Category Archives: tomatoes

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Roasted Vegetable Soup With Tomato And Fennel

As the weather gets chilly and the days get shorter I find an increased desire for soup. Nourishing and warming, soup seems to really hit the spot.  Plus it’s so versatile. Soup is great as a snack, as a meal starter, or in some cases as the meal all by itself. 

This particular roasted vegetable soup is a favorite. After all, who doesn’t love tomato soup? But part of what makes this so wonderful is the fennel which gives it a delicious flavor boost. This soup tastes even better the second day, so be sure to make a lot (this recipe doubles or even triples with ease) to ensure you have leftovers.

Roasted Vegetable Soup with Tomato and Fennel
  1. 1½ lbs. Roma tomatoes, halved
  2. 2 medium red bell peppers, deseeded and quartered
  3. 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  4. 2 large carrots, cut in half lengthwise
  5. 2 medium shallots, outer skin removed and halved
  6. 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  7. 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  8. Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  9. 2 T. fresh thyme leaves
  10. 4 c. organic chicken bone broth
  11. ½ c. full-fat coconut milk
  12. ½ c. fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat and set aside
  3. Arrange the tomatoes, red peppers, fennel, carrots, shallots, and garlic in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper, to taste
  5. Toss to combine and sprinkle veggies with fresh thyme leaves
  6. Place baking sheet in preheated oven and roast until vegetables are tender and lightly charred, approximately 20-25 minutes
  7. Transfer the roasted veggies and any juices from the baking sheet to a large soup pot and add the bone broth
  8. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and and bubbly
  9. Remove from heat
  10. Using an immersion blender, blend contents of the soup pot until completely smooth
  11. Stir in the coconut milk and fresh basil, and serve
  12. Enjoy!
  1. Safety Tip: If you don’t have a stick or immersion blender, it is possible to use a blenders to process the cooked veggies and liquid. However it is important to be sure your blender lid is vented  properly to prevent the hot liquid from exploding when you turn on the blender.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Store in the refrigerator for several days. It can also be stored in single-serving containers in the freezer for a quick meal or snack later.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

oven dried tomatoes

Sam writes and asks, “We have a bunch of beefsteak tomatoes that my sister wants dried. We have a gas oven but no dehydrator. What is the best way to do this?

You can dry or dehydrate foods in the oven and tomatoes do very well when preserved this way.  The first thing to do is figure out if you want your oven dried tomatoes in slices or in sections (i.e., slicing into quarters or eighths).

Start by washing the fruit well and discarding any that is over-ripe or bruised.  An easy way to wash it is to put the tomatoes in the sink, fill it with water and add approximately 1/2 cup of vinegar plus the juice of 1/2 lemon per gallon.

Drain the fruit well and core it before slicing.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.

Prep your “drying tray” by placing cooling racks (fine mesh ones work best but the others will still work) on top of cookie sheets.  This will allow maximum air circulation around the tomatoes and help them to dry faster.  In case you’re interested this is also how I cook bacon in order to avoid bacon grease splatter all over the stovetop [20 minutes at 325].

Slice your tomatoes.  Note: If you are going to dry your tomatoes in sections you’ll need to pierce the skin in a few places to make sure all of the moisture can get out during the drying process.

I find that when dehydrating tomatoes it goes faster and works better if I remove most of the seeds and the pulp.  That’s a personal choice though, some people like the seeds in it.  If you’re removing the seeds this is the time to do so.

After the tomatoes have been sliced and de-seeded gently toss them with a little bit of olive oil and then arrange on the cooling racks.  Lightly sprinkle with sea salt or minced herbs if desired.  Then bake.

This is where it gets a bit tricky. How long to cook them for.  Well, that depends.  On how thickly they are cut, on how juicy they are, on the ambient humidity, and how dry you want them.  If you’re looking for serious long term storage it will probably take at least 8 hours.  You want the tomatoes to be very reduced in size, with curled up edges and almost leathery looking.  They need to still be a bit flexible, you don’t want to dehydrate them until they are brittle.

