Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes

Today I’m sharing How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes. This is something my mom did when we were growing up and we had a large garden. Sometimes time just runs out for canning tomatoes or tomato soup, and let’s face it – it can be a bit time-consuming. This method is so ridiculously easy to do, you’ll wonder how and why you’ve never heard of this before. I hadn’t heard of this before I saw my mom do it, and frankly, I’ve never seen or heard anyone do it since. My mom is the only one I’ve ever know to do this, although I’m sure there are thousands of people who do. I’ve just never heard of anyone else doing it. Grandma and Grandpa always had a garden on the farm, our family had a garden when we were growing up, and now we have a little garden in our backyard. We usually made delicious tomato things like Grandma’s Tomato Soup, Marinara Sauce, or Hot Bath Tomatoes with those glorious garden tomatoes. Sometimes – especially at the end of the growing season – you end up with a lot of odds and ends of tomatoes in various stages of ripening sitting ALL over your kitchen countertop. I do. Instead of trying to wait until they may or may not all ripen at the same time, this is an easy way to preserve them for later use – all at the same time!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes

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These are the odds and ends of some of my end of the season tomatoes – some ripened faster than others and some are pretty small. Not enough to can them, so this is a great option. Wash them first and off we go.

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I use a strawberry huller type tool to get the stem end out of the tomato (it makes a nice little hole in the end of it), but you can also just use a paring knife to cut it out. You should also cut off any “cracks” or other areas that look like it should be removed (sometimes they’re bruised for one reason or another). But no need to remove the skin. It will come off easily when you’re ready to use them.

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After taking out the stem end, I put the tomatoes onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

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Sometimes the other end (I think it’s the blossom end) of the tomato has a funny hole in it – I just cut that off.

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Put all the tomatoes onto the baking sheet and then just put them into the freezer for a couple of hours, or until they’re hard and frozen.

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Once they’re solid, they go into a labeled zip top freezer bag. Then you just put the whole thing into the freezer. If you still have tomatoes in your garden, and there are a few stragglers coming in here and there, just prepare them the same way and add them to your freezer bag as they come in.

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They’re perfect and ready to use. This could NOT possibly be any easier.

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That’s it! When you’re ready to use them in your delicious tomato recipes, just run them under warm water for a minute and the skin will come right off. Then just throw them into your Chili, Spaghetti, use them just like any other tomato, or use them to make a batch of Grandma’s Tomato Soup. Seriously – this method just couldn’t be any easier. I love that you can still use up those straggler tomatoes as they come into your kitchen, and make your recipes more delicious, too! No tomato goes to waste here. Try this method for How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes and see just how easy it is to use every last one!

 

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Cucumber Salad – Scandinavian Style

Today’s recipe for Cucumber Salad – Scandinavian Style, and I’m making it because we have had a huge cucumber harvest in our garden this year! Normally I’m not a huge fan of cucumbers, but now that we can grow a burpless variety, I’m all in. I usually use them in Garden Salad, Cucumbers in Vinegar, or make Refrigerator Pickles. This is another salad my family loves to have quite often. We usually only have a few pathetic cucumbers each year – just enough to make a few of the above listed recipes, but this year is different. We’ve had 20 so far – that’s a huge number compared to what we usually get. I’m not complaining, I’m just making ALL the things. I don’t have an actual recipe for this, I just sort of made it up after two of our children attended a local college with an annual Christmas concert they were involved in. For 8 years we enjoyed a pre-concert Scandinavian Smorgasboard and this type of cucumber salad was part of it. Naturally, it brings back a lot of good memories – enough to make my children break out into song! This really is one of the simplest salad recipes ever, and it’s sooo good! I’ll try and put some numbers to the way I make it and write down an actual recipe for it! 🙂

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Cucumber Salad – Scandinavian Style

Peel and slice thinly:

2-3 cucumbers (if the peel is thin, you can leave the peel on)

1/2 of a red onion

Combine cucumbers and onions with:

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix together for dressing:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar (you could add a couple of tablespoons of water here to mellow it out a bit, if you llike, but we like it without the water)

2-3 Tablespoons sugar (more to taste, depending on how much sweetness you like)

Add dressing to cucumber mixture.

