A Recipe for White Bean & Roasted Garlic Dip, and an Afternoon Eating Vegetables with Kids Cooking Green {Part 1}

In 2007, Lori Deliso and Liza Connolly, two Lexington, MA moms concerned about the lack of “real” foods in kids’ diets and the desire to teach children about the benefits of eating locally and sustainably, cooked up a five week after-school program called, Kids Cooking Green. I joined the team along with two other dietitians to teach nutrition, and over the years, it’s been exciting to see the program expand to other communities in the Boston area. When you water and nourish a plant it grows, and so has KCG.

Kids Cooking Green #vegetables via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Encouraging kids to try new vegetables can often be as simple as jazzing up the presentation, creating a flavorful dip, or letting friends exert some positive peer pressure on one another. Simply put: All it takes is a bit of clever “marketing” to entice even the most skeptical eaters to crunch their way through a variety of nutritious vegetables!

Kids Cooking Green via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Last week, I met up with Kids Cooking Green at the John F. Kennedy Family Services Center in Charlestown, MA. The goal for the afternoon was to teach the kids about the importance of eating a rainbow of colorful vegetables. Who said kids don’t love green veggies?!

Kids Cooking Green via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Whole Foods Market in Charlestown donated the food and helped the students—kindergarten through 2nd grade—create two flavorful dips: White Bean & Roasted Garlic Dip (see recipe below) and Liza’s Delicious Dipping Sauce, which I’ll share in another blog post next week. Pictured above is Nora Daniels, Marketing Team Leader at Whole Foods Charlestown.

Kids Cooking Green via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

All hands on deck! Chef Ed Jackson from Whole Foods Charlestown worked with the students on a white bean dip with roasted garlic, lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and extra virgin olive oil. The kids were engaged, focused, and eager to help.

White Bean & Roasted Garlic Dip via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I can’t imagine too many kids who would turn down this veggie & dip platter. While I love the fiber-rich white beans in this recipe, it’s the roasted garlic that gives the dip its “wow” factor.

Roasting garlic via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

To roast garlic, slice off the top, drizzle with evoo, wrap in aluminum foil, and bake until the cloves are soft and lightly browned.

Roasted Garlic via mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

Roasted garlic is mild, creamy, and adds big flavors to the dip.

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Dip

This recipe is adapted from Kids Cooking Green. It’s a flexible recipe—you can add your favorite leafy herb such as basil, cilantro, mint, or parsley—and Lori, who created the recipe, likes to add roasted red peppers.

  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Two 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh herbs, such as cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Slice the top off the head of garlic. Drizzle with 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil. Wrap in aluminum foil, place on a small baking dish, and bake until the cloves are soft and lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, cool, and squeeze out the cloves, which should be a bit mushy. Place in the bowl of a food processor.

2. To make the dip, add the remaining olive oil, beans, herbs, and lemon juice to the bowl. Process until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you don’t own a food processor, you can add your ingredients to a large bowl and smoosh with a potato masher.

3. Serve with sliced vegetables and baked tortilla chips. (Note: The dip will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.)

White Bean & Roasted Garlic Dip


A Recipe for Mini Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins, PLUS: How Many Cooks in the Kitchen Does it Take to Shoot Eight Cooking Videos in Two Days?

These mini blueberry muffins are filled with fun flavors and big nutrition, so pack them in your child’s lunchbox or serve them up as an after-school snack. 

Mini Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for lunchboxes and after-school snack

I love to cook for a crowd, especially when that crowd happens to be watching me on TV. For the past few years, I’ve been working with the awesome, Atlanta-based production company EverwellTV on a cooking segment called, Meal Makeovers. The segments feature original recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms, and they run in thousands of doctors’ offices and health clinics nationwide. I flew to Atlanta earlier this week to tape eight new Meal Makeovers videos, and I thought it would be fun to blog about the shoot and share our recipe for Mini Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins.

Here’s the video for Mini Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins on the new Everwell MEAL MAKEOVERS YouTube channel. Feel free to subscribe and watch ALL of the videos. We’ll be adding new ones each week.

EverwellTV video shoot via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

It takes a lot of cooks in the kitchen to pull a shoot of this size together. Everwell had a two-camera crew “on location” in addition to a director, supervising producer, associate producer, and a food stylist and assistant. The recipes we chose for the Meal Makeovers segments—which also run on CNN’s AccentHealth network—included the following: Chicken Pot Pie Bundles, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Mini Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins, General Tso’s Chicken, Better Blueberry Buckle, Lightened-Up 7 Layer Bars, and Crispy Shrimp.

Everwell TV shoot via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

We shoot the segments in a beautiful Atlanta kitchen, and trust me when I tell you that we take it over … and then some!

Everwell TV shoot with Tamie Cook Culinary Productions via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Tamie Cook Culinary Productions made sure we had the right props, cooking equipment, and ingredients required to shoot eight segments over two days. She and her assistant took over the dining room and part of the living room!

Everwell TV shoot via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The veteran photo journalist, Ric Blackburn, was our main photographer on the shoot.

Everwell shoot via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I could not resist taking this selfie with former CNN pals Robert Davis, PhD, President and Editor-in-Chef at Everwell, Mria Dangerfield, Supervising Producer at Everwell, and Ric Blackburn, freelance videographer.

Mini Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

These mini muffins are adorable. They’re perfect when you’re trying to keep your portions pint sized versus super sized, and kids love them for breakfast or lunch box snacks.

Mini Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Makes 24 Mini Muffins

At first glance, blueberry muffins seem pretty healthy. But the ones you find at coffee shops are often made with white sugar, white flour, and lots of butter, so there’s not much to them except for lots of fat and calories. For this makeover, I add better nutrition to morning muffins with wholesome ingredients like whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and wild blueberries.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup expeller pressed canola oil
  • 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of half a lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (zest of half a lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh wild blueberries

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat 24 mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2.  Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and canola oil until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Gently stir in the blueberries.

4.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins and cool an additional 5 minutes before serving.  When making 12 full-size muffins, bake for 20 to 23 minutes.

Nutritional Information per Serving (2 mini muffins): 170 calories, 7g fat (0.5g saturated, 0.6g omega-3), 190mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g protein

Print Recipe

Everwell TV shoot via mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

Everyone worked hard to make my healthy food look as pretty as it is delicious!  

Everwell TV shoot via mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

Tamie Cook styled my Lightened Up 7-Layer Bars. The secret ingredient in the bottom layer: Chickpeas!

To watch all of my Meal Makeovers cooking videos, visit Everell.com :)

Healthy Cooking 101 for National Nutrition Month, PLUS: A Recipe for Slow Roasted Salmon with Toasted Barley and Fennel … And a Giveaway for Two $25.00 Stop & Shop Gift Cards

Before the month of March and National Nutrition Month come to a close, we wanted to tell you about a fun food blogger event we recently attended at Boston University. Sponsored by Stop & Shop Supermarket, Healthy Cooking 101 featured a recipe demonstration and hands-on cooking class led by local Executive Chef, Jeremy Sewall and Stop & Shop Nutritionist, Julie Menounos, MS, RD. The recipes—everything from Cucumber, Lime & Mint Mocktails, Mixed Green Salad with Toasted Spice Vinaigrette, and Slow Roasted Salmon with Toasted Barley and Fennel—focused on incorporating herbs and spices into meals to make them flavorful and healthy.

Chef Jeremy Sewall via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Chef Sewall plates up the toasted barley with fennel. We loved how he toasted the barley first to bring out its nutty flavor and how he incorporated curry powder and orange juice and zest into the dressing.

Salmon via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Salmon fillets get topped with lemon juice and zest, shallot, and extra virgin olive oil. The chef recommended roasting the fish at 250°F for 15 to 20 minutes. We’ve never cooked salmon at such a low temperature, but it worked beautifully! Hey, you learn something new every day.

