Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Easy Peel Tomatoes

Even though I absolutely loathe this heat, the one thing that I love about summer is the fresh tomatoes. If you’ve eaten home-grown tomatoes, you know what I’m talking about. They just taste better than the ones you can buy at the grocery. Why? I have no clue, all I know is they do.

I planted a garden last year, and again this year. This time I got it in the ground earlier so I would actually get something out of it. With the heat we had last year, I fought all summer just to keep my tomato plants alive. When they finally did put out, in the fall, the skins were like leather, so I peeled them. Oddly enough, the skins on my tomatoes this year were really tough as well. Peeling them can be a real pain, but my mother-in-law taught me a neat trick.

Take the tomato in one hand and with the other, use the flat of a paring knife and run it in horizontal stripes down the tomato from top to bottom applying just a light amount of pressure. When you do this, you will see a difference in color from before the after. What it’s doing is essentially the same thing as the other technique, just without a pot of boiling water: separating the skin from the flesh of the tomato. Core the tomato and skin will come off in hunks, chunks and strips. Awesome!

But I recently had several tomatoes I wanted to peel to make spaghetti sauce with. I didn’t care to stand around using Marie’s method so I did some research. The best way to do it with a bunch of tomatoes is with a pot of boiling water, a big bowl of ice water, a cutting board, a slotted spoon and a paring knife.

Core the tomatoes and lightly score and X on the bottom. Gently drop them into the pot of boiling water and remove them after 15 to 20 seconds and immediately dunk them in the bowl of ice water. If you’re using them for sauce or salsa, it won’t matter if they’re in the water a bit longer. But if  you’re planning on slicing them, be sure and remove them quickly, they’ll get mushy. Blech! I had high hopes for this technique and it didn’t disappoint. The skins basically slid right off! Yay! It’s the best way to go if youv’e got an abundance of tomatoes you want to prepare for freezing or salsa or sauces. Give it a go and let me know how it works for you.

Bon appetit!

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Counter-top Ripening Tomatoes

Seriously! I know it sounds crazy, but I couldn’t just let them all die. My first mistake with my garden this summer was getting it in the ground too late. It was June before I had all my lovely veggies planted. I was so optimistic. I planted three kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, strawberries and squash. I was very ambitious and looking forward to my bounty.

Right up until the temperatures reached those required for smelting steel. then I didn’t hold out much hope, but I managed to keep most of them alive amazingly enough. the squash, well, it was big and beautiful one day, and wilted and brown the next. Poor little thing just couldn’t take the searing temps we were having. The tomatoes on the other hand, seemed to be ok. With the exception being they didn’t give me any fruit. they bloomed all over the place, but no luck. Same thing w/the peppers. Hm. I was stumped. My husband said I should just give up and let them die. Not me. I am determined.

Once our temps dropped from the surface-of-the-sun range, we started getting little tiny baby tomatoes! I was thrilled! So was my girly. She’s my veggie eater. We watched and waited. Waited and watched. Still the little beggars wouldn’t get red. Finally, some grape tomatoes, no bigger than a raisin turned red. They were so cute! but now comes my dilemma. We had a hard freeze coming early and I just couldn’t bear the thought of losing all of those grape tomatoes, so I did some homework and got busy picking.

As it turns out, you can ripen veggies that are nearly there, on your counter top. I started out with probably three dozen green grape tomatoes that were about as big as they were supposed to get. I also picked a few Early Girl’s, but they were very small, not even close to full-grown size. I put them (unwashed, but stems removed) in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple (gives off ethylene gas), folded the bag over and just set the bag out of the way. It took a week before I really saw any progress. And probably about 3 to 4 wks for them all to ripen, but they did! I did check them every few days just to be sure there was no rotting going on, but I’m happy to have been able to save some of my harvest from Jack Frost. I don’t think he’d appreciate them nearly as much as my girly and I have.

Next year, garden will be in the ground and done by the end of May. I promise.

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Easy peel tomatoes

If you are like me, fresh, home-grown tomatoes are the best summer veggie. Whether on a sandwich or cut up with cottage cheese, I love them! And even more so if they are homegrown. My mom has had a garden for as long as I can remember and we’ve always had loads of tomatoes in summer. I recently learned a trick to peel the skin off. Here’s why I peel them: the skin can be tough, but also, I know for sure my mom uses OTC pesticide and if I can get that junk out of my food, I’m a happy girl.

