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Easy Canned Whole Tomatoes

Whole tomatoes are one of my top pantry staples.  As I spoke about in my last post, rising concern for health risks with store bought canned tomatoes has made it even more important to can my own.  We usually reserve the more meaty Italian plum/roma varieties for canning whole, although you can use any type.  We’re going to do fresh pack which means the tomatoes will not be cooked first and will be processed with boiling water. (You can also use tomato juice). Its an easy process, in terms of skill, but can be a bit time consuming.  However its worth it. So, lets get going.

Canned Whole Tomatoes: Fresh Pack in Water

  • Tomatoes
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • canning jars and lids

Wash and rinse tomatoes clean.

In a pot of boiling water, blanch tomatoes for 30-60 seconds.  If you want your tomatoes to retain their shape, don’t over boil, as it will make your tomatoes become mushy.  However, it doesn’t really matter if they get mushy, and it sort of helps them fit in the jars better.  Its merely a matter of your personal aesthetics.

After blanching, use a knife to remove the core.  Remove skins.  They should peel right off without use of a knife.

Boil some fresh water for filling jars, 1 cup for every pint, 2 cups for every quart.  In your canning pot, begin boiling water to prepare for processing.

Wash enough glass canning jars needed for tomatoes.  Temper by dipping in the boiling water of your canning pot.  Sterilize canning lids in boiling water.

To prepare jars, fill each pint jar with: (Double for quarts)

  1. 1 Tbs lemon juice
  2. 1/2 tsp canning or kosher salt
  3. Stuff as full as possible with skinned tomatoes
  4. Fill jars with boiling water  leaving 1/2″ head space.

Wipe edges of jar to remove any materials which might impede lids from sealing.  Remove air bubbles from jar.  I usually use a chopstick.  Top with sterilized canning lid and ring

Process in boiling water canner.  40 minutes for pints. 45 minutes for quarts.  Beginning timing when water in canner comes back to a rolling boil.  When time is up, remove from water and allow to cool on counter top.  Do not jostle jars as it can impede a proper seal.

Once jars are cooled and sealed, mark with contents and date.  Put in your pantry and feel good about a job well done!


Healthy Home Canned Tomatoes

Its tomato season!  With all the information coming out in the past years about how purchased canned tomatoes contain BPA,  which increases one’s risk factor for heart disease, obesity and diabetes, I feel like its more important then ever to can my own tomatoes.

Luckily, my parents always have a huge garden and can send me home with a few bushels.  This year, I think I made off with about 70 lbs of tomaters!

There are so many different things you can do with tomatoes, and each recipe is super easy.  So, whether you have your own tomato plants, or you can get a good deal at a farmers or produce market, you may want to think about canning your own to increase your health and happiness!

I’ll be canning mine as juice, roasted marinara, pickled, and whole.  Over the next four posts, I will share my quick and easy techniques.  So lets get canning!

Quick Easy Teriyaki Marinade

My favorite quick marinade for summer grilling is this easy 4 ingredient Teriyaki marinade!

It goes great with all meats, especially chicken.  Pictured above is a marinating venison tenderloin I will be grilling for dinner tonight.

Easy Teriyaki Marinade

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1-2 large garlic cloves smashed

Mix and pour over meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for as long as you’d like to marinate.  At least 1 hour.


Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups: Raspberry Leather

Remember those super fun fruit snacks your loving and doting mother would pack in your school lunches?  Yes, I am talking about the much beloved fruit roll-up.  (Ok, I am probably dating myself here, but…) In the 80′s this was the jam.  Or dried jam really.  Well, if you wish to mix a bit of the nostalgia of your youth with the staunch DIYness of your hipster adulthood.  This post is for you.  This recipe is super simple, easy and will make you look very green and down homey.  Ok, lets make fruit roll-ups.

First though, I have to bullshit a bit about my life.  Anywho, for a few glorious days this summer, I was raspberry rich, after scoring cases of organic raspberries for $3 a piece.  However, the reason they were this cheap is because they were right on the verge of going bad.  Obviously.  So, as I am a total hedonist.  Nothing but 6 cases would do.  I used 4 up making freezer jam.  So, that leaves 2 to contend with.  What is a good way to make a good raspberry last?  Dry it into fruit leather!   Lets do it.

Raspberry Fruit Leather

  • Fresh Raspberries (or another berry of your choice)- at least 2-3 pints per tray.
  • honey (or another sweetener of your choice)
  • cheesecloth (optional)

Really the only ingredient which is mandatory is the fruit.  All else is up to you.

Short version: 

Process fruit until smooth.  Optional: Remove seeds with a cheesecloth.  Optional: Sweeten with the sweetener of your choice, honey, sugar, what have you.  Line baking sheets with syran wrap.  Pour raspberry mixture in and dry in oven for 12-24 hours at about 100 degrees.

Longer Version:

Here is the same basic recipe with a few more notes and directives for the worry wort in you.

