Garden Harvest Tomato Soup Recipe

Harvest time is rewarding, but eating homemade soup in the winter is even more rewarding. Making soup from fresh tomatoes is time consuming, but worth it since you know exactly what you are eating and you can pronounce the ingredient list!

I decided to slowly  replace all pre-made soups in my pantry with homemade versions. I have loved Campbell’s cream of tomato soup for my whole life so creating a recipe to replace it was challenging. I played around with some different textures and seasonings and this is by far my favourite concoction. I hope you like it!

img_1138Ingredients:

12 large ripe tomatoes
1 medium white onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of quinoa (for thickening)
3 tbs butter
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala powder

Preparing the tomatoes:

1. Skin the tomatoes using a hot water bath.
2. Core them, cut them into large wedges, and remove the seeds.
3. Sit the wedges in a colander in the sink to drain off the excess water. Right before I use them I give them a few presses with my palm to squish more water out. (if you want to keep the juice to use later then put a bowl under the colander)

Directions:

1. Put the tomato wedges into a blender and puree them. Put the puree in a large pot and set it aside.

2. Take 1  1/2 cups of the tomato puree and 1/2 cup of quinoa and simmer until the quinoa has softened. It should still be liquidy.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, fry 1 medium white onion and 3 cloves of minced garlic in 3 tbs of butter. When browned, put it in the blender.

4. Once the quinoa is softened add it to the blender with the onion mix and puree.

5. Add the onion and quinoa puree to the pot with the tomato puree.

6. Season the soup with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tbs of sugar, and 1 tsp of garam masala powder.

7. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Storage:

If you want to freeze the soup for later, let it cool completely and portion it into either freezer bags or wide mouth jars. If you are using a wide mouth jar leave about two inches of airspace at the top of the jar and don’t tighten the lid until it is completely frozen. Leave it in the freezer until you want a nice jar of homemade soup.

3 Nutritious Backyard Weeds Your Chickens Will Love (and you can eat them too)

Weeding your garden?

Don’t toss the weeds on the compost pile just yet.

IMG_1140After weeding the gardens and walkways I throw the whole pile of uprooted greenery into the chickens’ run. Within an hour it’s difficult to identify what was thrown in there and this is the very reason they have a large fenced-in run and no longer free-range our property. They gobble up every bit of green leaving nothing but skinned stem.

Chickens will devour just about anything but there are 3 backyard weeds in particular that have many beneficial nutrients for our feathered friends. These weeds are very common and easy to identify.

Look for plantain, goosefoot, and dandelion to boost their diet.

Many people eat these plants, but not everyone feels comfortable eating what they consider to be a weed.  I don’t eat them because I am always worried that my dog has peed on them!

Waste not want not, so instead of tossing them give them to your chickens!

Nutrients Found in Plantain, Goosefoot, and Dandelion

Plantain is high in calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin A, B1, and C.

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Plantain

Goosefoot is also referred to as wild spinach or lamb’s quarters. It’s an antioxidant that is high in vitamin A, C,and riboflavin.

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Goosefoot. Image courtesy of woodfired.com

Dandelion may be the most well known and easily identifiable weed. It contains calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin C and B6.

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Dandelion leaves

All these vitamins will make a great addition to their feed.

The Importance of Riboflavin and Vitamin C for Chickens

The common vitamins in these 3 weeds is vitamin C and riboflavin. These 2 vitamins are vital for healthy chickens. Store bought feed should contain all the needed vitamins but it can never hurt to boost their intake with fresh sources.

Riboflavin helps with growth and maintains tissue and nervous system health. If a chick is not getting enough riboflavin they may not be growing as they should even though they still eat regularly. They will stay small and become weak or have curled toes that are paralyzed. They will need to use their wings to help them balance to walk.

Vitamin C helps laying hens with egg production and shell quality. It will also boost a chicken’s immune system.  During the hottest or coldest months it is beneficial to give them some extra vitamin C to help them fight off fatigue and stress.

 

5 Things to do This August to Have a Naturally Beetle-Free Garden Next Year

IMG_1065It’s August and the time is here to be proactive and begin preparing your property for the garden you want to have next year. Beetle larvae will winter in your soil and emerge late-June until mid-July. Once they mature in your soil it’s too late once again so you need to get to work right now.

This process could take a couple of years, but eventually your soil will be larvae-free.  The beautiful flower and vegetable gardens you work so hard on will no longer have skeleton leaves and various bacteria carried by the Japanese beetle and cucumber beetles.

