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Tomato, Sausage and Bean Soup

Sausage SoupTHE VERDICT:

If you’re in the mood for something warm and hearty like chili, but don’t want to be weighed down by such a heavy dish, this soup may just fit the bill. It is a great 30-minute-or-less meal that offers everything you love about chili with a fresher, soupier twist. You can spice it up with green chili or spicy sausage or keep it pretty mild depending on your taste. While it would fill you up all on it’s own, we think it goes great with garlic bread–but doesn’t everything?

This soup is excellent for a toddler who is proficient with solids. On picky nights, it is easy enough to pick out the tolerable chunks of food. The rest of the time, it offers very balanced nutrition.

The recipe serves 10, which means plenty of leftovers for the next day’s lunches if your family is a small one like ours. It definitely reheats well.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Hearty Tomato, Sausage and Bean Soup (source: Canadian Living magazine; original recipe)

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Vegetable and Red Lentil Soup

lentil soupTHE VERDICT:

I love a good vegetable soup, but this one puts a yummy twist on the classic. A touch of curry, some coconut milk, red lentils and zucchini dress up the usual round up of vegetables. It quickly became a winter favourite after the first time we tried this recipe a few years ago. The fact that it’s easy to throw together is another plus. If you’re good at chopping veggies, you can have this soup on the table in about 25-30 minutes.

It is a tasty, but low calorie soup, so it’s great for those whose new year’s resolution was to lose a few pounds, but it pairs well with grilled paninis or garlic toast if you’re looking for a more substantial meal. While the recipe calls for chicken stock, you could easily substitute in some vegetable stock and you would have a great vegan soup on your hands.

The leftovers taste amazing because the curry flavours have had time to develop, so this makes a great lunch for the next day as well.

In this house, it is also a very kid-friendly meal because Z loves anything with a touch of curry.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Vegetable and Red Lentil Soup (source: Good Food Fast by Australian Women’s Weekly)

2 tbsp. mild curry paste

400g can of diced tomatoes

3 cups chicken stock

1 large carrot, chopped finely

2 trimmed celery sticks, chopped finely

1 medium potato, chopped finely

1 large zucchini, chopped finely

3/4 cup red lentils

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/3 cup light coconut milk

  • Cook curry paste in heated large saucepan, stirring, about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add undrained tomatoes, stock, carrot, celery, potato and zucchini; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 5 minutes.
  • Add lentils to soup mixture; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  • Add peas; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer soup mixture, uncovered, until peas are just tender.
  • Remove soup from heat and stir in coconut milk.

Serves 6

Total time: 30 minutes

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Gazpacho

GazpachoTHE VERDICT:

I was really excited to make this recipe. I fell in love with gazpacho on a backpacking trip in Spain and have obsessed over the gazpacho on Burgoo’s summer menu for the past several years, so I was delighted to discover that Zayden loves gazpacho as well. Having lunch at the Bakehouse in Edgemont a few weeks ago, I gave him a few bites of my gazpacho. He quite literally went hysterical between bites; he loved it so much, he would be shrieking for more before he’d even swallowed his current spoonful. He ended up eating almost the entire bowl. Gazpacho seemed like a natural choice for our baby-friendly menu.

I picked a simple, traditional Andalucian gazpacho recipe, but realized after Zayden took his first bite that this was a mistake. Andalucian-style gazpacho is heavy on the vinegar while the gazpacho Zayden loved was heavy on the tomato (kind of like eating salsa without the spicy kick). He had two bites and quickly made his displeasure known. We made the full recipe (almost 4 litres!) thinking we could freeze some of it for him to eat later, but now Justin and I are stuck eating it all ourselves. Thank goodness we really like it. In fact gazpacho is one of those brilliant foods where the flavours marinate over time and it just keeps tasting better with each passing day. It’s great for a light meal or as a starter, but it’s not hearty enough for a full meal. Be sure to serve it with some crusty bread or a toasted bagel for dipping.

