We spend a lot of money on dog treats. Gulp.
Of course, we love to buy the high quality ones like the real chicken strips that are dehydrated, but coming in at $10-$15 for a bag, that is so expensive! The cheaper dog treats have a whole host of nasty sounding stuff in their ingredient list. The other day I was inspired to make my first pumpkin pie from scratch (re: I butchered a pumpkin that I had sitting on our front steps), and while thinking about what to do with the leftover pureed pumpkin, I decided to research it’s health benefits for dogs.
You know what? It’s really good for them. More on the specific benefits later. Anyway, I looked around my kitchen and found an over-ripe banana. Awesome. Bananas are great for dogs as well. I set that banana next to my pumpkin and decided I needed one more ingredient: peanut butter. Our little dog likes peanut butter in moderation so we actually have a separate jar just for her… it’s clearly marked on the lid and label as “Dog peanut butter” so we don’t mix it up with ours. 🙂
Anyway, I now had four ingredients for her treats. My amounts are approximate since I didn’t exactly measure anything. Feel free to mix it up a bit.
- 1.5 or 2 cups pureed pumpkin, adjust this to whatever you have leftover; more or less won’t matter much. If you have canned pumpkin, you could use that as well. Just make sure to not use canned pumpkin pie mix… huge difference.
- 1 over-ripe banana, mashed
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal (not the instant kind)
How to Prepare
Step 1: I mixed it all together until there were no big lumps
Step 2: I greased a cookie sheet and spread the whole mess on there. I didn’t have enough to fill the entire sheet so I kept mine in a circle in the middle.
Step 3: Bake at a low temperature like 250 degrees for about 45 minutes. Because I was making this recipe up, I didn’t time it well and I adjusted the temperature in the middle. But I did leave it in until the edges were a bit on the crispy side. Looking back, I could have cooked it longer and made more of a cracker type treat… but instead I made it a soft, chewy treat.
Step 4: Let it cool slightly, then use a pizza cutter to cut it into the desired shape/size of your treats. We have a 7 pound dog so our pieces are quite small. (Note: the pie plate shown below is a small plate… about half the size of a normal pie plate.)
The prep time on this recipe was about 5 minutes (because I already had the pureed pumpkin). My dad and his two dogs were visiting while I made this, so my three furry taste testers couldn’t get enough of this treat! Here is why it is good for dogs:
Pumpkin : Good for digestive health, urinary health, and weight loss, plus it’s full of fiber. (Our small dog does not have weight issues so we are careful to give her these treats in moderation!)
Banana : Filled with amino acids, electrolytes, minerals, vitamins B6 and C, potassium, fiber, and manganese. Great for all dogs. If your dog is recovering from injury, it can help regulate blood pressure, heart function, and digestive tract.
Peanut Butter : Loaded with protein, healthy fats, essential vitamins and minerals
Oatmeal : Great for bones and teeth, can help soothe nervous and gastrointestinal system. Full of minerals and antioxidants, low in starch.
Shasta is giving me the sad face because she really wants the little treat I left at her feet… but I wouldn’t let her have it until I got my photo. Poor puppy.
This post was shared at: Frugal Ways, Sustainable Days on Frugally Sustainable blog.
As I mentioned in my last post (Confessions of a First Time Saucer, Part 1), we’ve started making our own marinara sauce. After a few frustrating encounters with our Back to Basics food mill, we’ve got our sauce making down to a science. And it’s So. Freaking. Good. We’ve got almost enough made to last us through the better part of the winter.
Want to make your own? Here are a few tips:
- The type of tomato you use makes a big difference. We’ve tried heirloom varieties like Black Krem and Beefsteak tomatoes. We’ve tried two varieties of Roma. The clear winner? Roma. In our food mill, Romas produce a thicker sauce. Heirlooms are great but tend to be a lot juicer, making a thinner, runnier sauce. They are sweeter, though, so we’ve started combining a few heirlooms with a larger amount of Romas. They (Romas) are also easier to send through the mill. We just cut off the top and throw it in the hopper and crank it through.
