tomatoes

Zippy Lentil & Tomato Salad

When you’re looking for lean & mean plant-based protein, lentil is one of the top winners in my book. It’s so versatile! You can make a stew, a soup, a “mash”, burgers, and today, even a cold salad to satisfy your craving palate! I’m all about “easy cooking” these days, especially that the weather has warmed up, I want to be in the kitchen less and less and more out in the garden, harvesting herbs, veggies, and eating easily assembled meals. More time playing, less time working, I say!

These lentils take about 25 minutes to cook, and you have an easy addition to your meals for about 5 days ~ how easy is that?

You can use green or red lentils, but they’ll turn soupy, so my “go to” for this dish are either French/puy lentils or black lentils. Both retain their shape really well, and are a delicious chewy texture you’ll love. Use it with any veggies that are in season, herbs of your choice, and you’ve got a meal you can make in minutes!

Ingredients:

1 cup black or puy lentils, rinsed, looked over, and boiled with plenty of water until done (about 25 minutes or so).  Drain, set aside and cool.

1 chopped tomato

¼ cup chopped onion

Dressing:

1 tsp your favorite mustard

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

Pinch sea salt

As much black pepper as you can tolerate

In a bowl, combine dressing ingredients and mix up with a fork. Add in about ½ cup of your cooked lentils and stir well. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Add in the tomato and onion, mix slightly, and enjoy. 

Tip: This salad is also very good, by the way, with ready made hot lentils also.

Sundried Tomato Powder

One of the highlights of my stay at Living Light Culinary Institute included early morning help in the kitchen before classes started. Weary eyed, sleepy headed, chilly morning walks to school....but I absolutely loved it and considered it an honor, working in a raw vegan commercial kitchen ~ how many are there of its kind, I don't know, but probably very few. It was too much fun working early morning under excellent great raw vegan chefs and instructors.

Despite a minor Blendtec lid *snafu*, I did eventually learn how to make proper sundried tomato powder {just imagine putting on the lid wrong, turning blender on high, powder everywhere. I only have a Vitamix, so who knew?}.

You'll love this powder....it's called "Sundried" but really, the dehydrating of tomatoes brings out their "cooked taste" without losing any of the nutrients {and without really cooking them}. Sweet, earthy, dark, hearty, and an amazing addition to soups, sauces, even guacamole and crackers! Flavor, flavor, flavor is where it's at. And right about now, we have bumper crops of tomatoes from the heat of summer, perhaps too much to know what to do with. If you're making salsa or sauce, you can just take the peels, seeds, innards, any part of the tomato, pulse it up in the blender and pour them over dehydrator trays. In a few days, you'll have a crumbly dry heap that you can process again in the vitamix into a powder. Keep it in an airtight container, and you're good to go for quite a while! 

One note: size really matters when dehydrating tomatoes. I learned this the hard way, but you can't simply cut a plum tomato in half {even the little cherry guys} and dehydrate them. The outside might be dry, but the underside is often wet and warm which means you can harbor mold. Plus it just takes too long to dehydrate which further exacerbates the mold issue. A quick chop in the blender or food processor {so it looks more like chunky sauce} should do the trick. 

3 cups chopped tomatoes, skins, innards, seeds, etc. Pulse these in a food processor or blender so they don't have any big chunks.

Lay the contents over two dehydrator sheets lined with teflex sheets. Dehydrate at least 24 hours (or more) at 110 degrees. I often keep these in for two days ~ you just want them to be completely dry. Let them rest and cool for 15 minutes, then crumble off into a vitamix vessel. Pulverize and store in an airtight container! Enjoy. 

Organic tomatoes from our garden. 

Organic tomatoes from our garden. 

Dehydrated chunks of tomatoes, before processing into powder. 

Dehydrated chunks of tomatoes, before processing into powder. 

Sundried tomato powder. 

Sundried tomato powder. 

Summer Tomatillo Gazpacho

There’s just something about gazpacho. It’s a win win ~ a win for your garden, and a win for your taste buds: your garden provides pretty much everything you need, and it’s pretty much the best damn soup you can ever make. If you don’t grow your own food, the farmer’s market will do it for you AND everything will be picked at peak ripeness, with all the flavors of summer. It might seem a bit labor intensive, but with a food processor, you’ll make it zippy fast. Plus, it’s an easy lunch you can enjoy happily for 3-4 days.

Tomatillos growing in the garden. They have a paper like outside that you peel off, revealing a smooth green fruit inside. I think they look a little like little lanterns. 

Tomatillos growing in the garden. They have a paper like outside that you peel off, revealing a smooth green fruit inside. I think they look a little like little lanterns. 

I really like the addition of tomatillos in this soup. They're add a unique element of citrus, sweet, and fresh that I really love. They're also a little fruity, and I've been know to eat them like an apple. Try it! Just be sure to wash off the sticky residue from underneath the paper skin (which by the way is totally normal, nothing to be alarmed by). 

