Just in Time for Passover, A Recipe for Mushroom Matzo Kugel

The second Passover seder is tonight, though I must admit that I celebrated the holiday early this year. Over the weekend, we visited my family in Connecticut where we sat down to my mom’s best-in-the-world matzo ball soup and my niece’s hardest-in-the-world-to-find afikomen. I made two vegetable side dishes for the meal: Roasted Fennel and Carrots with Pecorino from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentis and a Sweet Potato and Apple Kugel from Martha Rose Shulman of the New York Times.  Now that I’m back home, I thought it would be fun to treat my immediate family to a new recipe tonight for Mushroom Matzo Kugel.


Fresh herbs can turn a simple side dish into something sensational!

Use regular or whole wheat matzo. If you can’t find cremini at your local market, use portobello or button mushrooms.

Mushroom Matzo Kugel
Makes 12 Servings

Kugels are often sweet, but once in a while, I like to cook up something more savory for Passover. This kugel is made with matzo — use whole wheat if you can find it at the market — and lots of chopped up vegetables. The herbs add a flavor punch and look lovely as a garnish.

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 10 matzos, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups all-natural vegetable broth
  • 4 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the  mushrooms release their liquid and the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the parsley and thyme.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, place the matzos in a large bowl. Add the broth and stir to combine. Stir every minute or 2 until the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the matzo mixture to the cooked vegetables and stir to combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the eggs. Transfer the matzo mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered, until set, about 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil after 30 minutes if the top of the kugel begins to brown too much. Garnish with additional parsley and thyme.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 180 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated), 220mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 6g protein, 40% vitamin A

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My sister, Amy, hosted Passover this year. We had my mom’s matzo ball soup, and Josh, who is turning 18 in less than a month, ate us out of house and home. (See plate piled high with kugel, mashed potatoes, brisket, green beans, and salmon!)

Josh, Tim, and Uncle John on the left / John, Simon, and Cousin Andrea on the right. (Hey, I just noticed the cell phones on the table. Those teens better not have been texting…)

Wishing everyone who celebrates a happy and healthy Passover.


My Visit to Napa Valley and a Recipe for High-Pro Guaco (AKA Gluten-Free Quinoa Guacamole)

I spent a few glorious days in Napa Valley recently for the Food & Culinary Professionals‘ culinary workshop at the Culinary Institute of America. Wow, that’s a lot of culinary in one sentence, and I certainly experienced a lot of culinary magic during my time there. In an upcoming Cooking with the Moms podcast, I’ll be talking about my trip, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few tidbits and a fabulous recipe that I sampled.

One highlight of the workshop was a visit to the new studio kitchen of Cheryl Forberg, RD (dietitian for The Biggest Loser TV show) where I sampled this High-Pro Guaco from her latest book, Cooking with Quinoa for Dummies.

I had seen Cheryl’s kitchen a couple of years ago when construction began, and it was amazing to see the finished product. Having just completed a six-month renovation of my own kitchen, it was great fun to compare notes! Just when I thought I had a big kitchen suitable for videos and cooking demos, Cheryl’s kitchen knocks it out of the park; it seats an impressive 50 people. What an amazing place to cook.

High-Pro Guaco

Makes 3 Cups

You can serve this as an appetizer with tortilla chips or as a side dish or lunch. I sampled this gluten free, quinoa-filled guacamole at Cheryl’s house, and I was delighted when she packed up a container for me to take on the airplane ride back to Boston.

  • 1 cup cooked black quinoa
  • 3 ripe Haas avocados
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup drained, diced canned fire-roasted tomatoes or diced fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Chipotle Puree*
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt

1. If you don’t have cooked quinoa on hand, cook the quinoa according to package directions and set it aside to cool.

2. Halve, seed, and peel the avocados; then dice them into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the diced avocado and the lime juice in a medium-sized mixing bowl and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combing the fire-roasted (or fresh) tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, Chipotle Puree, and salt. Mix well.

4. Add the tomato mixture and the cooked quinoa to the avocado cubes. Toss gently and serve immediately with corn chips.

*To make the Chipotle Puree, puree one 7-ounce can chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce with 1/4 cup water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Store leftover puree in the refrigerator for up to a month and use a teaspoon or two to spice up your recipes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (2 tablespoons): 46 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated), 55mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g protein

Print Recipe

Here I am taking a picture of Cheryl’s flock of chickens, known as the “girls.” I’m a little jealous of Cheryl’s relaxed life in the beautiful countryside of Napa Valley. On my final night of the trip, I stayed with Cheryl and savored a fresh, hard-cooked egg for breakfast, courtesy of one of these lovely ladies.

Here is what you might eat if you spent the night at the home of the dietitian for The Biggest Loser TV show: quinoa breakfast cereal with nuts, a locally-grown kiwi, a fresh hard-cooked egg, and a steaming cup of cappuccino. I can’t wait for my next trip!

Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store … And a Recipe for Rainbow Veggie Coleslaw

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a producer at NECN, a TV station here in the Boston area. The station runs a segment called, Money Saving Mondays, and they asked me to help with a piece on saving money at the supermarket. What followed was an afternoon shoot at my house featuring the following cost-cutting tips: (1) Cook in the Slow Cooker, (2) Choose Inexpensive Cuts of Meat, (3) Pack Lunch vs. Going Out to Eat, (4) Go Meatless at Least Once a Week, and (5) Drink Tap Water vs. Buying Bottled. I also created a new recipe for homemade coleslaw to go with the slow cooker Pulled Pork Primavera Sandwiches showcased in the segment.

Why buy prepared coleslaw when you can make it yourself with better-for-you ingredients …

I just discovered this colorful coleslaw mix from Mann’s. I adore the addition of tiny broccoli florets. How cute. Read on for my new coleslaw recipe … and click here to watch the NECN segment on saving $ at the supermarket.

Making family meals in the slow cooker or Ninja saves big because I’m able to cook A LOT of food all at once. For example, with our Pulled Pork Primavera Sandwiches, I make sandwiches one night, quesadillas filled with pulled pork, corn kernels, sauteed diced bell pepper, low-fat shredded cheese, and BBQ sauce the next, and I date and freeze anything that is left over.

Rainbow Veggie Coleslaw

Makes 6 Servings

This is an easy veggie side dish for sandwiches, grilled anything, or fish tacos.

  • 1/4 cup 2%-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat canola mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard
  • One 12-ounce bag rainbow salad (I used Mann’s)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons roasted & salted pumpkin seeds
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

1. Place the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and honey mustard in a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Add the veggie mix, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds and stir well until evenly coated with the yogurt mixture.

