This is one of my favorite times of year for produce. I love all the wonderful, fresh fruit that's so much cheaper this time of year. But my absolute favorite late summer treat has to be garden-fresh tomatoes!

There's really nothing more delicious than a deep-red, juicy, sweet tomato straight out of the garden. Whereas I use tomatoes year round in salads and sliced on sandwiches, I make fresh tomatoes more prominent in meals to best highlight and enjoy their wonderful flavor.

Below I've listed five of my favorite healthy ways to enjoy garden-fresh tomatoes, but this really just a beginning of the ways you can use these wonderful red treats!

1) Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches: Use whole wheat or light bread, 2% american cheese and big slices of fresh tomatoes. Lightly butter bread or spray with a buttery spray. Place one slice of bread butter side down in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, add cheese and tomato, then other slice of bread. Cook until lightly brown, flip and repeat on other side.

2) Simple sliced tomatoes: As a side dish to nearly any meal, it's hard to beat the ease, nutritional value and lovely taste of a stack of fresh tomatoes. I like to dress mine with just a bit of salt and pepper.

3) Tomato and cucumber salad: Another of my favorite quick side dishes is a simple toss of chopped fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, with a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. This can either be eaten right away or refrigerated until ready to eat.

4) Bacon, Lettuce and Yummy Tomato Sandwiches: With bland, barely-pink tomatoes, BLT's are nothing to rave about. But add a juicy, fresh tomato, and they become a true delicacy! Start with two slices of toasted whole wheat bread. I like to add some light mayonnaise to each slice. You can use turkey bacon to keep it healthier, or just a couple slices of real bacon. Finish off with lettuce and sliced tomato and you've got a great quick lunch or dinner.

5) Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil: This Italian favorite can be a delicious appetizer, or a side dish to pasta, chicken, seafood, name it! To prepare, simply slice tomatoes, basil and
mozzarella. Splash with olive oil, and maybe a little balsamic vinegar and enjoy.

These five ideas certainly aren't the only wonderful ways to use your garden tomatoes. They are also great for pasta sauces, salsas, salads, other sandwiches, stuffed tomatoes and lots more. Try not to let any of these beauties go to waste. If you can't eat them as fast as you harvest them, tomatoes are very easy to freeze. Then you'll be able to enjoy them year-round, on dishes like chili and spaghetti sauce. When January rolls around, you'll be glad you have a stash of homegrown tomatoes on hand!

Erin Rogers, a work-at-home mom of two, is the founder of, providing practical healthy living resources for busy people. Visit her website,, to sign up for the FREE newsletter, 'Dinners on the Double' - offering a quick and healthy, no-recipe dinner idea each week. Other available services include quick and healthy recipes, healthy cooking articles, fitness and motivation tips, healthy living web links, and lots more!
Erin can be reached via email at mailto:[email protected]