop of tomatoes have been, and they are still many to be harvested. Thanks for this website and thanks for letting me share.

ann said...

May God bless this website! And keep it that way. I just love gardening websites, where we can talk about God, gardening and canning. God talks about seed and soil a lot. Everything that comes out of our mouths is sewing seed. Let it be good seed that comes forth, not bad seed. Let lift each other up. I have had such an amazing crop of tomatoes this year, I have canned an canned and canned, given and sold so many tomatoes. God has blessed me this year with my garden, Thanks, Ann

The Road in Patience said...

I did not read that post, I was to focused on how big "Big Zac" is! WOW lol

Thanks for sharing =D