Warm Weather Calls for Tomato Products, Too



Sharon Palmer, RDN

Just because the days are longer and warmer, it doesn’t mean that you can’t rely on canned goods, such as tomato products in the kitchen. Stocking your pantry with economical, convenient canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, salsa, and tomato paste means you are ready to enjoy quick and healthy meals all season long. That means less time in the hot kitchen, and more time enjoying your life.

Sure, you should enjoy farm fresh, nutritious produce when it’s available, but tomato products can often be the foundation of a healthful meal that features more seasonal, fresh produce. And don’t forget that the tomato compound lycopene—stoked with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity—is more available to your body when it’s in its cooked tomatoes than in fresh. No wonder hundreds of studies show that eating more tomato products is a healthy habit.

So let tomato products inspire more healthful eating habits over the spring and summer with my favorite tips:

  • Grill a Pizza. Today’s hot trend of cooking pizzas on the grill is a fun, delicious way to enjoy open-air eating, as well as keep the heat out of your kitchen. It’s easy, just heat the grill, place a whole grain dough (coated with olive oil) on the grill, cook one side and then flip it, top it with pizza sauce and your favorite vegetable toppings and dive in!
  • Make it a Fiesta. Cook up an interactive, healthful Mexican feast, featuring build your own taco or burrito bars and fajitas, with a generous helping of salsa to spice it up. Try out this idea for BYO Burrito Bowl for starters.
  • Cool Souping. You don’t have to skip out on soup just because the weather is warmer. Start your meal with a zesty, cold veggie-rich soup, such as Gazpacho.
  • Make it Pasta and Salad Night. You really can get a healthful dinner on the table in 30 minutes. Whip up a super simple, delicious meal with a stove-top pasta recipe, such as this Pasta and Vegetable Stir-Fry, and serve it with a crisp, garden salad—filled with fresh, seasonal produce.
  • Dine on Hearty, Rustic Salads. There’s nothing better than a satisfying whole grain, pasta, or bean salad for warm weather potlucks, parties, or dinners. A can of tomatoes can be the perfect base for such a salad, like this winning Herb Greek Salad with Tomato Rice.
  • Casserole it! An easy one-dish meal is a splendid, heatlhful way to dine on a busy night. This Garden Patch Lasagna or Tuscan Potatoes and Vegetables are perfect examples. Just pair it with a cool vegetable salad and a healthy meal is on the table in no time.
  • Put out a Pot of Chili. An easy pot of chili (which can be made in a crockpot, too) is the perfect solution to simple dining. Just simmer a pot and serve with fresh cornbread or whole grain bread and a vegetable salad, and you have a wholesome, satisfying meal—and fabulous leftovers for the next day. Try this new Summer Vegetarian Chili recipe for starters.summerveggie#2

Summer Vegetarian Chili

Who says chili has to be a cool weather dish? Pack your chili with loads of vegetables, give it a “meaty” texture thanks to steel cut oats (yes, steel cut oats!), spice it up with herbs and Latin spices, and top it with farm fresh avocados and green onions, and you’ve just discovered your next warm weather, rustic meal. Serve it with salad and cornbread and you’re all set!


1 pound red beans, dried (i.e., kidney beans, cranberry beans, red beans)

6 cups water

2 vegetable bullion cubes

3 medium carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 zucchini, sliced

1 cup yellow corn, frozen or canned

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1 4-ounce can tomato paste

2 tablespoons soy sauce, reduced sodium

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried cilantro

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¾ cups steel cut oats, dried

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Hot sauce to taste

Salt to taste (optional)

Garnish (as desired): fresh avocado slices, green onion slices, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped fresh tomatoes

summer veggie#4

Instructions:Place beans in a large pot, cover with water, and soak overnight.

The next day, discard the water, and add 6 cups fresh water and bullion cubes. Cover and simmer over medium-low for 45 minutes.

Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, pepper, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce, chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cilantro, brown sugar, and steel cut oats.

Stir well to combine, cover, and simmer for an additional 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until beans, oats, and vegetables are tender. May need to add additional water lost to evaporation. Should make a thick stew-like texture.Before serving, stir in lemon juice and add hot sauce to achieve desired level of spiciness. Season with salt as desired (optional).


Serve in bowls and garnish as desired with fresh avocado slices, green onion slices, chopped fresh cilantro, and chopped fresh tomatoes.

 Makes 10 servings

Recipe and photography by Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian