Slow Cooker Tomato Preserve (And Other Things That Take A Long Time)

I saw a tweet yesterday:


It’s possible only nerds find that funny. I giggled.

Only sometimes waiting is no laughing matter as in the case of kitchen renovations, which notoriously move at snail’s pace. (Snail’s pace is fine for snails, but not for cooking bloggers.)

Oh, things are happening in my kitchen. Reconfigured plumbing, for one thing. The only problem is, you can’t really show off reconfigured plumbing to friends and neighbors. Here’s how an attempt to show off reconfigured plumbing might go:

Theoretical text from me to neighbor: Come over here and have a look at my reconfigured plumbing when you have a chance :)
Theoretical text from neighbor to me: Sorry, I’m busy clipping my toenails :/

Anyway, some things take time. We did see installation of our floor, which I would show to my neighbor, but the contractors immediately covered it up to protect it.


Here’s a small corner:


Get a load of those 12 by 24 tiles!

(What? It’s better than reconfigured plumbing, isn’t it?)

Oh well. Hold on and wait some more. I’m sure someday soon I can share better progress.

In the meantime, tomato season is chugging along as though no kitchen renovations are happening anywhere. Last summer I shared a way to preserve tomatoes in the freezer for winter cooking. That method used the stovetop for boiling pots of water and removing tomato skins. It’s a good method.

With no stovetop, I adapted.

This summer I covered a few cooking classes–writing and taking photographs–at Weaver’s Orchard. The classes are fun, and I learn new things every time. Nan Reinert of Chubby Pickle Farm taught a class in July on preserving tomatoes. She makes a recipe she calls “Tomato Base,” which she cooks each summer, preserving the base in canning jars. She suggests you may also freeze the base as a means for preservation. She uses the base to make spaghetti sauce, ketchup, pizza sauce and more, seasoning the base when she is ready to use it.

This is my variation on that idea. I have a crockpot and a working freezer!

Here’s the easy, three-day, nearly hands-free process for making basic spaghetti sauce.

Day 1:

Core and quarter a whole, big pile of tomatoes and throw them in a slow cooker. Place it on low for six or eight hours.



The tomatoes will look like this after a day of cooking:


Day 2:

Place the cooked tomatoes in a high-speed blender or food processor, return the sauce to the slow cooker and cook on low for six to eight hours. Here’s my set-up in my laundry room:


Day 3:

Season the sauce with a cup of snipped basil, one teaspoon salt and five cloves minced, fresh garlic. Cook for another six to eight hours.


Cool and divide sauce equally into containers, size depending on your preference, allowing space at the container top for expansion.

Place in the freezer for up to six months.


Of course you may vary cooking times, depending on your allowances and limitations. This is a very flexible process.

Now if only Godot would show.

I want him to take a look at my reconfigured plumbing.

Grilled Pasta Alla Norma Over Zucchini Ribbons

Everything coming out of the garden right now–eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley–practically calls out to us, “Make ratatouille!”


Well, I’ve done that enough! I made an alternative, Pasta Alla Norma, using my grill, of all things. I used to be afraid of grilling vegetables, but not any more. And if you think grills are only for meat, you are just plain silly! But that’s OK, because I love silly people. Just open your mind and open your grill. Both actions will serve you well.


Instead of pasta, I used zucchini ribbons, making this a satisfying gluten-free dish. So there, garden!


This is a simple dish!

Pasta Alla Norma Over Zucchini Noodles


(Vegan, Gluten-Free)

(Serves 2-4)


Four large tomatoes (any color or variety), cored
One large eggplant sliced thickly, lengthwise
Two cloves garlic
One lemon, halved
Twelve basil leaves
One-quarter cup chopped, fresh parsley

Two zucchini sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler

Optional: Pine nuts for topping instead of the traditional ricotta cheese and one grilled, chopped jalapeño pepper for spice.


  1. Place the tomatoes (whole, cored), sliced eggplant, lemon halves and jalapeño (if using) straight onto the grill using no oil. Cook the tomato until skins split and juices are activated, the eggplant until they soften and show their grill lines, the lemons until charred moderately, and the jalapeños until they appear blackened over about a quarter of their skins. Pull each vegetable off the grill and into a nearby bowl as they finish cooking.
  2. Place the ribbons onto a greased grill pan. Cook them for one or two minutes and no longer! Move them around with tongs as they cook. They only need wilting, not browning. Remove from the grill and place a serving into each bowl.
  3. Using tongs, remove the lemons from the cooked vegetable bowl and set them aside. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the remaining vegetables from the bowl and place them on a cutting board. Cut everything into bite-sized pieces. Return ingredients back to the bowl, and add the minced garlic, the juice of the lemon (*), the torn basil leaves and the chopped parsley. Combine well.
  4. Add olive oil and salt to taste. I did not use any olive oil in mine.
  5. Top with pine nuts, optional.

(*)I use my tongs–holding them closed and pushing them up into the lemon half–to squeeze the lemon juice from the lemon halves. The grilling allows the juice to flow very easily.