- It’s not necessary to skin and seed your tomatoes if you are using a food mill. We have been using the regular screen that came with our mill and will probably try out the coarser salsa screen to compare consistency soon. But all we do to our raw tomatoes is cut off the stem and cut them in large chunks (just small enough to fit through the hopper). If there are bad spots, a common issue with organic tomatoes, just cut them out.
- Many recipes I saw online said to cook from 45 minutes to a couple hours. We cook ours a lot longer than that. I think we’re averaging 4-6 hours with a quick stir every 30-60 minutes.
- The secret ingredient, hands-down, is butter. I’ve been adding 1-2 tablespoons of real butter to each batch and it’s amazing how much of a difference this little thing makes in the overall taste of the sauce. I added olive oil to the first batch and the sauce didn’t want to stick to our pasta… it slid right off the noodle. So now I omit olive oil and just use a dab of butter.
- Hubby wants me to add a few tips, too. 🙂 He says that larger chunks of tomatoes that barely fit through the hopper are better than small chunks. He also says that, if your strainer gets gunked up, send something firm like a fresh green bean through the hopper. It pushes the build-up pulp through and helps un-gunk it.
So from start to finish, here is our process:
- Rinse tomatoes.
- Cut into appropriate size to go through the food mill; strain through the mill. Throw away the seeds/skin
- Put the strainer juice/pulp into a large stockpot. Turn on medium heat.
- We add a ton of veggies to our sauce. We add grated zuchini, diced onions, shredded and diced carrots, diced celery, diced spinach, and whatever else we have on hand that sounds good. You could also add green peppers, green beans, or a host of other veggies. We add these extra vegetables for two reasons: health benefits and sauce consistency. The sauce made with heirlooms was quite thin so this helped thicken it up and add a little bit of texture. Plus the flavor with multiple vegetables tends to be a little more complex than a plain tomato sauce.
- Season the sauce. We used kosher salt, black pepper, dried thyme, several tablespoons of our homemade garlic/basil pesto, and some dried thyme.
- Let it simmer for several hours. If it’s thin, leave the cover off so it can thicken up. If it’s too chunky, use an immersion blender to break up some of the larger chunks of veggies.
- Finally, let it cool and either place it in jars or freezer safe ziploc bags. (Don’t put hot sauce in plastic bags or in the freezer… it needs to cool first for safety reasons.) Done.
Have you made marinara from scratch before? Do you have any tips to add to the list?
Next project: we would like to try homemade organic ketchup. Wish us luck!
This post was shared on Frugally Sustainable Blog and Growing Home Blog. 🙂
Do you know that saying about jumping in with both feet?
I did that. Tomatoes have taken over my life this week. And I have lived to tell the tale.
First, a little background. I’ve never made tomato sauce from scratch. No marinara, tomato juice, paste, or anything remotely tomato related, except perhaps observing my hubby make his fresh salsa. However, I go through a crap ton of marinara and diced tomatoes every year; at least a jar a week. Yes, a crap-ton. It’s a real term. You can read about it HERE.
Anyway. My mom and step-dad are big gardeners and actually sell their organic produce at several farmers markets and natural food stores in northern Wisconsin. We are lucky that they usually load us up with goodies when we visit. Two visits ago, they sent us home with a box of tomatoes. Now, I don’t like raw tomatoes. I WISH I did; they are so pretty. Healthy. Delicious-looking. But… something about the taste and texture of raw tomatoes really gets to me. So I knew we had to cook up this huge box of tasty red things. We decided to attempt homemade marinara sauce.
