Homemade Tomato Sauce: Fresh From the Garden

This past weekend we delighted in the most beautiful Fall weather. Sunshine. Warmth. Light breeze. It was perfect for getting outside. Thank goodness. The weather was fixin’ to take a turn for the worst come Monday. Snow. Cold. Yuck! Taking advantage of a beautiful weekend pre-snow and cold I got right to work harvesting veggies, covering plants I hoped to weather the storm, and setting up heaters inside the greenhouse. BUT – not before I got some homemade tomato sauce rendering on the stove!!

I intentionally planted Roma tomatoes in garden 2017 for the purpose of making tomato sauce. Roma’s have fewer seeds and are the best option for sauces (though, I’ve most definitely used other tomato varieties for sauces in the past and they work too!). I thought three plants would do it but have learned this season that it takes a lot, a LOT, A LOT of tomatoes for tomato sauce. Next year I’ll plan accordingly.

Anyway, tomato sauce is wonderful to have on hand as a base for homemade pasta sauce, soups, or for the whole host of casserole recipes calling for this ingredient. Always a lover of having these types of things on hand, and homemade when all possible; one goal for this season was to master canning tomato sauce!

Success!

Supplies Needed (with links to purchase items missing from your on-hand equipment/supplies)


canning jars – I used pint  size, but, of course, quart size are good too
jar rings and lids– I re-use my jars and rings but the flats, for sure, have to be replaced each time (regular lids, wide-mouth lids)
pots -n- pans – one stock pot and sauce pan(s)
-knife and cutting board
-water

hot bath 
jar lifter tongs 
food mill
measuring spoons
tomatoes (LOTS of tomatoes)
salt
bottled lemon juice

Homemade Tomato Sauce: Instructions

Homemade tomato sauce starts out with the very same instructions as making tomato juice. I blogged all about that several years ago – Tomato Juice.

  1. follow the steps to make tomato juice (link above)
  2. once the juice is made, set the pan on med-low/low heat and allow the juice to simmer. Stir occasionally.
    Note: this step takes HOURS. A low and slow simmer will cause the juice to render down, thickening as it goes
  3. Once sauce has reached your desired consistency, pour in to hot, sterilized jars
  4. Add lemon juice and salt (Pint size: 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt. Quart size: 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp salt)
  5. Warm lids and screw down tightly
  6. Load jars into hot bath and process for 20 min (check processing time for your altitude and adjusting also for the size of the jars you selected)
  7. Remove from hot bath, allow to cool, label and move to storage

Note: if you prefer not to can your tomato sauce, freezing is certainly an option. Add the salt. Skip the lemon juice. Divvy among freezer safe containers and pop in the freezer.

Give it a go and let me know how it turns out!

 

 

Photo Credits:
Photo by Davies Designs on Unsplash
Photo by Chad Stembridge on Unsplash

Affiliate Disclaimer:  The product links on this page are amazon affiliate links. I receive a small compensation for products you may purchase via an affiliate link on my blog. THANK YOU for supporting my blogging journey in this way!  The opinions on the products are my own. I NEVER recommend/link to products that I am dissatisfied with, or that aren’t on my very own wish list.

Frugal Friday: Frozen Mashed Potatoes

It’s been quite a while since I posted a ‘frugal Friday’ tip. In fact, the last one, shredded chicken, was nearly a year ago! Frugal is pretty well a way of life for us, but not everything lends itself to a blog post. Over the past weekend, however, I worked on a project in the kitchen that I couldn’t resist sharing with you. Frozen mashed potatoes!

Fall is the best time of year to score potatoes on the cheap. It will happen again around the holidays, too. Keep your eyes open for these deals and once you score ’em, put all the savings to the best use!

This happened for me last weekend. The grocery store just down the street had 10 pound bags of russet potatoes on sale for .99. That’s right! A penny less than one dollar for TEN POUNDS! I mean, seriously, who can pass that up?? The only person I can think of is the person who ponders what they will ever do with 10 pounds of potatoes before the potatoes go bad. I feel you. Ten pounds is a lot…but there are ways to make those super cheap potatoes work for you.

