Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’
Some days, comfort food is a necessity. Specifically, rainy days filled with grumpy patients, impossible automated phone calls, and traffic. After a rather benign but somehow still intolerable Friday, I dreamed up this comforting pasta bake while stuck in traffic on my way home. I had a bunch of leftover tidbits of ingredients from my Girl’s Night and a lot of leafy greens from my Boston Organics box that seemed to scream out for a creamy pasta dish. At first, I had an idea to make a grown-up version of my Mom’s amazing mac n’ cheese, which was inspired by our favorite white pizza. However, I saw the tomatoes and sauce calling out to be used and morphed this into a Tomato Basil Pasta bake. (I will have to come back to that other idea though!) To me, comfort equates to carbs and cheese, but done in a way that avoids the bloaty, to0-full feeling that plagues me after most rich pastas. For this dish, the ricotta adds the rich creaminess without making it too heavy, and the 1:1 pasta and greens ratio helps make this a healthier version of a typical cheesey pasta. Try this the next time a long day at work leaves you craving comfort!
Tomato Basil Pasta Bake
1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1 large bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
4 on-the vine tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup fat-free ricotta
1/2 cup low sodium pasta sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 +1/4 cup parmesan cheese, separated
1 tbsp basil, chiffonade
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to directions, but stop 1-2 minutes shy of recommended cooking time for very al dente pasta. Meanwhile, prepare the kale and place in your pasta strainer. Strain your pasta over the kale, allowing the hot water to slightly steam the kale. (You don’t want to cook it, just soften it so that it stirs into the pasta better). In a separate bowl, mix together the remainder of the ingredients, except for separated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix in the pasta and kale. Stir until well combined. Pour into an 8×8 brownie pan coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until heated through and the cheese has fully melted. Cut into rough squares and serve!
Roommate dinners are back in action! Life is busy for both of us, but it is so great to be able to relax – cook real food, enjoy conversation and share life together – at least one night each week. Marie had a spaghetti squash begging for roasting, so we planned to enjoy that for our first roommate dinner of 2012. She said to me this morning, “Oooh, maybe we can make it with pesto! Did you and I eat that together once?” Ha, yes! I made and shared vegan pesto early in January in fact… Her response, “Oh, I thought maybe I was just getting really food smart and creative.” Reason number 3709384 I love my roommate, and proof that our brains are so opposite!
Unlike Marie, I have a ridiculous memory for details. Helpful for med school, I guess, so I am not complaining. Also helpful when you are brainstorming a new sauce for spaghetti squash! I remembered seeing a lentil red sauce from The Smart Kitchen a few weeks ago, and decided to try a riff of that out for dinner. We also looked at another recipe and kind of made an amalgam of the two, with great results! The lentils took longer to cook than we expected, but we liked them a little on the al dente side for extra texture. This also made the meal much more filling and hearty, so is definitely a great vegan pasta sauce!
Dinner isn’t complete without dessert, right? Enter Hu-Mousse: a chocolate version of hummus, great spread on apples. Before you go “Ew, gross” remember that some of my favorite vegan pizookies and blondies are made with a chickpea base! I loved this dessert, and Marie eventually got on board after her expectations of a creamy chocolate peanut butter sauce slipped away. I would definitely make this dip again, and may even spread it on toast for breakfast one of these mornings!
Question: Do you usually remember details, or are you a more “big picture” kind of person?
Lentil “Meat” Sauce
inspired by The Smart Kitchen and The Confused Homemaker, serves 4-6
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced
3/4 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
In a large saucepan, sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until the onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the diced carrot and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Add the lentils and vegetable broth and cook until 1/2 of the liquid is absorbed. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash.
I received the largest tomato I have ever seen in my Boston Organics box last week! I forgot to snap a picture, but trust me when I say this thing was a monster. It was seriously the size of 2 or 3 normal tomatoes. I was afraid of it being tasteless or mealy since it was so big, yet it was still flavorful, juicy and delicious! I pulled this meal together after a few chilly early fall days in Boston. I was freezing last week, since it was rainy and the temperatures were peaking in the low 60’s. How am I ever going to survive the winter if I can’t even handle 60 degree weather?! I hope I adjust quickly! Inspired somewhat by the idea of scalloped tomatoes, I was craving some sort of baked casserole. I decided to slice the tomato and polenta, layer them together in a baking dish, sprinkle that with goat cheese, Balsamic, and basil. I was unsure of what to expect, but this dish blew me away. The flavors were incredible, the goat cheese got nice and melted, and the warm tomato and polenta together were comforting. Such a great use for late season tomatoes as the weather begins to change on us!
