And the winner is...

The randomly selected winner of the free poster print from digitalroom.com is...

comment number 2

Kerrie said... I would make a poster of my son's football team for my husband's office

Congrats to Kerrie and thanks to everyone who entered.

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Homemade Granola Recipe

A couple weeks ago I posted my peach syrup recipe. I included a photo of the syrup on top of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with my homemade granola. [Editor's note: Yum!] Amanda asked in the comments for my homemade granola recipe. So Amanda, here it is!

This recipe, like most of mine, are a combination of several. I've tweaked it be a good compromise between what my picky eaters will eat and still have it healthy enough that I'll let them eat it. It's sometimes a hard balance to find in our house.

Homemade Granola Recipe

3 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup barley flakes
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the mix to add the wet ingredients. Toss the combined ingredients until they have an even mix. Then spread out the granola onto cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.

Bake for 40 minutes stirring two to three times while baking. Let the granola cool completely. At that point you can add dried fruit.

Do you make your own granola? What do you do differently?

To see more great recipe ideas join us on:
Carnival of Super Foods
Food on Fridays
Fight back Friday
Foodie Friday
Food Roots
Tasty Tuesday
Tackle it Tuesday

Tempt my tummy Tuesday
Real Food Wednesday

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Salad Bar Frugal

It's been well documented that I don't eat out for lunch. Once a month.... maybe. I'm quite well known around the office for my PB+Js. The main driver here is frugality, but there are two attractive side-effects:

  1. Health - While a lot of the usual lunch stops taste good, they don't necessarily make you feel good. Now I'm not trying to claim PB+J as health food, but a lot of restaurant food is loaded with salt, or fat, or sugar, or.... who knows what. Bottom line is - I stay healthier when I don't eat out.
  2. When I do go out, it's a treat - I'm not at a loss because all the lunch spots are old-hat. It's actually an enjoyable experience and not just part of the daily grind. I chose the restaurant carefully - my one lunch out per month is not going to be at McDonald's.
All that said, there are times when I forget my left-overs at home, or run out of peanut butter are left with few options:

Option 1> Starve. This is not a good option. This happens enough on the days when meetings get scheduled over lunch, and come 2pm I'm trying to figure out why I'm so hungry. There are no winners here.

Option 2> Go out. This is really only a win in the taste department. Cost, time, health all pretty much go down the tubes.

Option 3> Cafeteria. Conveniently located, reasonably priced, and dubious nutritional value. 2 outta 3 ain't bad. So let's look at this further.

Now as a preface to this, our cafeteria, is the smallest here on campus. It's not that there aren't plenty of people to serve, it just seems that they made the decision to do it poorly. Don't believe me? They had to take up a petition at one point to lobby to keep the second entree option. I didn't sign it.

The entrees in the cafeteria, as maybe you're already envisioning, fall into one of 3 needlessly disgusting categories:
  1. Fried / greasy / soggy - This is a cafeteria staple and guaranteed to give you that brick-in-the-stomach feeling the rest of the day. Notorious members of this category include french fries, fried shrimp, and something called a 'cheddar round'.
  2. Floating in water - I really can't explain this one in culinary terms, but it has become our favorite joke around the office - "What's floating in water today?". For some reason, meat dishes - burgers, hotdogs, brats, even chicken sometimes - have been inexplicably served floating in an assumingly warm, watery fluid. Real appetizing.
  3. Mysterious - Many of the side dishes fit this bill, but the chili also remains a hold-out here. Served daily, I've yet to see anything recognizable in the chili. It always begs the question, "What was this served as yesterday"?
Occasionally, an entree will transcend the aforementioned reputation, but that's rare. For the most part, on days when I'm looking to avoid starvation, all of this forces me to the stalwart salad bar. Now everything here appears fresh - crisp lettuce, nothing floating in water - but the cost can vary greatly. I found this out quickly after paying ~$3 one day and over $5 another. Since they weigh the salads and charge by the ounce, I learned I had to be a bit more selective on what I chose. After some careful consideration and some trial and error, here is what I've come up with (salad greens assumed):