After reading a gazillion articles and recipes on the internet, I finally decided to just give it a shot. I’ve never been a huge recipe follower anyway, and wasn’t sure exactly how many pounds of tomatoes we had. So… I just decided to go for it. First, I read that I had to skin and seed the tomatoes. Basically, you plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute, then place them in ice water. The skin should slip right off. For the most part, it works… it’s just really labor intensive. Then you have to seed the tomatoes; you can cut off the top and squeeze the seeds out or cut them open and scrape out the seeds. Again, it works but takes FOREVER. I spent hours doing it and felt like I was wasting a lot of the pulp that could have been used for sauce. After spending an entire evening doing this, there was no way I was going stay up till 3am making sauce out of my newly skinned and seeded tomatoes. So we froze them for a couple days until I could devote a few hours to making sauce.
In that couple days, I made the executive decision that we needed to buy a food mill/strainer/saucer. I kept hearing how much easier it was to make sauce and bought a Back To Basics Food Strainer. You can find it on Amazon but ours came from a local chain called Farm and Fleet.
When we got it home we eagerly set it up and tested it out on our thawed tomatoes. Fail. Utter failure. The strainer kept gunking up, juice squirted everywhere… even out of the handle! We had mostly only juice coming out of the strainer, no thicker pulp. Honestly, I was ready to bring the thing back because I figured something was wrong. There was so much juice, mess, and frustrated words bouncing around my kitchen that night! But we went ahead with what we had and made 5 quarts of tomato sauce that night.
It tasted goooood. Really good. And it encouraged me to try again. Only this next time, I was determined to find a better way to make sauce.
Sauce, Phase 2:
Remember how I was ready to bring back the food strainer? After a desperate plea for help on the Simply Driftless Facebook page and some Googling to figure out what we did wrong, I didn’t find much. My highly intelligent, engineer-minded husband decided we should try it again but use RAW tomatoes rather than the blanched/seeded/skinner/frozen/thawed version. I was skeptical. After all, I figured that the blanched tomatoes would go through the strainer easier than raw ones.
Let me just say… using fresh tomatoes made a huge difference. Hubby was right. Yes, I’m typing that in this blog for the world to see. 🙂
The strainer actually does what it’s supposed to do – seeds, pulp, and solids go through the waste section. Juice and useable pulp goes to the appropriate place. It WORKED! I’m officially in love with this food strainer. I can’t imagine making sauce without it. It still makes a small mess but it’s easily wiped up with two towels – one for the floor and one for the counter. Great. Big. Puffy. Heart. And this marinara sauce is amazing. Healthy, too. I’m hooked.
We’re now on our third batch of sauce and have definitely picked up a few tricks along the way. 25 quarts of sauce, baby! I’ll share tips and my recipe in “Part 2” of this post.
(Um, please forgive the lack of photos in this post. It slipped my mind during the actual making of the sauce other than the very few I grabbed during the straining step. And now I don’t have any beautiful “before” photos of tomatoes. Oops. I’ll try to get some of the finished product before my next post.)
We’ve been busy these last few weeks. Like… REALLY busy. It is harvest season and we’ve been busy preparing veggies and other goodies to last us through the winter. Even though we lost nearly our entire garden due to an ill-timed vacation during a drought and severe heat wave, we’ve been fortunate to have a great farmer’s market and family gardeners to obtain delicious, organic produce from.
In addition to harvest season, next Tuesday is the first day back to school for many of our friends and family in the area. And, more importantly to our family, I’m starting a new job on Tuesday! This new job is a big change because I’ve been self-employed for the last few years. Going forward, I’ll continue to run my photography business as well as work four days a week for a non-profit located 30 minutes from my home.
Why is that relevant to this blog, you may ask? Good question. The biggest reason I share all that is because we tend to be lazy cooks several days a week. Even though I’m lucky my husband has learned to cook a variety of meals in the last few years (a big improvement from when we first got married and I cooked EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.), I know there will be days when he won’t want to make dinner and I’ll get home too late to prepare a tasty meal from scratch. And since one of our major goals this year was to rely less on convenience foods and restaurants, we needed to think this through.
Solution? Freezer meals. Some of these meals have been prepared from scratch specifically for the freezer. Some of them have been a double recipe of what we had for dinner, with the second half of the meal being frozen for later. I’ve been working on these freezer meals for an hour or two every couple of days for the last week. Here’s a list of what we have so far.
