5 Ingredients You Can Replace With Tomatoes

By: Linda C. Brinson

Tomatoes are delicious as well as good for you. See more heirloom tomato pictures.
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There's nothing like fresh tomatoes in season. Nowadays, high-quality canned tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes preserve much of that delicious taste -- even in the off season. And some varieties of plum and other tomato varieties found in winter markets can be worth their price.

Tomatoes are one of those delightful foods that are not only tasty but also good for you. They are low in calories and have no cholesterol. They're high in Vitamins A and C, and a good source of potassium. They are rich in antioxidants such as lycopene that nutritionists believe help fight cancer and heart disease. Cooking tomatoes doesn't destroy their health benefits. In fact, cooked tomatoes and those processed into sauces have even higher concentrations of lycopene. That's because processing steams out a lot of the water that makes up fresh tomatoes.

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Tomato lovers are a lucky bunch. They can eat tomatoes in all their usual favorite ways, from fresh sliced tomatoes to spaghetti sauce. And they can get more tomatoes in their diet by substituting them for other ingredients. They might be in a crisis because they suddenly discover they're lacking a called-for ingredient. Or they might prefer tomatoes. Or they might just feel creative.

Whatever the reason, read on for some tasty ideas.

5. Ground Beef or Turkey

One definition of luxury: having so many tomatoes in your garden or at the farmer's market that you can afford to use some while they're green.

Green tomatoes are just immature ones that will turn red, orange or yellow if allowed to ripen. They're firmer and have a stronger, tarter taste than ripe tomatoes.

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They can be used in a number of ways. You can use them in place of or with green apples in chutneys and in pickle-type relishes. With a little lemon juice, they can substitute for tomatillos (a small, green cousin of the tomato that's widely used in Mexican green sauces and other dishes).

But, as any Southerner knows, the ultimate way to eat green tomatoes is to batter and fry them. And when you do that, you can make a culinary treat offered at a few discerning restaurants. Substitute cornmeal-crusted tomatoes for ground beef, and you have Fried Green Tomato Burgers.

Are you hungry yet? Keep reading.

4. Peppers

If the taste of green bell peppers does nothing for you, try replacing them with tomatoes.
If the taste of green bell peppers does nothing for you, try replacing them with tomatoes.
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Do you like everything about stuffed, baked green bell peppers except the green bell peppers?

Tomatoes would make a great substitute. You can stuff them with anything you'd use to stuff peppers. Tomatoes have the added benefit of not needing to be blanched or microwaved first.

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Preparing the tomatoes is easy. Choose large tomatoes that are ripe but firm. Don't peel them. Slice the stem ends off. Gently scoop out the pulp, leaving a half-inch (12.7 millimeter) wall to hold the filling. Chop and save the pulp if you plan to use it in the filling. If you wish, salt the hollowed tomatoes and turn them upside down to drain for 10 or 15 minutes. Then you're ready to prepare whatever filling you choose.

Use your imagination: You can stuff them with a mixture of the tomato pulp and other ingredients such as sautéed chopped onions, celery and breadcrumbs or rice. Cooked bacon or sausage can be in the mix. You can even use the browned ground beef mixture often used in stuffed peppers. Or forget the tomato pulp, and make a delicious crab meat concoction in a tasty sauce.

Bake in a greased pan, or one with a little water or sauce (even mushroom soup) added. If the tomatoes are too flimsy to hold up, bake them in a muffin tin.

More tasty ideas await on the next page.

3. Basil

Few things compare with pesto made with fresh basil leaves. Eating pesto is like tasting the essence of summer.

But, summer ends, and with it does the ready supply of fresh basil.

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Don't despair, though. Think red. Delicately preserved sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil provide their own taste of summer. You can make a red pesto following your favorite recipe -- just but substitute sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil for the basil. Just cut the amount of olive oil you add to the mix slightly to adjust for what comes with the tomatoes. Or, jazz the recipe up a little (and make it more liquid) by adding a little red wine vinegar and/or red wine to the mix. The tomatoes are more solid than basil leaves, so you'll probably need more liquid than in your green pesto. Parsley, fresh or dried, can add a hint of green.

Use your red pesto in any of your favorite ways -- on pasta, grilled eggplant or other grilled foods, or on bread.

Hungry enough for a main dish? Keep reading.

2. Broth

Many cooks have fail-safe casseroles, stews and slow-cooker dishes they throw together, often without needing a recipe. Brown the beef or chicken; maybe sauté some onions, garlic and even a little green pepper. Throw all that in a slow cooker, stew pot or Dutch oven. Then cut and add the potatoes, carrots or whatever vegetables you use, and toss in some herbs. Usually the ingredient that brings it all together and keeps it moist is a container of broth -- beef, chicken or vegetable.

What if you have everything ready but discover you're out of broth? Or what if you just want something different? What if you take the opportunity to add vitamins and antioxidants -- not to mention flavor -- to that old standard dish?

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Tomatoes can easily replace the broth. Chop up some large, fresh, ripe tomatoes and add them in place of the broth. If you think you need more liquid, add water and/or wine. But the tomatoes will release liquid as they cook.

In the off season, canned tomatoes -- the homemade variety or commercially canned -- are fine substitutes for broth. So are canned tomato sauce, commercial pasta sauces and even salsa.

1. Strawberries

They're part of the same family, so it shouldn't surprise you to find that you can replace many fruits with tomatoes.
They're part of the same family, so it shouldn't surprise you to find that you can replace many fruits with tomatoes.
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Tomatoes are technically fruit. We use them as vegetables because of their taste, but there are many ways to take advantage of their fruity qualities. Green tomatoes can sub for green apples in many recipes.

Ripe tomatoes are juicier than many fruits. Slice them into a lightly baked piecrust. Top with chopped onion lightly sautéed in olive oil. Add a little basil if you have it. Top with a mixture of low-fat mayonnaise, garlic power and Parmesan cheese, and bake until brown for a wonderful supper pie.

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Make a different sort of fruit smoothie of carrot juice, frozen tomato pieces, parsley, salt and a little hot sauce. Garnish with a celery stalk.

And for a most unusual but delicious appetizer or side dish, try tomato shortcake. Simply bake and halve your shortcake (or buttermilk biscuits in a pinch), and add a fresh tomato slice and a little crème fraîche to one half of the biscuit. Dot the crème fraîche with a garnish of capers, chives or fresh basil and cover with the other half of the biscuit. Done!

Keep reading for more great information.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Allrecipes.com. "Baked Stuffed Tomatoes." (Nov. 4, 2010)http://allrecipes.com/recipe/baked-stuffed-tomatoes
  • Allrecipes.com. "Kathy's Baked Stuffed Tomatoes." (Nov. 4, 2010)http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kathys-baked-stuffed-tomatoes
  • Antioxidants-guide.com. "The Health Benefits of Tomato Antioxidants." (Nov. 6, 2010)http://www.antioxidants-guide.com/health_benefit_of_tomato.html
  • Balcavage, Dynise. The Urban Vegan. ThreeForks. Guilford, Conn. 2010.
  • Bartholomew, Mel. All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook. Cool Springs Press. Brentwood, Tenn. 2009.
  • Batali, Mario and Mark Ladner. Molto Gusto Easy Italian Cooking at Home. HarperCollins, 2010.
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  • McCormick and Co., Inc. "Slow Cooker Chicken in Italian Tomato Sauce." (Nov. 7, 2010)http://www.mccormick.com/Recipes/Slow-Cooker/Slow-Cooker-Chicken-in-Italian-Tomato-Sauce.aspx
  • Nowicki, Lynn. "Homemade Buttermilk Shortcake Recipe." Mother Earth News. (Nov. 4, 2010)http://www.motherearthnews.com/print-article.aspx?id=2147483708
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  • SelfNutritionData.com. "Nutrition Facts: Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average." (Nov. 6, 2010)http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2682/2
  • Tablespoon by GoldMedal. "Beef Stew With Tomatoes." (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/beef-stew-with-tomatoes-recipe/1/print/
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  • Whiskey Warehouse Menu. Charlotte, N.C. (Nov. 3, 2010.)http://whiskeycharlotte.com/menu.html

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