Items I avoid
  • Cherry tomatoes - Flavorful but very heavy, I'll slip one in sometimes.
  • Cucumbers - High on water, low on flavor. I'll pass.
  • Vinegar and Oil dressing - I love it and it loves me, but that will count against me at the weigh in.
  • Hard-boiled eggs - Ok, maybe just a few, but these are very dense.
Bang for the buck items
  • Shredded cheese - as dense as eggs, but you need far less of it for the desired affect.
  • Shredded carrots - Healthy and lightweight, how do you beat that?
  • Sliced red onions and bell peppers - It only takes a few of these to add a big punch.
  • Croutons - The ultra-lightweights of the salad bar add lots of texture no matter what the dressing.
  • Bacon - Seriously, how can you bypass the bacon? Loads of flavor for very little weight.
Now some of this is based on personal opinion on flavor - your mileage may vary. I've gotten pretty good lately at coming up with a flavorful, filling salad that I can easily keep under $3.50. Today, I was quite pleased - I rang up at $2.97! Sub-3 dollars.

Any frugal salad bar tips? Have I gone too far?

For more money saving ideas visit:
Frugal Fridays

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Cloth Diaper Update

Yesterday someone asked the Mr. and I about using cloth diapers and how much we saved from using them. I had to admit that I had not looked at the numbers for awhile. After opening the excel spreadsheet and pulling up our last update post I can see why! Our daughter has been in the same size for over 500 days!

Over those 500 days the savings has really started to add up. To date we have saved over $1,319 by using cloth diapers and have also kept 5092 diaper out of the landfill. BUT, that's just the beginning. Here are the details so far.

Over the last 500 days our daughter has been in a size large. While in this size it has cost us $0.90 per day/$27.12 per month to diaper her. That comes out to a total of $508.21. It would have cost us $1,313 to have used disposables over that same period of time.

Just for fun I plugged in the numbers to see approximately what the net cost will be once we are done with this size and done with diapering all together. After we sell the diapers we are currently using it would have cost us apx. $0.43 per day/ $12.99 per month to diaper our daughter from birth to potty trained. This would give us a savings of $1,622.07 over the course of those two years.

I love seeing numbers like that! Do you know how much your diapers cost you per day? What's holding you back from trying cloth diapers?

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The Big Birthday Lesson: A new tradition

Why do we celebrate birthdays? How do we celebrate birthdays? I find myself pondering these questions over the past few years. It seems like birthdays (along with most holidays) have been hi-jacked by our commercialized world.

People used to celebrate birthdays because it was a big deal to have made it through another year of life. Children and adults alike were not as blessed as we are to have access to healthy food and medicine. They also did not have huge blow out parties with 30 kids at an expensive location outside their home while expecting their child to be showered by $20-$40 gifts.

I decided that enough is enough. I'm putting the breaks on this train wreck. I'm not letting my children's birthdays be hi-jacked. That is when I started thinking... Now that sometimes gets me into trouble but this time I think I came up with a great way to make their birthdays special while making it into a learning experience. Here is what we did.

Starting at 6 years old we decided that a child has finally developed enough socially and mentally to understand sharing and giving. That the world is bigger then them and not centered around them.

At six years old they can handle not getting gifts from friends for their birthday. Instead, we let our daughter pick out a charity to request gifts for. This gives us an opportunity to talk about all the need there is in our own community. People need food (local food pantry), animals need food and treats (local animal shelter), people need items for their home (local emergency shelter), parks can always use trees and plants, and some parents can't afford to buy their babies anything at all (local Birthright center). After talking about all the different needs in the community she got to pick who SHE can help by having her friends bring items (wrapped like presents) to the birthday party.

You might think that our daughter would have been crying and devastated by this blow of no presents from her friends but she was not. She understood that her parents and grandparents would still buy her gifts and that she could help someone else. She decided to help the babies in need. I was amazed at how excited she became about it. Weeks before the party and before invitation where sent out she started to talk to all of her friends and their moms about not buying her a present but to instead bring a newborn item for a baby.

She was so excited to see all the gifts come in and kept asking to peak inside to see what baby item they brought. You would have thought that they were for her baby! The excitement was still there during the present opening time but the focus was not of the greedy green eyed monster wanting the next fad toy, but instead the excitement of a baby having something they would like and look cute in.

