Roasted Tomato Sauce

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This mid-summer season is a busy time for me. I spend a crazy amount of time canning and freezing all the summer goodness I can so we can eat healthy all winter. I can’t imagine how women did this 100 years ago, when a family’s life might depend on it. Then again, they weren’t juggling full time jobs, summer camp and sport schedules and trying to work out. Or surfing Pinterest 🙂

So last week, I found myself the happy owner of a 30 pound box of canning tomatoes. YES! I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them–make this wonderful tomato sauce. Calling this “sauce” is a little inaccurate. This is so thick and fragrant and rich tasting, it should just be called “summer joy”. I could eat this with thick pieces of bread, over pasta, in chili, in soup or just plain ol’ by itself with a spoon. With only three ingredients, it is super healthy. No sugar, no preservatives, no salt. Just sunny, summer tomatoes, garlic, and a splash of olive oil. I keep this sauce simple so I can use it in any recipe later.

This “summer joy” is easy to make–just chop, roast, blend and freeze! Instead of canning, you just fill quart freezer containers and stash in your freezer for later. We went through 8 quarts last winter! I made four quarts from my box and at $10 per box of canning tomatoes, that is $2.50 per quart of homemade greatness (plus a teensy bit for the garlic and olive oil). I’ll make some more soon! If you love tomato sauce, but don’t want to bother with canning, try this!

Roasted Tomato Sauce (makes about 1 quart per 5 lbs of tomatoes)

Romas are best for this sauce as they have less water, but any tomato will do–you will need to adjust your roasting time for very juicy tomatoes!

  • Any amount of tomatoes (I have been roasting 2-5 lbs. at a time)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, sliced thin or minced
  • Olive oil
  1. Wash and trim tomatoes, and cut into halves (romas) or quarters (for larger tomatoes).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line one or more baking sheets with foil.
  3. Put tomato pieces on a foil lined baking sheet (I use 2 sheets at a time).
  4. Sprinkle garlic pieces over tomatoes.
  5. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes.
  6. Put baking sheet in the oven and roast tomatoes for about 2 hours. Check on them periodically and stir them around a bit.
  7. Roast tomatoes until the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are a bit charred and shriveled.
  8. Put all tomatoes and garlic pieces in a bowl.
  9. Use an immersion stick blender and puree the tomatoes until they are to your liking. I like mine fairly chunky, but you can make this as smooth as you like.
  10. Store in freezer safe containers in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

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Have you reached veggie overload yet? You know, that moment in the summer when you look in your refrigerator and think, “how are we ever going to eat all this?” I’m not quite there, but I am ordering light on our produce box this week so we can catch up with what we already have. I’ll also be taking time to can and freeze some of our summer bounty for the winter.

This pasta salad recipe is great because it addresses two summer issues: it uses pretty much whatever vegetables you feel like bringing home from the farmer’s market (or have in your refrigerator) AND it does not require a lot of cooking, so your house will stay cool. It could easily be called “clean your refrigerator pasta salad” because that is what I did. This salad is fresh and light, but also filling. We used a pasta new to us called casarecce. It is chewy and substantial, but also fun-looking. We bought the Giada DeLaurentis brand from Target because it is organic (and was on sale). It was very good. You could use butterfly pasta, macaroni, dinosaurs or whatever shape suits you. We ended up using the last bits of local mozzarella and local smoked cheddar from a recent farmer’s market run. The smoked cheddar was especially great! Will definitely do that again!

You can make the vinaigrette dressing as it is here or you can substitute a white balsamic or rice wine vinegar. The peach vinegar was pretty terrific, but if you can’t find it, use what you have–no biggie. This is all about flexibility and creativity so use this recipe as a base and make it your own!

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad (makes about 8 servings)

  • 6 ounces dry pasta (we used organic casarecce)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 3 scallions, chopped (white parts only)
  • 3 small yellow squash, washed and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 bell pepper, washed and diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh or smoked cheese, diced
  • 3/4 cup peach vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon spicy mustard
  • 1 generous tablespoon, raw, local honey
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground fresh pepper to taste
  1. In a large stock pot bring water for pasta to a boil. Cook pasta to al dent according to directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, combine all chopped vegetables in a large bowl.
  3. In the bowl for a stick blender (or in a standard blender), combine vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper and blend well. Set aside.
  4. Drain pasta and add to vegetable mixture. Add cheese.
  5. Pour dressing over all and toss well to coat.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  7. Serve cold.

Tuna and White Bean Salad

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July is not the time to be cooking big meals here in North Carolina. In fact, it’s best not to be cooking at all, if you can help it. It is hot, hot, hot here, and cold salads are a great way to get a healthy, refreshing meal while using all those wonderful vegetables from the farmer’s market. This tuna and white bean salad uses canned, organic cannellini beans (look for a BPA-free can), but you could also cook some dried beans (that would require using the stove, so you decide what works for you). We are also using some sustainable, water packed tuna from Wild Planet. Wild Planet was a vendor at the recent Esprit de She race, and I scored some free samples after the race (sometimes it pays to finish later!). This salad is light, nourishing and delicious–very fresh for summer!

Tuna and White Bean Salad (makes 3 entree servings or 6 side dish servings)

  • 1 can organic cannellini beans
  • 1 can tuna packed in water
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, washed and diced
  • 3 scallions, chopped (just the white parts)
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon capers (rinse if salt-packed)
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • Butter leaf lettuce or arugula leaves
  1. Combine all ingredients except lettuce in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  2. Cover and keep refrigerated at least one hour, to let flavors come together.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves in serving bowls or plates.
  4. Scoop salad onto lettuce and serve.

