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I looove roasted tomatoes. The fire-roasted tomatoes take tortilla soup to a whole new level with their smoky sweetness. We’re still harvesting several pounds of tomatoes from our garden every day – IN OCTOBER! I am finding all sorts of crazy things to do with them because I haven’t had time for much canning (or cooking for that matter) lately. It doesn’t get much easier than roasting the tomatoes, and, trust me, roasted tomatoes are much richer tasting than their non-roasted counterparts, especially for the soup and stew months ahead. So use this little trick to make some roasted tomatoes of your own.
Adapted from Food in Jars
Tomatoes of any variety – I have used this method with cherry tomatoes, Romas, heirloom varieties; all of which have turned out beautifully
A generous amount of olive oil
Fresh herbs of your choice (basil would be obvious here, but anything works. I also used a jalapeno for one batch that I’ll plan to use in chili)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. If using cherry tomatoes, just throw them in a glass baking dish. If you’re using a larger tomato, slice (or dice them – your preference) the tomatoes and lay them out in a glass baking dish. Dice or shred the herbs or peppers, and throw them in the baking dish. Pour the olive oil generously over the tomatoes (you want all of the tomatoes to be doused in olive oil) and salt and pepper. Put in the oven for 4-6 hours*. I’ve been doing these after dinner, so I usually put them in for two hours. Check on things, stir them around, put them in for another two hours. And then turn off the oven and let the tomatoes set in the warm oven overnight. Then I pack them into freezer-safe glass jars in the morning and throw them in the freezer. The whole process takes about 12 minutes of hands-on time, less if you’re using cherry tomatoes.
*Tip: the juicier tomatoes may take longer. You want to let them go until they begin to brown up just a bit like the ones in the picture.
I have a new-found love for cabbage lately. I don’t remember ever being too crazy about it, although I’ve always loved cole slaw. We got a whole bunch of it from the CSA and from a local farm, so we’ve been eating it for just about every meal for the past for weeks. Here are three different ways that I’ve prepared it lately:
Beef and cabbage
A Sara Original
I don’t know what I was expecting when I through this together one night (in about twenty minutes from start to finish), but I wasn’t expecting us all to enjoy it so much, I know that. It’s easy, delicious, and healthy – and everyone asked for seconds. This was definitely a keeper!
1 pound happily-raised ground beef (or pork, turkey, etc.)
2 tbsp fat of choice (I used some coconut oil, but use whatever you like)
1 whole head cabbage, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, cayenne, or any hot pepper, diced (remove seeds if you don’t like spicy)
1 tsp oregano or thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the meat in a large skillet with the oil/butter. Once most of it is browned, add the onion and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the spices, pepper, and garlic, and cook just until you start to smell the garlic. Then add the cabbage, lower the heat to medium-low, and cover the pan for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The cabbage will release water, so it will steam itself up a bit in the closed pan. Once the cabbage has softened up (about 20 minutes), you’re ready to eat.
I used this recipe and modified it quite a bit because I didn’t have radishes or green onions, but I also used airlocks, which she doesn’t use. Check out this post for more information. It’s still healthy and delicious even if you just want to make a big batch and keep it in the fridge instead of messing with all of the fermentation details (although, I will say, that fermenting is more than worth the little bit of reading upfront).
After fermenting about 12 quarts of the cabbage, I still had quite a bit to use up. Since we all enjoy cabbage so much in soups and stews, I decided to just blanch and freeze some that can easily be added to soups and stews in the middle of winter. I washed the cabbage heads thoroughly, removing several of the outer leaves. Then I cut them in half, but left the core intact to help with the blanching process to keep all of the leaves together. Then I brought a large pot of water to a boil, dumped the cabbage halves in the boiling water for about a minute, then layed them out in a colander to drip-dry. Once they had cooled off, I put them in large plastic bags and put them in the freezer. (I blanched them first just in hopes of killing any leftover bacteria that might have been on the leaves). They take up quite a bit of space in the freezer, but they have already come in handy as an easy addition to soups to add some veg.
I really don’t think too many of us have trouble using up tomatoes, but, by this point in the season, I am looking for some different ways to eat them, just to spice things up a bit (whereas in July, I have them with just salt and pepper for every meal of the day). These aren’t really recipes, so much as formulas, so play around with the flavors and ingredients based on what you have laying around and on what sounds good to you.
