Canning Pizza Sauce

Pizza Sauce.JPG

The tomatoes are finally ripening in enough quantity that I can start canning them and turning them into sauces, soups, salsa, and juice. For the last little while I was only getting enough to just eat fresh.

Yesterday I spent the day turning my bucket of tomatoes into Pizza Sauce. I usually can enough of this stuff to last my husband and me through the entire year. I also can enough to last my kids through the entire year. It has long been a tradition at our house to have homemade pizza on Saturday night….so that means plenty of sauce needs to be canned.

I first had to dig out my canning paraphernalia…..the jars, the rings, lids, colander, canner etc……all those things that have been tucked away and just waiting for this season.

Canning Essentials.JPG

Most of these items have been accumulated over the years of my married life. I started out with a different colander as a new bride but soon discovered it did not work like my mom’s did and I really intensely disliked it. When a neighbor had a household auction I was thrilled to find one exactly like mom’s.

Through the years I have gone from pints to quarts (once children started arriving) and now back to pints (now that we are down to two again). My husband comments that I seem to be canning more produce now than I did when our boys were all living at home. I have a feeling he realizes that jars kind of disappear from the pantry when the kids come home to visit.

The Pizza Sauce recipe I always use came from my friend Betty, many, many years ago. It has become a family favorite and we are all very sad if it runs out during the year and we have to use store bought sauce.

Pizza Sauce
Fill: 10 qt. kettle 3/4 full of peeled, cut tomatoes (I do not peel mine)
Add:
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup chopped onion
Simmer for approximately 2 hours until mushy.
Let stand for a time and skim off as much water as possible.
(At this point I run the above mixture through a blender and then a colander.
this is why I do not peel my tomatoes)
Add:
1/8 cup salt
1/8 cup parsley flakes
1 rounded tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon allspice
4 – 12 ounce cans tomato paste
Cook 2 – 3 hours, stirring often as it burns easily.
Put in jars and process.
Process 25 minutes (for pints) in a boiling water bath
NOTE:  This can also be frozen.

The pizza crust recipe I use is out of my old Betty Crocker cookbook…..the one that the back fell off of years ago.

Pizza Crust
1 cup hot water
Add:
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
let set till foamy looking
Add:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Knead till blended and roll out on cookie sheet or baking stone.
Cover with sauce, cheese and toppings of your choice.

I now have my first batch of pizza sauce this season done and ready to go on the pantry shelves. I love being able to just go to my pantry for sauce when it is time to make the Saturday night pizza.

The smell of onions has left the kitchen, much to my husband’s relief. One last helpful hint:  If your family does not like the smell of certain foods such as onions or fish etc. while they are being prepared, I find using my diffuser with the essential oil blend Purification really helps for the smell.

Now that I have shared one of my families favorites I am wondering what are some of your families go to foods? And is there a dish that your family just figures you will make on a certain day? I am always on the look out  for new things to try. (I have to admit my meat and potatoes husband does find this scary.)

God gives all birds their food
but does not drop it into their nests.
Danish Proverb

 

Chicken Bocce Ball?

Chicken Bocce Ball.JPG

Some of my kids were home this past weekend.  It was a great weekend for them to be here. The weather was perfect…..in the 70’s for temperatures and hardly any humidity.

We decided, after Sunday dinner, that we should haul out the Bocce ball set and play a game.  I use the term “play a game” rather loosely as I am not totally sure what scoring is needed to make it an official game of Bocce ball. I was just thrilled to finally use the Bocce ball set that I had purchased at the Goodwill Store for ten bucks!

After playing a couple rounds; my middle son tactfully suggested that perhaps we should have mowed the lawn. We assured him that this just made for a higher level of skill in the game. We also did find out that our lawn is not smooth. (This was really no surprise.)

It took a lot of skill to get the balls anywhere near the little white ball that was our target. About the time we thought we were close we would discover we had been aiming for a blooming white clover. And when we could actually see the little white ball it was on a mound and whenever you got near to it; your ball would just roll on by and pick up speed as it hit the back side of the mound.

My husband did the honors of flinging the little white ball. (He may or may not have a sadistic streak as he usually tried to get it perched on a mound or some other difficult location.) I have since googled Bocce Ball and discovered the little white ball does have an official name — pallino.  I have a feeling we will just continue calling it the “little white ball”.

We also discovered that when you toss that white ball, most of the chickens that roam around here took off after it like it was the last thing they would get to eat in their lifetime.  This made it pretty difficult to throw our colored balls toward the white one.

