Heart Healthy Tomato Sauce Recipe

If you still have tomatoes left over from this summer’s amazing tomato season, you might want to give fresh tomato sauce a try.

I know, I know. It seems hard. And it’s so much easier to pour sauce from a jar.

But it’s not, actually. Well, OK, it is. But not that much harder, it turns out!  A few weeks ago, I read David Tanis’ NYT article, The Time Is Right To Make Tomato Sauce and my eyes flew to the 6 gorgeous tomatoes my friend Chris had given me (which truth be told, had been sitting on my counter for longer than I’d like to admit.)

Could this solve my, ‘I don’t know what to do with that tomato bounty’ dilemma? I decided to try it – spurred to action by these phrases Mr. Tanis used in describing his recipe:

  • “just make a small-batch” and “in a matter of minutes”
  • “quick-cooking sauce with relatively fast preparation. There’s no need to blanch and peel tomatoes or even use a food mill”
  • “All you need is a hand-held grater”

Quick and easy — check that as an ‘always’ requirement for me.  And while I normally like to use equipment, I do not own a food mill and I could not quite imagine how one attacks a tomato with a hand-held grater!

Plus, tomatoes are heart healthy. In fact, a study published in 2007 by the The National Center for Biotechnology Information is actually titled, “Tomato juice decreases LDL cholesterol levels and increases LDL resistance to oxidation.”  As I despise tomato juice and don’t get enough tomatoes in my diet, I thought I should pop a Prilosec and try this dinner.

And I’m glad I did.  While the sauce was a little thin flavor-wise (which would be great for kids / picky eaters) it was very fresh and light – a terrific change of pace from jarred sauce. Plus, I love learning a new cooking technique – and well, OK, using a grater isn’t actually a cooking ‘technique; but still, I’d never done it and didn’t quite believe it could work.

I mean, what does it mean, actually, to grate a tomato? Bizarre, right? Turns out it was easy and actually does work. Here’s how Mr. Tanis describes it in his Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe – and it’s totally accurate: “Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters. Squeeze out the seeds, or don’t (I never mind a few seeds in the sauce). Place the cut side against the large holes of the grater and gently rub until only the tomato skin remains in your hand.”  It actually worked and I was surprised to find it was kind of fun.

Here’s what it looked like while I was grating – and the resulting flat tomato skin, which made me giggle as it reminded me of Flat Stanley.

TomatoGrating TomatoesGrated









There’s a second recipe – for how to make the pasta dish using this quick fresh tomato sauce. Pasta With Fresh Tomato Sauce And Ricotta was an equally easy recipe and quite tasty.  It also held up well for lunch the next day – a winner in my book. Plus, the ricotta adds protein so this is a good meat-less dinner option, with the heart-healthy benefits of lycopene.

If you have fresh from the garden, sun-ripened tomatoes on hand, give this a whirl.  The recipe calls for 5 pounds of tomatoes which is A LOT – so I made a half batch and that worked fine.

BTW – in case you’re like me and don’t know how many tomatoes are in a pound, I looked it up. It’s about 3 ‘medium’ tomatoes to a pound. I had 6 tomatoes so halved the recipe – which isn’t exactly the right proportions, but exact measurements are not vital in this kind of recipe – close is good enough (which is why I much prefer cooking to baking!)

PastaFreshSauceRicotta_TanisHere’s how mine turned out – as I said, it was a little mild on taste (next time I’ll up the garlic and the red pepper!) and both my husband and I enjoyed it.

Click on the recipe links to see Mr. Tanis’ original article (with beautiful photos) or my recipe page has both of these recipes downloadable as a PDF: Pasta With Fresh Tomato Sauce and Ricotta…including Fresh Tomato Sauce.





Grilled Orange and Bourbon Salmon

With a name like “Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon” how could I not try this Cooking Light recipe? And I’m glad I did; it’s terrific. In fact, I prepared this recipe several times this summer — with both salmon and Arctic Char, of course — to test it out for a Cape Cod family vacation dinner-for-16 (yes, cooking dinner for 16 in an only-ok-equipped rental cottage should not be part of anyone’s vacation – but somehow it is for me!)

