Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Basics - Making Croutons From Scratch

Italian Bread

Making Croutons from Scratch

Most people don't realize how easy it is to make croutons and how much better they taste than store bought croutons.


1 loaf of bread (Italian or French bread or multi-grain)
1/3 cup melted butter
garlic salt (to taste)
dried basil, oregano or Italian seasoning mix (to taste - I use about 1/2 teaspoon)
ground black pepper (optional)(to taste)

Cutting up Italian bread for croutons

1.  Cut the loaf of bread into cubes.

2.  Melt the butter and stir in the basil (oregano or italian seasoning) and black pepper

3.  Drizzle the melted butter herb mixture over the bread cubes and stir slightly

4.  Spread these bread cubes on a baking/cookie sheet and sprinkle with the garlic salt (to taste).

5.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 10 minutes - then flip or stir slightly and bake for another 10 minutes or until desired crispness (if you like a softer crouton then do 7 minutes twice) and then cool. 


Featured on:
by Angie Ouellette-Tower for photo WeeklyTitle_zps5l1xvjx6.jpg

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lima-like Beans from Green Beans

Lima-like Beans from Green Beans

Every year there are always a few green beans that get away from me and grow too large to eat.  For years I just saved these beans and let them dry to use next year as seeds (provided the variety was an "heirloom" not a "hybrid" - I will explain the difference between the two in a different post).  I was thrilled to discover that the inside seeds of the Italian Romano Beans can be eaten as Lima beans - it's like having 2 different beans in one plant!

These seeds look like navy beans but taste like lima beans.  Simply peel off the green bean pod and inside you will find 3 or 4 seeds that look like navy beans.  Compost or discard the pod and then boil the inner beans and enjoy! 

Simply delicious and great in soups also.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Friend's Love

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends , for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."  John 15: 13, 14 & 15

(This is the seventh of an eight part series on John 15)

This "Greater love" that Jesus is talking about is of course the cross.  Jesus gave up his life and died on the cross for us - This is our salvation.  There is no greater love than this!

The meaning of friend is: "a person whom one knows, likes and trusts."  Just think about what friends can share - even secrets.  We went from servants (in the Old Testament) to friends (in the New Testament). 

It is interesting that Jesus used the word "everything."  Not just the most important points or a few pieces of information but Jesus has shared everything that He learned from God.  This is knowledge - knowing the Master's business - Jesus learned from his Father and taught us everything.

Lord help us to focus on Jesus and learn everything that You taught.

Part 1:  The True Vine

Friday, September 23, 2011

Concord Grapes

Concord Grapes

Concord grapes are not the kind of seedless grape that you buy in the grocery store for eating.   Concord grapes are very "seedy" and therefore are used solely for jams, jellies, juice and wine (although a friend once made a concord grape pie - very different).

Harvesting concord grapes is very easy - find a ripe cluster of grapes and simply snap the stem off of the vine.  The color should be dark bluey purple or (depending on the variety) a burgundy purplish red  (I grow both of these varieties)

On October 1st (2011) I will share with you my super easy, delicious and nutritious grape juice recipe - "stay tuned!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rainbow Swiss Chard Pasta

Rainbow Swiss Chard Pasta

This is a vegetarian dish but if you prefer you may add 1 lb of browned ground beef to the tomato sauce/veggie mixture.

1 medium zucchini (yellow or green) (I also used a small pattypan squash - this is optional)
2 large carrots (peeled, washed and thinly sliced)
1 large green bell pepper (washed, seeded and chopped)
1 large onion (peeled and chopped)
2 cups Rainbow Swiss Chard (washed and chopped - measure 2 cups after washed & chopped BUT before cooked.  It's about 10 large leaves).
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and minced)
ground black pepper (to taste)
1 package shell pasta
1 jar of spaghetti sauce (or your own canned Tomato Sauce)
Parmesean cheese to grate on top at the end

Saute the onion, garlic and carrots in a little olive oil for about 3 minutes.  Then add the zucchini, green pepper and black pepper and continue sauteing for another 3 minutes. 

Now add the chopped Rainbow Swiss Chard leaves, cover and saute for 10 minutes or until tender.

Cook the pasta as described on the back of the package (usually boil for 8 to 10 mintues) and then drain. 

Finally, pour the can of tomato sauce into a saucepan and cook until warm and then stir the sauce into the vegetable mixture. 

Pour the sauce/vegetable mixture on the pasta and then top with some grated Parmesean cheese.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Vacuum Pack Machine

Vacuum Pack Machine

I don't know what we did before the "FoodSaver" and other vacuum pack machines like this one.  No offense to ziploc but the two can't even be compared - FoodSaver is so superior.  I used to dread eating frozen foods because they were void of any flavor.  Now, with the "FoodSaver", I never have any freezer burn and now I love the flavor of frozen food- it is just like freshly picked from the garden. 