- Chili. We made a huge batch for dinner one night and froze 2/3 of the batch. We froze this in gallon ziploc freezer bags and froze each bag flat so it will store easily in the freezer. They are also easy to thaw in the fridge this way.
- Mini-meatloafs. These were thrown together with several pounds of grass-fed beef we bought from a local farmer earlier this year. It is SO GOOD. We use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs, add fresh local onions, garlic, and herbs, and shape into mini loaves. After wrapping in cling wrap, we throw two of these loaves into a gallon-sized freezer bag.
- Baked pasta. This is a mix between a baked ziti and lasagna. We took cooked pasta, ricotta cheese, homemade marinara sauce, mozzarella, and some of our homemade pesto, mixed it all together, and placed it in a disposable aluminum pan with a lid. In the future I plan on finding some non-disposable pans for this purpose but I’d had these disposable ones laying around for a year. Good reason to use them, yes? Then we placed the whole container in a gallon ziploc freezer bag.
- Shredded cooked chicken. On Sunday I cooked two chickens by boiling them in stockpots. Once they were done, I picked the meat off the bones. We made chicken noodle soup that night and a casserole the next day with the meat and chicken broth. The rest of the meat was saved in quart-sized ziploc freezer bags in meal-sized portions of soup or chicken enchiladas. I also saved some of the homemade chicken stock and froze it in two gallon ziploc bags, just the right size for a large pot of soup.
- Next up on my list is frozen beef and bean burritos. I’ve seen some recipes floating around online and I love that you freeze each one individually. Since my hubby will be scrounging for his lunch every day and I’ll be packing a lunch for work, this seems like a great idea.
We’ve also been on a mission to preserve vegetables too. While I am not ambitious enough to preserve everything we eat at this point, I have realized we go through a gazillion bags of frozen corn, canned and frozen green beans, and at least a jar of tomato sauce each week during the winter. So we’re hoping to preserve the majority of that ourselves. We have already frozen 20 bags of freezer corn and 5 jars of marinara sauce. The first few jars of marinara were an experiment since I’d never made it before. I’d also never used a food mill… but I’ll save further info on the food mill for another post.
As I type this, we have two stockpots simmering several gallons more of marinara sauce and two crates of tomatoes waiting to be turned into delicious sauce and salsa. Finally, we had a large grocery bag full of green beans to do something with. We both love French style green beans and bought this little green bean French style cutter on Amazon a few weeks ago. Last night I popped in a movie and sliced beans for two hours. I don’t watch much tv but it was kind of nice to be entertained while still being productive!
While this isn’t enough freezer meals to get us through the entire winter, it is enough for us to pull out a quick, easy, homemade meal (or the already prepped ingredients for a homemade meal) once a week for a couple months. WIN.
Do you have a great freezer meal recipe? Suggestions on recipes, ways to streamline the process, or tips are so very welcome! Hubby and I are new to this whole sustainability/self-reliance thing so we’re learning as we go.
Over the years, I’ve definitely used my share of beauty products. From face wash, face moisturizer, shower gel, lotion, shaving gel, deodorant, body spray, and more, I had a ton of bottles sitting around. In my small bathroom, this was getting out of control. Plus, I had things that I’d bought, then didn’t like, so they just sat there for months… years, even.
It has taken a few years, several miscarriages, and living in an area that really embraces natural living to turn my chemical-laden lifestyle around. This process has taken a lot of trial and error to discover what natural products work for me that I can be happy using in lieu of commercial products. I’m still experimenting on several items but one product I’ve almost completely cut out of my life is commercially made deodorant.
No, I’m not the stinky kid. 🙂
The two reasons I eliminated deodorant/anti-perspirant from my life are:
- Parabens and aluminimum are found in anti-perspirant/deodorant. While there is no CLEAR evidence that these items can cause cancer, alzheimers, and nervous and reproductive health issues, there is a lot of question. Knowing how much cancer and other disease is on the rise in our society and knowing that I’ve had some medical issues (several miscarriages), I’ve decided to try to live as naturally as possible. For me, this means trying to replace products when I’ve found one that meets my criteria as a replacement.