Stir in:

1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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I used cucumbers from our garden, and took the peel off before slicing them.

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The slices should be thin, so I used a mandoline. I know I can get them thinner with that than trying to slice them thin with a knife.

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As long as I had it out, I also sliced the red onion using the mandoline.

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I added good old salt and pepper first.

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Adding the delicious dressing adds the final touch!

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This salad is so good and goes with just about any main dish.

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My family loves this salad, not only because it brings back good memories of those college Christmas concerts, but because it’s absolutely delicious. I’ve served this with so many different main dishes – you really can have this with anything! I think you’ll love this tasty Cucumber Salad – Scandinavian Style  – maybe enough for you to break out into song!

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15 Tasty After School Snacks Your Kids Will Love

Since we’re still in Back-to-School mode, I thought that today I’d share 15 Tasty After School Snacks Your Kids Will Love. There is a little something for everyone here – some healthy snacks and some not so healthy snacks. I know your kids will love something on this list! I hope everyone has a great year!

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Iced Cocoa with Cinnamon

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Graham Crackers with Frosting

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S’mores Snack Mix

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Granola

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Fruit Fries

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Oatmeal Fruit Cookies

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Blueberry Banana Popsicles

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Soda Cracker Bars

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Monster Cookies

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Orange Julius

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3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Balls

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Banana Chips

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Old-Fashioned Graham Crackers

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Peanut Butter Cookies

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Friendship Muffins

 

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Purple Cow

Today I’m sharing the perfect back-to-school treat – a Purple Cow! We think that my oldest daughter was the first to have this treat in elementary school – probably either kindergarten or first grade. After doing a little research on Wikipedia, I’d bet that my daughter’s kindergarten teacher was teaching them a little nonsense poem by Gelett Burgess (published in 1895), that has the term “Purple Cow” in it, and somehow the treat went along with it. Here is the poem:

“I never saw a purple cow,

I never hope to see one;

But I can tell you, anyhow,

I’d rather see than be one.”

Our family has been enjoying this treat ever since! That was more than 30 years ago, and it’s STILL fun for us to make! It’s simple enough for small children to help make for themselves (and this really is the simplest thing EVER to make) and it’s delicious enough for adults to also enjoy. Since we revisited my kids’ First Day of School Cinnamon Dunkers earlier this week, it’s time to also revisit this treat (which my family DID made again recently after many years).

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Purple Cow

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Start by putting 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream into a tall glass. The tall glass helps to corral the ingredients when the child/participant is mixing this up (the excitement can make it pretty wild). The amount is subject to the individual here – you can sure put in more ice cream than this if you want to!

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Next, in goes 2-3 spoonsful of frozen grape juice concentrate. After making this a few times, you’ll see how much you like in yours. Like a lot of grape (or purple)? Add more!

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Mix it up in the glass – gently – use a plastic glass if you need to for little ones. We adults can handle a glass glass just fine.

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You can enjoy at this point without adding anything else (most people are too ready at this point and just start to go at it), but I put this into a prettier glass so I could add the obligatory whipped cream and sprinkles. Cuz I’m fancy.

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It’s so pretty! Add a straw and a spoon and you’re all set!

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Our family loves the taste AND the nostalgia that this treat brings to the table. We forget about it for several years and then someone will get a hankerin’ for one and we just have to have one. While it’s a great treat for little ones, it’s obviously also a great treat for anyone of ANY age! You whole family will love it when you bring out the vanilla ice cream and grape juice concentrate and start making a delicious Purple Cow!