5 Steps for beetle-free gardens

1. Destroy their winter home and food

The cucumber beetle larvae will survive the winter by feeding on the nutrients in the soil so don’t leave any plant matter in the garden beds. When you clean the garden out for the season don’t toss the plants into the compost pile. Throw them into a hot bonfire to burn up any larvae and the bacteria they carry.

2. Apply nematodes

Nematodes are microscopic worm-like organisms that live in soil and feed on larvae. They are naturally occurring so they pose no threat to people or animals. They can be purchased at your local nursery or garden center. All you do is mix them with water and apply them to your lawn and garden soil. Read the manufacturer’s packaging for more specific instructions. The nematodes will help rid you of both beetles.

3. Apply Milky Spore (bacterium Paenibacillus popillae)

This powdered bacteria called Paenibacillus popillae is lethal to Japanese beetles. It’s applied to the grass to kill the grubs before they can become beetles.  The powdered spore will leach into the soil when watered. The grubs will consume the organic matter infected by the spore, which kills them by turning their blood milky. To apply milky spore you place one teaspoon of the powder every four feet in a grid pattern, then water it for about 15 minutes.  The best time to apply it is mid-July to early August. Read the manufacturer’s packaging for more specific instructions.

4. Keep squishing beetles

A dead beetle won’t reproduce in your soil.

5. Talk to your neighbours

Spread your knowledge of natural pesticides to your neighbours as well so they don’t unknowingly reinfect your property with their beetles. Japanese beetles will travel kilometres to find their favourite leaves. Good neighbours are made by great fences and a shared love of dead beetles!

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2 Times When Canning is a Bad Idea

Canning is the practice of preserving food in jars or cans. Even when it’s in a jar it’s still referred to as canning. This method of preserving food is time-tested and vital to a sustainable homestead.

Anyone can do it, but make sure the fun of it all doesn’t cloud the need to eat a balanced diet and stay practical.

Canning is a bad idea when:

1. When it introduces unneeded sugar into your daily diet. 

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Most recipes call for the fruit pieces to soak in a simple syrup until they are consumed. Even the light syrup contains a lot of sugar.

Jams and jellies contain more sugar than fruit.

Sugar preserved fruit is junk food and should be eaten in moderation.

 

2. When you are canning things you wouldn’t normally eat just because you got a good deal.

You save 100% of the money you don’t spend so ask yourself is this good price is a really a good deal for your household.

It’s ok to walk away from good deals.

It’s ok to walk away from free food.

Canners know that even free food isn’t free once we factor in the other ingredients, our hours of labour, electricity, jars, and new lids each time.

Only can foods you will use. The term “use” could also include giving jars as gifts because you are using them in place of another purchase. Ask yourself if anyone else will eat it, and be realistic, before making food as a gift.

People go off the deep end with canning because it is socially acceptable to overdo and overspend under the guise of frugality and practicality.

Canners need to exercise restraint. Daily. Maybe even hourly. The feeling gleaned from socking food away for later is empowering and exciting so stay strong and never acquire food on a whim or impulse.

When canning is a good idea:

The rest of the time! Canning is a great way to preserve perishable food and reduce our dependence on appliances for food storage.

Read how to start canning your own food here.

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What are your rules to live by for canning?

How do you stay calm in the face of an unneeded bargain?

Homemade Tangy Dill Relish

It’s harvest time.  We have been enjoying fresh cucumbers all season, but the time has come to preserve some for the winter months.  Relish has minimal ingredients and requires very little prep so it’s a no-brainer!

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Ingredients:

8 cups of diced cucumbers
2 cups diced onions
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dill seed
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
2.5 cups cider vinegar

1/4 cup of sugar (optional)

 

 

Prepping the cucumbers:

Wash the cucumbers and cut the ends off.

Dice the cucumbers into tiny squares.

Sprinkle 1 tsp of salt over all the chopped cucumbers and put the mixture in a colander to drain for 1 hour. This will draw the water out so it doesn’t dilute the flavours when boiling the mixture. After an hour rinse the salt off the cucumbers and let it drain from the colander while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Directions: FullSizeRender (2)

Add the vinegar and spices into a pot and bring it to a boil.

Mix in the chopped cucumber and onion.

Cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Turn heat off and let the relish sit to cool.