Grilled Orange and Bourbon SalmonHere’s what’s great about this recipe: it’s easy to make in general and for a crowd, it’s flavorful, and is a healthy choice. All 16 at our family dinner liked it – believable because there was none left!

Here’s what’s not so great about this recipe: it takes a lot of time to prepare the marinade – especially if you are doubling or tripling the marinade. There are oranges and lemons to juice and scallions, chives and garlic to chop. That might not sound like a lot (and it’s not difficult), but trust me, you need 45 minutes to 1 hour to prep this marinade. Just letting you know.

You can easily print the PDF from my Going Lo-Co Recipes page or grab the PDF here: Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon.  Oh, and some of the Cooking Light reviews suggested saving the marinade and cooking it down into a glaze which is likely delicious, though I didn’t try it but plan to, next time.

Now if you’re like me and are more of a vodka and wine person versus a bourbon person (OK, truth, I know not one thing about bourbon) there’s the liquor store to visit. Where they might sell you Jack Daniels – which may or may not technically be bourbon. Sigh. Twice I made this recipe with Jack because that’s what my liquor store guy sold me – and then when I made it at Cape Cod, I made it with Jim Beam bourbon (I know that’s bourbon because it’s printed on the label, LOL). While I preferred it made with Jim Beam, that might just be because I’d had a lot of wine by the time I finished all the chopping for the triple version of this recipe!

Since this whisky vs bourbon thing was kind of a big part of my experience with this recipe, I was going to include information about whisky vs bourbon but all the sites I visited to learn the difference between bourbon and whisky require you to enter your birthdate, so that would likely lead to broken links. Topline, bourbon appears to be somewhat sweeter as legally it must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn (bourbon/whisky people, if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me!). If you care for more details than that, search for bourbon vs whisky and research away. If you don’t care but want to try this recipe, go to a liquor store and get a small bottle of Jack or Jim – they’ll both be fine!

As for fish, I liked this with both salmon and Arctic Char, so take your pick. But do try it – especially now with the summer winding down – making this recipe in September will give you the opportunity to swill a bit of warming bourbon while grilling!


Arctic Char – Better Than Salmon

At the height of summer grilling season, you may be looking for an alternative to salmon. For those lucky enough to easily find it locally, Arctic Char is my grilled fish of choice.

Actually, it’s my cook-at-home-all-year-round fish of choice for three reasons:

  • It is easy to cook and tastes great – milder and creamier than salmon
  • Those who like salmon will likely also like Arctic Char – and even those who don’t care for salmon (I do not) might like char!
  • It is far less expensive than wild-caught salmon (and you know farm-raised salmon is an eco-no-no, right?)

I was stumped, recently, when a friend asked me what the difference was between Arctic Char and Salmon.  While there was some conflicting (and largely old) information on the internet, I’ve gleaned a few key facts about Arctic Char.

A member of the ‘salmonid’ family along with salmon and trout, char is a cold-water fish and nearly all of the US supply is farmed.  However, the environmentally friendly method used to farm char is completely different than farmed salmon; indeed, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Seafood Selector gives char a “best” eco-rating and describes how char is sourced as follows:

  • “This member of the salmon family is an environmentally friendly alternative to farmed salmon.
  • Char are mostly raised in tanks and raceways onshore, unlike salmon which are generally raised in open netpens in coastal waters.
  • Onshore systems discharge less pollution and are much less likely to let fish and parasites escape than netpens.”

As many likely know, the EDF cites Atlantic and farmed salmon as an eco-rating of WORST. If you are one of the many who avoid Atlantic or farmed salmon entirely and have a local source who carries Arctic Char, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at both the taste and the price compared with wild salmon.


Artwork credit: www.fishchoice.com

As for nutrition, I had a little difficulty with conflicting information: some websites claimed Arctic Char is high in heart-healthy omega 3s but the EDF Seafood Selector does not give it the same high-rating in omega 3s as salmon. The best figure I came up with was to compare two articles on Dr. Andrew Weill’s site.  About char, he says, “a 3.5-ounce serving gives you one gram of omega-3 fatty acids and 182 calories.”  That is about HALF that of wild salmon, when compared with another quote from Dr. Weil’s site: “A 3-ounce serving of Alaskan salmon or herring contains about 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, while 3 ounces of sardines has about 1.3 grams.”  That said, I’ll take 1 gram of heart-heallty omega-3 with my protein over red meat any day.

