It’s Pumpkin Palooza Time in The Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen … Plus a Breakfast Recipe for Pumpkin Waffles (Podcast #230)

Living in New England has its ups and downs. Yes, it’s cold and snowy in the winter, and sometimes getting from our sleepy suburbs to the city of Boston can take what seems like hours (the traffic!), but when autumn rolls around, we couldn’t be happier. The leaves change their color from green to orange, yellow, and red and our farmers’ markets come alive with the best fall has to offer: crisp, local apples, squash, and pumpkins of every size and shape imaginable. And of course, no matter where you live, Jack-O-Lanterns—some scary, some silly—dot just about every doorway.


Liz spotted this awkward adolescent pumpkin while walking through her neighborhood. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, pumpkins contain seeds, so they are technically considered a fruit … and not a vegetable.

Fall foliage in New England

Trees from Maine to Massachusetts ignite the sky every autumn. It’s a feast for the eyes …

On this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio podcast, we turned our attention from autumn leaves to pumpkins. Pumpkin is nutritious and versatile, which is why we added it to three recipes this week: Healthy Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes made without the usual cupfuls of sugar and butter; Pumpkin Banana Smoothie, which we make with a third cup of pureed pumpkin, banana, and Greek yogurt; and Pumpkin Waffles, a filling and nutritious breakfast favorite … even with Janice’s pumpkin-hating teenage daughter.

Pumpkin Waffles via

Canned pumpkin has less water than fresh, so the nutrients in canned are more concentrated. Half a cup of canned, pureed pumpkin has 40 calories, zero milligrams of sodium, 4 grams fiber, 15 percent potassium, and well over a day’s worth of vitamin A.

Pumpkin Waffles

Makes 8 Servings

Frozen waffles are fine when you’re in a pinch or need something fast for breakfast (be sure to look for whole grain options at the market), but when you have time—and a waffle maker, of course—give our pumpkin waffles a try. For this recipe, we slip some needed nutrients into kids’ diets (things like calcium, fiber, and vitamin A) by using whole wheat flour, walnuts, and canned pumpkin. You can top each waffle with walnuts, pure maple syrup, and low fat or fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt. {You can also find this recipe in our cookbook, No Whine with Dinner and our new recipe app, Meal Makeovers.}

  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts halves
  • 1 cup all purpose all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup expeller pressed canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

2.  Finely chop the walnuts. Whisk together walnuts, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk milk, pumpkin, eggs, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.

4.  Lightly oil or coat hot waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter onto center of lower grid (about 2 cups, or amount specified for your waffle iron) and cook on medium to medium-high setting until done, 2 to 4 minutes. Repeat with remaining cooking spray and batter.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 waffle):  310 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated, 1.6g omega-3), 310mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 9g protein, 80% vitamin A, 20% calcium, 10% iron

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Feel free to share your favorite pumpkin recipes with us. We’re always on the lookout for more family-pleasing ideas!

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

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

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Lori's Health Shake via

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

A Gluten-Free Recipe for Autumn Apple Quinoa Salad + “Meal Makeovers,” Our Recipe App

We recently launched our new recipe app, Meal Makeovers, available on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch. On this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio podcast (episode 228), we dish about the app and share our latest recipe for Autumn Apple Quinoa Salad. This gluten-free recipe is nutritious thanks to the quinoa, apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, and Cheddar cheese as well as versatile.

Meal Makeovers app - quinoa salad

You can find our Autumn Apple Quinoa Salad on our new recipe app, Meal Makeovers!

Gluten-free apple quinoa salad via

Quinoa is often referred to as an ancient grain, but technically, it’s a seed. It’s gluten free, and we love it in this simple side dish recipe made with apples, walnuts, cranberries, and Cheddar cheese. Read on for the recipe as well as our tried-and-true technique for cooking up fluffy (not mushy) quinoa.

Autumn Apple Quinoa Salad

Makes 6 Servings

Every autumn, our kids go crazy over all the crisp, delicious apples available at the farmers’ market. Snacking on apples is easy—just slice ‘em up and enjoy—but sometimes it’s nice to use them in recipes like this easy side dish. Check out all the great nutrition per serving: almost 1 gram of heart-healthy omega-3 fat, 8 grams protein, and 3 grams fiber.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 ounces reduced-fat white or orange Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium red or green apple, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries

1. Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse very well several times under cold running water. Drain well. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place the quinoa in the skillet and “toast,” stirring frequently, until the quinoa is dry and gives off a nutty aroma, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the water or broth in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the “toasted” quinoa and stir well. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy, 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and fluff gently with a fork every few minutes until the grains cool.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper until well combined. Set aside.

5. Gently stir the cheese, apples, walnuts, and cranberries into the quinoa. Stir in the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 1 cup): 330 calories, 18g fat (4.5g saturated, 0.9g omega-3), 190mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 8g protein, 10% calcium

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To learn more about our Meal Makeovers app, check out the description in the iTunes store.  And for more quinoa recipes, scroll down for links to some of our other creations …

Maple Quinoa Crunch
> Maple Quinoa Crunch

> Greek Quinoa Salad with Feta and Dill

> Crunchy Quinoa with Almonds and Apricots

> Polka Dot Squash Quinoa

A Lunch Box Recipe for Grape-For-You Pinwheels {Recipe Redux Contest}

We’re a few short weeks into the new school year, and we suspect your kids may be bored with the same ol’ lunch box sandwich offerings already. To shake things up, we created these adorable pinwheels made with lavash bread and a filling of cream cheese, California grapes, rotisserie chicken, and honey.  Our pinwheels are sweet and savory, nutritious, and they’re sure to turn heads in the cafeteria.

grape and chicken pinwheels

This recipe is part of a Recipe Redux contest sponsored by the California Table Grape Commission, and we are eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. We were not compensated for our time.

grape pinwheels

The beauty of pinwheels is that pretty much anything goes. In our cookbook, No Whine with Dinner, we have a pinwheel with cream cheese, honey mustard, lower-sodium lunch meats, shredded carrot, and a sandwich pickle. Another fun idea … peanut butter, jelly, thinly sliced bananas, and chopped grapes.

Grape-For-You Pinwheels

Makes 2 Servings

Grapes of all colors—red, black and green—are a natural source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols. One serving of grapes (3/4 cup) contains just 90 calories, no fat, no cholesterol and virtually no sodium, and also provides potassium and are a good source of vitamin K. For a complete lunch box meal, serve our pinwheels with a bunch of grapes, sliced veggies, and a small sweet treat.

  • 1 white or whole wheat lavash flat bread
  • 1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 3 ounces finely chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 8 red or green grapes, each cut into eights
  • 1/2 cup packed baby spinach
  • Generous drizzle honey or agave

1. Cut the lavash in half crosswise. Spread both halves with the cream cheese, and be sure to cover the edges really well. Top each half with the chicken and grapes, and use a spoon or spatula to press the ingredients into the cream cheese. Top evenly with the spinach and drizzle with honey or agave.

