Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What do I do with all these tomatoes!? Part 2

I'm in love with fresh, home-grown tomatoes. I'm not going to hide it.... it's true. And when we first started the garden, one of the things I looked forward to most was the ability to make homemade spaghetti sauces, and soups, and everything tomato! However, something that I was very unaware of was the sheer quantity of tomatoes that are required to make ANYTHING! So I planted A LOT of tomato plants....which, didn't do a damn thing to help the problem.

Rule #1 in Gardening: NOTHING works the way you want. If you need 1 green pepper and 20 tomatoes for a recipe, you will go outside and find 1 red tomato, and 35 green peppers. Everything ripens at different times, and there's no way to control it. It's feast or famine. Want 20 ripe tomatoes? Go on vacation for a weekend.... and you'll come home to 20 overly-ripe tomatoes. Gardens have a mind of their own. Deal with it.

1 red tomato out of 8! WTF!?
So, how am I supposed to cook anything with only 4 or 5 ripe tomatoes at any given time?!

Save them! There are so many options with tomatoes -- you could roast them, slow roast them (which we talked about in Part 1), freeze them, can them, dry them.... and I'm sure there are tons more ways that I don't know about.

In my opinion, how you save them depends on how you plan to use them later....


One of my favorite ways that I've been saving better boys, creoles, or even romas (pretty much anything larger than a cherry) is to roast the tomatoes with onions and garlic. I originally got the idea from Tyler Florence when I was looking up his ultimate tomato basil soup (drool). I made the soup. It was amazing. But I started thinking, why not roast the tomatoes, onions and garlic all together and freeze them so that next time I want soup (which usually isn't until winter), I'll have the hard part done -- and done with awesome tomatoes from my garden instead of sad grocery-store-in-winter tomatoes. 

Once I mastered the roasting, and the proportions (which is mostly personal preference), these frozen bags of roasted wonderfulness became the base for future soups & spaghetti sauces!

Here's How:
4 - 8 ripe tomatoes, sliced in half (they need to be good and ripe)
1/2 Onion (I like Vidalias if they're in season, or any sweet onion)
6 or 7 cloves garlic (skin still on)
Olive oil (enough just to coat - maybe 2Tbsp?)
Salt & Pepper 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash all the tomatoes and slice in half & cut out stem piece. With your thumb, get as many seeds as you can out (trust me on this, both soup and spaghetti are WAY better without seeds! They don't seem like a big deal, but it's worth the time to remove them). Put in a bowl. Separate garlic cloves from the head (but don't peel them) and add to the bowl. Slice the onion in approximately 1/4 inch slices and add. Sprinkle with salt & pepper then pour just enough olive oil over everything to coat it when you toss it, but you don't want a huge puddle in your pan.

Arrange everything in a single layer on a cookie sheet with the cut sides of the tomatoes facing down.

Roast for about 30-45 minutes keeping an eye on everything towards the end that it doesn't burn. At this point, you can either remove everything from the oven, or just turn it off and let it finish roasting as the oven cools down. (I usually do the latter when I have errands to run. Just turn it off around the 30 minute mark and when I get home, they're cool and ready to finish)

After about 30 minutes in the oven...
When they're all cooled and peeled, they smell so good it's impossible to keep the camera steady...
When they've cooled enough to handle, peel the skins off the tomatoes, and the paper off of the garlic (it usually just squeezes right out) and discard. Then take alllllll the roasted yummy goodness and pour it into a ziploc freezer bag, squeeze as much of the air out as you can, label and freeze. 

It takes some time to figure out how many tomatoes & how much onion & garlic to use, but it's mostly to whatever your taste is. I'm a BIG garlic fan, so I probably use more than I have listed here, but it's really up to you! Just try to fit as much in the  pan as possible since everything shrinks so much once it's cooked, and again, it takes A LOT of tomatoes to make anything!

Last winter's tomato basil soup made with last year's garden tomatoes...YUM!
There is just nothing like cooking with garden fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My first failure...

....well, certainly not my first failure EVER (that's for damn sure), but more precisely, my first Pinterest failure.

I knew this day would come...eventually.

Don't get me wrong, I adore Pinterest. So many ideas & projects that it makes me feel like I could be Martha Stewart, but better...and without the jail time. But the whole reason I started writing in the first place was to sort through as many of the tips, ideas & projects as I could and let you know what's awesome, and what's not so much.

See! I do the work for you. You're welcome.

So I knew it would happen -- not everything can work as brilliantly (or easily) as people claim, and I just found one.


Dirty oven door & glass? Me too! See....

Never noticed it before, but EW...
Now I'm fairly certain that it was like this when we moved in 4 years ago. I don't recall anything exploding in my oven, I usually keep a pan on the lower shelf to catch anything because I can't stand that crumbs-on-the-bottom-burning smell. Makes me nuts. However, my oven still looks like I've been deep-frying turkeys in it and never bothered cleaning it once.

So I found a post* about how incredibly easy it is to clean. Sweet. Count me in!

Essentially you take 1/4 C baking soda in a bowl, add just enough water to make it a paste. Rub the paste onto the inside of your oven, let site for about 30 minutes, wipe it off, and you instantly blinded it's shiny sparkliness (so wear sunglasses).

goopy paste
I did all of the above..... except the last part. I not only wiped, but scrubbed! Not one tiny bit of difference. I mean, not only did I not get sparkles, but I couldn't tell ANY difference from an hour ago. None.
Yup. Still gross. And not even a little bit sparkly.
So after swearing for a bit, then double checking the box to make sure I used baking SODA instead of baking powder (or some other equally brilliant mistake), I began reading the comments. Most said "great idea! can't wait to try it!" but no where did I see "Worked like a charm!" I did see one recommendation to substitute vinegar for the water as it cleans better.

At this point, I want my damn oven clean! I've never even thought twice about it before...but now, you made me see what it could be, and how gross it actually is, and I WANT IT!

So being the stubborn ass I am, and not wanting to give up without trying everything possible, I decided to give it one last try with baking soda & vinegar (instead of water). I poured the vinegar on the baking soda creating my own little 6th grade science project volcano, then pasted it on my oven, waited 45 minutes, and scrubbed it off. This worked a TINY bit better because I could see the baking soda turning brown as I was scrubbing it off, but all in all, I'm not trying to even remotely imply success, because it's still quite gross.

This doesn't really do the grossness justice...
So between the just plain not working, and of course the pain-in-the-ass factor of the whole process (do you know how hard it is to clean all that baking soda off the oven without being able to really just hose it?).... I would most definitely say that this is my first official Pinterest FAILURE.

I guess now I'm off to try to figure out the proper way to clean an oven because this is just going to drive me nuts now that I know....

*I usually try to credit people by providing links when I'm referencing posts and ideas that are not mine. However, I didn't here because I wasn't entirely sure how the original creator would feel about their post being called out as a flop. So, there you have it. No need to know who to hold responsible, just know next time someone makes this cleaning claim, it's just not gonna happen....