Process the fruit: Crush your berries.  A food processor works best because you want to pulverize the berries and make your mixture as liquid as possible.  If you don’t have a food processor, a blender works well too.

Remove Seeds (Optional): I get sick of picking raspberry seeds out of my teeth, so I am option to remove as many seeds as possible.  To do this, simply line a bowl with cheesecloth, pour in your raspberry mixture and squeeze the pulp out. The cheesecloth will catch most of the seeds.

Sweeten To Your Taste (Optional): Depending on the flavor of your berries, you might want to add a bit of sweetness.  For this batch I added some honey to sweeten.  I suggest starting with 1 tsp a time, stir and taste.  Keep adding until it matches your mood.

Dry: Now to get the sweet roll-up feel, line a few baking sheets (depending on the amount of raspberries you are working with) with Syrian wrap.  Make sure to cover bottom and sides.  Pour raspberry mixture into the pans, so that the bottom is covered uniformly with a thin layer of raspberries.  You want it to be thick enough to cover the whole tray, but not too thick, as it will take longer for it to dry out.  I suggest going for thinner over thicker.  Shake/jiggle trays to get an even consistency.

Dry in oven at 100 degrees. If you have an oven with a warmer setting this is often around 100.  If you are like me and your lowest setting is 250, I suggest preheating the oven to 250.  And then turning it off when you put your trays in.  12-24 hours at 100 degrees will do the trick, depending on the humidity.  I was making my leather during a crazy heat wave in Chicago, so I didn’t worry about the oven temp.  I stacked them in my oven and allowed them to sit for about 24-48 hours with the oven off the whole time.

Assemble Roll-Ups: Peel syran wrap away from trays.  Roll up and cut into the desired width.  Store in air tight ziplock bags.  They should stay good for 3-6 months.

When you serve them, make sure to tell everyone you ONLY use locally sourced organic raspberries and  locally sourced organic lavender honey.  I don’t care if you really did or not.  I won’t tell.  Its just very important to keep up our obnoxious hipster cred.  That is all.  Have a great day.

5 Quick and Sweet Raspberry Recipes

This blog post is sort of just a way for me to gloat about my weekend raspberry exploits.  I mean its only a partial gloat.  A REAL gloat would probably involve me picking gallons of wild raspberries from my wooded property in the U.P. However, since I live in Chicago, I will settle for scoring 6 cases of organic raspberries from my local fruit market for $3 each!  Yus!

I love raspberries!  So does Thora.  So we’ve been having fun.  Yesterday we made 4 gallons of freezer jam and today we’re going to make pie.  So…what’s my point, you ask?  Why am I wasting your time?  Well, here’s a collection of 5 quick and fun raspberry recipes so if you have an amazing raspberry haul yourself, or even just a pleasant pint, you can make the most of it!

I’m also gloating that I was able to get all 6 cases home on my motorcycle!

Radical! Raspberry Recipes
(Please say Radical in as obnoxious of voice as possible)



Refridgerator Pickled Garlic

Ira’s parents grow the most amazing garlic.  I haven’t been cooking as much as I usually do and this year I have many heads left over from last years haul which, if not dealt with soon will start to dry up and go bad.  Pickling is a great way to preserve garlic.  It helps retain many of its health benefits while reducing the pungency minimizing garlic breath!  This quick and easy refrigerator pickle requires no processing and will stay good for many months to come.

Refrigerator Garlic Pickles
makes 1 quart

  • 1-2 lbs of fresh garlic cloves, skins and stems removed
  • 2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 c. water
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • t tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorn

Prepare garlic: Skin garlic cloves.  Cut off stems.

Prepare brine: Boil water and vinegar.  Once boiling add salt and sugar.

Prepare jar: Stuff spices into a clean quart jar.  Pack full with garlic cloves.  Pour brine over cloves.

Allow garlic 2-4 weeks to pickle.


Elmo Cupcakes!

Elmo is toddler crack.  I’ve never been the biggest fan.  I find his high pitched baby talk annoying of enough but add to that his way of always referring to himself in the 3rd person, and I just want to punch him in his red furry face.  HOWEVER, my daughter, Thora, cannot get enough of him.  I tried, and failed to keep her away from him.  But its pointless.  She LOOOOVES ELMO!  Ok, fine.  At least Elmo is not as bad as Baby Bear.

Saturday was Thora’s second birthday and I decided to make her supremely happy by combining two of her favorite things: cupcakes and Elmo!  I’m not going to take credit for this idea (its been done many times before) but it was a fun project, so I thought I would share my how-to. Everything about these cupcakes are red, from the red velvet cupcakes, to the red royal icing and the red cupcake holders.  Get ready to have red hands for the rest of the week.