In order to use your oven dried tomatoes you’ll need to rehydrate them for about 20-30 minutes in liquid. You can use either warm water, broth, wine, or even olive oil.  These amazing veggie treasures can be used in soups, chopped for salad topping, added to meatloaf, used to create an intense flavor in sauces, the variety of uses is only limited by your palate and your imagination.

photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis

September - cholesterol awareness month

September Is Cholesterol Awareness Month – Part 2

More about cholesterol

In part one of this series of articles for Cholesterol Awareness Month, we learned some of the important facts that we need to know about cholesterol and how it can affect our health.  In part two we’re going to learn about some healthy foods to add to the diet which can help to reduce cholesterol and support better overall health.

Good for you food choices

Let’s start by remembering that if a label says the product is low-fat or fat-free this often means it’s been adulterated with chemicals that are probably not good for your health.  For optimal health it’s important to avoid a highly processed SAD (Standard American Diet) plan and instead eat real, whole foods which are delicious as well as nutritious.

Omega 3 fatty acids

These are excellent for heart health.  Unfortunately our modern diet tends to be very high in omega 6s and does not include nearly enough omega 3s 

  • cold water fatty fish – such as salmon, tuna, and sardines,
  • walnuts
  • flax seeds


Adding fiber to your diet is a great idea not only for cardiac health but also for gut health.  Helping to form bulk for your stools it also provides prebiotics, the food that the probiotics in your gut need to live.  

  • Whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, oatmeal (old fashioned rolled oats, oat groats, or steel-cut, NOT instant)
  • Legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas

Note: if you’re not used to eating fiber start slow as too much can cause intestinal distress.  

Olive oil 

A delicious way to cook, dress salads, or create a dipping sauce, olive oil is a heart-healthy food that you want to make sure is part of your pantry.  Be sure to choose extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil as many “light” olive oils are highly processed and don’t have the same benefits.


Sadly these days most people think that salad counts as a vegetable.  But what they’re really eating is nutritionally deficient iceberg lettuce with a few pieces of other vegetables, croutons, candy-coated nuts or dried fruit, and drowned in chemically laden, high-calorie dressing.  

If you’re going to have some vegetables why not have a real vegetable packed with nutrients.   Colorful, tasty, and good-for-you.

  • avocados (high in monounsaturated fats)
  • brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts(high in fiber and phytonutrients)
  • tomatoes (lycopene is great for reducing LDL)
  • sweet potatoes (high in beta-carotene and fiber)


Found in a number of delicious foods this category of antioxidants is highly supportive of heart health and a very delicious way to support lowering your cholesterol.  

  • Green tea
  • red wine
  • grape juice
  • cocoa products (such as dark chocolate or cocoa powder) – due to caffeine and/or sugars these need to be eaten in moderation

How much to eat

The following are appropriate serving sizes for the foods referenced above. Food journaling is a good way to monitor how much and when you are eating so you can build your nutritional plan to incorporate more of these foods:

Protein – 6-8 ounces of animal protein / 12-24 ounces of vegetable protein
Leafy Greens – 3-4 cups per day
Colorful veggies – 2-3 cups per day
Complex Carbs – .5-1.5 whole grains / 2-3 medium root vegetables
Fruit – .5-1.5 cups
Booster foods – 2-4 tablespoons (seaweeds, greens powders, nutritional yeast, seeds, spices, and herbs)
Liquids – 1-3 cups per day (nourishing broth, green tea)

note: 3 tablespoons = 1 teaspoon

Check out Part Three – heart-healthy recipes.

If you enjoyed this article, please join my community to receive more information and special offers with my free newsletter, Food News You Can Use (I do the research so you don’t have to). This concise, informative newsletter gives you updates you need to know about the ingredients for living a healthy life.