The "FoodSaver" is very easy to use - start by sealing the bottom of the bag (place the end of the bag inside the sealing lip and press the "on" button). 

Then cut the bag off the roll - I always cut the bag large enough to use 3 times.
The cost of a large roll of vacuum pack bags is quite expensive - that is really the only downfall to this machine - The cost (it really does pay off in the end if you use it wisely).

Next step is to fill the bag with whatever produce is in season (I am using green beans today - as seen below).

And then seal the top of the bag the same way that you sealed the bottom (by placing the top of the bag in the sealing lip and pressing the "on" button).
NOTE:  There are some veggies/fruit that need to be frozen before the final seal (eg. shredded zucchini) - because of the water content - the machine would vacuum the fluid and your machine would be covered in fluid)

Last step is to place in your freezer - Enjoy in the winter!

Produce frozen this year so far:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Complete Joy

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."  John 15:11 & 12

(This is the sixth of an eight part series on John 15)

The meaning of "JOY" - "Intense and/or exultant happiness.  The expression or manifestation of such feeling."
Our joy is dependant on the Master's joy - remember Jesus is the vine, we are the branches and our heavenly Father is the Master of the vine.  The "sap" that runs through the vine is the joy that makes us fruitful.  It's an expression or manifestation - this "complete joy" is not something that we keep inside - we can't keep it bottled up.  We must let this joy overflow and be shared with others.

Jesus is the example of love - Jesus is love.  Jesus who died on the cross that we might have forgiveness is our motive.  It's our motive to follow God's commands and to live for His glory - the power of love.  Specifically - we are to "love each other as Jesus has loved us" - the ultimate command - it covers everything.

Lord help us as we share this Joy that is from you.

Part 1:  The True Vine

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Making Tomato Sauce

Other ingredients needed

Tomato Sauce

20 to 25 cups of tomato sauce
4 cups of shredded zucchini (washed and then shredded)
2 cups of shredded carrots (peeled, washed & then shredded)
2 cups green bell peppers (washed, seeded and chopped)
2 cups onions (peeled and chopped)
Fresh Basil (2 tablespoons chopped or to taste)
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 to 2 teaspoons hot ground chili pepper (or ground cayenne pepper) (or omit if you don't like spice)
1/8 cup to 1/4 cup salt (or to taste but BE CAREFUL - this sauce will cook down and become somewhat concentrated and therefore more salty - I always use less salt)

1.  First - prepare the tomatoes and run them through the Tomato Strainer

Tomato sauce after running through the tomato strainer and before adding the other vegetables

2.  Now prepare all the other vegetables as described above (wash, shred & chop).  Place all these vegetables (zucchini, carrots, pepper, onion) and the herbs, sugar and salt (remember - be careful with the salt) into the tomato sauce and stir.
3.  Bring the sauce to boil and then cook down (on low heat) for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours (or until desired thickness is achieved).  IMPORTANT:  You must stir often to prevent burning and if needed turn the heat down a little.

Sauce has been cooked down for at least 1 hour.

4.  Gather your canning jars, lids and rings (you will need 7 or 8 quarts).  Canning Basics - Jar Sizes.  Also, gather all other canning supplies:  Other Canning Supplies   NOTE:  You should start sterilizing your jars and lids about halfway through the "cooking down" process of the tomato juice.
5.  Start the water boiling for Jar sterilization:  Sterilizing Jars & Lids
6.  By now your jars should be sterilized and ready to be filled.  Take the jars out of the boiling water (I use my jar remover and make sure that the water is drained out of each jar).  Fill each jar with the hot tomato sauce up to the threads of the jar (about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of headspace) 

7.  Wipe the rim of each jar with a damp cloth making sure that any sauce residue is gone (any residue left on the rim can stop the jar from sealing).
8.  Place a sterilized lid on each jar and then tighten a ring on each jar.
9.  Place all jars in a "Water Bath Canner" and process (boil) the jars for 35 minutes (make sure that the water level in the Canner is 1 inch above the tallest jar) 

10. Remove the jars and place them on the counter or table to cool (I always place them on a cloth because there have been a few times when a jar cracked and then the contents oozed out making a mess - the cloth will help if that happens).  You will hear the wonderful popping sound of your jars sealing.
11. Allow the jars to cool for 24 hours and then store in your pantry or in your fruit cellar until the winter and then enjoy a little bit of summer.

I use this tomato sauce as a base for many soups, stews, chilis and pasta dinners. (I will post many of these recipes this winter). 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Baking Basics - A Handy Conversion Chart

Baking Basics - A Handy Conversion Chart

This chart has come in handy for me many times over the years.  I hope you find it helpful also.