2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 3/4 cup): 70 calories, 2.5g fat (0g saturated, 0.2g omega-3), 140mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 2g protein, 45% vitamin A, 50% vitamin C

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Lesley Gaydos, reporter extraordinaire from NECN and mom of three, happily taste tested my pulled pork, quesadillas, and salmon salad. And so did her crew :)

French Fries and Fried Chicken Made with Less Fat … and a Giveaway for a T-fal ActiFry!

This month, we’re giving away a kitchen gadget that’s sure to please every French fry lover and fried chicken fan out there! We were recently given the opportunity to try out an ActiFry appliance from T-fal, and we were super pleased with the results. And now, one lucky blog reader or Facebook fan will have a chance to win one.

We made two recipes in the Acti-Fry. The first was these French fries which called for just one tablespoon of oil. They disappeared quickly.

We made the Real Crispy Fries from the ActiFry cookbook using 1¾ pounds of Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch by 3-inch pieces. We placed them in the unit, drizzled 1 tablespoon of canola oil on top, and then set the time for 30 minutes. Voila. Crispy fries!

We also made fried chicken, inspired by a blog post for Korean Fried Chicken from Pig Pig’s Corner. We used 1½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cutting each thigh into thirds). We then created a coating with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1 large egg, 2 teaspoons 1% low-fat milk, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. We coated the chicken with the batter, placed it into the ActiFry with 1 tablespoon of canola oil, and then “fried” the chicken for 35 minutes. Dip in ketchup, or create your own sauce with your favorite seasonings.

GIVEAWAY NEWS: We’re all for eating a moderate amount of healthy fats, but adding to much fat to the diet — shortening, butter, and other oils high in saturated fat — can raise cholesterol levels and pack on the calories. This handy kitchen appliance cooks up a wide variety of dishes using just one tablespoon of oil. It works by distributing hot air, which circulates and evenly cooks the food. And now, we’re pleased to be giving one away ($250.00 value).

TO ENTER: Leave a comment here or on Facebook and tell us why you’d love to win an ActiFry and/or why you’re trying to cut back on the fat in your everyday cooking.

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 February 8th at noon, and as always we’ll use Random.org to pick our winner. Good luck!

A Hanukkah Recipe for Potato Carrot Latkes and Why I Make Them Just Once a Year

Once a year, I put on my game face, don my apron, tell my manicure “bye bye,” shred potatoes, and make a Hanukkah favorite, latkes (AKA potato pancakes).

Latkes are messy and fussy (AKA potchke) and they smell up the house … but they are worth every miserable minute! Yesterday, my son, Simon, walked in the house after I made this batch of Potato Carrot Latkes and declared, “It smells like latkes … gimme some!”

My latkes are pretty traditional, but for this recipe, I added some shredded carrot (golly gee, I just couldn’t resist), and I try not to go overboard on the oil. I use 2 to 3 teaspoons for every 6 latkes.

When I was a kid, my mom made the best latkes in the world … and she still does. She also makes the best applesauce in the world. My kids call it “Bubby’s Applesauce.” I’ll be replicating her applesauce recipe over the holidays and promise to blog about it then. :)

Potato Carrot Latkes
Makes 16 – 20 Latkes

  • One 1 pound baking potato
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Canola oil

1. Peel the potato and shred by hand using the large holes of a box grater. For ease, I lay several layers of paper towel on a cutting board and shred the potato directly on the towels. The goal is to shred a third of the potato at a time. I spread the shredded potato over the towels and roll up jelly-roll style. I twist the towel to wring out as much of the liquid as possible. I like to change out the towels once per batch.

2. Once the potatoes are dry, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the carrot, onion, egg, dill, flour, salt, and pepper until well combined.

3. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. (If you want to make that a generous teaspoon, go for it.) Working in batches of 6 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture per latke into the skillet, spreading into flat rounds using the back of a fork. Reduce the heat slightly and cook until the bottoms are browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the latkes, add 1 more teaspoon of oil, and cook until the other sides are browned, 5 more minutes. Adjust heat accordingly. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil and latkes.

4. To keep the latkes warm, place them on a baking sheet and pop it into a warm oven.

I told you making latkes is messy work!

If you’re a fan of latkes or just want to give them a try (misery loves company), check out our Sweet Potato and Ginger Latkes.

A Festive Recipe for Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce from PLENTY by Yotam Ottolenghi … and a Creative BFF Holiday Gift Swap

Many of us have annual holiday traditions, and this year, I started a new one with my four best girlfriends. Instead of the usual Yankee Swap or gift-giving grab bag, we each purchased “our favorite thing” and gave it to everyone.

Five friends + four gifts each = 20 gifts under my friend Meg’s Christmas tree …

I put a lot of thought into my gift and ultimately decided to give everyone a copy of the gorgeous vegetable cookbook, PLENTY: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. To add a special zing to the gift, I offered to prepare a side dish for our holiday dinner. Hmmmm. What to make? Well, that was easy. I chose the Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce featured on the cover of the cookbook.

Thankfully, everyone raved about this recipe. It was festive and beautiful — perfect for a holiday table with those pomegranate seeds — and the flavors were super interesting: creamy eggplant, earthy thyme, zesty buttermilk sauce, and sweet/tart pomegranate seeds.

Surprise! Everyone was blown away with their copy of PLENTY. It made it even more fun since Wendy, Meg, Marcia, and Michele had just devoured the eggplant dish shown on the book’s cover.  And yes, it tasted as good as it looked.

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce
Makes 4 Servings

I served the eggplant as a side dish with baked salmon (compliments of our host, Meg), and I made a few tweaks to the dish. Instead of two large eggplants, I used four small ones. I couldn’t find lemon thyme at the market so I used regular thyme, and instead of buttermilk, I used 1% milk and added a few squeezes of lemon juice. This recipe definitely benefits from more than just a pinch of salt; I used kosher salt and seasoned generously. {Recipe sourced from Plenty}

  • 2 large and long eggplants
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish (I used regular thyme)
  • Maldon sea salt and black pepper (I used kosher salt)
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar


  • 9 tablespoons buttermilk (I used 8 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk and about 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2% fat plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don’t eat it). Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

2. Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil—keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the lemon thyme leaves and some salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.

3. While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane.

4. To make the sauce. Whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

5. To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with lemon thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

My friend, Meg, sets THE most amazing holiday table. Every year, she comes up with a theme and then outdoes herself. This year she created this peacock with materials she found at Michaels Arts and Crafts store.

My BFFs went all out at our holiday dinner. Wendy treated us to a cool and hip Jonathan Adler serving platter, Michele spoiled us with Dior mascara, Marcia gave us all happy feet with these playful Boot Standz, and Meg came up with PowerLine so we could all decorate the insides of our cars with Christmas lights (no kidding).

