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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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  ♥♥

BBC Good Food Show ~ Was I Impressed?

Welcome to the Good Food Show!

As a subscriber to Good Food Magazine, I see ads throughout the year for the upcoming Good Food shows that are shown throughout the country: Birmingham, London and Glasgow were the main three for some time.  Then this year, they decided to add a new one at the Glow Theatre at Bluewater Shopping Mall near Greenhithe in Kent.  Woo hoo!  Finally, one near to us.

I booked the tickets at the end of February and made sure we got the Gold Seats for the MasterChef Live show.  As a subscriber, I got a great deal; not only a discount on the ticket price, but I also didn’t have to pay the booking fee.  So two tickets for the exhibition and the Live show was a mere £27.  I couldn’t wait and was counting down the days.

We took the train as it was much easier than driving there.  The train took us right to Ebbsfleet station and from there we were able to hop on a bus which took us directly to Bluewater.  We had to walk through Marks & Spencers and out into the main area of the mall to get to Glow.  We showed our tickets and went into the exhibition hall and started looking around.  I don’t know what it was, but I felt disappointed from the moment I stepped inside…call it a gut feeling.

There were too many stands selling wine/alcohol, cheeses, preserves or spices.  Now mind you, I have no problem with any of those foodie items but I would have liked to see some stands selling things like loose tea, coffee, herbs, honey, chocolates, game meats or other unusual meats, hot pepper sauces or quirky kitchen gadgets/signs, etc.  We did not see one stand selling any of those things 😦 although we did get to taste several samples 🙂

Here's where we got the 7 sausages for £10

We did buy some things.  Got seven different dried sausages for £10, five blocks of cheese with a free bottle of wine for £12 and three jars of condiments (1 horseradish cream, 1 beer mustard and 1 spiced honey mustard) for £6.50 and when you bought 3 jars or more, you got a free jute tote bag.

Our Purchases!

The MasterChef Live stage

The MasterChef Live show was at noon so we headed downstairs to that.  We were about 10 rows back as I had ordered the Gold seats.

We really enjoyed the show with John Torrode and Greg Wallace and they had a cook-off with the MasterChef champions from the past two years.

John and Greg on stage

(Sorry, I took some video of the show but I’m having trouble posting them on here.)

Also wish I knew about the book signing BEFORE I got there…would have brought my MasterChef Bible for John and Greg to sign!

Don’t get me wrong, the exhibition was enjoyable, just a tad disappointing.

Maybe next year will be better…if we decide to go again.

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!

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!