Paper-like skin. 

Paper-like skin. 

I've added a can of crushed BPA free organic tomatoes in the mix, simply because I love the richness of tomato flavor and the deep red color that it provides. If you wish, you can just replace this with fresh tomatoes, although the taste will be different and the soup will be more pink than red. Either way, they both work. 

 

2 large cucumbers, peeled (optional) and chopped

1.5 cups peeled and chopped tomatillos

2 green peppers, chopped (or a mixture of colors)

4-5 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

One 28 oz can of crushed organic tomatoes, BPA free (or extra tomatoes) 

Large handful cilantro, chopped

4 small garlic cloves, microplaned

1 tsp sea salt

1-tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, process the cucumbers, tomatillos, peppers, fresh tomatoes, and onion in batches (still a little chunky but like thick soup). Pour out into a big mixing bowl. Add in the crushed tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, salt, vinegar and pepper. Combine well with a large spoon, and taste for seasoning. If you want the extra fat, feel free to dress with a drizzle of olive oil and/or chopped avocado.

Mama's Green Beans

We all know that mama knows best, but honestly, I think MY mama knows best...she's offered wholesome, clean eating and recipes from the time I was a little tot, and I attribute my health journey to my upbringing. These green beans are her own recipe, and are a favorite in our household. No matter how often I make it, I swear hers still tastes the best. 

Best part is that these are hearty, low-glycemic, full of fiber, and super easy to make. Also, how sweet is this? She gave me the following recipe, and at the end, she wrote "...and love is a must". Of course it is. That's why hers are the best. 

3 large handfuls of green beans, cleaned (just the stem end), washed, broken in 2

1 yellow onion, chopped fine

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 tsp sea salt (or per your palate)

One 8oz organic tomato sauce (mom likes the thin kind but you can use crushed, about 1 cup)

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat a heavy pot (preferably cast iron) over low heat. Add the oil, onion and salt and stir. Cover and let the mixture soften, about 5 minutes or so. Add in the beans and water. Add a little black pepper, and cover. Cook on medium until done (bite one and test it). Then add in the tomato sauce. At the end, finish with the parsley.....And love is a must.

Black Bean Pasta Puttanesca

I remember the first time I had puttanesca. I was lucky enough to grow up with an Italian best friend named Alessandra.  She was and still is one of the best cooks I know, and her family was practically my second family growing up. One day, a long time ago, she made me the fastest pasta I've ever had and nearly dropped to my knees, it was so good. She explained it as Puttanesca, and it described a quick sauce that the prostitutes would make when they were short on time. Probably the funniest thing I've ever hear, but a sauce I'd remember forever.

These days, there's not much pasta in my house, but if there is, it's usually black bean pasta, gluten free and low glycemic. I especially love this brand because it only contains black beans and water. Simple! You can also substitute zucchini noodles for a light meal. I had some olives, garlic, fresh tomatoes, basil, chili flakes, good olive oil, (and some kale for a boost) and I got to work. 

1 cup black bean pasta, cooked per package directions. 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

few pinches sea salt

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup olives, chopped

chili flakes

1 handful kale, torn

Black pepper, to taste

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium and sauté the garlic with a bit of salt. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn. Add in the tomatoes, olives, and chili flakes. Cover and simmer a few minutes, until they get juicy and they soften a bit. Throw in the kale to wilt, then add in the pasta. Cover again and bring to a simmer, just to heat through. When done, season with black pepper, to taste and enjoy. 

Cherry Tomato Freezer Sauce

There are many ways to make tomato sauce, but this couldn't be more simple and more delicious. At the moment, we have so many tomatoes in our garden that it's hard to keep up, and I haven't yet entered the curious world of canning (soon, though, soon!) So for the time being, I freeze and it suits me just fine. 

But cherry tomatoes...who ever heard of using cherry tomatoes? Well, cherry tomato sauce is all over the internet, and here's my version (although all of ours are basically the same sauce). You can add in different herbs, even red peppers, mushrooms, make it your own. 

Simply gather enough cherry tomatoes so they lay in a single layer. I used 9x11 pan, and therefore had about 4-6 cups of tomatoes, although the size of them will dictate the amount. As I'm leaning, there are so many different types of cherry tomatoes, some small, some bigger, and I even threw in some regular tomatoes in the mix as well to fill in some gaps. Just get them all in one layer for the pan you're using. 

IMG_6196.JPG

Drizzle with a little olive oil, and throw in about 2-3 cloves of garlic, still in their skin. Roast at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until their skins have broken and released some juices. Let cool, and process in a food processor with some salt and pepper to taste, and freeze in individual bags, laying flat. Once frozen, you can stand them all upright in the freezer and they won't take up much room since they're flat. That's it - voila! And you were worried you wouldn't get to make tomato sauce this season! Get to it!

