Tag Archives: tomatoes

Spicy Green Beans

 

Ever try to get a child, or significant other, or friend, or yourself, to eat a new vegetable?  Sometimes, it is just fine. But most of the time, it does not go over well. You’re greeted with scrunched up noses, tongues sticking out, and a chorus of “ewwww!”.

Well, I have good news for you. I know of several tricks to get new vegetables to at the least be considered, if not openly adored. One involves trying it in a new texture. I’ve found that pan-frying or baking until crispy can render some normally off-putting veg nearly irresistible.

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The second trick is spice. Usually the hot kind, but also all kinds of spices. Familiarize yourself with different spices, fresh and dried, ground and whole. Peppers are a whole world of their own, from as innocuous as bells and jalapenos up through cherry peppers, poblanos, and serranos.

While they are in season, pick them up cheap at the store or farmer’s market (or better yet, grow your own, peppers are very forgiving and easy growing!) and they freeze or dehydrate beautifully for salsas and recipes all year long.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh green beans (or any pole bean)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ground or fresh diced hot pepper
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh diced garlic
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp olive oil

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Step 1: Put the olive oil and green beans in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until beans start to brown.

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Step 2: Add the garlic, tomatoes, soy sauce, and hot pepper. You can use any kind of tomatoes, or forget about them and just cook the beans too. I happened to have a yellow pear tomato plant that just exploded with fruit so I used those. It adds a nice juicy, fresh taste.

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Cook until tomatoes burst, and most of the liquid is evaporated. Serve hot!

These come out crunchy yet easy to chew, with a very fun texture. If you let them cool slightly, they can be great finger foods. Obviously you can adjust the level of heat to the comfort level of whoever is eating them. Add extra hot peppers to convince a doubtful male to try it (Seriously, spice works to conceal a lot of “vegetal” tastes most dudes don’t love), or dial it back for those who are new to spices.

You can even omit the hot pepper at all for children, or people who are allergic or just don’t like hot pepper. But I’d suggest giving it a try, you’ll never go back to canned beans once you’ve tried this delish dish!

 

Italian Pork Chops

 

Everyone who is a fan of recipes that are cheap, and quick, and take less than 5 ingredients, raise your hand!

Ok now put your hand back on your mouse or keyboard, so you can keep scrolling and read your newest favorite weeknight recipe.

Italian Pork and Veggies

This recipe kind of just happened one day; I had a bottle of Italian dressing in my refrigerator, as I often do. I had also picked up a “family pack” of boneless pork chops and separated them into 2-per-bag zip locks. (HUGE money saving tip if you’re cooking for one or two! Buy in bulk to save $/per pound, then parcel it out into meal-sized bags and freeze.)

Since I also always keep cans of diced tomatoes in the pantry, and bags of frozen veggies in the freezer, this meal came together in a snap! With supreme flexibility (Green beans and zucchini, no? How about broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, or onions? Boneless, bone in, doesn’t matter. Or use chicken! Or shrimp. Or tofu, why not), healthy options galore, and a very low price point (I’d estimate $2 per meal for 4 meals), this is a go-to recipe in my repertoire.

Italian Pork Over Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork chops
  • 1 cup vegetables of choice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup italian dressing

Italian Dressing Pork Chops

Step 1: Put the pork chops and the Italian dressing in a frying pan, and cook on medium heat for 7-9 minutes, until browned on one side.  Flip and cook 5-7 minutes until brown on the other side. You will have to decide when to add the vegetables based on whether you use fresh crispy ones (broccoli, carrots) vs softer or frozen ones (peas, fresh green beans, zucchini).

Easy Weeknight Pork and Veggies

Step 2: Add the canned tomatoes with juice and any other vegetables at this point. Simmer for 4-6 minutes, until heated through. Serve like this for a low-carb meal, or serve over rice or with baked potatoes on the side.

