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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So What’s Been Going On?

Good Day, Dear Reader!

Now I realise I haven’t been around for a few days, (with the exception of the Sunday Song posts) but I’ve been a bit busy having things taken care of around the house here.

I get lots of light coming in from the windows and sky light

First off, all last week I spent giving the kitchen a THOROUGH cleaning.  I have a fairly large kitchen, so it can take a while to get through it all.  On Monday, after cleaning the bathroom in the morning, I started in the kitchen with the upper portion, armed with my stepladder and a wet rag, wiping down the molding that goes all the way around where the wall meets the ceiling, along with the top of the fridge and the top of any cabinets I could reach.  I also got a bit of a workout as I had to keep getting up and down off the stepladder to keep rinsing the rag out. (burn, calories, burn!)

The next day, I tackled the mid section, working on the cabinets, walls and windows and sill and removed everything from the counters (a bit at a time) and wiped everything down…whew!

On Wednesday, I worked on the lower half, did a good vacuuming and sweeping and then a mopping of the floor.  After doing all of that, I didn’t want to mess up my kitchen by having to cook, but alas, I did…

Thursday was taken up by vacuuming the rest of the house and finally getting a bit of a rest afterwards!

Remember me mentioning that the fan oven on my range had broken?  Well the guy was finally here this past Friday to fix it and, yay, it’s fixed!  My only gripe was that he called and said he would be here between 11:00 and 2:00 and didn’t show up until after 2:30!   I can now bake my bread properly again.  It just didn’t seem to be coming out the way it should in the other oven; it wasn’t rising correctly and it wasn’t cooking all the way through…yuck.

Are you still with me, because I’m probably boring the hell out of you!  I’m very sorry, but I don’t have much else to mention right now as I haven’t really baked or cooked anything of great interest lately.  Besides, this blog is about anything and everything that goes on in my kitchen, so why not just talk about cleaning it and posting some pictures of it?

On Monday, we had two of our windows fixed.  One in the bedroom; the handle broke off a while ago and then one in the kitchen; the handle didn’t break off, but it was worn and wouldn’t open.  Now, they’re both fixed and all windows can be opened again!  The kitties don’t have to fight now over who gets the window upstairs. 🙂

Yesterday I finally got back to making things for the market which is a week from Sunday.  Chef P got me some blackberries so I decided to make something different, so made Blackberry Chutney.  You really can’t taste chutney right away to see how it is as it’s one of those things that needs to mature for a bit before you eat it.  Today, I’m in the middle of making Orange Marmalade…

Chef P is taking tomorrow off and we’re heading down to Broadstairs for the Olympic Torch Relay.  It will be going right past Mummy-in-law’s flats, so we’ll be up on her balcony with a great view!  Sorry to say, I’m not that interested in actually watching the Olympics themselves, but watching the torch go by is an historic event and want to be part of it.

So that’s what’s going on right now in Terri’s Kitchen.  I figured a slightly terribly boring post was better than no post at all, right?  (Humor me.)

Foods You (I) Can’t Live Without

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to add it to the fruit salad.

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WHAT FOODS COULD YOU NOT DO WITHOUT?

While perusing other blogs yesterday or the day before, I came across a post with the author listing their top 10 foods they couldn’t do without, and I thought it was a great idea for a post.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember who’s blog it was, so I can’t give credit, sorry!

Olive Oil

The ultimate lubrication for your pots, pans, baking dishes, etc. and it’s healthier than butter!

Garlic

I have only one thing to say…when in doubt, add more garlic.

Onions

There aren’t too many recipes that don’t start with an onion.  They are a staple of the cooking world and add great flavor to any dish.  Come on now, who doesn’t love the smell of fried onions?

Salt & Pepper

The ultimate seasonings.  Even if you have no other herbs or spices, these will always pull through for you.

Lemons

Another versatile food.  The juice is used as an acid and adds tang and gives a clean, fresh taste.  The peel/zest gives a subtle hint of flavor and even works well in a martini!

Chocolate

No woman can survive without chocolate…need I say anymore?

Rolled Oats

Oats can be used for porridge, ground for flour, used as a coating on meats and added to baking.  It is also a low GI food so stabilises the blood sugar.

Potatoes

What’s not to love about potatoes?  Even though they’re somewhat of a no-no on South Beach, it doesn’t mean I don’t eat then on occasion. Whether mashed, dauphinoised, baked, boiled, roasted, fried or au gratined, potatoes are one food that we all love.

