Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Processing Tomatoes at Food Stamps Cooking Club

September 9th, 2013
These beauties awaited us when we returned from breakfast one recent summer morning.  The Tomato Fairy had landed right on our picnic table!

These beauties awaited us when we returned from breakfast one recent summer morning. The Tomato Fairy had landed right on our picnic table!

When you are given such a wonderful gift, there’s nothing to do but shift into high gear!  We did that!  We turned these flats full of yummy goodness into these delights:

We got 8 quarts from these; we already had 6; over the weekend we canned 8 more quarts.  The Normanator and I make quite the duo!

We got 8 quarts from these; we already had 6; over the weekend we canned 8 more quarts. The Normanator and Mother Connie make quite the working duo!

Canning tomatoes is not particularly hard work.  It’s sorta messy but that’s what soap and water is for.  We just grabbed cleaning rags and scouring powder and the stove looked good as ever when we finished!

We cut out the stem portion and made a slice in the bottom of each tomato.  They were dipped into boiling water until the skin split.  As they were held under cold water that skin peeled off easily!  The skinned tomatoes went into a large heavy kettle to simmer until there was foam at the top.  That was skimmed off and discarded.  We used a potato masher to crush every tomato.  We were using juicy tomatoes and Romas, which are more firm and not as juicy, so we crushed the whole lot of them.

There was a system that worked well for us:  While we worked to cut and skin these babies, the oven was working full time.  We had a jelly roll pan with water, each pan holding 6 jars filled with an inch or so of water.  These, along with the canning lids, hung out in the oven as we worked.

When it came time to fill the jars, The Normanator skillfully put dipper after dipper into the each jar.  As soon as it was full, I was in charge of adding the salt, topping it off with the lid and securing the ring.  Each jar took its place on a towel on the kitchen table as we listened for the “CLICK!” of the lid, making the sound that it had sealed.

There was only one jar that did not seal.  It was morphed into a lovely spaghetti sauce when I poured it into a heavy skillet, added lots of oregano, basil, pepper, and a “blub” of red wine.

SIDEBAR:  No vino?  You can use 1/2 cup of any ole vinegar + 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Taste test as you go.  *The sugar diminishes the too-tomatoey  flavor of the sauce.  **That’s the purpose of the wine.  END SIDEBAR

Our benefactor told us they have put up over 100 quarts of tomatoes and salsa for the winter!  We are going to have some major good eats at our house this winter, thanks to the Tomato Fairy!  I have a feeling there will be a chili feed or two on the social calendar!

Are you living on a dime?  Do you LOVE to cook?  Do you HATE to cook?  Are you holding an EBT card from SNAP or WIC?  Maybe you have goods from food commodities, a food bank or food drop.  It could be that you just groove on the challenge of stretching your food budgets until you hear George Washington creak…If you are using any form of public assistance, we hope to be of service to you.  You seem to be passing the word, because the membership has SOARED lately.  Maybe that little list of cooking tips is helpful for you.

You most likely have ideas that will help others.  We would love to hear whatever you have to say.  Our most popular  place for ideas is  either on the comment panel or you could send an email to us at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.

Above all, please remember that YOU do matter and we love you with no reservation or judgement.  We only want to help.

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Roadside Stands Help Food Stamps Cooking Club

September 6th, 2013
Looky what WE found at a roadside stand in North Central Nebraska!

Looky what WE found at a roadside stand in North Central Nebraska!

It’s been a busy week here in the Club House–we have hosted a Book Lovers Club meeting; we have had surprise visitors, which we always enjoy, and on Thursday we took the day to travel to Central Nebraska on business.  We did toss in some pleasure, too:

We had a ginormous pizza loaded with sauerkraut, lots of meat and cheese and spices that tickled our taste buds.  Only one slice was plenty for a meal!  WOW.  This was served at a tavern in the quaint and charming town of Dannebrog, Nebraska.

We had a ginormous pizza loaded with sauerkraut, lots of meat and cheese and spices that tickled our taste buds. Only one slice was plenty for a meal! WOW. This was served at a tavern in the quaint and charming town of Dannebrog, Nebraska.

