Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tasty Green Tomato Relish!

A freeze on November 15th is not unwelcome, unless you have a garden full of tomatoes! I heard the freeze forecasted, but could not make it home before dark, so I harvested by headlights. I ended up with 15 lbs. of green tomatoes, various peppers, tarragon, basil, and a small watermelon.


Unable to can the tomatoes until Thanksgiving break, I was surprised by how many turned red!

I was left with 13 lbs. of still-green tomatoes. Once they were washed, I started chopping up small batches in the food processor.

Each batch was added to a large bowl.

Next I chopped red and green bell peppers along with a few small jalapeƱos and Anaheim peppers from my garden and added them to the mix.

With streaming tears I managed to chop several onions to add to my bowl of green goodness!

The mixture was then packed into a colander to drain off the extra liquid.

Once the mixture was drained, spices were added and the mixture was put in a stock pot, brought to a boil and simmered for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, I had a deep pan filled with water with a folded dishtowel in the bottom. I used it to sterilize the jars and later used the same water in the water bath.

After the relish has simmered for 5 minutes, I removed it and spooned it into jars leaving a little space from the top, put the lids on and screwed the rings down until they were just snug.

Each batch was processed for 30 minutes.

Finally the jars were placed on a towel to cool. If a lid doesn't pop down, you can carefully remove the lid, wipe the lid and jar rim to make sure nothing is in the way of a good seal and reprocess, or just let the jar cool then store it in the refrigerator to enjoy right away!

All in all, the untimely freeze led to a yummy treat of green tomato relish serendipity!

Green Tomato Relish Recipe

24 large green tomatoes
3 red bell peppers, seeded
3 green bell peppers, seeded
12 large onions
3 tablespoons celery seed
3 tablespoons mustard sees
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups white sugar (the original recipe called for 5 cups)
2 cups cider vinegar

  1. In a food processor, coarsely grind tomatoes, bell peppers and onions. You will need to do this in small batches. Drain the mixture in a colander for 1 hour.
  2. In a non-aluminum stockpot, combine mixture, seasonings and vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Sterilize jars. Pack mixture leaving a small amount of air space at the top of the jar. Seal with lid and ring.
  4. Place filled jars on rack or towel in pot of hot water. Bring to boil and process for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove and place on a towel to cool. Lids should pop down if sealed properly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Some things just bother me! For years I have been frustrated by the amount of wax left after a candle burns down.

What a waste to throw it away, but what do you do with it? With a little expense (very little), effort, and supplies, you can easily create "new" candles from the old!

Buy: wick, metal wick holders, small containers with wide mouths (if you don't already have countless ones sitting around with the dregs of former candles in them!)

Gather: small pan with lid, double boiler or steamer, knife, scissors, wax paper (newspaper, etc.), and needle nose pliers (regular pliers will work, just not as easily).

Note: If you want to start from scratch, you can buy paraffin or beeswax, essential oils (for fragrance), and old crayons (for color) to use instead of spent candles.

If you are using an old candle container with a bit of wax left, put it in the steamer basket over the hot water with the lid on. After it has melted you can use a paper towel to wipe it out (if the color, fragrance or condition bother you) or just pull out the old wick and leave the wax in the bottom as a starter.

While that is melting, measure the depth of the jar and cut a piece of wick to reach from bottom to top. Use the pliers to attach the metal base and set this aside.

Once the wax has melted, remove the pot to the counter. Put down the wax paper and begin using the knife to pare off thin shavings of wax from the old candle (or pare the crayon and new wax into pieces if starting fresh).

Place the prepared wick in the container and fill around it with candle shavings. Press down as you fill, removing air. There will still be air pockets, so overfill as the wax will settle to a lower level once melted. Put the container and steamer back on the stove to melt.

Once the wax has melted, be sure the wick is still standing up straight and let the "new" candle cool.

If there was still some wick left on the old candle, it should now burn better since it will get more air circulation, so you might get two candles out of the deal!!

The red candles pared down. A new candle in the making!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Politically Correct!

In honor of our upcoming election, I wanted to share my favorite political story. It happened four years ago in my classroom.

Two of my students had similar personalities but were polar opposites when it came to political parties! Heated discussions like, "How could you support that candidate? He doesn't care about people!" and "Why would you want that person to be president? He just wants to take away our freedoms and our money!" Each day brought new arguments and angry responses. I was becoming weary of the debate!

Election Day finally came.... I was on pins and needles! Not only was I nervous about my own party winning, I was faced with the fact that when I got to school the next day there was going to be ONE upset student! When the results were in, the Democrats won and Obama was our new president. I didn't know what to expect!

I arrived at school ready for the showdown. No sooner had class started than the student who supported the winning candidate approached the other student's desk..... I stood nearby, waiting to intervene. The approaching student looked down at his "opponent" and said quite frankly, "Your candidate lost." I held my breath. There was silence. That same student then stuck out his hand and said, "I'll bet that makes you feel bad and I'm sorry about that!" Stunned silence! The boys shook hands and were seated. No argument, no explosion, it was over.

Those students became friends that year and are friends to this very day! They still have the same strong opinions, but they value each other! I think we could all learn a thing or two from these two students this election season!

Still friends four years later!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ode to the Lowly Chrysanthemum

I used to be a chrysanthemum snob! Chrysanthemums were "granny" flowers. I was much too sophisticated to notice them. I wanted beauties such as Bleeding Hearts and Azaleas! I spent time trying to amend my alkaline, North Texas soil to successfully grow these showy plants, only to find they would soon become scraggly and unattractive. I also tried my hand at roses. Time, money, and bleeding hands were soon more than I was willing to sacrifice.

Time passed. One of the gifts my students sometimes gave me was a pot of chrysanthemums. I would give the obligatory "ooh and ahh" over their blooming kindness, add water and set the pot in the window until it became overgrown and leggy. Then I would lug it home because I felt too guilty to just let it die. I would stick it in the ground somewhere, anywhere, out of the way.

As I watered my garden, I would occasionally remember these little afterthoughts and spray a drink their way. I slowly noticed that even though I neglected them, they would struggle back year after year!

When I put my official flower bed in along the front of my house, I dug up the various chrysanthemums that I had stuck here and there and planted them in the prepared bed. I nurtured them along with the garden-center plants I had purchased. The chrysanthemums became huge and showy, crowded with smiling blooms! Those glorious blooms stayed on literally for months! I fell in love with my chrysanthemums and they soon became my favorite flowers!

I lost several of my plant friends in a recent drought. It was sad; I had some for 5-8 years. I have slowly planted new friends. On my teacher gift list at school I proudly wrote “chrysanthemums”, hoping for more of these precious gifts that keep on giving!

Such a happy color!

One plant cascading over the wall!

Purple pretties!


Small and delicate!

One of my new friends!

Still blooming strong 5 years and one drought later!
Another new friend. Such a pretty color combination!