A Sara Original
A cup or two of cherry tomatoes, halved
Small red onion, diced
2-3 small cucumbers, diced
Handful of fresh basil or mint or oregano (we have all three in the garden, so I just pick on based on what sounds good, but really any fresh herb would be delicious), sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
Salt and pepper
Throw all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir, barely.
Heirloom Caprese Salad
A Sara Original (stolen from centuries of Italians)
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1/4 cup feta (or fresh buffalo mozzarella for the more traditionalists)
Small handful of fresh basil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Assemble the tomatoes on a plate, followed by the onions, topped off with the cheese and basil. Dress with the oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.
A Sara Original
4 ears sweet corn, cooked and shucked (grilling the corn gives an even tastier, smokier flavor if you have time)
1 small red onion, diced
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1 jalapeno, diced (take out seeds for less spicy, leave them in for more heat)
Juice of one lime
1 tomato, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 cup cilantro, chopped (or more, depending on your taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Assemble all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir carefully. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and jalapeno if necessary.
Now I’m hungry, so I think I’ll head out to the garden and see what I can scrounge up!
Everyone always talks about having zucchini coming out of their ears, but I’ve never had that great of luck growing it. I must have a black thumb when it comes to zucs. I need to do some research. Fortunately, we’ve had plenty of zucchini (and other summer squash) from Victory Acres and from the farmer’s markets, so it’s not like we’ve gone without. Our favorite way to use zucchini is to shred it and use it in place of pasta in lasagna and other pasta dishes. We’ve made this dish close to once a week for much of the summer: we shred zucchini in the food processor, saute it in a large pan with some olive oil and basil for just about five minutes or so. Then we put some marinara or meat sauce on top.
For lasagna, I use a mandolin to slice the zucchini length-wise. For lasagna, I like to sweat the zucchini a bit, so it isn’t so watery. To do so, I slice it up, salt it, and then let it sit in a colander for at least an hour. I only have a picture of making it in a baked pasta dish, but the idea is the same for lasagna – you just use the zucchini “noodles” instead of the lasagna noodles (and no pre-cooking necessary of course). We find zucchini a much tastier pasta substitute than spaghetti squash, so I try to shred and freeze several bags of it for use throughout the winter as well.
I also made some zucchini and sweet pepper relish (using this recipe), which turned out quite delicious. We’ve been eating it up on just about everything, but our favorite so far is in tuna and salmon salad.
I’m really the only one in the family that likes this raw zucchini salad, which is fine by me. The zucchini stays a little crunchy, which is nice for a change.
Raw zucchini salad
Adapted from Food52
Handful fresh basil or mint
Juice on one lemon
1 clove garlic, sliced
Splash of extra virgin olive oil (1 – 2 tbsp, to taste)
Salt and pepper
Cut the ends of the zucchini and slice it on the lowest setting on your mandolin (if you don’t have a mandolin, you can attempt to slice thinly with a knife instead). In a jar combine the remaining ingredients except the basil and shake well. Pour the dressing over the zucchini, add the basil, and gently stir to combine. Enjoy!
*More zucchini recipes here.
I feel like I say this about lots of summer vegetables, but is there really anything better than an ear or two of fresh Indiana sweet corn with lots of butter, salt and pepper? I think not. I don’t really love corn other than in the summer straight off the cob, but for the last few years, we’ve frozen batches of Indiana sweet corn for use in soups, tacos, etc. throughout the winter. That corn is a totally different story from the canned or frozen stuff you find at the grocery store, if you ask me. We canned a whole bunch too (recipe coming), but here is our easy process for freezing sweet corn.
Step one: recruit your sweet husband to shuck the corn.
Step two: cook the corn by your method of choice. I like the pressure cooker personally, but I also roasted a few dozen ears under the broiler and grilled another dozen or so on the grill.
Step three: cut all of the corn from the cobs. We like to do this on big baking sheets because 1) it’s easy to catch the flying kernels and 2) we spread out the corn on the baking sheets and then plop them in the freezer. Freezing them on the baking sheets first makes it easy to just take a little out at a time versus putting them in the bags directly and then having them all freeze together in the bags.