Mixed green salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Green salads can include so much more than plain ol’ lettuce.  The chef’s recipe called for radishes, blanched asparagus and English peas, carrots, and mixed baby greens. His dressing included cardamom and coriander for a big pop of flavor.

Cooking 101 via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Oh look. That’s Annmarie from the blog, Real Food Real Deals. We follow her blog, so it was great fun getting to meet her in person.

Salmon with Barley via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Instagram image of our dinner!

Slow Roasted Salmon with Toasted Barley and Fennel
Makes 4 Servings

Many thanks to Stop & Shop and Executive Chef, Jeremy Sewall for the recipe.

For the Barley:

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup shaved fennel
  • 1 cup arugula leaves
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the Salmon:

  • Four 6-ounce salmon filets
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (you can get away with using less!)

1. For the barley, preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the barley on a baking sheet and place in oven until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold, salted water and simmer until tender, about 35 minutes.

2. Drain well and let cool. While the salmon is cooking, toss all of the ingredients together to make the salad.

3. For the salmon, preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the salmon on a baking sheet and top with the lemon zest, shallot, salt and pepper. Drizzle a little of the olive oil on top. Place in oven and bake until it’s cooked to your liking, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve immediately with the barley salad.

Stop & Shop

GIVEAWAY NEWS:  To celebrate Stop & Shop’s 100 year anniversary, they’re giving away two, $25.00 gift cards to their market. We will pick two lucky winners for this giveaway! Stop & Shop stores are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey.

TO ENTER:  Leave a comment here on the blog and tell us about some of the healthy foods you’ll buy at the supermarket if you win the gift card. Will you stock up on fresh produce, whole wheat pasta or cereal, seafood, canned beans? What will you put in your cart?

We will enter you into the giveaway additional times if you …

> Tweet about the giveaway with a link back to this post.

> Share the giveaway news with your Facebook fans and friends with a link back to the post.

> Follow us on Pinterest.

> Follow The Meal Makeover Moms on Facebook and Twitter (@MealMakeovrMoms)

We’ll pick our winner on April 12th at noon EST using Random.org. Good luck!


Announcing our Blogger Partnership with Backyard Farms, PLUS: A Recipe for Rustic Tomato and Cheese Pie

Say it ain’t so! It’s officially “spring,” but later this week, they’re predicting yet another snow storm here in New England. To soften the blow, we’re stocking up on Backyard Farms tomatoes. They’re grown hydroponically in Maine in huge greenhouses, and they taste like “summer” tomatoes. Given how cold we’ve been this winter, these Backyard Farms beauties are like a breath of fresh, warm air.

Backyard Farms Tomaties via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The Backyard Farms greenhouse covers 42 acres. The tomatoes are grown year-round in Madison, Maine, and they’re juicy, sweet, and taste like summer no matter when you buy them.

To celebrate our new blogger partnership with Backyard Farms (we’re being compensated for creating a new recipe for their website and helping to spread the word about the flavor and versatility of their tomatoes) we’re sharing this recipe for Rustic Tomato and Cheese Pie from Mary Ann Esposito, the new Chef Spokesperson for the company.

Backyard Farms via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Mary Ann, of PBS cooking show fame, demos how to make this simple and nutritious recipe in her YouTube video.

Rustic Tomato and Cheese Pie via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

When we made Mary Ann’s recipe, we added some fresh, chopped basil. Delish!

Rustic Tomato and Cheese Pie via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

It’s pizza time!

Rustic Tomato and Cheese Pie

Makes 4 to 6 Servings 

This recipe comes courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito

  • 1 pound store bought pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra to drizzle on top
  • 3 to 4 Backyard Farms medium tomatoes on the vine, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup grated Swiss or cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

2. Pat or roll the dough out on a sheet of lightly oiled parchment paper into a 12 or 13 inch round. Place on a baking sheet.

3. Mix the mustard and 1 teaspoon of olive oil and brush over the surface of the dough. Overlap the tomato slices on the dough to within 1-inch of the sides. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the tomatoes. Fold the edges of the dough over the tomatoes, leaving the center open.

4. Bake 10 minutes, then lower heat to 375F and continue baking until the dough is nicely browned, about 15 minutes. Cool on rack and cut into wedges. Serve warm.

Backyard Farms via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Last month, we attended a Summer in the City event in downtown Boston hosted by Backyard Farms and Clover Food Labs. All proceeds benefited the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Backyard Farms via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

And yes, it was freezing the day of the event. And yes, that’s Liz wearing Backyard Farms sunglasses.

We’re looking forward to working with Backyard Farms over the next few months. Stay tuned for our new chicken salad stuffed tomato recipe coming your way soon. (All photos with the exception of the picture grid, courtesy Backyard Farms.)


A Taste of Iceland PLUS: Fond Memories of My Trip to Iceland Come Flooding Back

On Thursday night, Janice and I attended the Taste of Iceland reception at Rialto restaurant in Cambridge, MA. The tasting kicked off a five-day cultural event here in Boston, hosted by Iceland Naturally. We sampled dishes like pickled herring on sweet rye bread with curry dressing, green apples and spring onions as well as free range Icelandic lamb and Icelandic Arctic Char, all prepared by Chef Hákon Már Örvarsson. Everything we tried was fresh and fabulous (and healthy too!) thanks to the ingredients, flown in for the event on Iceland Air.

Taste of Iceland in Boston via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The pickled herring from the chef was our first nibble, and it got better and better from there. I loved the sweet rye bread, which is so unique to Iceland.

So while I’m on the subject of Iceland, last year, I wrote a three-part series on my trip with my son, Simon, and I promised a fourth … but life got in the way, and I never delivered. So now that I’ve gotten a taste for Iceland again, I figured I’d finish up the series. Read on for more highlights from that amazing trip. I hope all my posts help someone—is anyone out there?—plan a trip of their own. {Here are links to my other posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3}

Iceland / lagoon via mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

We spent our second-to-last night at Laki Hotel at the Efri-Vik Farm in Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. The next morning, we drove east to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lake filled with giant pieces of floating ice, considered one of the natural wonders of Iceland.

Iceland / lagoon via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The reason we’re laughing so hard is because a group of tourists had just taken about 100 photos holding up a piece of ice. Their level of enthusiasm from said ice chunk really cracked us up.

Glaciar hike via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

It was an action-packed day, because we also took a two-hour guided hike of Skaftafell glacier with Icelandic Mountain Guides.  The hike wasn’t quite as exciting as we had hoped, though we still had a great time. (Brrrr. It was cold up there.)

farms in Iceland

The Icelandic countryside is dotted with picturesque farms, which made the driving quite pleasant :)

Dinner at Kjöt og Kúnst in Hverageroi via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

On our last night, we stayed at the Frumskogar Guesthouse in Hveragerði and had dinner at Kjöt og Kúnst. The cool thing about the restaurant was that it featured traditional Icelandic cuisine and geothermal cooking. Pictured here is geothermal earth-cooked, lightly-smoked haddock with tropical fruits (in this case, grapes), creamy cheese sauce, potatoes and green salad. WOW!

Earth cooking in Iceland via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I think I took this photo around 8:00pm. Our day was long and filled with adventure, so we were happy we had plenty of daylight to enjoy it.

Iceland Air via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Takk for the taste of Iceland in Boston. It brought back great memories …

My Weekend at the Weekapaug Inn in Rhode Island and a Recipe for Apple and Brie Grilled Cheese

Lately, I’ve been dreaming a lot about summer, and recently, I got a tiny taste of it when my family met up for a weekend away at the historic Weekapaug Inn in Weekapaug, Rhode Island. The Inn comes to life in the summer, but winter at the Inn is also magical. You can bundle up and take long walks on the beach, hit the exercise room, and the menu at The Restaurant stays true to its commitment to local and seasonal ingredients, which is still possible here in cold, snowy New England. Executive Chef Jennifer Backman told me that in winter, she turns to tiny greens from a nearby greenhouse, local seafood, and “storage items” like potatoes, squash, and garlic.