Feel free to weigh in with your holiday food, party and gift highlights so far this season.

Recipe Redux “Vintage Side Dish” Challenge: Green Bean & Wild Mushroom Casserole … Plus, How We Managed to Test This Recipe Without a Working Oven

It’s Recipe Redux time again, and for this month’s Vintage Side Dish challenge, we updated a time-honored holiday classic: Green Bean Casserole. Traditionally made with frozen green beans, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and topped with French’s French Fried Onions, we felt a made-from-scratch makeover was in order. Deciding not to be too Scrooge or extreme with our recipe renovation, we kept the creamy base with a saucy mix of mushrooms, shallots, a roux of evoo and flour, and low-fat milk, and we played around with two different topping options. And somehow we managed to do it all without a working oven between us. Read on for a tale of two ovens and the recipe.

Green Bean Casserole via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

We couldn’t decide which topping to go with so on one side, we added Trader Joe’s Fried Onion Pieces (not the healthiest topping in the world but an element some folks love too much to give up) and on the other, we used a mix of crushed Corn Flakes, chopped pistachios, and grated Parmesan.

Green Bean & Wild Mushroom Casserole

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

Vegetable side dishes are our favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. But with cans of creamy soups, gobs of butter, and handfuls of full-fat cheese, classic veggie recipes can lose their healthy halo! For our recipe redux, we lightened things up and added big-time umami with the button and shiitake mushrooms.

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

Topping / Choice 1:

  • 1 cup fried onion pieces (we used Trader Joe’s brand)

Topping / Choice 2:

  • 1 cup corn flake cereal, coarsely crushed
  • 1/4 cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the green beans and blanch for 5 minutes. The water will come back up to a boil after about 2 minutes, but your total blanch time should be from the time the beans hit the water until the 5-minute kitchen timer rings. Drain the beans in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallot, salt, pepper, and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender and have given off most of their liquid, about 7 minutes.

3. Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the flour into the mushroom mixture and cook for 1 minute. Whisk the milk and soy sauce slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.

4. Stir the beans into the sauce until combined. Transfer to a casserole dish and top evenly with either the onion pieces or with a mixture of the corn flake cereal, pistachios, and Parmesan cheese.  Bake until the topping turns golden and the sauce is bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (with onion topping): 170 calories,10 g fat (3g saturated), 230mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein, 15% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 15% calcium
Nutrition Information per Serving (with corn flake topping): 160 calories, 9g fat (1.5g saturated), 230mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 6g protein, 15% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 15% iron

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Our updated green bean casserole with a savory mushroom sauce and some retro Thanksgiving-themed tableware and decorations purchased by Liz at a local tag sale.

So are you ready for the tale of our two ovens? For starters, Janice has no oven. In fact, she has no kitchen. That’s because she’s in the middle of a giant kitchen renovation. For the past few months, we’ve been testing recipes at Liz’s house. As for Liz’s Jenn-Air oven, the other night as she was testing a new recipe for corn flake coated, oven-roasted chicken thighs, her oven became possessed, switched itself onto broil, and proceeded to burn the chicken to smithereens. Thankfully, Liz heard the oven alarm go off before the chicken caught on fire, but the oven was kaput. Needless to say, it’s tough to test recipes when you have no oven.

Here is a photo to prove that Liz is NOT making up this story …

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving everyone. Now feast your eyes and appetites on the dozens of other better-for-you holiday recipes created by Recipe Redux registered dietitians from across the worldwide web :)
get the InLinkz code

Greek Quinoa Salad with Feta and Dill and a Guide for Cooking Quinoa So It Turns Out Fluffy Every Time!

What do you prefer? Mushy quinoa or fluffy quinoa? If you’re like us, fluffy wins every time! But achieving fluffy vs. mushy quinoa can be a challenge, especially if you follow the manufacturers directions stated on most packages. After chatting online with our Facebook fans and Twitter followers, we merged a myriad of suggestions and came up with the ultimate, bottom-line, best-ever technique for cooking quinoa … not that we’re bragging or anything. What follows is our step-by-step Quinoa Cooking Guide and a recipe for Greek Quinoa Salad with Feta and Dill.

We’re all about veggie-filled meals and fun, fresh flavors, and that’s exactly what you get with this easy-to-make salad. Serve it as a side dish or a main meal.

Looking for fluff versus mush? Check out our guide for turning out airy quinoa every time:

> 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.

> Meanwhile, place desired amount of liquid in a saucepan and bring to a boil. We recommend a ratio of 1 cup quinoa to 1½ cups liquid — water, vegetable or chicken broth, apple juice.
Please note that our ratio is different from what you typically see on package instructions, but trust us, it works. Also, most recipes suggest mixing the liquid with the quinoa and then bringing the mixture to a boil.  With our technique, we recommend boiling the liquid first before adding the quinoa.

> Add the “toasted” quinoa to the boiling liquid and stir well. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid 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.

Greek Quinoa Salad

Makes 4 Servings

We love this salad as a side dish for grilled fish or chicken or on its own as a satisfying lunch. As for kids … they LOVE it too!

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1½ cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 medium orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • A quarter of an English cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

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. Stir in the bell pepper, chickpeas, cucumber, feta cheese, olives, dill, and lemon zest until well combined. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Stir into the quinoa mixture until the salad is well coated with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 generous cup): 360 calories, 17g fat (3.5g saturated), 460mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 10g protein, 15% vitamin A, 50% vitamin C, 10% calcium, 20% iron

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Coming soon to the blog …. Almond Cranberry Quinoa Bowl!

What are some of your favorite quinoa recipes? What do you think of our cooking technique? Do tell!!

Orange Foods for Fall … And a Recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils and Walnuts (Podcast #203)

Every autumn, farmers’ markets and local farm stands display their finest seasonal vegetables: winter squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Over the weekend, dietitians from across the web had a chance to show off their best “orange” recipes as part of the monthly Recipe Redux blogger cooking challenge, and over 60 dietitians did just that. We joined the fun with a recipe for Orange Cauliflower Tex Mex Casserole. One dish that caught our eye (and our stomachs) came from Food Confidence, a blog written by fellow dietitian, Danielle Omar. So on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, we serve up Danielle’s hearty autumn recipe and offer umpteen reasons why it’s a good idea to add nutrient-rich, orange foods to your family’s diet. We hope you’ll tune in … and we hope you’ll eat more orange!

Butternut squash and other orange-colored foods are packed with beta-carotene, a phytonutrient that gets converted in the body to vitamin A. As for its health benefits, this awesome antioxidant helps to boosts the immune system and protects against conditions like cancer and heart disease.

