Tomato and Chili Jam

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My vegetable garden has been extremely fruitful and I’ve been buried in more yellow pear tomatoes than I know what to do with. I’ve eaten them like candy, I’ve cooked them into my omelets and pastas, I’ve given them away…and still, I always have a tupperware full of them.

Cue Yellow Tomato and Basil Jam recipe.

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It turns out other people have this wonderful problem too and this recipe came up multiple times in different blogs and forums. I kept dismissing it thinking, “Tomato JAM? So, it’s savory and sweet? What do you eat it with??” Additionally, the recipe was usually always discussed in the context of home canning, which I had never been really interested in doing myself because I never saw the need.

Now that I’m knee deep in fresh vegetables, the applicability of home canning has increased ten fold.

I found an incredibly helpful website called Food In Jars, with a superb tutorial for boiling water bath canning. The plethora of recipes is also a huge plus and I have definitely bookmarked it to peruse later.

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I was a little apprehensive at first, but I was totally shocked by how easy it was to do a boiling water bath for canning. AND, after remove the jars from the water, my lids made a very satisfying “pop!” to indicate successfully sealed jars. The delight level is on par with popping bubble wrap (which I heard that the company that produces it is going out of business…noooo!).

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I ended up adapting the recipe a bit by omitting the basil (out of forgetfulness) and adding some of my home grown Salsa Chili Peppers for some kick. Future renditions could probably use more chili as it ended up being pretty mild. However, the jam overall had a very lovely sweet, sticky flavor that wasn’t actually reminiscent of tomatoes. I have visions of eating it with feta or goat cheese on crusty bread…Yum.

As proof of it’s relative success, my husband, who isn’t particularly fond of tomatoes, commented “Well, it’s not terrible” which means I did well.

Final yield was two jars, which I made from about 4 cups of tomatoes.

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As an addendum, there are many warnings about home canning. Improper procedures for canning and storage can result in a particularly nasty bacteria called Clostridium botulinum to grow in poorly sealed jars. The CDC recommends pressure canning as the primary method, especially for food with low acidity. However, it seems like adding acid (which I added lemon juice to my jam) is acceptable for water canning methods. I’ll let you know how it fares when I crack open my two jars.

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Summer Harvest

When I was a little kid, I remember having a cherry tomato plant in the back patio of our family’s apartment. I LOVED that thing and have always wanted to grow my own tomatoes when I had the space and the time to do it. We don’t have a backyard in our current house but we do have a very sunny deck. When it was time for planting season, I asked my handy hubby to help me put together a (sub)urban vegetable garden so I could grow my own summer fruits and veggies.

I knew this year was going to have mixed results, as this is my first time growing anything, and it was going to take a little trial and error to figure out which plants grow well in containers. Here’s a few pictures of my setup:
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I’ve got individual planters and a two long planter boxes. I learned really early on that the bigger the container, the better the plant will grow. I made the mistake of putting some of my plants in containers that were way too small, which I think stunted plant growth.

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The plants I’m growing are:

    • Zucchini
    • Three types of tomatoes: Sweet Hybrid 100, Patio Tomato, and Yellow Pear Tomatoes
    • Renault Strawberries
    • A thornless raspberry bush (purchased from Costco)
    • A Garden Salsa pepper plant
    • Maxibel french green beans
    • Two types of cucumbers: the classic cucumber and Boston pickling
    • Genovese basil

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I have an irrigation system set up with an automatic timer, which I would HIGHLY recommend. I had the lofty goal of hand watering my plants but as the summer gets hot, I found my plants getting a little wilt-y from the heat, and suffering when I was gone for more than a day or two. An automatic drip system has worked out superbly.

Of all my plants, my zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers seem to be doing the best. The green beans did well…until the zucchini leaves took over the sun real estate space, under which my green bean plants are now living.  My poor cucumber plants have gone through a lot, so it produced a few cukes and then petered out.
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My fruiting plants are doing so in full force, and I was able to make a lovely garden salsa using my tomatoes and peppers. Salsa is an amazingly simple thing to make and it makes a great snack with some tortilla chips, or as a condiment for a morning omelet.
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My zucchini plants are starting to pick up steam…I’m definitely going to have to find more zucchini recipes soon!

Succulents and Tea Cups and Sharpie Art, Oh My!

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Sharpie Art on Tea Cup Planters

  • Items Used: Ceramic tea cups (washed and dried), regular sharpies, stencils or other helfpul drawing apparati depending on what you want on your mugs.
  • Time Spent: Finished in two evenings.

One of the exciting things about owning a house is the ability to nail/drill/tape whatever the hell you want to your walls. So much open wall real estate, so many possibilities! After moving in, we bought some decorative shelves from Target to adorn our stairways. Putting up shelves is easy. Figuring out what to put on them was decidedly more difficult. Transitioning from a college/young adult existence to something slightly older yields hesitations about displaying your college shot glass collection or the random bandana you got that one time you and your buddies went to that one event.

I came up with the idea of putting in some succulents. Being new to plants at the time, I was drawn to the proclaimed hardiness of succulents. Unfortunately,I had a hard time finding the right vessel to plant them in. It needed to be rather shallow to fit comfortably on the shelving, which unfortunately eliminates most standard vases and plant pots. In a stroke of good luck, I came across two separate ideas that to produce a my genius love child of an idea: First, I saw pins for repurposed tea cups and mugs being used as planters, and second, people who decorated their own ceramic mugs with sharpies. BOOM. A Sharpie Art Tea Cup Planter.

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I picked up some plain white tea cups at my local Goodwill for a mere $1.99 a piece and got to work. A thorough lit review of sharpie art on the internet revealed that regular sharpies would easily write on ceramic, however, it would likely be washed off in the dishwasher. As I didn’t plan to wash my plants anytime soon, I was in good shape.

I used regular sharpies (Use oil-based sharpies if you want them to be washable) and a collection of stencils I already owned. It was painstaking work. It was easy to draw on the mug but to do it cleanly, was very challenging. I ended up using a wooden skewer dipped in rubbing alcohol to go back and clean up the sharpie lines so they would be super crisp.

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For the Double Happiness Mug, I had purchased a double happiness paper punch to use during the wedding. I punched it through a white sticker sheet and carefully applied the sticker to the mug. Then I dotted the outline of the sticker with various colored sharpies, and removed the sticker.

Here’s a view of the finished product in it’s new home. I managed to get a “two” theme going on with the two baseballs, the wooden bird cake topper from our wedding, and the “double” happiness mug.
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