 

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First Day of School Cinnamon Dunkers

I have no idea where this recipe for First Day of School Cinnamon Dunkers came from, but at a certain point I started making these for my kids’ first day of school breakfast. Funny thing – they never ate much breakfast on that first day – they were too nervous! They would finish them up AFTER school on the first day, but they weren’t as delicious as they would have been in the morning warm from the oven. Recently they all decided that maybe they should make a batch and actually EAT them! You know – just to see what they missed – but they decided it might bring back memories of those nervous first days and they wouldn’t enjoy them, anyway. Oh well, too bad, it’s up to me and their dad to take care of these dunkers, I guess.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

First Day of School Cinnamon Dunkers

Mix together for topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Lay out flat:

1 tube of crescent dough sheet (back in the day I used a tube of breadsticks for this, but I had trouble finding them and this seemed the best replacement available)

Cut into sticks (I always made them in the shape of the kids’ initials, but made the rest into sticks).

Top with beaten egg for an egg wash and sprinkle on the sugar/cinnamon topping mixture.

Bake according to package instruction.

Serve warm with peanut butter that’s been warmed in the microwave for 30-40 seconds.

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Mix up the cinnamon/sugar topping before starting. Then you’re ready to go.

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I use an egg for the egg wash. Just an egg. Get that beaten up before starting, too.

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I unrolled the sheet of crescent dough – didn’t roll it out with a rolling pin – just unrolled it from the tube. Then I cut the strips with my pizza cutter.

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Just for old times’ sake, I had to form my kids’ initials! Ha!

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The rest of the dough was just cut into strips. Brush on the egg wash and top with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. That’s it! Bake them and you’re done!

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I was a little disappointed – the crescent dough sheet didn’t puff up like the breadsticks do – but they’ll still be delicious.

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You should really serve them warm – and don’t forget to heat up the peanut butter in the microwave so it’s nice and smooth and easy to dip the dunkers in.

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This really is a nice first day of school breakfast or after school snack. It makes the day even better by having a special treat that makes their initials! The cinnamon and sugar obviously make the dunkers very tasty, and dipping them in peanut butter just adds an even more delicious component – and it makes them healthy, right?!! 🙂 Why not start a new first day of school tradition? Your kids – big AND small – will love these First Day of School Cinnamon Dunkers – they may want them for breakfast AND a snack for years to come!

 

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Tomato Galette

We’ve had a lot of tomatoes in our garden this year, so I decided to try to make a Tomato Galette. I have made a couple of galettes before (Apple Galette and Rhubarb Galette), and our tomatoes have been so beautiful, that I wanted to make something a little bit different. A galette makes a wonderful light lunch, or even a brunch dish. I think this is something Grandma would have liked to make. She loved tomatoes and she and Grandpa grew amazing tomatoes in their gardens over the years. My mom looks like she’s ready to go out to the garden and pick some tomatoes in this photo from when she was about 5 years old. I love the hat, and while she did drive the tractor for baling hay when she was older, I don’t think she was actually driving it here. So cute!

Blueberry Scones

Anyhoo – back to the tomatoes – Grandma was famous for a certain soup she made, Grandma’s Tomato Soup, because it was unbelievably delicious, but it was also a way to use up tomatoes without having to can just jars of plain tomatoes. Grandma was also the one who got us started using garden tomatoes for BLT Sandwiches – and they aren’t all bad – all the tomatoes and bacon and mayonnaise – I just wanted to try something different. This recipe is much easier to make than Grandma’s Tomato Soup and is different from the ubiquitous BLT Sandwiches, and still uses the tomatoes from your garden. The hardest part of making this is having a single pie crust made and ready to go. The rest is the fun part.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Tomato Galette

Make a single pie crust, have it rolled out, chilled, and ready to go on top of a flat baking sheet.

Slice up and have ready to lay on top of the crust:

3-4 tomatoes (I used 3 sliced and a few cherry tomatoes cut in half)

1/2 of a red onion

Spread on top of crust, leaving at least 3 inches around the edge to fold up and over the filling:

1 package herb cheese, softened

Layer on top of herb cheese:

Sliced tomatoes

Sliced red onion

Fold edges up and over the tomatoes.

Brush the edges with an egg wash and sprinkle on some coarse salt.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden.

After removing from oven, transfer to cutting board to serve.

Top with basil leaves and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

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We’ve had such beautiful tomatoes from our garden this year.

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I got the tomatoes sliced and ready to go.

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The pie crust is ready, the tomatoes are sliced, and the onions are also sliced and ready.

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Roll out the crust big enough to fit over a flat baking sheet. Spread on the herb cheese, leaving 3 inches or so around the edge.

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Layer on the tomatoes and onions (I put my cherry tomato halves in the middle – it looked pretty that way).

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Fold the crust up around the edges, brush on an egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse salt.

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After baking, top with basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze (I used store-bought here).

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Look how pretty!

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This is one of the tastiest things I’ve made this year! It. Is. So. Good!

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This was so much fun to make with our beautiful garden tomatoes! When it’s as delicious as this was, well, that’s just an extra bonus. You might even say it’s better than the usual BLT Sandwiches we make this time of year – EVERY year. I highly recommend making this recipe – maybe for lunch or brunch. My son said, and I quote, “this is pretty great”. The man knows his food. That means something. So take his word for it, use some of your beautiful garden tomatoes, and make this Tomato Galette.

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Lemon Blueberry No-Churn Ice Cream

My latest mash-up of recipes is Lemon Blueberry No-Churn Ice Cream! It’s a combination of two of my past recipes –  Lemon Ice and Blueberry Pie! Once I realized that the filling for the Lemon Ice recipe from one of Grandma’s old church cookbooks was basically a no-churn ice cream, my brain worked overtime trying to work out how many different kinds of no-churn ice cream I could make. The possibilities are endless! I wanted to just go with the basic Lemon Ice filling recipe first, just so I could really see how it would turn out, and I added the blueberries to make it taste like the blueberries and lemon in Blueberry Pie. I think it turned out pretty well! Let’s just say it disappeared pretty quick. In fact, you might say it vaporized! This recipe is just ridiculously easy to make, so I hope you’ll give it a try!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Lemon Blueberry No-Churn Ice Cream

Beat together:

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Juice of 2 lemons

Grated rind of 2 lemons

1 cup blueberries (I used frozen wild blueberries)

Fold in:

1 pint whipping cream, whipped

Put mixture into bread loaf pan and freeze.

Let freeze several hours or overnight.

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I whip the whipping cream first and keep it in the refrigerator while mixing the lemon mixture.

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First, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and the lemon juice and lemon rind.

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It makes a nice, smooth mixture.

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Next, add the blueberries (I’m glad I used frozen wild berries – I think regular fresh blueberries might make big frozen chunks).

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You end up with a bit of a lavender-colored mixture when adding the blueberries.

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Then fold the whipped cream into the lemon and blueberry mixture.

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I lined the bread pan with some parchment paper, and that wasn’t necessary, but I would cover the pan with some plastic wrap so it doesn’t take on that “freezer” smell or taste. Make sure you let the ice cream sit out for 5-10 minutes when you take it out of the freezer – that helps it scoop smoother. If you don’t do that, it will be pretty icy and hard to scoop.

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My family enjoyed this ice cream the next day, and wow!

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It is so, so good – absolutely delicious!

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I wouldn’t say the no-churn ice cream is as creamy as regular ice cream, but it’s easy and fast to make (especially if you don’t own an ice cream maker), and it really is so, so good! It tastes just like the recipe I make for Blueberry Pie! My mind is whirling with all the ideas I have of what kind to make next. There are so many possible flavors to explore! Stay tuned – I’m thinking a Gingerbread type to come this fall! In the meantime, take advantage of the warm (some hot) days we still have left this summer, and make a batch of this icy and delicious Lemon Blueberry No-Churn Ice Cream – you’re gonna love how easy it is to make, and your family will love how tasty it is!