My mother-in-law taught me this method and it works well. I know I could drop them in a pot of boiling water, but knowing me, I’d get distracted and end up with stewed tomatoes, rather than simply blanched ones that I can peel.

First  wash and cut out the core of the tomato with a paring knife. Hold the tomato in one hand and using the flat side of the blade, rub stripes on the tomato. I usually go side to side in strips about 1 to 2″ wide from top to bottom, all the way around the tomato. If you look at what you’re doing, you’ll notice a difference in the color between the before and after. This will separate the skin from the meat of the tomato. When you’ve made it all the way around, starting at the top of the tomato where you’ve removed the core, use the blade to get under the skin and hold the skin between your finger and the knife blade and gently peel it off the flesh. When I do it, most of the time it comes off in almost what I’d call sheets, fairly big pieces.

Is it more time consuming than blanching them? Maybe a little, but if you don’t want to risk ruining your beautiful tomato, it’s worth it. Let me know how it works for you!

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Got Tomatoes?

You know me, I’ll all about easy. Recipes that is! This is one of my favorite summer recipes, but you can make it any time of the year. No to mention it’s idiot-proof, which always helps!  To me it says summer because it’s one you can use fresh, home-grown tomatoes.  Honestly, home-grown are always better than any you can buy at the store, I wish someone could tell me why! And they really don’t need any dressing up. My mother-in-law has been known to eat tomatoes like apples! Me, well, I guess I’m too refined for that, I need a fork and a plate!

I found this one in a magazine forever ago, but as per my norm, I had to go and tweak it to my liking. I’m not as crafty as some of my friends in the blogosphere, I hope you can live without a recipe card!

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

5 to 6 Roma tomatoes (or homegrown, whichever you prefer)

4 oz mozzarella cubed

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to taste)

Quarter tomatoes and slice into small pieces. Add the mozz cubes, vinegar, oil, and salt. Using a garlic press, press the garlic into the bowl and toss all ingredients together. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. You can alter the amounts of salt, vinegar, garlic and cheese to your taste, and it will still be good. Cucumbers or mushrooms are good in it as well. Or you can get really wild and throw in some fresh basil! Yum! 

This is probably our favorite salad. Really delish, I get raves every time I take it somewhere. It is good the next day or two, unlike other salads that wilt and get really gross after a couple of days. Just keep in mind that the olive oil can get a little weird in the fridge. If you take it out after a day or so and see the oil has solidified a bit, don’t worry, as it warms up, the oil will go back to normal. It totally weirded me out the first time I saw that happen! I didn’t think olive oil would solidify, but, it does!

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I’m going to give it a go

Well, everyone everywhere is trying to do their part to keep their expenses down and do good things for the environment, so I might as well jump on that train too. I’m going to take a shot at container gardening.  So far I’ve got grape tomatoes, cilantro and basil. I’ve also got a strawberry plant, but I”m not sure where i”ll put it. I may put it in a pot too.

I love grape tomatoes on a salad, and, well, all by themselves! I hope my plant does well, those little babies are expensive! Besides, I’ll know exactly what is on it, as in pesticides and fertilizer. So far, none by my hand.  One of my other summer favorites is a tomato and mozzarella salad. I toss it with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and a fresh clove of garlic or two. If i”m really feeling froggy, I’ll throw in a cucumber. This summer, I”ll toss in some fresh basil! MMMM love me some basil! I think anything with basil on it is wonderful!

So, wish me luck. Sometimes I have no problems growing plants, as in my bedding plants, lilies, hydrangeas, and ground cover. Other times, not so much. Azaleas are all over the place here, and they are simply gorgeous, the come in nearly every color of the rainbow and I love them. I planted some at our old house. They did manage to grow, but the didn’t look good, they were very leggy and not full at all. We have a spot on the north side of our house that was bare so last year, I decided to try my hand again. I picked out azaleas with beautiful lavender flowers, they dont’ seem to be very common around here, and are just gorgeous. Well, guess what. I think my azalea growing thumb must be either brown or broken, I bought 4 plants and none of them survived. so this year, I’ve bought some hydrangeas to put in that spot, it’s very shaded and stays fairly damp, which they love. So, wish me luck on that too. I just love them.

Ok, now that I hopefully have inspired you, happy gardening!

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