Friday, September 28, 2012

Making Salsa

I’ve been busy making salsa! I used 40lbs of tomatoes to make 2 double batches. I made one batch in my 14qt pot …

And the second batch in my roaster oven…

It was a long day of chopping, pureeing, simmering and canning but I ended up with 31 pints and 14 quarts. I made 31 pints a few days ago, so I do believe we have plenty of salsa to last us for the year!

I still have lots of tomatoes and more to pick. I plan on making tomato sauce with the  remaining tomatoes that keep coming.

This is a super yummy salsa recipe that my friend Leah shared with me a few years ago. I make it every year now. You can find the recipe here: 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homeschool High School Elective: Photography

My daughter Sierra is in 11th grade. She loves photography and takes amazing pictures and has an incredible eye for picture taking. I can’t even begin to understand how she sees what she does, but I would say it is a gift she has. My new fall blog topper picture was taken by her along with some other very pretty pics. So this year for high school we decided to make photography her elective.

Not finding a lot of online curriculum guides for this topic and not wanting to turn this into another set of workbooks and tests (who wants to kill the joy of something someone loves to do and turn it into a chore? :), I chose to do this on my own. I want the study to be hands on, educational and enjoyable.

I will be having her research various topics about photography (photo taking techniques, different types of lenses, F-stop, Macro settings, etc), research & discuss some on the history of the camera, taking lots of pictures, creating several photo projects and in the spring our local community college has a non-credit photography class available that I will look into her taking.

High school electives are a great way for students to learn and explore topics that motivate and inspire them. Who knows, some may turn into lifelong hobbies and some may be the beginnings of career choices for them.

A few more of Sierra’s recent fall photos…


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce Using Fresh Tomatoes

I wanted to make spaghetti for dinner on Sunday. I was not ready yet to open my home canned sauce.. don’t ask me why, I just like to wait until canning season is over first… ~smile~ I had over 70 pounds of tomatoes that my son & I had picked earlier in the afternoon….

Yep lots of tomatoes for sure. I have big plans for them (more salsa, tomato sauce and maybe some pizza sauce) as well as enjoying them now. So I decided to make spaghetti sauce for dinner with a few of them.

I began by chopping up an onion, 3 large mushrooms, ½ of a red pepper and some celery…

I heated a pot on the stove and added some olive oil. When it was hot I added the veggies and let them cook until they were soft.

While the veggies were cooking I pulled out and washed 3 pounds of my tomatoes..

I pureed them in my food processor (I did not peel them). I then added them to my veggies along with Italian seasonings, oregano, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. I let this simmer for about a half hour..

I cooked up about 1 ½ pounds of hamburger with about 4 or 5 cloves of garlic…

When the meat was cooked and the sauce was done simmering I added the hamburger to my sauce and it let is simmer on the stove while I cooked my pasta.

I cooked up 12 oz of organic brown rice spaghetti noodles, drained them and added them to meat/sauce..

Oh it was delish!! :)

Spaghetti Sauce Using Fresh Tomatoes

3 to 4T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 to 3 large mushrooms, sliced
½ green or red pepper, chopped
2 to 3 stalks celery, sliced
3lbs roma tomatoes – if you use a different variety of tomatoes they will be much more juicy. This can work you will just need to cook down your sauce for longer than the recipe says.
2T Italian seasonings
2t oregano
1T red wine vinegar
Sweetener of choice, optional – if you want a sauce that is a bit sweeter you can add a tablespoon or so of your desired type sweetener (sugar, brown sugar, honey, cane juice crystals, etc..)
Salt & pepper to taste.
1 to 2lbs hamburger
4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
12oz spaghetti noodles

Heat olive oil in a 6 quart pot. Add onion, mushrooms, peppers, and celery. Sauté and cook until veggies are soft. Wash and remove stem end from tomatoes and process them in a food processor until they are pureed (no need to peel them). Add pureed tomatoes to veggies. Add spices, taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Add sweetener if desired. Let simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering cook the hamburger and garlic in a frying pan until the hamburger is no longer pink. Add hamburger to sauce.