 

 

 

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Surprise Muffins

Surprise Muffins are the latest in the muffin recipe from one of Grandma’s old church cookbooks. This recipe was a basic one, but had several variations to try, and so far I’ve tried Cinnamon Muffins, the Date-Nut Muffins, and the Cranberry-Orange Muffins. This particular variation is perfect for breakfast or an after-school snack, and since it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school, I thought it might be time to try this fun muffin recipe. We all know that after school snacking can be the best part of the day sometimes (I know it was for me), so why not make it extra fun? I was able to go to my other grandma’s after school for the first 3 years, and she made amazing after school snacks, but then we moved to the lake and I was on my own for after school snacking. While most of the time I remember eating fairly healthy (like the apples my mom bought once that tasted like lilacs – who knows?), but sometimes I ate whatever I could get my hands on. I know that not everyone can have delicious homemade muffins after school, but maybe if they’re made ahead of time, it won’t go so bad. Or . . . maybe for a end-of-week Friday after school snack to celebrate a week well done. After being a stay at home mom, I know how small that tiny bit of time is after school when you get to talk about their day. Hey – why not pour yourself a cup of coffee and use that small window of opportunity to talk to your kiddos about their day?!!

Surprise Muffins

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Surprise Muffins

Put in mixing bowl and mix well with a fork:

2 cups flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine:

1 egg

1 cup milk

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola)

Add all at once to flour mixture, stirring only until moistened.

Fill 12 muffin cups 1/3 full.

Put 1 teaspoon jam (I used raspberry jam) in middle (the recipe suggests you could also put in a few raisins, chopped nuts, cut pitted dates, or a cube of cheese) and top with the remaining batter.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Mix up the dry and wet ingredients separately.

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Add them together.

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Mix just until moistened.

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Fill the muffin cups 1/3 full.

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1 teaspoon of jam (or whatever surprise you decide to put in) goes in.

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Cover with the rest of the batter. This was a bit tricky and takes some time. I wanted to totally cover the jam or it wouldn’t be a surprise – it might peek through.

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Before baking I sprinkled the muffins with a bit of coarse sugar for a bit of sparkle and crunch.

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They baked up nice and golden brown.

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Surprise! Look – how fun is that?!!

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These are delicious!

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I think anyone would love these delicious and surprising muffins, whether you enjoy them for breakfast, an after school snack, or with a cup of coffee. Let me know if you try these and what kind of surprise you decide to put in. I’d love to hear your ideas! Sit down with your kids, pour a cup of coffee, and enjoy that window of opportunity to chat after school while you can. We all know that those kiddos grown up waaaaay too fast, so before you blink that those days are over, make a batch of these Surprise Muffins and have a chat about their day!

 

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8 Ways to Freeze Your Garden Harvest

Today I’m sharing  8 Ways to Freeze Your Garden Harvest! As I said in my last post, 7 Delicious Ways to Preserve Your Garden Harvest, our gardens are ripening so fast, it’s hard to keep up with them! Since we’re still experiencing the amazingly frustrating shortage of canning lids of all kinds, freezing is a good option. Freezing isn’t the best option, but it is a good option, as long as your freezer doesn’t quit and your electricity doesn’t go out. I still have the big stand-up freezer that was in the back porch of Grandma and Grandpa’s farm back in the 1960’s, my parents had it in our basement at the lake, and we still have it in our garage now. They just don’t make ’em like they used to, and at this point, every summer I cross my fingers that it will last until winter; we wouldn’t need the freezer to work in the winter around here. 🙂

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Freezing Berries

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Freezing Zucchini

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Frozen Peaches

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Freezing Corn #2 and #3

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Frozen Green Beans

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Frozen Cole Slaw

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Fixing Pumpkins

 

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7 Delicious Ways to Preserve Your Garden Harvest

Today I’m sharing 7 Delicious Ways to Preserve Your Garden Harvest. Our gardens are growing and ripening like gangbusters right now, and here are a few ways to make sure you preserve all that garden goodness for the winter to come! We all know how good it is to enjoy some treats from the garden in the middle of the bleak midwinter. Who wouldn’t want to slather some sweet jam on your wintertime toast or heat up some delicious tomato soup for dinner on a cold winter’s night. Pick a few and preserve your harvest!

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Applesauce

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Watermelon Pickles

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Grandma’s Tomato Soup

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Turmeric Pickles

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Peach Jam

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Refrigerator Pickles

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Peaches (Canned)

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