By now you know I have issues with some vegetables still even as an adult. If you compare my childhood vegetable intake to my adult vegetable intake it’s drastically different. Growing up the only vegetables I would even consider eating were corn, potatoes and canned peas – ONLY canned peas. Anything else you would have thought by the squinched up face I made that you were trying to give me poison. I wanted no parts of anything else. Now there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not nomming on a raw pepper – red, orange or yellow though never green. To me green peppers are bitter. I crave jicama, love raw carrots (still hate them cooked), onions… yes ONIONS (not raw) are my friend. Like caramelized onions are incredible. And let’s not forget about Brussels Sprouts! They actually don’t suck! I’ve featured them in numerous dishes and salads. My shaved Brussels Sprouts salad is one of my favorites to date!
But… I still have issues with tomatoes. Like I love tomato sauces and stuff like that but tomatoes in a chunk form… *shudder*. They just bother me. And oh dear God if one is raw and I bite into it by accident I honestly think I’m going to die. LOL Well okay maybe it’s not quite that dramatic but I have issues with raw tomatoes. Now I have grown up to the point where if they are on a white pizza and roasted that I’ll eat them. I think it’s because that liquidy crap inside has dried up and ceases to exist. It’s the no-squish factor. Yeah I know, I’m weird but we all have our own idiosyncrasies.
Well I was bound and determined to incorporate more tomatoes into my diet.
See one medium tomato (approximately 123 grams) provides 22 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrates (including 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of sugar) and 1 gram of protein. Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. Tomatoes contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein. Alpha-lipoic acid helps the body to convert glucose into energy. Some evidence suggests that alpha-lipoic acid can aid in blood glucose control, improve vasodilation and protect against retinopathy in diabetic patients and may even help preserve brain and nerve tissue. Choline is an important nutrient found in tomatoes that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.
Tomatoes are super healthy for you to say the least! They act as an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C and other antioxidants, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. Lycopene has been linked with prostate cancer prevention in several studies. According to the American Cancer Society, some studies have shown that people who have diets rich in tomatoes may have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Further human-based research is needed to find out what role lycopene might play in the prevention or treatment of cancer. Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure, however increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of its vasodilation effects. The fiber, potassium, vitamin C and choline content in tomatoes all support heart health. High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones. Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One cup of cherry tomatoes provides about 2 grams of fiber. The folic acid in tomatoes may also help with depession by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood, but sleep and appetite as well.
So yeah… why would I NOT have these in my diet?! With all those health benefits alone I’d be a fool not too!
So I’ve been buying a lot of campari tomatoes lately. I actually really like them roasted and put on white pizza. Or when I make my One Pot Pastabilities, it works beautifully in the dish. They aren’t quite bite-sized like cherry tomatoes but rather a 2-bite type of thing. Actually I buy a big pack of them eery Friday when I buy my 6 dozen of eggs. Yes, 6 dozen. I told you guys Mr. Fantabulous eats a lot!
Well last week I found myself home alone in the evening which is a rarity. Mr. Fantabulous was at the gym extra long that night and I had just finished whipping up some spinach dip that I wanted to have for the next day to go with my gorgeous baby bell peppers. I then spied these tomatoes and thought to give it a try to stuff them but roast them at the same time.
I took a small knife and cut into the top like I would cut into a pumpkin – on an angle. I wanted the hole on the top to be smaller than the inside as I was gutting the inside. Now these tomatoes while firm were super juicy on the inside. And I’m sure by what I’m about to say next will have Italians ready to whack me but I gutted that stuff out and pitched it. I wanted the tomato to be hulled out with a thicker wall. I mean obviously I had to hull them out to stuff them plus it gave me a reason to get rid of that squishy crap inside. *shudder*.
Perhaps one day I’ll eat a whole raw slice of tomato (highly doubtful) but as of right now…. no way. I don’t do squish!
I made 6 of them as like I said these were 2-bite sized tomatoes and I wasn’t sure if I’d like them or not. What I learned from these was that you don’t want to hull out them to where the sides are thin. They collapse when roasted. Yes they taste amazing but they aren’t visually appealing. To hull them out I used a teeny melon baller but you can use a teeny teaspoon (think a baby spoon).
Prior to stuffing these I misted with olive oil and just gave a very light sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh black pepper. I stuffed them just enough to where there was a slight mound on top. As they were cooking you could smell them and folks let me tell you what. They smelled amazing! It smelled….Italian. I know that’s not a real ‘smell’ as it kinda like my saying it smells like the number 7 but once you smell it you’ll get it.
Think about a great Italian restaurant and you’re in or near the kitchen. You can smell those fresh tomatoes, the cheese, garlic scents wafting through the air. It’s sensual and intoxicating.
These cook up in no time and honestly they may convert me to a tomato lover. Since the squishy stuff was gone what you’re left with is this tomato-y rich vessel stuffed with amazing hot and cheesy spinach filling.
The tomato definitely adds another level of flavor to the dish and seriously rocks it out! I’ve made these 2 more times since I took these pictures and the last time I put lump crab meat in the spinach mixture and oh dear God you wanna talk AMAZING?!?! Holy crap it was awesome!
Like this is one of those dishes where it can easily be an appetizer as they are awesome hot or room temp or as a meal. If you’re going for a meal I would go with a larger tomato – maybe beefsteak. You could even top it with some buttered bread crumbs as well if you wanted a crispy crust on top.
So for those tomato-haters there is hope out there for you, for me. This recipe is definitely one that can win you over and take you to the mater-side!Print
- 24 Campari tomatoes or smaller beefsteak tomatoes *Note: can use larger tomatoes for more of a dinner versus an appetizer
- 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry of excess water
- 8 oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup green onions
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 3/4 cups shredded mozzarella
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees, rack in the middle.
- Lightly spray a baking dish (9×13” glass pan works well here).
- In a food processor finely chop garlic and green onions.
- In a medium bowl add the spinach, cream cheese, mayo, parmesan, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and salt.
- Use a fork to blend all the ingredients together.
- Add fresh black pepper to taste and set aside.
- Cut the tops off each tomato, and using a paring knife or small spoon, remove the seeds to hollow the tomato. Hollow it out like you would a pumpkin. You want the walls of the tomato thick so they don’t collapse when baking.
- Mist each tomato with olive oil and give a very light sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh black pepper.
- Taking 1-2 heaping teaspoons of mixture fill each tomato. You want the mixture to slightly mound over top of the rim of the tomato.
- Place the stuffed tomatoes in the dish.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top of each tomato.
- Bake for another 7-9 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
To make a crispy crust on this mix up 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs with 1 teaspoon melted butter. Sprinkle a little on top of each stuffed tomato. Bake as normal.
To make these fancier, meatier, add in jumbo lump crab or cooked shredded chicken to the spinach mixture.