Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Home Canned Tomato Sauce: It's A Good Thing

Home Canned Tomato Sauce

This was the first year that I really tried my hand at canning. The canning party at the farm got me excited and gave me the basic knowledge to get started. I gathered everything I needed at a farm store on Sauvie Island (except canning tongs--they were all out and those things really are mandatory for a smooth canning experience--next year). I grabbed jars (a few sizes), extra lids (for the jars I already had at home), two canning pots (racks included), a large funnel, labels and a very large canning ladle, plus extra fruit to subsidize what I already had from the garden.

I canned a couple of fruit sauces. They were meant to be jams, but did not have enough natural pectin, so ended up sauces. At first I was frustrated that they didn't set better, however, the result was the same fruity deliciousness as jam. The tri-berry sauce (strawberry, blackberry, blueberry) has been great on pancakes, waffles, toast, muffins and ice cream. Same with the peach sauce. I love having enough to give away too. People seem to really like it. I sent some to Joey at college.

But I think the best advice I was given was to can all the extra tomatoes we had on hand. We had tomatoes from our own garden, lots of them. Then we were getting additional tomatoes from the farm each week, lots of them. We ended up with tomatoes taking over the kitchen... on the counters, the table, the window sill. At the farm, they can something like 75 large jars of tomatoes each year.

It is so easy to can tomatoes. At the farm, they just take cookie sheets and cover them with the fresh tomatoes. Top with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven on 375 degrees until cooked through... I never really kept track, but I probably roasted them for 45-60 minutes. After roasting all you have to do is blend them. I just poured the tomatoes into a large pot and used the immersion blender. I did all this in batches as we had tons of tomatoes. You could also just plop them into a regular blender and blend away. I did not skin or seed them, just blended them. How easy is that?

At the farm, they actually do the water bath version of canning (which I had done for the jams/sauces), but I was just too burnt out to go to that trouble, so I decided to freeze the tomato sauce. I carefully poured the tomato sauce into the wide mouth jars. They must be wide mouth jars for the freezer. Do not fill all the way to the top because in the freezing process the sauce will expand (I know, kind of seems counter intuitive, but the solid form turns out to be a little more volume than the liquid form.) Let the sauce completely cool before putting lids on (either in or out of the jar). Once completely cool, put the lids and labels on. I ended up with 25 jars of tomato sauce in varying sizes.

The best part: whenever you need tomato sauce for anything, you just go to your freezer. Homemade tomato sauce is like no other. When you use it in recipes you can add whatever spices you want. I have used our frozen canned tomato sauce for: lasagna, pasta sauces, indian sauces, spicy homemade tomato ketchup and most recently in chili for Super Bowl.

It's a good thing.

The pitiable "Cone of Shame"

Continuing the SAT study month theme (I seem to be stuck in the p's):
Deserving or inciting pity; "a hapless victim"; Lily is pitiable in her post surgery state.

Have you ever seen the Disney film "Up"?
If not, you must see it. It is a cartoon, a really great cartoon. We watched it last year as a family. The first cartoon we had watched as a family since the boys were little. It's a masterpiece of the animated variety.

Anyway, Lily the golden retriever loved it. Although she was a little scared, okay a lot scared, of the pack of dogs when they were being mean. She LOVED Doug the golden retriever... "squirrel".

Here is a picture of Doug with his "Cone of Shame"

Here is a picture of Lily in her "Cone of Shame"

She is very pitiable. So Lily's story goes like this...
She had a couple of nasty bumps. One was on her back, right where people like to pet her. She has had it for about a year and a half. We had it tested a while back and although it was benign (also known as a sebaceous cyst), it was growing.

Then she got a bump on her neck, right where people like to pet her (running theme). She had that one for about a year and it stayed about the size of a pea, until a couple months ago when it started growing.

Well, the bumps seemed to be bothering everyone (except for Lily). So we decided to have them removed. They turned out to be deeper than the doctor had first anticipated, leaving Lily with rather large post surgery wounds. Lily first came home without the cone of shame and instead was wearing a fashionable t-shirt, but she would not stop scratching at the neck wound (it looks pretty ugly so I will spare everyone the photos).

Here is the wound on her back:

Anyway, she has been wearing the Cone of Shame for about a week now. She still bumps into everything with it. She has taken to scraping the skin off my legs with it (okay, yeah, I realize long pants would solve that problem). She jumps on the bed and rests her Cone of Shame on my lap and stares at me really pathetic like. She has been without doggie daycare and without a bath for 14 days. Tomorrow she gets her stitches out. I think we are all hoping to be rid of the Cone of Shame.