Question: What is your favorite use for late season tomatoes?
serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side
2 medium tomatoes
1 polenta log
2-3 oz goat cheese
20 basil leaves, chiffonade
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the tomato in half and then into slices. Cut the polenta log into similar thickness slices. Arrange the tomatoes and polenta in an alternating pattern along the bottom of the baking dish. (I used a 10 inch round dish and layered 2 tomato slices for every piece of polenta. Once the first layer is down, sprinkle with goat cheese, salt and pepper. Create a second layer with what remains of the tomatoes and polenta. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with basil slivers. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes until liquid in the bottom of the dish is boiled. Set the oven to broil and broil for an additional 5 minutes, until the Balsamic vinegar is browned on the top layer. Cut and serve immediately.
Over the weekend, I received some beautiful tomatoes and cucumbers from my friend Azra’s mom. I was too sick to attend their family BBQ with little ones running around, but, as I have said before about Bosnian moms, she needed to make sure that I still was well-fed from afar. Her garden must be incredible, based on what I received! The tomatoes were huge, and the cucumbers were perfect (too big and they get bitter). What else would you do with a Bosnian’s gift other than make a tomato and cucumber salad?
Does that picture make anyone else want to sing silly songs with Larry? Veggie tales anyone? I’m the only one? K, just checking!
I was so excited to be back in the kitchen – I find myself there so much less than over the summer since I’m now only cooking for one! I chopped up my tomatoes, and then started prepping my cukes… only the veggie peeler was no where in sight! I searched through the silverware drawer, and then the cooking utensil drawer, both to no avail. I even looked through the dish rack (confession: without putting away the dishes…) and had no luck! Did the peeler sprout legs and walk away from me over the summer? I gave up and attempted to peel the largest of the cucumbers with a knife. I lost a lot of good cucumber flesh that way, and quickly became frustrated. For the next two, I gave up. I decided that the cucumber skins were safe enough, and so I just halved them with the skins on!
I did not stick to the traditional route for this salad, which is literally just a mix of these veggies, but decided to add a little of my own flare. I added some chickpeas for protein, a little onion, garlic, Balsamic vinegar, basil and olive oil for flavor. The result: amazing. Maybe I was starving for my morning run, or maybe it was exactly what my body was craving, but this was the best salad I have ever eaten. Of course, the fresh mozzarella I topped mine with didn’t hurt! Even better, the flavors will come together even more as it sits in my fridge and waits to be used as leftovers. Maybe I will add a bit of pasta or cous cous to it next time to avoid leftover boredom…
And for the end to the tale of the missing veggie peeler… I went back later that afternoon to unload the drying rack so I could wash my dishes from cooking. As I was putting away the utensils, the peeler magically appeared in my hands! Hadn’t I looked there already? Guess the lesson is learned about emptying the drying rack!
Question: What is something you have misplaced lately? Did you find it? If so, how?
Mediterranean Summer Salad
makes 4 servings
1 can chickpeas, well rinsed
3-4 tomatoes, cut in bite-size pieces
2-3 cucumbers, cut into half moons
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp freshly chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the vegetables thoroughly, choosing numbers based on the size of your produce. Chop the tomatoes with a sharp knife into bite sized pieces and put aside in a bowl. Cut the cucumbers, either peeled or unpeeled, into rounds, and then in half again into half moons. Finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to the vegetable bowl. Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil and allow to sit. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly, and add to the vegetable mixture. Top with freshly chopped basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve cold as is, or mixed with cheese, pasta, cous cous, or on top of lettuce.
On my last evening home, I was lucky enough to enjoy a sister date… to Whole Foods! You may know that I have some mixed feelings whenever I walk in this store, but my second journey on my own was much more pleasant than the first! The store I visited in NJ was much larger and easier to navigate, thanks to fewer crowds and more space. I also went in the peak of summer, meaning that locally grown produce abounded and prices were much lower. I found great deals on zucchini and yellow squash, apricots, and pluots! My sister and I literally had to walk away to keep from buying one of every kind of delicious type of fruit.
Our next stop was the pasta aisle to pick up some brown rice pasta, a wheat free pasta alternative for my gluten-confused sister. WF had a great selection not only of brown rice pasta, but also of quinoa pasta and other GF alternatives, all at a much lower price than our closest supermarket! That eased my sister’s fears of the cost of eating gluten-free, and also made her excited to try out some new products. The last item on our list for the day was nutritional yeast. I have been seeing it everywhere and was more curious than excited to try it. Nonetheless, I asked the first employee I spotted to help me find it (after circling the whole store once to no avail). He excitedly responded that he did know where it was and smiled the whole time he led us to the aisle. My sister and I reasoned that he was likely a vegan (the dreads gave him away, not to stereotype my vegan friends!) and was excited to help out another maybe-vegan (who else eats nutritional yeast, right?) We like to play people watching games and make up stories about their lives… normal, right? Not only did he lead us to the gigantic containers of nutritional yeast, but he also told us that they often have it in the bulk foods section as well. Bingo! Not wanting to invest $10 in a jug before I was sure if I even liked it, I was happy to leave with a small $2 sample bag instead! (More on this sampling to come…) Maybe Whole Foods isn’t so bad after all… it is fun when you are looking for specialty ingredients, and can even sometimes have really good deals! Maybe next time I can find one in Boston that is less crowded, or avoid it at peak Saturday hours!