2. Starting at the narrow end of the lavash, roll up as tightly as you can until the lavash looks like a cigar. Use  a serrated knife to slice each roll into four pinwheels. Repeat with the other lavash half.

Nutrition Information per Serving (4 pinwheels):  220 calories, 8g fat (4.5g saturated), 150mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 17g protein, 10% vitamin A

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A Healthy Recipe for Honey, I Love You Bars … Plus, Lunch Box Snack Ideas for Kids {Podcast #226}

School is back in full swing for most kids across the country, which means here in The Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen we’re busy cooking up fresh ideas for lunch box and after-school nibbles. On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, we share our newly created recipe for Honey, I Love You Bars, serve up our 7 Smart Snacking Ideas for Lunch Boxes, and give a shout out to some of our favorite dietitians on the web who have also cooked up kid-friendly and nutrient-rich recipes for families. Tune in for all the delicious details.

Homemade granola bars with oats, honey and dates

Perfect for a school lunch box or an after-school snack, our homemade, healthier granola bars hit the spot with hungry kids.

Honey, I Love You Bars

Makes 16 Servings

Sure, you can grab store-bought granola bars, but making them yourself means YOU have all the control over what goes in them. This recipe is simple, flavorful, and packed with nutrition thanks to the whole grain oats, wheat germ (filled with vitamin E, immune-boosting zinc, and bone-building magnesium), almonds, dried fruit, eggs, honey, and almond butter. By the way, if you don’t have dates on hand, any dried fruit would work, and a small handful of mini, semi-sweet chocolate chips would also be quite nice.

  • 1½ cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup pitted dates (use 1½ cups if you like your bars on the chewy side)
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds (whole, slivered, or sliced)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup smooth almond butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Place the oats, dates, almonds, wheat germ, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped (the dates should be the size of a dried pea or lentil).

3. Whisk together the eggs, almond butter, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add the oat mixture and stir to combine.

4. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan, and flatten gently with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula.

5. Bake about 16 to 18 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. Let cool completely in pan before slicing into sixteen 2 x 2- inch bars.

TIP: These bars freeze really well. So, if you have leftovers, wrap individual portions in plastic baggies or aluminum foil and freeze.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 bar):  150 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated), 100mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein

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Ingredients for homemade granola bars

There’s plenty of flexibility with this recipe. Don’t like dates? Use dried apricots, cranberries, raisins, or apples instead (or a combo). Not a fan of almonds, swap ‘em out for walnuts or pecans!

Honey granola bars

Snactivism Graphic

Do you ever feel like kids snack ALL THE TIME? Kids get about 500 calories each day from snacks alone, and sometimes, those snacks are filled with sugar, refined carbs, and artificial ingredients … and not much more. To improve the GPA of all those snacks and to empower parents to change the culture of snacks from cupcakes and chips to fruits, veggies, and whole grains, our friend and fellow dietitian, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD from Real Mom Nutrition has started a grassroots effort called, Snacktivism. The campaign, according to Sally’s website, is about finding a better way, thinking twice before serving snacks (are the kids really hungry?), and offering whole foods like fruits and vegetables as the default choice. We couldn’t agree more and hope you’ll visit Sally’s website to learn more …

Happy snacking everyone :)

A Recipe for Blueberry Banana Snack Cake: Back-to-School Snack to Fuel Hungry Kids

Back to school time brings on the challenge of filling kids’ tummies with nutritious meals and snacks to fuel them throughout the day. Snacks can be especially tricky since kids tend to gravitate to salty, fatty processed foods like chips, cookies, and crackers devoid of the good nutrition they need for their bodies and their brains. This recipe for Blueberry Banana Snack Cake hits the spot as an after-school snack—serve a slice with a tall glass of low-fat milk—and it’s also ideal as a mid-morning snack to hold kids over until the lunch bell rings.

Blueberry Banana Snack Cake

Blueberry Banana Snack Cake

Makes 8 Servings

We adapted this recipe from the Raspberry Breakfast Cake in our second cookbook, No Whine with Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms. This version is still packed with great nutrition thanks to the whole wheat flour, flaxseed, egg, banana, and blueberries. If you have toddlers, the recipe will serve eight. If you have two teenage boys (i.e., Liz’s house), expect the cake to disappear very quickly.

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 ripe, mashed banana (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries

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

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

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, banana, milk, sugar, oil, lemon juice, and vanilla until well blended.

4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Arrange the blueberries evenly over the top.

5. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool (or serve while it’s still warm).

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 slice): 190 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated, 1.3g omega-3), 200mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g protein

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Blueberry Banana snack cake


A Recipe for Make-Your-Own Salad in a Jar {Recipe Redux, August Challenge}

Getting more vegetables into kids’ tummies (and your tummy too) can be a challenge especially when they tend to turn their noses up to all things green … or yellow … or red … or orange. One thing we’ve always found with “picky” eaters is that it’s more than possible to get them to eat their veggies with gusto with some clever mommy marketing. So that leads us to our latest veggie-filled recipe for Make-Your-Own Salad in a Jar. It’s cool. It’s fun. And it’s playful. Any time you lay out a bunch of ingredients and ask the kids to “create” a meal with what’s in front of them, they’ll be hooked on green, yellow, red, and orange for good. And that’s the point of this recipe.

Salad in a Jar

For this month’s Recipe Redux, we were challenged to “raise the bar on food in a jar.” We’ve done several posts over the years on canning — from pickles to strawberry jam — and we recently shared a recipe for homemade granola layered with yogurt and fruit in mason jars, so we decided to go in a different direction this time by using Mason jars as vehicles for a nutritious make-your-own salad. This salad is perfect for school lunches (more on that in a minute) or a lunch any adult can bring to work.

Salad ingredients

For our Make-Your-Own Salad in a Jar, we used quart-size Ball jars. We then set out a bunch of salad ingredients: lettuce, baby spinach, croutons, roasted chicken, peeled and thinly sliced jicama, diced red bell peppers, cubes of reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, white kidney beans, Mandarin oranges, toasted pecans, shredded carrot, and dried cranberries.

BU interns help with recipe development

Our awesome Boston University interns, Lauren and June, were on hand to build the perfect salad in a jar. Start with one to two tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing. Layer with the “solid” ingredients next , and then top with salad greens. When you’re ready to eat, shake up the jar to coat everything with the dressing. For school or office lunches, you may want to pack along a cute bowl or plate, because eating straight from the jar can be a bit tricky; most plastic forks are not long enough to reach the bottom!

The sky is the limit when it comes to the make-your-own ingredients. Here are a few others to consider: flaked canned tuna or salmon, lightly toasted walnuts or any other nut, roasted beets, cooked grains like quinoa or farro, diced tomato, chopped hard boiled eggs, sliced mushrooms, and diced avocado. Oh, we’re having fun now!