 

Italian Pork Chops

Italian Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 2 pork chops (or chicken breast/thighs)
  • 1 cup vegetables of choice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Italian dressing

Instructions

  1. In a frying pan, put the pork chops and the Italian dressing. Cook on medium heat for 7-9 minutes, until browned on one side, and flip. Cook 5-7 minutes until brown on the other side. You will have to decide when to add the vegetables based on whether you use fresh crispy ones (broccoli, carrots) vs softer or frozen ones (peas, fresh green beans, zucchini).
  2. Add the canned tomatoes with juice and any other vegetables at this point. Simmer for 4-6 minutes, until heated through. Serve as is for a low-carb meal, or over rice.
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5 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes

 

As summer winds down into the gorgeous chill days of fall, gardens are finally running out of steam on producing tomatoes.  If you’ve read earlier articles you know how much fun I’ve had with gardening in my neighborhood this summer!  Baskets upon baskets of these lovely red jewels.  And now, sadly, my final harvest is coming to fruit on the vine, and soon I’ll pull up the plants before Jack Frost takes them away.

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For those who still have one last bumper crop, or have a huge pile on the counter starting to soften, here are 5 ways to easily preserve tomatoes for all year round.  From as simple as cut & freeze to the process of canning (made simple with my one easy trick!) there are lots of ways to put up what you have now for when it is no longer available fresh, and preserve the lovely nutrients inside.

Option 1: Cut & Freeze

The simplest of all: just cut up your tomatoes into halves or quarters, and toss into a freezer bag. Label and put in the freezer. Later, you can use these tomatoes in sauces, soups, stews, and chilies with no problem. If you want to remove the skins, simply defrost and the skins will fall right off! Or you can leave whole, or puree them with the skins on.

Option 2: Oven Drying

Oven Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil

It is oh-so-easy to dry your own tomatoes! All you really need is a wire rack, a knife, oodles of tomatoes (preferably roma), and some time.  See my article How to Make Oven Dried Tomatoes.

Option 3: Canning diced tomatoes

Quarts of Homemade Canned Pasta Sauce

Canning your own diced tomatoes is a snap! As long as you have the time to invest, canning your own will create a much healthier, flavorful option than store-bought cans. Simply dice up your tomatoes, place in a canning jar, and process. Be sure to always follow the rules of safe canning whether using a water bath or pressure canning method.

Option 4: Canning pasta sauce

Canning Pasta Sauce

Canning pasta sauce is only slightly more involved than diced tomatoes in that you add spices to the jars. I added fresh basil, garlic salt, and dried onion. Read the full article HERE.

Option 5: Turn them into tomato products

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If plain tomatoes aren’t your favorite, there are still SO MANY tomato-based products we use daily that you can make in your own kitchen. Give some or all of them a try:

And there you have it, easy ways to preserve tomato bounty! Any home gardener who has weathered at least one tomato season has had more chopped fresh tomatoes than they could handle, and these are all tried-and-true preservation methods. Using these techniques you can enjoy the flavor of summer all year long.

How to Make Oven-Dried Tomatoes

 

Since between my own backyard garden and my generous neighbor who has a football-field-sized garden I still had a bumper crop of tomatoes, even after canning oodles of quarts and pints of sauce and tomato broth and salsa, I decided to try my hand at oven-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil.

Dried tomatoes in olive oil are delicious little flavor bombs to add to garlic bread for a simple bruschetta, toss into salads or pasta, or top a pizza. The oil itself can also be used in salad dressings or anywhere tomato-flavored infused oil would be tasty. Very popular in the Mediterranean region such as Greece and Italy, this preservation method has been around for a very long time, and I had bags of romas just begging to be bathed in high quality oil that was on sale.

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But a jar can be quite pricey, up to $10 in the supermarket. It is far cheaper to can your own! You must invest in the jars and good-quality oil, but it is worth it for the superior taste and nutrition of using local tomatoes, and you can re-use jars forever.