So, let’s talk about one of my <many> favorite ways to make the most of a killer deal like this: frozen mashed potatoes!

I was skeptical about how freezing mashed potatoes would ultimately work out. I’m not even all that thrilled with day old mashed potatoes out of the fridge (though, with the right amount of gravy, compliments of my grandmother, I definitely make it work). Figuring I didn’t have a lot to lose (potatoes scored on the cheap) I decided to take a run at it. Boy am I glad I did!

Now that I know it’s worth the effort, I’ve refined the process putting some of my favorite kitchen equipment (Crockpots and KitchenAid Stand Mixer) to use!

Frozen Mashed Potatoes: Equipment & Ingredients Needed

  1. Crockpot (I actually used two this past weekend)
  2. KitchenAid Stand Mixer
  3. Potatoes
  4. Water
  5. Butter
  6. Milk
  7. Storage Containers – plastic containers or zip-top bags

Note: if you don’t have a crockpot (or two) good ol’ large pots of water on the stove will do just fine. And if you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer or potato masher works, too! I used these things because I have them on hand and it made the process a breeze!

Frozen Mashed Potatoes: Instructions

  1. Peel, rinse and cut potatoes into 1″ pieces (larger or smaller is fine, just be sure they’re all roughly the same size)
  2. Add potatoes to crockpot and fill with water
  3. Turn on crockpot to low and cook for about 4-5 hours
  4. When potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, drain water
  5. In batches, add potatoes, butter and milk to the mixer and let the mashing begin (mash, adding milk a little at a time, until desired consistency – some folks like lumps, others like ’em smooth  – the choice is totally yours)
  6. Once mashed, transfer to freezer safe containers, label and tuck away in the freezer for another time
  7. Repeat process until all potatoes are mashed

Re-Heating Frozen Mashed Potatoes

This is the most important piece. The piece I was skeptical about regarding this whole frozen mashed potatoes idea. Here’s how to bring those previously frozen mashed potatoes back to life:

  1. Thaw a batch of frozen mashed potatoes, then add to a sauce pan on the stove, over medium heat.
  2. Add any/all of the following (but be sure to add something – this re-introduces the creaminess factor to the taters):
    cream cheese
    sour cream
    additional milk or cream
    salt and pepper

 

I cannot tell you how many nights having frozen mashed potatoes on hand has saved my bacon when it came time to put dinner on the table. Since most of the work (and mess) has already been done, these go from stove to plate in little time. Plus, mashed potatoes are a delicious compliment to grilled or baked meats. Don’t even get me started on topping them with a batch of homemade creamy chicken soup! Yum!!

Wanna know more about the equipment I used? Maybe you’re curious as to the reason I own two crockpots?

Okay, so, regarding the crockpots. I own this Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry, which is super handy when you cook something that will need to be transported (think: potluck gatherings). The lid has a seal and also clamps down which reduces risk of a mess all over the back seat of your car. It’s also a beautiful shade of red. You wouldn’t even believe the compliments I’ve gotten on my “beautiful crockpot”.

I also own this Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable unit. I added this to our wedding gift registry because I wanted one that would switch over automatically to warm when the cooking cycle was done. This is a wonderful feature for those times when you load up the crockpot and expect to come home (8+ hrs later) to a nice warm meal…and the house smelling so delicious you almost can’t handle it…but you also don’t want the food to be over-done and dried out!

Having two crockpots on hand is a little ridiculous, and now you can get one that is both a cook & carry as well as programmable. Honestly, I don’t put both to use at the same time very often. But the times I’ve needed to, having both has made life just a touch easier.

Finally, the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Also a gift, from my wedding shower. Admittedly, they are a spendy item. I also wasn’t sure how much use I would really get out of it, so receiving as a gift allowed me this indulgence. The truth is, I use it. A LOT!