As for taste, it happens that I far prefer char to salmon – though my husband likes both equally and finds them very similar. I agree with the broad description of mild flavor and delicate texture, and it tends to be less dense/chewy than salmon. Because of its high fat content (healthy fat!), it is easy to grill or bake without drying out – as long as you don’t over-cook it. I grill or bake it at 450 for about 12 minutes – see my Lo-Co Recipes page for a quick & easy recipe.

For more info on Arctic Char, beyond the EDF and Dr. Weill’s sites, I found these resources most helpful (and likely most reliable):

  • The very interesting and informative Artic Char page on the Fish Choice website was the most comprehensive and included a great ‘infographic’ which is where the illustration above is from. I wish that site had Omega-3 information as everything else was so clearly well documented on this site. This was also the only site that was updated in the past year or two!
  • The Arctic Char page on both the Seafood Choices Alliance and the New England Aquarium sites explain how Arctic Char live in the wild and how they are farmed
  • The Chef’s Resources site – which was new to me, but I will visit again as it was very useful – confirmed the rough amount of omega-3 (though it cited 1.3 grams for 3 oz of fish) and other useful background and how-to-cook information about Arctic Char.

You can substitute Arctic Char for any recipe that calls for salmon or trout; I’m fortunate my local fish market always carries char –  if yours does, throw some on the grill with a little olive-oil and herbs for a quick, delicious, heart-healthy meal.


Walking Counts as Exercise… REALLY!

On NPR this morning, I heard Renee Montagne utter this intriguing line, “About half of all Americans say they exercise regularly.”  I literally laughed out loud as exercise is a big topic of conversation this week in my house, with my parents visiting from Florida. My dad had a second heart surgery last summer and my mom has high cholesterol, and they really would benefit from regular exercise. I know this. They know this.  And yet….they are not among the apparently half of Americans exercising regularly.

Maybe peer pressure (as opposed to kid pressure) would help? So I listened keenly. In fact, after noting that half of Americans say they exercise regularly, Renee continued with proof that it’s true:

“That’s the finding of a recent poll NPR conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The most popular exercises are cardio/aerobic using treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationery bikes. But leading the pack: going for a walk!”

I looked up the poll: Sports And Health In America. Published in June 2015, this study interviewed 2,506 adults age 18 and older who were interviewed on the phone, in English and Spanish, between January 29 – March 8, 2015. While this study is 50+ pages of intriguing facts, one thing I did not see is a breakout of exercise among those age 70+, which I could have used as fodder for exercise discussion with my parents.  Sigh.

But no matter – there was a really key nugget for me to use with my folks!  After Renee’s introduction, the Health News story, “Take A Hike To Do Your Heart And Spirit Good” continued with Patti Neighmond discussing a topic near and dear to my heart (literally, sorry for bad pun) – is walking REALLY exercise?

Because I’m of two minds about walking.  For my parents, I have tried and tried to get them to believe that walking is vital – that to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and have a healthier heart, they need to WALK. Daily. That the lower energy my father feels sometimes – one year after heart surgery – is because he’s not exercising enough – and his cardiologist has said the same thing!  I’ve purchased iPods (and set up remote IT sessions to load music) and workout clothes. I’ve asked. I’ve noodged. I’ve cajoled. To mixed effect (that said, big kudos to you, Dad, for you for getting on the treadmill at my house this am – color me very impressed!)

And yet – when I was injured this winter and could not play tennis or spin for several months, I didn’t walk. Instead, I was a slug (a very sad slug) so I did nothing – and gained weight and let my cardio conditioning lapse. All because as much as I harp on my folks about how walking is exercise, I guess I have never believed it counts as ‘real’ exercise.

Turns out, it does.