A couple of things we did differently from the recipe:

  • We didn’t marinate things over night. We didn’t have the time to prepare it the night before. If you have the time, I would take this step. As I already mentioned, gazpacho only tastes better as the flavours blend.
  • We didn’t peel the tomatoes. Gazpacho is a pureed soup, and it seemed unnecessarily time-consuming to do so. We really don’t notice the skins.
  • We didn’t use red wine vinegar because we intended to serve some of the soup to our baby. We substituted 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup cider vinegar and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. It still tasted good.
  • We didn’t strain it through a sieve. Again, it still tastes great and you have one less thing to clean in the end. Strain it only if you don’t like the texture of pureed soup.

If you want to try it yourself, we recommend you halve the following recipe…

THE RECIPE:

Gazpacho Andaluz (source: The Professional Chef  by The Culinary Institute of America)

8 lb/3.63 kg peeled, seeded and medium-diced plum tomatoes

1 lb/454 g diced cucumbers

8 garlic cloves, crushed

8 fl oz/240 ml red wine vinegar

16 fl oz/480 ml olive oil

salt, as needed

ground black pepper, as needed

  • Combine all the ingredients, cover, refrigerate and marinate overnight.
  • Puree the marinated ingredients in a blender or food mill, working in batches if necessary. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Chill the soup thoroughly before serving.

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Vegetarian Chili

Chili

Photo: Arieanna on Active Mama

THE VERDICT:

We’ve discovered that Zayden loves tomato-based soups and figured chili would be an easy sell. But a hearty, meaty chili just didn’t seem like a summer food, so we decided to try a vegetarian version that my fellow Active Mama, Arieanna, had blogged about awhile back. Just like Arieanna, we chose to use black beans instead of black bean soup for this recipe. It was super easy to prepare–just throw everything into your slow cooker. We opted to finely chop all the veggies in our Mini Prep rather than cutting them by hand to be sure they were small enough for Zayden to handle. The beans he can handle whole.

This tasty chili is definitely a family-friendly meal. We all enjoyed it, and it tasted even better the second day.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Grandma’s Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili (source: All Recipes; original recipe)

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    The Mediterranean Crackers That Never Were

    Zayden chows downTHE VERDICT:

    We never ended up making the crackers themselves. Zayden has recently transitioned for three naps down to two, which has moved his bedtime a little earlier, so we’ve been sitting down to dinner earlier and the afternoon snack is no longer needed. We did end up making our own hummus using a recipe I’ve had for ages and have always used with great success. I got it out of Seventeen magazine (*blush*) when I was in high school, and it has been one of my staple party foods ever since. I often add a little more garlic than the recipe calls for because I believe there is no such thing as too much garlic, and I think it tastes better if you use fresh squeezed lemon juice instead of the kind from a bottle.

    I ended up using the hummus and veggies that we bought for this recipe to make a pretty tasty lunch: I smeared a pita with hummus, topped it with sliced tomato and cucumber, sprinkled on some salt and pepper and folded it up like a taco and took it on a picnic. Very yummy. Zayden also enjoyed the hummus. It’s definitely a very baby-friendly food. It’s a puree with few ingredients, so great for a little guy just starting solids. It’s also an excellent protein alternative if your little one hasn’t quite warmed up to meat yet.  And I know lots of moms with older kids who use hummus to trick their kids into eating more veggies because it’s such a popular dip. Definitely a food that will please the whole family.

    If you want to try it yourself. . .

    THE RECIPES:

    Hummus (source: Seventeen magazine)

    1 pound can of chickpeas

    1/3 cup lemon juice

    1/4 cup tahini

    3 cloves garlic

    1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

    paprika

    olive oil

    freshly chopped parsley

    • Pour some of the liquid from the chickpeas into a food processor or blender. Then drain the chickpeas.
    • Add lemon juice, garlic and tahini to the food processor or blender. Blend together.
    • Add chickpeas, salt and pepper. Blend again.
    • Spoon into a bowl. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika and parsley.
    • Chill.
    • Serve with pita or veggies for dipping.