National Salsa Month

salsa ingredients | photo:  webaware

Salsa is rapidly becoming a favorite condiment for many people.  After all there’s nothing else that goes quite so well with nachos and I’m fairly certain that’s a popular snack at home or when eating out.  The great thing about salsa is that it can be made so many different ways, with fruit, spicy, mild, any way you like.  Defined as a fresh relish it’s readily available on grocery store shelves.  However it’s so easy to make at home, and so much tastier, that I prefer to make it myself.

One of the great things about salsa is the way the flavors can be combined to make a condiment to accompany just about any dish.  Fruit flavors, such as peach, pineapple, mango, and many more.  The heat can be adjusted depending on how many chilis you do (or don’t) use.

Don’t just serve it with chips, depending on the flavor profile you can pair salsa with many different foods:

  • on top of baked potatoes
  • mixed with brown rice and beans
  • as a salad dressing
  • on top of meatloaf
  • with scrambled eggs in a taquito
  • with baked chicken
  • in a TexMex lettuce wrap
  • poured over cream cheese for a dip
  • with baked fish
  • use your imagination…..the possibilities are endless
Here’s a basic salsa recipe for you, play with it and make changes however you like, there’s really no right or wrong with salsa.
Basic Salsa
8 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon lime juice
Mix all ingredients together and serve.

Growing A Garden

Rosemary | photo: Nataraja

It’s been very dry here in the Eastern Piney Woods of Texas.  So dry that there are now warning signs all over town about the potential for fire hazard.  Needless to say this is not boding well for my garden.  This is our third year here and each year we do a little bit better than the year before.  But we also spend a lot of time and energy moving things around trying to find just the *right* spot on our postage stamp-sized property.  We seem to have finally found the right spot for the tomatoes and they’re producing faster than we can eat them which is a delicious thing.  If I start to get too many I make something my friend Libby calls Tomato Junk and shove it in the freezer ready to use at a moments notice for pasta dishes, salads, egg scrambles and more.

I’ve just gotten back from the store where I have purchased, yet again, a rosemary plant.  This is my fourth one of the season.  I had one last year.  It did pretty well.  We enjoyed using it in a lot of recipes, especially veggie marinades, last summer.  Then winter came.  It was a bad winter (for Texas) and many things in my yard did not make it.  One of them was that poor rosemary.  Okay, it happens.  So I went and bought another one.  For some reason it wasn’t happy where the first one was and it died.  I bought another one and moved it to the bed across the way.  That one died too.  Then I bought another one and planted it in a pot with the lavender.  The lavender is still going but the rosemary?  Yup, dead as a doornail.

So I’ve bought another one (luckily they are just $4 a pot so I can afford to keep shelling out until I get it right) and I’m really hoping this one will make it.  I’ve got a different location in mind, a little more shade, hopefully a better location and nowhere near the areas where the others have not survived.

Along the way I keep being reminded that gardening is an ever-evolving process.  Especially after learning how to garden in one area of the country and then moving to a vastly different agricultural zone and temperate climate.  Learning what plant where takes time and attention and effort.  Luckily most of what my husband and I plant in our garden seems to grow well or I probably would have given up by now.   I also like playing in the dirt and this certainly gives me an excuse to keep on doing it.  And it’s a great way to get some sunshine and fresh air, something I recommend for everyone.

Since I mentioned it, here’s the recipe for Tomato Junk.  There are no precise measurements, I just throw it all together but somehow it always works out.

Tomato Junk

a lot of very ripe tomatoes, washed, cored, peeled and quartered
a sweet onion, chopped
a clove or two of garlic, minced
a bunch of basil, minced

Using a generous amount of olive oil in the pan saute onions and garlic until the onion starts to wilt
Add tomatoes and cook until they start to break down
Add basil and cook another 5 minutes

Remove from heat, let cool and then package for the freezer in 1 cup containers

I do not add salt or pepper to this as I season it when I use it

Green Tomato Chutney

Green Tomatoes | Medved’ | Wikimedia Commons

QuantumVegan just harvested about fifty pounds of tomatoes.  That’s a LOT of tomatoes.