We can’t wait to see what our fellow Recipe Reduxers came up with for raising the bar on food in a jar :)

My Trip to Traverse City, MI for the Annual Tart Cherry Harvest {Podcast #224}

Close your eyes and imagine a clear blue lake so vast that it looks like an ocean, a hilltop of trees dripping with clusters of ruby red jewels, and a food that’s tart to the taste buds yet impossibly addictive, versatile, and exploding with great nutrition. Welcome to Traverse City, Michigan, the Cherry Capital of the world. Well, make that the Tart Cherry Capital. I’ll tell you all about it on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast and share a new recipe for Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, so be sure to tune in …

Tart cherries, Traverse City, MI

I was invited by The Cherry Marketing Institute to attend an educational cherry harvest event in Northern Michigan. I was compensated with travel and lodging expenses; all comments and opinions are my own.

Two special guests join us on the show this week to highlight the harvest and the nutritional benefits of tart cherries: Phil Korson, President of the Cherry Marketing Institute and Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD.

Tart cherrise in Traverse City, MI

My visit to Traverse City and the surrounding region was magical on so many levels. As a bona fide foodie, the town literally made me giddy with happiness, and I’m not making that up. Everywhere you turn, you see, smell, and taste cherries … not to mention gorgeous views of the lake. From shops like Cherry Republic that sell cherry salsa, cherry jams, and dark chocolate covered dried cherries to cherry-themed aprons, pot holders, and glassware … to cherry wine, the little crimson gem is celebrated by everyone from farmers to families who visit each year for the annual Cherry Festival. Traverse City is charmed with cherries :)

Growing Montmorency cherries in Traverse City, MI

Don Gregory owns Cherry Bay Orchards, and he was our ambassador during the Go Tart cherry harvest tour. Don explained how cherry trees are grown on hills where the temperatures are more moderate (hot air rises!), how they thrive in sandy soil, and how 99.9% of the crop is “processed” … which turns out to be a good thing. The tart cherries (as well as the sweet ones) grown in places like Michigan are fragile, so they don’t travel well. That’s why most are “processed.” After the pits are pinched out, the cherries end up frozen, dried, or as juice or juice concentrate. (Most fresh cherries sold at markets across the U.S. are sweet cherries from places like Washington state where the fruit has less moisture and holds up better when shipped.)

Machine shakes cherries from the trees

Harvest season takes place in July and early August and lasts about four weeks. This piece of machinery literally shakes the cherries off the trees, and during the harvest, trees are shaken 24/7. At Cherry Bay Orchards, 40 million pounds of cherries are shaken off trees each year, and most are the tart Montmorency variety. For a 15-second video of shaking, check out my Instagram page.

Tart cherry harvest

The fragile fruit is quickly submerged into water baths to cool them down and cushion their short journey to the nearby processing facility. Believe it or not, this container holds 1,000 pounds of cherries plus 1,000 pounds of water!

Did I mention that cherry juice is a natural addition at cocktail hour? Here I am at the Boathouse Restaurant with friend and fellow dietitian, Carolyn O’Neil.

Tart Cherries in Traverse City, MI

Eating tart cherries right off the tree was a treat … and no, I did not partake in a pit spitting competition. Pictured above: tart cherries, cherry crumb pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company, cherry guacamole at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, cherry balsamic vinegar at Fustini’s, and snack time at the orchard.

So … moving on to nutrition. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD was on hand to share the latest health news on tart cherries. Here are some highlights:

> Half a cup of dried cherries has nearly 50% vitamin A, and they’re also a good source of potassium and fiber.

> The antioxidant compounds found in bright red tart cherries are called anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation in the body. Those anti-inflammatory properties “cool the fire” of pain and inflammation in muscles and joints.

> Tart cherries are good for heart health. Research shows they help to lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation.

> Eating cherries may reduce the risk of a gout attack by up to 35%. Over eight million Americans have gout, so adding tart cherries to the diet could offer some welcome relief.

> Looking for a better night’s sleep? Drinking tart cherry juice (8 ounces in the morning and 8 ounces at night) may reduce insomnia and help people get more Zzzzzzs.

For even more info on the harvest and the latest nutrition studies, tune in to Cooking with the Moms! If you want to see more amazing photos of tart cherries check out the blog post by my RD colleague, Regan Miller Jones, at  Healthy Aperture blog.

 Lake Michigan outside Traverse City

Until next time …

(For all of my Traverse City photos, visit our flickr page.)

To read more about Traverse City and cherry harvest, visit the following blogs:
> Family Fresh Cooking: Very Cherry!
> Healthy Aperture: Ingredient Spotlight: Tart Cherries
> What’s Gaby Cooking: Chocolate Cherry Coconut Cookies
> Nutrition Unplugged: Happiness Does Grow on Trees: Celebrating Cherry Season in the Heart of Cherry Country
> Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Michigan’s Tart Cherries: The Harvest, Michigan’s Tart Cherries: So Proud, Sour Cherry Galette with Cream Cheese Crust
> Family Feed Bag: Michigan Tart Cherry Chutney & Goat Cheese Crostini
> The Kitchn: How Cherries are Shaken off the Tree

A Recipe for Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and the Lowdown on Tart Cherries

I recently returned from Traverse City, MI for the tart cherry harvest, and in a few days, I’ll be sharing all about the trip. I’ve never spent time in Northern Michigan (my loss completely), and I certainly hope to return some day soon. While you wait on the edges of your seats for more details on the tart cherry harvest and all the great nutrients found inside this bright red fruit, I thought you’d enjoy my recipe for Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. Bake up a batch or two and let me know what you think, and be sure to check back in a few days for my blog post and a Cooking with the Moms podcast devoted to cherries.

Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I was invited by the Cherry Marketing Institute to join them for the Cherry Harvest in Northern Michigan. They paid for my travel, but all opinions on this blog are solely my own. Everyone in the group was sent home with a bunch of goodies including dried Montmorency cherries. So I decided to use them in this new better-for-you cookie.

dried tart cherries

Nearly 100% of the tart cherries grown in Michigan are pitted and then frozen or turned into dried cherries or juice. Dried cherries can be eaten out of hand as a snack, added to trail mix, used in cookies and other baked goods, sprinkled over salads, used in salsas, and lots more …

A half cup of dried tart cherries has 200 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and an impressive 45% vitamin A.

Cherry Chocolate Oat Cookies

Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 24 Cookies

Kids love cookies, but like any sweet treat, it’s best to not go overboard. I’m happy to report that you can feel good about giving your kids these cookies. Made with whole grains—oats, wheat germ, and whole wheat flour—and other nutritious ingredients like dried cherries, pecans, and eggs, they’re an AOK addition to the cookie jar!

  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup pecans, finely or roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup expeller pressed canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil and then lightly oil or coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2. Whisk together the oats, pecans, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir until just moistened. Mix in the cherries and the chocolate chips.

4. Working in batches, scoop the batter by rounded tablespoon and place on the prepared baking sheets. Wash your hands (it will be easier to work with the batter), and then flatten slightly with the heel of your hand, forming 2¼ to 2½-inch cookies. Leave about 1 inch between each cookie.

5. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cookie):  170 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated), 80mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g protein

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cherry pie at Cherry Republic

Indulging on cherry pie with my friend and fellow dietitian, Janet Helm at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, MI. I’m not much of a pie maker; cookies are definitely more my culinary speed :)

Tart cherry trees, Traverse City, MI

More on the tart cherry harvest coming soon …

A Recipe for Lower-Sugar Strawberry Jam, Summer Vacation Memories, and a Giveaway for a Ball FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker {Podcast #223} — GIVEAWAY CLOSED

Who wants some homemade strawberry jam? We made a few batches recently, and let’s just say they’ve been disappearing quickly from our refrigerators. On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, we share our latest recipe for Mom’s Strawberry Jam, rave about our new Ball FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker (we’re giving one away, so read on), and tell you all about our vacation adventures in Nantucket and New Hampshire so far this summer. Plus, you loved him on our Composting for Dummies podcast, so Janice’s husband, Don, is back on the show this week to tell us about his childhood jelly-making memories.

Homemade, lower-sugar strawberry jam

In true Meal Makeover Mom fashion, our goal with this recipe was to lower the sugar a bit. We followed the directions in the Ball recipe booklet but then tweaked it a bit by adding a few more strawberries and a little less sugar.

And now … The Back Story on our Strawberry Jam:

Local New England strawberries

Our local strawberry season here in New England comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Lucky for us, back in late June, Janice’s friend Catherine surprised her with a flat of fresh-picked strawberries from western Massachusetts. Coincidentally, Ball had just sent us a complimentary Jam & Jelly Maker to try out, so the berries were immediately put to good use.

Ball freshTech Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker

Janice and her friends tried two different versions of jam. For starters, they opted for Ball’s “Reduced Sugar” recipe which called for 3¼ cups crushed strawberries and 2 cups sugar. They also tried a version with just 1 3/4 cups sugar plus 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar for added flavor.

Ingredients for homemade strawberry jam

What we finally settled on was a lower-sugar jam made with 3½ cups crushed strawberries, 1¾ cups sugar, and we used Ball’s Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin.

Making strawberry jam in the Ball freshTech Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker

How cool is this? To make the jam, all you do is sprinkle pectin in the bottom of the pot along with the crushed fruit and a tiny bit of butter or margarine to help reduce foaming. Four minutes later, add the sugar, top with the glass lid, and less than 20 minutes later, you’ve got jam to put into jars.

Homemade strawberry jam

All of the jam and jelly recipes in the Ball booklet offer a Traditional version and a Reduced-Sugar version. Thanks Ball!

homemade jam

Too cute. Makes a great house-warming or hostess gift!

Mom’s Strawberry Jam

Makes 4 (8-ounce) Half Pint Jars (Recipe adapted from Ball, freshTECH Sweet and Simple recipe booklet)

We’ve taken a stab at canning before, but quite honestly, we’re not the most patient home cooks on the planet. That’s why we were thrilled when Ball sent us their in-a-flash jam and jelly maker. Besides strawberry jam, you can also use it for other jams like peach, sweet cherry, pear, plum, apple, and a bunch of jellies. (For more recipes, you can visit the Ball website.) While we would not categorize our jam as a health food—it still has plenty of sugar—it’s made with real, wholesome ingredients and the flavor is amazing.

  • 3½ cups crushed strawberries (from 7 cups whole, stemmed strawberries, @ 3 pounds) * We used a potato masher to crush the berries
  • 3 tablespoons Ball Low or No-Sugar Needed RealFruit Pectin
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine
  • 1¾ cups granulated sugar

1. Sprinkle pectin evenly over bottom of the pot fitted with the Stirrer. Add crushed strawberries evenly over pectin. Add butter or margarine to help reduce foaming.

3. Press Jam button (the cook time will automatically default to 21 minutes). Press Enter.

3. Wait 4 minutes for appliance to sound 4 short beeps indicating that it is time to add sugar. Add sugar gradually while Stirrer continues running. Place the glass lid on the pot.

4. The appliance will continue to automatically stir your ingredients while it cooks. Stay within earshot of the Jam & Jelly Maker. The appliance will beep again at the end of the process signaling jam cooking is complete. Press Cancel, unplug the appliance, and immediately remove glass lid.

5. Remove Stirrer using a pot holder. Skim foam, if necessary, from top of jam. (From there, the recipe booklet goes on to describe three preserving methods). We simply filled our jars with the fresh jam and placed in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 tablespoon): 30 calories, 0g fat, 5mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g protein, 20% vitamin C

Print Recipe

Ball Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker

Giveaway News: Wouldn’t you love to win the Ball FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker? Well, one lucky winner will soon become the proud owner of one. (Open to U.S. residents only.) To enter the giveaway, tell us why you’d like to win it or share your favorite canning recipe or childhood canning memory.

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 Twitter (@MealMakeovrMoms) or on Facebook.

Please be sure to leave us a new comment every time you do something extra, and GOOD LUCK. The giveaway ends on August 2nd at noon, and as always we’ll use to pick our winner. Good luck!

Disclosure: We received a complimentary Jam & Jelly Maker from Ball, but the opinions and recipe in this post are our own. We were not compensated for this blog post.

An Afternoon with Celebrity Chef Alton Brown … and the Dedication of a Grape Vineyard at Welch’s

Most people know Alton Brown from the hit Food Network TV show, Iron Chef and Good Eats. But we got to know him recently at an event held at Welch’s worldwide headquarters in Concord, MA.

Alton Brown at Welch's grapevine dedication

It was a hot and steamy New England day, but Alton, who hails from Atlanta, had no problem handling the heat at the dedication of a new Concord grape vineyard made with cuttings from the original Concord grapevine, circa 1849. A man named Ephraim Wales Bull developed the grape variety that still thrives today … and the very grape that Welch’s uses in their juices and jellies.

Our interns meet Alton Brown

We attended the event with our interns June and Lauren, and we spent quite a bit of time chatting it up with Alton.

The Meal Makeover Moms with Alton Brown

Alton is as funny in person as he is on TV, and he’s passionate about Concord grapes. Besides their deep, rich flavor, the grape also brings big nutrition to the table.

 Welch's juices

It’s funny, when we think back to some of our favorite childhood foods and flavors, grape juice comes to mind. As kids, the last thing we thought of were polyphenols, but it turns out that grapes are rich in this powerful, health-promoting antioxidant. Polyphenols keep hearts healthy and minds sharp, and they may also help to boost the immune system. Grape juice is made from the entire grape including the seeds and the skin, which have the richest concentration of polyphenols.

grapevines from Welch's

Talk about cool swag: Before we left, everyone had an opportunity to take a Concord grapevine home. Since Liz does NOT have a green thumb, Janice will be planting the vines in her backyard. Stay tuned …

For all the grape science information you could ever ask for, visit the Welch’s wesite. Our colleague, Casey Lewis, MS, RD does a great job outlining the health benefits of grapes.

A Recipe for California Avocado Macaroni Summer Salad … Plus Other Cookout Favorites {Podcast #222} … And a Giveaway for Fresh CA Avocados {Giveaway Closed}

Summer pasta salads are often loaded with mayonnaise, adding gobs of fat but not a whole lot of nutrition. We give classic macaroni salad a makeover by swapping out the mayo for a homemade dressing made with California Avocados, low-fat Greek yogurt, fresh herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, and we feature it on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast. Tune in for our oh-so-healthy mac salad makeover and a second summer recipe for Avocado Beef and Black Bean Burgers. Read on for the recipes and news on our latest giveaway for fresh California avocados and assorted avocado kitchen essentials.

Macaroni salad made with a dressing of California Avocados and low-fat Greek yogurt

From the July 4th holiday right through Labor Day, take advantage of gorgeous, seasonal produce from farmers’ markets or your own backyard gardens. And don’t forget about local avocados from California, they’re in season right now through September.

California Avocado Macaroni Summer Salad

Makes 8 Servings

When we think of summer holidays, classic macaroni salad comes to mind. We lighten it up with our own avocado-inspired dressing, and then we toss in diced avocado, tomato, and corn kernels. And, of course, we use whole grain pasta! The addition of the avocados adds heart-healthy monounsaturated fat as well as nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

  • 3 cups dried whole wheat blend macaroni
  • 3 ripe Fresh California Avocados, halved, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, packed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen and thawed)
  • Basil and mint, chopped (garnish)

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. While the pasta is cooking, place an avocado half in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add the yogurt, basil, mint, olive oil, two tablespoons of the lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper and process until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

3. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Cool completely. Stir the dressing into the pasta until well combined. Meanwhile, cut the remaining avocados into 3/4-inch dice. Gently stir into the pasta with the tomatoes, corn and the remaining lemon juice.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with additional chopped herbs, and serve.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 370; Total Fat 19 g (Sat 3 g, Trans 0 g, Poly 2 g, Mono 13 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 140 mg; Potassium 670 mg; Total Carbohydrates 44 g; Dietary Fiber 10 g; Total Sugars 4 g; Protein 10 g; Vitamin A 2044 IU; Vitamin C 24 mg; Calcium 62 mg; Iron 2 mg; Vitamin D 0 IU; Folate 110 mcg; Omega 3 Fatty Acid 0.1 g

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.

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Taping an avocado summer recipe segment for The Daily Buzz

We cooked up this recipe as well as our avocado beef burgers for The Daily Buzz syndicated morning show. Here’s a behind the scenes photo of The Meal Makeover Moms in action with the crew from Video Link.

CA Avocado giveaway

Giveaway News: If you love avocados as much as we do, you’ll definitely want to enter this month’s giveaway for an avocado gift basket. One lucky winner will receive six fresh California avocados, a bamboo cutting board, an avocado apron and tee shirt, a reusable shopping tote, and more. (Open to U.S. residents only.) To enter, tell us your favorite way to eat avocados? Guacamole? A sandwich topping? In an Avocado Key Lime Pie? Share away!

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 Twitter (@MealMakeovrMoms)

Please be sure to leave us a new comment every time you do something extra, and GOOD LUCK. The giveaway ends on July 16th at noon, and as always we’ll use to pick our winner. Good luck!

Disclosure: We created this recipe for the California Avocado Commission and were compensated for the recipe and social media outreach. All opinions are solely our own. For more avocado recipes, you can visit For more July 4th avocado recipes, click here

Get Ready for July 4th Celebrations with Our California Avocado Beef and Black Bean Burgers

If you read our blog regularly or listen to our Cooking with the Moms radio podcast, you must know by now that we go gaga every time we see an avocado. And when local avocados from California become available each spring (they’re at their peak from March to September), the gaga factor goes up even higher. With July 4th just days away—can someone please explain why time always flies by so quickly—we challenged ourselves to come up with a classic beef burger with an avocado-inspired twist.

Beef burger with black beans and avocado.

A recent pilot study on 11 healthy subjects found that eating half of a fresh Hass avocado with a lean hamburger—versus eating the burger on its own—might offer protection against inflammation in blood vessels, a known risk factor for heart disease. Our better burger contains more monounsaturated fat than a typical beef burger (from the avocado), and it’s that type of fat that appears to be good for the heart.

Adding avocado, black beans, and cilantro to beef burgers amps up the flavor and good nutrition

Chopped fresh cilantro adds a gorgeous flavor to our beef burgers. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, swap it out for basil.

NECN summer entertaining

Janice stopped by New England Cable News (NECN) today to tape a live cooking segment featuring our California Avocado and Black Bean Burgers. You can watch the segment on NECN.

Avocado Black Bean Beef Burger

Quiet on the set! Our avocado black bean burger is a star :)

A bag of four CA avocados from Trader Joe’s and we’re all set for the summer cookout season.

California Avocado Beef and Black Bean Burger

Makes 8 Servings

Thanks to the addition of black beans and California Avocado, our burgers boast a boatload of added nutrients: fiber, protein, and good-for-you monounsaturated fats to name just a few. Interestingly, avocados act as a “nutrient booster” by enhancing the body’s absorption of fat soluble nutrients including beta-carotene and lutein, an antioxidant that maintains healthy eyesight as we age.

  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 ripe, Fresh California Avocados, peeled, seeded *
  • 1¼ lb. lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus extra whole leaves for topping
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 8 thin slices reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 8 whole wheat hamburger buns, lightly toasted
  • Thinly sliced tomatoes
  • Lettuce leaves

1. Preheat the outdoor grill to medium.

2. Place the beans on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork or large spoon until smooth, but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

3. Place an avocado half on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork. Transfer to the mixing bowl and stir together with the beans.

4. Add the beef, cilantro, bread crumbs, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and mix until well combined. Divide the beef mixture and shape into patties, each a bit larger in diameter than the hamburger buns. Create a small dimple in the center of the burger patty by pressing down with your fingers.

5. Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160°F, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Place cheese slices on top of patties about 2 minute before done.

6. While the burgers are cooking, slice the remaining avocado into thin slices. Place slices on a serving platter along with the tomatoes, lettuce leaves, and additional cilantro as desired.