Boil noodles, drain and add to sauce, serve & enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Day of School

Today my son, Isaac, and daughter, Sierra, had their first day of school for the new year and I had my 25th first day of homeschooling. On Sunday we sat down and reviewed schedules, goals and plans for the new school year. We discussed a few field trips and activities they wanted to do. The house was cleaned up and the school area (my dining room & adjoining sunroom) was organized and ready to go. Previously I had loaded all computer related school onto the school laptop. There is something fun about starting a new year. We were all looking forward to getting back into a routine. As much as I love summer and the lack of steady routines there is something comforting about the familiar routine of the school year.

My daughter was up early and began by getting coffee, then going out for a run, coming back to shower/dress, eat and take care of her chores. Then she hit the books. My son got up a little later than her, but still before he was actually required to and got his morning going, chores done and then hit the books. There were a few questions about new curriculum as they started and some paper correcting for me to do but other than that they both worked independently. School was wrapped up in about 5 hours or so.

All in all it was a very positive start to our school year!


This Week’s Menu

Sautéed sausages w/zucchini, onions, mushrooms, peppers & garlic,  brown rice pilaf, salad
Butternut squash soup, meatloaf, garlic roasted brussel sprouts  (Sierra’s menu & cooking night)
Crockpot beef pot roast, roasted sweet potatoes & potatoes, salad
Chicken parmesan (still have not made this.. been on the menu for a couple of weeks now.. let’s see if I can get it made this week!), french bread, salad
Chili, tortilla chips & salsa, salad

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Roasted Broccoli

I have found my new most loved way to cook veggies… Roast Them!! Oh my.. it makes any veggie taste divine! I bought a big bag of broccoli from Costco. I decided to see how they would turn out if I roasted them… fab is the word… :) I put them in a bowl and drizzled them with olive oil and salt. Stirred them around and laid them out on a tray. Baked them at 400 for about 20 to 25 minutes. My family devoured them and asked me to make them again soon… I highly recommend it..

Monday, September 17, 2012

This Week’s Menu

Thai coconut soup (made by Leanne), salad (hot dogs for those who can’t handle this kind of yummy-ness – LOL! )

Pineapple pork roast, black beans, brown rice pilaf, salad

Cajun chicken, leftover black beans, leftover brown rice pilaf, salad

Chicken parmesan, zucchini pesto pasta, salad


Sierra’s night to cook – she’s still planning this one

Hamburger & gravy over baked potatoes, salad

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Canning Chili

On Saturday I had a nice burst of energy and decided to make and can up a big batch of chili. Oh how I love home canned meals ready to heat and eat on the shelf. They have made life so nice .. now if I am ever in a pinch for a meal due to life not happening the way I thought it would.. I head to my canning shelves and pull out a quart or two (depending on the need) of something yummy. Heat it and add a salad and some crackers or whatever I have available and it is dinner in 20 minutes or less.. nice :)

Currently I’ve been focused on garden canning and my ready to go meals were getting pretty slim. I decided that a few jars of chili would be good. I made the recipe by adapting my crockpot chili recipe and my regular chili recipe and combined it all into one recipe for canning.

Here is the recipe I came up with…

Chili for Canning
10 cups dried red beans (or a combo of your favorite beans, I like to use half red and half black beans)
2 ½ gallons water
10t salt
4lbs hamburger
3 large onions, chopped
6 to 7 stalks celery, sliced
2 large peppers- green or red, chopped
3 cans (14oz) diced tomatoes
2 cans (4oz) green chilies
3T chili powder
3t cumin
3T hot sauce, such as the brand Tabasco – if you don’t like spicy chili you can use less or omit

You will need a very large stock pot to make this chili in. I used a 14 quart pot. Begin by putting the beans, water and salt into (large) stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 1 ½ hours.

In an 8 quart stock pot combine hamburger, onions, celery and peppers. Cook until meat is no longer pick and veggies are soft.

