When it comes to struggling to manage work, home, kids, etc, something always suffers (I have finally accepted that I cannot be supermom), and for me, that thing tends to be meals. I try – I really do try – to have a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table every night, but I fail by a long shot. Time is a factor – I get home after work and often have a very short time before I have to run someone off to soccer practice or scouts, and that means cooking/eating quickly. And home-cooked and healthy don’t often go hand in hand with quick.
Add in the picky eaters in my house and it’s a recipe for disaster (or crappy, empty meals). When it comes to vegetables for instance, the girl loves green beans – she would eat them every day for every meal. The boy hates them. Mr b loves Brussels sprouts. The rest of us laugh at him when he suggests we have them. They’ll eat raw cauliflower and carrots, but gag at the thought of it cooked. They like broccoli cooked, but raw? No way. It’s enough to make you crazy. Or crazier, in my case.
And if I am being honest, I can be picky, too. There isn’t a lot that I won’t eat, but the things I don’t like, I really don’t like. I will continue to try foods I don’t like, because you never know. I eat a ton of things now that I didn’t eat as a child. Or that I didn’t eat even a few years ago. Beans, peppers & peas, for instance. But other things – not matter how many times I try, I can’t stomach – like peanut butter. And one of the main things that I won’t eat is the girl’s absolute favorite food in the world – fresh tomatoes.
Now, I love tomato sauce and Lord knows I think ketchup is a food group, but fresh tomatoes? I just can’t seem to develop a taste for them. But I try to work them into our meals as often as possible, because tomatoes are quite good for you.
Did you know that tomatoes and tomato products have been shown to help with reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, ultraviolet light–induced skin damage, osteoporosis, and other conditions?
And that tomatoes contain high levels of carotenoid antioxidants such as lycopene, but also serve as a significant source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium (in fact, calorie for calorie, tomatoes contain more than twice the potassium of other common sources such as bananas, potatoes, milk and orange juice).
Tomatoes are so good for you that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee outlined a new red-orange vegetable sub-group for Americans to provide a greater focus on tomatoes. This guideline can be easily met by consuming just one more half-cup serving of tomatoes each day.
Since I don’t eat fresh tomatoes, though, I thought that I probably wasn’t getting the health benefits, because fresh is always better, right?
It turns out that canned tomato products (which I do use regularly) are not only as good as fresh, in some ways, they can be better. While all tomatoes contain high levels of the powerful antioxidant lycopene – canned products such as tomato paste, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce have approximately seven times more lycopene than raw tomatoes!
See – you learn something new every day!
Hunt’s has shared this information with me, so I can pass it on to you, along with a recipe showing that even crazy, busy, tired moms of even the pickiest eaters can manage to throw together something delicious AND nutritious and not lose our minds.
The problem with recipes is that I am not a recipe-style cook. I am a throw it together using the “dash of this” and “handful of that” method (which is why I suck at baking – it’s too much of an exact science), but I’m sure you all can figure it out – it’s quick, easy and delicious).
We have this pasta dish once a week, because we all love it (and I did have photos to go along with this, but then I lost all my sense and somehow deleted them from my camera). I dedicate this recipe to my grandma who – for years – watched me pick every tiny tomato morsel out of every dish she ever made.
• 1 box of pasta (I prefer campanelle – it’s pretty, so it looks nice when you are serving it to guests, plus the shape of the pasta holds the flavors better)
• 3 red peppers, thinly sliced (sometimes I use combinations of red/yellow/orange – it tastes the same, but it’s pretty. And yes, I clearly have a thing about “pretty” food)
• 2 packages of sliced mushrooms (you can slice your own, but my own personal feelings about that are: HAHAHAHAHAHA – pre-sliced it is)
• 2 cans of Hunt’s diced tomatoes (I use the no-salt added because I like to control the salt, plus my family are food-salters, but they have a ton to chose from – they have diced with garlic, or with basil or balsamic or peppers or lots of other combinations – you can see them all here – but definitely use Hunt’s because theirs are the best quality – they go from vine to can in just hours and they use flash-steaming to remove the skins, which many other companies use LYE – ewww)
• Garlic – lots and lots of garlic (you can use fresh & mince it yourself, or do what I do – buy a jar of it already minced. You can use garlic powder if you want, but it’s not the same).
• Minced onion (or fresh, sliced onion if your kids won’t cry and whine and choke and gag and possibly convulse at the sight of an onion in their meal)
• Extra-virgin olive oil. (I suppose you could use the oil of your choice, but I am telling you in all honesty you want the extra virgin for the flavor. Or at the very least some sort of olive oil. Don’t ruin this with canola or vegetable oil – I’m begging you).
• Grated cheese- whatever you prefer – romano, parmesan, asiago (personally, all the cheeses are my favorite – I have made it with fontinella which was delicious, but my kids tasted the difference, and I sometimes make it with crumbled bleu, but only if it’s just for me because if you think the onions will make my kids cry/whine/choke/gag/convulse, hoo-boy, try giving them bleu cheese).
• Salt & pepper
Now here are my very technical directions:
• Cook the pasta to be al dente
• In the meantime, pour some oil in a large pan and throw in your minced garlic. At least a tablespoon, though I tend to use more – garlic is magic.
• Then add your sliced peppers & sauté.
• After a few minutes, add the sliced mushrooms & continue to sauté until the veggies are tender. You can add a little oil or even water if needed.
• (This will sound weird, but I tend to let my veggies start to brown/scorch a tiny bit, then I will throw in a little water – it will give everything a nice flavor and color)
• Mix in your Hunts diced tomatoes & sauté for a minute or so (they don’t really need to cook, so much as just incorporate the flavor.
• Once the veggies are done, add a little more oil and dump your drained pasta into the pan & toss it all together (this is why you need a large pan – of you don’t have one, you can always do the mixing in a large serving dish, but I like to get the pasta in the pan for a minute or two to really get the flavor in there), adding salt & pepper to taste.
• Before serving, I usually mix a little bit of the cheese into the pasta to get some melting cheesy deliciousness, and then have more on hand for each person to add some of their own.
• Also – you can use the veggie part of this recipe as a bruschetta topping and it’s delicious – just cut everything up a tiny bit smaller.
OK – here’s the legal stuff: I was contacted and am being compensated by Hunt’s and The Motherhood to do this post, but the opinions expressed are my own. We really do eat this recipe once a week and we love it. And I really do use Hunt’s tomatoes because they are the best. My grandma used Hunt’s, my mom uses Hunt’s, and now I do too.