All you need is some wire racks, an oven, and some time. If you have the oven on anyways, to make a roast or cookies, or perhaps to heat the house in the chill of autumn, this is the perfect project. This oven heat is conducive to drying many things, so you could also make a platter of dried apples or sweet potato chips at the same time.

There is some debate over the safety of dried tomatoes and botulism risk. It is possible that small droplets of water may stay inside the tomato and provide a medium for botulism or bacterium to grow. Obviously read up on facts and use your own best judgment when deciding whether to refrigerate, process, freeze, or store at room temperature. This article is not advice, just what I chose to do in my own kitchen with my own produce.

Ingredients:

  • 40-50 tomatoes, Roma are the best for drying
  • 2 wire racks (cookie sheets work too, you’ll just have to flip them halfway to make sure they dry on all sides)
  • 2-3 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-3 canning jars, lids, & rings

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Step 1: Cut the tops & cores out of the tomatoes, slice them in half, and push out as many seeds as you can with your fingers or a knife. Save the seeds for planting, drink them, use in a soup, or compost.

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Step 2: Place the tomato halves on a wire rack or baking sheet, cut side up, and put into the oven at 200 degrees. Crack the door open if  you don’t mind the heat to allow more air circulation. Let them dry for 1 hour, then flip them if using baking sheets and check the dryness levels.

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Step 3: Take the completely dry tomatoes and begin packing them into sterile mason jars. The tomatoes are ready if they are rubbery with absolutely no water when squeezed, but you don’t want them so dry they are crunchy with no give. If you choose to use a vinegar dip, use tongs to dip each tomato prior to placing in a sterilized jar.

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Step 4: Pour in olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Make sure they are completely covered. If you feel okay with it, you can now store your tomatoes this way in a dark cabinet, or in the refrigerator.

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You may also choose to water-bath or pressure can your jars at this point. Totally up to you.

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These little jars will store for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and potentially up to a year in the cupboard if processed. They make lovely presents, if you can bring yourself to part with them. I recommend putting them somewhere easily accessible as you are likely to want to use them all up within days.

For ideas on how to use these, start here:

Check it out on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350506783478334749/
Check it out on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350506783478334749/

Barley & Kale Veggie Salad

 

Fall is the time for bumper crops of kale. As the current “It” vegetable, we know all about how healthy kale is for you. But even though kale chips are amazing, sauteed kale in greens makes a great side dish, and Zuppa Toscana is a definite crowd-pleasing soup, sometimes you need a new way to enjoy this power green. If you like light, fresh, great-cold-or-room-temp dishes, this baby’s a winner!

I’ve been meaning to try more grain and veggie salads, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Kale is on sale for 0.99 per bunch, organic! You can’t pass up that kind of deal. So with a fridge full of kale and a hankering for something new, I made up this recipe. It turned out fabulous! The combination of tomato and cucumber and onion crunch with the soft cooked barley and fresh kale leaves is really addicting.

The best part about it? It makes a crap-ton, and per 2 cups is under 100 calories! So you can stuff yourself on this all you like and feel good about it. Have it for lunch, as an afternoon snack, before dinner to dull the appetite. There really isn’t a bad time for this.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed, torn and stems removed
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cucumber, rinsed, skin-on, diced
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 

Step 1: Cook the barley in 1 1/2 cups water by bringing to a boil, then lowering to a simmer. Cover, and cook 20-30 minutes, until all water is absorbed and barley is soft. Add more water if needed during cooking. Let cool.

 

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Step 2: Chop all your veggies and place in a large bowl. Mix the oil and vinegars, and salt & pepper if using. Pour over the veggies.

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Step 3: Combine the cooled barley with the veggies and mix well. Now you have a giant side dish, snacks all week, or a super healthy and vegetarian main course.

 

Jambalaya

 

Jambalaya is a Creole dish originally from Louisiana. It’s creation was a combination of French and Spanish influences in the deep South of America, and is closely related to the Spanish paella.

