Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Can the can! Homemade Tomato Soup!

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This week I had a powerful craving for tomato soup!  Mmmm... I love the stuff.

Being the eccentric little cooker that I am, I - OF COURSE -wanted to try my hand at homemade!  Surely my ingredients would be simpler and better for me than these (which are found on canned tomato soup)!



I searched around and found several variations of "copycat" tomato soup recipes.  Most called for canned tomatoes, some called for tomato paste, some even called for chicken broth.  My favorite canned soup had no chicken broth in it!  So, I kept looking.

I ran across a recipe found on a blog that is new to me but which I LOVE called "Produce on Parade".  Lots of good recipes!  And vegan recipes at that!  I'm always on the lookout for good and diverse recipes.  Katie's pictures are beautiful and so far I'm sold on the recipes!  Check it out HERE.  Katie's recipe (and pictures) for the tomato soup are HERE.

This tomato soup recipe is SO perfect and is even better than my old favorite canned soup!  The only things I really changed about Katie's recipe is that I used corn starch instead of xanthum gum and I added salt to the recipe.  I've never used xanthum gum but corn starch worked just fine for this purpose!  I believe from my reading that arrow root powder would also work.  

I don't personally have a blender that works right now so I used my food processor.  My food processor didn't blend out the tomatoes as velvety smooth as canned tomato soup, but I LOVED that about it.  It's a rich, deep tomato soup and I can tell you that I will probably NEVER buy another can of tomato soup after tasting this (other than to send with a college kid or something...).

Here's how I made "Can the Can-Homemade Tomato Soup" AT HOME MY WAY.  Try it!  And you'll be a believer!

Can the Can
Homemade Tomato Soup

  • 2 (28oz) cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup COLD water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste (not the whole can!  I had to buy a small can since my small town doesn't sell tubes of the stuff)
  • 1 teaspoon season salt (I used Lowry's)
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 2 whole bay leaves 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)


First, Mix the cold water well with the corn starch.  Blend until smooth.  Then place that and all of the other ingredients EXCEPT BAY LEAVES in a blender/food processor.  Blend until as smooth as you can get it.

Place this mixture in a pot on the stove.  Add the WHOLE bay leaves and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't scorch.


Serve piping hot with your favorite dipping selection (grilled cheese, crackers, pretzels, etc.).

I'm going to freeze single servings of this for my lunches.  Bye-bye canned tomato soup!

Here's a few pics of the process:

My ingredients!

All blended in the food processor.

Ready to start cooking!

Lunch at work, all made by me 
(homemade cracker recipe coming tomorrow)!



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Monday, October 20, 2014

Crockpot Caramel Sauce - One Ingredient Only!

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It's apple season here in mid Missouri!  Nothing like fresh apples from the tree.  I grew up near orange groves and had never seen an apple tree until my family moved to Missouri so I still find it somewhat magical to see those ruby red orbs taunting me from the trees!

One of my favorite ways to eat apples is sliced and dipped heavily in caramel!  Caramel apples on a stick are wonderful in their own rite but those things are hard on the teeth!  This is a much easier way to enjoy a fall favorite.

I had long heard of making homemade caramel sauce with sweetened condensed milk by boiling the cans in water-which I couldn't believe!  #1-sounded dangerous - boiling unopened cans-NOPE, not for me!  #2-sweetened condensed milk tastes nothing like caramel, right?  (Wrong LOL!)  I decided to give her a whirl and see what I could come up with.  I didn't like the idea of boiling an unopened can of something in water on my stove.  No way!!  I also was not a fan of heating anything in a can.  BPA leaching into my food did not sound like something I wanted to worry about.

I decided to pour my sweetened condensed milk into canning jars.  (You boil them to water process them, right?That's what I thought!)  I also decided to cook mine in the crockpot-even easier because I could see the contents and see the color changes and I didn't have to sit right there by the stove watching the pot boil!  Two wins!

It worked-deliciously!  This caramel sauce ranks right up there with the delicious stuff you buy next to the apples in the grocery store.  It's creamy and deeply caramel flavored.  Lovely stuff.

OK, here's how I made homemade Crockpot Caramel Sauce AT HOME MY WAY:

Crockpot Caramel Sauce
(One Ingredient Only!)

  • Sweetened Condensed Milk (not evaporated milk)
Other Supplies:

  • Crockpot - tall enough for water to completely cover the jars
  • Water
  • canning jars with lids (I used half pints.)

Pour sweetened condensed milk into small canning jars, fit with lids/rings.  (Two cans of sweetened condensed milk made three half pints of caramel sauce.)  (Leave a little head space-do not fill brimming full.)

Place the lidded jars of sweetened condensed milk in the crockpot.  Fill with hot water, covering the jars with at least an inch or two of hot water (just hot from the tap).

Cover the crockpot with the lid.