So don’t let your garden or your grill boss you around! Get out there and make you up some Pasta Alla Norma today.


Summer Gazpacho


What other kind of gazpacho is there besides summer gazpacho? No other kind! That’s what!

I’ve blogged about this soup before. It’s Ina Garten’s recipe. I make it at least ten times each summer when the cucumbers are just finishing and the tomatoes are taking over the world. This post is third in my “How To Cook Without A Kitchen” series. My kitchen is undergoing renovation, and I’m making due with various portable appliances.

See How To Cook Without A Kitchen Part One: Grill It and How To Cook Without A Kitchen Part Two: Slow Cooker.

This time I’m simply using my food processor to blend my soup ingredients. No cooking is necessary, and this soup fits the bill during hot, August weather. You may also use a high-speed blender.

Ina Garten’s Gazpacho

(Serves 4 generously)


One hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
Two red bell peppers, cored and seeded
Four plum tomatoes
One red onion
Three garlic cloves, minced
Twenty-three ounces tomato juice (three cups)
One-quarter cup white wine vinegar
One-quarter cup good olive oil
One-half tablespoon kosher salt
One teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not over process.

2. After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Optional: Serve with cubed avocado and/or roasted or raw pine nuts

I love it!


I served ours in very large bowls with grilled slices of sourdough bread rubbed with garlic and a side dish of purple green beans from my garden tossed with basil pesto.

What do you mean purple green beans?

See, they’re purple!


OK, so then why not just call them purple beans?

Well, for two reasons. One, because they’re still bright green on the inside:


Second, when you cook them (which I did using my grill burner), they turn green and look just like regular green beans:


They were dynamite when tossed in the pesto! There is absolutely nothing like produce just picked from the garden!

I wish I could give you an interesting update on my kitchen this week. Right now, the man from the Central Vacuum Company is re-routing vacuum piping inside the kitchen wall. I’m afraid it’s not very interesting. When something BIG happens, I’ll let you know!

How To Cook Without A Kitchen (Part Two: Employ Slow Cooker)

As you may recall from Part One, my kitchen is undergoing renovation. Here’s the update! There is now a Tetris shape cut into my family room wall! I love it! 2015-07-29 15.09.34 Still no end in sight, though, so this week’s recipe is for the slow cooker using local cabbage and lima beans from my garden. This is the absolute best recipe for working people, people who hate the kitchen, people who hate to cook, people without a kitchen and dopes. (It’s THAT easy.) IMG_0629

Slow Cooker Cabbage Soup

(Serves 8) Gluten Free, Fat Free and Vegan!


One 32 oz. box low-sodum vegetable stock Three nice-sized carrots, sliced Three stalks celery, sliced One large onion, diced Shredded cabbage, however much your friend gives you One can crushed tomatoes 28 oz. One 15 oz. can low-sodium red beans (or kidney beans) One bunch (about 1/2 pound) cleaned and cut green beans (I used lima beans) One teaspoon salt One-half teaspoon cracked pepper Fresh parsley to taste (optional)


1. Dump the first seven ingredients into a slow cooker. Don’t even stir it together if you don’t want! Just dump. Cover and cook on low for several hours. 2. About one-half hour before serving, add the green beans and remaining seasoning. 3. Garnish with parsley.

How To Cook Without A Kitchen (Part One: Grill It)

After months of talking about it and planning for it, we finally started it.

What’s that?

Kitchen renovation, and we are just wrapping up week one. It was gut wrenching. Or just gut. It was gutted.

2015-07-22 19.55.12

I’ll hit you with “before and after” photos when everything is done, but for now, this is what you get. Nothing. There is nothing in my kitchen except studs. (Louie says, Why thank you!)

I must admit, I don’t know what to do with myself. I am ALWAYS in the kitchen, unless I’m napping. I can’t be in the kitchen and I can’t nap. I can’t nap, because if workers are in my house, I feel it’s necessary to pretend I’m busy. I’m never ACTUALLY busy, so this is a difficult charade.

Earlier in the week, the weather was blistering and humid, hardly the kind you want when escaping the indoors for the outdoors. Luckily, three days ago, it turned GORGEOUS. (Kelly says, Why thank you!)


Many plants are in bloom.


I love getting the bees in the picture…


No bees on the butterfly bush…


Or on the black-eyed Susans…


Or Louie…


Or the hydrangeas…


See? All of that picture taking was just an elaborate attempt to appear busy to the workers in the kitchen.

I’m determined to make dinner at home as much as possible. I thought I’d share with you different meals I make, so you can get ideas how to cook without a kitchen in case a need ever arises in YOUR household. My sister-in-law Janet recently finished a kitchen renovation during which she was known to cook a salmon dinner on her panini maker. The weather was cold and snowy during her project, so I thought that was pretty impressive!

My challenge is that I have a great abundance of produce, because I have a garden going gangbusters right now. I have cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, carrots and many herbs over-growing. I decided to employ my grill, which has a side burner. I can cook with a pot on that burner. Dinner last night was:

  • Grilled “hot dogs,”
  • Chopped salad with cooked and raw vegetables
  • Cucumber dill salad.

