How I spent my summer vacation

Actually, more like 3 or 4 vacations.

See that nice Energy Star sticker in the upper right corner of this snazzy red Corvette of boilers? That, we hope, will make it all worthwhile, along with the “free money” I mentioned before in the form of a state rebate and the Federal energy tax credit. The hot water heater was a last-minute addition — the boiler heats the water for it, too.

It’s all so complicated to operate that I told Mike if anything happens to him, there’s no way I could live here. Remember, I’m a furnace girl — forced air furnaces are a million times less complicated. Even adjusting the hot water temperature — it’s way too hot — takes an advanced degree that we have yet to tackle. As I said to Mike, “Where’s the little dial that’s labeled ‘vacation’ on one end and ‘screamin’ hot’ on the other?” He answered some gibberish about mixing valves and using that to control the heat instead of the controls on the water heater.

Yeah, OK.

In the meantime, don’t turn the faucet all the way to hot or you’ll kill yourself.

Doesn’t it look like Edward Scissorhands is about to come tottering into the picture? Some of those piping gyrations had Mike scratching his head. And the “2-day install” actually took more than a week. I’m so happy to have my quiet daily routine back with no drilling, pounding, yelling, banging, dirty messes, and freaked-out cats (and their litterbox in my kitchen instead of the basement to keep them out of the workers’ way).

I took advantage of my first quiet day yesterday to enjoy some Bubble, Bubble, No Toil, No Trouble domesticating. After all my whining about not being able to grow tomatoes, I actually ended up with a pretty decent crop — it just took a long time.

So I put most of them into homemade sauce. The easy way. No canning. I used the following recipe from my favorite garden blog, A Way to Garden, (thanks, Margaret) and tweaked it by adding onions, green pepper, red pepper, oregano (from the garden), and hot pepper flakes, as noted. (If you happen to grow your own onions or peppers — even better. All my pepper plants died.)

I’d never made homemade sauce before, and it was actually fun and yielded tasty results — Mike gave it an enthusiastic (3 helpings) thumbs up.

I made 2 batches over the last week or so (using up about 35 tomatoes) and now have 5 quart-size freezer bags of sauce in my freezer. Who knows if it’s really a thrifty thing to do — I can get a jar of our favorite Classico for about $2.00. (It’s the thought that counts, right?)

Even though I could have used more tomatoes, I couldn’t bear to part with all of them. They are just so delicious for eating.

And they’re such a good color match for the new boiler — which will hopefully also be Bubble, Bubble, No Toil, No Trouble for many many years to come.

No money is better spent than what is laid out for domestic satisfaction.
~ Samuel Johnson

Love Apple Sauce (Lazy Woman’s Tomato Sauce)

I make about eight batches of red sauce late summer until frost, stashing it in the freezer for a year of enjoyment.  It isn’t much prep work, at least not the way I cook. Each “batch” constitutes a spaghetti potful of fresh, raw ingredients before it cooks down to less than half that, enough for 5 or 6 freezer containers of 12-16 ounces each. If you’ve got that last glut of tomatoes in need of processing, or see a bargain bushel of seconds at the farmstand, this lazy-person’s recipe for red sauce might be just the thing.

Again, I don’t take the time to peel or seed the tomatoes (to you purists, mea culpa; I’m a whole-food type…and also a bit manic when I cook). The sauce is the tiniest bit more bitter, perhaps, but think of all that fiber (and time saved).

Lazy Woman’s Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

Enough paste-type or other tomatoes to fill a spaghetti pot
1 head garlic (and onion, green pepper, red pepper)
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil (and fresh oregano and hot pepper flakes)
Fresh parsley, preferably Italian flat-leaf
Salt and pepper to taste; small amount of sugar optional

Wash tomatoes and cut off stem ends and any blemishes. Cut them up roughly into large chunks or wedges equal to approximately half a standard plum tomato size, smaller if you have then energy, but my theory: why bother?

Peel as many cloves of garlic as you wish to use (I use a whole head of 8-10ish). (Walmart was out of regular garlic — they’re always out of something, right? — so I was forced to buy an expensive head of “elephant garlic,” which was actually pretty cool. I used 2 of those giant cloves, cutting them into normal clove-size.)

Cover the bottom of the pot with olive oil, set on low heat, and put whole cloves into oil and sautee slowly, with the lid on, so they get soft and sweet, not smoking hot and crispy. Check and stir regularly. (I added sliced onion with the garlic — about 1/2 of a large onion — as well as a coarsely chopped green pepper and half a red pepper.)

When the garlic (and onions & peppers) is soft, dump the cut tomatoes on top of it, filling the pot.

When the tomatoes start to simmer, roughly chop basil and toss it in, covering pot again.  I probably use 1/4 cup chopped, but more or less is up to you. Set the timer to uncover and stir every half hour for perhaps two hours, until the tomatoes are very soft.  Then use a hand potato masher to squash the tomatoes right in the pot.

Leave uncovered and let simmer, stirring more often, until desired thickness is reached, perhaps another hour and a half. Cooking times vary widely depending on how wet or dry the tomatoes were.

Chop parsley (again to taste) and incorporate just as you turn off the heat, so it wilts.

Ladle cooled sauce into containers and freeze them as is. If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can blend now, or when using. (I blended mine with my hand blender right in the pot before filling the freezer bags.)

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