Stuffed Tomatoes

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a couple of days. The other main activity in my life is learning the craft of screenwriting and I’ve been at a virtual screenwriting summit all weekend. Just ending today so I have a little time to put up an old recipe of mine that I learned from a friend who was a caterer. Very easy to do and can be used as an appetizer or an entrée. Stuffed tomatoes can be stuffed with any kind of salad you like, egg, chicken, ham, etc. Tip from my caterer friend, use your food processor to process the meat into a well grated product so that it’s easier to stuff into the tomato, especially if you’re using very small tomatoes. It can also be put into a piping bag to fill the tomatoes. Use any size of tomato you like. I prefer to use Campari tomatoes, large for smaller tomatoes and large enough for 2 bites, a good size for an appetizer. If I’m making this as an entrée, a larger tomato is of course needed, like a Big Boy.

If you want the tomatoes to sit neatly on the plate, you can cut a very small amount from the bottom. Just be careful not to cut through the meat of the tomato.

Begin by making the salad. Put into the bowl of a food processor:

1 pound of ham, 1 large chicken breast, 8-10 hard boiled eggs, etc., cut into large chunks

1 large celery stalk, cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons dill relish (this is a sugar free relish; for a sweeter salad, add a little sweetener rather than use a sweet relish which contains sugar)

1-2 scallions, cut into large pieces

Blend until the meat is in small pieces. Add:

1/2 to 2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise

Blend until well mixed, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before finishing processing. Remove the completed salad to either a piping bag or a medium bowl.

For the tomatoes:

16-20 Campari tomatoes

36-48 grape tomatoes

or 2-4 large tomatoes

Begin by washing the tomatoes.* Then cut off the very top of the stem end of the tomatoes. Then, using a small sharp knife, cut around the inside of the tomato next to the meat and use a sharp ended spoon to scoop out the seeds and veins of the tomato.

Set the tomatoes on a paper towel, upside down so that some of the moisture drains out. Leave for about 5 minutes before filling. Place on a plate, garnish with scallions, chives, or thin slices of dill pickle.

*I hope all my followers know that you should NEVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator! Take this from a girl who grew up on a farm. Refrigerating them steals their flavor and also toughens the skins. Also when buying tomatoes, smell them. If they don’t smell like a tomato, they won’t taste like a tomato. Same with most fruit that has a distinct odor like strawberries.

Marinara Sauce

This is a remake of my Aunt Jean’s marinara sauce. I started making this recipe for my family as a teenager and have continued using it ever since. Many times, I made this for my roommate and son, brings back many memories.

Needed:

1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced

Cook for several minutes until onion is translucent before adding:

  • 2 garlic cloves diced
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 64 ounces of pureed tomatoes
  • 16 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley (about 2 tablespoons of each)
  • monk fruit powder, stevia, or agave nectar if needed for additional sweetness

In a large skillet, saute the onion and bell pepper for a few minutes and then add the diced garlic and the grated carrot.  Saute until softened, about 3 minutes over medium heat.  Add the red wine (or mushroom stock) and cook off the alcohol.  Add the pureed and diced tomatoes and simmer over a low heat, covered, for approximately 1 hour.  Uncover and simmer an additional 15 minutes.  Add the fresh herbs along with salt and pepper to taste and the tomato paste.  If needed, depending on your taste, add additional sweetener. 

Easy Ratatouille (dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free)

I don’t generally blog recipes that don’t originally contain allergens. But I love vegetables so I thought it was time for me to share more of my basic go-to vegetable dishes like ratatouille. So delicious, one of my grandson’s favorites, and easy to put together. Like Chinese food, the hardest and most time consuming part of this dish is chopping the vegetables.

You’ll need:

1 small yellow squash

1 small zucchini squash

1 medium eggplant (I prefer to use Japanese ones because they don’t have the bitterness but pick one with a green stem and inward bottom where the blossom was; also try to pick one that’s reasonably thin and firm to the touch)

1 cup diced onion (sweet, yellow, white, red, whichever you have on hand)

1 tablespoon to minced garlic

1 16oz can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, squash and eggplant. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes turning several times. Reduce heat to low and cook another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just getting tender. Add the canned tomatoes, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes to heat, stir in the agave nectar. Serve. Serves 4-6.

