Canned vegetables and soups have gotten a bad rap over the past decade or so, and with good reason in some cases. Many canned goods are loaded with added salt and sugar. Because of how much added salt and sugar there are in many of the foods we eat today, we have actually conditioned ourselves to think and want more salt and sugar than we actually need. Eating foods with salt and sugar isn't the problem. The problem is we eat too much of it. There is also the whole BPA thing that potentially means eating canned foods can actually be somewhat dangerous. If you fear the BPA in cans, then this post is not for you. However, if like me, it’s not at the top of your list of concerns, then keep reading because I am about to blow your mind. (As much as I can with canned tomatoes)
In the case of canned goods many of them are loaded with salt, and all kinds of added and really unnecessary ingredients. Canned soups are something that I particularly steer clear of on a normal basis because when I make food, I want to have as much control as possible over what, and how much of what goes into what I eat. Many prepackaged foods are not only loaded with salt and unrecognizable chemical compounds (to be discussed in a later post), but they are also loaded with sugar. If you were to prepare the same packaged foods from scratch, you would find that not only can you add less salt and sugar, but also without all of the extra junk they taste better than buying it ready made from the store. I can pretty much guess what your thinking. Yeah right. I really want to take time to make this crap from scratch, and my response is yes. Yes you do, and the best part is it’s easy.
Which brings me to the canned tomato but before I extol the virtues of this glorious product I want to say a few things about buying canned goods. I’m not a fan of canned vegetables and fruits for a few reasons. For the most part, canned vegetables have a taste and texture that to me is generally unappealing, and could never in a million years live up to the taste of fresh vegetables. Canned fruits are almost always packed in syrup(hello megaton of added sugar) and even the ones packed in fruit juice have added sugar and the texture can also be a little….off (I’m talking to you peaches). Quick reminder, EXTRA salt and sugar are things to avoid. (Note the word EXTRA). Some canned goods are great to have on hand, and there are a few that I always have. Beans, tuna fish, and chickpeas are great pantry items. They save you a ton of time, and research has shown that giving them a quick rinse before use can wash off around 40% of the added salt. I keep canned diced tomatoes on hand, but I make sure to get the no salt added. Why? Because I want to be in control of how much salt goes into my food. Too much salt, among other things, is a huge contributor to bloat and water weight gain. Canned pumpkin(not pie filling) is also a great pantry staple, but again I am talking about the tomato.
So, let’s get into it. What can you make out of the canned tomato? Get ready to have your mind blown. *Takes a breath* Spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, tomato bisque, pizza sauce, marinara sauce, and ketchup which also means BBQ sauce. All of these prepackaged items can be made at home for a fraction of the cost, giving you complete control over all of the ingredients, with almost no effort. The only kitchen tools that you need are a blender, and a pot with a stove.
How does this work? For whichever of the previously listed items you want to make the method is the same. Open however many cans of tomatoes that you want to use, puree them in the blender, put them in a pot on the stove, add whatever ingredients you want, and let it cook without a lid until enough water cooks out to create your desired consistency. To make ketchup, two cans fills up a mason jar. I add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, a little garlic powder, and a splash of white vinegar. I taste, and add more from there if I need to. Make sure you stir it occasionally as it cooks, and it’s done when you drag your mixing spoon across the pan and the trail that you make stays. Let it cool, put it in a mason jar, and put it in the fridge. Once it is refrigerator temperature it’s ready to use. It’s delicious, sooooo much cheaper, and I know exactly what is in it. Just to clarify when I say delicious, I mean the best ketchup I have ever had. Including, (yes...I know, I’m sorry my Texas peeps) “Whataburger” ketchup.
It’s so easy, and it’s the same for all of the prepackaged tomato based foods. If you want a chunky marinara, or a chunky tomato bisque, then only puree half of the amount of canned tomato that you are using. Puree more or less to your taste. You are completely in control. Want a pasta sauce with fresh herbs? Make it, and make it your own! Why? Because you can, can, can!
Chunky Tomato Bisque
2-14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes in tomato juice (no salt added)
½ cup skim milk
2 tsp of olive oil OR ⅔ tbsp of butter (I use olive oil because I’m watching my cholesterol. Olive oil will float to the top, but just stir it as it cooks)
2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste ( I used about 1 to 1-1/2 tsp)
**A word of caution about salt and sugar to taste. As mentioned above, most of the foods we eat that are prepackaged and bought at restaurants or other establishments are loaded with so much extra salt and sugar that our taste buds are thrown out of whack. If you're serious about a healthier lifestyle, then go 5 days without adding salt or sugar to anything, and don't buy any prepackaged foods. If you do, buy foods with lower salt and sugar content. (Read the label and nutrition info) Make it yourself and try to get away with not adding salt or sugar(including stevia, honey, agave nectar, etc...) to it. Find other ingredients such as spices and fresh or dried herbs to add instead. Potato and tomato dishes will need a touch of salt though. And for the love of God do not use any artificial sweetener. These little chemical shit-storms mess up your palette and make you crave the worst kinds of foods. This will allow your palette to reset, and when you gradually add in more foods you will find that some foods that you used to eat may be too salty or sweet, and artificial sweetener may end up tasting gross. (Let's hope) The point isn't to go without salt and sugar. The point is to get used to eating less. However, as far as artificial sweeteners are concerned....yes, the point is to go without these.
Puree one can, and pour both cans into a saucepan on medium high heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Taste for seasoning. Bring to a boil and boil with lid on for 10-15 mins. Lower heat and keep lid on for another 5-10 mins. Take lid off and continue to cook until desired thickness and consistency is reached. (About another 5-10 mins.) Serves 2-3 as a side dish.
*This makes a great lunch with grilled cheese or a panini of some sort
*If you want a smooth or not quite as chunky bisque then puree the contents of the canned tomatoes until desired consistency, then pour into the saucepan. Pureeing to some degree will also give it a more concentrated tomato flavor
*You can get creative by adding in herbs, or sauteing onions and garlic in the oil or butter before adding in the tomatoes. Throw some lentils and farro into the bisque for a complete meal. The sky is the limit!