After the party was over she could not wait to deliver all the presents to the local Birthright office. She wanted to make sure they got them fast! It was hard to keep her at bay until Tuesday but what a wonderful way for her to see that she could make a difference and help someone. Walking in there with a huge bag of items to donate make her proud and gave her an even deeper giving spirit. Now the question she keeps asking is not what type of party she wants next year, but instead "Who should I get presents for when I turn 7?"

It's amazing to see the giving spirit in her growing. When you give your child a chance to give you help them to grow spiritually in ways we will never fully understand. I'm proud to say that my favorite tradition is the gift of giving to others.

What unique birthday tradition does your family have?

Find more great ideas on:
Works for me Wednesday

image from supercoolbaby.com

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Poster Print Giveaway

DigitalRoom.com has generiously offered to sponsor a giveaway here on Not the Jet Set for a FREE 18x24" Rolled Poster Print. Which we, of course, accept!

We will be using our high quality poster print in our living room. The blown up photo of our daughters will be one of the center pieces for the new "Family Wall" we are creating to help bring a more causal feel to the room. It's also an inexpensive way to add art to your walls!

The Rules:
There are several ways to enter to win the giveaway. Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. You can enter three ways, but use each method once per giveaway. So you can have up to a total of three entries per giveaway.

  1. Simply tell us what you will do with your poster if you win.
  2. Blog about the giveaway and link your blog as well as DigitalRoom.com.
  3. Add us to your blogroll and let us know in the comments.

This contest ends on Sept. 28th at 5:00pm EST. The randomly selected winner will be announced on Sept 29th. An email will be sent to the winner. They will have 24 hours to provide the needed information. This giveaway is open to US residents only. FREE UPS Ground Shipping is provided.

Thanks for checking out our giveaway!

This giveaway was sponsored by the digitalroom.com. If you would like to sponsor a giveaway we are open to sponsors. Please email us for details.

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Reusable Bags Don't Reuse Themselves

Reusable shopping bags have been around for decades. But they really became en vogue a few years ago. Today, nearly every major retailer has their own bags for sale, and there's instructions readily available to make your own. Reusable bags make so much sense that the city of San Francisco as well as many countries around the world have banned or now tax plastic disposable shopping bags.

We're not here to convince you to make the switch - that case has already been made. No, this is a post about what happens after you've bought the bags.

We were out running some errands the other day. We went to check out with a few small items and the Mrs., as always, said, "oh, and I have a bag."

Now typically, that's followed by a nod from the cashier, a few beeps from the register, cash, change, a receipt, and a "have a nice day". But not on this day, with this cashier.

No, on this day we got a very different response. The cashier looked up as the Mrs. unfurled the shopping bag, and said, "Those are so smart. You know, we bought several of those, but I never remember to take them to the store." The Mrs., quick on her wits that day, replied with, "Yeah, I had that problem too, but then I started making myself turn around and go back to get them." The cashier was impressed, as was I. We finished the transaction and left.

Now this lesson is not a new one, but has a similar result. Lets look at what the cashier said - we bought the reusable bags, but yet don't use them. He bought the bags. So what's the problem? It all falls down by the simple act of forgetting them at home. It's not about a mechanical solution or a magic pill. It's about your behavior, and a life change like this requires a change in your behavior.

Where have we seen this before? It's the cash envelope system. I've heard from countless individuals that cash doesn't work and the envelopes are a pain. It's only a pain if the behavior doesn't change. It doesn't work when you spend mercilessly. None of it is worth anything without a plan and constructive behaviors.

Again, the solution is only 20% head knowledge - the other 80% is behavior. Back to our talkative cashier. Knowing that reusable bags are the right thing to do and buying them only got him 20% there. And there are very few arenas where 20% is considered passing. He didn't change his behavior, and thus failed.

Like the Mrs. said, if she forgot them at home, she'd turn around and go back home. Left them in the car? She'd drag the kids back out to get them. Success only came after behavior change.

Success with cash, and with bags.

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The BIG Birthday Surprise!