When the beans have finished cooking (do not drain them) add cooked hamburger and veggies. Add remaining seasonings and stir to combine. Heat chili until hot. Ladle into hot sterilized quart canning jars. Put lid and ring on. Process jars for 90 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure. Adjust pressure according to your altitude:

This recipe makes approximately 14 quarts of chili

I started by cooking my beans. I used 5 cups black beans and 5 cups red beans. I let them cook for 1 ½ hours…

While the beans were cooking I cooked the hamburger and veggies…

When the beans were done cooking I added the cooked meat and veggies (I did not drain the beans). I added all remaining ingredients and heated until hot…

Then it was time to can the first batch. I filled 7 hot, sterilized canning jars with chili, then put on a lid and ring and put them in the canner. I canned the chili for 90 minutes at 11 lbs of pressure.

I had 4 jars that did not seal, I have 2 of them in the fridge to eat in the next day or so and put the other 2 jars worth in the freezer.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Updates!

I know it is fall time here.. made the apple butter (as shared on my last blog post). And my tomatoes are ripening! I’ve picked about 60+ pounds so far. The first 40lbs have been turned into spaghetti sauce. I made and canned up 10 jars a few days ago and did another 10 jars last night…

The next batch will be made when my current 20lbs have ripened up a bit more. I have them sitting in a sunny window right now..

You can find my spaghetti sauce for canning recipe here:  I still have lots of tomatoes on the vines and as they ripen up I will be moving onto salsa. I’ll need another 40 to 60lbs for the salsa. After that if there are still tomatoes coming on I plan to can tomato sauce.

On Thursday Tobin and I went and got our winter hay for the goats. With only 3 goats now I don’t need a whole lot but none the less it felt good to get it purchased and in the barn.

There is still wood to gather in but we currently have more than enough to keep us warm and toasty for the winter...

All sure signs that fall is quickly approaching. However other than these signs and the cool mornings and evenings we are enjoying and basking in some very lovely weather. The sun has been shining non-stop and no rain is in the forecast at this point. We are still enjoying very summer like days here in the Pacific Northwest.

With the weather as beautiful as it has been the motivation to start school with the kiddo’s is just not there for any of us. I’m guessing I’ll start as soon as I have to build a morning fire to take the chill off the house.. or the end of the month .. (whichever comes first :) .. We have enough rainy, cloudy, cold days here that keep us inside and are perfect for school work. For now we will soak up the sun and warmth a little longer.

This morning I got up and saw my canner sitting in the kitchen (from canning spaghetti sauce last night) and felt the need to put it to good use today. I currently have some red & black beans cooking on the stove and plan to make a huge pot of chili and can it up. My supply of home canned convenience foods is looking pretty slim and I love the ease of having home cooked healthy meals ready to go on my shelves. I’ll share about that in my next post.

Have a blessed day on your (city or country) homestead today!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Making Apple Butter

My Gravenstein apple tree was full of apples this year. Sadly I did not take advantage of as many as I could. I have an issue.. we don’t eat applesauce (I buy fresh fruit, which is preferred by my family) and the apples are way too small to be made into apple pie filling .. so what to do? I wanted to take advantage of some of them and the deer will enjoy the rest of them. I ended up making apple butter. I know we will eat that and I have enough jars now to give away as well. A few days ago my daughter Leanne and I picked about 25 pounds of apples. I turned them into some delicious apple butter!

I began by searching for a recipe for apple butter. I found one that looked pretty good:  I ended up using 20#’s of apples which was 5 times the recipe.

I cut the apples in half and discarded bruised areas and such. I put them in a big pot with the water and apple cider vinegar called for in the recipe. I put this all in my big canning pot and let it cook for about a half hour..

I then pulled out my Victorio Strainer. I have had this for years. I love this thing!! I have used it in the past for applesauce (when my kids were young and they ate it! ), pumpkin puree, and tomato puree.. It saves tons of time!

