Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup

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Here’s the recipe I use for roasted tomato basil soup.

Fall is here, it’s soup season. Soup and homemade grilled cheese and ham sandwiches.

Here’s the site I use that lists all the great breads to use for a homemade grilled cheese and ham sandwich.

This week has been a bit overwhelming for me. I have things piling up at home, loads of work to do at work, family that wants my time, along with something going on every weekend until after Christmas (or just about). It’s times like these that I need to remember to eat well, make time for family all while doing my best at work. It’s tough friends, I can admit this. There are no doubt times in everyone’s life were everyone and everything is making a point to let you know- they need you right now. Work has a special project going on, the container garden needed to be cleaned up, windows needed to be cleaned before it gets too cold and my husband wanted to do something fun. He’s been having a hard time at work too. Everything all at once urgent. Thank God I am an organized person, because if everything was in chaos things would be so much worse. It’s about the only time I’m thankful for the extra time I often need to take to pull things together and be that super organized person.

Tomato soup has always made me feel good. My favorite sandwich is a ham and cheese sandwich, but I need really good bread when I make them.

And of course taking the time to blog always makes me feel less stressed and renews my spirit so that I can return to the rat race that life sometimes becomes.  Until next time- enjoy fall wherever you are!

Pantry Essentials for Whole Food Living

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When I think of pantry essentials I think of two things right away- homemade bread and homemade pizza or pie dough.

The essentials needed for those homemade goodies are- flour, salt, baking powder, or soda and yeast packets. So just those few things, plus butter or shortening or lard, will get you homemade bread, and pizza or pie dough.

To start stocking your own pantry start with the simple and fairly affordable items like- flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder, sea salt or kosher salt, and yeast in packets. To bake cookies you’ll need to stock things like raisins, or currants, chocolate chips, oatmeal, peanut butter, honey and jam. Homemade icing can be made with powdered sugar or cream cheese and butter, vanilla and milk to thin the icing. Homemade brownies require you to have cocoa powder on hand. By now your pantry is starting to look stocked.

A well stocked pantry is overflowing with inspiration. You can see all the possibilities in one place- homemade baked beans, pies, pasta, cakes and soups. It’s essentially a mini version of a grocery store- all the staples for good whole food in one place. I began stocking my pantry from a list I found on Food Network some years back and still use this list today. It’s easy to see when I’m out of something, and all I have to do is take a look at what I have and my mind begins to construct the day’s dinner meal, dessert and sometimes the next days set of meals. Here’s the Food Network Pantry Essentials List .

Cooking meals from your pantry helps you in the best possible way to learn how to make whole foods meals for your family. A well- stocked pantry means skipping the processed box and jar ingredients and taking control of the ingredients you want in the meals and desserts you make for your family. No more list of ingredients 20 ingredients long. Soon you won’t remember what it was like to not make your own healthier home-cooked meals.  I’ll be honest the convenience of meal making and meal time for awhile will be gone. But the pride you will feel and the money you will save, not to mention the healthier lives you and your family will live will more than make up for the time you spend preparing them. Get the family involved in meal time and then it won’t be just you in the kitchen. Kids can learn too!

That’s it for now. I have a great recipe for Roasted Tomato Basil soup coming up and  a new recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake. Have a great weekend!

Happy Fall!

Just hours before the first day of fall I kept busy baking up squash to freeze for over winter and peeling and slicing apples for applesauce. Ragweed has been kicking my butt these past few days, and I didn’t really feel like doing anything. Yet, these things needed to be done today and so they were. Three pounds of Macintosh apples yielded just a cup and a half of homemade applesauce. Thank goodness we bought more this past weekend, although those are slowly being eaten each day. I heart Macintosh apples.

I also had four squash to bake which made five packages of baked squash- five sides for a meal. The total cost of the squash and apples was $12.00 (roughly 2 dollars a side).

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I’ve managed to find several great pumpkin recipes I will be sharing this week or next as well as a recipe for Apple Fritter bread. I love fall for many reasons, but the food of fall is number one for me. I love pumpkin and apples and squash and warm cider. The post I promised with pantry essentials is almost done. Until next time ~Happy Fall~ ! Get outside if you can and enjoy the last bits of great weather if you live in an area that will see snow before long. Yes, I said it lol. Right now areas all over Wisconsin and Minnesota are flooding, stay safe if you’re out in it.

Fall food goodness

The last of the local zucchini is available this week, so I made sure to grate a bunch and freeze for pasta dishes this winter. Local apple orchards are announcing new varieties of apples every week. The first week we tried some new varieties and this week we bought Macintosh, Honey Crisp and Ginger Golds. Pears were plentiful too and ripened nicely next to our apples and bananas on the counter. A tomato plant I bought late at Bauer’s Market in La Crescent Mn. still producing. All total for a $9.00 plant, sold towards the end of planting season, it produced 17 tomatoes for me. To save seeds from tomatoes you cut the tomato in half and squeeze its pulp out into a small dish or container and cover for three days. The pulp ferments, allowing the covering that the seeds are encapsulated in to disintegrate. Each day you must stir the pulp and on day four rinse the pulpy seeds in a sieve careful not to allow seeds to sift through sieve (just the pulp) and then place on a piece of dry paper towel. As the seeds dry on the paper towel remove them from clumps to separate and allow to dry. You should store these dried seeds in a cool dry place, even the refrigerator- do not freeze them.  Coming up in future posts- seed saving, freezing vegetables, pumpkin recipes and pantry staples. Until then be well and always remember to eat good food!

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Freezing Roma Tomatoes for Sauce

I’ve found throughout time that Roma tomatoes are the best tomatoes to make pasta sauce out of. I didn’t always know that. During late summer and early fall Roma tomatoes are plentiful. Around here one can buy a bushel for just a few dollars. The first step is cutting a shallow x in the bottom of each tomato and placing several tomatoes at a time (don’t overfill pot) in boiling water to blanch for 4 minutes. Then with a slotted spoon remove tomatoes and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cooled remove skins and core and place in a freezer bag, date it and into the freezer they go. Every time you desire fresh pasta sauce you remove your tomatoes from the freezer and make your sauce and its like a fresh cup of summer in every serving. My favorite pasta sauce recipe is here .

Enjoy!

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Eating Whole Foods

Hello friends and welcome to my blog. In my last post I defined the term whole foods. In this post I am going to blog about how I started my family on the road to a healthier whole foods diet. Our first conversion was drinking organic milk after either not drinking milk or drinking non-organic milk very little life long. The first part of the change in our diet came from switching what we could that was non-organic in our diet to organic (milk, eggs, butter and produce). When we couldn’t find organic (way back in 2004) then we purchased things like produce from friends that hadn’t been sprayed, but that also hadn’t been through the certification process of being able to be called organic. From there I began to make foods we ate from scratch rather than buy boxed or canned or frozen.

The first thing I began to make homemade from scratch was applesauce. The reason why I chose applesauce was because it is part of the packed lunch I made/make for my husband every week. Our goal here was to remove as much high fructose syrup from our lives as possible, thus helping to pave the way to consuming more whole foods. The applesauce recipe posted above, in the applesauce link, has eight ingredients, but I make it without using salt, lemon juice or cinnamon. The second product that we use a lot is spaghetti sauce. We eat something every week, sometimes two dishes, with sauce.  The third ingredient in store bought pasta sauce is high fructose syrup. My husband and I were so over high fructose syrup by this time. Virtually everything we were eating had high fructose syrup in it. Here we were riding our bikes all over Wisconsin trying to get and stay in shape and our diet, high in fructose syrups, was sabotaging us. Here is the recipe I use for homemade pasta sauce (roma tomatoes work best for homemade pasta sauce).

Before long I was making homemade applesauce and pasta sauce like a pro. Each time we were going to have a dish that required pasta I would pull out the roma tomatoes I’d frozen for just such an occasion and use them to make the sauce. Prep time for sauce is about 5 minutes and cook time is 30 before your sauce is ready to eat. Double the batch if you are going to be having a pasta dish later in the week. This sauce will keep for 5 days in your refrigerator.

So let’s do a run down of the things changed so far in my family’s diet at this time. First off non-organic milk to organic milk and other organic dairy products, second- produce from farmer’s markets, our own gardens or other people’s gardens vs. canned store bought fruits and vegetables and last but never least the elimination of foods heavily preserved, or containing high fructose syrup.

I would be lying to you if I told you the transition doesn’t take time. It does. You will meet resistance from your family and there will be a lot of times that you’ll want to do what you perceive everyone around you is doing and that’s buy everything pre-made or frozen pre-made or microwaveable and throw in the towel. Time constraints will cause you to cheat, it happens. There have been a few times I didn’t have enough tomatoes or I had something else to do after dinner and I just went out and bought a jar of Ragu. But the good news is as time goes on and you grow more confident in your ability to provide good, safe, nutritious food for your family -you will feel empowered. If the grocery stores ran out of food (temporarily) tomorrow, I’ve got enough tomatoes and frozen vegetables put by to feed my family for at least 2  possibly three weeks. I’ve also got enough flour to make homemade bread, homemade pasta noodles and pie crusts galore. As long as power isn’t lost. Because we buy a lot of produce every week, even in the winter, we’ve always got fresh food on hand no power required. But a generator is definitely on our wish list.

Every time you go to a farmer’s market buy a couple ears of sweet corn, or 2-3 roma tomatoes or 2 or more squash and take them home and process them. I have a new blog post almost ready on freezing roma tomatoes. As far as corn- just cut it off the cob, toss in a freezer bag and freeze. I use the corn for soups and stews all winter. With squash I line a cookie sheet with halved squash brushed with butter and bake until tender. I let cool once out of the oven, then scoop out the shells, and put 2 halves worth of squash in each freezer bag and tuck them away in the freezer. I roast peppers for homemade pizza, which both my husband and I love, and love having a taste of summer on a pizza mid-January. Don’t let the process of the transition to whole food living overwhelm you, take it a day at a time and you will be there in no time.

I’ve included some pictures of what I’ve been cooking- fried zucchini, kale and red potatoes in olive oil and real butter ; homemade pumpkin bread made from all freshly grown/produced ingredients; small farmer’s market haul-mid week ; everything put away- yes I refrigerate potatoes ; much requested picture of my refrigerator (notice not everything I use is homemade or organic-it all takes time), kale and homemade chili tucked away ; roasted peppers and roma for sauce.  Later this week I will post about freezing roma tomatoes for sauce and also talk about using a real pumpkin for pumpkin bread vs. canned pumpkin along with a whole foods menu and cooking times. Until next time always remember to eat good food!

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