    Mediterranean Crackers (source: Clean Eating magazine)

    5 Armenian whole-wheat crackers, or similar, topped with:

    2 Tbsp. hummus

    1/4 cup chopped tomato

    1/4 cup chopped cucumber

    1 tsp. lemon zest

    Makes 1 serving.

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    Breakfast Pita

    Breakfast pitaTHE VERDICT:

    A fairly quick breakfast to throw together, but not the most flavourful one. The 2 tsp of Parmesan cheese barely registers on the taste buds, so we were basically eating eggs with a couple slices of tomato. The second day we decided to add some diced green onions to jazz it up a bit without breaking the clean eating mandate of the week. It was a little better with the onions.

    It’s not a bad breakfast. The basic idea is good, but it needs a lot of dressing up before we’d put it in our regular breakfast menu rotation, but if we added all the bacon and cheese we’re envisioning, it probably wouldn’t be considered a “clean” breakfast anymore.

    If you want to try it yourself. . .

    THE RECIPE:

    Breakfast Pita (source: Clean Eating magazine)

    2 egg whites and 1 whole egg, scrambled

    2 tsp. Parmesan

    2 slices tomato

    Diced green onions, if desired

    1 whole wheat pita, folded in half and stuffed with the first 3 ingredients

    Makes 1 serving.

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    Spanish Pork and Redskin Potatoes

    Spanish PorkTHE VERDICT:

    This was one of the first recipes we tried from Clean Eating magazine. It promised to be a 20-minute meal, which it would be for anyone who is good at prepping vegetables. Most of the veggies are frozen or need only to be sliced, but the mincing of the tomato and bell pepper will slow you down a bit and will take most casual cooks beyond the 20 minute mark. But it is definitely quick to prepare regardless.

    My feelings towards this dish are lukewarm. I liked the simple flavours of the potatoes, but didn’t find that two redskin potatoes yielded 2 cups of potatoes as the recipe claimed. Even if they did, I think a 1/2 cup of potatoes is a pretty stingy side dish and a 1/4 oz. of goat cheese is pretty skimpy too. Unless you are on a strict diet, I would prepare a few more potatoes and add a little extra cheese to them.

    The main dish was pretty tasty and definitely packed in a lot of veggies, but it’s not something I would typically make again because it wasn’t a really standout meal. But I will probably make an exception in this case because it is so healthy and because Zayden enjoyed it so much. For parents looking to feed young babies table food, this is a great recipe because all you have to do is pick out the big rings of onion and slices of zucchini; the other ingredients are all small enough for baby to chew and swallow without difficulty. Babies with a good pincer grasp could even feed the little chunks to themselves though it can be a little messy because of the paprika. The paprika and lemon juice give the dish lots of flavour without adding tons of extra fat, salt or sugar like many sauces–definitely baby and parent friendly.

    If you want to try it yourself. . .

    THE RECIPE:

    Spanish Pork with Redskins (source: Clean Eating magazine)

    2 redskin potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

    1 zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

    1 medium onion, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

    3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

    4 cloves garlic chopped into slivers

    3/4 lb. extra-lean ground pork

    1 cup frozen peas

    1 cup frozen corn

    1 Tbsp. sweet paprika

    1 red bell pepper, minced

    1 medium tomato, chopped

    Juice 1/2 lemon

    1/2 tsp. dried sage

    1/2 tsp. dried thyme

    sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

    1 oz. goat cheese

    • Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Pierce potatoes with a knife to make sure they’re tender, them remove from heat and drain.
    • While potatoes are cooking, saute zucchini and onion in 1 1/2 tsp. oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning. Stir in pork, peas, corn and paprika. Cook for 5 more minutes, making sure that all ingredients are distributed evenly across the surface of the pan.
    • Remove pork mixture from heat and stir in bell pepper, tomato and lemon juice. Cover with lid to keep warm while finishing potatoes.
    • Gently toss potatoes with remaining  1 1/2 tsp. oil. Add sage and thyme and season with salt and black pepper. Place about 1/2 cup of  potatoes alongside quarter of pork mixture on each plate, then crumble quarter of cheese over top before serving.