The kids were worried about hitting one of the girls. My husband cavalierly assured them if they did we would have soup. (I do think he likes the girls more than he lets on!)  I assured the kids that if they rolled the ball instead of throwing it; the chickens would jump out of the way…..which they did….with a lot of wing-flapping and squawking.

Food.JPG

I have no idea what the girls were thinking when they chased down those balls.  Were they thinking it was food rolling by?  Were they wondering if one of them had been an over achiever in the egg laying department? It does make me curious what goes on in that walnut sized brain of theirs.

Eventually they (the chickens) tired of chasing the balls all over the yard and went back to chasing bugs.  This made it a lot easier for us to finish the game. We only played till someone made it to 10….I have since discovered that 16 is the official number that means you have won the game.

It was a great way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon with the family. There was lots of laughter, good-natured ribbing, plenty of sarcasm and plain good fun. Sometimes it is the simple things in life that really are the best…..a good Sunday dinner, good conversation, and a rousing game of Bocce Ball complete with chickens.

I am happy to report that no chickens were harmed during the playing of that Bocce ball game. I cannot vouch for their mental state after that game but physically they are fine and today they seem to have forgotten all about the episode.

Play Bocce Ball
whenever you can.
It’s cheaper than meds!
Unknown

 

 

A Beautiful Day & Changing Seasons

Barn Swallows with Verse

Yesterday afternoon my in-laws stopped in to visit. As we sat on the porch sipping our iced tea on a hot muggy day we noticed there were flocks and flocks of swallows swooping and soaring over the yard. The sky was full of them……everywhere.

Every fall, like clockwork,  we have cliff swallows migrate through as the weather starts to change. Living by a small river we get to see a lot of different birds on their migration paths in the spring and in the fall. It is one of the most rewarding things about living where we do.

I went out this afternoon hoping to snap a picture of a line full of swallows. They were nowhere to be seen. All that was left sitting on those lines were four of our resident barn swallows. I was grateful they were at least still there, ready to be photographed. I do think I should have taken the camera out yesterday.

I mentioned to my husband that it seemed some of our other summer birds were starting to disappear. I was not even sure when I had last seen a robin. I am guessing a few might show up again this fall but for now they seem to be pretty scarce around here.

It does not seem that long ago that those first swallows and robins showed up to signal the start to summer. I never used to believe my grandparents and later my parents; when they would tell me that the older you get the faster time seems to go. I used to laugh and suggest that maybe the older they got, the slower they moved, so time seemed to go faster. I am going to have to remember to NOT mention the swifter passing of time to my kids. I have no need of being reminded that I am getting older.

There is a comfort in the constancy of the changing seasons. The birds show up in the spring, nest, raise families and then leave in the fall. They don’t worry about what is happening in this world. They just do what birds do. And they seem to do that with great joy.

Perhaps there is a lesson in that constancy for us.( I know there is something I can learn from it.)  Perhaps we are not to worry about what the weather will do. Perhaps we are not to worry about who the next president will be. Perhaps we are not to worry about what direction our job is taking. Maybe we are not called to worry if our kids are making good choices.  And the list goes on you fill in the blank with your favorite worry.

Maybe, instead, we are supposed to tend our fields and let God take care of the weather, Maybe we are supposed to get out and vote and let God take care of the character of the next president and the decisions they will be called to make. Maybe we are to do the best we can at our job and let God handle how the boss or our co- workers react. Maybe we are called to be the best parents we can be, raise our kids and pray for them and let God take care of the rest as those kids make their life choices. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to let God be God.

There is a comfort in that. The comfort of not always having to have it all under control. That can be exhausting. Maybe that is why the birds can sing so joyously in the morning…..they are not burdened with trying to be something they are not, or trying to control something that is not theirs to control.

There is a comfort in knowing that life is like the seasons. The season might change from spring to summer to fall to winter …. but spring will come again and those summer birds will arrive on time.

For some reason this post did not take the path I thought it would when I started it. I have that more often when blogging. Sometimes thoughts I didn’t even know I had  seem to come out of my fingertips and end up as the words of my posts.(My husband is always a great help with prying those thoughts loose.)

I am learning to go with the thoughts and just type the words that are swirling in my head…..maybe I am learning to have some bird-like qualities!

Faith is the bird
that feels the light
when the dawn is still dark.
Rabindranath Tagore

Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/bird.html

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch Pail Memories

Grade School Lunch boxes.JPG

Everywhere you look you see the signs and evidence that school is either started or about to start. From college down to the elementary levels parents and kids are gearing up for another year.

My husband always comments, “Those poor children…..”. I have a feeling that his comment stems from the fact that he never really cared for school.  For him it was the end of summer freedom and time to be; as he thinks “incarcerated” back in a school building. He has always been an outdoor kind of guy which may be one of the main reasons he is a farmer!

