Use tasty garden produce to make stuffed tomatoes

Few things are better than garden fresh tomatoes. In August, there are few days that pass without me snacking on at least one tomato. From raw tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt to tomato-avocado sandwiches to fresh tomato salad with garlic and basil to homemade tomato sauces over pasta, I will eat tomatoes in any dish!

Last summer, I spent my summer writing, photographing and testing recipes for my first cookbook, “Cooking with Lauren K.”

I knew that my healthy and affordable cookbook wouldn’t be complete without a family favorite from my mom, stuffed tomatoes. My sister, Leah, and I would always lend a hand with this dish, scooping out the tomato juice and mixing up the rice with the fresh herbs. My addition of brown rice adds protein and fiber, but my mom prefers white rice.

This simple, but delicious recipe can be a side dish or a meatless main dish.

Using garden or farmer’s market tomatoes in the summer yield the best flavor, but you can buy tomatoes from the grocery store anytime to make this a year-round favorite.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Bake Time: 1 hour

Servings: 8 tomatoes, 1 tomato per serving

Total Cost: $9.30

1 3/4 cup 99 percent fat free chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups dry instant brown rice

8 medium tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup fresh basil chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

10 teaspoons of olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 13-by-9 cake pan or large baking dish with cooking spray. Next, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add rice and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Remove for heat and keep covered for 5 additional minutes.

As your rice cooks, wash and dry your tomatoes.

Using a paring knife, core each tomato and reserve the tomato tops for topping your tomatoes during baking. With a soup spoon, gently hollow out the seeds and juice from the inside of the tomatoes. Reserve the pulp, juice and seeds. You still want the majority of the tomato flesh to remain intact. Place tomatoes in the baking dish. Measure out 1/2 cup of the tomato liquid and set aside.

When your rice is finished cooking and has cooled slightly, add garlic, basil, parsley, salt and pepper to the cooked rice. Stir to combine. Spoon in the seasoned rice into each tomato until all of the rice mix has been used. Pour about 1 tablespoon reserved tomato liquid and 1 teaspoon of olive oil onto the rice mix. Replace the tops back onto the tomatoes. Bake covered with foil or a lid for 1 hour. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving and enjoy hot!

Nutritional information: 156 calories; 6.8 grams fat (0.8 grams saturated); 300 milligrams sodium; 23.5 grams carbohydrates; 2.5 grams fiber; 0.1 grams sugar; 2.9 grams protein; 1.1 milligrams cholesterol.

Lauren lives with her husband in Ebensburg and teaches at Penn Cambria High School. She took second place in the Great American Cookbook Competition on the Rachael Ray Show last year. Her new cookbook, “Cooking with Lauren K,” is now available at the Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Avenue, and on her website, laurenkcooking.com.