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  • Mary Kay

The Birthday Club's Stuffed Tomato Salad - a Low-Cal and Nutritious Meal!

This is the skinny on eating better.

Try this popular salad from days gone by. It was and still is a winner!

Back when tomatoes were fresh from the garden and peas were being shucked by the kids at the backyard picnic table, this cool summertime Stuffed Tomato Salad was a favorite of Mom’s. She and her girlfriends were always concocting something that was low-cal, that magic meal that would help them all lose weight.

They called themselves The Birthday Club, celebrating everyone's birthdays every single year. And, this was one meal that they enjoyed during their weekly coffee-klatches accompanied by a few games of cards, especially during the summertime, the Stuffed Tomato Salad.

The Birthday Club members were Depression era products, homemakers, part-time workers out of the home, and Moms of a number of errant kids during the 1960’s. With all that, they still found time to alternately meet at their homes for coffee and cards to talk about - who knows what. It was most likely a mixture of gossip and how to deal with the problems of the day. They were friends sharing the same homeroom in high school and remained close friends all through their grown-up years until their deaths in their 80’s and 90’s. Their coffee klatches and card games were centered around food as much as they were centered around coffee and gossip. And, I remember one low-cal meal they all enjoyed. It was the Stuffed Tomato Salad.

The Stuffed Tomato Salad was something they could all afford in those days. They all had tomatoes in their gardens, along with peas, lettuce, big green sweet peppers and other veggies they could include in those low-cal get togethers. A couple of them even made their own fresh mayo.

Start with a whole tomato, slice it into 6-8 wedges by cutting down the from the top and letting the portions spread apart. Scoop a big spoon of macaroni and pea salad into the center and set it all on top of a few fresh lettuce leaves fresh and warm from the garden. Top it with dressing which was probably NOT low-cal, accompanied by coffee…and don't forget the ice cream afterward.

They really knew how to have a good time on a hot summer afternoon with their gossip, giggles, coffee and cards.

I thought of this recipe recently as I was typing up some of Mom’s handwritten, family history diary pages. In her writings she was listing all the vegetables they grew in their enormous garden and the fruits and tree nuts they had in their orchard. I remember we had two different large gardens when I was a youngster. For some reason while I was typing and silently reminiscing about all the garden produce, the Stuffed Tomato Salad came to mind.

So, I decided to make it today. Of course, I made some changes from what I remember the recipe was, if there was real recipe. I accompany the salad with homemade croutons that I make with extra virgin olive oil, while the Birthday Club probably had homemade buns with butter along with their salads. I also include chunks of large yellow and red sweet peppers since I don't care for the more bitter green peppers they grew in their gardens. I'm not sure if yellow and red sweet peppers were even available around here back then. I'm sure the Birthday Club ladies added and subtracted veggies according to what was readily ripe in their gardens.

Anyway, back to the tomato salad. It was a refreshing change from the heavy meat and potatoes meals that Dad liked. I loved the tomato salad, and don’t know why I abandoned it when I was in my teens when I was usually dieting with my girlfriends. There’s really very little prep other than to clean and trim the tomato and veggies.

Today I was immediately disappointed that the whole tomato from the grocery store did not live up to what I experienced during the summer as a kid. Our garden tomatoes were big, beautiful red, dimpled, supple and deliciously juicy inside and easy to slice. Today’s tomato from the big box store was perfectly round, pink, hard and dry and very pale inside. I needed a big sharp serrated knife to cut through it because the flesh was so thick. So much for today’s advances in vegetable science. So, here you go with the salad recipe.

Ingredients for one low-cal meal:

1 Tomato, small to medium, red and ripe

3 Leaves Lettuce (I prefer Romaine)

2 Pepper slices, thick (I prefer red, yellow and/or orange)

½ C Doug’s Pea Salad (peas, pickles, pickle juice, mayo, small shell noodles)


½ C Croutons, homemade (or out of a cellophane bag)

Bacon, fried and crumbly (Optional - only for a high caloric, high sodium salad)

Prep the veggies:

- Clean the veggies and trim the seeds off the pepper slices.

- Arrange the lettuce leaves on a low-sided salad bowl. Set aside.

- Make 3 or 4 slices down the tomato from the top to produce 6-8 wedges. Don’t cut all the way through.

- Let the wedges fall apart a little so you can spoon some good stuff in the center.

- Set the tomato on top of the lettuce leaves in the salad bowl.

- Spoon Doug’s Pea Salad (or your favorite) into the center of the tomato.

- Arrange the pepper slices around the tomato.

- Sprinkle some Paprika on top of the pea salad.

- Spread the croutons around and on top of the tomato. They add an interesting crunch to accompany the crisp veggies.

So, here’s to Mom and her girlfriends and their Birthday Club. They thoroughly enjoyed their low-cal meals and coffee klatches with card playing. Although, when they tired of the low-cal stuff, I know they started adding their tasty high-cal extras. I can remember they would sit around and discuss how to make a low-cal meal or snack much more palatable, by adding some really good things out of their pantries. Then, a couple of them would jump up and run to the kitchen to find more goodies to add. Like sprinkling cooled, fried bacon crumblies on top of the tomato salad. I was witness to that – it was YUMMY! That’s reason enough to bring back their tomato salad.

Here's to ALL the members of the Birthday Club (Lorraine, Clarice, Marj, Sis, Irene, Edna, June - I sure hope I didn't miss anyone) who were always preparing food for the families, for picnics, planning big family and friend events, helping each other out, sharing kids...and creating, trying out and sharing new recipes. They grew up during the Depression and knew how to make delicious meals out of nothing. They were part-time homemakers, worked out of the house and enjoyed their times together. Their families came first.

They truly came together to “Bake their own Memories!”

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