It's hard to believe that our oldest daughter just turned 6 years old! The time flies by so fast. She has been wanting a bunk bed for almost two full years now. Of course we said the usual "Not until you are 6." bit. Well, she is now six years old and her little sister is ready to bust out of the crib.

Time for a new big girl room for the girls to share. As you know we are not made of money, but I still wanted a room the girls will love. It did take a lot of time to do the searching but with a little luck, Craigs list and spray paint I was able to accomplish my vision for their bedroom. If you didn't get a chance to see the inspiration rooms feel free to take a peek at yesterday's post.

Click through for the video tour!

Here is what their room looked like prior to the makeover.

And here is the final product!

Instead of rambling on and on about everything we did to the room I decided to make a video tour. I hope that you enjoy it!

All weekend long the Mr. and I felt like we were on Trading Spaces with just two days, two people and a small budget. To go along with that them we decided to capture the big reveal on video. It was so adorable to see our daughters reactions. It was just like on Trading Spaces! It was priceless.

We spent a total of $864 which includes all the furniture, paint, bedding, and much more. I'd give you a breakdown of the prices, BUT, I'm going to save that for a new "Price My Space" post. I'll also be posting some tutorials and specifics on how we made some of the items in the room out of scraps we had laying around.

So what do you think of the room?

For more DIY and home decor ideas visit:
Tackle it Tuesday

Make your Monday

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Girl's Room Inspiration

Before I reveal the girls' new room I wanted to share with you my inspiration and prep work. As many of you know already, it is VERY important to make a plan before starting any project. This one was no different. I gathered all my inspiration photos, created a budget, and a time line. In the end I was actually surprised how well the plan came together. In our house things don't always go as planned when we tackle remodeling projects so it was nice to have this small room makeover go so smooth.

Here was my inspiration pieces:

Painted Dressers

White Classic looking Bunk Bed

Name By Each Bed

Color Palette

A couple monthes before we even started to touch the room I started shopping for the furniture. Thankfully we have a large basement to hide furniture in! When I would get a chance I would sneak out the furniture and paint it. I also made the name banners for each of the girls in the evenings after they would go to bed. One of the other important things we did was measure their room and do a layout of it to make sure that everything would fit were we wanted it to go.

All of this prep work made it possible to do a room makeover in just one and a half days while they visited their grandparents. Stay tuned for the big reveal!

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Microfinance or Microslavery?

Microfinance is rather broadly defined as

"financial services for the poor or low-income"
This definition includes say... a community-based savings bank in Cambodia. The intent of such banks was to serve those that traditional banks could not or would not reach. Not going to find B of A there any time soon, and thank God. In more recent years though, this theory has taken to the web and spawned several microcredit services. Kiva, MicroPlace, and Prosper have all popped up and attempt to take advantage of the poor fill a niche.

Previously, I've payed almost no attention to any of these. As you may have gathered by now, we're rather debt-averse. I know that Kiva and Prosper were all the rage three or four years ago. People helping people. What's wrong with that? Well, it depends upon your definition of help.

What got my attention, was when a group at church discussed doing microfinance as a part of social justice. hmmmm....

The group, just finished with their 30 week Bible study course, was looking for ways to put what they had studied and discussed into action. That's great - prayer and Bible study should lead to more action. Then she hits us with this:
"We're also looking into microfinanace - where we can lend as little as $25 to help people in third world countries"
There is so much wrong with that short statement that I nearly fell out of my chair.

First - as a Christian, I'd direct you to Proverbs 22:7 which states that the rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. I love it when God just tells it like it is. Are we looking to enslave, or empower?

Second - The Bible never uses debt to solve a problem. So why do we assume that lending = help? No one would disagree with helping those less fortunate, but how is this the solution?

Third - If we are really interested in helping these folks, why - as Christians - would you not just give them the money? If the money is truely the help they need (debatable), then why demand repayment and charge interest?

Now, the person presenting the idea is a sweet lady, and I was not about to overturn her table over this. Nor was it really the time to critique this or the other ideas being presented. So I chose to focus this on my inside voice.

Am I over-reacting? Or is it really as crazy as I think it is?

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An End to Summer

School started on Tuesday and I just couldn't let my daughter start school without one last visit to my parent's farm. We had a wonderful week of enjoying nature and other local activities that were all free.

