Another Snow Day, Another Activity

DSC_6068This winter has been ridiculous.

I was joking with my students the other day that they might have fireworks at graduation, since it might not be until the 4th of July!  They weren’t amused.

Are you out of snow day activity ideas?  How about mixing up some granola.  It is an easy activity that my children can do with a little supervision from me (translation: I can sit at the kitchen table and grade papers while they take care of this one).

Fast Granola Recipe

  • 4 C rolled oats
  • 3 C chopped nuts of choice and/or seeds (we like a combination of almonds, sunflower and pecans)
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 1/3 C melted butter
  • 1 C chopped dried fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 275° F
  2. Combine honey with melted butter
  3. Combine oats and nuts/seeds and coat with the honey butter mixture
  4.  Spread in a 9 x 13 baking dish and put in the oven for 15 minutes
  5. Take out and stir the mixture.  Put back in the oven for 15 minutes. Repeat until mixture turns golden (not brown). 45 minutes to one hour total cooking time.
  6. Remove from oven.  Stir in dried fruit
  7. Let cool and enjoy.  Store in refrigerator.

I have a slow granola recipe as well.  We have found that soaking grains has made them more digestible for some members of the family.  If you have some trouble digesting grains, try soaking the oats overnight and then dry on screens in your dehydrator, or by spreading the oats on cookie sheets in a very low oven (150° F).  We also soak our nuts and seeds in a salt water solution and dry them in the dehydrator or low oven.  We like this because it makes a “salty-sweet” snack!

Easy Salsa That’s Good for Your Gut

I have already posted my recipe for canned salsa, but I have two others, both using that age-old preservation process I call Probiotic Preservation.  To learn more about it, see my earlier blog post.

The first is a tomato recipe that tastes much like the salsa in the canned recipe.

Red Salsa

  • 5-6 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, sliced (seeds or no seeds – hotness is up to you!)
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced (see above)
  • 1 stalk celery, small dice
  • 1 T honey or REAL maple syrup
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • ¼ C whey

Scald and peel the tomatoes.  Cut into bite size pieces and put in a bowl.  Put the onion in a sieve and run under hot water for about a minute.  Add to the bowl.  Sprinkle with the salt and mix and let stand for about three hours.  Drain.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in at room temperature for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.

Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Green Salsa

  • 1 quart tomatillos, husked and washed and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, fine chopped
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, fine chopped, stems included
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • hot peppers to taste
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • 1/4 C whey
  1. Combine the tomatillos and onions in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand about 20 minutes and then drain.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients.
  3. Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in a warm place for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.
  4. When you are ready to eat the salsa, you can serve it as is, or mix it with some fresh chopped red tomatoes, and/or chopped mangos.
    Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Another note:  If you put too many hot peppers in the salsa, adding a fruit like mango or apple right before you serve it can cut down the heat with the sweet.

DO NOT ADD THE FRUIT BEFORE YOU FERMENT THIS!  Yes, I tried that once.  The salsa molded halfway down the jar in about two weeks.

I can’t tell you how long these will hold up in cold storage because they doesn’t stick around in our house more than a month or two.  Figure it this way — the tomatoes come in just as football season is starting.

The Tomatoes are Coming! The Tomatoes are Coming!

            Yes, I have a lot of them, too, and there are only going to be more.  The tomatoes are coming in about as fast as I can process them.  After making peeled whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, the next phase is making “Blank Sauce.”  I call it that because it does not have any herbs that might give it a hint of ethnic flavor.  We can use the blank sauce to create all kinds of tomato sauce very quickly.

            One piece of equipment that I strongly recommend is a food mill.  I frequently see them in thrift stores, which for me is a sad affirmation that people are moving further and further away from home processing.  Most food mills look like a pot with holes in the bottom, and a handle with a metal plate.  You can probably pick one up new for about $20- $25.  Some of them come with interchangeable plates, so you can puree the food to different consistencies.

          The drawback to the food mill is the small capacity.  When I am making a large batch of tomato anything, or berry, or apple, I use a Squeezo strainer, that I picked up at a thrift store for $5.  It was one of the best $5 I ever spent there.  New, they run about $100-$150, depending on the brand and the accessories.  My Squeezo has interchangeable cones that run from a berry mesh (fine enough to strain out berry seeds) to a squash mesh that makes perfect crushed tomatoes!

           One benefit of using a food mill, or tomato strainer, is that I get to skip the time consuming step of peeling the tomatoes.  Just don’t make the mistake I made a few years ago and dump the seeds in your compost.  I’ll make excuses for myself that it was hot and I was tired, and just didn’t think when I dumped all of those tomato seeds in the compost bin… but the aftermath, volunteer tomato plants everywhere, was an issue.  Actually it still is an issue.  I had tomatoes coming up in my cold frame this past spring.



Blank Sauce


·      2 T olive oil

·      1 large onion, cut in chunks

·      3 cloves garlic cut in half

·      10 quarts of tomatoes, cut in half or quarters and cored

·      ¼ C salt

·      1 T lemon juice


1.     Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large pot.

2.     Add onions and garlic and cook until they begin to turn translucent.

3.     Add tomatoes, salt and lemon juice, and cook down for about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the water content of the tomatoes.

4.     Turn off the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.

5.     Run the contents of the pot through the food mill or strainer, using the medium plate. 

6.     Return to the pot and cook down to the desired consistency.

I jar this in quarts and pints. 


 In November, when we are in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, we can whip up some sauce in no time:


 Spaghetti Sauce


·      1 quart Blank sauce

·      2 T olive oil

·      1 medium onion, finely chopped

·      1 clove garlic, finely chopped

·      2 T dried basil, crushed

·      2 T dried oregano, crushed

·      1 C red wine

·      salt and pepper to taste

1.     In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion starts to turn clear (about 5 minutes).

2.     Add the dried herbs and stir until everything is shiny.

3.     Add the red wine and reduce by half.

4.     Add the Blank sauce.  Simmer for  20-30 minutes.

5.     Salt and pepper to taste.

You can add crushed red pepper flakes to this to zip it up.


 If we want a Greek style tomato sauce, it’s even easier:

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      1 T flat leaf parsley, chopped

·      1 t dried oregano, crushed

·      ½ C red wine

·      ¼ t cinnamon

·      1/8 t ground allspice

·      Salt to taste


1.     Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and stir.  Simmer about 25 minutes. 

This sauce is great over fish in addition to Greek style meatballs.


 How about clams or mussels marinara?

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      4 anchovy fillets

·      clams and mussels, scrubbed and sanded (put the shellfish in a tub of water with a lot of ground black pepper)

salt and pepper to taste


Pour the sauce into a large pot. Heat and stir in the anchovies.  Lower the heat.  Add the shellfish and cover.  Cook until all of the shells have opened.  If any shells do not open, discard that clam or mussel.


 My last quick use for Blank Sauce is pot roast:

·      One chuck roast, frozen

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      2 C red wine

·      ¼ C soy sauce

·      1 large onion, sliced

1.     Place onion slices in the bottom of a crock pot.

2.     Put frozen roast on top of the onions.

3.     Pour the remaining ingredients on top.

4.     Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.

5.     After 10 hours, remove the meat.  Poke around to see if there are any bones in the pot.  If there are remove them!  Using a wand (immersion) blender, puree the contents of the crock pot to make gravy.  Slice the meat and serve.