When we lived in Vermont that kind of a harvest was sure to mean we were getting green tomatoes.  The growing season is so short there tomatoes don’t always have time to ripen.  So you come up with lots of good ways to use green tomatoes.  There’s green tomato pie, green tomato salsa, the ubiquitous fried green tomatoes and more.

Luckily green tomatoes have lots of nutrition, as I posted before, including lycopene.  If you’re getting close to the end of your growing season and you’re looking at a large crop of green tomatoes, here’s my favorite way to use them up; green tomato chutney.  It goes very well with cheese and crackers, it is excellent with cold roast meats, delicious as a side to a spicy vegetarian lentil dish, it’s very versatile condiment to have in your pantry.

This recipe is based on one from Fancy Pantry which appears to be out of print.   find it to be a good book with lots of wonderful recipes and well worth having.  But in the meantime here’s my version:

Green Tomato Chutney

4 pounds green tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
4 pounds green apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 C. yellow onions, minced
2 C. raisins
3 cloves garlic minced
3 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 1/2  C. raw apple cider vinegar
3 T. minced fresh ginger
2 T. mustard seed
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

In a large stock pot mix together tomatoes, apples, onions, raisins, garlic, cane juice crystals, salt, and vinegar.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Continue to boil for approximately 30 minutes continuing to stir frequently.  The fruits will begin to soften and meld together.
Add the spices.
Boil for another 10-15 minutes until you reach the consistency you want.
Ladle into hot sterile jars and seal according to directions.
Bath for 10 minutes remove and let cool.

This recipe needs to settle to allow all of the flavors to come together.  Let it sit in a cool dark space for at least a month before opening.

Makes about 6 pints.

Tuscan Lentil Stew

Tuscan Lentil Stew

I love lentils

This recipe is one that I created as sort of an Italian style ratatouille, a French peasant stew. I substituted the lentils for the eggplant to give a protein boost and it’s a great variation. Served over polenta with a side of spinach sauteed with garlic, lemon and Italian spices it makes a fabulous meal. So I’ve decided to call it Tuscan Lentil Stew. Whatever you call it, it sure is delicious! And the leftovers, if there are any, are even better than the original because the flavors continue to mellow and combine even after cooking.

Lentil nutrition

Lentils referred to in Indian cuisine as daal, come in a number of different colors/types. There are the traditional brown lentils that most of us see at the grocery store. You can however also buy red lentils, which have less fiber, the dark French green ones, a yellow lentil, and a type called Masoor which are brown on the outside but red on the inside. When combining lentils with a grain, such as rice, you get a complete protein as all of the essential amino acids are present.

Lentils are tasty little legumes which pack a powerful nutrition punch. High in fiber, protein, folate, iron, potassium, folate, and manganese, they are quick-cooking and easy to use in a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. They don’t require lots of soaking and can be quickly prepared and ready for a dish without too much effort.

Tuscan Lentil Stew
  1. 1 C. lentils rinsed and picked over
  2. 1 onion chopped small
  3. 3 cloves garlic minced
  4. 3 zucchini cut into 1/2" slices
  5. 1 bell pepper diced
  6. 3 tomatoes diced
  7. 1 1/2 t. Italian herbs
  8. 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  9. 2 T. olive oil
  10. 2 1/2 C. vegetable stock
  1. In a stockpot heat olive oil and saute onion and garlic until onion is starting to soften
  2. Add the herbs and bell pepper and saute one more minute
  3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on med-low until lentils are done, about 30 minutes
  4. You may need another 1/2 C. of stock
  5. Salt to taste
  1. Delicious served over polenta and topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Easy Polenta
  1. 1 C. cornmeal (I prefer fresh ground but you can use store bought, be sure it's organic corn)
  2. 1 tsp. salt
  3. 3 C. water
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil
  2. Reduce water to a simmer
  3. Very slowly add cornmeal (this is important to avoid lumps)
  4. Cook approximately 20 minutes until mixture thickens
  5. Remove from heat and pour into a pie plate (for triangles) or a cake pan (for squares)
  6. Let polenta set for 10-15 minutes
  7. cut and serve
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Updates for Tuscan Lentil Stew