Danielle’s recipe calls for one to two cups of cooked lentils. Lentils are easy to prepare, but if you don’t have time, you can always let someone else do the work for you. Trader Joe’s has a steamed lentil product that’s pretty darn good!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils and Walnuts

Makes 6 Side Dish Servings

We made one small change to this recipe. Instead of buying the whole butternut squash, we took a shortcut and used the peeled, pre-cut squash instead. That affected our cooking time, and we ended up using a bit less evoo. The flavors of this recipe can best be described as sweet and tart with a tiny hint of salty.

  • One 20-ounce package peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots (about 1 small shallot)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

2. Cut the butternut squash pieces into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil, the maple syrup, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Place the squash evenly on the baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and tender, about 25 minutes. Toss once or twice during cooking to ensure even baking.

4. While the squash is roasting, Combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat a bit, and maintain at a low boil until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the mustard.

5. Place the cooked lentils in a serving bowl. Add the roasted squash and the walnuts. Spoon the vinaigrette over the salad and stir gently until well coated. (*When Liz made this, she added half the vinaigrette and reserved the rest for a last-minute drizzle at the table.)

Nutrition Information per Serving (a generous 1/2 cup):   260 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated, 1g omega-3), 85mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 5g protein, 200% vitamin A, 35% vitamin C, 10% iron

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In case you haven’t had a chance to check out our Orange Cauliflower Tex Mex Casserole recipe yet, here it is!

Recipe Redux October Cooking Challenge: Orange Cauliflower Tex-Mex Casserole

Every month (well, almost every month), we participate in the Recipe Redux dietitian blogger cooking challenge. This month’s assignment: A recipe featuring orange food. We have two fabulous nutrition students from Boston University who are interning with us for the semester, so we asked them to create an orange recipe and write a guest post.

Sophie and Annette were like kids in a  candy store when we dropped them off for a scouting mission at Wilson Farm in Lexington, MA. They grabbed a bunch of orange foods including Rugosa Squash (we blogged about this heirloom variety last week) and these gorgeous heads of orange cauliflower.

Read on for the guest post and the recipe! (And while you’re at it, be sure to check out Annette’s blog, Food Science Nerd!)

Hi Everyone. We’re Sophie and Annette, and we’re seniors at Boston University. Sophie is originally from England and Annette grew up in Durham, NC. Coming out to Liz’s house in Lexington for the past few weeks has been a nice break from our fast-paced, always-studying lives in Boston. And since both of us love to cook, we’ve enjoyed our time in the temporary MMM Kitchen (The Moms usually cook at Janice’s house but her kitchen is getting a makeover)! We had a blast cooking this casserole for the Recipe Redux, and we can’t’ wait to read all of the other posts.

Some of our favorite finds at the farm (from top left) were the Cinderella pumpkins (shout-out to Annette’s Disney obsession), the golden beets, sugar pumpkins, and small “fancy” gourds, but we decided the best option for this challenge was the orange cauliflower.

Sophie had a flashback to a childhood favorite called Cauliflower Cheese. Her mum (that’s what they call “moms” in the UK) made this recipe all the time using a lot of butter and Cheddar cheese, so we decided to use it as the starting point for our recipe redux.

The original Cauliflower Cheese recipe was handed down to Sophie’s mum from her grandma. Now, we’re turing it into a lighter but equally flavorful Meal-Makeover-Mom-approved version. To do that, we replaced the butter with olive oil to increase the amount of heart-healthy fats and replaced the whole-fat cheese with reduced fat.  We also reduced the amounts of both ingredients to lower the overall calories and fat.  We spiced up the recipe with green onion, cumin, and chili powder and added extra crunch with a sprinkle of Panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

This is what it looks like, all bubbly and crunchy straight out of the oven!

Orange Cauliflower Tex-Mex Casserole

Makes 6 to 8 Servings (7 cup yield)

Who could turn down cauliflower with a recipe like this one? It’s so comforting! By the way, if you can’t find orange cauliflower, use the regular white. It’s still packed with great nutrition.

  • 1 large head of orange cauliflower cut into 1-inch, bite-size florets (about 9 cups)
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 green onions thinly sliced, white and light green parts
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 ounces shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (1 cup)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour 1/2-inch of water into the bottom of a medium-size saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Place the cauliflower in a steamer basket and lower into the pot. Reduce the heat to a low boil, replace the lid, and steam the cauliflower until crisp tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a 7 x 11-inch baking dish and set aside.

2. Carefully empty the water from the saucepan and wipe away excess moisture with a paper towel. Place the oil in the saucepan, and heat over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and whisk constantly until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Whisk the milk, cumin, and chili powder slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce evenly over the cauliflower. Stir together the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top. Place in the oven and bake until the cheese bubbles, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Reposition rack in upper third of oven and preheat broiler. Place casserole back in oven and broil until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 1 cup):  170 calories, 8g fat (3g saturated), 230mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 11g protein, 190% vitamin A, 110% vitamin C, 25% calcium

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Don’t be fooled by how indulgent this dish tastes! One cup of raw cauliflower has only 25 calories, and orange cauliflower has the added benefit of higher amounts of carotenoids, the antioxidants that give this veggie its orange color.  One 1-cup serving of this casserole provides 25 percent calcium, thanks to the low-fat milk and Cheddar cheese, a dash of phytochemicals from the cumin, and a whole serving of veggies.

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An Autumn Recipe for Roasted Rugosa Squash

We’ve just returned from the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Philadelphia, PA and we’re crazy busy organizing our thoughts for a Cooking with the Moms podcast episode dedicated to the 2012 conference. We plan to publish it to iTunes this Friday, so bear with us. While you’re waiting for the show to hit the airwaves, we thought you’d enjoy our latest recipe for a super-duper nutritious side dish featuring Rugosa Squash.

Rugosa is an heirloom squash that originated in Italy. It’s also referred to as wrinkled butternut and violin squash. We found this weird-on-the-outside, gorgeous-on-the-inside vegetable at Wilson Farm in Lexington, MA.

Since neither of us owns a machete, we bought the squash cut and seeded :)

Squash is rich in immune-boosting vitamins A and C and brings a boatload of fiber (and great flavor) to the diet. Roasted or steamed and then mashed, it’s a great first food for babies and toddlers.

Roasted Rugosa Squash

Makes 5 to 6 Servings

Rugosa is similar to butternut squash, but it’s definitely bolder in flavor and the texture is denser and almost creamy.

  • 2 to 3 pounds Rugosa Squash, cut lengthwise and seeded (we used two, 1.5 pound halves)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • A few pinches each of ground cinnamon, kosher salt, and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the squash, skin side down, on a baking sheet. Place half a tablespoon of butter in each squash cavity. Sprinkle cinnamon, salt, and pepper over the squash.

2. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the squash is fork tender, an additional 30 to 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the squash. Slice into 2-inch pieces and serve family style on a platter.

You can even eat the skin once it’s baked!

A Mediterranean Small Bites Cooking Class and a Recipe for Green Pea Hummus

Every summer I host a team-building cooking party for a group of “Future Leaders” from the National Fisheries Institute. This is the second year the cooking class was held at Create a Cook in Newton, Massachusetts, a place where kids and adults can sign up for hands-on cooking classes. The menu featured Mediterranean small bites — everything from our Grilled Salmon with Avocado Tarragon Sauce to Green Pea Hummus to Lobster Mango Salad with Sweet Vanilla Dressing — and all the leaders, whether seasoned cooks or novices in the kitchen, had a chance to prepare and share a recipe.

Made with everyday ingredients, this Green Pea Hummus with toasted focaccia bread, was easy to make, and I’m sure it’s something my family would love.

Through hands-on learning and networking with industry peers, NFI’s “Future Leaders” program nurtures the next generation of leadership within the seafood industry. Each year, the group has an opportunity to travel to Boston for an array of activities including the cooking party. Read on for the hummus recipe and highlights from the night.

Green Pea Hummus
Makes 30 Servings

This recipe is adapted from The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian by Sally Butcher. It’s an interesting change from traditional chickpea hummus, and I think it would be great as a sandwich spread as well as a dip. Peas are a good source of vitamin A, bone-building vitamin K, and a host of antioxidants. I hope you like garlic!

  • 2 pounds frozen peas
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • Juice of 3 to 4 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime
  • 4 loaves of Focaccia Bread

1. Bring the peas to a boil in a pan of water and cook for around 5 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water.

2. Pop them in the blender along with the tahini, lemon, garlic, oil, cumin, and parsley. Blend well. If too stiff, add some cold water to loosen it up.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juice, and serve with toasted focaccia bread.

 Future Leaders at work making one of my favorite dishes of the night … Thai Shrimp Tacos with Slaw.

Homemade pasta being expertly prepared for the Manti Turkish Ravioli with Spiced Lamb and Yogurt.

Under the watchful eye of Chef Sam, everyone was intent on chopping and measuring their ingredients just right.

In keeping with the small bites theme, our Grilled Salmon with Avocado Tarragon Sauce from page 84 of No Whine with Dinner was turned into pop-in-your-mouth pieces. You can also make the sauce with cilantro instead of the tarragon.

 Before everyone headed into the kitchen, I showcased a few unusual ingredients including kaffir lime leaves, daikon radish, and tamarind paste, and I demo’d how to “hedgehog” a mango and slice and peel an avocado.

 I gave away two copies of No Whine with Dinner. Alex,a leader from New York, won a copy for knowing that in addition to seafood, Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium, a mineral that may lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.

 Nick from Seattle, my other lucky winner, has four kids under the age of seven, so I just had to give him a book!!

NFI’s website, AboutSeafood.com, is a great resource with recipes as well as useful information about buying and cooking seafood and health and nutrition. Check it out …

Summer Burgers Get a Healthy and Flavorful Makeover with a Recipe for Minty Lamb Burgers with Walnuts and Feta (Podcast #196) PLUS a Giveaway for Williams-Sonoma Melamine Dinnerware

Lights, camera, action! Last week, Janice appeared on Boston’s FOX 25 Morning Show to dish about summer burger makeovers. The three recipes she showcased on the segment were our Mushroom Burgers with the Works with a Basil Cannellini Spread, Minty Lamb Burgers with Walnuts and Feta, and Berry Biscuit Burgers. We chat about our favorite burger makeovers, alfresco dining, and share the latest nutrition news on lamb on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast. Tune in and read on for the scoop on our latest giveaway for a set of four Williams-Sonoma durable plastic Bastille melamine dinner plates, a gorgeous serving platter, and a grilling thermometer (value $100).

Traditional beef burgers get a makeover with our new recipe for Minty Lamb Burgers with Walnuts and Feta. Ground lamb is a nice change of pace from the usual ground beef and turkey. Three ounces has about 200 calories and 12 grams of fat and the taste of the meat can best be described as rich and slightly stronger in flavor than beef. Serve our burger makeover on whole grain buns and top with lettuce, tomato, and our Cucumber Mint Topping, and you’ve got a burger makeover worth bragging about!

Don’t eat that burger! Janice gets a little silly before the segment goes “live.”

Every time you fire up the backyard grill, cook up a bunch of vegetables … or fruit. On the set, Janice showed off these beautiful kebabs made with chunks of pineapple, mushrooms, and diced red and orange bell peppers. Brush with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper before placing on the grill.

Minty Lamb Burgers with Walnuts and Feta

Makes 6 Servings

Ground lamb is one of those foods that you try and say sheepishly, “Wow, where has this been all my life?!”  Janice’s 12-year-old daughter, Leah, asks for lamb burgers every time she lays eyes on the outdoor grill! To put the nutritional benefits of lamb in perspective, one of our burgers provides about half of Leah’s protein requirement for the day along with a host of other nutrients including selenium and zinc, minerals important for a healthy immune system.

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A few cranks of freshly ground black pepper
  • Six whole wheat hamburger rolls
  • Lettuce leaves, tomato slices, Cucumber Mint Topping, optional

1. Preheat the grill to medium.

2. Gently combine the lamb, walnuts, feta, mint, salt, cinnamon, and pepper in a large bowl. Divide the mixture and shape into 6 patties, each about 4 inches in diameter.

3. Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160 degrees, about  5 minutes per side.

4. Serve on the burger buns with lettuce, tomato, and Cucumber Mint Topping as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 burger): 390 calories, 21g fat (7g saturated, 1.2g omega-3), 420mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 25g protein, 10% calcium, 25% iron

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Cucumber Mint Topping

Makes 4 Servings

  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1/2 cup plain 0%-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped mint
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Peel the cucumber, slice in half lengthwise, and remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into thin half-moon slices.

2. In a bowl, combine the cucumber, yogurt, mint, and salt and pepper to taste.

For more lamb recipes, visit LeanOnLamb.com.

Our Mushroom Burgers with the Works get topped off with grilled red onions, slices of fresh mozzarella, lettuce, and tomato. And the basil bean dip on the side makes a creamy yet nutrient-rich and low-fat topping.

Food stylist, Ginna from Kitchen Consultants, helped Janice with the food prep and presentation. What a pro!