Carrot Chowder (dairy-free, gluten-free)

Carrots are so versatile. Not only are they great in savory dishes like soups, salads, stews, curries, and stir-fries, but they also work very well in desserts. Here’s a great carrot soup with a hint of creamy tomato soup that’s hearty and satisfying. If you want a vegan soup, substitute the ground turkey for a ground vegan product and the chicken stock for vegetable stock.

In a Dutch oven pot, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil and add:

1 pound ground turkey or chicken, when browned add:

1/2 cup chopped celery and

1/2 cup chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent

Add 2 1/2 cups grated carrots

32 ounce can of tomato puree

1 cup non-dairy yogurt

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon thyme, marjoram, and/or basil (I use a pre-mixed Italian blend that includes all three)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon date sugar

Cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. I like to serve this with seasoned croutons (gluten free of course) or gluten free rolls. Serves 4-6 depending on if you want it for an appetizer or a main dish.

Spicy Spanish Meatballs (dairy free, gluten free, soy free, egg free)

Just like with meatloaf, I love meatballs. I’ve gotten lazy in my old age and simply made meatballs with some of my meatloaf mix but I recently saw a recipe for Spicy Spanish Meatballs and thought I’d give them a try. Here’s my revision of that recipe that used beef, veal and eggs, none of which I can eat.

You’ll need for the meatballs:

2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or ground cumin)

2 teaspoons coriander seeds (or ground coriander)

2 whole cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)

9 ounces ground turkey

8 ounces ground pork

2 teaspoons allspice (or you can use nutmeg, I don’t happen to like it so substituted allspice)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 garlic cloves crushed

1/2 cup chopped dates (if you used dried dates, be sure to rehydrate them before adding)

1 small hot red chili pepper (I used a red finger pepper, seeds and veins removed), finely chopped

flax gel (3 tablespoons ground flax mixed into 1/3 cup hot water; let stand 5 minutes)

You’ll need for the sauce:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds (roast and grind as above) (or 1 teaspoon ground cumin)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium red onions, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons diced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon paprika (I used 1/2 teaspoon regular paprika and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika)

1/2 cup wine (if you can have it) OR 1/2 cup chicken stock

28 ounces (1 large can) diced tomatoes

2 dried bay leaves

1 teaspoon dry oregano or marjoram

2 tablespoons date syrup

Make the meatballs: In a dry skillet, heat the cumin and coriander seeds and whole cloves over medium heat until aromatic, a minute or two. Let cool for a few minutes and then grind in either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I used my coffee grinder that I never use for coffee).

Add to a food processor, the flax gel, dates, dried spices, garlic, cinnamon, allspice and chili pepper and grind until smooth. Remove to a bowl, add salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of each) along with the meats and blend until mixed. Try not to overmix to avoid tough meatballs. Form into about 1 ounce meatballs with wet hands (makes about 16-18). Place on a greased, small baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.

Whwn the sauce is simmering, take the meatballs out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.

To make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a small Dutch oven, add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, salt and pepper (again about 1/2 teaspoon each), cumin, cinnamon and paprika and cook for a few minutes over low to medium heat being careful not to let the spices or garlic burn. Add the wine or chicken stock and boil for several minutes until almost evaporated. Add the chopped tomatoes and bay leaves, turn the heat down and simmer for 20-30 minutes uncovered, stir occasionally.

Add 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste depending on how thick you like your sauce, and the oregano or marjoram along with the date syrup (don’t have any? Use maple syrup or agave instead).

Add the meatballs to the sauce, remove the bay leaves. If you wish, you can sprinkle the dish with chopped fresh parsley. Serve over any small grain such as quinoa or faro, couscous would also work. Or serve with slices of gluten free bread to sop up the sauce.

Serves 4 people generously.

