Tomato Tricks – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB

Ok, here’s a joke for you. How are tomatoes like death and taxes? Answer: we try our darnedest to avoid them, but sooner or later they get us. Try as we might, tomatoes are hard to avoid. They are prominent in most of the low-fat, low-cal recipes you see in magazines. They are the centerpiece of Italian and Mexican cuisines, and show up in everything from appetizers to zucchini stir-fry recipes. One of life’s great challenges for people with IC is avoiding acidic foods like tomatoes.

Fortunately, not everyone with IC has to completely exclude tomatoes from their diet. Some people can eat low-acid yellow or white tomatoes without getting a bladder symptom flare-up. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find these tomatoes in specialty food stores like Trader Joe’s or Pavilions on the West Coast; or Whole Foods, Wellspring Markets, or Wild Oats elsewhere in the country. Your local supermarket may call these yellow and white varieties “heirloom tomatoes”. If you can’t find them in stores, you can easily grow your own. (For more detailed information on low-acid tomatoes and IC, and seed sources for low-acid tomatoes, see my cookbook “A Taste of the Good Life- A Cookbook for an Interstitial Cystitis Diet”).

This month I’m featuring some recipes that you could really call “tomato tricks”. I’m always amazed at the endless creativity and imagination displayed by those of us with IC when we are forced to make drastic modifications in our lifestyle.

IC patient Toni Wickhart graciously agreed to share her delicious low-acid tomato soup recipe. My family loves it, so I like to make a big pot and freeze some for later. For those who can tolerate low-acid varieties of tomatoes, this fresh tomato soup is a wonderful way to enjoy them.

Another IC patient shares with us her recipe for a delicious, tomatoless red spaghetti sauce. With these recipes as a starting point, try adapting some of your own favorite tomato-based Italian recipes.

But what if we have such a sensitive bladder that we can’t even eat low acid tomatoes? What then? Well, there are still some options. If acidity is the problem, we can use a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water before our meal. (Be sure to ask your doctor about the baking soda. It might be ill-advised for people with heart problems.) For some people, Tums or Prelief also works well to neutralize the remaining acidity in low-acid tomatoes. You can find both in many drugstores, in the section with antacids.

Neutralizing tomato acid isn’t going to do the trick for everyone, though. Tomatoes can be quite allergenic according to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. Mast cells, which play a part in both IC and allergies, may be involved in your response to tomatoes. In that case, you may find Tagamet, Zantac, or antihistamines like Benedryl helpful in counteracting a meal with tomatoes. (Be sure to okay the use of such products with your doctor. Their may be drug interactions with other things you take for your IC).

Finally, for everyone whose bladder cringes when they so much as look at a tomato, I offer a totally tomatoless lasagne recipe. Lasagne tends to keep well in the refrigerator or freezer. (Hint for working moms: if you freeze both regular and tomatoless lasagne in individual portions, your family can have their lasagne and you can have yours, with just a quick reheat in the microwave).

Thank you Ruth and Toni, and bon appetit!

Toni Wickhart’s Fresh Yellow Tomato Soup

  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced OR
  • 2 Tbsp. dried minced onions (see note below)
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1 cup water (reserved from cooking tomatoes)
  • 2 lbs. ripe yellow low-acid tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (see note below)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, optional
  1. In a large pot cover tomatoes with water and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and save 1 cup of the water. Remove stem and core of tomatoes, then cut into large chunks. Puree tomatoes (skins and all) in batches.
  2. Strain the tomato puree into a bowl, pressing as much pulp as you can through a strainer, leaving the seeds.
  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan. When it is hot, add the onion and saute it over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. (If you are using dried onions, add them later). Add flour to the onions, mix well and cook another minute. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add the tomato puree, 1 cup of the reserved water, and remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  4. Bring soup to a boil then reduce heat. Cover an simmer for 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat when ready to serve.

Per serving: 96 Calories; 4 g. Total Fat; 2 g. Protein

Notes: If you don’t have Italian seasoning handy, substitute 1/4 tsp. each of basil, oregano, thyme, and crushed dried rosemary or parsley.