Visiting the roadside stands this time of year is wonderful!  We picked out a watermelon, a red pepper the size of my head, and some squashes: a turban squash and a butternut squash.  Everything looked so tempting and delish!  There was a wide variety of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, melons, onions, squashes, and the workers all talked about the crops that are still being harvested.

The sight of new vineyards popping up along the landscape was a treat for our eyes, too.  We visited a winery but they were so busy harvesting the grapes they were not available for tastings or serving meals.  We’ll just have to make another road trip at a later date! ;)

Soon Mother Connie will be posting a recipe for a casserole featuring spaghetti squash.  It is sooo mouth watering in a photo I saw that I cannot wait to make one and show all of you.  The spaghetti squash will be ready to pick very soon;  you WILL be kept in the loop!

The squash featured in the above photo make luscious soups for fall.  The recipe for squash soup has been featured here before but when a new batch of soup comes out of the Club House Kitchen, you guys will be the very first to know!

For those of you who have recently become Members of our merry band of foodies, we welcome you.  We are happy to help anyone but especially we like to focus on those who use public assistance for their food budgets.

Those who use EBT cards for WIC or SNAP and those who depend on  food commodities, food pantries, food banks, and the generosity of gardeners have told us repeatedly that the help we offer is really helpful and for that we are grateful.  We hold no judgments and we are not out to sell you stuff!  We hear, also, from people who simply like the challenge of wrestling with the food dollars to see how far those dollars might  S  T  R  E  T  C  H !  We are painfully aware of how you are all living on a dime and we love you madly.

Your comments mean the world to us.  Thanks for stopping by.  We are working diligently on plans for the Cooking Class; you are in that loop, too!  We hope it will be helpful for you in keeping your food costs to a minimum!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

Cucumbers and Food Stamps Cooking Club

August 28th, 2013
Cucumbers can shine in a hot weather salad...or NOT!

Cucumbers can shine in a hot weather salad…or NOT!

One of our kids calls these “coonkumbers”…it’s shorthand to refer to them as “cukes”.  The Normanator doesn’t care what you call them; he doesn’t like them.

Yesterday was a rare event in the life of your humble blogger.  We treated ourselves to a double date with former neighbors, which involved a restaurant meal and a baseball game.  It was so great not to have to think about shopping, chopping and presenting a meal.  Better yet-I was not on the clean up committee!

I ordered a chicken fried steak, smothered in creamy white gravy, which was completely tender.  I cut it with my fork, savoring each bite.  I also ordered turnip greens which were drizzled with a lovely vinegar.  Freshly sauteed green beans appeared on the plate, as well.  My third choice was a delicious sounding salad that promised to cool and refresh:  cucumbers with tomatoes and onion.

The salad was a train wreck!  Thumbs down all the way!  I suppose I was expecting the kind of cuke/tomato/onion yumminess that my dear mother always made.  She peeled the cucumbers, chopped the tomatoes and cukes in to bite sized pieces and the onions were minced so as to be the background.  She would save a few rings of onion for garnish.  Then she bathed it all in a solution of vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.  It was always delectable.

What our waitress delivered to the table were HUNKS of cucumber, whole tomatoes that were so pathetic they had NO juice and were wrinkly and unappealing.  The onions?  Oh, my, they were hunks of onion, too!  CHUNKS, none of it was even chopped!  It looked icky and tasted blah.

Complaining about food ordered in a restaurant is not my cup of tea but when asked directly how everything was, I suggested that they rethink their salad or remove it from the menu.  I suspect they might take my idea under advisement, because even the manager got involved in salad conversation…

Here’s how cucumber salad should be prepared, in Mother Connie’s humble opinion:

Summery Cucumber Side Salad

1 medium cucumber, washed, peeled and diced into bite sized pieces

2 medium tomatoes, washed, peeled, chopped

1 small onion, peeled and diced

Place vegetables in a small bowl.  Add a liberal amount of salt and let stand for 15 minutes or so, until there is juice in the bottom of the bowl.

Pour off the juice and salt.  Add enough vinegar and cold water to cover the goods.  Add  a generous amount of salt, pepper and sugar to the mix and allow it to stand in the fridge so it has time to chill and the flavors can marry.  Taste test the solution as you go.

Using rice vinegar or wine vinegar-if you have it-changes  the taste of the brine and promises to delight the palate!  This is refreshing on a hot end-of-summer day and will keep well in the fridge, so you could double or triple the recipe and save yourself some prep time!