Cook on HIGH 4-6 hours (all crockpots are different) (start checking them at 4 hours!).  Take a peak at your jars to see the color of the caramel as the time passes.  You want a medium caramel color.  Once they look "caramel" colored-at whatever time frame that is for you, they are done!  Take them OUT of the hot water so they don't keep cooking.  This last time I made caramel sauce, I cooked mine about 5 hours and they were a little too done.  Still delicious but a little too thick for my preference. 

Store in the refrigerator after cool (it will get super thick in the fridge).  Also, note that I replaced my lids/rings on the cooked caramel with clean lids/rings because my water left hard water grit on the lids.  

To use after refrigerating, bring to room temp or warm in the microwave until you can stir to a creamy consistency.

Uses for caramel sauce:
  • Dipping apple slices
  • Adding to brownie batter
  • Ice cream topping-milk shakes-sundaes
  • Gift giving
  • Drizzling over desserts like angel food cake, cheesecake, etc.

I find the store bought caramel sauce highly overpriced and will only be making my own from now on!



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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Strong Man Baby Quilt

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My niece, Kelsey, and her boyfriend, Derrick, are due to have a baby boy soon.  We're all getting very excited! This past Saturday was their baby shower.

I like to sew something special for baby gifts when I can and I knew I wanted to make something tailored especially for Kelsey. Kelsey isn't really "in" to sports or even trendy baby fabrics like chevrons.  She told me once she really likes "repurposed" things and my initial thought was to make her baby quilt with soft flannel shirts that I picked up at the thrift store.  You see, Kelsey would really have liked that kind of fabric even better than anything I could buy new at Joann's.

Our sweet Kelsey is very artistic.  She has tremendous talent.  She painted this incredible Batman mural on her nephew's bedroom wall.  It's a view of Gotham City and it takes my breath way.  She is also one incredible little tattoo artist.  Kelsey is a very unique young lady and she has a really cool style.  She's not your every day diva.  She's my little dreadlocked, tatooed Kelsey and I love her so much.  Since she's so artsy, I knew I really had to up my game with whatever I decided to make.   

I have no doubt that Kelsey will be the very best mother.  She has a heart of gold and more compassion that most people hold in their little finger.

For Kelsey's gift, I chose to make a baby quilt; a very special baby quilt.  When I considered using thrifted clothes, it occurred to me that there was no use in doing that since our family has tons of clothes. I decided to make it using clothes from the men in her family whom she is directly descended from.  I even settled on a name for her quilt, 

"From a Long Line of Strong Men"

Kelsey's quilt is made with shirts and jeans from her grandpas and uncles (since this baby is a boy).  Kelsey's parents divorced when she was very young and I am married to her mom's brother..  Yet, I was adamant that I wanted to include the men on both sides of her family if at all possible.  After only a few phone calls, texts, and emails telling them my plan, they ALL came through for me!  I got jeans from her dad and even a shirt from her dad's brother whom I rarely even see.  A quick call to her paternal grandmother secured several shirts from her dad's dad to pick from.   My sister-in-law brought me a shirt from my husband's brother and of course, I had a motherload of clothes to use from my own husband.  Kelsey's maternal grandfather (and my husband's dad) passed away in 1995 and after much searching, we were having no luck finding even a hanky left from this very strong man.  After a last minute search of my basement (I live in the house my husband grew up in), we came across a very special find---my father-in-law's old army bag!  In it I found an extra piece of fabric perfect for using in the Strong Man quilt.

I chose to use a patchwork style rag quilt pattern because I thought Kelsey would really like that best and I simply searched Pinterest and reviewed the various instructions I found for rag quilts.  (It was easy peasy, with my only notation being to double sew the seams- a rag quilt is meant to fray and I had trouble with the seams fraying out until I double stitched the seams.)

My husband seemed concerned that the baby would be laying his little face on used and frayed fabric so I found new fabric (flannel) for the back.  Perfect for a "Strong Man Quilt"-since all of the men were either mechanics or carpenters.  It had hand tools all over it!

I completed my gift with a written key.  It read like this:  

From a Long Line of Strong Men...

This baby is already a strong little man!  He comes from a long line of strong men, Grandpa Copeland, Grandpa Kenney, your Dad, Bill, Steve & Doug.  

Maroon plaid:  Grandpa Copeland
Army green in the four corners:  Grandpa Kenney
Dark denim:  Dad
Cream plaid:  Bill
Navy plaid:  Steve
Light denim/solid gray:  Doug

So many things can be made into heirlooms, even a bunch of old clothes that were too worn to wear, too old, or too little.  It turned out even more wonderful than I expected AND  I even managed to gift it without too many tears.  

Here I am with Kelsey, Derrick, and the Strong Man Quilt.  (Imagine my surprise this week when I saw that Kelsey had cut off her dreads!  ;)


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