The tomato sauce we made? Out of this world amazing. I thought I'd share the recipe for those of you who might like to make a gigantic vat of the stuff. First off I have to tell you that I used a counter top roaster oven, which you can purchase for under $40. at places like Target or Wal-Mart or other places that carry kitchen stuff. Mine is an 18 quart model. That means it only holds 1/2 bushel. And THAT means I had to make this in two batches. So, this recipe is probably best made in 1/2 batches. I will write it here as I received it, but you will probably want to cut it in half. The full batch makes about 15 quarts. The sauce can be turned into spaghetti sauce, or sauce for other Italian dishes, or even soups.
We bought a bushel of tomato's and the other veggies we needed at the local farm stand and went to work. The beauty of this recipe is that you do not have to skin the tomato's... this saves lots of time and effort. Here it is....
1 bushel tomatoes, cored but not peeled. If large, cut them in half.
4 hot peppers (I take the seeds out of mine, I like a little heat, but not lots.)
3 sweet peppers (cut out the seeds and stems and toss them into the mix)
12 onions, peeled and cut into biggish chunks
2 heads of garlic (peel the cloves and toss them in whole)
1 C. olive oil
Put all these in the roaster and cook it high (450 or 500 until all the veggies are mushy, 2-3 hours.)
Stir occasionally. Some of the veggies will get blackened, this is OK. Let cool a bit, then blend in batches to smooth. (PS, I toss in a chunked up zucchini or two, it adds body and vitamins!)
Put blended sauce back into roaster. Add:
1 c olive oil
1/4 c oregano
Basil to taste, (start with 1 Tbs. and go up from there)
1 c sugar
8 small cans of tomato paste
1/2 c salt
pepper to taste (we like 1/4 c)
Cook at 325, stirring every hour, for 6 hours or so. Cool.
Sister Deb is home from her magical summer of adventuring and has come to visit us. Today we covered a lot of territory, and one of the things we did was put up 32 or so quarts of amazing tomato sauce. Rachel helped. We got a bushel of tomato's, 12 onions, 2 heads of garlic, 4 hot peppers, several sweet peppers and some zucchini. We sat out at the beloved picnic table and cut the veggies up, then back inside where we roasted them all in a hot oven for hours. Then whirled everything in small batches in the blender, added olive oil, tomato paste and seasonings and put it all back in to cook more. A huge vat of fragrant sauce is still simmering away.
This winter when we cook with the sauce it will taste like condensed summer and remind us of the sweetness of shared time. True bounty! (Please note the lamb looking on at our veggie chopping party.)
My daughter bought a bunny last winter. As bunnies go, this one is awfully sweet. She lived in a cage, with all the things a bunny might need, but she was not happy. She was restless and needed S P A C E. When the weather was nice we would put her out on the lawn in a dog crate so she could nibble on greens and enjoy the sun, but still, she was in a cage. This summer we decided to let her free to explore the fenced yard. I knew that a smart bunny could get out of the fence. I knew that the yard offered dangers... hawks, owls, eagles and the like could all make a snack out of a small brown rabbit. But she stared at me through the bars of her cage and I let her free.
She ran and leapt and hopped and explored and ate. And at night, she would go back to her cage, with its dish full of alfalfa pellets and its cool clean water and deep bedding! Recently she did find her way out of the fence, and now she likes to hang out in the driveway or under the apple trees or in the herb garden sampling parsley. There are a great many dangers outside the fence... cars and coyotes and foxes and more. So far the bunny is safe and she just emanates happiness as she navigates the big world. And still, she returns to her cage at night.
There it is in a nutshell. Freedom is dangerous. But oh! it tastes of apples and sunshine and space and sweetness.
Mostly I love the livestock. The cows, all trimmed and washed and fluff dried. Huge and healthy, placid and sweet faced. I love the sheep and the pigs and the chickens and ducks.
The 4-H kids in their ironed blue jeans and white button down shirts? I love them. A lot.
The rows of canned beans, fresh picked flowers, potatoes and squash and peppers and onions? Lovely. The hand stitched quilts and dolls and knitted afghans make me smile. The smell of fair food is intoxicating, the sound of children and the barkers calling and the tinny music from the rides and the sight of couples young and old, walking hand in hand, taking in the flooding of the senses that is the fair. I love it all.
The evening sky over the garish lights reminds me that when the when fair season is over, a quiet beauty remains.
I bought a huge old copper pot for $5. at a yard sale a few years back. This summer I planted it with a variety of coleus and some lantana. It is a hot spot of color between my garage doors. And it makes me smile.
While we were fencing and attending to other scintillating weekend chores like going to the dump, Chris fired up the smoker. All day the scent of apple wood and charcoal and slow cooking ribs and chicken wafted in the breeze. We had friends over at dusk and feasted... there was patty pan squash just picked from the garden, fresh cucumbers in tangy dressing, hot muffins and ironstone platters laden with delicious meat. There was candlelight and laughter. Who says men can't multi task?
Chris and I learned how to fence. Chris did most of the work... I mostly handed him stuff and admired his mad manly skills. We extended the fence into a bit of the meadow that is waist high in tall grass and weeds. The sheep watched us work, and the moment I let them out of their pasture they made a bee line for the deep green growth. Then they happily sampled the smorgasbord of delights there... grass and vetch and many lambie delicacies. We were all so happy!
A man that cooks is a wonderful thing. When Chris and I first married both of us cooked a little bit, but not much and not well. Meanwhile, we both liked to eat. I was delighted that my new husband wanted to cook for me. My own sweet father could cook in a pinch, for instance if my mother was deathly ill. His repertoire was omelette's or hot dogs, not much else. Unless you count peanut butter and fluffernutter sandwiches!
I well remember, in those early days, coming home from work, tired and gritty. If Chris had gotten home before me I would smell food cooking. Nothing lifts the spirits quite as much as the smell of supper started after a long day.
In those days Chris was a one-pot cook. I would lift the pot lid and peer in expectantly. There were many variations to one theme, something my sweetie called, "Chrissy surprise." He eschewed the idea of cookbooks or recipes. His idea of supper usually consisted of whatever leftover meat we had from the previous meal, a can of cream of something Campbell's soup, and rice. There was almost always rice. Sometimes he would toss in a vegetable, too. Often the concoction would be an odd color. Green was common. The texture would vary from slimy to lumpy. Oh, and there would be SPICES. Cayenne was a popular choice. My taste buds in those days were not used to anything more exotic than salt and pepper. Somehow the magic of young love and hunger made it all taste good.
Over the years our love has grown sweeter, and both of us have become better cooks. We read recipes now, and it has been many long years since I had to fill up on "Chrissy surprise."
I love to watch my husband in the kitchen, masterfully slicing, dicing, sauteing and seasoning. Better still I love to feast on his creations. A man that cooks? A wonderful thing.
It is only August and it feels like the height of summer... but here in Maine summer is actually on the wane. It is the beginning of harvest season. They are haying all around me, perfuming the air with the indescribable scent of summer packed into bales. The apples on my tree are ripe and dropping. I am beginning to pick Delicata squash from my garden (delicious!) and the grass in the meadow is starting to brown. I am loathe to see summer end... it has been wonder-filled.
A long, long time ago I used to do volunteer work grooming dogs and cats at the animal shelter in Memphis, Tennessee. There was a woman who also volunteered there who took a shine to me. She hired me to come to her house and groom her two little dogs. Sometimes I brought my wee daughter with me. My daughter still remembers the "Ginger Bread Cookie Lady." We became friends. She had 30 or 40 years on me, a wicked sense of humor, and a penchant for wearing tee shirts with witty sayings. Her dogs were small, speckled and walked with a waddle. Her apartment was in a neighborhood that was starting to slide to the dangerous side. She used to walk those waddling dogs and when young punks asked, "What kind of dogs are they?" She'd quip, "Rottweilers." She always went unmolested.
She moved to Texas shortly before I moved to Maine and I lost contact with her. But I thought of her often. I thought of her love for her sons and her late husband. I thought of the stories she had told me during the many hours I groomed her dogs. I thought of how delighted she was when I would take her out to lunch at PF Chang's or have her to our home for supper. I remembered the laughter we had shared and I missed her.
She died recently. And today I received a box in the mail with some of her favorite dog books, a dog decorated sweater, the doggie designed blankets that used to cover her sofas, some stuffed toy dogs and few other things of importance to her. It was a box full of love, reaching across the country and across time. It was heavier than gold.
Marjory... I never forgot you. I am deeply touched that you never forgot me.
This morning dawned gray and wet. A perfect day for the porch sofa, a laptop and an overdue writing assignment. 5 out of 6 dogs have joined me on the sofa. I took this photo leaning back as far as I could, the dogs are arranged from my tummy to my toes, starting with Flirt the toy poodle, then Poppy pug smooshed on the right, Blossom the new adoptee and her rolls of fat come next, then Smooch pug on my ankles and Lilly the antique boxer on my feet. Dazzle poodle is on the floor next to the couch. My husband says, of scenes like this, "It looks like someone just walked up and threw a whole bucket of dogs on you."
The house is quiet, all I hear is the sound of the wind in the lilacs, the rain pattering on the sills and the soft breathing sounds of contented dogs.
Last week the phone rang at work. I could hear Beth, our fabulous receptionist say, "Flirt? OK. Uh huh. Her driver? Yes, yes, I think her driver would agree to that." I was mystified.
The story was that one of our customers who really likes Flirt (my toy poodle) has an elderly friend who is very fond of dogs. Especially small, sweet dogs. Our customer wanted to know if I would consider bringing Flirt to visit her friend. I knew Flirt would enjoy such a trip, so that afternoon I did indeed drive her to meet Mrs. C. They liked each other very much! Flirt is slightly pink and that added to Mrs. C's enjoyment.
Today the mailman brought a thank you card addressed to, (you guessed it,) FLIRT!
I've had a lot of dogs over the years. Flirt is the first one to get phone calls and postal deliveries.
My sister had an amazing opportunity this summer. She enjoyed a 7 week Mediterranean cruise on a custom yacht as a teacher. She got home today. I loved what she said; "I am glad I went, but I am so glad to be home, so glad to be married to my husband and so glad to be an American." I salute that sentiment!
Little Blossom the recently rescued pug had NINETEEN TEETH removed yesterday. Her poor little mouth was riddled with infection, (hence the paint peeling breath!) In this photo she is still under the influence of excellent pain killing drugs. With so few teeth her little tongue seems to have some trouble staying where it belongs. And we find that oddly adorable. Cute enough to mimic.
The other day this fly was buzzing on the window sill. I did a double take; it was so fuzzy, and had out sized googly cartoon eyes and was slow and bumbling. And just like that I was transported to that place of wonder where time just stopped for a while and I was totally present in the moment. A fly struck moment.
I am trying to harvest more of those. Perhaps minus the flies.
I confess. I have fancy envy. I envy those who cook fancy meals, who set fancy tables, who have fancy flowers. But I am not that kind of person. I am more of a simple person. And mostly, I am OK with that.
My niece Emily emailed last night and said she would be in my neck of the woods today, could she drop by for dinner? This request was a delight, as Emily is one of my most favorite humans in the world and I don't get to see her enough. Part of me plotted and planned to have a fancy meal for her... but the real me shone through. It was a hot day and I had writing assignments to work on, thus not much time for being fancy. We dined on cold roast chicken (from chicken raised here) a mess of hot sauteed veggies all locally grown (zucchini, tomato's, onions, garlic and summer squash,) and roasted corn on the cob. And we ate at the picnic table surrounded by chickens, dogs and lambs. I had a single stem of Gladiola stuffed into an old bottle on the kitchen table. Not a thing fancy there! For dessert we had fresh locally grown berries and whipped cream. Plain and simple as a board fence... but beautiful in the bowl as well as on the tongue.
In the morning the absolute first thing I do after swinging out of bed is walk outside with the dogs while they attend to very important canine business. I am generally a bit bleary and foggy as I survey my surroundings. I always take note of the meadow, scanning for deer or other wildlife. I wake a bit more as I attend to my chores. I let the chickens out of the coop and say hello to the lambs. I fill bird feeders with seed and bird baths and water buckets with cool water from the well. Then I water plants and check the progress of the vegetable garden.
I toss out scratch grains for the hens and crows and feed the sheep a little treat. The more I do the more alert I become. I take in the unmatched smell of a Maine morning. I listen for loons on the lake. I admire the way the eastern light illuminates the back yard... and in August I notice that the orb webs are back. They are here this time every year...starting along the fence that divides lawn from meadow. The tall grass is the framework for hundreds upon hundreds of spider webs. Some span 24" or more across. They cover the meadow, as far as my eyes can see. The morning dew outlines each strand of each web in sparkling drops. And though spiders give me a bad case of the heebie jeebies, I cannot help but pause in awe of the art they create fresh each night; awash in a breathtaking marriage of evening dew and morning light. In the morning the first thing I do is go outside to attend to the very important business of waking up to the beauty the surrounds me.
Last week a couple of very nice professional photographers stopped by the shop and asked if they could take some film for a documentary they were putting together about grooming. They were from the Maine Photographic Workshop. They spent the entire morning shooting film and asking questions. Later they came back and asked if they brought a dog from the local shelter, would I groom it start to finish while they filmed. I had two no-shows that day which left some space in my schedule, so I happily agreed. Our shop, Yankee Clipper Pet Grooming and Supplies (http://www.yankeeclipperpetgrooming.com/) grooms shelter animals at no charge upon request.
A bit later the two photographers came back with, of all things, a PUG! She is 6 years old, named Blossom, and was displaced from her home when her elderly owner developed some health problems and was unable to care for her. A perfect angel, she seemed to enjoy a spa experience. I can't tell you how much I hated to see her go back to the shelter. So, today she came to my house for a 7 day visit to see how she does. So far she does just FINE. She met the sheep and the chickens. She met the other dogs and all was well. She explored the yard, explored the house and then explored the closest dog bed. She is still there.
Sometimes I feel like a one trick pony. I love my work, and tend to spend my days either grooming pets, reading about grooming pets, writing about grooming pets or teaching others about grooming pets. I have made a conscious effort in my blog to avoid the topic of pet grooming... to branch out a bit. But I am making an exception. Here is a little dog I groomed today. He was not on the original busy scheduel. I happened to answer the phone when his owner called, "I have two very matted Shih Tzu's. I don't suppose you could do them today?" Today was unusually hot and humid, and I had a feeling the two dogs in question really needed us. I wiggled them into the days work load. When I saw them I had to stifle a gasp. They were in horrible shape... their coats matted beyond imagination. Some of the most tangled and neglected dogs I have seen in a long, long time. This photo shows where I have shaved down the dogs back. The coat is so tangled it has peeled off like an orange skin, and is hanging on each side of the pet. He quickly realized I was relieving him of the hot, itchy, pulling fur that encased him, and he stood very, very still while I worked.
His little face was so overgrown and tangled he could barely see. The fur covered his eyes, matted his ears to his head, and even made it so he could not open his little mouth fully. In short, he was a mess. I could not wait to remove the hair from him. I held my breath and went to work. (Why did I hold my breath? He smelled. BADLY.)
After a soothing shampoo and some more clipping, this little guy was so happy he was dancing and prancing. It had been TWO YEARS since he had been groomed last. It is recommended that this breed of dog be groomed every 4 to 6 weeks.
When it was all said and done he had free range of movement of all his limbs, he could see and open his mouth fully. And air could reach his skin. It has been a long, LONG time since I groomed a dog this badly neglected. I wish no dog ever had to be this way, but I did feel awfully good to think that I made him feel better. He pranced out of our shop, head and tail up, a happy little dog. And that, gentle reader, is one of the reasons I am sometimes a one trick pony. I just really like to make dogs look and feel wonderful.
I had posted a while back that one of my summertime goals was to eat lobster every Saturday night in my back yard. There is a lobsterman that sells fresh crustaceans near my house for $5, so for $20 Chris and I can eat about all we can hold and have a delightful, messy meal at our picnic table. And then Rachel decided that after all these years she actually LIKES lobster! Last night she joined us in our feast, (upping the cost of our luxurious meal to a whopping $30!) She joined in on the buttery, flavorful fun and soon was cracking claws and picking tails with the best of 'em. Gone are the days when she was just as happy if we grilled her a burger.