My husband grew up as a farm kid and one of his main memories of school involves his lunch pail. He could never understand why he could not have warm hot dogs in his thermos instead of either jelly or dried beef sandwiches. I laughed when he told me this and that summer when I brought him a lunch pail out to the field I included hot dogs in his old school thermos.

I grew up in the small town where our school was located. Our elementary school did not have a hot lunch program back then so my siblings and I would walk the four blocks back home for dinner. (For us it was dinner at noon as we were a rural community and supper at night.) My mom did, however, purchase us a lunch pail. I am not totally sure why. Maybe we begged enough for them and she gave in? The beautiful red plaid one in the photo was my lunch box……though I did covet my cousin’s which looked like a school bus.

I clearly remember the day my brother did not show up at noon to walk home with me.  When I got home my mom asked where he was. I had no idea. She called school and found out that he had taken his lunch pail with his candy bar (which was a snack for recess) and stayed at school to eat his candy bar for dinner.

Once a month, at our elementary school the moms would come in and serve a hot lunch. This was always a great treat for us town kids as we did not have to walk home at noon. We really appreciated this in the winter when it was snowy and cold. The country kids also appreciated it because it meant a hot meal for them after weeks of jelly or peanut butter sandwiches and fruit.

The menu was always the same– one tavern bun (I think this might be a regional name for sloppy joe) or two buns. One would cost us .25¢ or two for .35¢. You also got some chips and either a chocolate or white milk.  The milk was amazing. My husband and I both always chose chocolate as that was a huge treat.  Back then school milk was in small glass bottles and you had to peel off a cardboard lid thing to open it. (yes, this does really tell my age!).  To top it off we always had a choice of a fudge bar or ice cream bar. It did not get much better than that!

When our sons entered this same school years later they were fortunate as the school had a hot lunch program by that time. I also considered myself fortunate as I did not have to pack those lunch pails and try get creative with something nutritious they would eat.

It’s nice to just be a kid and hang out with your friends at lunch.
Karlie Kloss

Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/lunch_3.html

Tomatoes…..One of the Best Things About Summer

Tomatoes.JPG

I journeyed out to my garden today in search of the perfect tomato for a slice of toast. I did find one hanging, beautiful and rose colored, on the vines of one of the Brandywine plants.

There is really nothing better than a tomato, fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun, sliced, salted and put on a piece of hot buttered toast.  Unless it is a slice put on a burger hot off the grill. Or chunks of them in a wonderful lettuce salad…….

As you can tell I really, really like tomatoes. My husband does not share this passion. I cannot believe how misguided he is on this topic. If he does eat them he puts sugar on them! I keep telling him that sugar is for baking and putting on cereal. He is not convinced of that fact or the wonder of tomatoes.

After I had found my perfect tomato I could tell I needed to come back to get the weeds under control……again.  I also noted that everything in the garden looked like it needed a thorough watering. We have not been getting those timely rains the last while.

My tomato plants looked pretty droopy and sad. There are some days I know exactly how those plants felt…..wilted, dry and needing a little TLC.

I picked, weeded and watered those amazing plants today. It was hot, humid work and by the time I was done my husband told me I smelled like a tomato plant. I did not think that was such a bad thing but I am not totally sure that it was a compliment coming from him.

I have a five-gallon bucket half filled with these beautiful red and rose colored beauties. I usually plant Brandywine, Romas, and try one other variety each gardening year. This year my third variety was called Independence Day. It sounds amazingly patriotic but they are kind of a disappointment. They are not small enough to be a cherry tomato but not big enough to slice for sandwiches. On the upside……they are prolific.

I am debating if I have enough for a batch of pizza sauce, salsa or if I should just turn these into tomato juice. There are so many small ones that I am leaning towards the juice just to save my sanity. I like to use the Romas for the pizza sauce and salsa.  Fortunately I have till tomorrow to decide.

When I get down to making pizza sauce and salsa I will be sharing those recipes with you.  They are both family favorites and I usually can enough for us and the kids.

My girls also enjoy this season as they get all the cut off pieces of tomato.

The Girls Enjoying the Tomato Scraps

I still am not sure if I should be spelling the word tomato with or without an “e”.   The word looks fine to me either way. My sister, who as a child was dubbed “spell-check”, would probably not agree with me on that line of thought. I am quite sure the chickens would agree with me on this point.

So…..how do you prefer to eat your tomatoes?  Do you love them?  hate them? or just not really care?

