Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ode to the Canned Tomato

Although it is true that fresh over canned veggies is often the better choice, sometimes there is just no time. You’re in luck because canned tomatoes are just as good as fresh! Plus, after a long day of work and maybe a workout at the gym, coming home and cooking dinner is a daunting task! So, if some canned tomatoes will help to make your cooking a little easier and healthier, I say go for it!

Why Have You Done A Good Thing?

Tomatoes (canned or fresh) are filled with powerful antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lycopene. These nutrients help our cells fight off enemies and keep us strong. These red delights are low-calorie, with fiber to boot, making them a great BANG for your BITE. Finally, they are a Your Secret Ingredient pick because of their important role in so many different recipes, making you more likely to make a quick weeknight dinner with these cans on hand. Go you!

Quick Tip: sometimes, canned foods (including tomatoes) can be high in sodium. It is important to read the label and choose the brand with the least amount of sodium (the lower the better). You can also rinse the contents to lower the sodium by about half. Look at the ingredients; they should only be tomatoes and/or juice of tomato.

Your Secret Ingredient Brand Picks: Pomi Canned Tomato Varietites, San Marzano Canned Tomato Varieties, Hunt’s No Salt Added Plum/Diced Tomatoes, and Shoprite No Salt Added Peeled Tomatoes

10 quick weeknight meals to make with canned tomatoes: you will be doing your waistline & body good!

1. Want to make homemade tomato sauce, but don’t have the energy to go to the grocery store? Grab a can of tomatoes from your pantry and follow along: Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil, add any chopped veggies you have on hand, add any combination of fresh, cherry or canned tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, basil or oregano- simmer. For extra protein, try adding a couple of lean burger patties or low-sodium canned beans in to the sauce. Or top sauce on store-bought veggie-filled ravioli or tortellini. For a fancy fake-out, bake your new tomato sauce with the ravioli or tortellini and a sprinkle of cheese for a lasagna fake-out!

2. Roasted veggies with pasta and tomatoes.

Chop any vegetables (I like mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, and onion), coat with a little olive oil and salt, and roast in oven on 400F for 25-30 minutes. Do this step on a day when you have extra time (maybe Sunday) and then just keep in the fridge. *Those veggies will be good to snack on, too. Cook whole-wheat pasta according to instructions. Place ¼- ½ cup of pasta in a bowl, along with 1 cup of roasted veggies. Add ½ cup chopped canned tomatoes. Heat up and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top for a complete meal.

3. Turkey or Bean Chili.

Everyone has their favorite recipes but simply, sauté some veggies, season, add some ground lean turkey meat, beans, low-sodium broth, and canned tomatoes. Let simmer.

4. Soup

For a super-easy soup, sauté some veggies (including onion, celery, and carrots). Add meat and/or beans or lentils, 1-2 quarts of low-sodium broth, canned tomatoes, and anything else you have lying around such as left-over rotisserie chicken! Let simmer.

5. Fish with onion, tomato & olive

Season and cook fish in a bit of olive oil. Set aside on a plate and cover with tin foil. In same pan, use a little olive oil to sauté onions, then de-glaze pan by adding some white wine. Add in canned tomatoes and chopped, seeded kalmata olives. Let reduce for a few minutes and then top sauce on fish and serve.

6. Breakfast anyone? Don’t count canned tomatoes out. Look at this Israeli breakfast/lunch/dinner recipe we found, called Shukshuka:

7. Hungarian Lecso (vegetarian)

Check out this quick and easy vegetarian meal, starring canned tomatoes.

8. Use as a filling and/or sauce for stuffed peppers or stuffed cabbage. These are simple things to make. Mix some cooked brown rice with some lean ground meat (raw), seasoning, canned tomatoes & chopped veggies, stuff into pepper (halved and de-seeded) or cabbage leaf, cover with chopped, canned tomatoes, and bake in a pan, with fresh tomato sauce, at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until the meat is done.

9. Chicken A La Mexicana

In this dish, you simply brown the chicken in a deep sauté pan with olive oil on both sides- about 8-10 minutes total. Take out and set aside. Saute onions in a little olive oil until brown, then add chopped bell peppers, jalapenos (optional) and canned tomatoes. Add the chicken back in and let simmer until done, about 15 minutes.

10. Salsa

Finely chop onion, jalapenos and canned tomatoes, season with salt to taste- mix. Use as a condiment for a turkey or chicken sandwich to form an easy weeknight meal.

Next time you go grocery shopping, be sure to stock up on some canned tomatoes and then use these simple recipes to start cooking!

--Samantha Jaocbs, MS RD CDN

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