Step four: After freezing the corn (usually overnight for us) on the baking sheets, we put it in bags, label them, and get excited about eating Indiana corn all winter long (or at least as long as it will last!).
I love rainbow chard. It’s so pretty! And tasty and healthy too, but mostly just so pretty. I really only saute it in some olive oil and garlic because I think that’s the best way to play up its strengths, and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet. We’ve been using it as a base for burgers (at our dream restaurant, Grant says we’d call this “paleo on a plate”) in place of using buns, so here we tore up the chard, sauteed it in some garlic and olive oil, and then piled on top our burger and all of the fixins (sauteed mushrooms, red onions, bacon, avocados).
We also eat a ton of eggs for lunch, so this is a pretty regular lunch around our house: sauteed chard (or kale or spinach) with a fried (local, happy chicken) egg on top.
This has been our go-to lunch (and sometimes dinner) for pretty much all of July – local sweet corn, a cucumber sandwich, and some rainbow chard with eggs. Indiana summer on a plate!
We love cucs around our house. Our cucumber plants did just alright this year. I talked to other gardener friends, and many of them said that their cucumber plants didn’t fare so well either. The plants did well, just didn’t produce much. I’m wondering if it’s just another consequence of the crisis facing our bees (and other pollinators). It’s one of those things that we need to address as communities, not just individuals. Most likely, pesticides play a significant role in the problem, but all of our neighbors use pesticides, so not using chemicals on our yard doesn’t help the bees much (although I do notice much more insect diversity in our yard than we had when we first moved her and were weaning off the pesticides and fertilizers).
At any rate, we find all sorts of things to do with the cucumbers that we did get from our garden – and the ones from Victory Acres too. Our favorite way to eat them is as cucumber sandwiches. I like lots of butter, cucs, and red onion on mine; Grant likes them with my tomato jam (recipe coming); Jasper likes one my way and one Grant’s way. I also love my mom/grandma’s cucumber salad – summer isn’t complete without it. I also make lots of jars of refrigerator pickles. I do can a few as well for the winter months, but the canning process makes them a little less crispy than I would like so I prefer the refrigerator method (plus, let’s be honest, I eat them so fast that canning them isn’t really worth it). You can even use the brine from your pickled veggies, or try this recipe below that I’ve been using.
Adapted from Food in Jars
8-10 small cucumbers
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced (keep the seeds if you want it spicy, leave them out for a milder version)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar – I used white this last batch because I ran out of ACV)
1 cup water
2 tsp dill seed
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
Clean jars. This makes about three pints worth of pickles. Clean the cucumbers and chop off the ends. Slice them into spears (or slices if you prefer) and put them in the jars. Add the garlic, dill seed, peppercorns, onions, and jalapeno to the jars, splitting them up evenly among the cars. Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Put the lids on and let them cool on the countertop before putting them in the refrigerator. They will keep in the fridge for a month (or three days at our house).
I love canning stuff. I get so sad in the middle of the winter when fresh, seasonal produce seems so faraway…but then I remember my canning stash and I get so excited about whatever might be preserved for later. I get excited (and a little hoard-y) about the stuff I’ve frozen too, but it just isn’t as exciting as those cute little glass jars.
Homemade canned food also make great last minute gifts for friends, so I love having them on hand since I’m quite forgetful in that department. I ordered a big order of sweet onions from the co-op several weeks ago, but I didn’t use them up fast enough so some were starting to look a little sad. I found this recipe and knew I had to try it. I was expecting them to be tasty, but not quite this tasty. If you don’t want to mess with canning, just make a batch (you may want to halve or quarter this recipe), stick them in the fridge and use them within 2-3 weeks. You’ll thank me later.
Sweet and sour pickled onions
Not at all adapted from Put ‘Em Up
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp turmeric
4 pounds big sweet onions (I sliced mine, but the recipe calls for chopped – it’s up to you)
6 garlic cloves, sliced
Bring the first seven ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Add the onions and garlic and return everything to a boil, stirring constantly just until everything is mixed together. Remove from the heat. If you’re not canning these, ladle the onion mixture into your jars, cover and refrigerate (for up to three weeks).