  • 1 cup     =   8 oz   =   16 Tblsp   =   48 tsp
  • 3/4 cup  =   6 oz   =   12 Tblsp   =   36 tsp
  • 2/3 cup  =   5 oz   =   11 Tblsp   =   32 tsp
  • 1/2 cup  =   4 oz   =    8  Tblsp   =   24 tsp
  • 1/3 cup  =   3 oz   =    5  Tblsp   =   16 tsp
  • 1/4 cup  =   2 oz   =    4  Tblsp   =   12 tsp
  • 1/8 cup  =   1 oz   =    2  Tblsp   =     6 tsp
  • 1/6 cup  =   .5 oz  =    1  Tblsp   =     3 tsp

*  I will do a metric conversion chart in a later post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tomato Mountain

Tomato Mountain

It's not Mount Everest or Mount Kilimanjaro but in my opinion this "Tomato Mountain" is just as daunting ;-).  I vow to conquer this mountain in an afternoon!

"Tomato Mountain"

140 cups of Roma tomatoes (cut in half and cored)  =

56 cups of tomato juice (processed through the

14 quarts of Tomato Sauce   =

"Tomato Mountain" conquered

A view of "Tomato Mountain" from the valley

NOTE:  I realize that tomatoes are technically a fruit but I think most of us still refer to them as a vegetable - that is why I posted this on a "vegetable/herb tuesday" (according to the Blog Schedule)

Now on to the next Mountain - "Mount Concord Grape"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Remembrance of "911"

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 
2 Corinthians 1:3 & 4

I am taking a break from my 8 part series on John 15 in remembrance of those loved ones lost on "9/11".

We will all remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11th, 2001.  I did not lose a loved-one on that terrible day but I do know the pain of loss and I know the peace that comfort and compassion can bring.

I pray that my heavenly Father would comfort all those who lost a loved one 10 years ago today - may His compassion fill your soul.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sunflowers - Autumn Beauty

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Sunflowers - Autumn Beauty

Leaves are not the only deep orange-brown colors of the autumn splendor.  This variety of sunflower kicks off the beauty of the fall season.  What I really adore about this sunflower type are the petals - the back of each petal is either yellow or a lighter orange, which is a wonderful contrast to the dark burnt orange of the petal's front side (the picture with the caption shows this lighter color the best).

Out of the three sunflower varieties that I grew this year, I honestly would not be able to pick a favorite - they are all so beautiful!  Enjoy the pictures below:

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Notice the back of the petals are yellow (see bottom petal)  photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Click to view:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Salsa by Linda

This salsa is the most delicious salsa that you will ever taste.  You literally will not be able to stop eating until it is all gone - it's that good.  My dear friend Linda agreed to let me share her recipe with you -  ENJOY!

Salsa by Linda

6 large tomatoes (washed and cored)
2 green bell peppers (washed & seeded)
1 large onion (peeled)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (1/2 cup before chopping)
2 (heaping) tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1 (heaping) tablespoon garlic pepper (if you cannot find garlic pepper then you may replace this with 1 minced clove of garlic and increase the coarse black pepper)
salt to taste
(Brad's spicy twist on Linda's salsa)
1 Jalapeno pepper
1 habanero pepper
hotsauce to taste

Prepare the vegetables as described above.  Then, using a food processor - place the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion and cilantro and turn on the food processor until chopped or pureed (see the picture below).  If you are doing "Brad's spicy twist on Linda's salsa" then you would also add the Jalapeno and Habanero in the processor with the vegetables.  Stir in the remaining ingredients by hand until combined. 

NOTE: If you prefer a chunky salsa then you may chop the ingredients by hand and stir by hand or lightly "pulse" the food processor.

Sirring in the spices, lemon and lime juice by hand

Grab some corn chips and Enjoy!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tomato Strainer

Happy Labor Day!!

Today I start the "every other day" posting schedule (see Weekly Schedule).

Victorio Food Strainer

During tomato season this "Victorio Food Strainer" is my favorite canning tool (machine really).  As you can see by the picture above this machine attaches to a table or counter and it turns raw tomatoes into tomato juice by separating the seeds and skins from the pulp.  It is not electric (although there are some models available that are electic) - this model is a hand-crank style. 

Raw washed tomatoes ready to be turned into sauce through the Victorio strainer

After you wash and cut the tomatoes in half (I use Roma Tomatoes) - place them in the top funnel part of this machine. 

Now turn the crank with one hand while pushing the tomatoes through the funnel with the "red tomato masher" (NEVER put your hands in the funnel while turning the crank).  The sauce will glide down the white slide while the tomato skins and seeds will drop out of the left side (see picture above - the seeds and skins are dropping into the silver bowl on the left).

I also use this food strainer for applesauce, pearsauce and some jellies.  Another namebrand that has a similar machine is "Squeezo".

As The Father Has Loved Me

"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love."  John 15: 8, 9 & 10

(This is the fifth of an eight part series on John 15)

Fruit bearing:  I was just thinking about how many different items that I make from 1 type of fruit - jelly, jam, juice, sauce, relish, frozen, dried .......the list goes on and on.  What is made from fruit lasts longer than one season and that crop is still enjoyed and extended for months and months to come.  I like to think of my actions as fruit.  And that "fruit" (or actions) affects other people.  Our actions can also be extended and they can benefit other people for months and months.  Also, there is healthy fruit or rotting fruit = good actions or bad actions.  Thinking about it that way certainly makes me strive to be more Christlike.

The Father's love for Christ is the same pattern of Christ's love for His disciples (for us).  When we "remain in God's love" we desire to do His will and follow his commands, which in actuality is following that same pattern.

Let us love each other in the same way that Jesus has loved us.

Part 1:  The True Vine
Part 4:  Branches Wither Away
Part 6:  Complete Joy
Part 7:  A Friend's Love
Part 8:  Chosen Fruit

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Raspberry Jelly

Raspberry Jelly

6 cups raspberries (washed and dried)
1 cup water
Jelly bag or cheese cloth 
Juice from 1 lemon
1 package of fruit pectin
   5 to 5 1/2 cups of sugar (I always use less sugar because in my opinion most jams & jellies are too sweet.  Using less sugar might make your jelly a little more runny or syrup-like but most times I haven't been able to tell a difference)

To make the juice:  Place your washed raspberries and water in a stainless steel pot.  Boil for 10 minutes and allow it to cool to room temperature.  Then, line a strainer with your jelly bag or cheese cloth and pour the boiled fruit mixture into this lined strainer (you are sifting out the seeds and fruit pulp).  Allow the juice to drain on it's own for a few minutes and then you may take the bag or cheese cloth and gather it together like a bag and squeeze out the remaining juice.  Compost the seeds and pulp.  Use the juice for the next steps below.

NOTE:  Many people extract the juice by using a food strainer (a little crank machine that removes the juice from the raw fruit) but I prefer cooking the juice out of the fruit - I find that I get more juice and therefore more jelly this way than doing it the other way.

Raspberry juice ready to be made into jelly

1.  Gather your canning jars, lids and rings (you will need 6 or 7 half pints). 
     Canning Basics - Jar Sizes.  Also, gather all other canning supplies: 
2.  In a large stainless steel pot mix the fruit juice (raspberry juice - already prepared as
     described above), lemon juice and fruit pectin - stir until pectin is dissolved.
3.  Start the water boiling for Jar sterilization:  Sterilizing Jars & Lids
4.  Bring the fruit mixture to a full boil over meduim-high heat - gently stirring all the time.
5.  Add the entire amount of sugar (again - I use the lesser amount - 5 cups) - stirring until
6.  Bring this mixture to a full boil again - continuously stirring.  Boil hard for a full minute
     (you will notice some foamy stuff on top - that is supposed to happen.  If it boils too close
      to the top of the pot then you will need to turn the heat down slightly).  Constant stirring is
      a must!
7.  Remove the pot from heat and skim foam off the top and discard the foam.
8.  By now your jars should be sterilized and ready to be filled.  Take the jars out of the
     boiling water (I use my jar remover and make sure that the water is drained out of each
     jar).  Fill each jar up to the threads of the jar (about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of headspace)
9.  Wipe the rim of each jar with a damp cloth making sure that any jelly residue is gone (any
      residue left on the rim can stop the jar from sealing).
10. Place a sterilized lid on each jar and then tighten a ring on each jar.
11. Place all jars in a "Water Bath Canner" and process (boil) the jars for 10 minutes (make
      sure that the water level in the Canner is 1 inch above the tallest jar)
12. Remove the jars and place them on the counter or table to cool (I always place them
      on a cloth because there have been a few times when a jar cracked and then the jam
      oozed out making a mess - the cloth will help if that happens).  You will hear the
      wonderful popping sound of your jars sealing.
13. Allow the jar to cool for 24 hours and then store in your pantry or in your fruit cellar until
       the winter and then enjoy a little bit of summer.

This picture is to show you the difference between jelly (on the left) and jam (on the right)

Other Jam or Jelly Recipes on this blog:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sunflowers - Black Velvet Queen

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Black Velvet Queen

Whoever named this sunflower is exactly right - the petals absolutely resemble black velvet.  Although, I think my favorite part of this sunflower variety is the inner "sunset circle" (as I like to call it).  When I think of the traditional sunflower varieties I think of the morning but the "Black Velvet Queen" gives me a dusk feeling - almost as if I'm watching a stunning sunset.

Enjoy the photos attached to this post!

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Click to view:

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