A few weeks ago I was asked to talk about California tomatoes. They sent me a HUGE box of tomatoes to use in any recipe I wanted, as long as I could tell you all how great they are. And since my family LOVES tomatoes, I jumped at the chance. These tomatoes are all field-grown in an ideal climate–warm days, cool nights–which helps produce a full, meaty flavour. And they’re available fresh in Canada from May to November. One medium tomato has 35% of the daily value of Vitamin C, and no sodium, so it’s got a powerful health punch. (Learn more about California Tomato Farmers’ tomatoes here, or check out their Facebook Page).
But first, a little bit of background. I haven’t always adored tomatoes. In fact, for most of my life I hated them. As a kid I wouldn’t even eat spaghetti sauce. I had my noodles with just butter. And the thought of having a big tomato slice on a sandwich or a hamburger made me nauseated. But as a mom, I’ve tried to feed my family healthy food on the whole. But with tomatoes, I just couldn’t handle the idea of “chunks”. So when the kids were little, I would chop tomatoes up using a Pampered Chef food chopper really, really tiny, and add a tomato to every tin of spaghetti sauce that I cooked. That way we were getting some fresh vegetables (I know tomatoes are really fruits, but come on), and it made the spaghetti sauce go farther.
And if the tomato was chopped really small, no one could tell it was there. I did the same thing with carrots, mushrooms, and celery, by the way. Just chop them really small and add them to the beef in shepherd’s pie, spaghetti, lasagna, or just about anything. Almost every time I use ground beef I also chop up a tomato, several carrots, and several mushrooms to bulk it up and make the meat go farther.
I even used to put tomatoes in a blender to add to things. It takes no time at all, and it makes what you’re cooking so much healthier. So if I’m making beef soup, for instance, and it calls for a tin of tomatoes, I just throw a fresh tomato in the blender, whirl it around, and I’m good to go. Making an alfredo sauce? Just add a blended up tomato to it for a rose sauce that tastes yummy. And there’s not the sodium you get from canned tomatoes. The real breakthrough with tomatoes for me, though, came about 3 years ago when I went to a party for Victorian Epicure, a home-based company selling herb and spice mixes. They carry this salsa spice mix that you simply add to cut-up tomatoes. You chop the tomatoes in tiny pieces, add 2 heaping tsp of the salsa mix, and a splash of lemon juice. It takes no time at all. And it is SO GOOD!
My daughters and I probably go through at least 1 1/2 tomatoes of this stuff a day. The only problem is that it’s spoiled me. I can’t eat canned salsa anymore. Seriously–we prefer salsa and tortilla chips to any other junk food. And I figure, if you’re going to eat chips, you may as well eat a fresh tomato with it!
But once I started eating salsa like that, I realized that perhaps I do like tomatoes–even if they’re in chunks. And weirdest of all, my oldest daughter, who is the pickiest eater in our family, has realized she likes them, too. Here’s one of her favourite meals.
Tortilla Chicken Pizza: One California tomato, chopped finely with the food chopper; one chicken breast; grilled sprig of basil; one tortilla shell; and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Broil it in the oven for a few minutes, and it’s all done. That’s it. It’s super healthy, and she really enjoys it. I’d add garlic to it myself, but like I said–she’s picky. She’ll even be the one to cook it!
Here’s one of mine that’s super simple:
-one California tomato, chopped finely in a food chopper
-sprig of basil
-splash of lemon juice
-1/4 cup chicken stock (replenish as necessary when you’re cooking to keep this a little liquidy)
-1 tbsp butter
-3 cloves garlic (I like garlic)
-10 frozen shrimp
-1/3 cup mushrooms
-sliced angel hair pasta for 2
Melt butter in a non-stick skillet and add garlic. Simmer until it smells amazing, and then add everything but the shrimp and pasta. Boil it down a little bit, and then add the shrimp. Cook only until shrimp are done.
In a medium saucepan, prepare angel hair pasta. Then just mix the two together!
Katie and I often have this for lunch on weekdays, because it really doesn’t take very long. What I’ve found now is that tomatoes are one of the foods that I just always have around. They’re a staple. They’re our go-to snack food with salsa, and they’re my go-to food for adding liquid and bulking up sauces. One of the coolest things about blogging is that I get to review and use great products, and I have big plans for the 50 tomatoes currently sitting in our little bar fridge in the basement. So cool! So thank you to the California Tomato Farmers, most of whom are multi-generational farming families, for sending me tomatoes. I’m going to make more salsa now.
What are your favourite easy recipes using tomatoes? How do you get them into your kids’ diet? Let me know in the comments!
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