Roasted Tomatoes, the new Caramelized Onion

roasted tomatoes with garlic

Part 1 in a 3 part series

As you know, I've been obsessed with tomatoes lately. I make fresh tomato + cucumber salad (with a red wine vinaigrette) all-the-time. So simple, yet perfect. That's how these roasted tomatoes are too! If you are thinking, "ugh, you want me to roast perfectly good tomatoes?" Please try this amazing technique...it does something magical to the tomatoes that allows you to make several easy, delicious dishes. Pretty please.

I've used large grape tomatoes and a variety called strawberry tomatoes that are similarly shaped and delightfully sweet. If the tomatoes are large (like the ones shown), cutting them in half is the way to go.

Simple Roasted Tomatoes: Toss tomatoes with a generous amount of olive oil (at least 1/4 cup per 2 cups tomatoes), salt, pepper, and herbs or garlic or both. If you choose garlic, toss in a half dozen cloves or so and leave the papery wrappers on, so the cloves don't burn. Then you'll have buttery roasted garlic too! If you choose herbs, several sprigs of thyme are nice. Slow roast at 350 for an hour or speed the process along by cranking the oven to 425 and roast for 30 minutes.

Once you've got the technique down, these sweet and flavorful jewels will dazzle any dish.

In the coming 3 part series, you will learn three (plus) interesting ways to use roasted tomatoes:

Wilted Spinach Salad with Roasted Tomatoes
serves 4 as side salad
wilted spinach salad with roasted tomatoes
Roasted Tomatoes + oil (from 2 cups tomatoes cooked as described above)
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
4 generous handfuls baby spinach
2 Tbs pine nuts, dry toasted in a pan*

While the tomatoes are still hot (or reheat to make hot), stir in vinegar. Gently toss with spinach and top with pine nuts. Enjoy immediately!

*Don't skip this step...it adds so much flavor! If you can't do pine nuts, consider shredding a dry salty cheese such as manchego over the top instead.

Ok, get ready for a simple, family friendly gluten-free pasta next.

Bunny Fruit Salad

Bunny Fruit Salad

Instead of stocking up on candy at this time of year, I like to create fun "food art" for the little ones. I visited my son's preschool class this morning and led them through a bunny fruit salad activity. Cute, tasty, and good for them.

Here's what you need:

  • canned pear halves, packed in juice
  • raisins
  • banana or plantain chips
  • raspberries or cherries, cut in half
  • fresh mozzarella cheese balls (bocconcini) or mashed dates rolled in coconut for a dairy-free alternative (see below)
  • lettuce leaf & carrot stick garnish

Bunny Fruit Salad no dairy

The kids loved it. Most of them ate it. My little guy devoured every morsel and asked for more. Ha ha.

Grain-free Granola

Grain-free Granola

Since going grain-free, I miss granola. There's something about the crunchy texture followed by a hint of sweetness that is very satisfying to me. To fill that void, I've been meaning to come up with a nut based variety. Then the other day, a funny thing happened...I made a grain-free granola bar and forgot a couple ingredients. It led to a failure of the bar, but got me going on the granola recipe. Yeah!

Serve this tasty treat topped with berries and a side of almond or coconut milk. I prefer using raw nuts whenever possible, but use what you have or prefer.

Makes about 4 cups
1 cup cashew meal or almond meal/flour
3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut chips
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxmeal
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300°.

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Pour onto a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Spread into a thin layer. Bake 20 minutes. Stir. Bake 10-15 minutes more. Granola should be dry and lightly browned. Stir again. Turn off oven and leave granola in oven to dry out 10 more minutes. Enjoy with fruit, milk or yogurt. Yum!

Weekend Extras

Life feels hectic these days. I am constantly looking for shortcuts to make weekdays easier and weekends more relaxing. I find that spending some quiet hours around the house helps me recharge before the week.

As I mentioned, last week was a busy one. Weeknight entertaining plus weekend guests. When Sunday arrived, I was ready for some peace and quiet. I remembered that a bunch of frozen chicken bones were piling up in the freezer. It was the right time to make stock.

Chicken Stock

Although making stock takes a few hours, it mostly happens while you are doing other things. Perfect for my day of tidying, doing laundry, making shopping lists, and even just sitting. Making your own stock also saves time and money at the store. Plus it makes the house smell amazing!

