Homemade Tomato Sauce

My father absolutely hates pre-made tomato sauce, so he’s taught me to make it from scratch. I much prefer it to the canned stuff.

You will need:

  • 2 large cans crushed tomato (I like Tuttorosso with basil)
  • 1 small can diced tomato
  • 1 green pepper, diced fine
  • 1-2 onions, diced fine
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic (suggested, but I personally like 2 full heads)
  • Brown sugar
  • Oil
  • Basil, oregano, Italian seasonings
  • 1 lb. ground meat (optional, but if you decide to make a meat sauce, I would advise going with medium or hot sausage instead of beef; hot Italian sausage, cooked and de-cased, is wonderful. Just make sure it isn’t breakfast sausage!)
  1. Put diced pepper, garlic, and onion in a large saucepan and add basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning to taste. 
  2. Sweat on medium-high heat until soft.
  3. While the peppers and onions are sweating, brown meat. Drain.
  4. Add diced and crushed tomato. Fill one large can with water and add slowly, stirring. Allow sauce to come to a slow boil.
  5. Reduce heat and add a small handful of brown sugar.
  6. Let simmer until cooked down, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add browned meat and let simmer for 10-20 minutes.

The brown sugar cuts the bitterness of canned tomatoes and helps to neutralize some of the acidity. If you (or someone you’re cooking for) has acid reflux or anything along those lines, adding brown sugar helps.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can adjust the recipe to taste however you want it. Bare-bones tomato sauce, you throw together some diced and crushed tomatoes with a bit of water and simmer. Everything else is trim to make it taste better.

Any leftover can be refrigerated for up to a month or frozen basically forever.

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Octopus in Flight

I found this pattern over at Corvus Tristis and just had to do it.

The bunting is made of scrap T-shirt material – the shirt I was originally going to use for the ruffle on the T-shirt bag I made a little while ago.

Stay golden!

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Waterproofing a rolling bag!

Because my back is so messed up, I need to use a rolling backpack. This comes with its own unique set of challenges, most of which (missing bricks, stairs, etc.) I can adapt to without any real ingenuity needed. There is one challenge I have not been able to meet, however: keeping my things dry when it rains. My bag may be many things, but waterproof is most definitely not one of them.

If you don’t know what I did next, hi! You must be new here.

We got bags for orientation. It took all of twenty minutes to cut apart and relace the strings around the top. (Yes, that’s ‘relace’. Not ‘replace’.)

That became:

On the bag, it looks like this:

Now that that’s done, I have to study for the two tests I have coming up. :/ Stay golden, everyone!

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Scoliosis earrings!

So, in case you couldn’t have guessed, I had (have? I honestly don’t know the correct tense) scoliosis. (For more info, go here.) My curves were 47 on bottom, 54 on top the summer I turned 8. Clearly, it was pretty bad.

I had the surgery to correct it when I was 12, but it still affects my life daily. Which means, of course, it was bound to show up sooner or later.

I had been planning these several months before I actually made them. The medium has switched from clay to embroidery to clay again to beads. I had been planning on entering them in Craftster Challenge 71 – “Just Bead It!” – then realized they probably weren’t what they were going for.

After that terribly long introduction, here they are, made of silver wire and clear/pearlescent glass beads: my scoliosis earrings.

I know the one on the left looks bigger, but I swear they’re the same size.

I don’t have a picture of me wearing them because, unfortunately, both of my ear piercings are infected at the moment. 😦

Stay golden, guys!

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Circle skirt!

I found this tutorial to make a circle skirt a few months ago, but never had a chance to do anything with it since the closest fabric store is a good forty minutes away.

Then Wal-Mart added a fabric section. $7.50 for 5 yards? (Which turned out to be more like 7?) Yes, please!

So  picked up a pretty floral pattern on a pink background – rather outside my usual style, but still rather nice – and got to work.

First up: Making a pattern. The handiest spare paper? Physics notes.

Oh, how I enjoyed cutting up those physics notes. I haven’t had that class in almost six months, but I still enjoyed it.

Next up: Cutting out the fabric in the shape of the pattern.

I could only find 45″ fabric, so I ended up needing to cut it out in two pieces. 😦

Up next: Hemming! And then sewing one side together! And then deviating from the tutorial because I couldn’t find thick elastic and making a casing! And then putting the elastic through! And then resewing the casing because I’m awful with a sewing machine and missed pieces of the fabric the first time around! And then sewing the elastic into a circle! And then sewing the last side together! (Note: If I’d sewn the sides together before making the casing, I would have saved myself some grief.)