Adult Grilled Cheese at the Weekapaug Inn, RI via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

We arrived at the Inn on Saturday and dove right into lunch. Simon and I split an Adult Grilled Cheese made with grilled apple, Vermont cheddar, Brie, and fig jam on sourdough bread just as my mom and dad pulled in from CT. (Read on for my homemade version of the sandwich …)

Westerly, RI beaches via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Yes it was cold and windy as you can see from my flying scarf, but I still braved the weather as I walked from the Inn to the beach.

Weekapaug Inn, RI via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The Inn was built in 1899. Its Yankee decor is cozy and welcoming, the surrounding community is cute and oh-so quiet this time of year, and it was the perfect meeting place for my family, located halfway between Boston and Connecticut.

Native Monkfish via mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

Chef Backman’s menu is playful and creative, and it’s rooted in local traditions and familiar food favorites. It draws inspiration from the land, the sea, and the sky; this Native Monkfish was served with saffron risotto, grilled pancetta, caramelized fennel, and oil cured olives. Yes please!

Westerly, RI via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I needed to take a long walk on Sunday morning to build up my appetite for brunch. The three-course menu came complete with “bites to share,” “choice of …,” and “sweets for the table.”

Brunch at Weekapaug Inn via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Check out this brunch starter: artisanal cheese and charcuterie plate, cornichon, pickled onion, mustard chicken liver mousse, and ciabatta.

Apple and Brie Grilled Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

There is no way my gourmet grilled cheese creation was as luscious as the one I got at the Weekapaug, but Simon and I still loved it. In fact, we’ve had it twice since our visit. I used less cheese, and I didn’t grill the apple; instead, I sautéed it. I think sliced pear would also be amazing. Since I don’t own a panini press, I had to improvise with my kettle!

Apple and Brie Grilled Cheese

Makes 2 Servings

  • Half a medium red apple, thinly sliced into rounds or wedges
  • 2 teaspoons expeller pressed canola oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry jam or fig jam
  • 4 slices whole grain sourdough bread
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 2 ounces Brie cheese, broken up into small chunks

1. Heat 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and cook until heated through and slightly softened, 1 minute per side.

2. To create the sandwiches, spread the jam evenly on each of the 4 slices of the bread. Sprinkle the Cheddar cheese evenly over 2 of the slices and then top evenly with the cooked apples and Brie. Top with the remaining bread slices.

3. Heat 1 more teaspoon of the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Carefully place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook until golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes. (I don’t have a panini press, so I used a filled kettle as a “weight.”) Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil, flip, and cook until the other sides are golden, another 3 minutes. Slice and serve.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 sandwich): 420 calories, 14g fat (7g saturated, 0.5g omega-3), 570mg sodium, 50g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 15g protein, 25% calcium, 15% iron

Print Recipe

Apple and Brie Grilled Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Our Amsterdam Food, Nutrition, and Culinary Adventures {Podcast #239}

The city of Amsterdam is home to Rembrandt, the Anne Frank House, more bicycles than people, tulips, spectacular cheese shops (Gouda anyone!?), the best Dutch apple pie ever, a food scene that embraces local and sustainably grown produce, and a place where a growing number of chefs has declared themselves, “ambassadors for nature.” (We love that.) Recently, we traveled to the quaint Dutch capital for Food 3000, an annual educational meeting for food and nutrition communicators. We dished about our adventures on this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio show, so tune in and read on for some of the highlights.

Meal Makeover Moms go to Amsterdam

Bicycles, canals, and centuries-old buildings: Hello Amsterdam!

Disclosure: Our attendance at the conference was paid for, in part, by Porter Novelli and various co-sponsors. {If you followed our Tweets and Facebook updates during the trip, we used the hashtags, f3k and spon.} All opinions and insights in this post are our own.

Janice buys cheese in Amsterdam via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

We were off  on Day #1 as we toured the city. Say, “cheese …”

Pickled Herring via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

… and we sampled local favorites like this pickled herring from an outdoor food stall vendor (bring on the omega-3s) …

Eating pancakes in Amsterdam via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

… and we had pancakes from a place called, Upstairs. Those are some of our dietitian pals in the picture: Carolyn O’Neil, author of Slim Down South and Kate Geagan, author of Go Green, Get Lean. And that’s a Valentine’s Day pancake topped with strawberries and whipped cream (just in case you were wondering).

Puccini chocolates via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

We ate spectacular Dutch treats at Puccini Bomboni …


… and feasted our eyes on priceless works of art like The Milkmaid by Vermeer, on display at the Rijksmuseum.

The Grand Amsterdam breakfast via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and The Grand Amsterdam where we stayed put out quite the morning spread of savory dishes—roasted mushrooms and tomatoes, smoked salmon, salads, and cheeses—as well as Greek yogurt and fresh fruit.

We spent the bulk of our days attending scientific sessions where we learned about nutrient shortfalls in the U.S. diet (vitamin E, potassium, vitamin B6 to name just a few), the nutritional power of mushrooms (they’re loaded with antioxidants, and we plan to do an entire podcast soon on our favorite fungi), and we had a lively debate about processed foods and the negative feelings they conjure up. We debated if there might be a better way to frame them or perhaps differentiate them since many “processed” foods are actually quite nutritious (i.e. canned beans, orange juice, fortified whole grain cereals). And after long days using our brains, we treated our stomachs to delicious Dutch meals at night.

Restaurant De Kas via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Restaurant De Kas was originally an old greenhouse, dating back to 1926, that belonged to Amsterdam’s Municipal Nursery. The menu at De Kas changes almost daily based on the seasonal ingredients from its own gardens. The main dish at our group dinner was roasted guinea fowl with bok choy, cavolo nero (AKA black leaf kale), potatoes and warm remoulade sauce. We love vegetables, so we were very happy. (That’s fellow RD Marisa Moore in the photo.)

De Kookfabriek Amsterdam

A highlight from Amsterdam was a field trip to De Kookfabriek where we had an opportunity to don aprons and bake up traditional Dutch apple pies (along with a few other decadent Dutch treats). We did this BEFORE dinner. Placed into groups of eight, we battled it out to see who could make the best Dutch apple pie. And you guessed it: Everyone was a winner! Oh, and there was lots of butter in the crust. (We’ve been trying to give the recipe a makeover, but sometimes you just can’t mess with tradition.)

De Kookfabriek via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Fabulous RD friends, Jessica Crandall and Regan Miller Jones, founder of Healthy Aperture, were on Janice’s team.

Food 3000 via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

On our last night in Amsterdam, we headed off to the Garden of Amsterdam (The Arendshoeve) for a meal created by Chef Jonathan Karpathios, an advocate for the farm to table movement, author of Real Food, and owner of Vork & Mes. That’s Sharon Palmer in our selfie, author of The Plant-Powered Diet and Cheryl Forberg, dietitian for The Biggest Loser.

the garden of Amsterdam

What a beautiful setting; it felt like we were at a wedding :)

The arendshoeve

This was our appetizer, featuring ingredients sourced from the chef’s own gardens and farm partners: Russian Salad with Vegetable Pancakes and Poached Egg.

Aaron Paul with Liz via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

On a final note, Liz ran into Breaking Bad actor, Aaron Paul at Logan Airport before she flew to Amsterdam. He was kind enough to agree to a selfie. In fact, he took this photo, which he’s clearly done before. Just had to share …

Check out all of our photos on Flickr:
Liz’s pictures
Janice’s pictures

Janice’s Annual Cookie Swap and a Healthier Holiday Cookie Swap Roundup

Janice hosted her annual cookie swap last night in her awesome new kitchen. This marks the 30th year of the exchange. With over a dozen goodies to choose from, Janice made our Chocolate Almond Cookies … but she used walnuts instead of almonds. (So technically, we should call ‘em Chocolate Walnut Cookies!)