The basis of any Jambalaya is meat(s), vegetables, and rice simmered in some sort of stock. Some versions of Jambalaya add tomatoes for “red Jambalaya”, while others do not and rely on meat drippings for a brownish color. The accepted classic version cooks meat, typically chicken, sausage, and/or shrimp with celery, onions, and bell peppers. Then tomatoes and possibly other vegetables are added, and finally equal parts rice and chicken stock, and simmered until cooked.

According to Wikipedia, “Jambalaya is differentiated from gumbo and étouffée by the way in which the rice is included. In these dishes, the rice is cooked separately and is served as a bed on which the main dish is served. In the usual method of preparing jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood; raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks.”

This dish is absurdly simple to cook, you just need to have the right ingredients and the patience to let them cook slowly so the flavors can develop and meld. I had bought some chicken breast and shrimp on sale, and had two sausages in the freezer, so of course Jambalaya was just begging to be made. It is possible to make a vegetarian Jambalaya, and you can include only one or two of the meats, or any other kind you prefer; the basic recipe and method is the same.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sausages, sliced
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup shrimp, deveined
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup white or brown rice
  • 2 tbsp Cajun/creole spices if you have it
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies

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Step 1: Dice up the celery, peppers, and onion and put in a pot with a few tbsp butter. Saute until soft.

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Step 2: Add in the meats, cover and let cook until the shrimp is fully pink, the sausage is browned, and the chicken is completely white.

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Step 3: Add in spices and canned tomatoes, simmer covered for 5-10 minutes.

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Step 4: Add 1 cup raw rice and 1 cup chicken stock, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes. When the rice is cooked, it’s ready.

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Jambalaya is a filling, delicious meal with complex flavors from all the various vegetables and meats cooking together.

You can shorten cook time by cooking the rice separately and pouring the red jambalaya over the rice. This dish can also be made in a slow cooker to save you time. Just add all the ingredients, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. The end result should be similar.

Ratatouille niçoise

There are several recipes or types of food which I’ve heard of, tried, or seen but have not yet tried to cook myself. One of those is ratatouille. The 2007 Disney movie brought the dish into the main stream consciousness with its adorable main character, Remy, a rat who just wanted to be a great chef. Ever since then it’s been in the back of my mind as a ‘make this someday’ dish.

Ratatouille the dish is traditionally a French dish consisting of stewed vegetables. It originated in the French province of Nice, and comes from the Occitan language “ratatolha” and the French word “touiller” meaning to toss food. There are similar dishes in many other cuisines, including the Catalan samfaina, the Majorcan tombet, the Spanish pisto, the Italian caponata, Greek tourloú, and Filipino pinkabet. French chef Michel Guérard came up with a new version called Confit byaldi for the Disney movie. It can be served as a side dish, or made a whole meal when served over rice.

In my version, I pulled together several variations, and used what I had available in my kitchen. I had planned on a potato leek soup sometime this week, but silly me had only bought one leek, so into the ratatouille it went. While I’m at it, I’ll throw the potato in there too. Oh, and a single turnip I had bought for who knows what reason. Also I had no fresh tomatoes, but my pantry is never without a can of diced tomatoes.



Ingredients:
3 zucchini (I just happened to have three different colors, so at least it’ll look pretty)
1 turnip
1 potato
1 leek
1/2 red onion
3 large bulbs garlic
1 leek
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 green bell pepper, sliced

Step 1: Slice the onion into thin strips, dice up the garlic, and slice the leek. Add them and the bell pepper to a frying pan on low with the butter and cover.

Let that cook and caramelize, stirring occasionally, while you preheat the oven to 350 and proceed to the next step. 

Step 2: Slice the zucchini into thin coins. Peel and slice the potato and turnip as well.

 Step 3: Layer the potato, turnip, and zucchini in a casserole pan.

