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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Tomatoes Starting & Easy Pasta Dinner

I have seriously been dragging my heels when it comes to putting up tomatoes this year likely because I am still tired from the kitchen renovations or maybe it is just being tired in general. At any rate, I'm a good two and a half weeks behind schedule! With September quickly coming to an end I really cannot procrastinate any further. So tomorrow morning bright an early I start processing the first of the tomatoes. Unlike other years where I was able to take a day or two break between processing batches, this year will be processing the same amount of tomatoes in a shorter period of time. My goal is to get as much processed by Friday as we are celebrating our family Thanksgiving this coming weekend.

Tomato Hampers

My husband picked up three hampers of beautiful looking plum tomatoes late this afternoon. If you recall one hamper is ⅝ bushel. By the time I am finished all the tomato products I will have gone through at least 10 hampers.

This afternoon I did a stock count of what tomato products were in the pantry and what I need to make. This is an important process for me because it forms a game plan that determines what products I make on a given day. Generally I like to keep those products that involve a lot of preparation like salsa and chili sauce to do at the same time. They take longer to prepare so less canner loads can be run in the day.

On this year's tomato products to can (click links for recipes):

* Recipes will be posted as I make these tomato products.


When I'm planning on doing a large amount of canning over a short period of time I do a jar assessment. I have a bit of preference for wanting a particular product all in one brand of jar not that it makes any difference other than mixing the old pint/quarts with the new 500 ml/L jars because the heights are different. At the moment, I am seriously low on 500 ml and 250 ml jars but I have enough L jars for the whole and crushed tomatoes. I also have enough 250 ml jars for a couple of the tomato products I want to process and enough 500 ml jars to at least start. So that means the first products out tomorrow are going to be whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, meatless or roasted tomato sauce. My husband is away tomorrow so will pick-up more jars and three more hampers of tomatoes Tuesday.


Processing tomatoes more so than any other produce means pantry eating and easy prep meals. The main reason for this is I try to get as many canner runs in per day as possible. That means early morning starts and long days that run into the early morning hours.

Sunday night's dinner started with three simple ingredients from the pantry - tomato soup, seasoned ground beef and elbow macaroni. With the addition of a couple more ingredients I had a tasty, nutritious and low cost dinner on the table in 15 minutes! These are the kind of meals I depend on when I'm busy canning.

Easy Pasta Dinner

Starting with the three ingredients pictured I added chopped Spanish onions, milk, fresh grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley for a quick but tasty meal. Despite being quick and easy to prepare the meal was a success. As far as costs go the entire meal cost just under $3 or 75¢ per serving making this an ideal budget stretching meal.

On the topic of budget stretch meals. Too often people thing that these kind of meals have to be plain or tasteless or boring. There is no need for them to be anything but tasty, satisfying and filling. Stir in home grown herbs or a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese or fresh ground pepper. Add a dash of hot pepper sauce or Worcestershire sauce to give a dish sparkle without adding a lot to the overall cost. If anything when trying to save money on your food budget, creativity can be a huge plus!

Method: Fill a large saucepan with water about half full. Add sea salt and a little olive oil. Bring to a boil. Stir in elbow noodles. While the noodles are cooking chop onions and cut parsley. When noodles are al dente, drain then return to saucepan. Pour in the tomato soup, a half jar of milk, ground beef and onions. Heat through. Ladle into a bowl. Top with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese and a sprig of parsley.

6 food lovers commented:

Vidhya said...

You have such a wonderful blog. I love to read all the posts in your blog. Whenever I visit thru my linux computer, i cannot drop my EC card. If I get a chance to visit thru my laptop, i definitely drop my card in yours. You can join foodbuzz publisher program. They work really cool for cooking and recipes blog like ours. If you are interested, just lemme know by an email to Will send you the referral link. Thanks for reading this long comment:-)

MarlyMS said...

I like this Pasta Dinner. I would like to try this one evening. It looks so yummy to me. I copied the method already.

Rachel said...

Wow it sounds like you will be very very busy!

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Vidhya :) Thank-you for your lovely compliment! I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. I've been a member of foodbuzz for quite some time and am partially registered for their publisher program. It's a busy time of year so I'm a bit slow at getting things going in that respect.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Marlyms and thanks for visiting. This is a quick, easy pasta dinner that is sure to please. I hope you enjoy it.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Rachel, yep I have been very busy but it is a good kind of busy :)