Canning:

If you are canning this recipe, quickly transfer hot relish into hot sterilized jars. Leave a half inch of headspace in jar. Boiling water bath 10 minutes. Seal should pop soon after being removed from the water. Wait 24 hours to test the seal by picking the jar up by the lid. If it stays on then it’s sealed and you can safely tighten the lid ring. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year.

8 Easy Steps to Start Living off Your Land, Simply by Canning Your Own Food

Homesteading was a government initiative to grow populations in the early 1900s. The original homesteaders were immigrants who were given free land to entice them to live in specific areas. The catch was that they had to be able to live off their land completely as the areas weren’t yet developed and they were often totally trapped in the winter months.

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Children helping to harvest fruit. Photo courtesy of treasurenet.com

The term homesteading has evolved and made a comeback. In my circle it means the act of using your land to grow what you need to survive without being totally dependent on “the man”. There are varying degrees of homesteading of course. Canning is an easy way to create this desired independence.

Canning is the practice of preserving food in jars or cans. Even when it’s in a jar it’s still referred to as canning. This method of preserving food is time-tested and vital to your sustainable homestead.

Anyone can do it!

There are many reasons that people chose to can their own food:

  • save money by preserving our own garden harvest
  • stock a household that could thrive in emergency situations
  • extend the season for eating local
  • have access to foods when they are out of season or more expensive
  • know what goes into our food
  • create food for people we love

I would bet that most people can for all of those reasons. Even if only one of those reasons resonates with you, then you are a canner at heart!

Follow these steps to determine if canning is cost effective and practical for your household.

8 easy steps to help you start canning your own food

1. Figure out what your family actually eats on a regular basis and start there.  

Open the cupboard and make a list of all preserved and premade things you buy at the grocery store. What from your list could you replace with homemade versions?

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Step one: Make a list of canned items you buy already

2. Look at the ingredients in the pre-made canned foods.

What are they made of?

Can they be grown locally?

Is it realistic to think you can replace and replicate them with homemade options?

3. Make a new list of canned goods that you want to replace with homemade versions.  

Start small.

If you learn how to replace just a few things a year you are well on your way to sustainability.

An easy place to start is condiments, sauces, and salsas. These recipes are simple, all ingredients can be grown locally, and can be preserved for up to a year using a simple boiling water bath.

4. Find recipes and test them.  

Make sure the recipes are safe for canning and have the correct ratios of acidity to produce to ensure it is being safely preserved. Use canning cookbooks or reputable websites.

Test small batches on friends and family. Once you find a great recipe write it down in a few different places for safe keeping. I have misplaced more great trial and error recipes than I care to admit.

5. Calculate how many jars of food you will need.

If you can figure out how many jars of tomato sauce you eat in a year, then you can make a more informed decision. If you eat 100 jars of tomato sauce a year, ask yourself if you have it in you to make 100 jars at harvest time. Or will you use homemade as often as you can but not always.

6. Do the math.

Calculate how many fruits or vegetables you need for each recipe and how many jars a recipe makes. How many jars did you calculate you will need? Can you grow or buy this amount?

Look at your schedule and make sure that you have enough time to invest in planting and maintaining a garden, harvesting and turning the produce into the recipes you selected, and then canning and processing the jars for safe storage.

Add up the cost of the other ingredients and supplies. Most of the canning will be done at the end of the summer. It requires a lot of upfront costs but once it’s on your shelf you don’t have to spend money on it again. Can you afford the upfront costs?

Figure it all out now so you know whether or not canning is realistic for you.

It’s ok if you decide that it doesn’t make sense for you to get into canning right now, if you just want to make a few homemade preserves now and then, or if you decide to embrace it fully.

Either way you are making an informed decision and that’s a decision you will never regret!

7. Grow a garden.

If you decided that canning is right for you then you need to figure out how you will get the produce.

IMG_0991Growing it yourself will always be the most cost effective way to can. Also, you will know exactly how the plants were grown and if they were treated with any pesticides.

You already did the math so you know which plants you need and roughly how many. Decide if you will plant from seeds or buy seedlings from a store.

Consider planting fruit bushes or trees. These will take longer to establish but canning is a homesteading lifestyle and the conversion can be slow.

If having your own garden is not possible you can always rent a garden plot in a community garden. If that’s not possible either, then approach a local farm to buy directly, frequent farmer’s markets, or watch the flyers.

Where there’s a will there’s a way!

8. Start canning!

Please let me know how your canning is going.  I would love to know what you have swapped for homemade from your own pantry!

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