Week 27 Budget and Menu

I love the July 4th holiday with all it’s patriotic red, white and blue, ice cream, fireworks and fun. It is one of my favorite holidays, which is good because I get to officiate at a July 4th celebration every year! This is great fun and always a summer highlight. But working on July 4th means that I’m not all that excited about cooking when I get home. Mostly, I need a shower and a glass of wine. So our menu this week reflects Tom’s grilling and my make-ahead cold salads. We are still a bit over budget this week, but we splurged on some grass fed, ribeye steaks for the 4th of July–I think it’s worth it!

Budget [$110.45]

  • The Produce Box (fresh garlic, sweet corn, blueberries, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, onion, Bibb lettuce): $28.50
  • Mae Farm (grass-fed steaks, eggs, ground beef): $27.00
  • Other market (peaches): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (taco shells, organic chicken thighs, yogurt, frozen fruit, almond milk, wine, cream cheese): $47.95

Menu

  • Wednesday–Tuna sandwiches
  • Thursday–Grilled steaks, potato salad, grilled eggplant, peach cobbler
  • Friday–Tuna and white bean salad
  • Saturday–Grilled chicken and peaches, farmer’s market pasta salad
  • Sunday–Pimento cheese ravioli with onion and crispy prosciutto
  • Monday–Southwestern vegetable pizza
  • Tuesday–Taco night!

Tutorial Tuesday #4–Preparing to Shop at the Farmers Market

36/365 Produce

I am a “list person”.

Not to label myself or anything, but I do love a good list (I also have a label maker, so maybe I will label myself). To-do lists, errand lists, shopping lists and yes, menu lists. There is something very satisfying about crossing off something on a list. Also, I am slightly absent-minded (I prefer to think of this as “intensely focused elsewhere”), so lists help me keep track of things that might otherwise get overlooked. I also keep a list of blog topics. And one that has risen to the top is how we plan our meals around local foods. A friend posted in wondering about this as well, so now seems a good time to dive in.

We don’t have a lot of parameters around our eating, but we do have some loose rules for our journey:

  1. At least 75% of our food should come from local sources.
  2. We should keep spending to $100 or under
  3. No processed foods, unless absolutely necessary (see “Girl Scout Cookies”)

In the second week of our journey, I had a major “uh-oh” moment. I had carefully crafted a list of recipes I wanted to try, based on what I thought might be available at the farmer’s market. As it turns out, almost nothing I wanted was available, so I ended up buying all manner of random food and then trying to create a week of meals out of it. If you’re up for that challenge, go for it, but it was a stressful learning experience for me and I discovered that I need more order than that. I’ve developed a system for locavore menu planning over the past year and a half, and I’ll share it with you. It probably sounds more complicated than it really is. I’m not recommending anyone adopt my system, but it works for me. And if it works for me, I am probably more likely to be successful, so finding a system that works for YOU will do the same. Here goes:

Friday–On Fridays, I get an email from The Produce Box letting me know what is in the various boxes for the next week. I usually go ahead and order my box on Friday and, based on what is going to be in my box, I start my menu for the next week, and make a shopping list of the remaining items I will need from the farmer’s market and from Trader Joes. Since what I get in my Produce Box is similar to what is available at our farmer’s market, there aren’t many surprises here.

On Fridays, I also read emails and Twitter posts from our local farmers markets and farmers so I know what will be available over the weekend. These posts help so much. I highly recommend getting on the e-mail lists of any farmers markets or farmers near you. I can find out what vendors will be available, what they will have, what’s coming up soon and (if I want) I can even order specific products or cuts of meat ahead of time.

A note about our weekly menu: I try to make sure we have a balance of vegetables and proteins throughout the week and I try not to have pasta or starchy dishes more than once or twice a week. This doesn’t always work out–some weeks have been heavy on seafood and others heavy on chicken or pork–but mostly it works out ok. I always try to plan at least one meatless meal each week.

Tuesday–On Tuesdays, I do a final tweak to our menu and check my shopping list. I look at how much my Produce Box order is and try to assess how much in our budget I have left for the farmer’s market and for grocery store items. I get my draft post for the blog ready on Tuesday night.

Wednesday–On Wednesdays, I go to the farmer’s market (sometimes I do this on Saturday, but whatever). Since I know pretty much in advance what will be available to me, I pick up what I need as well as any orders I have placed for meat, fish, etc. While I’m at the market, I make a list (!) of new items that are available or anything interesting that I might consider for next week. Then after work, I go to Trader Joes and get whatever else I need.

Unless something happens and I forget something on the list (see “intensely focused elsewhere”), I try to shop once a week, and keep the extra purchases to a minimum. I do make exceptions for canning over the weekend. If I know I’m going to be making jam or pasta sauce, I’ll head out to the farmer’s market Saturday morning (early) to get what I need so it is very fresh.

So far, this system has worked out relatively well. It does mean that I spend a LOT more time thinking about food, although the longer I do it, the easier it is and the less time I spend planning and shopping. I don’t necessarily mind spending the time, but if you don’t like to cook or if you don’t want to sit around and think through a weekly menu, this may not make you happy. To date, we have been pretty good about not wasting food and making good use of the produce and meat we buy. Some weeks are more successful than others, of course. That’s life.

So that is our system for making sure we have local foods and that we eat what we buy. If you are eating local, how do you plan your meals?

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