Some people can eat cooked onions and some can’t. To make them as safe as possible, be sure to fry them in oil first, rather than just adding them to the soup raw. If you can’t tolerate even fried onions, try substituting 3/4 tsp. onion salt for the salt called for in the recipe. Another alternative is to substitute chopped fresh chives for the onions called for. Lastly, you can always leave out the onions altogether. If you leave them out, you may want to increase the Italian seasoning by 1/4 teaspoon and use one more clove of garlic.

You can adjust the acidity too. Toni says her dad always used to add a pinch of baking soda to tomato soups and sauces “to cut the acidity”. You can cut acidity further by making this a “cream of tomato” soup. Add half and half, or milk mixed with a bit of cornstarch or flour.

“NoMato” Spaghetti Sauce

Basic Sauce:

  • 6 carrots
  • 1 beet, small (see note below)
  • 1 onion, quartered (see note below)
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced (see note below)
  • 1 bay leaf, whole
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • The Flavor and Fun
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small onion, minced (see note below)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil or sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, miso or tamari (see note below)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons kuzu or cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cold water

For meaty texture add:

  • 1 cup mushrooms, sauteed
  1. Place Basic Sauce ingredients in a pot and boil, covered, for 30 minutes. (Or, place in a pressure cooker, bring to pressure and simmer 20 minutes.) Puree in a blender. Add water, if needed, until mixture has tomato sauce texture.
  2. Saute garlic, onions, and herbs for 5 minutes in olive oil. Add parsley, mushrooms if desired, and saute 10 minutes more.
  3. Add Basic Sauce and bring to a boil. Then, cover and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt or soy sauce to taste.
  4. Place kuzu or cornstarch in a small container and add water slowly while stirring. Stir until thoroughly dissolved in all the water. Add to sauce while it cooks, stirring until thickened.

Per serving: 436 Calories; 11g. Total Fat; 11g. Protein

Notes: You can use 6 cups cooked butternut squash instead of carrots to make the sauce more orange and sweeter. Her recipe calls for miso or tamari soy sauce, but you can substitute 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt if soy sauce bothers your bladder.

About onions: We all have differing levels of sensitivity to onions. For some people, simply cooking them as Ruth’s recipe indicates is sufficient to keep them from causing a symptom flare. For those who are slightly more sensitive, all the onions may have to be chopped and sauteed til translucent in oil or margarine before adding to the recipe. Another alternative is to substitute chives (which are milder) for the onions. For those who are most sensitive to onions, leave out the onions altogether or, leave out the onions and the soy sauce but use 1-1/2 tsp. onion salt in place of the soy sauce.

Tomatoless Lasagne (serves 8)

  • 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach (10 oz.)
  • 3/4 cup grated carrots
  • 1-1/4 cups grated zucchini squash
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1-1/4 cup grated low-fat mozzarella
  • 4 cups (32 oz carton) cottage cheese, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. dried chives (optional if they bother you)
  • 1 pkg. lasagne noodles (approx 16 oz.)
  • 3-1/2 cups Campbell’s Healthy Request or Nature Valley chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • extra grated mozzarella
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the spinach, carrots, zucchini, feta cheese, mozzarella, and 3 cups of the cottage cheese. Stir in the egg and dried chives. Set aside. Cook the pasta noodles according to the package directions.
  2. While the noodles cook, stir together in a large saucepan the broth, flour, nutmeg and remaining cottage cheese. Cook while stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Drain noodles.
  3. Brush or wipe bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread with a little sauce.
  4. Layer the dish beginning with pasta noodles, then vegetable mixture, then sauce. Repeat layers, then top with final layer of noodles. Spread remainder of sauce on top. Top with a little extra grated mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until bubbly hot. Remove, uncover, and let stand 8-10 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 459 Calories; 10 g. Total Fat; 33 g. Protein

Vegetarian variation: Substitute Nature Valley vegetable broth for the chicken broth. It is important that any broth you use not have monosodium glutamate (MSG) or any forms of it (ie: soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast, or yeast extract).

This article originally published April 2000, revised and updated by the author January 2003.