In  her piece, Patti Neighmond asked: “Is Walking Really Exercise?” (emphasis is mine). She even asked it the same way I would, with some degree of snark:

“But are they kidding themselves to think a moderate walk is really helping them much, exercise-wise? Should we all be power-walking or jogging if we want to count that activity as good for us?”

She went on to answer:

“Dr. Tim Church, who studies the effects of physical activity at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, is reassuring on that score.”

He says, “Too many people think you have to exercise really, really hard to get a benefit, and nothing could be further from the truth. You’re actually getting probably 95 percent or more of the benefits when you’re walking as compared to jogging.”

The NPR story is about five minutes long and I found it pretty interesting: you can listen to it here.

Ms. Neighmond wraps up with this recommendation: “Federal Health Officials suggest 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity. That’s about 30 minutes, five days a week.  If you’re walking, it would be a moderate pace – so you can still carry on a conversation.”

What’s a moderate pace? Well, it depends, of course, on your overall fitness level. According to the Center for Disease Control’s very interesting Measuring Physical Activity Intensity page, a moderate pace is a ‘brisk walk’ of 3 mph or faster; doing the math, that translates to a pace of 20 minutes per mile. That said, according to an article I found on about.com, How Fast Is Brisk Walking, “fitter people still will not be in a moderately intense exercise zone at that pace. A pace of 15 minutes per mile, or four miles per hour, is more likely to put fitter people into a moderately intense exercise zone.”

Personally, I’m inspired by goals – so knowing the pace I should be targeting is inspiring. Others like to count steps: I know many people using a FitBit to hit a daily step goal (have you read David Sedaris’ hilarious FitBit story, Stepping Out? And, um, I  had no idea my iPhone 5 was counting my steps for the past year! Check out the ‘health’ app: your’s might be too!)  For others, counting steps or tracking to a particular pace is not fun (gasp!) – for these folks, just getting out there and walking with a friend no matter the pace is what matters.

So find what inspires you … and just get out there and walk!


Have You Tried Parsnip Fries?

Last week, I tried Parsnip Fries for the first time at my friend Chris’s house and it was a side-dish revelation (yes, the same Chris who shamed me into cooking more – read here). I cannot fathom why I haven’t read or heard about this delightful and nutritious dish – especially because it’s dead-simple to make, even for me, who does NOT like chopping!

I’ve mastered preparing asparagus and brussels sprouts for roasting – but have long struggled with all kinds of potato chopping.  Amazingly, I found peeling and chopping into ‘fry’ shape 1 parsnip far, far easier than the same prep for sweet potatoes. (I’m probably the only one who finds chopping oval sweet potatoes into long, rectangular or triangular fries difficult…but converting one shape to the other is just not intuitive to me.)

I was delighted to find that since the parsnip is already long and skinny-ish, it’s easy as pie for even spatially-challenged folks like me to cut into nice, rectangular fry-like shapes!

In fact, it was so easy I might even be able to relax my no-drinking-wine-while-chopping rule!  Though that’s probably a bad idea…

OK, now that you know the up-front chopping part is easy, wait to you see how easy it is to finish the prep.

Here’s the crazy-easy ‘recipe:’ wash and peel parsnip, cut into fry-shaped pieces, splash with olive oil, salt and pepper and a seasoning of your choice (see below) and bake on a cookie sheet at 425 or so for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice.

As to seasoning, Chris used a balti seasoning which was quite good. I went with some garam masala which I liked equally well (if you’ve never shopped Penzeys Spices, they’re a great resource).  Best bet for this dish is to choose a spice with a little bite to complement the slight sweetness of the parsnip. When I make these again – and I will – I’ll try the same spice set I use for sweet potato fries – chili power and cumin – as that’d work too (though the garam masala was so good, it’ll be hard to shift!) Or you can use no seasoning beyond salt and pepper if you prefer.

ParsnipDinnerI served these fab, healthy ‘fries’ with mustard roasted fish, roasted asparagus and roasted brussels sprouts. Nary a fry was left.

Don’t they look good?

Even better – these crisped up nicely, have few calories and very little fat, have zero cholesterol and are a good source of dietary fiber! All that and they taste great too!

Give them a whirl – and comment back on your favorite seasoning!