All in all, I think I probably spent just over an hour (including clean-up) on this project. The final result? Five containers of mashed potatoes for the freezer plus a side dish for the baked chicken I prepared for dinner that night.

Now, THAT’S how you stretch a dollar!

 

Potatoes Photo Credit: Photo by Couleur on Pixabay
Sacks of Potatoes Photo Credit: Photo by ideadad on Unsplash

Affiliate Disclaimer:  The product links on this page are amazon affiliate links. I receive a small compensation for products you may purchase via an affiliate link on my blog. THANK YOU for supporting my blogging journey in this way!  BUT, the opinions on the products are my own. I NEVER recommend/link to products that I am dissatisfied with or that aren’t on my very own wish list.

October 4th AKA National Taco Day

I’ve come to learn that there is a lot going on as part of “National Day of _____”. It’s actually quite comical to read through the lists of stuff “celebrated” each day or month of the year. Some of it I can’t help but wonder who was in charge of making it up. I’d also like to know what the process is to get something added to the list. Regardless of how it all comes to be, tomorrow is National Taco Day. Without question, this is something I can get on board with!

Mexican food is my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I love food in general BUT not all food love is created equal. There’s a unique gravitation toward Mexican food whenever I get a chance (my husband doesn’t even ask what I want when we venture for a meal out – it goes without saying – drive me to one of the three locally owned Mexican food places in town that are my favorite and my heart stomach will be content).

So, in honor of National Taco Day I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite make at home taco recipes. As per usual, these are simple and delicious. And, in case you needed any further convincing, the meat can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge OR freezer!

National Taco Day: Chicken Tacos Ingredients

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast (1.5 lbs)
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup salsa (whatever is your favorite)
  • 1 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp ranch dressing mix
  • Corn tortillas
  • Toppings of your choice: shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, tomato

National Taco Day: Chicken Tacos Instructions

  1. Put first six ingredients in crock-pot
  2. Set to low and walk away…for about 4-5 hrs
  3. When chicken is tender, and easily shred-able, shred chicken and return to crock pot
  4. Reduce heat to warm
  5. Prepare toppings
  6. Warm tortillas
  7. Assemble & enjoy

A couple suggestions

Double or triple the ingredients for the chicken taco filling and freeze leftovers. If you’re going to make a mess of the crock-pot you may as well get another meal or two in the freezer for another time.

I’ve found that corn tortillas tend to split and fall apart when they aren’t warm (plus they don’t taste as good when they’re cool). This can make problems for assembling several tacos at once. Inevitably a taco or two are going to fall apart before you can get to them. We assemble our tacos at the table and use a tortilla warmer/keeper to side-step the corn tortillas falling apart scenario.

The tortilla warmer/keeper I own is inexpensive, simple and non-breakable. Microwave (but not oven) and dishwasher safe. It definitely serves it’s purpose and we get a lot of use out of it (hint: you can keep waffles, pancakes and other goodies warm as well…it’s multi-functional). Norpro Tortilla Keeper.

There are some other options that would make for a beautiful table presentation – and they’re oven safe as well:
Terra Cotta Tortilla Warmer by Fox Run
Ceramic Tortilla Warmer by RSVP

I can’t decide which I love most…the terra cotta or red ceramic!

How will you be celebrating National Taco Day?

(Psst – tomorrow is also National Vodka Day…maybe that’s more up your alley? Tell us how you’re celebrating!)

 

 

Taco Photo Credit: dolvita108 on Pixabay
Salsa Photo Credit: remcoosculiflowers on Pixabay

Affiliate Disclaimer:  The links on this page are affiliate links. I receive a small compensation for products you may purchase via an affiliate link on my blog. THANK YOU for supporting my blogging journey in this way!  BUT, the opinions on the products are my own. I NEVER recommend/link to products that I am dissatisfied with or that aren’t on my very own wish list.