 

It’s difficult to think
anything but pleasant thoughts
while eating a homegrown tomato.
Lewis Grizzard

Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/tomato.html

 

Olympic Event…..Or Not

Human Powered Motorcycle.JPG

“You are the wind beneath my wings and the legs behind my motorcycle”

 

I have just read one of the funniest blog posts ever. Today Paperpuff had a post titled “A different kind of Olympics”. I read it to my husband and we both laughed…..a lot.  It would be so worth your time to venture over to her blog and read this post …..and don’t forget to read the comments.

Reading her blog today reminded me of some of the rather odd activities our family has done that may or may not qualify as an Olympic worthy event. I came across the picture above of my husband and our oldest son participating in one of those events.

A little background here: Years ago a neighbor gave us this little motorcycle.  His three boys were grown and he decided that we needed one of these for our three boys. It was not running at the time so it was hauled off to a nearby business that fixed motorcycles. They did get it running and our boys enjoyed many hours of fun with this set of wheels.

Our youngest probably had the most fun with it.  He would ride it so often he finally had a track worn around our place. Eventually the boys outgrew it and it was parked in the back of a shed.

Two years ago when the kids were all home they decided they should haul it out again to relive their youth. After pouring seafoam in the gas tank, then kicking and kicking on the starter they finally gave up.

My husband was a little more determined and climbed on. He then instructed our oldest to be the human power source to try start it. (The eldest was chosen as he is the one who runs marathons- if nothing else it was great training?) The kid did go put on his running shoes…..I am sure this makes it qualify for an Olympic event.

I am not sure how many times they pushed that thing up the driveway; to try and start it by pushing it back down the driveway. They did eventually get it running……sort of. (lots of sputtering on the part of the motorcycle and muttering on the part of the driver and pusher).

After that afternoon it was once again pushed in the back of the shed. It is still sitting there. I am wondering how long it will be before they decide that the green Kawasaki needs to ride again. I hope that when it has been decided that the “time is right” the guys are rested up and have trained adequately for this particular event.

I am pretty sure we are not totally unique in weird family entertainment. I am wondering what would your family choose for their Olympic event?

 

 

When I lived there that bike ran like a gem”
Joseph K.

Busyness & Blessings

Artwork by my son.JPG

I sat on my couch this evening with the laptop in hand.  I looked at my husband and calmly told him, “I got nothin”. I was referring to an idea for a blog post. I am not sure if anyone else has had this issue?

I think some of the problem is the very busy time of year. That and all the odd stuff tossed in like the washing machine issue, the hotter than all get out weather and maybe the season we are in; all have something to do with it. It feels like everywhere I turn I have produce waiting to be tended to, laundry waiting for the new washer to arrive and stuff to be picked up and sorted.  This is not a bad problem….it is just busy and leaves no time to think.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes life feels just like the picture I am sharing with you. Sometimes it feels like I am missing key parts of the puzzle and sometimes it just feels like my chess pieces are sliding off the board and hanging by a thread. It seems there are so many details I just cannot think about them all; much less deal with them all.

These are the days that I just need to remind myself to take a deep breath, focus on one thing at a time, finish that one thing and then move on to the next pressing thing. One foot in front of the other, one task finished to completion and when the day is done be grateful for what was accomplished instead of beating myself up over what did not get done.

I sometimes think we find that last part hard to do.  At least I do. It is very easy to point out to ourselves what was left undone or not done quite right. It is probably time we cut ourselves some slack and rejoice in what we did get done.

Sometimes the fact that “we got nothin'” is okay. Sometimes when we seem too busy it is crucial to take the time to sit back, take that deep breath and just look around and appreciate the quiet.

“How many times have you noticed
that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life
that seem to give the rest
extra-special meaning?”

Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers

As I walked out to lock my “girls” in the coop tonight I took the time to stop, listen, and look around. The sliver of the moon was shining brightly, the crickets and cicadas were singing their noisy summertime songs, the fireflies were twinkling over the field like a million little Christmas lights, the air, though still heavy with humidity, was beginning to cool, and you could smell the corn in the field.

That short moment of peace seemed to restore the calm to my soul and still my racing thoughts. It felt like God had prepared that short space of time just for me and was telling me to just enjoy that snapshot in time. I took Him at His word and did just that. It was wonderful.

I think tomorrow when the day winds up once again; I will be reminding myself of those noisy bugs and those twinkling fireflies. I will try to remember to:

“Be still
and know ……..
Psalm 46:10a

May your week be blessed and may you find a quiet place to savor the day.

I need to give credit to my oldest son. He drew this picture as an Iowa State Fair entry last year.  I have no idea how he is able to draw this kind of stuff. It baffles me as I am happy when I can draw a tree that actually looks like a tree and not a stick.