Tomatoes: The Perfect Summer Food

Ripe Toamtoes
Now that summer is almost here and the tomato plants are growing in our garden, I am starting to think of all the dishes I’ll be able make and eat!. Of course you can get tomatoes year round, but they are never as good in the off-season. Typically they are grown in greenhouses and picked pre-ripe and shipped halfway across the country. They tend to be bland. Nothing is so disappointing as biting into a tasteless store bought tomato. Summer tomatoes that are locally grown, on the other hand, are bright, juicy, and delicious.

Tomatoes are Abundant

You should have no problem acquiring great tomatoes in the summer. For one, tomatoes are very easy to grow – which is what my husband and I do every summer. Most home and garden stores sell small tomato plants in the spring that you can transplant into your garden after the danger of the first frost is over. All you need is a space in your garden, or a very large pot, and you can grow tomatoes. All they require is a lot of water and a lot of sunlight and they will thrive. Before you know it, you will have beautiful, ripe tomatoes that you can pick right off the vine.

If you can’t grow them yourself, ripe local tomatoes are still easy to find! Farmers markets and vegetable stand should have plenty of locally grown tomatoes. Good grocery stores will often have locally grown tomatoes and other produce in-season.

They are Healthy

Tomatoes are one of the healthiest things you can eat! For one, they are rich in lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant. In addition to delivering the standard benefits of antioxidants, lycopene also helps prevent pancreatic cancer. Tomatoes also contain beta-carotene (Vitamin A) as well as vitamins C and E, and potassium.

They’re Delicious!

You can do so many things with a tomato. From cold tomato gazpacho to salads, from grilling them to canning them to make a sauce, there are nearly infinite possibilities.

Thinking it over I think my favorite tomato dish is the simple BLT. What can be better than toasted bread with yummy mayonnaise, crisp green lettuce, perfectly cooked bacon, and a juicy red homegrown tomato? Nothing much, in my opinion.

I also love eating plain tomato sandwiches with nothing more than bread, mayo, a little salt and a fresh cut tomato. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to make, and it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the simplicity of this amazing fruit. I also love an arugula, goat cheese, and tomato salad with just a little bit of salt and olive oil.

This summer I plan to try some new tomato dishes like stuffed tomatoes, and I also want to make some tomato sauce for winter so I can have those summer tomato memories.

Spring Pasta with Herbs and Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt Spring Pasta

It doesn’t get much easier than this.  This versatile recipe is as simple as lightly sauteing spring vegetables, and tossing them in cooked pasta with fresh herbs and Greek yogurt.  This can be made any time with whatever vegetables and herbs are currently in season.  We used spring Vidalia onions, asparagus, zucchini, and mushrooms, but any fresh vegetable would work great!  This dish is amazing warm, at room temperature, or cold the next day.

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Five Ingredient Grilled Souvlaki

5 Ingredient Greek Souvlaki

I’m always so excited for grilling season to start because it really opens up our repertoire of recipes.  So many great Mediterranean and Asian recipes are perfect for grilling. One prime example is Souvlaki – a delicious Greek grilled chicken dish.  This version is very simple – only 5 ingredients: chicken, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and lemon. Like most of our recipes, it’s fast, easy, and healthy!

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Buckwheat Galettes

Buckwheat Galette

While my husband and I visited France last fall, and we stayed in a beautiful little port town on the Mediterranean called Port Vendre.  It was walking distance to the more touristy town of Collioure. Port Vendre was wonderful and quiet, but Collioure, despite being a bit more crowded and busy, had a number of sites that we wanted to see so we planned a day around going there.  But the weather was not very agreeable – it rained the whole day. However, we didn’t let that stop us. We walked around the beautiful old town, past the Château Royal de Collioure, and down the beach. In the middle of a downpour, we stopped at a small Creperie.  The only available seating was outdoors, but the tables were covered and dry. We were cold, wet, and starving, and my husband really wanted a drink.

