At the request of some of my readers, I’m starting a new feature called “Did You Know?” These will be fun little-known nutrition and health factoids, tips, and suggestions. With the growing season in full tilt, I thought I’d start with some great tips for getting the most from your tomatoes and basil.
Did You Know?
Store tomatoes at room temperature. If you’ve been refrigerating your tomatoes and feel you just have to eat them cold, try this taste test: buy two tomatoes at your local farmer’s market or pick two from your garden. Put one in the fridge and one on your kitchen counter. When the one on your counter is nice and ripe, take out the one in the fridge, and sample both. You’ll see how the texture of the refrigerated tomato has turned mushy and the flavor and aroma are muted.
The best way to store freshly cut basil is to treat it like flowers. Store in a vase on your kitchen counter, changing the water every few days. (I put a small rubber band around the stems to make it easier to manage the bunch). Refrigeration causes the leaves to turn brown and wilt. Below is a picture of basil I picked from my garden over a week ago! By the way, this also gives your kitchen a lovely aroma.
Easy Wins for Portion Control
Most people know the portions of food we’re eating today compared to 20 years ago have mushroomed, along with waistlines and weight. Okay, so you don’t want to get out the food scale and weigh everything? Here’s an easy way to keep your portions in check.
Along with increasing portion size, our dinnerware and glasses have been upsized over the years, too. A painless way to eat less is to use smaller plates, glasses, and even serving spoons. My husband and I now dine on our salad plates (about 6” in diameter compared to 12” for our dinner plates), use smaller glasses when we drink juice (we’re talking 4-6 ounces—not easy to find but look below at the cute ones I found on the Crate and Barrel website), and eat ice cream and desserts in small custard cups.
Now keep in mind downsizing your plates shouldn’t mean downsizing your veggie intake! Use this visual cue from the American Institute for Cancer Research: 2/3 of your plate should be vegetables, fruits, and healthy carbs (think wild rice, quinoa, winter squash, sweet potatoes, etc) and 1/3 should be a lean protein food. Don’t forget your salad which can go on a separate plate—that one can be nice and big!
And those serving spoons? Research shows when people dish up their food with smaller spoons, they take less food and consume fewer calories! So switch out your mega-sized serving spoons for some tablespoons and your portions will be down-sized, too!
If you’d like more tips on downsizing your portions and improving your health, please click here to contact me for an appointment.
Try this delicious cold soup which uses the bounty from the garden and is loaded with nutrition! It’s best served chilled and will keep for 2 days in the fridge.
Note: Since a food processor (or blender) is used to purée the mixture, you need to only roughly chop a portion of the vegetables and dice the other portion for garnish.
• 2 lb. tomatoes, washed, seeded
• 1 red bell pepper, washed
• 1 green or yellow bell pepper, washed
• 3 cucumbers, washed, divided
• 1 large shallot, peeled
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
• 1 tbsp. hot red pepper sauce or 1-2 fresh jalapeno peppers (to your taste)
• 1-3/4 c. low-sodium or no-salt-added tomato juice or vegetable juice
• 1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed
• Fresh basil, sliced in shreds
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 tsp. sugar
• 4 to 6 green onions, washed, green and white parts thinly sliced, divided
Roughly chop about three-fourths of the tomatoes. Place in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or a blender. Dice the remaining tomatoes and set aside.
For the bell peppers, roughly chop half of each one and add to the food processor. Dice the remaining bell peppers and set aside.
Peel, seed and roughly chop 2 cucumbers and add to the food processor. Leave the peel on the remaining cucumber, slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and dice; set aside. Add the shallot, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and hot pepper sauce to the food processor. Process until smooth, about 1 minute.
Transfer to a glass bowl (or leave in the blender jar). Stir in the tomato juice, corn, basil, remaining diced tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, sugar and half of the green onions. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Chill for 2 hours. Serve in cups, bowls and garnished with a bit of the diced bell peppers, diced cucumbers and remaining green onion slices.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 104 Fat 4 g Sodium 88 mg
Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 1 g Protein 2 g
Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 3 g
Adapted from the Star Tribune.