7. When the burgers are done, serve on buns and offer toppers on the side.

* Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly. Wash your avocados before cutting.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 burger): Calories 320; Total Fat 13 g (Sat 5 g, Trans 0 g, Poly 0.5 g, Mono 4 g); Cholesterol 55 mg; Sodium 544 mg; Potassium 350 mg; Total Carbohydrates 24 g; Dietary Fiber 4 g; Total Sugars 4 g; Protein 28 g; Vitamin A 679 IU; Vitamin C 6 mg; Calcium 285 mg; Iron 3 mg; Vitamin D 5 IU; Folate 19 mcg; Omega 3 Fatty Acid 0.06 g

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Disclosure: We created this recipe for the California Avocado Commission and were compensated for the recipe and social media outreach. All opinions are solely our own. For more avocado recipes, you can visit

A Father’s Day Breakfast-in-Bed Recipe for Crunchy Oat-y Granola

When Mother’s Day rolls around, we love all the attention from our families, so we’re paying it forward this year for Father’s Day with a hearty, dad style, breakfast-in-bed recipe. Our Crunchy Oat-y Granola is easy enough for your kids to make on their own (or with supervision depending on their ages), and it’s extra special when layered with low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt and fresh berries. Our homemade, better-for-you granola is delicious, nutritious, and every bite says, “Dad, I love you!”

Crunchy Oat-y Granola via

We prefer Greek yogurt to regular because it’s got double the protein; something dads are sure to appreciate.

DIY Granola via

One of the things we love about most store-bought granolas is the clusters. To achieve crunchy clusters, we added an egg white to the recipe, which gave us the results we were looking for. (Check out our blog post on how to store and use leftover egg yolks.)

Crunchy Oat-y Granola

Makes 12 Half-Cup Servings
(You can easily cut this recipe in half if you’d prefer a yield of three cups granola versus six)

This recipe is flexible, so if your hubby (or dad) happens to be a bit picky—yes, some guys can be finicky at times—you can make plenty of adjustments. You can use raisins or currants versus cranberries, pecans or almonds versus walnuts, or leave out the shredded coconut if you please. And when it comes time to build the parfait, any flavor yogurt or fruit works just fine. We hope dads will appreciate our homemade granola for its flavor as well as its heart healthy attributes. Instead of butter in this recipe, we use canola oil which is high in omega-3 fats and low in saturated fat. The good news: Canola oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

  • 3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, optional
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup expeller pressed canola oil
  • 1 egg white (save the yolk for a later use)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly oil or coat two medium-size baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. (If you are making half a recipe, just use one large, rimmed baking sheet.)

2. Stir together the oats, walnuts, sunflower seeds, coconut as desired, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the canola oil, egg white, and vanilla until well blended. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until well coated.

3. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheets and place in the oven side by side. Bake about 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until golden brown. When done, cool about 10 minutes before stirring in the cranberries.

* To make parfaits, use about 1/2 cup granola and layer with your favorite low-fat Greek yogurt and fresh sliced fruit.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1/2 cup granola): 320 calories, 20g fat (1.5g saturated, 1.7g omega-3), 55mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 7g protein, 10% vitamin C

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Crunchy Oat-y Granola

Visit for more breakfast-in-bed and brunch recipes as well as complete nutrition information.

Disclosure: CanolaInfo is currently a Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen sponsor, and we created this recipe on their behalf. We were compensated for our work. Our ideas and opinions are our own.

Foods to Keep You Cool on Hot Summer Days … And a Recipe for Watermelon Pomegranate Pops

Late last week, I got a call from NECN, a local TV station here in the Boston area, asking me to come in and record a segment on what to eat and drink on hot days to keep you cool. After several days of 90-plus degree weather, the segment was timely to say the least. To watch the segment, visit the NECN website.

Watermelon Pomegranate Pops

During the “live” segment, I gave four tips including this one: Make Homemade Frozen Fruit Pops to stay hydrated and to cool down. Making your own pops avoids the excess sugar found in many store-bought brands … and the artificial colors. These Watermelon Pomegranate Pops are featured in our cookbook, No Whine with Dinner, and it’s the simplest recipe in the book.

Watermelon Pomegranate Pops via

Photo taken with the Camera + app and edited in Instagram.

Watermelon Pomegranate Pops

Makes 4 Servings

Any 100% fruit juice and any fruit can easily be blended together and then frozen for refreshing pops. You can always add some Greek yogurt for protein and calcium!

  • 1½ cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 cup 100% Pomegranate blueberry juice *

1. Combine the watermelon and juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into four 3-ounce ice pop molds and freeze until firm, about 3 hours. To remove the pops from the molds, run under warm water to loosen. If you don’t have ice pop molds, divide the liquid between four paper cups. Cover each cup with foil, insert one craft stick through the center of each foil, and freeze.

* We like Minute Maid Enhanced Pomegranate Blueberry juice. If you can’t find it, pomegranate juice would work just fine as would apple juice.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 pop): 30 calories, 0g fat (0g saturated), 0mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g protein, 15% vitamin C

Print Recipe

Other ways to keep cool when the mercury rises …

Hydration via

Drink a Lot of Water! If water doesn’t float your boat, flavor it naturally with slices of cucumber, oranges or other citrus, strawberries, and mint to break from the boredom.

Go Heavy on Fruits and Veggies. Produce contains a lot of water, it’s easy to digest, and when you freeze it, you get the added cooling effect. I love frozen grapes (thaw them out for a few minutes so they’re just easy enough to bite into), blueberries, and even peas.

NECN hydration segment

And my final tip, Eat Spicy Foods like chili peppers. Capsaicin, the natural chemical in spicy foods that makes them hot,  helps to cool you down. Capsaicin revs up blood circulation, which brings more blood from the core of the body to the skin’s surface. And it dilates capillaries in the skin. The net result is that it makes you sweat, which helps to regulate body temperature. When you perspire, the moisture on your skin evaporates, and when it evaporates into the air, it brings some of your body heat with it. To feel the effects even more, stand in front of a fan.

Watermelon Pomegranate Pops

Feel free to share your favorite frozen pop recipes with us!

A Memorial Day Dessert Recipe to Add Color, Flavor, and Great Nutrition to Your Family’s Diet: Apple, Rhubarb & Berry Crisp

You’ve been asked to bring dessert to a Memorial Day cookout this weekend. You look through your go-to recipes but you want something new, something different, and perhaps something a little lighter and healthier than what’s been in your recipe box (which, of course, is now online) for years. If you own a copy of No Whine with Dinner, consider our recipe for Nutty Apple Crisp. It’s made with apples and blueberries and an oat-based crust. Or, if you happen to have rhubarb growing in your garden or recently discovered some at your local market, try my new crisp makeover made with apples, blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb!

Apples, rhubarb, berries for crisp via

A Pink Lady apple, fresh rhubarb, blueberries, and strawberries come together naturally for my simple fruit crisp. By the way, your kids are going to love this recipe (well, at least, mine do)!

Rhubarb from Wilson Farm in Lexington MA via #rhubarb

Several times a week I stop by Wilson Farm (in Lexington, MA) for their gorgeous produce or one of their wholesome take-out items, and just this week, I discovered their “own” rhubarb. I immediately grabbed some and got to work on a new recipe. The farm is walking distance from my house, and I’m so lucky to have it in my neighborhood. Wilson’s has been growing, as they say, since 1884, and I hope they’re around for a few more centuries.

Apple, Rhubarb, Berry crisp via

Here’s what the crisp looks like before it gets topped …

Apple, Rhubarb & Berry Crisp via

And here’s what it looks like when the topping is layered over the fruit.

Apple Rhubarb Crisp via

Getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies (did you know rhubarb is technically a vegetable?) is easy with this recipe for Apple, Rhubarb & Berry Crisp. I limit the amount of sugar to just 1/3 cup in the filling and 2 tablespoons in the topping. You can increase the brown sugar a bit if you prefer a slightly sweeter crisp. Rhubarb has a mouth-puckering, tart flavor, so you’ll need some sweetness added for sure.

Apple, Rhubarb & Berry Crisp

Makes 6 Servings

Rhubarb is low in calories, contains antioxidants (all veggies do), and interestingly, the red stalks have more vitamin A than the green. The combo of three fruits—apples, strawberries, blueberries—and one veggie—rhubarb—comes together beautifully for this warm-weather dessert. The crisp topping is just as wholesome, made with oats, pecans, and wheat germ. I served the crisp with “creamy” low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt versus the usual high fat ice cream or whipped cream. To make this recipe gluten free, use GF oats and flaxseed.

  • 8 ounces rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces strawberries, quartered (you can cut smaller berries in half)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 large Pink Lady apple (or any other sweet, firm apple), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ (I used Kretschmer Original Toasted) or ground flaxseed
  • A few pinches kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons expeller pressed canola oil
  • Low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, and apples in a large bowl and stir gently to combine. Add 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon and stir gently until the fruit is evenly coated.

2. Place the fruit mixture in an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish and set aside.

3. To make the topping, place the oats, pecans, the remaining brown sugar, wheat germ, the remaining cinnamon, and kosher salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the oil and stir until the oat mixture is well coated. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit mixture.

4. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden brown. (Cover with foil about halfway through to prevent the topping from browning too quickly.) Serve with vanilla Greek yogurt as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 270 calories, 15g fat (1g saturated, 0.8 omega-3), 5mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 4g protein, 50% vitamin C

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Apple Rhubarb & Berry Crisp via

I’m a pushover for pretty dishes, and this Juliska bowl really makes my day! I’m not sure my kids appreciated eating out of it, but for me, it made the crisp that much sweeter :)

On a final note, Wilson Farm is now carrying our cookbook, No Whine with Dinner. Here it is, as of today, in the farm’s new cookbook section! Stop by the farm if you’re ever in the area, and have an awesome Memorial Day Weekend!

A Mother’s Day Recipe for Peanut Butter Crepes with Strawberry Sauce … and a Sneak Peek at my Recent Trip to Napa

I’ve never made crepes before—at least not that I can remember—but they’re super easy to make, even if you’re a kid with a dad hovering over your shoulder. These peanut-butter filled crepes are the perfect breakfast-in-bed treat for Mother’s Day … and they’re healthy too! All YOU have to do is copy the recipe and pass it along to your family. HINT HINT!

Peanut Butter Crepes with Strawberry Sauce via #MothersDay #Breakfast #Nutrition

Many of the crepe recipes I’ve seen are made with lots of butter (yes, I used some, but not much, and I used “light”), filled with all sorts of decadent cream cheese-laden ingredients, and topped with whipped cream. My crepes are a lot lighter, which is something I know you moms will appreciate. They provide a nice helping of protein thanks to the heart-healthy peanut butter and the Greek yogurt, and they’re filled with vitamin C from the strawberries. Plus … they are gorgeous to look at.

Peanut Butter Crepes with Strawberry Sauce via #MothersDay #Breakfast #Nutrition

The motivation for making crepes was twofold: First, it’s Mother’s Day, and when we asked our Facebook fans what they would love as a breakfast-in-bed surprise for Sunday, crepes topped the list (along with waffles). Second, last weekend, I traveled to Napa, CA for a food and nutrition conference sponsored by the Peanut Institute. We spent some time at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone where a peanut butter crepe recipe was demonstrated. My recipe is a version of that one.

This is the view from my window as we flew towards California. A feast for the eyes!

Culinary Institute of America

A chef at the CIA demonstrated an interesting technique for making crepes. She suggested blending the crepe batter ingredients—a quick way to get everything incorporated—and said the key to crepe success is a nonstick pan. You can certainly use a lot less butter that way.

Peanut Butter Crepes with Strawberry Sauce via #MothersDay #Breakfast #Nutrition

Peanut Butter Crepes with Strawberry Topping

Makes 6 Servings

Peanuts are one of nature’s most nutrient-rich foods. Hmmm … where to begin? They contain vitamin E, which research shows boosts the immune system and lowers heart disease risk. They also contain more arginine (an amino acid) than any other food; arginine improves circulation and may help to lower blood pressure. And studies indicate that when people include peanuts and peanut butter in their daily diets they have lower BMIs and body weight. The nutrient analysis for this recipe is per crepe, and I suggest you serve it with lots of fresh, sliced strawberries on the side. (Recipe adapted from the Culinary Institute of America.)

  • One 12-ounce bag frozen organic strawberries (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch, divided
  • 3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 large egg (preferably an omega-3 egg)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons light butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup 0%-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • Sliced fresh strawberries for topping, optional
  • Powdered sugar, optional

1. Place the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and a pinch of the salt, in a small or medium saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue to cook at a low boil, stirring every few minutes, until the berries break down and the mixture is nice and syrupy, 15 to 20 minutes. To speed things up, use the back of a spoon to smoosh the berries against the side of the saucepan as you stir.

2. Remove the berries from the heat and transfer to a bowl (you’ll have about 1 cup of sauce). Let cool to room temperature, or cover and place in the refrigerator for later use.

3. To make the crepes, place the milk, egg, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of the melted butter, 1/8 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a blender and blend until smooth and all ingredients are incorporated.

4. Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush the pan with a bit of the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place a scant 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and swirl to form an even layer. Cook until the bottom is lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Use a spatula to flip the crepe and cook an additional 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining butter and batter. (You can make the crepes ahead of time, cover, and place in the fridge. Before assembly, simply heat each crepe for about 10 seconds in the microwave.)

5. To assemble, spread 2 teaspoons peanut butter on each warm crepe. Spread on about 1 tablespoon of the strawberry sauce. Fold the crepes in half and then in half again to create a triangle. Top or serve with Greek yogurt, the remaining strawberry sauce, and sliced berries and powdered sugar as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 crepe):  200 calories, 9g fat (3g saturated), 150mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 9g protein, 40% vitamin C

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Post a comment and let me know what you had for Mother’s Day!

Disclosure: I do not work for the Peanut Institute, but my travel expenses associated with the conference were paid for.  All opinions and recipes are mine and the scientific research addressed in this post is based on peer-reviewed, published studies.

A Recipe for Do-It-Yourself Chocolate Syrup … Plus Other DIY Recipe Mixes (Podcast #217)

When you assemble things like taco seasoning mix, pancake mix, and your own mixes for chocolate syrup and creamed soups, you end up saving money, using less packaging, and getting unpronounceable ingredients out of your family’s diet. This week on our Cooking with the Moms radio show, we chat with fellow dietitian, Melanie Zook, MA, RD from Fresh Start Nutrition about the benefits and how-tos of DIY recipe mixes … and we share our recipe for Beef & Bean Taco Bundles, which relies on Melanie’s from-scratch seasoning mix.


You won’t find high fructose corn syrup in Melanie’s chocolate syrup mix; just simple ingredients right from the pantry. While her mix is not sugar free, you certainly know what you’re getting in each spoonful.


A little bit of chocolate syrup goes a long way when it comes to drizzling over fresh strawberries or swirling into a cool glass of low-fat milk.

Do-It-Yourself Chocolate Syurp

Makes About 28 Tablespoons

Melanie suggests using organic ingredients when possible. To be exact, she uses the fair trade, organic evaporated cane juice, available at BJs and Costco.

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a small saucepan, and whisk together gently.

2. Whisk in water. Bring mixture to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract.

3. Cool the mixture, place in a container, and store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Information per Serving (2 tablespoons): 90 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g protein

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Many thanks to Melanie for coming onto our show and for serving up her DIY mix creations. (Photoed above: DIY Chocolate Syrup and our Beef & Bean Taco Bundles.)

A Patriot’s Day Pancake Breakfast … and a Recipe for Apple Walnut Pancakes

Time flies. I can’t believe it’s already mid April and that another Patriot’s Day celebration has come and gone. Yesterday was the Patriot’s Day parade in Lexington, MA where I live, and today, I stopped by one of the many pancake breakfasts that take place each year at area churches. After the breakfast, Simon and I cheered Tim on as he ran in the 99th annual Lions Club Patriot’s Day 5 mile road race. This morning, before we were all off and running, I cooked up a brand new pancake recipe … just for YOU. (This is becoming a habit; last Patriot’s Day, I created a recipe for Silver Dollar Banana Blueberry Pancakes.)

I love the whole grain oats and whole wheat flour in this recipe, the naturally sweet flavor, and the stick-to-your ribs factor!

Even though my pancakes are better than the ones we typically get at Pancake Breakfast (not that I’m bragging or anything), it’s still a wonderful tradition, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Our favorite spot for pancakes is the First Baptist Church; we love the pretty blue plates, and they raise a lot of money for charity.

I’m glad Tim ate my apple pancakes before the race. He finished in about 38 minutes!

Apple Walnut Pancakes
Makes 5 Servings (14 -15 pancakes)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, flaxseed, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and yogurt until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the apple and walnuts until combined.

3. Lightly oil or coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Pour the batter onto the hot skillet using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, forming 4-inch pancakes.

4. Cook until bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the pancakes and the bottoms turn golden, about 3 minutes. Adjust heat if the bottoms brown too quickly. Flip, flatten gently with a spatula and cook until the other sides are golden, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining cooking spray and batter.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 3 pancakes): 330 calories, 11g fat (1.5g saturated, 1.1g omega-3), 350mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 12g protein, 30% calcium, 15% iron

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Hmmm. What to cook up for next year’s Patriot’s Day? :)

A Recipe for Apple Crisp Snack Parfaits, A Recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus, and Snacking Tips for Teens (Podcast #216)

As a mom of two teenage boys, I spend a lot of time getting meals and snacks on the table. Josh turns 18 next week, and he has a fuel tank (AKA stomach) that’s impossible to top off. Simon, 14, has never had as big an appetite, but lately, he seems to be catching up to his big brother. Soccer season has kicked off for both boys, and Simon definitely has the golf bug; after school, he’s gotten in the habit of hitting (fake) golf balls around the back yard! On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, we share snacking tips for teens and two recipes: Apple Crisp Snack Parfaits and Roasted Carrot Hummus.

Once his homework is done ….

… Simon hits the back yard “links.” Then, it’s snack time! My goal when serving smart snacks is to pack as many good quality calories into each ravenous bite. Fruit, whole grains, and calcium-rich ingredients are always top of mind. Nine to 18-year olds need 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day — that’s more calcium than any other age group — because during the tween and teen years, bones are growing rapidly. (For more information, check out our Kids & Calcium fact sheet.)

Cooked apples, warmed red grapes, crunchy whole grain cereal, low-fat vanilla yogurt, and pure maple syrup come together quickly for this super-nutritious snack.  You can also serve these snack parfaits for breakfast.

Apple Crisp Snack Parfaits

Makes 2 Servings

Getting high-quality calories into teens’ tummies can be a challenge, especially when they’re left to their own devices. Teens tend to grab for sugary drinks and salty snacks, but with these apple crisp parfaits, you can easily tempt them back to good nutrition. Any whole grain cereal works well in this recipe, but if you’re gluten free, try the new lineup of gluten-free granola cereals from KIND. (They recently sent us some free samples and we were quite impressed!)

  • 1 tablespoon buttery spread or butter
  • 1 large apple, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup red grapes, halved (I used Muscato grapes)
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2/3 cup whole grain granola cereal (I used KIND Healthy Grains Gluten-Free Granola)

1. Place buttery spread in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 10 minutes. Stir in the grapes, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until warmed through, 2 minutes.

2. To create the parfaits, place a generous 1/4 cup of the apple mixture in the bottom of two parfait glasses (or any other pretty glass). Top each with 2 tablespoons yogurt and 3 tablespoons cereal. Repeat with the remaining apple mixture, yogurt, and cereal. You can build these parfaits while the apple mixture is warm, or you can cool it slightly first.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 parfait): 320 calories, 9g fat (2.5g saturated) 100mg sodium, 57g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 7g protein, 10% vitamin C, 15% calcium

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Even teens can be picky eaters. If that’s the case in your household, be sure to serve our parfaits in attractive glasses. The back story behind these glasses will make you laugh: I found them on the side of the road in my neighbors trash. As they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”

I found Muscato grapes at Whole Foods, but any variety of grape would work wonders in this recipe.

Carrot Hummus.2 001

We created this Roasted Carrot Hummus for our friends at HumanaVitality. It goes great with carrot and celery sticks, cucumber wheels, bell pepper strips, or baked tortilla chips.

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