Early Fall to me is the most beautiful time of the year, it brings with it bright sunshine, but a hint of Fall with chilly mornings and evenings. Nature paints vibrant colors on its foliage, blending together reds, rusts, oranges and yellows in a way that no artist’s palette can compete with. I observe the plants in my garden slowly deteriorating and simply fading away. Yep, and that is the difference between humans and plants. Humans have a brain, common sense, free will and determination and creativity and with these attributes we can strive to keep ourselves healthy, happy and productive.
This month has been very hectic within our family circle, kids going back to school and college, anniversaries, birthday parties, grandson’s engagement, luncheon for my school friends, a house guest and our new baby boy in our growing family was born. I guess that is a good way to say that I am sorry I am late with my update.
I also have been extremely busy harvesting my tomatoes, basil and herbs. By the end of last week, my thoughts were that I would not see another tomato, although come winter I will be enjoying all those wonderful tomato dishes. But I checked today and there are now more than a dozen ripe tomatoes and several green still on the plants. Mind you, all these tomatoes grew on seven hardy plants that my son-in-law starts from seed in his house that I plant in containers. The plants grew so tall and became so laden with the tomatoes that I had to tie the iron trellises to my bench on my small garden patio. I also harvested my basil and made a variety of pestos for my freezer and tomorrow I will be preparing my herbs for drying, that will be used to make my teas and herb blends.
This past few weeks we have had the most extraordinary weather and yes I feel so guilty saying that, knowing the devastating hardships people in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Islands and now this week with hundreds of people suffering such devastating losses of family members and homes caused by the unbelievable wild fires in California. It is so heart breaking and I pray that with the generosity of many, some calm will prevail. Yes, after a few weeks of unseasonal chilly weather, Summer has returned and there has been a rebirth of all my Summer flowers and although some folks have pumpkins and Fall decoration on their property, I cannot phantom yanking out perfectly healthy plants. Although the weatherman did report that seasonal weather will follow this gloomy rainy muggy weather we are experiencing this week.
CREATIVE CORNER-What a treat I have for you today, Lisa Cox from Wyoming, a multi talented and accomplished woman who happens to be a wonderful photographer whose beautiful photos of nature, at its best, just blew me away.
I connected with Lisa on Facebook and asked if I could have her permission to share some of her work on my Healthy Cooking For Today site and Lisa was kind enough to grant me that request-so each month hopefully I will share a seasonal photo to ease into the season and my choice for today is my ever loving beautiful sunflower photo-look closely, do you see the bee gathering nectar?
The sunflower is so active all summer long stretching and stretching as if to reach its namesake “The Sun” and by the fall it stops growing and that is a sure sign that cold weather is on the way. Just the other day, I was surprised to read that sunflowers can grow up to 35 feet. Unfortunately I have a rather shady backyard, so I never have had any luck growing them, so I always purchase a boquet at the market.- If you would like to share your creative endeavor and be featured in the CREATIVE CORNER send a photo and information pertaining to it and contact information if the item is for sale to May@HealthyCookingForToday.com
In My last update I reviewed the instructions for roasting my garden tomatoes, so because some of the recipes were made with the roasted seasoned tomatoes, I am going to review the simple instructions once more because I find that it is such a time saver when preparing the recipes.
Wash and drain and pat dry the tomatoes.
Cut smaller tomatoes in half and larger tomatoes in quarters.
Season with all the spices that you use in your tomato sauce, seasoning such as oregano, Italian seasoning, parsley, salt and pepper etc.
Sprinkle with olive oil and toss tomatoes to distribute the spices and oil.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remember all ovens are different, so check often so tomatoes do not burn and discolor. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are tender
Process the tomatoes in your Vitamix, Magic Bullet or any other type of small appliance that will pulverize the tomatoes into a smooth puree. Strain the tomatoes to remove the seeds and any of the skin that did not incorporate into the puree.
When ready to make pasta sauce, you will saute diced onion and garlic in olive oil-or you can add onion powder with the spices and oil when you roast the tomatoes and just add the diced garlic to the oil and saute until soft. Add 1- 6 ounce can of tomato paste and 1 can water to every 4 cups of roasted tomato sauce you will be using and add the tomato paste and water to the sauteed garlic and cook on low to blend flavors and to reduce and thicken. Add to slow cooker with seasoned roasted tomatoes and a bay leaf or two, stirring well and cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 5-6 hours. Or you can cook on low on the stove , stirring often to desired consistency. I do like to check taste halfway through cooking time to see if any additional seasoning may be needed.
Mother Nature has been so kind to our plants this year and after a bumper crop, our plants still have not stopped producing. With the last batch that I prepared I have made about 6 quarts of sauce and I still have a long way to go. Unfortunately I have used quite a bit for this update and for a company dish I made last week. I also have about seven containers of various pestos in the freezer and there is still some basil to be picked. My son-in-law shared some Italian red banana peppers and tomorrow I plan to make a red pepper basil pesto. Pesto is so delicious on tortellini and many other wonderful dishes, and it only takes minutes to make. The processor does all the work after you just eyeball what ever ingredients you are using. For instance, tomorrow I will add to the processor bowl the basil, some parsley, the seeded diced red peppers, the diced garlic, some parmesan cheese, some pine nuts or whatever nuts I have, freshly ground black pepper and turn on the processor and pulse a few times and add the olive oil and pulse to blend and by the time I pour my coffee, the pesto is done.