This continues to be one of my most popular recipes. I love when I hear back from readers who make my recipes.  Here are some of the comments I’ve received
Claire writes, “Tonight I invited my girl friend over for dinner and used your recipe to cook the lentil dish . I added a lot of Italian seasoning and ground basil and the aroma when the stew was simmering was just fantastic. Both my friend and I enjoyed the flavor as well. She needed to add some salt to it as I didn’t put salt. But for me this dish is so flavorful, even without salt I didn’t feel like it was missing anything (plus the chicken stock already contains sodium). I like the combination of the colors, textures, and flavors of the Italian seasoning, tomatoes, onions, and lentils, which really works! We served it over brown rice and it was great!

Thanks for your creativity & recipe. I have always enjoyed reading your posting about nutrition and yummy recipes. Keep up the great work!

Carol wrote in and shared a number of wonderful thoughts:
  • Her method for making polenta “I put the mixture into the top of a double boiler and then don’t need to keep stirring or even to check it, until it is about ready and it does not scorch if I don’t check right on time.” – This is a great idea and I plan to try the double boiler method the next time I make polenta. One of the things that I like most about this method is that it removes the possibility of scorching which can be a problem.
  • “I don’t have any “Italian spice” mix but assume that it would include basil, oregano, parsley and perhaps a bay leaf and or some rosemary I’m really looking forward to trying, tasting then relishing this dish this evening.” – My personal mix, which I use for an Italian style seasoning if I happen to be out of my favorite Penzey’s Italian Herb Mix, is 1 tsp oregano + 1 tsp basil + 1/2 tsp thyme + 1/2 tsp rosemary (crushed in a mortar and pestle) + 2 tsp parsley. This makes more than you need for the Tuscan Lentil Stew recipe but is delicious on a lot of things.
    I’m eating the stew right now; it is delicious. The lentils (which are a small dark variety) cooked up fine in the half-hour with just a prior rinsing, no soaking needed. I cubed a ball of buffalo mozzarella into the polenta after it cooled for 10 minutes, before transferring it to a round pan to firm up. Now, with the hot stew on top, the cheese melted into the wedge and the topping of freshly grated Parmesan on top give it all an extra, rich fillip. Thank you for sharing this recipe.“ – I love the idea of cubing some mozzarella into the recipe and can see how that would add a tasty texture to the polenta. 
If you’re looking for more delicious recipes using lentils:
photo courtesy of Claire Wang

Green Tomatoes

I was recently visiting family in the Northeast where they have been hit badly by the tomato blight. All over the area farmers and home growers are ripping out plants and throwing them away because of the blight. Although cherry tomatoes and plum tomatoes seem to hold up better they are certainly not immune.

When I went with my sister-in-law to her beautiful community garden plot everything appeared to be growing well. The garden was lush, greenly fragrant and productive, even the tomatoes looked good at first glance. But the blight had obviously damaged the plants and the fruit. As she began to pull out the plants I realized that many of the fruits were still unscathed. Remembering the years we lived in Vermont (which Shep Ogden, owner of Cook’s Garden, jokingly says should be referred to as the Green Tomato State) I knew that there was a lot we could do with the fruit. My sister-in-law agreed to give it a whirl and we began to hunt for all of the un-blighted fruit we could find.

After the patch was cleared and we headed back to the house with bags full of green tomatoes we began to search for recipes. There are so many things you can make with green tomatoes; more than just the familiar fried green tomatoes. We usually don’t use them because we are so conditioned to eating them when they are fully ripe. According to the USDA the nutritional profile of green and red tomatoes is almost the same. Green tomatoes have twice the vitamin C, more vitamin K, and more calcium. Red tomatoes have more vitamin A, E, and potassium. Apparently they have the same amount of lycopene and it is believed that the chlorophyll in the green tomatoes hides the red pigment which indicates a lycopene-rich food.