Healthier Cookie Swap Roundup via www.mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

With cookie swaps on the brain and in the stomachs, we decided to do a round up featuring our best-ever cookie makeovers as well as other better-for-you sweet treats from across the web. Come on. Dig in …

Pictured above (starting at top/left image and going around clockwise…):

Lightened-Up Seven Layer Bars: Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen

Monster Cookie Makeover: Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen

Peppermint Meringue Snowballs: Meal Makeover Moms

Chocolate Almond Cookies: Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen

Granola Crunch Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies: Juggling with Julia

Cherry Chocolate Chip Jubilee Jumbles: Teaspoon of Spice

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies: Yeah…imma EAT that

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti Dipped in Peppermint Chocolate: Healthy Aperture and The Adventures of MJ and Hungry Man

Janice's cookie swap

Here is just a sampling of the amazing goodies Janice’s neighborhood friends brought to the swap …

cookie swap

More cookies!

Random Meal Makeover Mom Musings … and a Recipe for Tuscan Ham & Cheese Melts {Podcast #233}

Our Cooking with the Moms radio podcast this week features random musings about the great restaurants we’ve been to lately, our Thanksgiving dinners complete with sweet potato casseroles and Brussels sprouts (Brussels sprouts are the new black), Liz’s trip to the Chicago area for a tour of the new Kraft headquarters and an insider look at their new-and-improved Singles, and a recipe for Tuscan Ham & Cheese Melts. When we said the show was random, we meant it!

Tuscan ham & cheese melts via www.MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Last month, Liz joined a group of dietitians and food bloggers for the Kraft Singles: Behind-the-Scenes tour in Northfield, IL. Disclosure: Her expenses were paid for, but she was not compensated for the visit. Read on for a few morsels of info from the trip … and this recipe for Tuscan Ham & Cheese Melts, which Liz created with fellow dietitians, Jill Castle and Christine Palumbo.

Tuscan Ham & Cheese Melts

Makes 3 Servings

This recipe was developed during a Chopped-style cooking competition during the Kraft tour. A panini press comes in handy for this recipe, but you could certainly use a nonstick skillet with some nonstick cooking spray, butter, or oil instead.

  • 2 tablespoons olive tapenade
  • 6 slices sourdough bread
  • 3 to 6 ounces low-fat mozzarella cheese slices (1 to 2 ounces per sandwich depending on how cheesy you like your “melts”)
  • 6 thin slices applewood smoked ham (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup caramelized onions, chopped
  • 4 quartered marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
  • 2 large basil leaves, chopped

1. Spread 1 teaspoon of olive tapenade on each slice of bread. Lay half an ounce to an ounce of cheese over 3 of the six slices and then top with 1 slice of ham.

2. Meanwhile, combine the onions, artichoke hearts, red peppers, and basil in a bowl. Arrange the mixture evenly over the cheese and ham slices. Top each with 1 slice of ham and the remaining cheese. Cover with remaining bread slices.

3. Preheat your panini press. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and place sandwiches inside press. Cook until cheese melts and bread is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slice and serve.

Liz’s group won a Blue Ribbon first prize for their grilled cheese creation :)

Tuscan Ham & Cheese Melts at Kraft via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

While at Kraft, Liz learned about nutrition improvements being made to their Singles. Most notable: In 2014, the first ingredient listed on the label will be Cheddar cheese vs. the ingredients used to make cheese (there are two types of Cheddar used in the Singles), and the company will eliminate artificial preservatives in favor of an all-natural one called Nisin. As for artificial colors and flavors, there are none. That said, Kraft still uses artificial colors in its iconic Macaroni & Cheese (they are removing it in their character-shaped line), and Liz voiced her strong desire to see all food dyes removed from their products.

Kraft Kitchens via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The tour began with a behind-the-scenes look at the Kraft test kitchens. Picture a pantry like this one filled with ingredients galore and every piece of cooking equipment imaginable…

Kraft Kitchens

The kitchens at Kraft have certainly changed. Back in 1924, Mary Dahnke became the first home economist to be employed by the food industry. At Kraft, she developed recipes aimed at helping consumers cook with, you guessed it, cheese. Today, the brand new kitchens are decked out with a wide array of appliances and equipment and new recipes are developed for the Kraft website, food & family magazine, product labels, advertisements, and more.

Kraft tour

Say “cheese.” The group included Bridget Swinney, MS, RD, Author of Eating Expectantly, Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, RD, Sandy Morreale, RD, Assoc. Director, Nutrition at Kraft Foods, Jill Castle, RD, Just the Right Byte, Barbara Ruhs, RD with Basha’s Supermarket, Robyn Flipse, RD, Kristy Still with Mommy Hates Cooking, Christine Palumbo, RD with Environmental Nutrition, Serena Ball, RD with Teaspoon Communications, and me!

Liz with Mr. Peanut

Just had to share …

A Holiday Recipe for Rustic Pear & Grape Tart {Recipe Redux Cooking Challenge} … And a No-Mess Technique for Rolling Out Pie Crust

The holiday season is once again upon us with its irresistible onslaught of candy canes, cookie swaps, and gooey chocolate treats. While we find ourselves indulging right along with the rest of the crowd, as dietitians we like to add fruit desserts to the mix whenever possible. We’re not pie people—they’re too sugary and gloppy, and as Janice says, “cloyingly sweet”—so to celebrate the season, we baked a rustic fruit tart instead made with pears and grapes, a coconut oil crust, a wee bit of granulated sugar, and a natural, zero-calorie sweetener called Monk Fruit In the Raw. Just say “no” to gloppy desserts!

Rustic Pear & Grape Tart

Disclosure: “We received free samples from Cumberland Packing Corp., maker of Monk Fruit In The Raw. By posting this recipe we are entering a recipe contest sponsored by Cumberland Packing Corp. and are eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. We were not compensated for our time.”

This month, we entered the Show Us Your Sweets recipe contest hosted by The Recipe Redux. The assignment: Adapt one of your signature baked good recipes by reducing sugar with Monk Fruit In The Raw or develop a new lower-calorie creation. We opted for the new creation. Our Rustic Pear & Grape Tart is perfect for your holiday table. It’s delicious, gorgeous to look at, healthy (yes, desserts can be healthy), and kids love it too.

Rustic Pear & Grape Tart

Monk Fruit In the Raw is made from vine-ripened monk fruit grown in China, also called luo han guo. It measures cup for cup just like regular sugar, and it tastes like sugar with no bitter or unusual aftertaste. Sprinkled on top of our tart, it looks like powdered sugar. So pretty …

Rustic Pear & Apple Tart

Making pie crust can be, well, easy as pie if you use our zip-top bag rolling technique!

Rustic Pear & Grape Tart via www.MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

To roll out pie crust using a resealable bag, follow our technique:

> Make your dough, roll it in a ball, place in a gallon-size zip-top bag, and pop in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

> Remove from the freezer and roll out the dough, opening the bag every now and then to remove wrinkles. Roll out the dough so it touches all four corners of the bag. Pop back in the freezer for 3 to 5 minutes to firm up a bit before using kitchen scissors to cut the bag away. If the dough is too sticky, pop it back in the freezer for another minute or two.

> Assemble the fruit filling and set aside in a bowl. Place the crust on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and lay the fruit mixture on top, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Roll up the sides of the dough to cover the fruit (free-form style), leaving the fruit on top uncovered.