And in case anyone is wondering whether the surgery was absolutely necessary, the answer is no. And I would not do it again. Even if the bumps grow and burst (which can happen), we will just let that happen and deal with it. This surgery stuff is for the birds.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Persistent determination, the quality of being determined to do or achieve something; firmness of purpose. Sammy showed pertinacity during the entire 2010/2011 basketball season.
(Sammy is going to take the SAT's this Spring and we are trying to help him out with his vocabulary. :)

Sammy has been playing sports basically his whole life. His first word was ball, followed very closely by the word blue. Since four years old, Sammy has played soccer, baseball, golf and tennis. He started football in 3rd grade and started playing basketball a little later, at maybe 10 years old (on a team.) Of course he had a little basketball hoop at age two and then a bigger basketball hoop at four. Our neighbors were kind enough to leave their big basketball hoop up in their driveway for years after their kids were grown and done using it... probably because they felt sorry for us since we have no driveway.

This is Sammy's third season playing basketball for his small private school, Catlin Gabel. Playing basketball at Catlin has been a rough road for Sammy. No school or program is perfect and we understand that. Sammy having the opportunity to play all the sports he wants is, in fact, a big plus in our minds. Catlin has a no-cut, everyone plays policy. Unfortunately, the Catlin basketball coaches seem to have a bit of a hard time following the rules and maintaining their objectivity. Even though this is a small private school that nurtures the individual spirit and touts respect, some of the basketball coaches have a hard time understanding and practicing this... or maybe no one told them? I am not big on the win at ALL costs mentality.

Sammy's Freshman year he sat on the JV bench most of the time (they only had enough kids for Varsity and JV). The coach said Sammy was not fast enough (don't get me started...) Last year Sammy played down at JV2 and had an awesome year playing for an awesome coach (and was surprisingly fast). He got tons of deserved play time. But, the other coaches ran that really good coach away (I'm talking really good coach). This year, they again have three teams. Sammy was chosen for the JV team. We all quickly realized that the JV team was the "Bad News Bears" of Catlin Basketball. The Varsity team got the best players (at least by the coach's standards) and as well they should. JV2 actually got a really great group of Freshman with aspirations of playing Varsity (in this private school setting, not all kids have aspirations of playing Varsity--I just thought I would throw that out there.) The JV team got all the Juniors and Sophomores that did not make Varsity (partly due to the fact that they did not play basketball during the off season, many of the kids, like Sammy, have other things in their life besides basketball.) The JV team also got all the other weak players (many of them Freshmen). Boys who had never played basketball, boys just out for a PE credit, and what the coaches like to call boys in need of "skill building." What transpired after that was complete fiasco. Leaving the Varsity team's success, or lack thereof, out of this, the JV2 team has been slaughtering their opponents by sometimes 30-40 points. Now if anyone out there actually watches high school basketball, even scoring 40 points can be difficult, but to squash your opponent game after game by that many points is actually quite astounding (and also goes to show that the other teams put their better players on their JV team.) On the other hand, the JV team started the season by losing by the same amount of points (or dare I say, more.) So, what would a sensible basketball program do? I am thinking everyone out there is going to react like me... why would you not switch out the better JV2 players for the weaker JV players? I guess because that would make sense? But since the Catlin Gabel Boys Basketball program does not make any sense (in my opinion), they did not do that. UNTIL... they lost more than half the JV team (for various reasons). Sammy and his buddy Ian did quit for a game--out of protest, but of course that fell on deaf ears. Since the boys really love basketball and we really wanted them playing basketball instead of doing other less savory extra-curricular activities, they returned to play out the season. Oh, and another option the coaches had, that all other teams in their league participate in, swinging down Varsity players that don't get much play time in the Varsity games. After about a bazillion emails by me and some heated conversations with staff (that apparently do not like me very much), they finally swung a couple Varsity players. Now that the Varsity team has a half dozen injuries and Sammy's team was down to about 5 consistent players, they finally moved a bunch of the JV2 team up to JV. Why? Because the JV2 season is basically over. Thanks guys. Way to go. Does this really count as better late than never?

Anyway, I have vented enough frustration here.
In the end we are very proud of Sammy for rejoining the team and sticking it out. We love watching basketball and we love watching Sammy play basketball. We have been to almost every game this season, even away games. Sammy has played quite hard and attempted (sometimes not so successfully) to keep a positive attitude even when his team loses by 40 (or dare I say more) points.

Above: Sammy get your mind together, the game is about to start.

Above: Practice before the game. Sammy is a pretty decent ball handler

Above: Tips from the coach (Sammy's coach does his best with what he is given)

Above: Sammy is a great rebounder

Above: Sammy is pretty darn good at drawing the foul when he drives to the basket. We wish he did it more often.

Above: I love their bright blue away uniforms (I know this is a silly Mom thing.)

Above: Ooh, Sammy takes some big elbow hits and a lot of other hits that don't get called, but that is basketball.

Above: Sammy is an awesome free throw shooter.

Above: Sammy always gets the ball into play.

Above: Sammy can be a leader and direct his teammates, when he speaks up.

We are proud of Sam! And seriously, we cannot believe he is approaching 5'11", that is nearly unheard of in our family!