We probably all know all the nutritional benefits of eating tomatoes, by now, but it doesn’t hurt to review them-one medium tomato contains 35 calories, 7 gr of carbohydrates, 1 g each of protein and dietary fiber .5 g of fat, 20 % of the DV for vitamin A, 4o % for vitamin C, and 2% each of calcium and iron. And also a good source of potassium 360mg-Oops did someone say that they do not eat carbs? Please, educate yourself on the difference between Simple Carbs and Complex Carbs. I actually shake when I hear that statement.
It has been well documented that tomatoes contain within them many health benefits for both men and women. For women tomatoes help with anti aging and to keep your skin as well as your hair and nails from becoming dry so it is important for you to get enough vitamin A and vitamin C. Tomatoes also have been know to reduce the onset of cervical and pancreatic cancer.
For men, you also can benefit from some of the above advice, but the most important information is that tomatoes are a major source of lycopene when cooked, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to be helpful in preventing prostate cancer.
Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Dippers
1 Tbsp melted butter or Smart Balance
1 Tbsp flour
4 cups seasoned roasted tomato sauce
1 slight teaspoon sugar to cut the acid produced by the tomatoes-optional
In a saucepan melt the butter and add the flour and stir a few seconds to blend. Gradually add the cooled tomato sauce and add the sugar, if using. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for approximately 5 minutes. For a thicker soup increase the butter and flour mixture or to make creamed tomato soup, add 1 cup of milk to the butter flour mixture and blend and slowly add the tomato sauce and cook on low, stirring until thickened.
For the grilled cheese dippers. Simply make a grilled cheese sandwich as you usually do and cut the sandwich into finger like slices for dipping or if you prefer cut the sandwich in cubes and float in soup like croutons. This is so easy and so delicious and as an extra bonus, kids love anything they can dip. I don’t know if it empowers them or they just like to make a mess?
4 to 5 Orlando* eggplant, peeled and sliced vertically into ¼ inch slices
*Orlando eggplant grows vertically and very narrow and mimics lasagna noodles when sliced.
2 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. water
2 ¼ cups Panko Italian Bread Crumbs or add Italian seasoning to plain Panko crumbs, divided
1 15 ounce container Ricotta cheese
1 cup parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
¼ cup seasoned Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, diced, optional-I still have beautiful parsley in my garden
1 Tsp. garlic powder
1 Tsp onion powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
Also you will need for the casserole
4 or more cups homemade roasted tomato sauce
Additional parmesan or Romano cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
Wash and peel eggplant and slice vertically into ¼ inch slices-the next step is always suggested to remove liquid from the eggplant. Lay the slices on a paper towel lined rack placed over the sink and sprinkle the slices with salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Rinse well and proceed with the following directions.
Set up your breading station added flour to bowl #1 and beaten eggs with the water in bowl #2 and in bowl #3 add the breadcrumbs. Using only one hand, leaving the other hand clean, dip eggplant slice in the flour, shaking gently to remove extra flour and dip in egg and then in crumbs.
Brown the eggplant either by oven frying by spraying lightly with cooking spray and placing on a sprayed rack placed on a baking sheet in a 400 degree F. oven turning once until lightly brown.
Or you can add some cooking oil to a skillet and heat until a drop of water bubbles. Brown eggplant lightly turning once. Remove and drain on paper towels. Or like me you can air fry the eggplant in your new air fryer in 15 minutes without any oil. I love it! I will elaborate on it in future updates.
Assemble the lasagna by layering the ingredients in a 13 x 9 baking dish, starting with adding sauce to the dish and evenly spreading it, adding the eggplant as you do lasagna noodles, then comes the cheese more sauce a sprinkle of parmesan or Romano cheese and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Continue to make another layer if you can, if not end with a last layer of eggplant and roasted tomato sauce, grated cheese and mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 350 degrees F. oven for 30 minutes. Honestly this looks like it is tedious, but it is so simple.
Fresh Tomato Chicken Parmesan
4 Skinless boneless chicken breast
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp water
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese-divided
4 Medium fresh tomatoes
Follow directions above for setting up breading station and breading chicken. Brown chicken by using one of the methods described in the above recipe. Also, if increasing the amount of chicken used, increase the amount of all ingredients.
Lightly spray an appropriate size baking dish to accommodate the amount of ingredients used with cooking spray, and add chicken to the dish and top with 4 slices of fresh tomato from each tomato used. Brush tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning and place in oven over 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle Mozzarella cheese on the tomatoes to cover and place in oven for approximately 8 to 10 minutes to continue to cook and to melt cheese. Watch closely!
Spinach Mushroom and Pepper Frittata with Tomato Topping
10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 red banana peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, diced
1 cup Cheddar cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ Tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 large tomatoes. Sliced
Additional Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F.
Microwave spinach according to package directions and place in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to release liquid and set aside. Place oil in a cast iron skillet and heat on low. Add garlic, mushrooms and peppers and saute until soft, making sure that garlic doesn't burn.
In a medium bowl, add the drained spinach and the remaining ingredients with the exception of the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and blend well. Prepare the cast iron skillet by distributing any remaining oil around the sides of the pan. Add the bowls ingredients evenly in the skillet and add the sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. The cast iron skillet’s handle is very hot, use oven mitts when placing it in and removing it from the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven, add mozzarella cheese and cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Watch closely!
As always, be creative and create your own special Frittata, by using what ever kind of left overs that you have in your refrigerator.
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