Rustic Pear & Grape Tart

Makes 6 Servings

While we both spend a lot of our time cooking for our families, we don’t consider ourselves “bakers,” which is why we use the simple technique of rolling out our tart crust in a plastic resealable bag. For this recipe, all we used was two tablespoons of regular sugar, drawing an extra pop of sweetness from the Monk Fruit In the Raw. You don’t have to be an artist or a talented baker to turn out a lovely, rustic-looking tart every time. You can change up the filling depending on what’s on hand, and we suggest serving each luscious slice with low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt.

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons Monk Fruit In the Raw
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons cold water

For the Filling:

  • 2 medium ripe pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup red grapes, halved (about 20 grapes)
  • 2 tablespoons Monk Fruit In the Raw plus 2 teaspoons, divided
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, Monk Fruit In the Raw, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse twice until combined. Add the coconut oil and pulse 10 times or until the mixture is coarse. Add the water and pulse 5 more times until a dough forms. Scrape down sides of food processor as needed.

2. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the center of a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Use your hand to flatten the dough slightly. Place in the freezer to cool, 10 to 15 minutes (but no more). Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

3. While the dough is cooling, prepare the fruit filling. Place the pears, grapes, Monk Fruit In the Raw, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir gently to combine. Set aside.

4. Remove the bag from the freezer, place on a work surface, and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to all four corners of the bag. Open the bag to remove air bubbles and wrinkles and then reseal. (You may need to do this several times). Place flattened dough back in the freezer for 3 to 5 minutes to firm up slightly.

5. Remove from freezer and use kitchen shears to cut the edges of the plastic bag away from the crust. Place the crust on the prepared baking sheet, and arrange the fruit mixture in the middle, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Fold the edges of the crust over the fruit, using the parchment paper to help you along. The crust will not meet up in the center, and your handiwork does not have to be perfect; remember, this is a rustic tart.

6. Bake until the fruit is bubbly, softened, and the crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, dust with the remaining Monk Fruit In the Raw, and serve.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 slice):  260 calories, 11g fat (11g saturated), 100mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate, 13g sugar, 3g fiber, 3g protein

Print Recipe

A Recap of the 2013 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo {Podcast #231}

Sensible shoes … professional attire … business cards … check. On October 18th we packed our bags and flew to Houston, TX for the annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. We met up with thousands of fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionists from across the country where we learned about the latest news on nutrition and human health and sampled the newest nutrient-rich food products to hit supermarkets. Tune in to this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast for all the highlights … or read on for the delicious details … or do both.

FNCE 2013

Here we are cruising the exhibit floor in search of new and interesting food products …

FNCE 2013 via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

But let’s start at the beginning. The day before the official start of FNCE 2013, Liz joined fellow RDs, Regan Miller Jones from Healthy Aperture and Janet Helm from Nutrition Unplugged for a food photography workshop. Liz focused her lecture on tips for shooting gorgeous, appetizing “healthy” food photos with a smart phone. Be on the lookout for a follow-up post detailing some of her tips.

FNCE 2013

Janice is the Chair of the Food & Culinary Professionals, a practice group of the Academy, so she was busy moderating panels, introducing speakers, attending receptions at places like the Houston Museum of Natural Science (which is why a dinosaur is about to bite her head off), and hobnobbing with the likes of Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru.

FNCE 2013

Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD and James Painter, PhD, RD gave a talk titled, How Consumers Decide What to Eat: Strategies for Making Healthy Choices. This slide was clearly meant as a joke, but Elizabeth used it to illustrate a scary statistic: Americans eat according to MyPlate guidelines only seven days of the year … just 2 percent of the time. To help consumers form healthier eating habits, practical advice was offered such as changing your family’s personal environment where foods like fruits and veggies are more easily accessed (i.e. in a large bowl on the kitchen table) and things like candy are kept out of sight … and where plates, bowls, and even spoons are downsized versus supersized, which leads to eating smaller portions.

The food products in the exhibit hall that grabbed our attention were those that make it easier for families to get more much-needed fruit, veggies, and whole grains on the table. A few examples:

FNCE 2013

Janice had an opportunity to sample the new lineup of Lean Cuisine Honestly Good meals with varieties like Pomegranate Chicken and Lemongrass Salmon. Look at all those vegetables! And that whole grain pilaf with currants :)

FNCE 2013

We’re huge fans of yogurt parfaits, but until we tried this parfait, we never thought about using low-fat cottage cheese. Daisy Brand cottage cheese was on hand with this perfectly satisfying parfait layered with cottage cheese, fresh berries, almonds, granola, and cinnamon. This snack kept us energized while we cruised the exhibit floor.

Uncle Matt's at FNCE 2013

The lineup of organic juices from Uncle Matt’s (that’s Matt and his wife in the background) tasted like fresh squeezed. It was “love at first sip.” We can’t wait to look for their juices in the Boston area.

FNCE 2013

Banana slices covered in dark chocolate. Are you kidding?! Dole is out with these new Banana Dippers featuring frozen banana slices smothered in melted dark chocolate. A snack after our own hearts.

FNCE 2013

Beans count as a vegetable, and there were plenty of bean-based foods being sampled in the exhibit hall. We loved the Eat Well Enjoy Life hummus made with chickpeas—which you’d expect—but also with other types of beans including black beans, white beans, and edamame. Wasabi Edamame Hummus anyone? And then there was Better Bean which bills itself as “rethought beans.” Where to begin? The Uncanny Refried Beans (get it?) would be perfect added to tacos or nachos.

All in all, it was a great conference. Between the lectures we gave and listened to, the panels we moderated, the friends we ran into, and the food we ate, our heads were spinning. We hope you’ll tune into Cooking with the Moms for all the FNCE fun … and then some.

See What Happens When Two Unsuspecting Nutrition Interns Get Ambushed With a Chopped Challenge {Guest Post + a Recipe for Meatless Baked Tacos}

Every Monday, Catherine, a grad student at UNC-Chapel Hill and Stephanie, an undergrad at Boston University intern with us. Last week, we ambushed them with a Food Network style Chopped challenge. The reason: Sometimes we just like to shake things up around here!

Chopped competition via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Rather than pit one intern against the other—Stephanie is a self-proclaimed non-cook—we teamed them up with the following assignment: Make a recipe so delicious, so nutritious, and so irresistible that even a picky 14-year old (who also happens to be a vegetarian) would love it and eat it up happily. Read on for Catherine’s account of the day and the recipe she and Stephanie created for Meatless Baked Tacos.

Meatless Baked Tacos via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

{Catherine’s Post} No day with The Meal Makeover Moms is the same, so when Stephanie and I walked into their test kitchen (AKA Janice’s awesome new kitchen) last week and were asked to trade our text books for a cutting board and sharp knives, we accepted our Chopped challenge graciously!  The Moms handed us four mystery ingredients and told us to “get cooking.”

Chopped challenge via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The mystery basket included meat free grounds, a Clementine, a yellow bell pepper from Janice’s CSA, and corn tortillas. Meat free grounds were new to us, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t usually care for corn tortillas, but with the pantry open to our use we began crafting a recipe that we would like … and more importantly, one that the judges—Liz, Janice, and her daughter, Leah—would like! The ingredients lent themselves to Mexican food, so off we went in search of the usual suspects: tomatoes and other veggies, spices, beans, and sour cream.


chopped competition

We chopped the veggies, sautéed them in expeller pressed canola oil, and added spices and the meat free crumbles. Then we remembered the Clementine! Deciding the citrus would balance the diced tomato and spices, we chopped it up and into the sauté pan it went …

Our mixture smelled delicious, but we still didn’t know exactly what dish we were going to prepare. Tacos? Our toughest judge has braces, so crunchy tacos shells wouldn’t win us points. A casserole? It was past 2 o’clock and we were already starving, so 40 minutes in the oven wasn’t an option. Enchiladas? I’ve never actually ordered enchiladas, much less made them. Uh oh. Clock was ticking. Ultimately we decided to stuff the mixture into the corn tortillas to resemble tacos, but packed them together in a dish like enchiladas. We sprinkled cheese over them and placed ‘em in the oven to melt the cheese.

chopped competition

 Twelve minutes later, we had a vegetarian recipe for Meatless Baked Tacos! And they were delicious. Packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins A and C, we created a dish worthy of The Meal Makeover Moms. And the best part? Our toughest critic agreed!