    Makes 4 servings.

    Hands on time: 20 minutes Total time: 20 minutes

    Nutrients per serving: 350 calories, 9 g fat, 35 g carbs, 33 g protein, 156 mg sodium, 26 mg cholesterol

    Nutritional Bonus: Herbs and spices don’t simply add flavour. When combined, 1 tsp. of sage and 1 tsp. of thyme contain 32% of your daily vitamin K and 1 Tbsp. of paprika has 71% of your vitamin A requirement.

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    Bison Burgers with Zucchini Sticks

    Bison Burgers & Zoo SticksTHE VERDICT:

    We’re determined to enjoy our BBQ even if the weather doesn’t cooperate this summer. After grilling up some bison steaks, we were eager to try the bison burgers we’d seen at 3p. Justin tried the jalapaeno version (of course!) and I tried the regular patty. We served them on whole wheat hamburger buns from Cobs, dressed them up with some Qualicum Spice cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and used cucumber and tomato slices in lieu of condiments. Overall, a good burger though a bit drier than using ground beef. Due to the lower fat content in bison, it’s best to cook your burgers at a lower temperature to avoid excessive dryness.

    The zucchini sticks were our alternative to fries and a great way to use up the zucchini we had sitting in the fridge. They aren’t quite as tasty as the deep fried restaurant version, but came very close. While we used them as a side dish, they would also make a great casual appetizer or snack.

    If you want to try it yourself . . .

    THE RECIPE:

    Parmesan Crusted Baked Zucchini Sticks (source: Closet Cooking; original recipe)

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    Honey-Wasabi Grilled Shrimp with Tomato and Bocconcini Salad

    Wasabi Shrimp with Tomato-Bocconchini SaladTHE VERDICT:

    Both of these recipes are easy to make and extremely tasty.  We used wasabi paste for the shrimp marinade and halved the amount based on the recipe, which used wasabi powder.  Next time I’d use closer to the same amount of paste as powder, as the shrimp could have used more kick.  The tomato-bocconcini salad was inspired by the traditional Caprese, but we did a mini-version, with heirloom cherry tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market, baby bocconcini, basil and olive oil.

    This was a very quick meal to throw together, but still might make a better weekend meal because shrimp tends to get rubbery when reheated. That might explain why the  recipe made just enough shrimp for dinner with no leftovers.   The salad kept well for lunch the next day. I think we might use pearl or cocktail size bocconcini next time, as the baby bocconcini was a little big.

    If you want to try it yourself…

    THE RECIPE:

    Honey-Wasabi Grilled Shrimp (source: Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine; original recipe)

    Tomato and Bocconcini Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

    4 or more cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

    1 container of baby or cocktail bocconcini

    2 Tbsp. fresh basil, sliced into thin strips

    olive oil

    coarsely ground black pepper

    • Combine first three ingredients in a salad bowl.
    • Drizzle with olive oil.
    • Add pepper to taste.


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    Grilled Mozzarella and Spinach BLTs

    BLTTHE VERDICT:

    These sandwiches were yummy! Grilled sandwiches are some of our favourite things to make on the Griddler though we rarely follow a recipe. I liked how the classic BLT was jazzed up with spinach, garlic and mozzarella. You have all your food groups covered with this one, so it’s suitable for a night when you need a quick meal or for a tasty weekend lunch.

    THE RECIPE:

    Grilled Mozzarella and Spinach BLTs (source: Fine Cooking: Fresh and Quick magazine; original recipe)

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