I had three “hot dogs” leftover. I no longer had the packaging, but these are some kind of soy product. I never buy plain soy “hot dogs”; I always go for things labelled “italian sausage” or “beer brats,” which are also soy or seitan, but which have more flavor than the plain soy “hot dogs.” So, we grilled…



The chopped salad was delicious and made good use of produce I had on hand from my CSA and my garden. I’ll be making this again for sure:

Chopped Salad (Vegan)

Based on a recipe from O Magazine, August 2015

(Serves 4 to 6)


Two tablespoons red wine vinegar
One tablespoon lemon juice
One-half tablespoon Dijon mustard
One small garlic clove, minced
One-quarter teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
One-quarter cup extra-virgin olive oil
One-half pound green beans, trimmed and cut into one-half inch pieces
One cup corn kernels (from one to two ears)
Two medium tomatoes, cored and cut into one-half inch pieces
Two ribs celery, cut into one-half inch pieces
One red bell pepper, cored and cut into one-half inch pieces
One-third cup finely chopped red onion
One head romaine (I used baby kale and mixed greens from B&H Produce)
One large, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced (I omitted)
One-quarter cup grated vegan parmesan (I omitted)


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (I used the burner on my outdoor grill.) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, one-half teaspoon salt, garlic and black pepper. Whisk in oil.

2. Add green beans and carrots to boiling water and cook until just tender, about three minutes. Add corn and cook one minute more. Drain in a colander and rinse in cold running water until completely cool. Transfer to bowl with vinaigrette. Add tomatoes, celery, bell pepper and onion and toss well. Set aside to let  marinate for thirty minutes. (Note: You may dice the carrots and green beans into smaller pieces and forego cooking. They are fine raw in this salad if you like. Use canned corn.)

3. Add lettuce, avocado, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.IMG_0600

Creamy Cucumber Dill Salad (Vegan)

(Serves 4)


Two large cucumbers, washed (peeled or unpeeled according to your preference)
Two-thirds cup vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti brand)
Two tablespoons white wine vinegar*
One-half teaspoon salt
One-quarter teaspoon pepper
One or two tablespoons fresh dill

*You may substitute with fresh lemon juice.


1. Cut the ends off each cucumber. Slice them lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with the tip of a spoon. Slice the cucumbers into bite-sized pieces, and place them in a serving bowl.

2. Whisk together the “sour cream,” vinegar, salt, pepper and dill in a small bowl.

3. Toss the cucumbers with the dressing and chill before serving.

4. Feel free to add chopped red onions and halved cherry tomatoes, which is what I did! Those make excellent additions!



We sat outside on our patio. It was a delightful evening. We are fortunate to have such nice weather. If the weather turns, we might make actual paninis on our panini maker. Vegetable paninis, of course!


Vegan Gooseberry Muffins


What IS a gooseberry, anyway? I went along my whole life without knowing the answer.

Each week, my vegetable CSA gives me choices, depending what’s growing. In the spring, it’s spinach, onions and other greens. In the summer, it’s squash and more greens and tomatoes. Every week the list changes, and as the summer progresses, the list grows and grows. I was surprised a few weeks ago when the choices included gooseberries! I decided to give them a try.


I think of gooseberries as being European, especially British, though that may come from my reading of Beatrix Potter about Peter Rabbit getting stuck in a gooseberry net. Is that right? But apparently, they grow in North America too, because here they are in my kitchen!

I decided to make muffins with them. They are tart, a little like a cranberry once cooked, so you may substitute fresh cranberries in this recipe.

Gooseberries need to be “topped and tailed,” meaning the stem needs trimming along with tail at the other end of the berry. This can be accomplished with simple kitchen scissors. Here is how they look all cleaned and prepared.


Vegan Gooseberry Muffins


(Serves 12)


For muffins:

Two cups kamut flour (all-purpose, whole wheat and gluten-free flours work too)
One-half cup sugar
Two teaspoons baking powder
One-half teaspoon baking soda
One-half teaspoon salt
One cup plant-based milk (I used almond milk)
One-half cup fresh orange juice
One or two teaspoons orange zest, according to taste
One teaspoon vanilla
One-half cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
One and one-half cups fresh gooseberries, topped and tailed (substitute cranberries)

For topping:

One-quarter cup sugar
One tablespoon melted Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
One-quarter cup fresh orange juice


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In one bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another smaller bowl, combine and whisk together the wet ingredients, milk orange juice, orange zest and vanilla.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

5. Stir in the pecans and the berries.

6. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray, fill each muffin form to the top (approximately) with batter, and bake for 28 minutes.

7. In a small bowl, melt the Earth Balance and stir in orange juice. In another small bowl, place the sugar. Once the muffins are cool enough to handle, dip each muffin first in the Earth Balance/orange juice mixture and then into the sugar.


Sweet, sour and moist! Delicious!