I Love Tomatoes


Busy, busy, busy!  September, and yes, everyone that I speak to is just in awe as to how quickly August just seem to come and go and now with September just a memory, it just is so unbelievable. But it seems many people, young and old, seem to feel the same way. Actually I am  relieved to hear that, because I thought it was just me and it was a little scary. The month of September means that Summer is ending an in years past September was always vacation month for us when we were empty nesters and was always fun and relaxing. This year unfortunately it has been a very busy month for me and I have spent many days in the kitchen developing recipes for the many, many tomatoes  that I have harvested from my garden an the generous offerings of all the beautiful tomatoes from my son-in-laws garden. Actually, I have been roasting tomatoes for a few weeks now and my house reeks from the garlic and spices from a pungent and robust tomato sauce.  So much so, when a woman walking her dog stopped to chat when I was at my mailbox, suggested that it smelled like a pizza parlor-although I do not believe anyone uses that description anymore as most Italian restaurants that serve pizza also serve a variety of Italian foods derived from tomatoes. Many years ago I read this quote in a magazine “Tomatoes are like your best friend because they are strong, yet tender and will fit in anywhere.” How right that is, because I have conjured up so many recipes using tomatoes from soup to desserts.


It was brutal working in the garden enduring  the 90 degrees temperatures in late August and early September, but very comfortable, even with the oven going all day in the kitchen.  I am kind of a renegade when it comes to adjusting the thermostat on the air condioning,  but I realized that it might be too cold when my granddaughter, who was visiting asked for a blanket!


Yes,  this update is a little overdue and I am still working on the recipes for it and as I have said many times before, all the food photos that you see on my site are actually my dinners.  So, as not to eat tomatoes everyday because according to many health professionals, it is best to be diversified when it comes to serving meals. Example: A left over dinner made on Monday would not be served until Wednesday or Thursday. Just as  not enough of a good thing is unhealthy, too much of a good thing can be unhealthy as well, and with tomatoes, you would be ingesting more acid, and chances are your digestive system could not handle it, resulting in heart burn and many other digestive problems. My rule has always been to dispose of a refrigerated meal, if not eaten in three days. I guess this idea manifested after viewing comedian George Carlin on television doing a standup on cleaning his refrigerator and not being able to identify a dish that was fuzzy and bright green!  UGH!


Although some of my tomato plants have not come to fruition as yet, due to the fact that I was late planting this year because of the cold weather in May and June, I did pick my first tomato a few weeks ago, and the plants still have several green tomatoes on them. Usually I plant my garden on Memorial Day and I am harvesting my vegetables in August.  It looks like before I start working on my apple and pumpkin recipes I will be roasting tomatoes for awhile. However my herbs and especially my basil, rosemary, parsley, tarragon, thyme, lemon thyme, oregano and all my flavored mints have flourished and I am excited to start working with them. Although, I have already made several containers of various blends of pesto from my basil, that I stored in the freezer,  but unfortunately I used 3 containers already experimenting with several recipes. You will find more about pesto and the basic procedure for making the pesto by clicking on All Post at the top of the page and clicking on the October 16, 2017 post entitled Tomatoes,Tomatoes,Tomatoes!



THE FIRST TOMATO TO COME TO FRUITION IN MY GARDEN-LAST YEARS TOMATOES WERE  MUCH LARGER, THE WEATHER DID NOT CO-OPERATE THIS YEAR. 


My son- in- law has a beautiful garden that is very productive and he always shares his bounty with me, which I sincerely appreciate and for the past two weeks he has shared shopping bags of all species of tomatoes, which he grows from the seeds of his previous crops.  These tomatoes are so delicious and because tomatoes should never be refrigerated unless they are cooked or included in a recipe for sauce or salad , there are bowls and containers of tomatoes all over my counters. Although the one thing that I did not know, an I confess because I am guilty of it, is to place a tomato on a sunny window sill to ripen. Instead the tomato should be placed in a paper bag and left on the counter to ripen. I always have used this method for other fruits and vegetables, but I knew tomato plants like sun, and  the window sill would be the likely place to ripen them, although the article stressed that it depletes the vitamins and taste.


Many cooks and nutritionist agree that even some seasonal commercial tomatoes are not the tomatoes of years ago because they are bred for looks, not taste.  It has been suggested that when fresh tomatoes are not available from your garden or from a local farm, that it is best to use canned tomatoes that are picked and processed at their peak of freshness and folks that is why I have been roasting, pureeing, straining and making tomato sauce for my freezer for a few weeks and after my son in laws latest delivery, I will be cooking for 2 more weeks.



It certainly has been fun and of course experimenting with all the different vegetables trying out new ideas and putting a spin on some old time and true recipes. Some were great and some not so great. But of course I will only share what my taster and I thought would pass the DELISH TEST!


