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  • Preserve Tomatoes: Seasoning Salt & Tomato Water 2Fer

    September 19, 2014
    Every year I preserve tomatoes into frozen chunks, dehydrated pucks, and ready-to-serve marinara. This year I tried my hand at making tomato water, which can be used in cocktails or as a salty tomato essence seasoning for many other dishes. Everything I read about making tomato water included the direction to “dispose of strained pulp,” which sounded like a big waste to me. So, I decided to see if the pulp would dehydrate into another preserved tomato food I’ve always wanted to try: tomato powder.

    Tomato seasoning salt

    Preserve your tomato harvest into tasty tomato seasoning salt & tomato water. A 2-fer!

    Every recipe I’ve read for making tomato powder suggest pulverizing dehydrated tomatoes, but I found it’s easy to whip up both tomato water and a tasty tomato seasoning salt out a single four pound harvest of tasty red orbs. Nothing wasted!

    Here’s how:

    Tomato WaterPrint Print

    (Makes about 1 quart of tomato water, depending on how watery or pasty your tomatoes are.)

    4 pounds clean, ripe tomatoes

    1 T sea salt

    Cut tomatoes into quarters. Place in high powered blender or food processor. Add salt. Blend until pureed.

    Line a fine mesh strainer with cheese cloth. Place over a large, non-reactive bowl.

    Pour pureed tomatoes into the lined strainer. Gently cover. Do not press. Place in refrigerator to strain over night (or about 6-8 hours).

    Remove strainer from bowl and set aside.

    Tomato puree

    Tomato puree after straining tomato water

    Place a funnel into a 1 quart mason jar. Pour tomato water through funnel into jar. (The tomato water should be mostly clear, not tomato-red.) This liquid should keep in the fridge for several days to use in cocktails, soups or stews. (In fact, it should taste like a salty version of tomato soup.) Since a little of this goes a very long way, consider pouring the liquid into an ice cube tray to freeze and store longer.

    Tomato Seasoning SaltPrint Print

    (Makes about 1/2 cup seasoning salt)

    Line a few dehydrator trays with parchment paper.
    Tomato puree on dehydrator tray
    Scoop a couple of big globs of leftover tomato water puree onto the lined tray, and spread it into a very thin layer using a rubber spatula. Leave a few inches of parchment edges uncovered.Spread tomato puree over parchment paper

    Place filled trays into your dehydrator. Turn it on and allow it to run for about 12-24 hours until the tomato puree is dried and crispy.

    Dehydrated tomato puree

    Dehydrated tomato puree is easy to remove from parchment paper

    How long you will need to run it will vary based on your heat setting, the wetness of your puree, weather, and other factors. (In our Excalibur, we used the 145F setting for about 18 hours.)

    Remove the finished trays. Over a cutting board, place the dried parchment tomato side down, and carefully peel away the parchment.

    Dried tomato puree in food processor

    Dehydrated tomato puree ready to process into dust.

    Add the broken tomato chips to a food processor or high speed blender with a dry foods pitcher, process until the chips are powdery and have a few flecks like pet goldfish food flakes.

    Tomato seasoning salt

    After processing, dehydrated tomato pulp is ready to store as a seasoning salt.

    Place finished powder into a dry, airtight jar. Sprinkle on hard boiled eggs instead of plain salt. Use a few dashes to season vinaigrette, soups, stews or meat rubs.

    Garden Mentors is a paid writer for Fiskars. The scissors in this article were provided for trial purposes. However, Garden Mentors has received no compensation from Fiskars for this post or photograph. More information.
  • Free Garden Design Consultation with Garden Mentors

    September 09, 2014

    Free garden design consultations for everyone this Saturday – no kidding! (Update: Sorry, folks. This is free event is now over.)

    Dream of working with a garden designer but can’t afford the price? Then get your green thumb over to Molbak’s Nursery this Saturday (September 13, 2014) between 11am-2pm, and get in line for a one-day-only, free garden design consultation opportunity with Garden Mentors® founder Robin Haglund.

    Robin Haglund at Molbak's

    Meet with Garden Mentors founder Robin Haglund at Molbak’s Nursery on September 13, 2014 from 11am-2pm for your free garden design consultation.

    Robin will be on hand to answer any gardening question you want to throw her way. If it’s not too busy, she’ll even walk with you through the nursery to choose plants, tools, art, containers, furniture or whatever you need to complete your dream garden. And if it is busy, shop on your own and then swing by her table to review your choices together before you check out.

    Bring photos of your current garden and images of your dream garden to share. Then, during your free garden design consultation, Robin will help you take smart next steps in getting over any stumbling blocks and righting yourself on the fun path that leads to the realization of your dream garden. DIY or DIFM gardeners alike will benefit from free garden design help, so don’t miss out!

    Get more information about this free garden design event at Molbak’s, and learn about all the other fun happenings the nursery has planned all day long this Saturday.

    Not sure how to find Molbak’s in Woodinville, WA? Directions and contact info here.

  • Preserve Peppers 3 Easy Ways + Spicy Margarita Recipe

    September 05, 2014

    If you’re looking to learn how to preserve peppers and you’re even just a little bit lazy about food preservation, we’ve got a few methods you’re going to love. Plus, you’ll find our recipe for a sizzlin’ hot pepper Margarita!


    Tomatillos growing abundantly in the summer garden.

    This year we’ve got a bumper crop of Hot Pegasus peppers, tomatillo, jalapeno, and a tiny little fiery red one whose name I can’t recall. But, there’s only so many of these spirited fruits that we can eat fresh-picked, so putting them up is key to maximizing our bounty.

    Peppers to Preserve

    A bumper crop of jalapeno. Peppers to preserve!

