I attribute my love of cooking to the many happy hours I spent as a young girl in the kitchen with my mother. Of Czechoslovakian background, I grew up creating everything from, homemade soups, potato dumplings and fresh raspberry kolachky. Our family came together for every meal to enjoy delicious food and to connect. For the past decade I have been preparing and delivering healthy entrees to working parents so they to can enjoy time at the dinner table with their families.
Chef Mary ~ Simply Delicious was created after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. I had to rethink how I was living my life and the one word that stuck was balance. I realized I was shortchanging myself. I was not living a balanced life and that was about to change. Stress was constantly in my life and I just accepted it instead of managing it. I was positive my cancer diagnosis was hereditary driven. Tests proved it was not. Stress and poor nutrition had weakened my immune system and what my body actually needed it was not given. I chose to restore the harmony to my life! To be grateful and to appreciate what God had given me and to do the things I loved.
I am so excited to be apart of this wonderful magazine. My focus is to bring you what works, including nutritional facts and delicious recipes for you to enjoy with your family and friends.
I Say Tomayto, You Say Tomahto
No matter how you pronounce it or dice it, the tomato is one of our most popular foods. Twelve million ton are devoured each year in America, so not only do we love to eat tomatoes, but between twenty-five and forty million of us love to grow them in our gardens, containers and window boxes.
I was surprised to learn that the Mayan’s were some of the first to cultivate this small wild fruit into the large lumpy specimen that it is today. Tomatoes originated in the coastal highlands of western South America and then appeared later in Central America where Mayan Indians used them as food. With the conquest of Mexico in 1519, tomatoes were carried eastward to Europe.
Tomatoes were unknown as food in this country until long after it was commonly eaten in Europe. As the tomato traveled north, it was veiled in mystery. The French called it “The Apple of Love,” the Germans “The Apple of Paradise;” but the British, while admiring its brilliant red color, disclaimed the tomato as a food –they believed it was poisonous. This same fear persisted among colonists in the United States until the early 19th century when Thomas Jefferson began experimenting with the love apples in his gardens at Monticello. Jefferson ate a tomato in public just to prove it wasn’t poisonous. ¬
Another interesting note…. there is a possibility that the black slaves may have brought the tomato to the South when they were taken from the West Indies and Caribbean islands. One of the beginning times Americans first heard about the tomato was in 1782 when Jefferson reported that they were becoming popular in Virginia gardens. Soon people recognized how wonderful and versatile tomatoes were. The tomato population increased after the civil war making this vegetable one of the three top canned vegetables in America.
Some of the tomatoes you find in the supermarkets were picked green and stored possibly for weeks under refrigeration. In some cases they are blasted with ethylene gas which is a natural ripening gas to help redden them. They may be red in color but the minute you bite into one you know they are not ripe. Another modern growing process is the genetically altered tomato. They look beautiful on the vine; have a longer shelf life but do they taste like homegrown? I don’t think so!
Select the ripest tomatoes that are firm and plump; avoiding the soft, bruised or cracked. Tomatoes will not ripen in the refrigerator and flavor will actually diminish. Leave them out on your kitchen counter or place them in a paper bag with an apple for several days at room temperature and the flavor and quality will improve through this maturing process.
Tomatoes are loved for their fresh taste and the versatile role they play in cooking. Besides cooking you can peel, chop, freeze, preserve, dry or just plain eat it and enjoy it raw. The most important reason to love the almighty tomato — they’re loaded with an antioxidant called Lycopene (LY-ko-pene). Lycopene is a plant chemical, which gives tomatoes their vibrant red color. Cooking tomatoes makes Lycopene even easier for your body to absorb. There is five times more Lycopene in tomato sauce than in an equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes. That is partially due to the concentration of tomatoes plus the heat breaks down the cell walls of the tomato, freeing the Lycopene that passes through your digestive system. Other valuable nutrients are vitamins C and B-complex, iron and potassium.
A study of more than 1,300 Europeans men suggested that those consuming the most Lycopene from foods had about half the risk of heart attacks as men who consumed less. A 5-year study of 48,000 men found that those eating 10 servings a week of cooked tomato products had the lowest risk of prostate cancer. Their risk was one-third that of men eating less than two servings a week. But men aren’t the only ones that benefit from eating tomatoes and tomato-based products. Key studies have confirmed that consuming Lycopene may reduce the chance of developing lung, breast and stomach cancers, as well as osteoporosis.
I would like to introduce my recipe for a cold Spanish soup called Gazpacho, which combines the best of summer vegetables to create a refreshing change for those hot summer days. Make sure you only use the freshest, highest quality ingredients for this soup.
Fresh Garden Gazpacho
8 ripe Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4 “dice1 sweet red bell pepper
1 English cucumber cut into 1/4” dice, peeling optional
1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine
3 clove garlic, chopped fine
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup champagne or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, according to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a large (at least 3-quart) non-reactive bowl. Let stand until the vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh herbs and rest of ingredients. Stir well and cover tightly; refrigerate to let flavors develop, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and additional fresh chopped herbs.