Chopped Challenge via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Here’s the recipe for our easy, super yummy, nutrient-packed, Meatless Monday dish that even the pickiest eater in your house will love.

Meatless Baked Tacos

Makes 8 Servings

  • 1 teaspoon expeller pressed canola oil
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 12-ounce package meat-free or soy crumbles
  • Eight 6-inch corn tortillas
  • One 15-ounce can fat-free refried beans
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup baby spinach, chopped, optional
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil or coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper and cook until the peppers are tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the diced tomatoes and meat-free crumbles and cook, stirring frequently until heated through, about 5 minutes.

4. Arrange the tortillas in the prepared baking pan so they resemble folded taco shells. Place 2 tablespoons refried beans into  the bottom of each tortilla. Top each with a sprinkling of baby spinach, as desired. Arrange 1/3 cup of the veggie mixture into each of the tortillas. (You’ll have over 1 cup of the mixture remaining, which is perfect as a salad topper or with rice the next day!) Sprinkle shells evenly with the cheese.

5. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese melts, about 12 minutes. Serve with sour cream as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 210 calories, 5g fat (2g saturated), 560mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 16g protein, 25% vitamin A, 130% vitamin C, 30% calcium, 20% iron

Print Recipe

Enjoy ….

The Pumpkin People of Melrose, MA … And My Pumpkin Scarecrow Chef Creation

I am lucky to live in a neighborhood where families come together all year long for an array of community-building activities. We have an annual Octoberfest block party, cookie swap, and Holiday party, and for the first time this year, a Pumpkin People Scarecrow Making Contest. The rules: Create a scarecrow with a pumpkin head. An “expert” panel of judges will pick the winner today, and I’m crossing my fingers that my Meal Makeover Mom pumpkin person wins! (The idea was inspired by the Pumpkin People of Jackson, NH., an annual fall celebration.)

Pumpkin People Contest via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Don (with a little bit of help from me) created this scarecrow complete with a Meal Makeover Mom apron, chef hat, muffin tin, and mini pumpkin cupcakes!

Pumpkin People Contest via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

My neighbor, Moe, has four boys and the family loves to ski, so it was no surprise when her pumpkin person ended up on skis.

Pumpkin Plumber via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Guess what my neighbor Billy does for a living? That’s right. He’s a plumber. He and his very humorous family created a pumpkin plumber … complete with a plumber’s “pumpkin crack.”

Pumpkin People via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Gone fishing ….

Pumpkin People

This is the cutest pumpkin-face fish I’ve ever seen.

Pumpkin People via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Go Patriots …

Pumpkin Scarecrow via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

In case you are wondering, this is an Angry Snowshoeing Grandma!

Pumpkin People via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

This scarecrow is reading a book on “Creative Scarecrows.” No surprise that this scarecrow was built by my neighbor, Jen, who organized the event.

Wally the Green Monster, Mascot of the Boston Red Sox via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Meet Wally The Green Monster, beloved mascot of the Boston Red Sox. Let’s hope he brings us good luck in the World Series!

Pumpkin Scarecrow Contest Judges!

These are the esteemed judges who walked around the neighborhood deciding which scarecrow would win the contest. I was shameless, offering up our No-Nut Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins from No Whine with Dinner to the judges to try to influence the voting! Regardless of my tasty bribe, I’m afraid the plumber might “plunge” into first place!

I’ll update the post tonight after I find out who won! In the meantime, if you’re looking for healthy pumpkin recipes for your family, read our latest pumpkin-licious blog post.

UPDATE (Halloween Night): As I predicted, the winner of the pumpkin scarecrow contest was the pumpkin plumber. Hard to compete with the “plumber’s pumpkin crack!” Congrats and kudos to the Hayward family!


My friend and neighbor Billy accepting his prestigious trophy from the esteemed panel of pumpkin scarecrow judges!

More Foodie Adventures from the Pacific Northwest … and a Vegetarian Side Dish Recipe for Cowboy Caviar (Part 2) {Podcast #229}

I still can’t believe my niece, Jennifer, just got married. I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday …  and not 27 years ago! Jen married the man of her dreams a few weeks ago at the Red Barn Studios in Chehalis, Washington, and I can still taste the fresh shellfish and Northwest flavors from her Big Day.

Jen and Rand Wedding via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Here were Jen and Rand cutting the cake. In case you’re wondering, the cake was created with luscious layers of carrot cake, white cake, and a boysenberry filling.

On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, Liz and I dish about my recent foodie adventures in the Pacific Northwest. I share the highlights here and also in Part 1 of my two-part Northwest food series (which included a recipe for Kale and Berry Health Smoothie).

Chef Xihn via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

 Chef Xinh, all five feet of her, is swift with a knife, and you should see her shuck an oyster! She’s won the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship five times, and she’s now the owner and executive chef of Xinh’s Clam and Oyster House in Shelton, Washington. Lucky for me and everyone else at the wedding, Chef Xinh and Taylor Shellfish Farms catered the event.

Curried Mussels via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

 Chef Xinh’s famous Mussels with Curry Sauce features fresh shelled mussels sauteed in a Vietnamese style curry made with coconut milk, lemongrass, cayenne pepper, ground peanuts and a seafood sauce. She serves it with jasmine rice.

Dad, Mom, Chris, Lori, and Janice at Wedding via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

My sister, Lori (shown here with Dad, Mom, her husband Chris, and me), kept us well fed while we were in Olympia.

Baked Halibut, Wheatberries, Beets, and Grilled Corn via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

 On our first night in Olympia, Lori served us a meal of baked halibut, wheat berries, beets from her garden, and corn on the grill.

Cowboy Caviar -- made with black-eyed peas, avocado, cilantro, and corn

Lori and her husband have a boat, and this is one of the salads she made before we took a trip around the Puget Sound. I know. I know. Rough life …

Cowboy Caviar

Makes 8 Servings

Lori’s friend, Kathy, gave her this recipe years ago, and it’s now Lori’s go-to recipe for picnics and excursions on the boat.

  • One 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • One 11-ounce can shoepeg corn
  • 1 red bell pepper or 2 roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup expeller pressed canola oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Combine the black-eyed peas, corn, bell pepper, green onions, cilantro, and avocado in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper until well combined.  Stir into the bean mixture.

Nutrition Information: 180 calories, 11g fat (1g saturated, 0.7g omega-3), 290mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 5g protein, 30% vitamin A, 50% vitamin C

Print Recipe

Nancy, Janice, Diane at Wedding via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I love weddings. Here I am celebrating with my sister Diane (right) and my sister-in-law, Nancy. :)

If you want to see more photos from my trip to Olympia, check out our Flickr page.

My Foodie Adventures in Olympia, Washington and a Recipe for Berry and Kale Health Shake (Part 1)

A few weekends ago, I traveled to Olympia, Washington with my parents to attend the wedding of my sister Lori’s daughter, Jennifer. I loved spending time with my family in a beautiful albeit rainy part of the country!

Flower Arranging for Wedding via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Here in New England we say that April showers bring May flowers, but in the Seattle area they have rain all year long, so the flowers are plentiful. For the wedding and reception, a bunch of us got together to arrange flowers in dozens of Ball Jars. And you thought Ball Jars were just for canning …

Reception food has a reputation for being so-so … but not this event. Jen’s wedding featured a veritable ocean of seafood—raw oysters, curried mussels, and geoduck, which you’ll learn all about in next week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast. Lucky for all the guests, Jen works at Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, WA, so we were treated to the freshest, most flavorful shellfish you could imagine.

Shigoku oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms

Don’t you think these oysters look like shimmering jewels? The raw bar was beyond beautiful … and it turns out that oysters are also super nutritious. They’re brimming with heart-healthy omega-3 fats, immune-boosting zinc, vitamin B12, iron, and lots more. Despite their nutritional benefits, I’ve never gotten past the ‘yuck factor’ of eating them raw … until the wedding.

I decided it was high time to brave it out, and so I bellied up to the bar for “exclusive” Shigoku oysters, which Taylor Shellfish describes as, a small, dense, cornucopia of an oyster with a light, clean taste of cucumber and salt, and a finish of water chestnut and Jerusalem artichoke. The culinary verdict: I loved these oysters. In fact I went back for seconds … and thirds!

Dad eating Shigoku Oysters

 My dad is an oyster-eating pro. His technique: Top with a bit of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon and just toss ‘em back …

Health Shake
After all the overindulging at the wedding, the next morning my sister offered to make the berry and kale smoothie that she and her husband have for breakfast every day. Feeling brave after a night of raw oyster eating, I happily accepted. Check out all the healthy ingredients in her shake including cod liver oil (omega-3!), berries, and freshly picked kale from the garden. You’d think my sister was the dietitian in the family!

Berry and Kale Health Shake
What a great way to kick start the day!

Berry and Kale Health Shake

Makes 1 Serving

Lori says the mix of ingredients in her Vitamix shake is pretty flexible. Sometimes she adds a spoonful of peanut butter or yogurt for extra protein or swaps the water for 100% fruit juice. If you plan to pack in a thermos or a to-go cup when you’re, well, on the go, you may want to leave out the chia seeds and psyillium powder. The reason: they both tend to make the shake too thick (in Lori’s opinion) if you wait too long to drink it!

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 medium ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries or mixed berries
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cod liver oil
  • 1 kale leaf or a handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon psyllium powder, optional

1. Place the water, banana, blueberries, mixed berries, protein powder, flaxseed, chia seeds, cod liver oil, kale, and psyllium powder as desired in a blender and blend until well combined. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 280 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated, 2g omega-3), 10mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 20g protein, 150% vitamin A, 130% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 25% iron

Print Recipe

Lori's Health Shake via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Okay, so it’s not a Northwest beer, but it was refreshing and oh-so healthy!

Pumpkin Nutrition … and a Recipe for Pumpkin Banana Smoothie

I woke up bright and early today, packed up a few coolers, and headed to New England Cable News for a “live” TV food segment on Spicing Up Fall with Pumpkins. During the segment (which you can watch on the NECN website), I talked to host Steve Aveson about pumpkin nutrition—it’s packed with vitamin A, fiber, and antioxidants like lutein—and showed off three kid-pleasing recipes: Pumpkin Banana Smoothie, Ghoulishly-Good Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin, and Black Bean Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce. (The smoothie and enchilada recipes can also be found on our new family recipe app, Meal Makeovers.)

Pumpkin Banana Smoothie via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Each serving of this luscious smoothie has 100% of your vitamin A for the day. Oh, and it’s also delicious!

Pumpkin Banana Smoothie

Makes 2 Servings

When the month of October rolls around, our thoughts turn to pumpkin, a super food packed with immune-boosting vitamin A, fiber, and antioxidants like lutein, which is good for eye health. It may seem strange to add pumpkin to a smoothie, but trust us … this smoothie is beyond awesome! We make it with some canned pure pumpkin, protein-rich Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract. And then we add a banana and a few drizzles of honey for a super-sweet touch. Serve with breakfast, as a snack, or for a spooky Halloween treat!

  • 1 small ripe banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup 0%-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1.  Break the banana into a few pieces. Place in a blender with the milk, yogurt, pumpkin, honey, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice.

2. Blend until well combined. Place a few cubes of ice in two glasses. Pour smoothie over ice, drizzle with honey as desired, and serve each with a straw.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cup):  130 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated, g omega-3), 55mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 7g protein, 100% vitamin A, 15% calcium

Print Recipe

Planning a TV segment takes a lot of effort—shopping, prepping, gathering props, figuring out what to say!—but it’s worth the effort. I had a blast hanging out with the NECN crew and sharing my nutrition knowledge and Meal Makeover Mom recipes with viewers.

Liz on NECN talking pumpkins!

Lights, camera, action!

pumpkin segment on NECN

NECN prep

Here’s what my house looked like the night before when I was laying out my props. Note to self: Don’t forget the extension cord and the ice….

My Trip to Iceland: Flying, Driving, Swimming in a Geothermal Pool, and Playing Golf When We Should Have Been Sleeping {Part #3}

In Parts #1 and #2 of my Iceland adventure this summer with Simon, I shared highlights from our trips to Reykjavik and the Golden Circle and our stay at the awesome, I-must-come-back-again Hotel Ranga in Hella. On our third day, we did a mega drive from Hella to Kirkjubæjarklaustur and packed in more activities along the way than we typically do here at home in a week! Read on for the highlights … and giving a shout out to Iceland Travel for helping me organize the trip!

Helicopter ride in Iceland

After breakfast at Hotel Ranga, Managing Director, Friorik Palsson, treated us to a helicopter ride over the surrounding countryside, compliments of Norðurflug Helicopter Tours. It was an unexpected thrill and an exciting way to start the day, to say the least.

helicopter ride in Iceland

The helicopter met us in a field. Friorik ran out to greet the pilot before he buckled us in and bid us a cheery farewell. It was surreal!

glacier in iceland

What a view. That’s Mount Hekla in the distance.

Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. Located in South Iceland, you can hike up behind it, getting wet along the way from the cold glacial spray.

Skyr yogurt in Iceland

Dashboard dining at its finest! Simon was ravenous 24/7 during the trip (growing teenage boy = “I need food”), and Iceland’s own Skyr yogurt saved the day.

Seljavallalaug natural swimming pool

It’s always worthwhile visiting the main attractions when you’re on vacation, but Simon and I decided to drive off the beaten path to check out Seljavallalaug, a geothermal swimming pool at the foot of the Eyjafjoll Mountains. It was built in the 1920’s right into the side of the rocky hillside. You have to drive down a gravel road, park your car, and then hike about 15 minutes to reach the pool.

Near Reynisdrangar pillars in Vik, Iceland

Hanging out on the black, rocky beach just outside the seaside village of Vik.

Golfing at night in Iceland

After a day flying in a helicopter, hiking up waterfalls, swimming in a natural hot spring, and touring around Vik, we checked into Laki Hotel at the Efri-Vik Farm. And guess what? They had a 9-hole golf course on the premises. We rented a set of clubs, and Simon set out with mom as his caddy! It was 9:30pm by the time we finished, and it was still light outside. Notice the black, volcanic sand trap! :) We loved this hotel. Cozy, clean, delightful staff, and a delicious breakfast.

Jökulsárlón in Iceland

Stay tuned for Part 4 of my Iceland adventure. I’ll tell you about our afternoon at the glacial river lagoon, Jökulsárlón, and why we’re laughing hysterically. Check back soon …

Announcing Meal Makeovers, a Healthy Recipe App for Families … Plus, a Giveaway of 5 Apps

Meal Makeovers, a recipe app developed by two registered dietitians with a passion for feeding families a super healthy diet (oooh, that’s us!), is finally finished, and now, anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch can download it. Meal Makeovers features healthier versions of classic recipes families love, and yes, creating this app was just as challenging as writing our cookbooks! We’re giving away five copies of Meal Makeovers. Read on for details on how to enter.

Meal Makeovers App via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Here’s the icon for our app!

The app is available for $1.99 in the iTunes store and includes 50 recipes ranging from breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to snacks, sides, vegetarian, gluten free, and dessert. More recipes will be added regularly. Each “makeover” recipe starts with a description of the dish followed by a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions. We offer detailed nutrition information and cool features like a shopping list, searchable tags, and mouth-watering photos. We don’t have plans yet for an Android app, but we’re discussing it!