There were flowers to decorate with

Cool evening breezes to rock in

Sisters to play with

Slides to ride

Grammies to hug

Birthdays to celebrate

Tractors to ride

Free zoos to visit

Even free hair eating to boot'

Funny faces to make

Webs to conquer

Farmer markets to sample

Evening rides along the creek

Morning walks through the wildlife preserve

Wildflowers and weeds in the ditch to clip

It was a wonderful way to bring summer to a close. Just a few more sweet memories of a summer's past. The memories will be priceless and oh so precious as she grows older. She will never once stop to think about the amount of money I spent on those memories. She will never know that we didn't have any money to budget towards a summer vacation. She will only remember the things we did, not the things we didn't do.

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Shock and Excitement!

These were the emotions I felt when I looked out our back window and saw this in the bushes just three feet away.

14 EGGS!

Our silver laced Wyandotte named "Night" started laying eggs but instead of putting them in the nesting box decided that this would be the perfect place. So after 14 days of laying eggs I finally noticed the pile. We had been making comments for two weeks now about her making "egg laying" noises but could never find any eggs. We took 12 of them inside for us to use and moved the remaining two into her nesting box.

After placing her in the box the next day she had taken to it. Just this evening I went out there and the two eggs had become three. It will be interesting to see if she continues to use the newly found nesting box or if she will return to her old spot in the bushes.

It's exciting to start getting the fresh eggs from our own chickens. I'm sure the other three will start laying in about 1-2 weeks. Oh all the excitement at our house!

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Performance Review Update: After 6 months!

After 6 months, HR finally has a response.

A response to what!?

Oh right, it's been a while, so let's get a quick recap of the situation:

  • 2008 results come in - Economy is in the crapper, profits are down
  • Merit increases (raises) were suspended
  • Bonuses were cut by 75%
  • 401k contributions were suspended
  • Part of our 401k match was replaced with company stock
So my proposal, after a positive review, was this:

The company is substituting what they have (company stock) for what they don't (cash). So I asked that they do the same when it comes to raises - substitute what they have (time) for what they don't (cash). If I have to forgo my raise, then at least give me a few extra days off.

It took six months, but I got an answer - and it blew my mind.

At my mid-year review, my manager had the answer that I had forgot I was waiting for. Turns out, he had in fact presented my proposal to our representative. So it turns out that despite HR receiving several other proposals, no one had asked for vacation time in lieu of the raise. So what the heck were they asking for? My manager didn't know. But the surprises didn't end there.

Turns out that our HR rep then took the proposals to our VP, who didn't want 'one off solutions ' only for those who asked. Maybe they don't know, but that's who gets the deals - the ones who ask. So they put together a few ideas that they could implement across the board for everyone in my department. "Ok", I thought, "at least they are doing something, which is new". Well, for one reason or another, again no details, all the ideas fizzled out.
So what are they doing?


Just jaw-droppingly inept. They never cease to disappoint me. It took six months for them to get absolutely nowhere. So who reviews their performance?

While I know that my manager would give me the days if I asked, that's also not really the point. The point is to get it in writing, so that when our organization changes, it would go with me, and not be a 'back-office' deal. Well, so much for that. I guess I'll just stick with my plan:
Continue to work my butt off, and pray that there are better times ahead of us all.

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Do You Tithe? Would Your Kids Think To?

We don't watch much TV here at the NtJS ranch. We have a few indulgences - The Office, 30 Rock, The Biggest Loser - and in the summer, America's Got Talent. There's plenty to love about this show. The eclectic group of judges - interestingly enough that 2 of the 3 are not from America. The incredibly talented contestants, and even those less so. And then there's that unexpected element.

Some would argue that's the best part.

Now some folks get jazzed up about the million dollar prize, and yes, this is a post about tithing. While some of the contestants are trying to make a name for themselves and get national exposure, undoubtedly most have their eyes on the $1M prize. Likely few of them are unaware of $100M contact that last year's winner secured.