Our cooking and canning foray took two days (in part because we also canned zucchini, but that’s another story) and we made green tomato cake, green tomato pickles, green tomato salsa, and some really fabulous green tomato relish. Now when their family sits down in the middle of those cold New England winters they’ll still be able to have a jar of summer goodness on the table to enjoy.

Green tomatoes are versatile and can be made into pie (it’s delicious, trust me), pasta sauce, and all manner of preserved goods. While I’m not sure if the farmers in those states affected by the blight will be able to harvest and sell their green tomatoes I sure hope they do. And I hope that people realize just how tasty green tomatoes are. Who knows, it might start a new demand for green tomatoes.

photo courtesy of

Eggplant Corn Fritters With Chunky Tomato Red Pepper Coulis

I am always experimenting in the kitchen.  Recently I created a dinner that came together out of ingredients from the farmer’s market that I had on hand.  Because this dish turned out so well I definitely plan to make it again; it’s a great summertime meal full of flavor and freshness.

Although I used fresh ground flour to make my fritters you can still make this recipe if you don’t have a mill by checking out my baking substitutions post.

Eggplant Corn Fritters
Serves 4

Grapeseed oil
1/2 C. cornmeal
2/3 C. Ezekiel flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup milk, plus more if needed

1 egg
1 eggplant, peeled and diced
1 ear corn, kernels removed

Cut eggplant into medium dice
Toss with 1 t. salt and let rest 20 minutes
Rinse eggplant
Combine dry ingredients
Beat together milk and egg
Add milk mixture to dry ingredients (adding more milk if needed to make a smooth batter)
Stir in the eggplant and the corn
Drop batter by ¼ C. measure into hot oil
Turn fritters once while cooking, fritters should be golden brown on both sides
Drain fritters on paper towels
Serve with chunky tomato red pepper coulis

Chunky Tomato Red Pepper Coulis

2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, diced large
1 t. minced fresh basil
1 t. minced fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in a large saucepan until onion starts to soften
Add red pepper and saute 1-2 minutes
Add tomatoes and herbs, turn heat down to medium low and cook 10-12 minutes until vegetables are soft, tossing vegetables frequently
Add salt and pepper
Remove 2/3 of vegetables from the pan and put in a large bowl
Blend thoroughly with an immersion blender
Add reserved vegetables to blended vegetables
Serve over Eggplant Corn Fritters



My friend Tracy recently mentioned that she is growing basil in her back yard garden and would like to eventually make pesto. Pesto is a delicious way to add flavor to a wide number of dishes, it’s not just for pasta. It can be used for a fabulous sandwich spread for tomato or tomato and mozzarella sandwiches. It’s wonderful to use on chicken and thinned down it is a great dressing for a cold bean salad.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb with a very strong flavor; originally from Asia it is now most common in Italian cuisine.  Basil comes in a number of different “flavors” so in additional the  sweet basil that we are used to you can also get cinnamon, lemon, Genovese (which has sort of a clove flavor), licorice basil and a wide number of others.  Basil is a very useful herb with high levels of vitamin K as well as calcium, iron and vitamin A.  If you plan to grow it all summer to harvest in the fall for pesto you can increase your yield by pinching the flower stems.  This will prevent the flowers and seeds from forming and keeps the essential oils from drying up.

This is my favorite recipe for pesto:
2 C. fresh basil leaves, washed and destemmed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 C. parmesan cheese
1/2 C. pine nuts
1/2 C. olive oil
place all ingredients into a food processor
turn the food processor on and begin to add in olive oil until mixture is smooth
add salt to taste
Note: you can make different types of pesto by using parsley or red peppers instead of basil, using walnuts instead of pine nuts and changing the parmesan for romano cheese.  Experiment and find out what your favorite flavor is.
Be well.
photo courtesy of