Screen shot from Meal Makeovers recipe app

Here’s a screen shot from the app showing a few of our family-pleasing recipes.

Meal Makeovers Cooking app on iTunes

Our Have-It-Your-Way Tacos recipe, made with lean ground beef, shredded carrot, black beans and a bunch of other nutritious ingredients is included in the Dinner and Gluten Free categories.

We worked with a company called Mobile Skillet to develop Meal Makeovers. You can visit the Mobile Skillet website if you have questions about app development, etc. And … If you have an opportunity to purchase and download the app, let us know what you think of it. You can leave a comment here or head on over to our Survey Monkey survey to weigh in with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.

GIVEAWAY NEWS: We are giving away five copies of our Meal Makeovers app. The app is available on the iPhone, iPad, and iTouch, so to be eligible, you’ll need to own one of those devices. To enter, tell us about your biggest family mealtime challenge and how you hope our app will help you solve it.

We will enter you into the giveaway additional times if you …

> Tweet about the giveaway using the hashtag, #MealMakeoversApp, with a link back to this post.
> Share the giveaway news with your Facebook fans and friends with a link back to the post.
> Follow us on Pinterest.
> Follow The Meal Makeover Moms on Twitter (@MealMakeovrMoms)

Please be sure to leave us a new comment every time you do something extra, and GOOD LUCK. The giveaway ends on September 18th at noon, and as always we’ll use Random.org to pick our winners. Good luck!

Nutty Banana Ice Cream

This recipe for Nutty Banana Ice Cream is available ONLY on our app! Sooooo delish ….

My CSA Bounty and a Recipe for Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans

I love my CSA (community supported agriculture), and I’ve been a member of the Farm Direct Coop for about eight years. Every Thursday from June through October I pick up my weekly bounty. Sometimes there are choices—pick three items from a table with six options—while other times the decision is made for you—take one pound of peaches and two pounds of apples, etc. I have a fruit and veggie share, and I also get bread from a local bakery.


One of the fun things about participating in a CSA is that you never know what you’re going to get from week to week, and for me sometimes I’m not familiar with all the items. What the heck is callaloo?

CSA veggies via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Decisions, decisions: Should I get another bunch of kale or an eggplant?!

CSA via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

One nice thing about my CSA is that there are always people who like to give advice on how to prepare things. Here, a fellow member explains that he likes to pit his peaches,  stuff with cheese and herbs, and then roast them. I wouldn’t have thought of that!

Vegetables via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

This was my haul a few weeks ago. I got two beautiful bunches of Swiss chard and posted to our Meal Makeover Moms Facebook page asking for fresh advice on what to do with them. There was no shortage of ideas, but the recipe for Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans that Kristin shared really caught my eye. I made it and it was a huge hit with my family.

Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans

Makes 6 Servings

This recipe originally appeared in the January / February 2009 issue of Eating Well magazine, but I got it from our friend Kristin’s blog.  I didn’t change much, but I did leave out the water and saute the veggies instead, and I added more mozzarella cheese. Chard is in peak season from June through August (did you know there are over 50 varieties?), and it’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. It’s also high in antioxidants and fiber, and it helps support bone health thanks to the vitamin K.

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • One 16-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi, (see Tip)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 cups chopped chard leaves, (about 1 small bunch) or spinach
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
  • One 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until plumped and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and water. Cover and cook until the onion is soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chard (or spinach) and cook, stirring, until starting to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans and pepper and bring to a simmer.

3. If serving immediately, stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. (Tip: If making ahead, keep the gnocchi separate so it doesn’t get soggy.) Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if desired.

Tip: Look for shelf-stable gnocchi near other pasta in the Italian section of most supermarkets.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 325 Calories, 7g Fat (2g saturated), 616 mg sodium, 55g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 14 g Protein

Print Recipe

Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans

The gnocchi that I used in the recipe came from the new Whole Foods that just opened up in my town of Melrose, MA (yippee!). I used plenty of olive oil to saute the gnocchi which gave it a nice crispy texture!

Sriracha Chard Pickles via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

In the spirit of full disclosure, I also made Sriracha Fridge Pickles with my Swiss chard stems, as recommended on Facebook by Carol Ann. They were not a big hit around here, because the stems were pretty fibrous and the flavor was a bit too spicy. I may use the onions in sandwiches but probably won’t make the recipe again. It was fun to try though! :)

My Trip to Iceland: The Golden Circle, the Coolest Hotel in Iceland (in my humble opinion), and a Taste of Puffin {Part 2}

In Part #1 of my 4-part Iceland series, I shared highlights from our flight from Boston to Iceland and our tour around Reykjavik. On our second day, we rented a car with the goal of working our way around The Golden Circle … and then south. Initially, I was nervous about driving in Iceland, but I quickly realized that once you get out of the city, the two-lane highway that circles the country — with a max speed limit of 90 kilometers (about 55 MPH) — is a breeze. That’s my kind of driving! Plus, we had a GPS who spoke Icelandic with an English accent, so getting lost was not an option…

The Golden Circle, Iceland

The Golden Circle begins at Þingvellir National Park, the site of Iceland’s Viking Parliament.

The Golden Circle, Iceland

From there, we visited Geysir Hot Springs (think, Yellowstone) and the giant, two-tier waterfall at Gullfoss.

Iceland cafe

Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Cafe Galleri in the town of Laugarvatn, known for its geothermal rye bread. (The bread is literally baked in a geothermal oven underground for 24 hours. The slow cooking yields a surprisingly sweet flavor.)

Smoked trout on hot spring rye bread, iceland

For lunch, we ordered Hot Spring Baked Bread with Sliced Smoked Trout and Hot Smoked Trout with Fresh Salad and Hot Spring Baked Bread. After we ate, Simon, my growing teenager, asked, “what’s for lunch.” In Iceland, there’s no such thing as super-sized portions; the food is just way too expensive.

North American suite at Hotel Ranga

Heading south from the Golden Circle, we checked into the marvelous, four-star Hotel Ranga in Hella (south Iceland). To our amusement, they gave us one of their themed suites, which are all designed after each of the seven continents. Coincidentally, we ended up in the North American suite complete with a buffalo head, bear skin, Native American Indian headdress and lots more. Simon said it was the nicest hotel he’d ever seen. Yes, he was like a kid in a candy store :)

Hotel Ranga restaurant, Puffin appetizer

 For dinner, we ate at Hotel Ranga’s restaurant, boasting a menu with local meats, seafood, and produce. Don’t be mad at me, but for my appetizer I chose the Lightly Smoked Puffin served with beer bread and “Cumberland” sauce. I’m not sure I’d order it again (it was a bit chewy), but I wanted to experience something unique to Iceland.

Dinner at Hotel Ranga

The service was superb. Simon and I loved being pampered, and a highlight of the night (if you could call it “night” since it never got dark) was spending time chatting with Friorik Palsson, Managing Director of the resort. I’ll tell you more about Friorik in Part #3 of my Iceland blog series.

Hotel Ranga, barley risotto

We split the Creamy Local Barley served with wild mushrooms and root vegetables … prepared like risotto.

Hotel Ranga, dessert


Hotel Ranga

After dinner we walked along the river, and Simon dreamed of coming back some day so he could fish for salmon …

Sunset at Hotel Ranga

And then, before we knew it, it was 10:30pm and the sun was starting to set. Time for bed before our third day of Iceland adventures …

Helicopter ride in south Iceland

Up, up and away. Stay tuned for a wild ride on day three …

« Previous PageNext Page »

Be friends

Connect with us

Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Instagram Follow Us on Pinterest

Get The Meal Makeover Moms' newsletter for healthy new recipes and giveaway news!