- Using an anti-perspirant in your deodorant can plug your sweat glands and pores. Since sweat is basically nasty stuff being filtered out of your body, keeping all that nastiness inside can’t be good. Right?
You can read some information from Cancer.org’s website here on their deodorant page. ARTICLE. You can also read more on the Natural News website here. ARTICLE.
Now, for me to switch to a new homemade product, my goal is for it to be two things. First, it should be easy to make. It might be a fantastic product but if it takes hours and hours to make, I probably won’t do it. I tend to be a bit
lazy busy. Second, it should be inexpensive. I have a hard time justifying spending hundred of dollars on personal products… after all, my hope is to simplify life and save money.
For deodorant, there are plenty of recipes out on the web. Many contain clay, essential oils, baking soda, or a whole host of other great ingredients. Applying them could be a bit messy. And trying them out that meant I needed to buy a bunch of ingredients. So when I saw a recipe for a two ingredient deodorant that I could spray on my arm pits, I was intrigued. I had one of the ingredients and bought the other. Mixed up a batch that night in 30 seconds.
And you know what? It works. It really works!
Any guesses what the ingredients are? The easiest one to guess is essential oil. It’s important that I smell nice. And I add a little tea tree essential oil which is known for antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic properties. While I don’t absolutely love the scent of it, I can tolerate it and it is a pretty useful essential oil. The other ingredient…. is… well, don’t laugh. It’s…
Everclear. Everclear is a high grain alcohol that will kill the bacteria your body is sweating out of it’s system. Basically, what makes our sweat stink is when this bacteria reacts with oxygen. If the bacteria is killed when it reaches the surface of our skin, it won’t stink. In fact, mine smells pretty pleasant. 🙂
My Everclear deodorant mixture is mixed with tea tree and lavender essential oils. My husband doesn’t love the smell of lavender so next time I might try a citrus basil blend.
I’ve officially been using this homemade deodorant since early July, almost two months now. My mom and sister have been using it as well and both report that they are happy with it, not stinky, and they both no intentions of returning to commercially made deodorant. My sister is especially happy that this deodorant does not stain her clothes with white residue. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty thrilled with that fact, too!
One thing this product will not do is stop you from sweating. That was a little tough for me to get used to after 15+ years of wearing an anti-perspirant. However, for me, it’s nothing terribly serious. I should also note that I’ve heard the first week or two of eliminating anti-perspirant from your life can be a bit of an adjustment period while your body cleans all those clogged glands and pores out. I am not sure if I experienced this adjustment period since I started using this homemade deodorant in the height of summer when we were experiencing an abnormal heat wave. So naturally, I was sweating more. I attributed it to the heat but it may have been partially from eliminating anti-perspirant.
Here’s how I make it:
Step #1: Fill a small spray bottle (mine is a 3 oz travel bottle) with Everclear
Step #2: Add a few drops of essential oil if desired, then shake mixture before spraying on your underarms.
I recommend Rose Mountain Herbs or your local natural foods store so you make sure you are getting high quality oils. I also recommend that you don’t use rubbing alcohol in place of high grain alcohol (Everclear). Studies have shown that rubbing alcohol can be toxic over extended periods of time.
This large bottle of Everclear was $19. Even after giving several ounces each to my mom, sister, and a friend, I still have plenty of “deodorant” left. At this rate, I’ll be using this same bottle for the next 40 years. Well, unless I decide to make some “apple pie moonshine” using this recipe from the Frugal Kiwi. I’m not a big drinker but it sounds delicious! 🙂
Final note: NO, I do not smell like alcohol. At all. In fact, all I can smell is a faint whiff of essential oils, even moments after I spray it on.
Have you tried a natural deodorant? Are you inspired to try this one? Have questions? Please share your thoughts and comments!
(This post has been shared on the Frugal Days Sustainable Ways blog.)