If canning, use the water bath method. Ladle mixture into clean, hot canning jars (I used a mix of pint and half-pint jars because that is what I had on hand – I would use half-pint if you have them). Make sure the onions are covered by at least 1/4 inch of liquid/brine. Leave 1/4 inch head space at the top of the jar. Tap the jar on the counter to release any air bubbles, and I like to run a butter knife around the outside to ensure the air is all released. Wipe the rim of the jars clean, center your fresh lids on the jar, and screw on the jar band. Process in water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars after ten minutes and sit aside for 24 hours. Check seals after 24 hours, and then store in a dark place for up to one year.
We have been eating these on nearly everything, but my favorite is on top of freshly grilled brats or burgers. We’ve used it on scrambled eggs, sandwiches, salads. We haven’t tried something that didn’t taste better without the pickled onions on top!
I had some cabbage and sweet potatoes that were looking a little funky, and I came across a recipe that would use up both…so I figured it was God’s way of telling me to make this soup. I haven’t really found a Moosewood recipe that I didn’t like, but I was a little skeptical about this one. But it was a huge hit, especially with the baby – she ate it every day for three days!
Caribbean Vegetable Stew
Adapted from Moosewood Cooks at Home
1 large chopped onion
1 tbsp fat of choice (I used coconut oil)
1 small cabbage, cored and chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (a fresh jalapeno would be great here, but I didn’t have one on hand)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cups broth
3 cups diced sweet potatoes
2 cups diced tomatoes with broth (I used canned, but use fresh if you have them)
2 cups cooked black beans (optional)
Juice of one lime + a teaspoon or so of lime zest
Handful of chopped fresh cilantro
Saute the onions in the oil about 4-5 minutes. Add the cabbage and pepper, saute about 8-10 more minutes. Add the ginger and stock, cover the pan, bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and salt. Simmer until potatoes are barely tender. Add tomatoes, beans (if using), and lime juice. Simmer about 15 minutes more. Add cilantro and remove the pan from the heat.
*The original recipe calls for okra, but I didn’t have any (nor do I usually), but by all means, throw some in if you have it on hand!
We have a new addiction: refrigerator pickled veggies. We’ve always been big fans of regular refrigerator pickles (our favorite recipes to come once the cucs start coming), but this year, I had one week where I inadvertently ordered 20+ pounds of carrots and way too much cauliflower from the co-op. It turned out to be a very fortuitous mistake because I experimented with pickling them both – and they were delicious, easy, and addicting!
Make these soon – you’ll be eating more veggies in no time!
1 cup filtered water
1 cup apple cider vinegar (make sure it’s commercial vinegar that is at least 5% acidity)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tsp crushed bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tsp coriander
1 clove garlic, sliced
1-2 pounds carrots, peeled and trimmed into long sticks (so long as they fit in your jar)
or 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Optional additions: small onion (sliced), jalapeno (sliced)
Pour the water, vinegar, salt and spices into a small saucepan. As it comes to a boil, pack your veggies and garlic into a freshly washed jar.
Bring the brine to a boil, then pour it into the veggie-packed jar, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Screw a lid on the jar and let it cool down. (The lid may seal during the cooling process, but this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to store outside of the fridge). Once the jar has cooled, put it in the fridge. I like to wait 2-3 days to eat up so that the veggies have time to absorb the flavors. They should last about 3-4 weeks in the fridge, but ours never last that long.
Easy tip: once you’ve eaten all of the veggies out of the jar, just add more veggies in the existing brine, adding a bit more brine based on the directions above if/when needed. We can usually get two uses out of one batch of brine before having to make more.
The next recipe reminds me of bread and butter pickles. Growing up, my favorite after-school snack was to make a sandwich out of bread and butter pickle slices and cheddar cheese. These seem like a grown up version.
Bread and butter pickled carrots
Adapted from Food in Jars
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups filtered water
1 tablespoon coriander
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of powdered ginger
1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed into long sticks or sliced into “coins” – your choice
Prep your carrots and set aside. Bring the brine ingredients to a boil. Add the sliced vegetables to your clean jars. Top off the jars with the brine. Let cool, and then put in the fridge. (Alternatively, these can be processed for ten minutes in a boiling water bath).