Are you living on a dime?  Do you hold an EBT card for WIC or SNAP?  Maybe you just like the challenge of squeezing the food dollars and seeing how frugal you can be!  Are you getting goods from a food pantry, food drop or food commodities?  Maybe you have visited a food bank…in any case, if you use any form of public assistance we are devoted to helping you  S T R E T C H  those food dollars.  We sincerely hope we bring value to you and your loved ones.  We bring no judgement and we are not out to sell you anything.  We have a little series of cooking tips to share if you join the Club and we always hope for your comments and emails to foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.

Plans are in the works for an offline cooking class…stay tuned!  And do remember you are loved and appreciated!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

 

Pasta Party at Food Stamps Cooking Club

August 9th, 2013

Oh, the magic that can happen when you cook a spaghetti dinner!

Somehow Friday became “noodle night” in my own head!  The aroma of simmering sauce combined with the relaxation of a work week coming to an end just seems appropriate for a family meal.

These days, where people are living on a dime, scraping by to feed their loved ones after working hard and dragging home, exhausted, even a simple pasta meal can feel daunting.  So why not toss the whole meal into ONE POT and allowing your cook top to do all the heavy lifting?

How about this:  If you put all the ingredients into a big pot and let them hang out and blend as they simmer, the starch from the pasta can leach out and create a luscious sauce.  Here’s how to do it:

ALL IN ONE POT PASTA MEAL

Ingredients:

12  ounces pasta *Whatever lives in your pantry will do.
1  can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid  *Here is a chance to use fresh tomatoes if you have these beauties-red or yellow or even those littler babies will add tremendous flavor!
1  large sweet onion, roughly chopped
4  cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes
2  teaspoons dried oregano leaves
2  large sprigs basil, chopped
4 1/2  cups vegetable broth
2  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Method:

Place uncooked pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil, in a large stock pot. Pour in vegetable broth. Sprinkle on top the pepper flakes and oregano‬. Drizzle top with oil.

Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated – I left about an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot – but you can reduce as desired .

Season to taste with salt and pepper , stirring pasta several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.  Pair this dish with a great big green salad and a simple dessert and you have made something wonderful!  Best of all, it was really easy, with very little clean up!

SIDEBAR:  When it comes to oregano and basil, don’t get hung up on whether to use fresh or dry.  Use what you have.  If you grow herbs, super; if not, Mother Earth will continue to rotate on her axis and the Food Police will never know or careEND SIDEBAR.

Pasta has always been “poor man’s food” but with this dish you can feel as if you are living a little higher on the hog!  It is DEEElish!  Any time you can make a thrifty, filling, satisfying meal you can feel good about yourself.    And you deserve to feel good about yourself!

We omit the details about how tickled we are to welcome new members and how we are here to serve and all that other stuff so we can take some friends to a medical appointment.  We can chat more amongst ourselves when Monday rolls around. Make it a wonderful weekend with people you love, everybody. And please remember that YOU are loved and appreciated!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

Presto! Pesto! Food Stamps Cooking Club

August 7th, 2013

Presto Pesto 001Mother Connie has assembled some tasty items that can make for fresh, flavorful, nutritious meals that are easy on the budget and great for summer’s heat!

No doubt you have heard of the cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking”…well, I do not have a copy but I understand it is a major wow.  As you can see in the above photo, I do have some other cookbooks and of course I cruise the internet to find new and interesting things to do with food.  I also subscribe to a food magazine.

SIDEBAR:  This subscription is my only splurge and I do it for YOU people so we can wrangle the food budgets together!  END SIDEBAR.

It was a radio program, though, which caught my rapt attention.  The chef was talking about PESTO and my mouth began to water.  I searched through the fridge to see what greens I might use for a pesto of my very own and was thrilled to realize I had spinach on hand. I could just as easily have used broccoli; both could have been combined.   I made the pesto, drizzled it over gluten free penne pasta and enjoyed it so much that I plan to create another as soon as possible!

It’s CHEAP, it’s EASY, it tastes fresh and dreamy and it is loaded with nutrition AND charm!

