What to do with…Tomatoes

tomatoMorning World!

Today we’re going to talk about the terrific TOMATO.

♣ Believed to benefit the heart along with other organs, they contain one of the most powerful, natural antioxidants, carotene lycopene, and has been found to help prevent prostate cancer, especially cooked tomatoes.  They are also good sources of vitamins A, C and E along with potassium.

♣ Botanically, the tomato is a fruit, but is considered a vegetable for most culinary uses.

♣ There are many varieties of tomato:

Standard ~ the ‘normal’ tomato, spherical in shape and around an inch to an inch and a half in diameter.

Beefsteak ~ a large version of the normal tomato. Because of their large size, these tomato varieties take longer to mature and ripen so really do not do well except in a greenhouse.

Cherry ~ just a small version of the normal tomato, often marble sized. Often from dwarf bush types.

Plum ~ the firm fleshed oval shaped fruit you find in Italian canned tomatoes. Tend to have been bred to store well as bottled or canned and they freeze well.

Baby Plum ~ another small version, but of the plum tomato.

♣ Tomatoes also come in a range of colors, varying from green to yellow to orange to deep red.

♣ As tomatoes are a sub-tropical fruit and dislike the cold, they should be stored at room temperature.  Remove any packaging and place in your fruit bowl.  Storing them in the fridge impairs natural ripening and flavor.  Over-ripe tomatoes will go soft even more quickly in the refrigerator.

A BEAUTY HINT: Tomato pulp is very good for the skin. It refreshes, tones and aids circulation and will restore acidity to the face after cleansing. To make a tomato face pack, make a paste by mixing tomato pulp with yoghurt. Apply to the face and leave for 10-15 minutes, then wash off.

♣ To ripen home-grown tomatoes, place them in a paper bag with a ripe tomato and keep at room temperature.

♣ Use under-ripe, green tomatoes for making chutney.  Use up over-ripe tomatoes to make soups or sauces which can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

♣ To skin tomatoes, score an ‘X’ on the bottom and place tomatoes into boiling water for 15-30 seconds.  Remove and let cool enough to handle them.  The skin should come off easily.

Sun Driwd Tomatoes♣ Make your own ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes by sprinkling equal amounts of superfine/caster sugar and salt over halved tomatoes. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet and cook in the oven on a low heat for two and a half hours or until most of the liquid has dried out.

♣ A squeeze of lemon will remove the metallic taste from canned tomatoes.

Tomatoes can be eaten raw or cooked, used in stews and sauces and made into puree and ketchup, just to name a few.

I often make a quick and tasty tomato salad.  Chop a tomato into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle with a little dried basil and/or oregano and salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic and toss and eat.  Delicious!  Feel free to add some chopped cucumber also.  You can even put this mixture on top of toasted sliced Italian bread for some yummy bruschetta.

Want to make your own tomato sauce?  It’s easy and only takes 90 minutes of cooking time once it’s all thrown together.  You can find my recipe here on Food.com, (formerly Recipezaar) a recipe site I used to be on.  This sauce can be used on anything from pasta to pizza.

Canned tomatoes are an essential store cupboard staple in my book.  Add to chili, make a salsa or even a quick pasta sauce.  Braise chicken breasts in canned tomatoes with some onion and mushroom and seasonings.  Add to stews or make tomato soup!

There is so much that can be done with tomatoes.

Come on readers, what do you do with tomatoes?  Please share!

  Terri  

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Eggplant Lasagna

Happy New Year all!

A few days before Christmas we received a box of foodie goods from my brother and sis-in-law.  We have been receiving a box of goodies from them for three years running now and if you’d like to see a sampling of what we got last year, you can check here.

We got most of the same stuff but a few different things, including a giant eggplant.  On the same day that this box arrived, Chef P and I had been in London at Borough Market and picked up a selection of fresh veg, cheeses and charcuterie.  Needless to say, we were loaded down with lots of food!  We’ve been trying to use as much of it as possible because as you know, we hate to waste food, especially really good, tasty foods as what we have.  We didn’t do pizza last Friday so we did pizza last Sunday…gourmet pizza!  We used the Italian salami we got at the market, including capicola, prosciutto, and fennel salami, smoked garlic (from the market), and fresh mozzarella (from the ‘box’), along with fresh basil and oregano, also from the ‘box’.

Also in the ‘box’ was the huge eggplant I mentioned above.  I had bought some ricotta cheese to use for our Christmas Cheer evening, but I didn’t get around to making what I was going to.  So I was thinking….I had eggplant, ricotta, mozzarella, fresh basil and oregano and all I needed was some homemade tomato sauce for the making of some eggplant lasagna…yum!