My sister and I returned home starving, both because lunch now seemed long ago and we had just spent an hour oogling so many yummy looking fruits and veggies! Our dinner was inspired by a dorm-room meal I had created for my sister while visiting her in Philadelphia. During her freshman year at Duquesne, we had visited a market in the South Side of Pittsburgh and I was so incredibly disappointed that she didn’t have a kitchen so we could purchase some fun ingredients and make dinner together! She transferred to Temple, and this sister’s weekend was completed with a home cooked meal. The only problem was that her kitchen wasn’t really a kitchen… it was a 2 burner stove next to a tiny sink on top of a tiny fridge. Somehow, I still managed to pull together a pretty awesome pasta primavera with a surprise ingredient, butter beans! They are a moister cousin of lima beans, and my sister has raved about them since then. She asked me to blog about the recipe so she could know how to make it when she moves into her real apartment in a few days. Since we had pasta the night before and enjoyed some leftovers for lunch, we were both feeling pasta’d out.
I decided instead to turn that meal into a fun, summer pasta-less primavera. I used a vegetable peeler to turn the zucchini and yellow squash into “fettucine”. I tossed that with sautéed red bell pepper and butter beans, and some roasted tomatoes straight off the vine in my mom’s garden onto the grill. This turned out amazing! My sister, admittedly not the biggest fan of summer squashes, loved it. She even finished off her zucchini noodles before touching her beloved tomatoes! We both were surprised at how full we were off of an all-veggie dinner. Realizing it was the last meal I’d cook for her, she mourned me going back and recommended that I drop out of med school and come be her roommate. Realizing that was unrealistic, she conceded that I could transfer instead. Sorry, but not gonna happen! She paid me such a huge compliment though: “You make eating veggies fun!” That is my goal in life, ya know :)
3 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
8 oz clam shell cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 can butter beans
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the vegetables well. Using a vegetable peeler, take 1 strip off of the squash and discard. Then position the vegetable peeler so that most of it is over the white flesh, with only a small part stripping the skin. Use the peeler to create long noodles out of the squash. When all of the squash has been turned into “fettucine”, add to boiling salted water. Cook for 3 minutes, and then immediately drain and rinse with cold water, allowing to drain thoroughly. Either before you boil the squash or immediately after, roast the cherry tomatoes whole, for about 10 minutes on the grill or 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. The skins should be wrinkly and ready to burst. Meanwhile, sautee red pepper in olive oil until it begins to soften. Add the drained butter beans and season with garlic powder. Allow to heat through. Mix all ingredients together and season with paprika, salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Have some picky eaters in your family? (Yup!) Or looking for a simple weeknight dinner? (Always!) Or are you just a pasta lover looking for something new to try? (Guilty.) This sauce is perfect for new cooks looking to start experimenting in the kitchen with a meal that comes together in minutes. The tomatoes can be roasted on the grill or in the stove, and then mashed with a fork. The spinach picks up a lot of the flavor of the tomatoes and is a good way to hide some greens in your meal. If you have smart picky eaters, like my sister, you can leave the spinach out. I like doing pasta night family style and make-your-own. This works even better now that my sister needs gluten-free pasta. She actually loved the taste of the GF pasta, but it is too expensive to make for the whole family so she gets her own treat! I drizzle a bit of olive oil over the pasta after it is done cooking to help it from sticking together. I put the sauce in one bowl, the chicken in another, and lay the cheese out on the table. That way, people can take as much or as little sauce and extras as they want and everyone is happy!
Question: How do you like your pasta?
Roasted Tomato and Spinach Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, roasted
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, somewhat drained
1 6-oz bag baby spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
10-12 basil leaves, chiffonade
1 lb pasta, cooked
Season the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on the grill over medium-high heat, or in the oven, until the skins begin to wrinkle. Remove the tomatoes into a bowl and mash with a fork to release the juices. Leave the skins to be chunky. Mix in the diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Season lightly with salt and pepper. In a sautee pan over medium heat, add 1 tsp olive oil and garlic. Add spinach and begin to wilt. When it is slightly wilted, add the tomato sauce over the spinach and heat until spinach and sauce are heated through. Add basil and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked pasta with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
As part of the Student Nutrition Awareness and Action Council (SNAAC), I have spent the past year learning more about nutrition and how to bring awareness and action to medical students, patients, and the community. One project that some of my classmates are working on is getting “SNAAC approved” items in the cafeteria, which currently boasts an impressively unhealthy selection of fried foods and oily entrees. This post is definitely SNAAC approved! A recipe for healthy, homemade salsa (see end of post) and a recap of an interesting documentary about nutrition and chronic disease!