Spicy Lentil Vegetable Soup

(dairy free, gluten free, vegan, soy free) Makes approximately 8-10 servings

Lentil are very versatile, allowing cooks to be imaginative in using them. They seem to like being pairs with a wide variety of other foods and spices. Lentils were not something we had growing up, don’t know which parent didn’t like them but my mother never cooked us lentil soup even though both parents loved pea soup. In this recipe, I’ve paired my favorite vegetable soup with lentils. There are various other ingredients you can use in this recipe, depending on what your family likes. Here’s the basics along with some variations. You’ll need:

1 3/4 cups (an 8 oz package) of lentils, no specific type, I used a mixture of green, black and brown

6 cups of liquid (water, stock, etc., I used a combination of water and vegetable stock)

1 cup sliced carrots

1 large onion diced

3-6 stalks of celery diced for approximately 1 cup

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup sweet potato diced

1/2 cup regular potato diced

1 teaspoon curry powder (or 2 tablespoon curry paste)

1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)

1 cup frozen peas

1 medium turnip peeled and diced

Add the oil to the bottom of a heated Dutch oven. Add the curry powder and heat for about 15 seconds or until you can smell the curry, but be careful not to burn it. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, celery, potatoes, and turnip. Once the onion is translucent, add the lentils and the liquid. You can also add the tomatoes at this point along with the peas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until lentils are tender (if you’re using sprouted lentils, they don’t take as long as regular lentils). If you use curry paste rather than powder, add it here. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend until you have the consistency you want. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper). Serve.

Variations: Don’t want vegan – use chicken or turkey stock instead of the vegetable stock. You can also add some cooked sausage (either bulk or links cut into slices) or diced ham before serving.

If you don’t like potatoes, leave them out and add 1/2 cup quinoa when you add the lentils. This will also up the protein!

Don’t like curry? Leave it out and use 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon thyme instead. Or, you can add 2 teaspoons cumin seeds and 2 teaspoons turmeric. Add either of these when you add the lentils.

Want it more tomatoie? Stir in 1 small jar of tomato paste before you use the blender.

Don’t have an immersion blender? Cool the soup in the frig for about an hour and then blend in a standard blender. You might want to leave a couple of cups whole for texture.

Fish and Rice Stirfry (Dairy-free, Soy-free, Gluten-free)

I’m always looking for new ways to use fish.  Fish is one of those proteins that I love to eat but don’t often like to cook.  This is a quick recipe that really highlights flavor.  Its well balanced nutritionally, very filling, and can be adjusted to serve the tastes of anyone.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  •  6-8 ounces white fish, diced
  •  1/2 cup diced onion
  •  1/2 cup shredded carrots
  •  1/2 cup cooked peas
  •  1/2 cup diced celery
  •  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  •  1 tablespoon dried parsley (or 3 tablespoons fresh parsley)
  •  Scallions, cherry tomatoes, etc. for garnish
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  Salt and pepper to taste
  •  Juice of a half lemon

In a large hot skillet, add the olive oil, onions, carrots, and celery.  Saute over medium heat until celery and carrots are softened.  Add the fish and cook thoroughly.  Add the rice, quinoa, peas, and herbs.*  Stir to combine.  Heat through, spritz with the lemon juice and serve with whatever garnishes you like.  This time of year, my first garnish is always tomatoes although this year, without my husband’s garden, I’ve had to find fresh tomatoes in the markets.

*Other additions, depending on your tastes, could be some diced peppers, sweet or hot; some hot sauce or chili oil; Old Bay seasoning or other herbs; and perhaps, since I’m now living in Minnesota instead of New Hampshire where this seems to be like seafood back east, some wild rice instead of the brown rice and/or quinoa.

Chard Wrap (dairy-free, gluten-free)

A friend challenged me last week to find a way to produce a wrap for her lunch that didn’t use a tortilla. Of course, my first thought was a lettuce wrap that I’ve been making for years.  But she wanted something new and different.  The swiss chard can be prepared ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for several days.  

Put a large (dutch oven type) pot on the stove about half full of water.  Bring to a bowl.  Meanwhile, clean:

  • 1 bunch of swiss chard (green or rainbow) – collard greens could also be used

Cut out the toughest parts of the stems which will leave a V-shaped leaf.  When the water comes to a bowl, place the chard leaves in the water for 60 seconds (I did this individually so that they wouldn’t break and would cook evenly but that’s not completely necessary; the last few I did altogether and they were fine).

Remove and place in a bowl of cold water for just a few minutes.  Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.  

To make a wrap, cut the Vs into two pieces.  Stagger several pieces (4-5) on top of one another to strengthen the wrap and make a solid wrapper.  Spread with honey mustard sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw honey

Whisk until blended.  Place the wrap meats and tomato across and the sprouts and avocado lengthwise so that there’s some of each in every bite.  I used:

  • 2 slices organic, low sodium turkey breast
  • 2 slices organic honey baked ham
  • 2 slices non-dairy provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
  • 4 slices of tomato
  • 1/2 a medium avocado sliced

Fold in the longer edges of the chard wrap (if possible) and then fold the shorter ends to each other.  Cut in half and serve.  