Vinegar

From the basic oil and vinegar for a salad, to flavoring for a Thai dipping sauce, vinegar is one that I wouldn’t want to do without.   I love the fact that there are so many flavored vinegars out there and each one has its own special purpose.

Tomatoes

Whether cooked or raw, tomatoes add flavor and texture to many dishes.  Like potatoes, they can be cooked in many ways:  baked, roasted, pureed and made into sauce.  There’s nothing better than popping a fresh cherry tomato into your mouth straight from the vine…mmmmm.

Cheese

As you take a bite of your pizza, the melted cheese is stretching itself from your mouth to the remaining pizza, holding on for dear life until it can no longer hold on, breaking the connection…your mouth has won.  Blue, mozzarella, cheddar, red leistershire, stinking bishop, ricotta, cottage, munster, edam, brie, gouda, camembert, goats, swiss, colby, parmesan, provolone, asiago, caerphilly, monterey jack, feta, fontina…the list goes on and on.

There are a lot more foods I could list here, but I’ll let you decide what to add to it.  What are your ultimate can’t-do-without foods??

Kitchen Tips for the Domestic Goddess

If you’re not supposed to have midnight snacks, why is there a light in the fridge?

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Happy Friday Everyone!

I’m a sucker for reading about hints and tips in the kitchen and thought I’d share some with you, my wonderful readers…

KITCHEN KNIVES

Don’t scrape ingredients off the chopping board with the blade.  Use the back instead.

Avoid putting your knives in the dishwasher.  the chemicals used in the machine corrode the knife and heat of the dishwasher can damage and dull the blade.

Don’t store knives in a drawer.  The blade will blunt as it moves around inside.  try a magnetic rack, block or canvas roll instead.

Keep them sharp.  Use a whetstone or sharpening rod to sharpen the knives; do it little and often.

DINNER PLATES

Nobody wants to put hot food on cold plates.  Warm them up by putting them into the oven after you turn it off.  They’ll warm up in just a minute or two.

PRAWNS/SHRIMP

Dry prawns on paper towels before frying as this helps them to fry quicker, without steaming or overcooking.

BREAD

Soak up grease and stop flare-ups.  Place a couple of slices of white bread in the drip pan of the broiler/grill to absorb the grease.  It will also cut down on the amount of smoke that is produced.

BEER

Tenderize tough meat.  Pour a can over inexpensive cuts of meat and let it soak for about an hour before cooking.  You can also marinate overnight in the fridge or put the beer in the slow cooker with the meat.

COOKING SPRAY

Prevent tomato sauce stains on plastic.  Fed up with red stains on your plastic containers?  Apply a light coating of non-stick cooking spray to the inside of the container before pouring in the tomato sauce.

SALT

Clean away messy dough.  After you’ve rolled out dough or kneaded bread, sprinkle the floured worktop with salt and you can just wipe away everything with a damp sponge or cloth.  (As I just kneaded dough for pizza tonight, I tried this and it worked great!)

Revive overcooked coffee.  Before you throw out a stewed brew of coffee, try adding a pinch of salt to a cup to restore the flavor.

So there’s a few tips and tricks for you to absorb.

Have a great weekend!

♥ Terri  ♥♥

What’s your Favorite Kitchen Gadget?

What are your top 5 favorite kitchen gadgets; the ones that make prepping and cooking a pleasure instead of a chore?  I want to know which ones you couldn’t live without or even if you just got a new one and wonder how you ever managed without it.  It could be a favorite knife or spoon, an electrical item, a can opener, etc.  If you use it to prep or cook food, it’s considered a kitchen gadget.

Want to know what mine are?  Well too bad, I’m going to tell you anyway. 😉  These are in no particular order.

CAST IRON PANS ~ I have two; a small one that I bought several years ago and a larger one that belonged to my paternal grandmother.  To me, they are better than any nonstick pan and we use them practically every day.

FOOD PROCESSOR ~ This was given to us by Chef P’s cousin about 5 years ago.  We don’t have a blender so this is used for everything from smoothies to chopping massive amounts of onions.

PYREX GLASS MEASURING JUGS ~ I actually have two of these.  My mother asked why I had two and you’d be surprised as to how many times I’m using both at one time.  Sometimes I wish I had a third!

ICE CREAM SCOOP/MELON BALLER ~ These come in handy for making even sized cookies, meatballs, cheeseballs and putting even amounts of dough/batter into muffin cups.

ENAMELED CAST IRON POT ~ Many a stew and curry have been made in this pot and it shows!

So what are your favorite utensils or gadgets?

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!

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Terri’s Tasty Funny….

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