Elmo Cupcakes
makes 32

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (1 ounce) red Food Color
  • 2 tsp vanilla

 Royal Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar (optional)
  • 1 ounce red dye for icing

Elmo decorations

  • small marshmallows for eyes
  • black food color or cake gel for eyes
  • orange peanut m&ms for nose
  • oreos for mouth
  • Red food color for icing
  • pastry bag and large star tip

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients and set aside.  Using an electric hand or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs one at a time into mixture, beating after each one.  Mix red food dye into milk.  Add milk, sour cream and vanilla, beat into mixture.  Gradually add dry ingredients, beat until mixed.

Place red cupcake holders into pans.  Fill cupcake holders 2/3 way full.  (An ice cream scoop works well for this.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes until cupcakes test done.  Allow to cool on wire rack.

Make Royal Icing

Beat egg whites until firm peaks form; about 5 minutes.

Add sugar, tartar and lemon.  Beat.  We want a firm frosting.  You may want to add more sugar or egg white to get the right consistency.  Add red dye to get the color desired.  I used the frosting dye because it is more like a gel and will not add extra moisture to the frosting.  If you are using the liquid dye, you will need extra sugar to make up for the added moisture.  Keep covered until needed.

Assemble Facial Elements

Eyes: Separate a small amount of frosting into a small bowl.  Add black dye and mix.  Apply a small dot of black frosting to the center of marshmallows to create the eye.

Noses: Separate out orange peanut m&ms and set aside.

Mouth: Spin off tops and bottoms of Oreos. Remove cream filling.  Cut mouths in half.  I actually cut them a bit smaller and discarded the excess.

Assemble Cupcakes

Spread a bit of frosting on top of each cupcake as a base layer.  Dip eyes, nose and mouth in frosting and place onto cupcake.

Spoon red frosting into pastry bag with the large star attachment and pipe onto cupcake around facial elements.  Pull away at sides to accentuate Elmo furry face.

DONE!  Now let your kiddos enjoy stuffing their faces with Elmo’s face!

Peach Melba Cobbler

This is my absolute favorite quick dessert recipe.

Its so easy and there isn’t a person on this planet who doesn’t love cobbler.  I know I have posted about this recipe in the past, but I will always come back to it.  Again and again, like how I watch Dirty Dancing at least once a year if not twice or six times in a row.  Anyway.  I’ve added a slight twist to warrant reposting. And, this is a recipe anyone with any amount of cooking skill can master on the first time.  Guaranteed. Here it is.

Peach Cobbler
serves 8-10

  • 1/4-1/2 c. butter (depending on your preference for fat)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 can (16 oz) sliced peaches
  • 1/2 c. raspberries

Melt butter in 8″x8″ square glass dish or other small casserole

Add milk and mix batter.

Spoon batter into dish with melted butter.  Spoon peach slices into batter.  Sprinkle top with raspberries and extra sugar.

Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes, until golden.

Check out our video blog for a play by play.


The. Best. Cheesecake. Ever.

It is my pet peeve when periods are placed after each word to enforce the meaning. However, there is no other way for me to seriously communicate the deliciousness of this recipe then stooping to this grammatical device. The decadence of this lusciously fluffy cheesecake is making me do things I don’t normally do!

Image courtesy of Flickr User katewing

My sister’s mother-in-law, Trish (does that make her my mother-in-law once removed?) made this for a baby shower, and we all agreed it was the best cheesecake we ever had. And we’re pretty well versed in cheesecake. So I begged the recipe off her and here it is.

This cheesecake is the most fluffy, decadent and flavorful of any cheesecake I have ever had. Ever. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

Trish’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake
Serves 12 Prep time: 20 min  Inactive Time: 5 hours

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. lime juice
  • 1 (8 oz.) container sour cream, at room temperature
  • Chilled fruit topping

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in small bowl.  Press firmly into bottom and up the sides of ungreased 9-inch spring form pan.  Optional: Line bottom of pan with parchment paper before putting in crust.

Beat/whip cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and lime juice; mix well. Pour into prepared pan.

BAKE 60-70 minutes or until center is set. Remove from oven; top with sour cream. Bake an additional 5 minutes. Cool 1 hour. Chill at least 4 hours. Garnish with pie filling, if desired.

Delicious Healthy Cookies. No Joke!

Everyone knows cookies are the best. But the guilt which goes along with eating something which isn’t very good for you isn’t so much fun. But there might be a way to have one without the other. And no, I’m not talking about those stupid Snackwells. My friend Sarah, recently turned me on to this recipe for cookies which are delicious and good for you. Not just low fat, but actually good for you! And they taste good!

Morning Glories.  Photo courtesy of

Sarah Britton, the holistic nutritionist and vegetarian chef behind the blog My New Roots, developed the recipe for her Morning Glory’s as a healthy option for a breakfast cookie.  The main ingredient is Oats which is very high in a super fiber called Beta Glucan which is good for lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar.  But the main kicker of this recipe is that it uses white beans as a binder instead of an oily fat like butter.  Although it sounds a bit nuts, these cookies have a great texture and a delicious flavor of anise.  Just try for yourself, I know you won’t be disappointed.

Check out the Morning Glory recipe here.

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