Canned Tomatoes: A Great Investment in Health!

by Sharon Palmer, RD

It’s that time of year again when families are hanging up their beach towels and diving into another school year. Kids are now swapping sunscreen for text books, and meals are shifting from a somewhat chaotic dining schedule to a more structured family routine. As we now reminisce about the summertime months, it’s hard to overlook the toll our summer getaways might have taken on the bank account.  It doesn’t help that back-to-school season often involves more spending than the holiday season does. With new school supplies, clothes, and registration fees adding up, back-to-school season isn’t exactly cheap.

But there is one area where individuals and families can pinch their pennies without having to sacrifice much. When it comes to preparing meals, there is no need to sacrifice health or nutrition for time or flavor.

A new study presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 annual meeting put the common misconception that canned products are often inferior to their fresh counterparts to rest. Researchers examined the nutrient properties of canned and fresh varieties of common foods – and the findings were pretty interesting, especially in regards to tomatoes. When it comes to getting your dietary fiber, it’s 60% more expensive to get the same amount from fresh tomatoes as opposed to canned. Let’s also not forget the extra amount of time it takes to prepare made-from-scratch recipes with fresh tomatoes opposed to using canned ingredients.

So, what does this all mean? Canned tomato products are not only more budget-friendly and time effective, they also can provide you with more nutritional benefits than their fresh equivalent. This is what we call a great investment.

To get started, try this incredibly flavorful, Middle Eastern stew called Shakshuka.

 

 

Shakshuka

 This tomato based stew topped with poached eggs is a popular breakfast dish in other parts of the globe – but, it also makes for a delicious, nutritious and wonderfully affordable dinner.

Serves 6

Salt and pepper, to taste*

3 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 eggplant, cut in large dice
1 red onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut in large dice
1 small Calabria pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 28-ounce canned tomatoes, diced
1 fresh tomato, diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 eggs
4 ounces goat cheese, cut in 6 discs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

*Season vegetables with salt and pepper as you cook, adding a little bit at each step until desired level of seasoning is achieved.

Heat heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add ½ of eggplant in one layer in the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is tender and brown. Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining eggplant.

Add another 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onion, red bell pepper, Calabria pepper and garlic. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and peppers are tender. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Reduce the heat to low if necessary.

Add diced canned tomatoes with the juice, fresh tomato, coriander and cardamom. Add back in reserved eggplant. Cook at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until Shakshuka is thick and flavorful. If too much sauce has evaporated (it should be the consistency of thick pasta sauce), add a little water to thin.

Break each egg into a small bowl or ramekin and then slide into the sauce. Add goat cheese. Cover and simmer about 3 – 4 minutes or until whites of eggs are set. Sprinkle with parsley.

 

By Sharon Palmer, RD

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