Easy Tomato Sauce and Salsa Recipes

A couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the fact that my tomatoes weren’t ripening.  Guess I should be careful what I wish for because now I have more beautiful Romas, cherry tomatoes and Best Boys than I know what to do with!  A good problem to have.  We have made two huge batches of salsa and as much as I love it, I know that if I make a third batch it will get old and will probably be wasted before we eat it.  Even making another round of the hot stuff won’t use up all the tomatoes we’re getting on a daily basis.  So today I went online in search of a frozen tomato sauce recipe.  I went to a great canning class last fall and came home with some recipes, but I don’t want to do the glass jar canning routine.  First of all, I don’t have the jars and lids and don’t want to spend the money.  And to be truthful, it really sounds like an awful lot of hard, hot work.  So, this is what I found today online that I think I’m going to try.  It’s  from Kalyn’s Kitchen on Blogspot. 

The most inspiring thing about my recipe is the flash of brilliance I had when I realized that you don’t have to peel the tomatoes. You can put them in a food processor and puree everything, and then when you cook them the peeling disintegrates into the sauce for brighter tomato color and more flavor. This method will produce a rather rustic tomato sauce which still has the seeds. You can always use a food mill to remove seeds when you defrost the sauce if you’re making something where you want a more pure type of sauce.

It’s important to use tomatoes that are well-ripened and it’s best to pick them the day you make the sauce if that’s an option. I’d estimate that it takes about 6-8 large tomatoes to make a cup of sauce, but make as much as you can because this tastes wonderful in the winter when you’re dying for the flavor of fresh tomatoes.

Put tomatoes in the sink and rinse well with cold water. Cut out stem area and discard. Cut each tomato into pieces about 1 inch square. (Don’t make the pieces too large or the tomatoes won’t puree easily.)

Using the food processor with the steel blade, puree diced tomatoes in batches and add to large heavy stock pot. The puree should be nearly all liquidized when you add it to the pot.

Turn the heat as low as you can get it and cook the mixture until it is reduced by at least one half and as thick as you want it. I usually cook my sauce at least 6-8 hours to condense it down to the thickness I want. Your house will smell delightfully tomatoey while you cook this. I like to use a rubber scraper to scrape off the carmelized tomato that sticks to the side of the pot as the level decreases and do that about once every half hour.

When sauce is condensed and thick, put into individual plastic containers and let cool on the counter for an hour or so. When sauce is cooled, snap on plastic lids and freeze. This will last for at least a year in the freezer.

When you’re using the sauce, if you want a more pure tomato sauce that doesn’t have any seeds you can put it through the food mill after it’s thawed. Freezing the sauce this way with no added seasonings at all creates endless possibilities for using it. Add garlic, oregano, basil, or any other seasonings you want when you use the sauce to create soups, stews, pasta sauces, or other dishes this winter.

I think I’m going to add onions and some garlic while cooking the tomatoes to eliminate that step later on.  This should make a great soup base and should be good in chili, too.  Ooh, maybe I should add those green chilis I have in the freezer that I grew last year.  Sounds like maybe I need to make two batches of the sauce.  One plain and one hot. 

My okra is coming along.  The first planting is yielding enough for a meal about every 3 pickings.  My second and third plantings are getting tall but aren’t producing yet.  They may not have enough time to actually produce if the weather gets cool early this year. 

I finally found the baby spinach seeds I was looking for (Noble Giant) and I need to get out and get them planted when all this rain stops.  Hopefully I learned a lesson from over-planting lettuce and Swiss chard.  A little goes a long way in a family trying to switch from canned to fresh veggies.  

Oh, I almost forgot.  I was going to share my Off the Top of My Head Salsa recipe.  I just throw whatever I have in the way of peppers, hot and mild, in the food processor; red and green bell peppers, banana peppers, pickled jalapenos are good, canned chiles; then throw in some fresh cilantro – not too much or it tastes a little grassy; green onions; garlic.  Process all that until it is just slightly chunky but not enough to liquify it.  Set that mixture aside.  Wash and chop your tomatoes into chunks and process those.  I don’t peel or deseed.  Then in a large bowl mix your pepper mix and tomatoes and if it is too hot add a few more processed tomatoes.  Add just a teaspoon or two of lemon juice.  I don’t add any oils or salt.  Why add fat?  And the chips we eat it with usually have enough salt.   The recipe changes  from time to time just depending on what I have in the way of peppers.  I was given two habeneros but haven’t had the guts to use them yet.  I barely touched my tongue to one and got a very hot surprise.   This salsa is better the next day – if there is any left by the next day.

So, give these recipes a try and let me know what you think. 

Keep it simple.

  

A Week of Eating Local

Here is a great article by my friend and manager of our food co-op pickup site, Chelsey Simpson.  She is the managing editor of Oklahoma Living magazine and does a great job of including local food items in every issue with recipes by local chef and founder of OKC Slow Foods, Kamala Gamble.  So read and enjoy!

http://freshgreens.typepad.com/fresh_greens/2009/07/show-and-tell.html

Have a great day everyone and remember to keep it simple.

Getting Old Sucks

I just found out my cholesterol is high.  I’m about (bleep) pounds overweight and I haven’t been exercising.  Guess its time to finally break down and start taking care of myself.  No more late night trips to Braums.  No more okra deep fried in oil.  No more fried chicken.  Its not like we eat a lot of fried chicken.  But this time of year we do LOVE our fried okra.  I occasionally indulge in breakfast from McDonalds – no more.  Too high in calories and fat.  Fast food in general is out.  I went to Fast Food Facts http://www.foodfacts.info/ and was appalled at how many calories are in a sausage McMuffin with egg.  And the fat content – wow.  Even my “healthy” Arby’s Market Fresh Chicken Salad sandwich is packed with bad stuff.  Sigh….

So, on with the new plan.  Exercise of some kind EVERY DAY.  And counting calories until I get a handle on what is low cal and what is not.  I know myself well enough to know that I can count food things and stay on a strict regimen only so long.  At some point, the looking things up in books and keeping charts gets old and I start sliding.  I hope increasing my exercise level from 2 days a week – sometimes – to 5 to 6 days a week will make a big difference.  My doc says 40 minutes 7 days a week to lose weight.  Totally unrealistic right now.  I will have to work my way up to the 40 minutes and 7 days a week is only do-able sometimes.  

So, I have 3 months to lower my cholesterol or the doc is going to suggest meds.  I don’t want to start taking meds for the sort of thing that can be controlled other ways.  I’m not willing to give up my liver at this point.   My future quality of life depends on taking care of myself now.  I don’t want to end up like my father who is pretty much chair bound because of his diabetes. 

Life just sucks sometimes.  But let’s look at it this way.  When I got the call yesterday, it could have been so much worse than just high cholesterol.  We just lost a co-worker to cancer.  I think I’ll count my blessings this time around and try to get my head on straight about all this.  I will pout for a while (like I said, I know myself pretty well) but what are my choices?  Eat like there is no tomorrow today and there will be no tomorrow a few years from now or nip this thing in the bud while I have the chance. 

Sigh……….