Try it, I think you will be happy with the results. Start by saving the bones of whole chickens. (If they are raw bones, they will yield broth, and roasted bones will yield stock.) We eat a whole roasted chicken several times a month. I toss the uneaten parts in a zipper lock bag, put it in the freezer, and forget about it for a while. Or you can save the necks and backs you cut out of chickens. When you have 2-3 birds worth of bones, gather the other ingredients for the stock, including a large pot.

Stock Ingredients

At a minimum, you need 1-2 onions, 2-3 carrots, and several stalks celery. It's also nice to have leeks, parsley and thyme. A couple garlic cloves won't hurt either!

Place chicken bones in a large pot. Cover with water. Place pot over high heat and check back occasionally. When you see small bubbles, reduce heat to medium. You do NOT want it to boil vigorously. Also NO lid. Simmer chicken bones about 2 hours. During this time, check that the pot is simmering nicely (small bubbles). If you see any scum forming (off white/grey brown bubbles) scoop it off with a spoon.

TIP: Make sure you have enough water for the bones and veggies to "swim" comfortably.

Add veggies and continue simmering 1-2 hours. My picture demonstrates that I should have used a bigger pot. :-)

You can decide when the stock is done. Three to four hours is about right. Then strain the bits and pieces out (pressing to release tasty juices), cool at room temp before transferring to the frige. You want to use large shallow containers so that the stock cools quickly and safely. Then move to freezer storage containers (like the ones pictured). I get a bunch of these pint and quart containers and lids at Smart & Final. Just don't put anything hot in plastic containers...be patient and wait until it cools first.

So, yes, it's a process. But it yeilds delicious goodness that keeps giving back to you. It's safe in the frige for 2-3 days and will freeze for 6 months or longer. So, stock up! (Sorry I couldn't resist the pun)

Entertaining Paleo Style

Entertaining can be nerve-wracking, especially when you are on a "special diet". Unfortunately, when you get too worked up about choosing and prepping the food, you tend to lose sight of the whole reason for having people over...to relax and enjoy one another! So take a deep breath and come up with a plan.

We had company Thursday and Friday night last week...seven people both nights. We don't get to see either group very often, so I needed to be present and available. It was also important for me to stick with the AutoImmune Protocol and serve tasty food.

Tip 1: Unless you are very confident in the kitchen, stick with something you've made before. I turned to an expert for a tried and true recipe (which I've made before).
Fiona's Green Chicken
Thursday night's menu:

  • Fiona's Green Chicken from Nom Nom Paleo's Food for Humans cookbook. Prep and marinade ahead. Bring to room temp; grill.

  • Green Salad (from a previous post) made with chopped romaine, green apple, celery, persian cucumber, and lemon vinaigrette. Wash and chop lettuce, celery and cucumber ahead of time. Prep dressing too.

  • Grilled Onions and Sweet Potato Wedges with olive oil, salt & pepper

  • Organic Strawberries dipped in Coconut Cream (and shaved dark chocolate for those who could partake)

  • Plus, our guests brought wine (which was tough to avoid drinking, but I did!)

Tip 2: Share responsibility...delegate! Yes, this is easier with some groups than others. Our little guy helped set the table, and my honey helped with the grilling. Hopefully there is one person at your get-together that you can ask to toss a salad, or pour water, or schlep food to the table.

Grilled Grass-fed Steaks
Pan Fried Trout Fillets

Friday night's menu:

  • Surf & Turf (grass-fed steaks and trout fillets rubbed with olive oil, salt & pepper). Bring to room temp; grill.

  • Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with April Bloomfield's Lemon Caper Dressing with slight modifications. I followed the recipe, but left out the dijon and replaced the 1/2 tsp sugar with 1 tsp honey (both to take the lemony edge off and thicken the dressing without the mustard). Prep the dressing ahead.

  • Grilled Sweet Potato "Chips" with olive oil, salt & pepper (this was a last minute addition by "the griller".

  • Oven Roasted Broccolini, Carrots, Parsnips, and Onions with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & garlic pepper

  • Organic raspberries and/or dark chocolate. It took me a long time, but I finally found a dark chocolate that does not contain soy lecithin: Alter Eco has only 4 ingredients...can't wait until I can chomp some too!

Tip 3: Unless it comes up, keep your dietary restrictions to yourself. Your guests probably don't want to hear about all the stuff you "can't eat" or the restrictive diet you are "making them eat". Just share tasty, simple food and it'll all work out. Cheers!