BLT Zoodle Salad

This is a super simplified BLT, in all of its glory, with all the nutritive qualities you'd want and none of the bad stuff! We've got coconut bacon, fresh ripe tomatoes, and the spiralized zucchini stands in for the lettuce. Super easy to put together, incredibly tasty and filling. Just make sure you have enough coconut bacon on hand, as you'll want to make this again and again!

1 zucchini, spiralized

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 cup sliced red onions

drizzle of olive oil

drizzle of raw apple cider vinegar

sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons coconut bacon (recipe found here)

Combine zucchini, tomato, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together and taste for seasoning. Serve with a  sprinkle of coconut bacon on top and devour. 

Marinated Collard Greens Salad

What do you do with overwintered collard greens in the spring? Use them up and love them dearly. The collards and kale we planted late summer to last us through the fall are still happy as can be, and we're enjoying their come back. This is why I love gardening so much, you never know what you're going to get, and you learn the natural season for things. Coming into summer, these collards won't last since it's not their season ~ their immune systems weaken and they often get white flies. Spring is one of the best times to use them up (you can also freeze them to use whenever), but this refreshing, slimming salad fits the bill right about now. It also comes with a story....

Years ago, before this house, we lived next to our wonderful neighbor, Mr. Jackson. He was in his late 80's, loved collard greens and daffodils, and told me stories about what the neighborhood was really like in the "olden days". He worked as a bartender for select private parties, and everyone knew and loved him. I'd bring him daffodils when they were in bloom, and I'd share collard greens from the garden and we would talk and enjoy simple moments together. One day, he took me by the arm and said almost in a whisper, "I love my food raw!" He didn't know I was a chef, and he didn't know I loved raw food either...how was this possible? I knew we had a special connection. 

Mr. Jackson passed away in his early 90's. I became very close to him and my whole family loved him dearly. Most especially, our young son was also close to him...when he was 7 or 8, he'd sit on Mr. Jackson's couch next to hime,  watching TV together....decades between them, and happy as clams. I'll never forget the picture that makes in my mind, and I'm eternally grateful for the kindness and care he showed us. 

This is actually his recipe, and I write it here in memory of him, and of that phrase he whispered which melted my heart. He told me he likes to slice the collards very thin (showing me how through hand gestures), and adds in garlic, and olive oil, and tomatoes and just lets them marinade until they're ready. I'm telling you...it's my favorite way to eat collards now. Thank you Mr. Jackson for your good taste in food and for your deep heart. 

Ingredients:

4 large collard leaves, de-stemmed and made into chiffonnade ribbons like this:

1 tomato, chopped

1 clove garlic, microplaned

drizzle of olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinade at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Enjoy! 

Zucchini Minestrone Soup

I absolutely love soups...especially when it's a one pot meal, I can make it as I'm checking the news or wiring a blog post (like this one). You have two options: add in the potato and orzo (my boys love these!), or keep it low glycemic if you're sensitive to the sugars, and omit them both (like for me). Either way, the soup is sure to please everyone, whichever way you make it! So simple, quick, and delicious.

This is a veggie-rich, non-pasta minestrone. Is that even possible? Yes. You'd be surprised if you match the flavors (tomato, Italian seasonings and veggies), how close you get to the real thing without adding much starch and noodles. Give it a try! If you're missing a bit of bite, feel free to throw in some white beans for some extra protein and flavor. I've never made this recipe the same way twice, always using what I have on hand, and encourage you to do the same. 

I've also been playing around with making sourdough bread. I've read and heard some research that mentions that sourdough making is the original way of making bread. Making and culturing sourdough ferments the grain and grows beneficial bacteria which helps the gut, lowers the sugar content of the bread, makes it more digestible and low glycemic. I think as far as bread goes, that's a win in all departments! The tricky part is that the sourdough needs to culture for at least a week, so it's a process. But my boys gobbled it up and were very happy. If you're OK with sugars, you may want to try it as an alternative to regular bread and you may be happily surprised. 

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp sea salt

1 large zucchini, chopped

1 large stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

one 28-oz can chopped tomatoes

1 medium yellow potato (optional), chopped

2 tablespoons whole grain orzo (optional)

1/2 tablespoon Italian seasonings

In a large soup pot, heat up the oil and onions. Sprinkle a little with some salt, and let the onions sweat, covered, over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Add in the zucchini, carrot, celery, garlic, and tomatoes. If you're using the potato, add it now, but feel free to omit - you may not even notice its' gone! Cover with water, about 1 inch above the veggies. Cover and set to medium and bring to a boil. Once it boils, add in the orzo if you're using, and simmer, covered about 20 minutes or until the potato is done. Add in the Italian seasonings and taste again for seasonings. Enjoy!