Now just to make sure each contestant has the cash prize front of mind, host Nick Cannon periodically asks contestants what they would do with the million dollar prize. On Tuesday, he asked that question of Michael from Voices of Glory. Now the AGT website doesn't state their ages, but I'm going to guess that Michael is in middle school. When Nick asked his question, Michael hesitated. It was clear that he didn't have it spent 40 times over in his mind. Despite the groups religious overtones, his evetual response was definately unexpected.

"Well, first I would tithe"
Wow. Mature beyond his years. His answer definitely threw Cannon for a loop, who also surprised me in knowing that a tithe is 10%. Cannon pressed him further and Michael finally came up with that he would seek his father's help with the money. The phrase "seek wise council" comes to mind.

Also coming to mind, are a few questions....
  1. Do you tithe?
  2. If faced with a $1M windfall, would you first think to give a cut to the Lord?
  3. Would your teenager?

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4 Things That Don't Affect Your Credit Score

Behind on bills? Debt piling up? Facing foreclosure? For many Americans in these situations, one of their biggest concerns is protecting their credit. Which is sad. At a time when you should be more concerned with feeding your family, producing an income, keeping your house, and hanging on to your marriage, instead their head is wrapped around a three digit number. Perhaps this is a good time to review exactly what your credit score is NOT - a measure of winning.

After the jump, we'll review 4 things that don't affect your FICO score.

  1. Income - It seems so basic. An almost indispensable measure of ones ability to pay a bill. Yet when assessing your ability to do just that, a cable company or mobile phone provider isn't looking at that. For all they know, you may make $100k per year, or be unemployed. A FICO score does not reflect that. Six figures is trumped by three.
  2. Investments - As much as you income is not considered, neither are your investments. $50k in mutual funds? Not nearly as important as that phone bill that got sent to collections 5 years ago.
  3. Savings - Ok, ok, investments aren't exactly liquid. Are liquid assets weighed as a part of your score? Emergency funds? CDs? Money Market accouts? No way.
  4. Net Worth - The no-holds barred measure of financial success. What you own minus what you owe. As Dave Ramsey often discusses - he has no FICO score, he hasn't borrowed money in so long that Fair Issac cannot calculate a score. He's a multi-millionaire. He can't rent an appartment at that complex down the street. He could cut a check and buy the entire place, but they wouldn't rent to him.
No one would dispute the importance of these 4 things. The 4 most important considerations in assessing your financial well-being. And yet none of it factors into your FICO score.

So what does that tell you?

It has nothing to do with your financial success. It simply shows your history of making payments and your willingness to stay in debt - your creditworthiness. Stop worrying about it. Stop stewing and fretting. Stop borrowing money and you'll find how little your FICO score matters.

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Seasonal Recipes: Tomatoes

There is no shortage of great tomato recipes. It must have do to with the large volumes of tomatoes you can usually find in ones garden. This year I'll be putting up tons of tomatoes (most of them from the farmer's market, not my own garden). Some of the things I'll be making are katcup (w/ the secret family recipe), bbq sauce, tomato soup, plum tomatoes and pizza sauce.

I've found several pizza sauce recipes that sounded almost perfect for our family but for one reason or another were not perfect for our taste. So what did I do? The usual, combine the best of each recipe. I ended up combining a Martha Steward recipe that sounded a little bland with a friend's recipe (not sure her source) that had sugar in it. What I came up with was a great tasting recipe that has the taste of fresh tomatoes but a good balance of garlic and spices.

Pizza Sauce
2 lbs Fresh Tomatoes
2 T Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves
1 T Pizza Spice Mix

  • Saute garlic
  • Add tomatoes and cook until soft
  • Add spice mix and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Put through food mill
  • Return to sauce pan and reduce until thick
This recipe makes enough for two normal sized pizzas.

Like usual, my favorite recipes are very simple. Less is more. You just need to start out with good fresh ingredients and you have it made! I'll be making a lot more batches of this recipe and freezing it in small containers to use over the winter months.

If you are wondering about the pizza in the photo. It is a homemade whole wheat crust, the pizza sauce per recipe, local all natural hot sausage and local mozzarella cheese. Even our picky eaters devoured these yummy creation.

What are some of the things you are doing to preserve your tomatoes for the winter?

Would you like to check out more tasty recipes or share your own? Join us on:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Food Roots
Fight Back Friday

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