My photos depict some of the recipes that I prepared these past month, and there were many. It was obvious that I couldn’t share them all, so I selected the tomato recipes that were less time consuming, easy to prepare and pretty tasty and also to take a few minutes to refresh your memory on the nutritional benefits that tomatoes provide.  


Just one medium tomato supplies your body with 35 calories, 7g of carbohydrates, 1 g of protein and fiber, only .1g fat, 2o% of the DV for vitamin A and 40% vitamin C and 2% for calcium and iron.  Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium. Tomatoes are also a major source of lycopene an antioxidant and anti cancer agent, especially important for men to protect them from prostate cancer and is said to be more powerful when cooked-think tomato sauce.  In addition tomatoes have been shown to possibly reduce the incidence of pancreatic and cervical cancer.





Insalata Caprese


Most Caprese Salads are usually served individually with layered ingredients, such as tomatoes, red onion or cucumber and sliced mozzarella cheese with oil and vinegar and chopped fresh basil.  I made a individual Caprese Salad and a chopped Caprese Salad.


Individual Caprese Salads

Basil Leaves

Tomatoes, sliced

Red onions, sliced

Cucumbers, sliced

Mozzarella Cheese, shaved*

Italian Seasoning, optional

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Salt and Pepper

*I use a potato peeler to shave a fresh ball of mozzarella cheese.


I have not added amounts to the ingredient list as the number of salads you are making will determine the amount. Slice the vegetables in ½ inch slices and the mozzarella cheese into ¼ inch slices.  I layer the basil leaves, tomatoes, red onion and cucumber and mozzarella cheese-personally did not use the red onion in the photo of the salad above-on a elongated serving dish. Sprinkle with a non-salt Italian Seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash, and the salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste over the salad. This dish can be served as a meal with a hearty Italian bread and perhap with olive oil poured over fresh basil leaves or a small amount of shredded garlic, for dipping.



Chop, Chop Caprese Salad


Basil leaves, chopped

Small red and yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Cucumbers, sliced and cut into 4 pieces

Red onion, diced

Mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks

Black pitted olives

Salt and pepper


Olive Oil and balsamic vinegar

Or Italian dressing


Toss vegetables together add salt and pepper, sprinkle of Italian seasoning,  Splash olive oil and balsamic vinegar or Italian dressing to taste.


Roasted Tomatoes


I have used the roasted tomatoes for several recipes and therefore to eliminate space, I suggest that you go to the top of this page, when you have time, and click on All Post and then click on September 2017 where you will find the guidelines for seasoning and roasting the tomatoes and the recipe for the tomato sauce.  



Mediterranean Chicken/Vegetable Sheet Pan Dinner-serves 4


4         boneless skinless chicken breast

16      Yukon Gold Baby Potatoes-4 per serving, cut in half

16       cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½  c  . extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp.  dried oregano, garlic powder, basil,onion powder and a dash of salt and pepper

            Feta cheese and black pitted olives, optional


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Prepare sheet pan with foil and smooth foil.  Mix spices with the Olive oil and add to a medium bowl.  Brush chicken on both sides with the olive oil mixture and add tomatoes and potatoes to bowl and toss with the olive oil mixture until thoroughly covered. May need to make more mixture depending on size of vegetables.  Spread chicken and vegetables on sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes.


Open oven and pull pan out and turn chicken over and continue to cook for 15 min or until chicken registers 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer-chicken will continue to cook to 170 degrees when removed from oven. For an added flavor addition. Sprinkle with feta cheese and black pitted olives and place back in oven until cheese begins to melt.




Chicken/Eggplant Parmesan with Roasted Tomato Sauce


6             boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to even thickness

2-3         Orlando eggplant-orlando eggplant is a slimmer elongated plant             

2 c.          Panko Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs          

1 c.          flour

3              eggs, beaten

                 salt and pepper

                 Roasted Tomato Sauce

                 parmesan cheese

                 mozzarella cheese, shaved


Work with the eggplant first for food safety.  Peel eggplant and slice vertically into ½ inch slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Beat eggs in a shallow dish and set aside. Place Panko crumbs in a flat dish and set aside.  Place flour in a strainer and sprinkle over slices on both sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dip the coated eggplant in the beaten egg and into the panko crumbs. Set aside.


Pound chicken breast between waxed paper on a cutting board until approximately ½ inch thick and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Follow procedure above for preparing the chicken. Set aside.


The eggplant and the chicken can be lightly browned in oil or oven fried.  To brown on stovetop, add ½ to ¾ cup of oil to a large skillet and heat until a drop of water sizzles.  Brown the eggplant first and drain on a paper towel lined sheet pan. Proceed with browning the chicken and place on sheet pan as well.  May have to add more oil to skillet.