Step 3: To the pan add the can of diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then pour over the vegetables in the casserole dish.

Step 4: Cover in foil and bake at 350 for 45 min to an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the slices are soft when poked with a fork.

I also took the foil off after 45 minutes and let it bake another 15 minutes to evaporate some of the juices. You can now serve it over rice or couscous, with fresh crusty bread, and/or sprinkle on some mozzarella. Deliciously vegetarian and very low fat and low calorie. Bake up a batch, put on the Ratatouille movie or some classic Julia Child and enjoy!

If you have a favorite French recipe, anecdote of your trip Paris or first year of chef school, or a story of attempting a French recipe that ended unfortunately, please share here!

Spaghetti squash ‘pasta’ with Turkey Meatballs and Tomato-Chickpea Sauce

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I had bought a spaghetti squash a few days ago, and finally got around to making it. I was not sure what to make with it, so I went with the “spaghetti” theme and made turkey meatballs and a tomato-chickpea sauce. Like real pasta only tons more fiber and quite delicious!

Ingredients:
Spaghetti squash

Sauce:
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, diced
Italian seasonings
1 1/2 cups water/chicken stock

Meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 onion, grated
1/4 cup ketchup
1 egg
1/4 cup blue cheese/parmesan cheese

Step 1: Bake the spaghetti squash face-down for 1 hour at 375 or microwave 10 minutes then bake for 30.

Step 2: Mix all meatball ingredients in a bowl.

Step 3: Cook the chickpeas in a sauce pot for ~5 minutes. Then add the diced tomatoes, water, and seasonings and simmer.

 Step 4: Roll the meatball mix into 1-inch balls and bake on a sprayed cookie sheet for ~10 minutes at 350, or until brown and cooked through. Then add to the simmering sauce.

 

Step 5: When the squash cools, use a fork to pull the strands out.

In a bowl, add the squash, a meatball or two, and pour on some sauce. Enjoy!

Quick & Easy App: Bruschetta

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Bruschetta is one of my favorite appetizers, but it always irritates me how expensive 2 little pieces of bread with the equivalent on 1 tomato on it is. Since I had some homemade bread in the freezer and some tomatoes that needed used, I decided to make my own for cheap!
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Ingredients:
1 long, thin loaf of homemade bread (or 1 loaf Italian or garlic bread)
2 roma tomatoes, diced small
1/4 onion, diced small
Italian seasonings
Garlic salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Nonstick cooking spray
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Step 1: Slice the bread into small, thin pieces
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Step2: Dice up tomatoes & onion very small. In a bowl, combine with seasonings and lemon juice.

Step 3: Sprinkle a healthy tablespoon of topping onto each piece.

Step 4: Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, until crispy on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Serve warm, and try to keep from eating the whole loaf at once!

Creative leftovers: Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese

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The best recipes in my opinion are the ones that either get eaten the first time around, or lead to easy leftover combinations. I hate to see food go to waste, and unfortunately when you’re cooking for only 1 or 2 people that can happen quite often.
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You make something that tastes great the first time, and the second time, but by days 3 and up you are sick of it. So it sits in the back of the fridge, hidden by water bottles and fresher produce until you clean out your fridge tri-monthly and get grossed out by the mold and bacteria on it.
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Therefore I try to cook things which easily lend themselves to meal makovers to dress up the leftovers and make it feel like a whole new meal. So I took some macaroni & cheese I’d made earlier, leftover chicken, and bruchetta topping (since the bread was now mush) and mixed it up for a super-easy, quick & healthy lunch.
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Less wasted food = more money in your pocket = win-win.
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Ingredients:
2 diced roma tomatoes
1/4 white onion, diced small
3-4 oz cooked chicken breast (or meat of choice, or no meat if you prefer)
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Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Microwave on high 1-2 minutes. You can sprinkle with extra cheese, or add any kind of cooked veggies you like. Enjoy!