Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Easy Tomato Sauce

I love to can.  I love putting away food for my family that, for the most part, is free.  Pretty much all we buy are the seeds for the plants.  There is the time factor but The Doctor loves outside work so, I let him have fun in the garden.

My family also uses a lot of tomato sauce.  From spaghetti, to pizza, to chili and soups, and, and and.... we go through A LOT!  The fist time I made sauce it was full of seeds and runny... I hated it.  So I went on a quest to find and easier way to make sauce.  After reading many blogs and searching Pinterest, I found 2 ways that looked perfect for me.

So, Monday I decided to do something about all the tomatoes that we picked over the past week.

First I put them in my steamer juicer.  I love this gadget.  It has made juicing grapes and all manner of fruit easy.  I filled it to the top and turned the stove on.  In the end I had 1 1/2 gallons of juice.  You can see the the juice had a bit more color to it toward the end.  This I will freeze to use in vegetable soup instead of water.


Then I put the tomatoes from the steamer into a strainer and let them drain a little more.

The last thing I did that day, was to put them in my Kitchen Aid Vegetable Strainer.  I love this as much as I love my steamer juicer.  I just put the tomatoes in  and out comes tomato pulp on one side and seeds and skins on the other.  It is a tad messy, but most of my canning is.

Here you can see that I got 1/2 gallon of tomato meat.  I will cook this down a bit more and put it in jars.

I did mention that there were 2 methods that I wanted to try. The second was to puree your tomatoes first and then put it all in a clear container and set in your fridge overnight.  What you will have in the morning is all the tomato pulp floating on top and juice on the bottom.  You can then skim the pulp off the top and process as normal.  I did this with my jar and had a scant amount of juice on the bottom.  I then warmed up the sauce and canned it.

I want to add here that I love my 1/2 gallon jars.  They are perfect for storing all my dry goods in.

After I cleaned up my kitchen and started dinner, The Dr and I went out to the garden and brought this in.........  Good thing I didn't put everything away!!

Lydia inspecting the tomatoes

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How I make Gumbo

It's been a tradition since The Dr started teaching that I make the first gumbo of "the season" on his birthday.  In LA, school starts later than here, often it started on his birthday.  So, how do I make a Cajun gumbo..well first a lesson in Cajun cooking.  Cajun gumbo is thick and brown and has any variety of meat in it.  It is served with rice with a side of potato salad.  If you are like my mom and I, we take a bit of potato salad and and a spoonful of gumbo all at once.  Cajun gumbo does not have tomatoes in it, that is Creole gumbo.  It may have okra, but I can't stand the stuff, so I leave it out.

So, how do you make Cajun gumbo... Well, first you start with a Roux.....  Well, ok, actually I don't.  First I put a whole chicken in a stock pot, cover it with water and simmer for  2 hours.  I'll spare you a picture of raw chicken in a pot of water.  I think you can visualize it for yourself.

When that is almost done, I make my roux.  Now... I don't really "make" my roux... I can.. I just don't.  Now, before you profess that I am not a real Cajun let me give you a short genealogy of my life.  My mom was a Thibodeaux, her mom a Picard.. we go way back.  In fact, my Thibodeaux ancestors were one of the families that Canada kicked out when they refused to bow to the king of England (yes, there is still a bit of bitterness..LOL). My dad is from Texas but has lived in LA for so long that he sounds Cajun, plus he learned to cook from Cajun he knows what he is doing.
My Grandma Therese Picard Thibodeaux

Back to why I don't make my own roux.  Back in the day my mom made her own roux and after burning it (which is easy to do) she discovered that this nice man by the name of Savoie made roux and sold it in jars.  Voila' no more burned roux.  Well, fast forward to about 30 years and I had 3 kids 3 and under and decided that I wanted to be friends with Mr Savoie (shut up Gene) I bought my roux.

Ok, back to how to make gumbo....

So, once the chicken is cooked, I remove it from the pot.. skim out all the stuff and add the roux to the pot and cook it for an hour or so while the chicken cools enough that I can pick it apart.  This is also when I add onions and bell peppers to the water.  After an hour, I pick the chicken apart and add it to the stock pot.  (save the carcass to make stock later)  Then I let this whole pot cook.  How long?  Until dinner time.  A word of warning.. don't let the gumbo boil...whatever you do, don't let it boil.... trust me.  I let it come to a boil and then lower to a slow boil/fast simmer.  I rarely cover it but I keep checking it and adding water if I think it needs it.  I serve it over a scoop of rice and with a side of potato salad.... yum..

Happy Birthday to my favorite Dr.  I love you oh so very much!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back at it

When I finished up my 10th grade year in high school, my mom asked me if I wanted to be homeschooled for the remainder of my high school years. This was back in 1985 and there weren't many homeschooled kids.  We met with one family who homeschooled and I was hooked.  My mom later revealed to me that she had wanted to homeschool us when we were younger, but only hippies did that and she was a good Catholic girl who sent her kids to Catholic school.  Looking back, her desire to homeschool explains all the workbooks that she had us do in the summer...  Anyway, I loved being homeschooled.  I loved having the freedom during the day to do what subjects that I wanted to do when.  I loved that we took the whole day off and watched the news when the Challenger exploded right after it took off.  I loved that mom and I would watch The Price is Right every day!!!  I loved that she planned my work so that I could take Friday off and help with the hot dog sales that our youth group did to raise money for missions at the school I previously attended.  I loved everything about it.

I knew that when I had kids, that I would homeschool them.  When A was old enough, I purchased K4 materials and dove in head first.. and I loved it! I continued with Z and L.  They did attend a supplemental program for a few years and I missed having them with me, so we stopped.  Fast forward to his 7th grade year.  His dad started teaching at a new Christian school at our church.  The  kids all started going.  The kids enjoyed being with friends and playing sports.

At the end of Aaron's 9th grade year he asked if he could be homeschooled part time and still attend school for math and play basketball.  We talked to the Headmaster and he supported us.  So, for his 10th grade year he came home.  Halfway through, Zane asked the same question.  I then had both at home.  At the end of the last school year, Lydia needed to come home.  She is still struggling with discipline issues and it became to the school and us that she needed more one on one.

So, today I had all 3 home for the first time in 4 years.  This morning went smoothly. The boys will leave so that they can take 2 classes each and then head to football practice and workouts.  I know that this is the perfect combination for us.

I am glad that God has given me this opportunity once again.  I have missed my kids and I am happy to have them home with me.