(That’s just a plain white shirt, by the by.)

And there’s a close-up! (I’m actually on my knees here because my mirror isn’t hung.)

Edit 2/24: I wore this skirt for the first time in public today, because it’s currently 72 degrees and sunny here in Williamsburg. Wanna know what I learned?

DON’T MAKE THIS SKIRT OUT OF LIGHT FABRIC. Every time I walk down steps or the wind picks up, I have to pull a Marilyn to keep from flashing everyone. Make it out of a fabric that has a decent weight and save yourself some hassle.

Happy sewing! Stay golden!

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Kitchen Experiments: Meatball Sauce

For dinner tonight, we’re having meatball subs. My father’s instructions were as follows: “As long as one of the pots has the Carolina sauce in it, I’m happy.” He really, really likes Sticky Fingers’ mustard-based BBQ sauce.

I, on the other hand, am nauseated by the smell of mustard, and am not a fan of more traditional BBQ sauces. So what’s a girl to do?

Clearly, make her own sauce.

I knew I wanted garlic. It’s a very strong, sharp flavor when raw, but once cooked, it sweetens and mellows. Two tablespoons of minced garlic went into the bowl.

I had browned the meatballs in the oven earlier, but the weren’t quite browned evenly. In went a little bit of dark brown sugar for caramelization and to counter the garlic a little bit.

Then I opened up my spice cabinet. I don’t know all of the spices by the name on their labels, but I can certainly tell them apart by smell. For example, I thought cumin would be a sweet counternote to the garlic’s sharpness. Then I sniffed the bottle and my eyes began to burn. So no cumin.

I believe I ended up putting in sage, cilantro, a bit of thyme, and perhaps a teaspoon of honey chipotle BBQ sauce just to bind it together and make it a sauce rather than merely spiced garlic. I spooned it into the second pot, added a little bit of water so it wouldn’t burn, put the heat on medium-low, and let it cook for a little while.

All told, it was rather subtle for what I was trying to do. For a meatball sub, you need a cleaver, not a fillet knife. Subtlety is wonderful in its own right, but on a meatball sub, you need something with stronger flavor than the bread. Clearly three tablespoons of garlic was not quite enough. It would most likely be lovely on noodles tossed with sauteed garlic and a little bit of melted butter, but I can’t accept it for a sub. There just isn’t enough of a kick.

UPDATE next day: Letting them chill overnight in the refrigerator actually enhances the flavor, which I hadn’t anticipated; usually, chilling overnight mellows the flavor of something. But oh dead God these things are PERFECT for subs the next day. Color me surprised!

Stay golden!

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I decided to make Christmas/Hanukkah presents for everyone.

At first, I was like “SNOWFLAKES!” because Craftster’s featured project was was wire/bead snowflakes. Originals + tutorial found here.

Mine aren’t nearly as good.

Three hours later, I had made…nine. So I decided to make something a bit easier: PEPPERMINT BARK. Oh, yummy peppermint bark. I drool a little bit at the thought of it because MAN it is AWESOME.

Basically, you melt white chocolate, sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top, and let it cool. My dorm room was way too hot for the chocolate to cool quickly (but it was nice and comfy for me!), so I turned the AC unit down to 60 and curled my feet under blankets because my feet get really cold really quickly. Then I went to dinner, and when I came back, I pushed the bark out of the little plates I’d used to form it, broke it apart, and put it in little bags for the girls on my hall.

There are always leftovers once things are broken up…

Image from the Nestle white chocolate bag:

It says “Tear here to make sweet memories”. Say it with me now: D’AAAAWWWW. It’s adorable. (My mood swings are kinda giving me whiplash. Five minutes ago I wanted to punch something and now I want to play with a puppy.)

Of course, there are people on my hall I talk with more than others. For them, I made things separately.

For my roommate, I made a Tree of Life necklace. For a red-haired friend who likes facial hair, I made a mustache necklace. For a friend in a music sorority, I made a treble clef necklace.

(If anyone knows how to rotate this image, drop me a line, please.)

For a friend down the hall, I made her name out of clay and painted it white with polka dots.

For another friend, I gave her twice as much peppermint bark as anyone else because I ran out of ideas.

Stay golden, y’all.

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