Alternatives:  

  • Make this entirely with vegetables using sprouts, shredded lettuces, wedges of carrot, celery, or cucumber laid in the short direction, add cheese if desired

Spaghetti and Meatballs (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, sugar-free)

A throwback to my earlier life cooking for my best friend and my son, and sometimes for her parents as well, this recipe holds lots of memories.  The marinara sauce is a remake of my Aunt Jean’s sauce while the meatballs are an off-shoot of my meatloaf recipe.  If you prefer, a jarred sauce works just as well if you have one your family especially likes, and it sure is a lot quicker and easier than making a sauce from scratch.

Marinara Sauce:

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves diced
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 64 ounces of pureed tomatoes
  • 16 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or stock if you can’t use wine)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley (about 2 tablespoons of each)
  • monk fruit powder, stevia, or agave nectar if needed for additional sweetness

In a large skillet, saute the onion and bell pepper for a few minutes and then add the diced garlic and the grated carrot.  Saute until softened, about 3 minutes over medium heat.  Add the red wine and cook off the alcohol.  Add the pureed and diced tomatoes and cook over a low heat, covered, for approximately 1 hour.  Uncover and cook an additional 15 minutes.  Add the fresh herbs along with salt and pepper to taste and the tomato paste.  If needed, depending on your taste, add additional sweetener.  Simmer over low heat until ready to add the meatballs.

Meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, pulsed in a food processor until small dice
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs (I used an herb mixture such as Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry parsley
  • 1/2 cup sugar-free ketchup (such as Organicsville Agave Ketchup) OR 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 slices of gluten-free bread crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees; grease an 8×10 baking pan with olive oil.  Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until combined but try not to overmix so that the meat mixture stays tender.  I use a soup spoon to measure out the meatballs so that they are all about the same size.  Mine were approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and the recipe made 24 meatballs.  Bake in the prepared pan for about 45 minutes, in the middle of the oven so that the bottoms of the meatballs don’t burn.  Add the meatballs to the sauce.

Prepare your favorite pasta.  I use the red lentil and quinoa linguine which takes just about 8 minutes to cook and my husband thinks tastes good even though he doesn’t realize its gluten-free and contains protein.  After you drain your pasta, put it back in the cooking pot, add sauce and mix thoroughly.  Serve with the meatballs and feel free to sprinkle some grated mozzarella (non-dairy of course) over the top.

Tomato Pie (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, vegan)

Another very easy to make recipe, tomato pie takes some planning and most of the day but the time is spent waiting for the tomatoes to dry and that takes 4-6 hours.  So if you want to try this easy recipe, plan ahead and make sure you have plenty of time available.  Not something you can throw together at the last minute.  It’s one way for me to use all the overabundance of tomatoes I have this time of year.

You’ll need:

  • 5-8 tomatoes depending on size
  • one small onion
  • a gluten-free pie crust, bottom layer only (see my recipe under desserts)
  • 1 to 2 cups of non-dairy mozzarella cheese (depending on how much cheese you like)

Line a large baking tray with 4 or 5 layers of paper towels

Slice:

  • 5-8 tomatoes, depending on the size (you’ll want about 30 slices)
  • one small onion

Let the tomatoes and onion dry on the paper towels, turning every couple of hours, for 4-6 hours.  I also put a couple of layers over the top so that nothing gets into the tomatoes and I can help dry out the slices.  Make sure that its a single layer of tomatoes on the tray.  If you don’t dry your tomatoes thoroughly, you’ll have tomato juice in your soggy pie.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prebake a 9 inch gluten-free pie crust.  Blind baking the bottom crust helps make sure that it doesn’t come out soggy.

When the crust is cool, add about a half cup of cheese and then place the tomato slices into the pie crust trying to cover the entire surface.  Add a layer of onions.  Continue to add tomatoes and onions until you have three rounds and the crust is mostly filled.  Cover the top of the pie with cheese and bake for 45 minutes.  Cool slightly before serving.

As a variation, you can add some cooked Italian sausage, either slices or ground,  into the pie as you’re layering the tomatoes and onions.