This is one of those recipes that you can just throw together without the problem of measuring anything, although I’ve given some to help you out a bit.  If you want to use a jarred sauce, please feel free, but you have to admit, home made is ALWAYS best.  I’ve given the recipe I use for the homemade sauce should you feel inspired to make your own.  It’s easy peasy to do, but does take about 90 minutes to cook, so get this started while you take on the other parts.

EGGPLANT LASAGNA

Sauce:

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, torn or 1 tsp dried
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano or fresh if you have it
  • 28oz/800g canned chopped tomatoes
  • salt, about 1/2 tsp or to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar

In a large saucepan, fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, cover and bring to the boil.  Stir and reduce heat to low and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant, thinly sliced about the thickness of a pound coin or a bit thicker than a quarter)
  • salt
  • 18oz/500g ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp (or more) grated Parmesan
  • 8oz/225g mozzarella, grated or sliced (I used buffalo mozzarella and just tore pieces off)

Preheat oven to 180°c/350°f.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, egg and grated Parmesan and set aside.

Drizzle olive oil over two large baking sheets.  Place the slices of eggplant on the baking sheets in a single layer then drizzle over some more olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.  Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
Remove and leave to sit until the sauce is done.

When the sauce is done, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary and remove from heat.  Put one large ladle of sauce into the ricotta mixture and stir to combine.

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Using a baking dish about 6″X9″ or roughly that size, put a ladle of sauce in the bottom, then a layer of eggplant.  Put about 3-4 spoonfuls of ricotta mix on top and spread over.  Then put another layer of sauce, eggplant and ricotta and repeat until all is used, ending with a layer of sauce.

Spread the mozzarella over the top to cover and place the baking dish on a baking sheet.  I do this in case it bubbles over and it’s better that it bubbles over on the pan rather than on the bottom of your oven!

You can leave it to sit at this point until you’re ready to bake it.  If you start to get some water on the sides of the dish (from the tomatoes), just soak it up with a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 180°c/350°f.  Bake for 45-60 minutes until golden and bubbly.  Remove from oven and leave to rest about 10-15 minutes before serving.

(Sorry, I do not have an ‘after baking’ photo as I forgot to take one!)

Enjoy!

♥  Terri  ♥

Save Money ~ Cook it Yourself!

As most of you know, Chef P and I are avid fans of getting things…on sale…cheap…for a bargain…in the reduced to clear section….well, you get the picture.

Most nights on his way home, Chef P stops at the store to get various items that I may request him to get which also gives him a chance to check out the reduced to clear section (RTC).  Usually by the time he gets there, the produce items have been lowered in price to a pretty good bargain.  He’s gotten packs of fresh herbs for 10p, a pack of chestnut mushrooms for 26p, leeks for 30p, etc.

It really makes me wonder why more people don’t shop this way; they could save money and still eat in a healthy way.  Yes, the items are on their last sale date, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used a day or two later.

I decided to make a chicken stir fry for dinner so pulled out a couple of chicken boobs from the freezer this morning.  Unfortunately, the chicken was not an RTC item, but it was still reasonably priced.  I checked the fridge to see what we had in the way of veggies and pulled out a few items: Chestnut Mushrooms, Fresh Coriander, Spring Onions, Chinese Leaf, Baby Cabbage and Choi Sum (a Chinese spinach).  With the exception of the spring onions, all of these items were purchased from RTC.  I decided to keep track of what it cost to make dinner for the two of us.

I cut up all the veggies and the chicken along with some garlic, fresh ginger (another RTC item) and a chili pepper.  I also made a sauce using a mixture of fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and sugar and corn flour to thicken.

The veggies cost a grand total of £1.32

The chicken cost a grand total of £2.00

I estimated the garlic/ginger/chili at a total of £0.12

The sauce ingredients and cornflour, again an estimate of about £0.30

This brings the total of dinner to £3.77, not including the rice, which I estimate at about 10p as we bought a 10kg/22lbs. bag on the RTC and that was only £5.45.

****NEWS FLASH****NEWS FLASH****NEWS FLASH****

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you this update…

Chef P has just arrived home with a bag of goodies from the RTC.  Let’s see what he got:

4 peaches @ .55p (originally £2.47)

2 mangoes @ .32p (originally £1.50)

2 bags sugar snap peas @ .25p ea. (originally £1.00)

1/2 swede (1kg!) @ .25p (originally £0.86)

1 container low fat lemon & coriander hummus @ .30p (originally £1.00)

So instead of paying £7.83, he paid £1.98…how could you possibly go wrong??

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program…..

