When I was growing up in Vermont, we eagerly awaited our fresh garden tomatoes like most people look forward to Christmas. The growing season is so short in New England that many of the tomatoes in our garden would still be green when the first frosts began. My father would experiment with different ways to “save the tomatoes”. If they couldn’t ripen on the vine, they might ripen on our sun porch…so we could have boxes of ripening tomatoes in the house during the early fall.
My husband has equally vivid memories of growing tomatoes. His father grew tomatoes and lima beans for forty years on acres of farmland in Huntington Beach, California. The land where he drove a tractor, not far from the beach, is now covered with housing developments and serves as a vacation destination for surfers and beach lovers.
The delicious vine-ripened flavor of garden tomatoes can be preserved for use all year round when the tomatoes are dried in the sun. One California farm family has built their business on the heritage of their Italian grandmother, whose home dried tomatoes were a family tradition.
The inspiring story of how the Mooney family transformed their farm to become the largest producer of sun dried tomatoes in the United States is worth reading. Check out their website, “Like” their Facebook page or visit their brand new visitor’s center and tasting room in Chico, California . I admire the commitment to quality and healthy natural ingredients that can be found in their products, first introduced at farmers’ markets and now available in supermarkets. They even have gift baskets available for sale on their website...what a wonderful gift to give or receive!
Recently Mooney Farms sent me a box of Bella Sun Luci products to review after I attended Camp Blogaway. I love that their sun dried tomatoes are available two ways: packed in extra virgin olive oil or in soft dry-packs with herbs or peppers. The zip-lock soft packs are perfect for snacks or picnics. We have enjoyed adding them to scrambled eggs for breakfast or as a topping for crackers and cheese to enjoy with a glass of wine. Of course, sliced avocados are delicious with sun dried tomatoes! Chop up a few sun dried tomatoes to add a Tuscan flair to avocado dip!
Last week I tried one of the recipes that came in in the package from Mooney Farms… Mediterranean Chicken with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes. After removing the julienne-cut tomatoes from the jar, I seared boneless skinless chicken breasts in the olive oil and herbs from the jar, so nothing was wasted.
Then the chicken went into a casserole with the sun dried tomatoes, chopped artichoke hearts, feta cheese, mayonnaisse, garlic, green onions, and seasoning. Mediterranean Chicken with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes was easy to make and smelled divine as it was baking.
In our family we never know how many people will be showing up for dinner, so when the Mediterranean chicken had finished cooking I chopped it up into smaller pieces. I cooked some tri-color rotini pasta and mixed the creamy sauce and the chicken into the pasta, adding more artichoke quarters, black olives, fresh basil and avocado on the side.
It was a delicious warm salad and I enjoyed it before leaving for choir rehearsal. The left-overs went into the fridge, so the rest of the family could have the chilled salad later in the evening after they came in from working in the avocado grove. The next day, I heated up the rest of the pasta with that delicious sauce and served it with some parmesan cheese on top. The sun dried tomatoes add that concentrated gourmet tomato flavor, and knowing that they come from another California farm family makes them even more special in our kitchen. I love that Mooney Farms has already added Italian herbs, basil or zesty red pepper to the tomatoes. The fewer ingredients I need to use, the easier it is to get supper on the table!
The Mooney family is a three-generation California farm family who love working together to preserve their family heritage and ensure the future of agriculture in California. I want to thank Mooney Farms for sending me their products to try, and can heartily recommend these top quality sun-dried tomatoes. I’m looking forward to sharing more recipes using Bella Sun Luci products with you!