GIVEAWAY NEWS:  Thanks to our friends at the Tri-Lamb Group, we’re giving away some terrific essentials for an alfresco dinner.  One lucky blog reader, podcast listener, or Facebook fan will win a set of four Williams-Sonoma durable plastic Bastille melamine dinner plates, a serving platter, and a grilling thermometer (value $100).

TO ENTER: Leave a comment here or on Facebook and tell us about your favorite cut of lamb and how you like to prepare it. We will enter you into the giveaway additional times if you …

> Subscribe to our RSS feed.
> 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 August 17th at noon, and as always we’ll use Random.org to pick our winner.

Disclosure:  Janice is working with The Tri-Lamb Group this summer to create recipes and to help spread the word that lamb is a delicious and nutrient-rich food for families.

French Kids Eat Everything Giveaway and a Recipe for Five-Minute Fish en Papillote (Podcast #195)

Getting kids to eat and LOVE a healthy, veggie-filled diet can be a challenge for some families. Here to the rescue is Karen Le Billon, mother of two and author of the new book, French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters. Wow, that’s a mouthful! Karen joins us on this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio show to chat about her secrets for getting children everywhere to adopt a healthier way of eating and to share two of her recipes: Cauliflower Casserole (also known as Gratin de Chou-Fleur) and Five-Minute Fish en Papillote. We’re also giving away a copy of Karen’s book, so read on for the details.

 Janice made Karen’s five-Minute fish and used two 12-ounce fillets of barramundi.  The flavor of the dish was very lemon-y thanks to the juice of an entire lemon.

Sometimes you just have to improvise. Janice didn’t have any plain yogurt on hand, so she used a combo of light mayonnaise and low-fat sour cream instead.

If you don’t have parchment paper, use aluminum foil. We use it for our Teriyaki Salmon in Foil recipe and it works wonders.

Five-Minute Fish en Papillote

Makes 2 adult Servings

Here’s what Karen has to say about this recipe: “Cooking en papillote means tightly wrapping something (usually fish) in parchment paper and baking it in the oven. The dish steams in its own juices, and the flavors are wonderfully concentrated. Bring the baking dish to the table, and watch everyone’s faces as you unfold the wrapping to release the savory steam.” From French Kids Eat Everything.

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 1 fillet of fish per person (salmon, sole, and halibut are our favorites)
  • 1 medium zucchini (for every 2 fillets), sliced thin (but not peeled)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or mayonnaise or creme fraiche, if you have it)
  • 1/2 cup fresh minced chives
  • Optional: salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Choose a baking dish that’s just big enough to hold the fish in a single layer. On a work surface, spread out a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil that’s twice as big as the dish. Spread the oil over half of the sheet and lay the fish on the oil (skin-side down, if appropriate).

3. Layer the zucchini slices on top of the fish.

4. Mix the lemon juice, yogurt, chives, and salt and pepper, if desired, and pour the mixture on top of the fish.

5. Fold and close the paper tightly so that no steam can escape (I usually make two or three folds with the two edges, then tuck the ends under). Bake for 10 minutes per inch measured at the thickest part of the fish (no peeking!). You’ll know it’s done when it flakes easily when a fork is inserted gently.

Tip: Kids love helping to prepare this meal: wrapping the fish in it’s “cocoon” before it heads into the oven feels festive, like preparing a lovely present.

We adore the French Food Rules outlined in the book. They can all be easily adapted to North American kids: Slow food is happy food (as in eat slow); Remember, eating is joyful; Eat your veggies … think variety; Kids eat what adults eat … no short-order cooking! Karen is a mom after our own hearts :)

GIVEAWAY NEWS: One lucky blog reader, podcast listener, or Facebook fan will win a copy of Karen’s new cookbook, French Kids Eat Everything.

TO ENTERLeave a comment here or on Facebook and give us your BEST tip for getting your kids to eat a healthy diet, packed with nutrient-rich foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, seafood, and beans!  We will enter you into the giveaway additional times if you …

> Subscribe to our RSS feed.
> 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 August 9th at noon, and as always we’ll use Random.org to pick our winner.

The Recipe Redux: Ten-Minute Chickpea Salad with Feta and Basil from Michael Natkin’s New Cookbook, Herbivoracious

For this month’s Recipe Redux blogger cooking challenge, we were charged with creating a no-cook, beat-the-heat recipe for summer. We decided to take the lazy route (hey, after all it’s summer!), and plucked a recipe for Ten-Minute Chickpea Salad with Feta and Basil from the stunning new cookbook, Herbivoracious (Harvard Common Press, 2012). Written by blogger, Michael Natkin, the book features 150 vibrant and original vegetarian recipes … everything from Caramel-Cooked Tofu and Swiss Chard and Tomatillo Enchiladas to Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding.

We had the pleasure of meeting Michael in person back in May at a book launch event in Boston. Michael is a talented cook and food photographer, and he uses big, bold flavors from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia for his meat-free recipes.

We were drooling over Michael’s book when we got word about the Recipe Redux July assignment, so it made sense to see if Herbivoracious had a recipe that fit the bill.  … And it did.

We adapted this recipe a bit based the ingredients in our gardens, from our CSAs, and our kids’ palates. Instead of roasted red or yellow peppers, we used a diced bell pepper. We added some fresh shucked peas and used the zest of the lemon as well as the juice.

Ten-Minute Chickpea Salad with Feta and Basil

Makes 8 Side Dish Servings

Michael, blogger extraordinaire at Herbivoracious, suggests a variation of this recipe with the addition of a few cups of prepared Israeli (AKA pearled) couscous. We love that idea but didn’t do it this time around since our challenge was a no-cook recipe!

  • Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Half a red onion, finely diced
  • Half an English cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 jar roasted red or yellow peppers, coarsely chopped (we used a small yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice)
  • 1 handful fresh peas (about 1/3 cup)
  • 8 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (we also added the zest)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the chickpeas, onion, cucumber, roasted peppers or fresh bell pepper, fresh peas, feta, garlic, basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil in a salad bowl. Toss well.

2. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Depending on how salty your feta is, you might not need any salt.

3. Serve right way, or refrigerate for up to a few hours.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 220 calories, 13g fat (4g saturated), 330mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 8g protein, 80% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 10% iron

Print Recipe

We’d love to have Michael join us as a guest on our Cooking with the Moms radio podcast. Now that his book tour schedule is winding down, maybe we can pin him down. Stay tuned :)

Let’s see what our fellow Reduxers “cooked up” this month!