If you prefer to brown the eggplant and chicken in the oven, spray a sheet pan with cooking spray, add the eggplant and chicken and spray them lightly.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, And place the sheet pan in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.


Cover the bottom of a 9 x 15 baking dish with the Roasted Tomato Sauce.  Add the browned eggplant on top of the sauce, sprinkle with the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Place the browned chicken on top of the eggplant and again add the sauce an cheeses.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken registers 365 Degrees F on a meat thermometer. Chicken will continue to cook while cooling to 370 degrees F.


Margherita Flatbread Pizza





While food shopping I discovered a new item in the bakery section called Flatout Artisan Thin Pizza Crust.  The package contained 6 paper thin flatbread pieces and were described as Rustic White Pizza Crust. They are Weight Watcher approved and are listed as 4 points. The crust are rectangular and are about 11 ½ inches long.  I was very satisfied with eating only a half of the sheet, which means it was 2 points, whatever that means, of course the count does not include the toppings and there are all kinds of suggestions pictured on the package.  


1           Flatout Pizza crust

2           medium tomatoes, sliced

              salt and pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp.  Italian dressing

1 Tbsp.  basil, chopped

              sprinkles of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, to taste


Prebake crust (only) 2 minutes.  Add topping and bake again for 4 more minutes or until cheese is melted.  Honestly, it was very good, I enjoyed it.




Stuffed Tomatoes


Use large firm tomatoes for the following recipes and remember there are numerous stuffings that you can create for this delicious way to enjoy a beautiful healthy tomato, choices are endless and they can be made with cold and hot fillings.  The preparation is quite simple-Wash and dry tomato and slice off top. Scoop out the seeds and remove some flesh to make a large enough opening for filling. Place on dish cut side down to drain. Now you are ready for the stuffing.



Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomato


1  tin       White tuna in water

¼ c.        celery, chopped

1 Tbsp.  lemon juice

¼ c.        Dill pickle relish

¼ c.        mayonnaise

¼ c.        Greek yogurt

               salt and pepper, to taste


Mix all ingredients and stuff  tomato. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Chill before serving. This recipe made 3 medium stuffed tomatoes.



Egg Salad Stuffed Tomato


3            boiled eggs

¼ c.       mayonnaise

¼ c.       Greek yogurt

1           dill pickle, diced

             salt and pepper, to taste

             sprinkle of chopped parsley


Mix all ingredients and stuff tomatoes.  This stuffed three medium tomatoes.



Baked Spinach/Couscous Stuffed Tomato 



½ cup   boiling water

4            medium tomatoes, prepared

1 c.        Couscous

1             10 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed

1/2 c.     tomato, diced-may use trimmings from prepared tomatoes

                Parmesan

               Mozzarella cheese, grated and divided

               salt and pepper, to taste

               sprig of basil



Preheat oven to  350 degrees F.       

Place couscous in a large bowl and pour the ½ cup of boiling water over the couscous and cover with foil or waxed paper-soak until water is absorbed.


Prepare tomatoes as in previous recipe.  Add remaining ingredients to the couscous in the bowl, mix gently and stuff tomatoes. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  SO GOOD!



CREATIVE CORNER

 

I am utilizing the Creative Corner space to share some highlights from my trip to West Virginia a few weeks ago to attend my grandson's wedding-that was the other reason that this update is so late. Of course like most people we were glued to the Weather Channel tracking hurricane Florence. Finally on Thursday we decided that we would make the trip, so we left at 6:00 AM on Friday and surprisingly  we had a very smooth and pleasant trip. Of course I have to credit the driver, my son, who is a retired policeman. I always enjoy driving with my son and daughter-in law, I always feel safe and the banter between my daughter-in-law keeps me laughing! Of course it was wonderful that we were able to make the wedding, but my heart goes out to all the people facing all the hardships caused by  hurricane Florence.-The wedding was on September 15 and the venue was at the the Stone Manor Inn-an old manor home of Virginia at the base of a beautiful mountain.  Stone Manor Inn is known for its rich collection of stained glass windows and beautiful antiques as well as the beautiful gardens.


The actual wedding ritual took place in what is called the Woodland Glen, an actual cove with beautiful benches made out of trees.  It was beautiful with birds singing and nature all around you. Our hotel was 40 miles away and the ride to the Inn was breathtaking viewing the beautiful mountains and green pastures which brought memories of John Denver’s song Take Me Home Country Roads which depicted the rolling mountains of West Virginia.  Although it was said that John Denver had never been to West Virginia.


                

THE BEAUTIFUL BRIDE AND HER HANDSOME HUSBAND-CONGRATULATIONS!


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Disclaimer-HealthyCookingForToday is to supply my readers with timely medical information and suggestions for healthier food choices and recipes and is not intended to give medical advice, which should be obtained from your personal physician.