So we’re eating a Chinese meal full of healthy veggies and chicken, no MSG and no added salt, other than what’s in the soy sauce, etc.  When you order a take away/take out, you have no idea what’s in there.  It’s probably loaded with MSG and salt and who knows what else.

So think twice before you pick up that phone to order out.

♥ Terri  ♥♥

Italian Chicken

Hello Boy and Girls!

I know I haven’t been around for a bit, but we’ve been under a lot of water here in this part of the world and by that I mean we’ve had enough rain over the past couple of weeks to float Noah’s Ark!  Now you’re probably saying to yourself, ‘Self, if it’s been raining, why would that stop her from being on the computer?’  Well you know what, that’s a really good question and I guess I’m just using it as a good starter subject for today’s post!

Even though it’s been a deluge here, I still have been keeping myself busy; I do have a house to keep clean you know!  One day I had to go to the dentist to get a chipped tooth fixed and another day I had a mechanic here to fix the washing machine.  Chef P took off on Friday so we just had a three-day weekend and tried to get things done that needed be, but the rain did put a bit of a ‘damper’ on things!

Amazingly today, it stopped raining about 9:30 this morning and it’s been dry ever since (it’s now after 4:00), but we’re supposed to get a little more rain later.

I made a nice chicken dish the other night that I haven’t made in some time and thought I’d post it here.  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures again (another brain fart!) so you’ll just have to imagine what it looks like!

It uses chicken legs and thighs with the skin removed, so would be OK for SBD Phase 3 or an occasional meal for Phase 2.  You could probably use boneless, skinless breasts too.  This is also a NO FAT ADDED recipe.

~~ITALIAN CHICKEN~~

Serves 2 ** Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F

SAUCE

1 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

1 tsp chili flakes

1 tsp each basil and parsley

1/2 tsp each oregano and salt

black pepper

1/4 C white wine

VEGETABLES

1 each red and green bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 red onion, chopped

6 mushrooms, roughly chopped

4 chicken legs or thighs, or combination, skin removed

METHOD

Mix the first eight items (sauce ingredients) in a medium bowl.

Combine the vegetables in the roasting pan and pour the sauce over and stir to mix well.

Cover with foil and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, remove foil.  Give the mixture a stir and lay chicken pieces on top.  Cover again with foil and return to oven for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, remove foil.  Turn chicken over and return to oven, uncovered.  Cook for an additional 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.

Serve with brown rice.

Enjoy!

♥ Terri  ♥♥

Chicken w/Roast Peppers & Olives for South Beach Diet

Good Day Dearest Blog Readers!

Boy, has this seemed like a long week.  I feel like today should be Friday instead of Thursday…wishful thinking.  Maybe I’m just hoping that we would have been having pizza tonight, but that will have to wait until tomorrow night.

Tonight I’m going to make something with shrimp/prawns; don’t know what I’ll do with them yet, but I’ll come up with something.

A couple of nights ago, I made another recipe from the 101 Fantastic GI Recipes book.  As I said in a previous post, I’ve really enjoyed all the recipes I’ve made so far and this one is no different.

I actually made it as printed (for a change!) with the exception that I halved some of the ingredients in the recipe as this serves four and we’re only two. I used the same measurements on the onion and garlic and puree…oh yeah, and I added some sliced mushrooms.  OK, so maybe I didn’t quite make it as printed…you can’t blame a girl for trying!  Besides, veggies are good for you!

(I must apologise again as I forgot to take pictures…doh!)

~~CHICKEN WITH ROASTED PEPPERS AND OLIVES~~

4 red bell peppers (or any other color you might have will also work)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 X 400g (14oz) cans chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp tomato puree/paste

4 Tbsp white wine

10 black olives, sliced in half

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into strips

salt and freshly ground black pepper

fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Preheat your grill/broiler.  Cut the peppers in half, deseed them, cut out the white membrane and cut the halves into 2 or 3 strips each.  Place the strips skin side up on a lightly oiled baking sheet and put under the grill for about 20-30 minutes, until blackened all over.  You may have to move them around once in awhile to get them black all over.  Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap/cling film and leave to cool.  Once cooled, peel the blackened skin off the strips and cut into large chunks. (this step can be done early in the day or even the day before and left in the fridge until ready to use)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for about 5-7 minutes until translucent.  Add the garlic and fry for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, wine and olives and simmer gently (uncovered) for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If the sauce becomes too thick, stir in a bit of water.

Stir the roasted pepper chunks into the sauce and season with salt and plenty of black pepper.

Add the chicken breast strips, submerging them into the sauce, then cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Scatter with the fresh basil and serve with brown rice.