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A Recipe for Cauliflower Casserole and a Sneak Peak at “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon

We spend a lot of time chatting with fellow moms about strategies for getting their picky eaters to try new foods and to become more adventurous at the dinner table. Now, to the rescue with her own set of strategies is Karen Le Billon, author of the new book, French Kids Eat Everything. Karen will be a guest on our Cooking with the Moms radio podcast in a few weeks, but we in the meantime, we couldn’t resist sharing a few tips from the book and Karen’s simple recipe for Cauliflower Casserole (or as they say in France, Gratin de Chou-Fleur).

We don’t know about you, but we’re always on the lookout for new veggie recipes everyone will devour. This vegetable side dish hits the spot.

The subtitle of Karen’s book is: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters. The “eaters” she’s referring to are her two daughters whose eating habits improved dramatically after a few months living in France, and Karen’s French Food Rules make a lot of sense. We’ll tell you more about them when the podcast goes “live,” but here are a few to whet your appetite:

> Parents: You are in charge of food education.
> Kids eat what adults eat … no short-order cooking.
> Eat your veggies: Key … think variety.
> You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it.
> No snacking: It’s OK to feel hungry between meals.

Karen’s recipe calls for milk in the béchamel (white) sauce. We went with 1% low-fat milk because that’s what we always have on hand. It was perfect. We also added a tablespoon of chopped, fresh tarragon from Liz’s garden because this herb is often used in French cuisine so it made sense to add it (and it turned out to be an awesome addition).

Cauliflower Casserole

Makes 6 Servings

This recipe is adapted from French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon (Morrow, 2012). We changed it up a bit by using 1% low-fat milk (gotta love all the calcium) and 3 tablespoons of butter versus 4 and by adding fresh tarragon.

  • 1 medium-size head cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon (we added 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh tarragon)

1. Put a pot of water to boil on the stove, preheat your oven to 350°F, and butter a medium casserole dish.

2. Meanwhile, add the cauliflower to the pot when the water is at a rolling boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes while making the white sauce.

3. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour, stir well (until the flour is absorbed), raise the heat to high, and stir for 30 seconds. Add the milk and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, and other optional seasonings.

4. To make the topping, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan in a small bowl.

5. To make the gratin, drain the cauliflower (which will be soft but not flopping) and place it in the dish. Pour the white sauce on top, sprinkle with bread-crumb mixture, and bake for 10 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and crunchy.

Nutrition Information per Serving:   190 calories, 9g fat (g saturated), 280mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 9g protein, 100% vitamin C, 20% calcium

Print Recipe

Karen Le Billon is an inspiration, and her ideas for transforming kids’ diets from ho-hum to spectacular are right in line with our Meal Makeover Mom food philosophy. We hope you’ll check out her site and tune into Cooking with the Moms when the show goes “live.” Stay tuned :)

We hope you enjoy this cauliflower casserole as much as our families did.

Roadside Treasures and a Recipe for Waldorf Salad from the Comfort Food Fix Cookbook

If you listen to our podcast, you probably know by now that I’m just a tad bit obsessed with pretty plates, platters, silverware, and glassware. My cabinets are bursting at the seams, and my husband can’t understand why I still go to Home Goods and can’t resist a local tag sale! Last weekend, one of my neighbors put out a For Sale sign along with dozens of boxes and bags destined for the trash. Yours truly could not resist taking a peek, and before you know it, I had happily relocated a few roadside treasures from the curb to my kitchen.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I especially love the funky floral serving dish — made in Italy — which I used for serving the Waldorf Salad from Ellie Krieger’s latest cookbook, Comfort Food Fix.

Janice and I each just received a copy of Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger. Ellie will be on our Cooking with the Moms podcast in a few weeks to talk about healthy summer snacking ideas for families, so we thought it would be fun to cook up a few of her recipes first. Over the weekend (after my little “shopping” spree), I assembled her Waldorf Salad. Josh, my 17-year old son, ate a giant portion. He loves the earthy flavor of celery, so I knew he’d like this recipe. He also said it reminded him of the food at the Mohonk Mountain House, an old-time hotel we stay at with my family every summer. Waldorf Salad is an old-fashioned recipe, so I was not surprised it tasted like the food at Mohonk.

Ellie gives Waldorf Salad a “fix” by creating a light and flavorful dressing with nonfat Greek yogurt, and she amps up the good nutrition by adding grapes, walnuts, and celery to the apple mixture.

Waldorf Salad

Makes 4 Servings

I made a few minor tweaks to the recipe based on what I had on hand. I used low-fat mayonnaise, a bit less celery (I was running low), and a few extra grapes. I could not stop eating this salad! Simon wasn’t crazy about it but then again, he dislikes celery, so his reaction was no surprise. The next time I made it, I’ll pull some out for Simon before I add the celery.

  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek-style nonfat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large red apple, cored and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 ribs celery, diced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup halved seedless grapes

1. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until fragrant and golden. Set aside and allow to cool, then chop coarsely. (I toasted mine in the toaster oven.)

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and black pepper. Fold in the walnuts, apple, celery and grapes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cup): 150 calories, 1.0g saturated fat, 290mg sodium, 3g fiber

Print Recipe

I used my Instagram app for this photo. Don’t you just love it?!

Stay tuned for our Summer Snacking podcast … coming your way soon :)

Eat Whole Grains … and a Recipe for Over-the-Rainbow Brown Rice (Podcast Episode #184)

It’s not every day you get to ride around Boston in a Duck Boat (unless you’re a tourist), but last Wednesday during National Whole Grain Sampling Day, we joined our friends from Oldways and the Whole Grains Council to spread the word that oats, wild rice, quinoa, farro, popcorn and other whole grains are a healthy, delicious, and convenient addition to anyone’s diet. We serve up a whole lot of info about whole grains on this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio podcast, feature an interview with Cynthia Harriman from the Whole Grains Council, and share a recipe for Over-the-Rainbow Brown Rice.

Have Duck Boat, will travel. We drove around Boston all day handing out samples of whole grain food products.

Just a few of the food products sampled around Boston.

Cynthia is one smart cookie, and we’re so happy she joined us on the show. She explained how whole grains have three edible parts — the outer bran layers which are rich in fiber and B vitamins … the germ, which is rich in antioxidants … and the starchy endosperm. When the healthy bran and germ are removed, the grain becomes refined and a lot less nutritious. She also shared a long list of whole grain meal and snack options — everything from a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast to crunchy corn tortilla tacos for dinner.

This recipe is in our cookbook, No Whine with Dinner!

Over-the-Rainbow Brown Rice

Makes 6 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, optional
  • 2 cups all-natural vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/4 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes.

2. Stir in the rice and thyme as desired, and cook, stirring a few times, for 1 minutes. Stir in the broth, raise the heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until all the liquid is absorbed, 40 to 45 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. Stir in the corn and peas, replace the lid, and let stand an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information per Serving (generous 1/2 cup): 160 calories, 3.5g fat (0.5g saturated), 160mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 4g protein, 45% vitamin A

Print Recipe

For more whole grain recipe ideas, cooking tips, and resources, visit the Oldways website.