    Here’s how we’re doing it. (more…)

  • Grow, Harvest & Preserve Makrut Lime

    August 29, 2014

    Growing a Makrut lime may be the perfect citrus solution for those of us gardening in locations where getting citrus to form fruit isn’t easy. Why? Well, it isn’t so much that this variety of citrus tree is hardy through icy winters. Rather, it’s about what we harvest from these trees.

    Makrut lime leaves

    Freshly harvested Makrut lime leaves ready to preserve for use in the kitchen.

    If you’ve dipped into a bowl of soup at Thai restaurant, odds are you’ve enjoyed the Makrut. If you buy those plastic packages of lime leaves for curries at the grocery store, you’re buying Makrut lime leaf.

    Hey wait a minute! Isn’t that called a K-something lime? (more…)

  • Strawberry Stevia Chocolate Rocket Freezer Pop Recipe

    August 22, 2014
    Growing strawberries or have a bag in your freezer from an earlier harvest?

    Wondering what to do with the leaves from your stevia plant?

    Love chocolate?

    Want an easy-to-make freezer pop recipe that’s diary-free and requires no added refined sugar^ or honey?

    Us too! That’s how we came to develop this recipe for tasty, frozen Strawberry Chocolate Rockets, which you could make in any kind of freezer pop mold, but the rockets are darned cute!

    Strawberry Stevia Chocolate Freezer Pops

    Strawberry chocolate stevia non-dairy freezer pops are a super sweet treat on a hot summer day – especially in these cute rocket molds!

    Since so many of you have asked on social media, we’ve added a link to buy rocket molds  – and other molds – following the recipe.

    Strawberry Chocolate Rocket Freezer PopsPrint Print

    (makes about 6-8 treats, depending on the size of your mold.)


    1 bar Theo’s 85% dark chocolate (we like this specific chocolate because  it is local in Seattle & because it has just a few ingredients, which are organic and fair trade: cocoa beans, sugar & ground vanilla bean. That’s it. Plus, it offers very low sugar to carb ratios. The nutrition facts on the wrapper indicates each bar equals two servings, each with 17g carb and 7g sugar, which means much of the carbohydrate doesn’t come from refined sugar! We’ve added a link below to buy, if you’re interested)

    1 can full fat, unsweetened coconut milk

    2-4 pitted dates (2 if they’re big; 4 if they’re small or you have a real sweet tooth)

    1 vanilla bean (or 1.5 T. vanilla extract)

    6-8 fresh stevia leaves (or more to taste, but remember that a little stevia goes a very long way.)

    1/2 cup fresh or defrosted strawberries (yes, we’ve made them with raspberries too, and the raspberry-chocolate lovers liked them best!)

    Break up chocolate into squares. Add to high powered blender along with coconut milk, pitted dates, entire vanilla bean & stevia leaves. Begin blending on low, increasing power to high. Blend until smooth; about 2-4 minutes. Be patient & get the mixture as creamy as possible. As needed, turn blender off and scrape down sides so everything fully blends and you don’t end up with clumps of coconut milk.

    While chocolate mixture is blending, roughly chop strawberries.

    Pour a few tablespoons of the chocolate mixture into your freezer pop mold. Drop in about 2-3 T of chopped strawberries into the mold & stir berries and chocolate together with a knife or something thin and long. Top off with more chocolate mixture to the recommended fill point on your pop mold. (It isn’t likely, but your mixture might expand while freezing, so be sure to leave some head room so it can do what it needs to do.)  Stir again briefly so berries are dotted throughout the pop and there are no air gaps along the sides of your mold. Insert sticks with lids.**

    Place into tray. Set into freezer. Allow at least 2-3 hours for the pops to set up.

    If you have extra of the chocolate mixture, put it in a sealed container in the fridge. You may discover you like the mousse that sets up better than the frozen version. Or, just use the extra mixture to refill emptied pop holders another day.

    When you remove your pops from the freezer, you may want to have a measuring cup filled with hot water handy. Dip the frozen mold into the hot water for couple of moments (not minutes). This will help it melt a bit on the outside, making it easier to remove the pop whole from the mold.

    Enjoy…just not too fast. You don’t want this freezer pop recipe to turn into an ice cream headache maker.

    **If you are using homemade freezer pop molds, you may need to fill your molds part way, stick them in the freezer until the mixture is partially frozen. Then, remove from freezer, insert your pop sticks, fill the molds the rest of the way with yumminess, and then complete the final freezing of your complete pops.

    Want rocket molds, Theo’s chocolate, or another style of fun freezer pop mold? Get’m here!


  • Why & How to Grow Stevia

    August 15, 2014

    One of the most common questions I get from grow-your-own foodies who want to cut back on high carb sweets is “Can you tell me how to grow stevia and use it in my kitchen?” I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten this question every time I’ve given a Gardening Against Diabetes seminar or interview.  So, here goes…

    Stevia Leaves

    Stevia’s sweet leaves add fuzzy texture and pretty scalloped leaves
    to the mixed border or container plantings.

    My response to these questions: Yes I can tell you how to grow it, and I’ve been developing a number of recipes (see links at the end) that use fresh stevia rather than the processed drops or powders that are readily available at most grocery stores today. I do use the powder and the drops on occasion, but as you’d expect, I’d rather grow my own and teach you how to do the same.

    Many of you already know that this simple plant offers a sweetness about a bazillion times sweeter than sugar or honey, and stevia’s sweetness is known to barely (if at all) affect blood sugar. (Okay, so “bazillion” isn’t perfect math, but you get the picture. Lots of sweet, from a plant leaf you can grow, and the sweetness isn’t likely to mess with your blood sugar.) And those benefits are just a few reasons you’d want this little plant in your garden.

    How to grow stevia in your garden… (more…)

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