Enjoy!

Salmon Cakes

We don’t normally have fish two nights in a row, but it’s what I took out of the freezer this morning.  I’m using the meat from the salmon we got a couple of weeks ago.  After cutting it up into fillets, I boil the rest of it (head, bones, tail, etc.) and then pick out the meat and freeze it to use for fish cakes.

Even though this is a recipe I’ve made a few times, when I just put the cakes together, I realized I didn’t read the recipe through like I should have because I forgot that I was supposed to saute the onions and celery BEFORE mixing with the other ingredients, so I’ve put raw shallots (in lieu of onions) and celery in the mix.  Hopefully they will soften a bit when I cook the cakes.

I like this recipe because it doesn’t contain any potatoes although it does have some cracker crumbs.  When I eat a fish cake, that’s what I want; not a fish and potato cake.  Many of the recipes I see for fish cakes seem to have more potato than fish!  This recipe also fits in to the South Beach Diet (Phase 2) if you use whole wheat crackers.

~~SAVORY SALMON CAKES~~

Serves 4 – Chill time 20 minutes or until needed

2 tsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped OR 1 shallot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1/2 C crackers, crushed (saltines, cream crackers, whole wheat crackers, whatever you wish to use)

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

14oz/400g cooked salmon, canned or fresh, skinless and boneless

1 egg

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

3-4 dashes Tabasco sauce or to taste

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 C crackers, crushed, for coating

1 Tbsp olive oil

Tartar Sauce, to serve

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and celery and saute 4 minutes or until tender.

Combine onion mixture in bowl with crackers, mustard, salmon, egg, mayo, lemon juice, sauces and black pepper and combine well.

Divide and shape into 4 large or 8 small patties.  Coat with crackers, place on plate, cover and chill 20 minutes or until needed.

Heat oil in skillet.  Cook patties 6 minutes each side for large patties; 5 minutes each side for small patties until lightly golden and crisp.

Serve with tartar sauce.

 

STORECUPBOARD STAPLES

Lucky for us, our cupboards are NEVER empty.  If anything, they’re probably too full, but it’s a great thing when it comes to cooking up a meal.  We probably have some less common items than most people would have, but those unusual ingredients give our meals that extra something special.

As not everyone wants to be a gourmet cook, here’s some ideas that will help you get more out of your cupboard than just a box of rice!

First of all, organisation is key, especially if you’re short of space.  Use the same method used by supermarkets and stack newer jars and cans behind the older ones so they get used up first.

Can’t see what’s in the back?  Get a step-up shelf or make a list of everything and keep it taped on the inside of the cabinet door.  This will also prevent you from buying items you already have.

Big bags of ground spice might seem economical, but they can go stale very quickly.  Instead, buy whole spices and grind them as needed.  Use a mortar and pestle or get yourself an electric spice grinder or coffee grinder used for spices only.

Store spices (as well as seeds and nuts) in airtight jars to stop them going stale.  Make sure you keep them IN the cabinet as light will make them go off sooner.

Canned tomatoes are probably my number one staple to always have on hand.  There is no need to spend a fortune on them either; the house value brand will do as you’re going to be adding other flavors to them anyway.  However, do experiment and see which you prefer.  There is one house brand that I will not use anymore as I didn’t like them…even after they were doctored up.  I won’t mention the store, but I will say they came in a green and white can.  Canned tomatoes can be used in a range of dishes including pizza toppings, stews and casseroles.

Keep just a few of your favorite pasta shapes.  Sticking to the same shapes and brand means cooking time will be the same and you can combine any opened bags or boxes.

Bags or boxes of rolled oats are much more economical than small pouches for your morning porridge.  They can also be used in your baking including cookies and of course, crumbles.

Store opened packets in sealable plastic containers or do what I do and store them in large empty instant coffee jars (cleaned, of course!) This extends their shelf life and prevents spillage.

Jars of anchovies are good way to add small amounts of protein and flavor to pasta sauces without costing a small fortune.  Capers, gherkins, olives and sun-dried tomatoes are also great for adding interesting flavor to recipes.

Stock up on soy sauce, Tabasco, Worcestershire Sauce and other flavoring sauces.  They help to season your food as well as add flavor and you need only a little, making them a great value.

Keep some bags of ready-to-mix pizza base (or make your own if you’re feeling ambitious) and you’ll never need to call pizza delivery.

There’s probably more things that some people like to keep on hand, so please feel free to share those ideas with the rest of us!

So go check your cupboards and make something delicious tonight!

**************************

Terri’s Tasty Funny….

You know you’re a lousy cook when your husband refers to the smoke alarm as the oven timer!