The calendar may say September, but it isn’t fall until about three weeks from now- so it’s still officially summer!

Since the kids are back to school, your vacation is over, and after-school and after-work activities are ramping up again (oh how I miss the lazy days at the lake!) thoughts rush ahead to tasks to complete and skim over the idea of a healthy lunch or dinner. Now is the perfect time to use all those gorgeous Marietta tomatoes that we have an over-abundance of; this summer has been great for tomatoes.

tomatoes for sauce

Tomato Sauce, Stuffed Tomatoes, Tomato and Mozz Salad, and Tomato Tamale Casserole are just a few of the dishes you can create with little effort!

Vine Ripened Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes are the perfect food to add to your dishes to make them tastier and healthier. You’ll need about 2 pounds of tomatoes, any variety, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and garlic. There are a few ways you can cook the tomatoes to arrive at your favorite consistency and taste.

You can blanche the tomatoes in boiling water, or you can cut in half (face side down at 350 degrees in a shallow baking dish), roasting the tomatoes. If using garlic and other spices, roasting is a great way to meld the flavors and create a more robust tomato flavor.

In each case, blanch or roast until skins turn darker and split, then remove from heat. Let them sit for a few moments. After 5 minutes, carefully peel and discard the skins, being mindful of preserving the juice.

Place the skinned warm tomatoes into a slow cooker or stove-top pot on low (for an hour or two), and add 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon basil, a garlic clove (you can also roast the garlic while roasting the tomatoes), and a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Also, add a half teaspoon of sugar. (Not a sweeter or agave, but sugar). The sugar cuts a bit of the acidity – so no heartburn! I also like to add in any veggies I have on hand, peas, mushrooms, a bit of ground beef if you have it.

You can also use a hand-blender to smooth it out to a silkier consistency. I like to cook the sauce for a few hours and then remove from heat and add to my favorite pasta with Parmesan, make chili or sloppy joes, or freeze for the winter. Then you have a bit of warm sun-ripened vegetable sauce for the cold days.

I’ve been making my own sauce for years after seeing an old recipe which called for dumping all ingredients into a pot, heating, peeling off the skins, and serving over pasta. This is my own adaptation of a summer favorite, and preferable over the store jarred variety, and cheaper as well. Make this on a Sunday night and have dinner for a few days. You can even serve the sauce cold, if the day is too hot.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed tomatoes are another fun food that has no limit on creativity and variety for lunch or dinner.

Let’s start with tuna and cherry tomatoes. Make tuna salad as you would normally (go easy on the mayo, or skip mayo and use plain Greek yogurt), then carefully slice the tops off cherry tomatoes and scoop out the seeds. Spoon in your tuna mixture and sprinkle parsley on top. Cute little mouthfuls of protein and veggies! Or, use the same concept on a larger tomato. Chicken salad, egg salad, macaroni salad, seafood salad, and ham salad work great in little or big tomatoes.

And go to the warm wild savory side- 2 cups of fresh shredded mozzarella, ½ cup of Italian breadcrumbs, 1 cup of chopped artichokes,  1 teaspoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of basil or your favorite herb, and finely chopped mushrooms (or whatever vegetable you prefer). Combine ingredients and add to larger tomatoes with the inside seeds scooped out, filling half-way. Place stuffed tomatoes in an oven-safe baking dish and bake 10 minutes at 300 degrees. Serves 4.

Cooking with Tomatoes

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

The Tomato Mozzarella salad is the quickest and easiest of them all and a wonderful side dish- a pound of tomatoes with a fresh 4 ounces of part-skim mozzarella, with olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and basil and salt.

Slice up the tomatoes and cheese, add 4 teaspoons of olive oil (I like a lemon olive oil), with fresh shredded basil, a teaspoon of salt, and toss with the balsamic. Delish!

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

Tomatoes Tamale Casserole

The Tomatoes Tamale Casserole will feed a family of four with lunch leftovers. This is an adaptation of a cornbread chili cook-off dinner I saw once. It can be done with ground beef, ground turkey, or shredded chicken. I used canned chicken because I had so much in my pantry. If you use ground beef or turkey, please brown it first and pour off the fat into the trash.

I greased a 9”x12” glass dish, and in a separate bowl I blended 2 cans of chicken, a packet of taco seasoning, a can of black beans (rinsed), a frozen mini bag of corn, and chopped up tomatoes. I also added a dash of dehydrated onion, cilantro, salt and pepper, then spread in the greased baking dish.

I then mixed up a box of Jiffy cornbread according to the box directions and then poured the mixture over the chicken, bean and veggie mixture, and baked for 40 minutes at 350 degrees- until the top of the cornbread is slightly browned. This recipe turned out even better than expected and was delicious, low fat and cost-effective. And all with ingredients I had on hand.

Tomato Tamale Pie

As you can see, tomatoes still feature quite prominently in weekday cooking. The sunny days may be shorter, but you still can get every bit of their sunshine-filled goodness with these recipes!

Did you try them? Let me know your favorite. Do you have a favorite tomatoes recipe?