You put your cooked apples skins, core, and all into the large funnel, crank the handle and out comes apple sauce on one side and the skins, cores on the other…

After I ran my cooked apples through the strainer I had 30 cups of sauce. The recipe states adding a ½ cup sugar for each cup of sauce. I added the sugar and spices called for and let it come to a boil and reduced the heat and let it simmer for a very long time.

By the time I had gotten to this point it was late at night and I turned it on the lowest setting and let it simmer all night long. By morning it had cooked down, but not enough. So I upped the heat and let it continue to cook until I felt it was done (according to the directions in the recipe)…
At this point it was time to start canning. I washed and sterilized several jars. I had everything from 8oz, 10oz, and 12oz to 16oz jars. I ended up with 16 jars of sauce…

With enough left over to partially fill another jar and we have been enjoying that one currently. 

The Victorio Strainer.....

This Week’s Menu

Sierra’s night to cook - Lasagna, French bread, salad

BBQ – steaks, garlic roasted potatoes, macaroni salad, salad

Breaded pork cutlets, brown rice pilaf, broccoli

Chili, chips & salsa, salad



Chicken Parmesan, zucchini basil pesto pasta, salad

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Leanne!

Happy Birthday to my daughter Leanne!! Leanne turned 21 yesterday. We had a quiet day, which she liked.. she is not big on fanfare. We will have a couple people over in a few days to have a belated celebration. She had to work on her birthday and so did my husband.

Leanne is my 4th daughter (5th child) and is such a blessing to us all. She is sweet, incredibly kind, friendly, helpful, hardworking, goal oriented, dedicated, always has a smile on her face, loves to spend time with her siblings and nieces and nephew, always willing to lend a hand at home be it cooking or cleaning or running errands for me, and she is very loyal to those she loves. She is a champion of the shy, lonely and those with special needs. She has a true gift in being able to reach out and show genuine friendship to those who are the most in need. Someday she would like to work with special needs children.

Leanne earned her BA in English in 2 years, 10 months. She did this while working full time. This summer she earned a certificate in teaching English as a foreign language (through a program called TEFL, Teaching English as a Foreign Language). She is currently volunteering her time at the local community college teaching and tutoring students who are learning to speak English. Her goal right now is to work in another country teaching English to foreign students.

Happy Birthday Leanne!! I am blessed beyond words to have you for my daughter! I love you!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Salmon Stuffed Zucchini

I had this on my menu for later in the week but decided last minute to make it last night. I had zucchini that needed to be used and another cabbage to be turned into coleslaw. This was soooo good!! My family really enjoyed this meal.

I started with a few large size zucchini .. the ones with too many seeds to use for muffins or other baked goods. I also had a few yellow squash as well. I made a double batch of my salmon patty recipe:  I cut my zucchini (and yellow squash) in half the long way and scooped out the seeds. I used the salmon patty mixture to stuff them. I put them on a large tray and baked them at 350 for about 45 minutes.

While they were baking I cut up 3 large sweet potatoes, 2 medium size potatoes, the leftover ends of the zucchini and yellow squash and one large onion. I put them in a bowl, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. I spread this out on a tray…

After the salmon zucchini were done I put the veggies in the oven to roast at 400 for about 40 minutes. While they were roasting I made a batch of coleslaw:  

When the veggies were done it was time to serve dinner….

Photo credit goes to my daughter Sierra.. who is an amazing photographer!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

This Week’s Menu

Hamburgers w/all the trimmings, potato salad, coleslaw

Sierra’s night to cook

Coconut chicken, baked sweet & regular potatoes, salad

Spaghetti, french bread, salad


Salmon stuffed zucchini, oven roasted veggies (potatoes – both sweet and regular, mushrooms, onions, garlic), salad

Pineapple pork roast, black beans, brown rice pilaf, salad

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September Newsletter & Menu Planning Calendar

My September issue of Homestead Happenings has been sent out today. If you have not signed up for it and would like to you can do that here:   You can also read past newsletters as well.


The September menu calendar is also ready. You can find it here: