Sunday, June 23, 2013

A canning we will go!

The other night my husband came home with an unexpected gift... a huge amount of tomatoes from a neighbor!

There were so many (that were ripe or close to ripe) that I was at a loss as to what to do so I thought of canning.  The problem is that I have never canned.  I watched my mother can when I was young but didn't remember much about the process.  I didn't have many jars but a few left from a holiday project that would suffice for at least a little of the tomatoes' uses.

Being that we don't eat a lot of spaghetti sauce (or red sauce, in general), I decided to use those for spaghetti sauce but use the rest for something that we would enjoy more.

So, using some of the other vegetables I had on hand, I made a sauce.  I will include the recipe below.  Please keep in mind that I had no specific canning equipment (save a very large pot with a lid and some canning jars).  I now have my own wish list of canning equipment.  :)

Here is the maiden voyage of my canning experience (many items which brought back fond memories of my mother canning when I was younger).

Spicy Tomato Sauce for Canning 

This was my first canning experience, as an adult (I used to watch my mom when I was a child), so I have made a few post-making commentaries and changes as I look back over what worked and what didn’t.  I am, obviously, not an expert so please read other canning suggestions to verify any safety concerns.

10 Large Ripe Tomatoes
1 Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
½ Green Pepper (chopped)
4 Cloves Garlic (minced)
1 White onion (chopped)
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Bay Leaf
½ Tspn Paprika
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
½ Tspn Powdered Thyme
¼ Tspn Marjoram
1 ½ Tspn Salt
Lemon Juice (for last step before canning)


Fill a large stock pot at least ½ full (I did my tomatoes in two batches of 5 each, for this part of the process,  as they were large).  Bring the water to a boil.  Add the tomatoes and boil for 2 minutes.

Immediately place the tomatoes into ice water to split the skins.  Once the tomatoes are cool enough peel them and set aside.  [ Some people quarter the tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds and excess water.  I did not, I chopped them but left everything in.  Looking back I should have removed a little bit of the water . ]

In a large skillet sauté the olive oil with the minced garlic, peppers and onion on medium-high heat.  Once it the garlic is starting to brown and the onions are caramelizing (clear with slightly browned edges) place them into a medium-large stock pot and place on the heated burner. 

Leaving the burner on, start adding your tomatoes and spices.  Keep sautéing them and lightly mashing the tomatoes, as they soften, to get a slightly smoother body.  Turn to low and cover, cooking for an hour and stirring occasionally.

Start boiling another large pot full of enough water to cover the jars (while standing upright in a jar basket) and having another 1-2” of water above that.   Get your canning equipment ready (jar basket, funnel, jar grabber, lid magnet etc.).  This pot will be your “water bath canner”.

After your jars and lids have been washed in hot, soapy water (or in a dishwasher that will finish at the same time as the cooking process) place the cooked sauce into quart sized jars (leaving ½” of room at the top).  Add 1 Tbsp of Lemon Juice to each.

Wipe the jars’ outside thread and dry them.  Set the rings onto the jars and center them.  Put the metal bands on and tighten down until finger tight (do not over-tighten).  By this point your water should be boiling, or close to it, in your large water-bath pan.

Place the jars into the jar basket and lower them into the boiling water (making sure that none of them will hit one another while boiling).  Boil for 30 minutes (or more, if you are above 1,000’ elevation).  Carefully remove the jars when done and place them, gently, onto a towel in a non-drafty area.  Listen for the “pop” as the lids seal themselves.

Leave for 12-24 hours and, after that, gently press the lids to check for movement.  If no movement then you have a good seal!  Properly sealed jars can be used for up to a year.  If you get a poor seal, or no seal, it’s probably best to use that can right away or place the contents in a bag and freeze them… just in case.

References that Assisted me with My Canning Process:

So, that's my maiden voyage into canning!  I am still trying to use the last of the tomatoes.  I will post some of the next items that I did, between this first batch and now, soon.  Happy Canning!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Sweet Life... low carb sweeteners that are Good!

I have been doing a low carbohydrate eating style for years now.  I was raised on Sweet and Low (yuck) and my parents still use it.  My sister and I discovered Splenda and, though I like the flavor, I don't like the less-than-natural ingredients.

image source:

A long time ago I had heard about Stevia, a natural sweetener made from a plant.  I had tried the leaves but, being that I had just started a family, convenience won out and I quickly forgot about Stevia again (with the hopes that one day it would be more readily attainable and convenient than leaf-form).  This probably sounds horrible but I was a mom with two young children and three businesses.  "Convenient" was my middle name!

A year or two ago I started doing shopping at natural food stores again, whenever my pocket book allowed and, to my wonder, Stevia was available in powder form and even in packets!  It cost relatively the same as Splenda, sometimes less depending on the supplier and the form.

Needless to say I am "Stevia and proud" now and have been almost 24/7 since finding the powder and packets!  For more information on stevia's history etc. please see the bottom of this post.

I have found a few brands that I like, I will share them below:

Best of All Stevia:  Pretty good flavor and the price is reasonable.

Vitacost Stevia (bulk powder):    I use this one usually.  It has added fiber, which I like.  The price can be very good when it is on sale during a BoGo sale (buy one get one half off).  The fiber causes a slight banana - ish smell but that is only when it is in the container.  Once added to coffee, tea or baked goods the smell disappears.

Herbal Authority Stevia with Fiber:  This was my "gateway" stevia.  It is great!  Convenient and the packets used to be almost foil-like so they repelled moisture slightly, which made me feel better about carrying them with me.  I usually order from Vitacost now but, if they sold this, I'd still be ordering it!

Lime Stevita, Stevia Drink:   This is expensive but VERY good!  If you are someone that doesn't like "plain" water this will create a lime / lemon flavored water without aspartame or other harmful additives.

Hazelnut Stevia Extract:    I tried this, to add to my coffee.  I love NOW brand but this was a sticky mess (the dropper wouldn't seal and the flavor did not taste realistic or natural at all).  NOW supplements etc. have been great for me but this was a let down.

Stevia can be used for baking (NOT as an equal conversion, though, stevia is sweeter than sugar).  The kids love it and have yet to notice if I add it to anything.  They never got a lot of sugar to begin with but, even when added to strawberries to create a light "syrup" they (and my husband, who's even pickier about anything "diet") never notice!

So, that's my take on stevia and how it has helped me stay sweet without unnatural ingredients.  Here's a little more information on stevia from WikiPedia:

" The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
With its steviol glycoside extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar,[5] stevia has attracted attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar sweeteners. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose it is attractive to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.
The availability of stevia varies from country to country. In a few countries, it has been available as a sweetener for decades or centuries; for example, it has been widely used for decades as a sweetener in Japan. In some countries health concerns and political controversies have limited its availability; for example, the United States banned stevia in the early 1990s unless labeled as a dietary supplement,[6][7] but in 2008 it approved rebaudioside A extract as a food additive. Over the years, the number of countries in which stevia is available as a sweetener has been increasing."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Welcome to the No RX Needed blog!

Welcome to my new blog!

This blog will be a grouping of many of the items I spend my time thinking about or doing;

HOMEOPATHY:  I have been interested in homeopathy for years but it wasn't until my daughter was diagnosed with JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) that I really started digging deep into this relatively obscure form of home remedies.  I have tried herbs and vitamins and minerals but homeopathy is something more and I am glad that I rediscovered it!

Beauty Meme: beauty is everywhere.GARDENING:  We don't have a lot of land where we are (or light).  Our house faces Northeast and has little to no Southern exposure.  I have learned some tricks on how to work within these parameters.

PLANTS:   Plant lore and information, in general to me and I love to photograph my plants and others!

INSECTS:  Not be a big "bug person" macro photography has helped me start to overcome my natural fear of insects (a little).  I like to photograph them as close as I can, until I learn how comfortable they are around me, and then research what type of bug they are to learn more.

RECIPES etc.:  Healthy eating is of importance to most parents that I know.  I am not a health-nut but try to prepare semi-healthy meals more often than not.  I lean toward one-pot dishes or fairly quick meals and may share some here.  Many will be low-carb etc. also.

Thank you for stopping by and welcome, again!