Winter slow-roasted tomatoes

Merry almost Christmas! Why am I posting about tomatoes? It is the first day of winter and tomatoes are at their peak in the thick heat of the summer, not in this cold, cold winter. The reason is a few weeks back my mother-in-law gave me a quart of cherry tomatoes. My father-in-law had bought them at the supermarket because she likes to munch on them year-round, but apparently he had bought the wrong kind so she passed them along to us in case we would eat them.

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Ready for the oven

I consider it a gift (or a curse) of mine to not waste food. I either try to repurpose it or eat it as is. Sometimes I forgive myself if I realize I’m taking it a little too far and I will throw something away, but most of the time I try to think of creative ways to use it. Though I like tomatoes, I don’t get excited about eating them by the handful, particularly in the off season when they tend to be lackluster. When I worked at a country club in Ohio we would roast the little beauties in a low oven with dried herbs and oil until they puckered into sweet, intensified tomato gems. To be honest, I can’t remember how we served them after that: on salads perhaps, or as part of an appetizer. However you decide to use them, they will make a most excellent winter condiment to spice up your lunch sandwich, mix into your pasta, or to toss into your green salad. There is really no recipe, just guidelines, so take them with a grain of salt.

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Blistered and beautiful

Roasted Tomatoes

inspired by Smitten Kitchen

1 quart of cherry or grape tomatoes

1 head of fresh garlic

salt, pepper, and other herbs

olive oil or canola oil

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. Rinse tomatoes and slice in half from stem to bottom. Toss to coat in oil, a tablespoon or two maybe. Sprinkle with coarse salt, pepper, and other herbs desired such as thyme, rosemary, or basil. Break up the garlic into cloves (unpeeled) and toss with tomatoes. Spread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast until puckered and sweet. This should take 1-2 hours. Let cool or use right away. You can keep the garlic cloves whole and peel them before use or peel and chop finely or mash into tomatoes. If you don’t use right away, feel free to store in the fridge with a little bit of oil. Note that if you use olive oil it will solidify around the tomatoes in large yellowy chunks, but it will liquefy again when heated.

Possible uses: Mix into pasta, soups, salads, or sandwiches.

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Post 106 – Store-bought from scratch

We all get stuck in our habits and routines. Lunch at 12:30 even if you’re not hungry. Stay home on Sunday morning even though there’s a delicious bakery down the street. Buy the same brands, eat the same foods. When you always do something, the habit gets so ingrained that it becomes hard to imagine the other possibilities. If you always buy your granola, why would you consider making it? Store-bought pesto – easy! While these quick grabs can definitely be a time saver, there are some days when you have the time and it’s totally worth it (and even an improvement) to make your own. For some reason this past weekend I was inspired to try making what for me are usually store bought foods – pita bread and marinara sauce. The results: delicious!

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Now you might remember that I’ve gone through some different food experiments while writing this blog. I’ve dealt with acid reflux (still do), I tried an elimination diet, and I tried some low FODMAP recipes. I became frustrated when nothing in particular seemed to make me feel 100% better and I started to wonder: is this a part of getting older? Did I develop some kind of strange allergy or disease? Is this permanent? Was I dealing with some serious pre-wedding stress last year? I didn’t feel stressed. Whatever it was, it has seemed to resolve itself somewhat for the time being and I am thrilled! I’ve focused less on avoiding certain foods and more on enjoying the food I do eat while not eating too much. It’s still a balancing act, but I’m finding my way and in the process I am thrilled to reintroduce myself to many of those foods I avoided before – hello garlic, onions, oranges, and lemons! Who knows how long this will last…

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Lemon and garlic for the chicken shawarma marinade

 

Eating these foods again has greatly expanded my recipe possibilities, which is why I took on the homemade pita and marinara projects. Nothing can beat the smell and warmth of fresh bread from the oven and I figured warm pita would be no different. Having made homemade bread and pizza several times, I figured pita bread was totally do-able. It takes a bit of babysitting to make, but is overall the quickest baking yeast bread that I know of – it bakes in less than 5 minutes. We served the pita bread with chicken shawarma, hummus, and veggies, using the pita as an edible utensil to scoop up all the yummy juices from the chicken.

Dinner spread complete with homemade pita and hummus.

Dinner spread complete with homemade pita and hummus.

As for marinara sauce, we always bought the jars of sauce when I was growing up. Prego, Ragu, Barilla – whatever brand we bought, marinara sauce seemed like one of those canned foods that saved time and wasn’t overly processed. It’s only recently having heard my co-workers talk about making sauce at home that I considered the possibility. I looked up a recipe and was surprised how quick and relatively simple it sounded to make. Sure you start with canned tomatoes, (especially this time of year) but at least you’re simmering the sauce with the flavors and fresh herbs yourself. I’d say it’s a nice step up from buying jars of sauce and the flavor was wonderful. I layered my homemade sauce into a hearty lasagna and served it with a fresh green salad.