There are some things I thought I would never be able to make from scratch, like pasta or sauce or ravioli. Some things you just have to buy from the store, right? Salsa also fell in the from-a-jar category in my mind as well. However, my friend Kat enlightened me during one of our girl’s nights, and I have been making fresh salsa ever since! It requires no equipment or know-how, and the recipe can be modified to suit your tastes. Plus, it is chock full of good-for-you veggies with a lot less sodium, making it an even better treat! Make it for your next party (I brought mine to our SNAAC end-of-year potluck) or make it and keep it in your fridge (should last about a week). You can add it to spice up rice and beans, black bean omelettes, veggie burgers – go crazy! Salsa is an easy and tasty way to add extra vegetables without even realizing it!
After our mini-potluck, some classmates and I headed to Kendall Square Cinema to see the documentary Forks Over Knives. The movie focused on the link between nutrition and chronic disease, and specifically advocated for a whole food, plant-based diet. I really enjoyed the movie, much more than I was expecting actually, despite not agreeing with all of their conclusions.
- I was impressed by the amount of science that was contained in the documentary – I felt like I was studying for histology or endocrinology at certain points! I was also impressed by the substantiative research that was presented, and the way that they tied this much information into a rather cohesive story line. Most of the featured research was from Dr. Campbell’s China Study, in which he partnered with a Chinese researcher with data from a nationwide study to look at variable diet factors and their correlation with cancer and chronic disease. This study found over 9,000 statistically significant correlations between nutrition and health outcomes – pretty impressive! They also featured Dr. Esselstyn’s clinical studies showing the survival of a small cohort of patients put on a plant-based diet after undergoing major bypass surgery and their ability to reverse some of their disease process with their diet. I am astounded by the health outcomes that people were able to achieve simply by committing to a changed diet. Patients were able to halt the progress or even reverse heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and even breast cancer!
- The filmmakers were rather brilliant to choose the terminology of “plant-based diet” rather than “vegan”, since veganism tends to be stigmatizing and associated with animal rights. Because of their terminology, it allowed viewers to assess the health claims made and evaluate it apart from their associations with sad cows.
- With that being said, I did not agree with the extent to which the health claims of this diet were extrapolated. It seemed to propose that a plant-based diet is a cure-all for disease, a miracle therapy of sorts. Sure, it would be great if we could cure cancer, heart disease and diabetes just by eating more real food. I agree that it will lower the incidence of these epidemics, but, as my friend Joy pointed out, Africans (who traditionally eat mostly unprocessed plant foods) still have diseases despite all of this. Whether we like it or not, we will have to face mortality and disease is a fact of life. I still agree that we should do everything we can to prevent and help treat these diseases with as easy a fix as diet modifications, but this will never eradicate chronic disease.
- There was very little done to address the practicality of this diet for most Americans. Fruits and vegetables still remain inaccessible for many people (see my post about Whole Foods and food deserts for more thoughts.) And even if they are available at grocery stores, many people are bewildered at how to prepare them in a way that makes them taste good. Even more, a plant-based diet does take more time, effort, and money – it is undeniable. For working families who are already time crunched, this radical lifestyle change may seem inconceivable. It would be helpful to offer ideas of where to start first, and how to practically make steps towards this type of lifestyle, especially while trying to fit it into a busy schedule and tight budget.
- I also still am not convinced that you should never eat animal products. In one of the main studies presented, rats fed a diet of 20% animal protein were more likely to develop liver cancer, while rats fed a diet of 5% animal protein never developed this complication. That is strong evidence to show that animal proteins in high quantities are carcinogenic, but not that animal proteins (found in milk or eggs) should never be consumed. Plus, we may be able to get all of the essential amino acids we need from plants and grains, but animal proteins are the only source of vitamin B12 short of vitamin supplements.
Regardless, I thought the documentary was well-made and thought-provoking, and definitely reaffirmed my desire to eat a less processed and more plant-based diet. It is only playing in small theaters, but check your local theaters to see if it is playing near you. If not, definitely check it out when it is released on DVD. It will really make you evaluate how and why you eat the way you do!
If you want to read more on the health benefits of a plant-based diet, check out some of these links:
Question: Do you ever make meatless meals for you or your family? Do you know sources of protein that are not animal based?
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
3/4 green pepper, finely chopped
large pinch kosher salt
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp cilantro, minced
2 jalapenos, minced (seeded for less heat or with seeds for extra spice)
Chop onions and garlic and combine in a bowl with olive oil. Let marinate while chopping the rest of the vegetables. Combine the rest of the ingredients and adjust seasoning to taste. Let stand in the fridge for a few hours before serving to let all flavors combine.