Easy “El Pato” Style Homemade “Canned” Tomato Sauce


Homemade Mexican-style canned tomato sauce.

Making tomato sauce is a great way to use up excess garden tomatoes; then you can freeze it in ice trays to create cubes for winter use.

I call this recipe easy because it does not involve a food processor. It’ll be on the chunky side, skins, seeds and all, but that works for me.

There are recipes out there that are probably closer to El Pato (a Mexican grocery favorite,) so I should probably call this “El Pato-ish.”

This recipe is tailored to rely on my “usual suspects” in the garden and the pantry, and uses Mexican-American techniques and ingredients (bacon fat!), but with a Continental twist (fresh oregano and white wine!) because I have a lot of oregano in the garden, usually have good dry white wine on hand, and once made, I also use this tomato sauce in Italian dishes.


Homemade El Pato-ish “Canned” Tomato Sauce

In a saucepan:

4-5 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes

leaves snipped from 2 six inch long sprigs of fresh oregano (or 1 heaping T. fresh, 1 tsp. dried)

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp/ black pepper

Later:  1/4 cup white wine (or apple cider vinegar or white vinegar)

In a frying pan:

2 tsp. bacon fat

1 Tsp. olive oil

1/2 cup finely diced onion

2 small jalepenos, finely diced

Later:  1tsp. minced garlic

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Homemade Kale Chips From The Oven – No Dehydrator!

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Everyone loves Brad’s Raw Leafy Kale, but it can be an expensive habit. And since at the moment, I have more kale in my garden than I know what to do with, I thought, there must be a way to make leafy kale chips myself.

MaryJane’s Farm magazine had a comprehensive how-to in the June 2013 issue, but alas, it involved a food dehydrator (dessicator.) The search for an oven method led me to Dreena Burton’s Plant Powered Kitchen, where she gives excellent directions for oven-made crispy kale chips, as well as a nice recipe for a flavor coating based on tahini, tamari and maple syrup. Yum!

No Dehydrator Necessary, Just Use Your Oven

Dreena gives detailed directions for the cooking technique, but the gist of it is:

1. The kale must be spun or blotted very dry.

2. Hand mush the flavoring mixture with the kale leaves to coat them.

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How To Make A Dog Leash From A Recycled Bedsheet

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It’s so quick and easy to make an attractive no-sew homespun dog leash from an old bedsheet. I’ve been “rolling my own” dog leashes for about 20 years now, and they are every bit as sturdy as leather or webbing, and they last for years. And the best part is, when the leash finally does wear out, you can reuse the hardware with another bedsheet to make a new one in minutes.

Gather These Materials:

  • 1 old bedsheet (any size)
  • 1 dog clamp (hardware store)
  • A bit of aluminum wire, about 16 gauge (hardware store)
  • Your summer camp lanyard-making skills

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Keep Cool Projects From Your Craft Books Top-of-Mind

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Most crafters have about a zillion craft books, each book with one or two super-cool projects or techniques we’d like to try someday. If you’re like me, the minute you close the book after looking through it the first time, you forget all about the project. Or worse, you remember it, but have no idea what book it’s in. Here’s my system for making my dead-tree craft books “linkable”, “taggable” and “searchable.”

Create a quick sketch and description of the project on a hangtag that will dangle from the book like a bookmark. You can easily fit 3 projects per hangtag. Use two hangtags if you need to. Most books, in my experience, only have a few projects that are must-dos. This makes your books browsable and searchable without taking them off the shelf, great if you are wondering, “Which book had that appliqué lampshade?”

Then, create a companion notebook that is tabbed for your favorite craft categories, and create the same sketch and description there, along with a “link” to the title of the book that it’s in.

So now, you can search or browse for your previously “favorited” projects by looking at the hangtags on your books, or by perusing the relevant category in your companion craft books notebook.

If you want to shortlist a project, i.e., “Must make this, soon!!!” then snap a pic of the page and upload it to Evernote.

This system allows your offline craft database of books to act more like an online database!

Created with flickr slideshow.

Super Healthy Chicken And Broccoli Casserole

An All-American Favorite Gets A Mediterranean Makeover

Here’s a traditional American comfort food, adjusted to fit the Mediterranean diet. This dish is 100% healthy Mediterranean eating, with a familiar All-American flavor.

I tweaked a recipe I found in the March 2011 issue of Cosmopolitan. With a 20 minute baking time, the broccoli retains a nice, ever-so-slight crunch. You can bake it longer if you like a mushier casserole. The original recipe called for more lemon juice, but I found it over-lemony and reduced it to what you see here.

Mediterranean All-American Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You’ll need your largest casserole dish, but you won’t need the cover. Gather:

1-1/2 T. butter
1-1/2 T. olive oil Continue reading

The Mediterranean Diet: Salmon and Pesto and Flax, Oh My!

What A Mediterranean Diet Looks Like

This is what the Mediterranean Diet looks like.

I’m almost 2 weeks into the Mediterranean diet, and loving it. The Mediterranean Diet involves lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, chicken and fish, a daily quota of olive oil that must be met, a weekly quota of Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of salmon and flax, and a daily quota of whole grains. Dairy comes from low fat yogurt and milk. Garlic, onion and herbs are to be used liberally.

This diet has been found to prevent type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, and even Alzheimer’s disease. I’m participating in a voluntary study at the University of Michigan that follows people on the diet for 6 months. So I am committed to the objectives of the study as well as my own health. Lots of motivation to stick with it, as well as personal coaching from a University nutritionist.

At first, it seemed like too much food! I have to eat 2 cups of dark green vegetables, one cup of red vegetable, one cup of yellow vegetable and one cup of “other” vegetable each day. That’s a salad about the size of a sofa cushion. Plus 3 cups of fresh fruit. Jeebus!

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Scrumptious Apple Currant Topping

Apple Currant Topping

This stuffs good on almost everything.

Wondering what to do with those slightly bruised and past-their-prime apples? Make this topping with ingredients on hand. This delicious cooked topping partners perfectly with oatmeal, pancakes, muffins, or yogurt. Or try this spectacular dessert: a layer of homemade soft oatmeal cookies, vanilla ice cream, and hot apple topping. Decadent!

Apple Currant Topping

5 small to medium Macintosh apples

1/3 c. sugar

1/2 c. currants (or raisins)

1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts (or pecans)

1/8 c. water Continue reading

Dog Eye Infection Eye Drops Recipe

Gracie the Pug With Eye Drops

All better now. Thanks, Mom!

When Miss Gracie recently developed those distinctive greenish eye boogers, I wondered if there was a home remedy I could try before hauling her in to the vet. Especially since I never seem to get her out of there for less than $75. Fees, tests and meds add up fast!

I asked Uncle Google, and he served up several variations of this recipe, plus a lot of heated discussion about whether or not it is humane to try home treating your pet. And a lot of scolding about how if you can’t afford a vet, you shouldn’t have a dog, blah, blah.

I think that, just as with human illness, if the situation doesn’t seem dire, it’s ok to try the equivalent of “chicken soup” before running to the professionals. It’s all about judgment.

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Homemade Cold Frappucino Mix

Homemade Cold Frappucino Mix

Can't beat those prices!

If you’re like me, you love Starbucks’ cold mocha frappucinos, the kind you find in the soda pop case at the convenience store. They are a summertime staple for me.

But they are pricey at $1.90 to $2.29 for a 9 oz bottle. Even if you catch a 4-pack on sale at the grocery store, or opt for the grocery store brand, they are about $1.30 each. A pallet of 12 at Costco puts the price at 93 cents each, 80-something if Costco is running a $2 to $3-off coupon, which they do a couple times a year.

I’ve found Aldi’s “Beaumont” brand are quite good, especially the French Vanilla flavor, and at an everyday price of 99c each it’s the best single bottle deal you will find anywhere. If you’re on the road and craving a frappucino, don’t stop at the gas station, stop at an Aldi store! They come chilled and are in the cheese section.

However, even at the lowest prices, it still adds up if you have a habit like I do, and when you see the big pile of glass bottles in the recycle bin, it starts to look pretty wasteful and consumerish as well. Oh, and all that sugar! So I figured there had to be a way to make them myself.

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Great Recipe from the Great Depression

Watch this delightful video of 91 year old Clara chatting about growing up during the Great Depression of the 1930s, while frying up some hot dogs and potatoes, a dish she calls her Poor Man’s Meal.

My mom used to make this dish, too. We called it simply Hot Dogs ‘n’ Potatoes. She cut the potatoes a bit bigger, and left out the onions (probably as a concession to me), and used her electric frying pan. Served with ketchup, salt and pepper.