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I know how easy it is to just do what you’ve always done, but sometimes you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes to eat your own homemade food whether it’s bread, sauce, or even yogurt. When you have the time to experiment, take a look around and see what you might be able to make yourself. Take a step back and ask yourself, could I make that? Sometimes you just have to see with new eyes.

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Homemade Marinara Sauce

adapted from theKitchn.com

1 T. butter or olive oil (I used butter, but you can use olive oil to make it vegan)

one 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes

one 14-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes

one 8-oz can pure tomato sauce

1 small onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

fresh basil in chiffonade

1/2 tsp. each dried oregano and thyme

salt to taste – 1/4 tsp. to start

a pinch of sugar

 

There are a couple approaches you can take with your tomatoes here. For a chunky sauce, carefully quarter each tomato (being careful not to burst the juices into your face – trust me) and add to the sauce as instructed. For a smoother sauce, pulse your tomatoes in a food processor before adding to your sauce. OR wait until your sauce is done simmering and carefully blend in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Either way I would recommend prepping your tomatoes at least by opening the cans before you get your onions going so that you don’t burn your garlic when the time comes to add the tomatoes. Whatever you do, the sauce will be great.

To start your sauce, in a large skillet melt your butter over medium heat. Add your onion and saute for 5 minutes or until it begins to soften. Stir in the garlic until fragrant, less than a minute and then add your tomatoes, juice and all. Add the tomato sauce, salt, bay leaf, oregano, and thyme. Save the fresh basil for the end. Bring to a simmer and turn down to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every now and then. Remove the bay leaf and taste your sauce. Adjust flavors as needed – a pinch of sugar, more salt, some black pepper. Add your basil, stir to incorporate and remove from heat. Use for your favorite ravioli, lasagna, or even garlic bread.

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Post 89 – Pineapple Pulled Pork

Welcome to my first official low FODMAP recipe – this delicious and easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.

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First things first, many recipes for meats or stews call for either garlic or onion or both, but both of these foods are fructans (from the F in FODMAP) and seem to be one of the highest offenders in the FODMAP group. Therefore low FODMAP recipes mean

No garlic

No onion

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These two ingredients form the base of so many savory recipes, providing that umami flavor that is hard to replace. Do you know how many sauces, broths, and condiments already contain onion or garlic? Start reading labels and you will see that everything from ketchup to Worcestershire sauce to chicken broth all have at least one of these ingredients.

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Since garlic and onion are found in nearly everything, to avoid them you often have to make your own sauces or go without. This recipe for pulled pork gets its flavors from the mix of spices (be careful of spice blends that contain onion and garlic), and some sweetness from natural pineapple juice. And the best part about slow cooker recipes is that they’re usually pretty hands-off.

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Slow Cooker Pineapple Pulled Pork

inspired by this recipe

2 T. canola oil

3-4 lb. piece of pork butt/pork shoulder

1 T. brown sugar

2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup water

Begin by heating up the canola oil in your slow cooker on the “brown/saute” setting if you have it. If not you can either skip browning it or brown it in a pan on the stove. While it is heating up, in a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, salt, and spices. If desired, cut your pork down into 2 or 3 manageable pieces and remove any large slabs of fat on the outside. Rub your spice mixture all over the pork (you may not need all of it). When the slow cooker is sufficiently hot, add your spice-rubbed pork allowing it to brown on one side without moving it for a few minutes. You want a nice, crisp, brown exterior. Using tongs, carefully flip it over to brown the other side and cook for a few minutes (if you cut your pork into multiple pieces you’ll get more crispy, browned bits). If desired, flip to brown all sides (even the ends). Once browned turn the setting to low and add your pineapple juice and water. Cover and cook for 7-8 hours or until pork is tender and falling apart. Serve with barbeque sauce. OR For a stronger barbeque flavor, drain the juice after the pork is done cooking and add 1.5-2 cups of barbeque sauce. Let cook for another hour and taste.

Note: I found that though the pork was fairly tender after 8 hours in my slow cooker, I could’ve left it even longer (though I left mine in one piece from the beginning).

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Remove from the slow cooker and shred. If desired, pour some of the juices over the pork or discard. Serve with your favorite barbeque sauce.

I paired mine with homemade gluten free cornbread found here (made with bacon grease) and low FODMAP barbeque sauce (although the pork is so good by itself you don’t need any sauce!)

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Our upstairs neighbor brought us over some beautiful tomatoes from her community garden plot and we threw those in with our salad.

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Yum! This was a delicious and low FODMAP meal, though the tomatoes might have been a little too acidic for me in the end. If this is the case for you, the pulled pork is totally delicious on its own without any sauces.

Bon appetit!