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Sauteed Cod with Caper Butter and Lemon

Sauteed Cod with Caper Butter and Lemon

Incorporating fish into our diet has been a bit tough, especially since we live in a part of the country that’s nowhere near the ocean, and fresh fish is a bit tougher to come by.  However, one of the fish that is always readily available is cod. It also happens to be one of my favorites! It’s flaky, but meaty. The taste isn’t fishy or strong, and it takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with.  This Mediterranean style fish dish is very simple to make, and absolutely delicious!

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Sloppy Jai (Indian Sloppy Joe)

The amazing restaurant Chai Pani in Asheville, NC serves Indian street food.  One of my favorite things to get is their Sloppy Jai. This is an Indian version of a sloppy Joe – made with ground lamb and Indian spices.

I tried to recreate this recipe at home!  It’s not exactly the same, but we feel it is a pretty good rendition.  I added pickled red onion to add a bit of tang and cut through the richness of the lamb.  Adding a little cayenne pepper or replacing the curry powder with Madras curry powder will add a little heat.  I serve these on brioche buns, but any buns will be fine.  This recipe is also super quick – it can be made in under 30 minutes for a great weeknight meal.

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Thai Red Curry with Shrimp

One of my favorite things to eat any time of year is my husband’s Thai Curry.  It’s rich, sweet, a little tangy – and all-around delicious.

The version below is a shrimp curry, but you can put in any flaky white fish instead of the shrimp, or you can add sliced chicken instead.  If you want a spicier curry, add some Thai chilies to the mix.  You can also make a green version of this curry – simply replace the red curry paste with green.

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Even Better Hummus


The secret to our Even Better Hummus recipe is starting with dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight in water and baking soda. This method, used commonly in the Middle East, results in a much fluffier and creamier hummus than if you use canned chickpeas. This is a more time consuming recipe than ones using canned chickpeas, but the results are amazing.

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Healthy Snack: Roasted Chick Peas

Roast Chickpeas
Roast chick peas are are a healthy, delicious snack that is easy to make. If you roast them perfectly, they are crunchy on the outside, but have a somewhat creamy texture inside. The best thing about them is that you can customize them to your taste. The recipe below contains smoked paprika, cumin, and garlic – but you can add any spices or herbs you like!

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Turkish Lentils with Cauliflower Steaks


This is a very healthy lentil recipe that’s easy to make.  It’s a delicious, satisfying and – despite its simplicity – deep and complex in flavor from the variety of spices. The dish can easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken broth with vegetable stock or water or vegan by replacing the stock and omitting the yogurt.

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5 Easy Tips for Healthy Snacking

To snack or not to snack, that is the question! I love to snack, as do a lot of people.  An otherwise healthy diet can be completely derailed by making poor food choices between meals. My husband is not much of a snacker and I envy him for that. The reason I snack is because I have always snacked. My parents bought snacks and I ate them. I even once went through what I call my “Twinkie phase”, which was about a one-month period during my junior high years where I ate a package of Twinkies every day. My husband on the other hand very rarely snacked as a child. His parents didn’t buy snacks, but he was spoiled when he went to visit his grandmother a few times a year. He had occasional treats instead of every day snacks.

I don’t think I have very good snacking habits, but I don’t want to give up snacking so I need to change how I snack.  I love sweets and since I have cut a lot of processed food out of my diet, I am now craving salty snacks as well. Not only do I need to change how I snack but when I snack. I have noticed I snack when I’m not even hungry!

Here are the changes I have made to improve my snacking habits:

  1. Eat a bigger breakfast. This makes it so I am less likely to snack before lunch.  I usually eat Greek yogurt, whole grain cereal, toast, or oatmeal.  This usually keeps me full until lunch.
  2. Snack on healthy, filling foods.  After lunch – usually by 4 pm I start to get a little hungry, so I switched to snacking on grapes, cheese, and or nuts for my afternoon snack. Grapes and other fruit can satisfy my need for something sweet, and cheese and nuts can satisfy my need for something salty.
  3. Drink water or tea throughout the day.  Drinking a lot of fluids is great for you in a number of ways, one of which is that it makes you feel more full and less likely to eat.  Sometimes, I will even have a cup of tea instead of eating.
  4. Plan and pre-pack snacks.  I plan my meals ahead of time so I can better control what I eat, why not do the same with snacks?  This way I know what I am going to be eating. Planning ahead may keep me from grabbing an unhealthy snack on the spur of the moment. Pre-packing snacks also helps control the portion size, and makes me less likely to grab an extra handful of food.
  5. Control the portion size of less healthy snacks.  Sometimes I want an unhealthy snack – and that’s OK.  When I have a less-than-healthy snack, I make sure that I control the portion size.  I have a sweet tooth and chocolate is a huge weakness for me. Reese’s cups are my favorite, but I have accepted the fact I cannot eat them like I did when I was 15 and had the best metabolism! So an hour or so after dinner I will have one piece of chocolate. I try to get a good dark chocolate and eat just one piece and it satisfies my chocolate cravings. I have learned I don’t need to eat a whole candy bar to satisfy the chocolate monster inside me.

Using these methods, I am able to satisfy my desire to snack – but also prevent myself from falling off the wagon and spoiling my diet by making poor food choices between meals.

Super Simple Hummus


One of the easiest (and best) things to make with chickpeas is hummus. Hummus is incredibly versatile and you can flavor it with just about anything. Below is a very simple hummus recipe that can be used as a base. You can add just about anything to this base to make a more unique flavor – roasted red peppers, roast garlic, cumin, spices, herbs, or just about anything you can imagine.

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Superfood: Chickpeas

Have you ever wondered what that little beige bean towards the back of the salad bar that no one ever eat is? It is a Chickpea, also known as a Garbanzo bean. It is one of the oldest harvested legumes. According to Wikipedia, 7,500 year old traces of the bean have been found in the Middle East.

There are three different kinds of chickpeas: Desi, Bombay, and Kabuli. Desi are small and dark and have a rough covering. Desi chickpeas are mainly grown in India as well as Iran. Bombay Chickpeas are also dark and just a bit bigger than the Desi and are popular in India as well. Kabuli Chickpeas are lighter in color and have a softer covering then the Desi. This type of chickpea is grown in the Mediterranean. It is believed that the Kabuli was first grown in Kabul in Afghanistan The rare black chickpea is bigger and darker than the Desi and is only grown in Apulia which is in Southeast Italy.

Chickpeas have a lovely nutty taste and a buttery texture, and are a well known component in Italian, Greek, Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish and Portuguese cuisines. Chickpeas are used to make dishes such as hummus, falafel, and curries. They are used cold in tapas dishes in Spain, and with pasta in Italy. In Asian cuisine chickpeas are eaten as sweets or desserts in the Philippines.

You can buy chickpeas either dried or canned like other beans, but I have found that finding them dried is a little harder in small rural areas.

There are endless ways to use chickpeas in your daily diet. You can use them in salads, stews, and also ground into a flour. The flour can be used to coat vegetables for frying and also to make certain kinds of Mediterranean flatbreads such as Socca. Some kinds of chickpeas can be popped like Popcorn! Maybe something new to try on family movie night. My favorite uses for chickpeas are falafel and hummus.

Chickpeas are high in protein and iron. They are also a heart healthy food which can help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and your overall cholesterol if eaten as a regular part of your diet. Chickpeas can also aid in weight loss due to being high in fiber and having a low Glycemic Index which helps control blood sugar levels. Chickpeas are a great way to get the mineral manganese in to your diet. Manganese helps aid the body in energy production. According to, just one cup of garbanzo beans supplies 84.5% of the daily value for this mineral. states that one cup of cooked chickpeas contain 15 grams of protein, 13 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of fat and 0 grams of cholesterol.

So now that you know more about the chickpea and the advantages of adding it your diet, maybe you won’t skip over it the next time you visit your favorite salad bar. Also try the following recipes and you may find a new favorite food to share with your friends and family:

Super Simple Hummus
Even Better Hummus
Crispy Roasted Chick Peas