Here’s the formula for making pesto:

Pick a seed or some type of nut:  Sunflower seeds work with low food budgets, for example.  But almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or sesame seeds will be wonderful.  They just cost more.

Choose a base:  Pick from Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Mint, dark leafy greens–all finely chopped.  Fresh herbs if you have them…you know the drill about the Kitchen Kops and how they don’t care…

Decide on seasoning:  Garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, thyme, tarragon, oregano

Be cheesy:  Parmesan *That’s the most affordable choice but there are others if your budget can take the pain.

Finishing touches:  chopped tomatoes, roasted red peppers would be just dandy.

So you toast the seeds or nuts in a dry skillet til lightly brown and fragrant.  Allow them to cool and pulse them in a food processor til finely ground.

Use 3 cups total of your base greens and herbs in any combo that hits your hot button.

Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon total of the seasonings you like best.

Grate 1/2 cup of the cheese you’ll be using.  Add everything to the food processor and pulse to combine.  **There is the jarred cheese used for spaghetti and it is usually on the affordable side.

As the pesto pulses, dribble some oil to incorporate it and to make it smooth.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes at this point, if that’s what you are using.

This makes  about 1 cup of pesto; 1/2 cup is a serving meant to top cooked pasta noodles.  Serve this immediately as a warm dish and stand back for rave reviews from your diners!

Mother Connie put lots of mushrooms in her spinach pesto and the lemon juice that went into the dish really brightened the flavor and made a truly satisfying dish!  The mushrooms helped amp up the protein value, too.  ***And when mushroom pieces are so fine, picky eaters don’t really find anything to complain about!  grin/giggle

We know that many of our Members are living on a dime, working hard to keep body and soul together.  We understand that you are holding EBT cards for WIC and SNAP and you are doing all you know to S T R E T C H those food dollars.  Those of you who visit food banks,  food pantries, have food commodities and hope for the generosity of gardeners in your area have our undying support and admiration.  We hope we are helpful in giving you ideas that you are interested to eat and can afford to have the ingredients to make them.

We love having all the new Members that have joined lately!  We may have to install “room stretchers” to hold us all in when we meet around the Club House table!  grin/giggle  We hope you feel the love we are sending your way.

Connie Baum

Garden Variety Food?

July 22nd, 2009

Yesterday was an embarrassment of riches at our house.  Thank goodness our food budget is not dependent on food pantries, food commodities or SNAP.  We have not procured coupons for the Farmers’ Markets, either.  Angel Food Ministries, while in our area, is not providing this family with something to eat.  BUT OUR GARDEN IS!

The Normanator brought in a fine array of beans, beets, peas, zucchini, potatoes, corn and onions and we proceeded to feast like royalty!  And the tomatoes are big, fat, red and juicy.  They just INVITE me to the garden with a salt shaker in hand for snacking!  They really ARE glorious.

The joy of having garden goods is not limited to flavor.  Oh, no.  There is power in creating a strong healthy body that can come ONLY from nutrition.  Phytonutrients, anti-oxidants, enzymes–all the goodness inherent in real, whole food just cannot be duplicated in a lab or processing facility!  We truly ARE what we eat and what is assimilated.  When we eat well and wisely we can be our best selves and raise ourselves to a higher standard of living and being.

Putting wholesome foods on our dinner tables need not be an extravagant expense.  It need not strain your brain, either.  Simple foods are easily combined to make interesting, inviting plates that beckon even to little children.

I looked at a plateful of brightly colored cooked beets and thought, “If only I had some skewers, I could make Beet Lollipops.”  So skewers found their way to my shopping list!  There are still a few beets left to pull!

Ah…  Life is sweet!

Please know that we deeply appreciate your comments on this blog and your messages to foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.  We are THRILLED when you send your recipes and ideas.

We are preparing for our September Cooking Class.  This class is available at no charge to those who are using SNAP, or any other food assistance program BUT YOU MUST RSVP  by September 1 by email to foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com in order to be assured a spot for the class.  Just put “SAVE ME A SPOT” in your subject line.

Thanks to those of you who have popped by Food Stamps Cooking Club to get your name on our list!  We send little tidbits out from time to time and we want everyone to feel included.

Our partners have indicated you are stopping at their “shops” as well.  We appreciate that, as do our partners!

Connie Baum