A Visit from a Super Fan, Vacation Memories, and Two New Recipes: Salmon BLTs with Avocado and Parsnip Fries with Rosemary (Podcast #182)

Spring has arrived early here in New England, but that hasn’t stopped us from savoring the memories from our winter vacations last month. Janice traveled to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico where she enjoyed lots of sunshine and Liz and her family hit the slopes of Park City. We chat about out food and fitness adventures on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast. We’re also joined by Patricia, a mom of two girls from Rhode Island, an avid podcast listener, and a wonderful Meal Makeover Mom fan who popped in to say hi and cook two recipes with us: Salmon BLTs with Avocado (inspired by one of Liz’s Park City meals) and Baked Parsnip Fries with Rosemary from the March issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

Our Salmon BLT with Avocado is more of a concept than an actual recipe. We used salmon burgers but you could use grilled salmon filets instead. You could also use any kind of bacon — turkey, applewood smoked, or vegetarian, any kind of lettuce, the bread or rolls of your dreams, and so on and so on and so on …

Salmon BLT with Avocado

Makes as many servings as you want!

  • Salmon burgers (we used Trader Joe’s frozen salmon burgers)
  • Canola mayonnaise
  • Whole wheat burger buns
  • Lettuce leaves (we used Romaine lettuce)
  • nitrite-free bacon, cooked and drained (we used 2 slices per burger)
  • Sliced tomato
  • Sliced avocado

1. Cook the salmon burgers according to package directions.

2. Build the burgers by spreading mayonnaise on one side of each burger bun (the amount of mayo can vary depending on personal taste). Layer with the lettuce, salmon burger, bacon, tomato, and avocado. Place the remaining burger buns on top.

Print Recipe

Liz and Patricia peel and slice lots and lots of parsnips and carrots!

One tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary adds a huge kick of flavor to the “fries.”

Baked Parsnip Fries with Rosemary

Makes 6 Servings

When Liz and Simon split a Salmon BLT sandwich at a restaurant called Easy Street Brasserie in Park City, there were rosemary fries on the side. Coincidentally, the March issue of Bon Appetit featured a recipe for parsnip/rosemary fries, perfect as a side dish for our BLTs!

  • 2½ pounds parsnips or carrots, peeled, cut into about 3 x 1/2-inch strips (we used a combo of two, 1-pound bags of parsnips and 1/2 pound carrots)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more) ground cumin

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix parsnips, chopped rosemary, garlic, and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread out in a single layer. Scatter rosemary sprigs over.

2. Roast for 10 minutes; turn parsnips and roast until parsnips are tender and browned in spots, 10–15 minutes longer. Crumble leaves from rosemary sprigs over; discard stems and toss to coat. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cumin over. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more cumin, if desired.

Print Recipe

We can’t thank Patricia enough for cooking with us and for joining us on the podcast. We invite all of our fans to come visit The Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen (not all at once, it’s not that big a kitchen)! It’s a blast to meet our fans face to face, and we hope more of you stop by for a visit soon.  :)

Creamed Spinach Gets a Healthy Makeover for the Holidays + Cream-less Creamed Spinach

When we think of creamed spinach, our minds wander back to the 1950s and 60s. We’re not sure why, but creamed spinach has a certain, shall we say, retro feel about it. It’s also loaded — and we mean loaded — with more saturated fat and calories than a nutrient-rich vegetable like spinach deserves!

A few weeks ago, Facebook fan, Cindi, sent us her family’s favorite creamed spinach recipe and asked us to give it a makeover, so we did what we usually do and got cooking.

Cindi’s recipe, made with half & half, full-fat cream cheese, and lots of butter, needed a slim down (and a bit of a flavor boost). To that end, we created a cream-less base for the spinach using 1% low-fat milk, a roux made with olive oil versus butter, and a bit of light cream cheese. For added flavor, we turned to sauteed onion, nutmeg, and grated Parmesan cheese. We share the recipe on episode #172 of Cooking with the Moms podcast and chat about our favorite holiday recipes and food adventures from the 2011 season.

Crazy-Good Cream-less Creamed Spinach

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

Liz’s 13-year old son, Simon, has declared this recipe his hands-down new favorite. His exact words … “it’s mad good.” That’s pretty high praise from a young teenager, don’t you think? We sure hope your kids love it as much as Simon does!

  • Two 10-ounce boxes frozen chopped spinach
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • A few generous pinches ground nutmeg (use fresh if you have it)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup light cream cheese

1. Cook the spinach according to package directions. Once cooked, drain in a colander, and press with the back of a large spoon to remove excess moisture. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and golden, about 2 minutes.

3. Whisk the milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat and whisk in the Parmesan cheese and cream cheese until the cream cheese melts. Stir in the cooked spinach, and season with additional salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Place over low heat and reheat if necessary.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 1/3 cup): 150 calories, 9g fat (2.5g saturated, 0.5g omega-3), 300mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 7g protein, 190% vitamin A, 10% vitamin C, 25% calcium, 10% iron

Print Recipe

For comparison sake, Cindi’s creamed spinach is a lot higher in the numbers: 210 calories, 17 grams fat, and 10 grams saturated fat (that’s about half a day’s worth).

Our healthy “creamed” spinach recipe is a keeper for sure. Perfect for the holidays … or any time of the year as far as we’re concerned. As for the holidays, we ate a lot! What follows are just a few of the culinary highlights:

Before: Janice’s daughters, Carolyn and Leah, decorate gingerbread houses with their neighborhood gal pals.

After: Call the dentist, because one very silly 12-year old (the girl in the Santa hat) is about to devour A LOT of candy!

Christmas Eve appetizers at Janice and Don’s house: Smoked salmon with capers and light cream cheese, grape tomatoes stuffed with smoked oysters, olives, cheeses, and skinny string beans with dip.

Right before the holidays, Liz attended a dinner at Forum restaurant in Boston sponsored by Bard Valley Medjool Dates. To read more about the evening and to savor every delicious bite of the meal, head on over to fellow food blogger Janel’s blog post at Eat Well with Janel. In the New year, we hope to create a few new recipes featuring dates.

Liz’s mom makes the best matzo ball soup on the planet. The matzo balls float versus sink, which is just how the whole family likes them.

Blooper photo of the week and reminder to selves: Always keep a damp cloth on hand when shooting food photos especially as the sun starts to set and you’re racing against the clock so you can use natural light for your photo shoot!

Tell us about your most delicious food adventure this holiday season. And if you try our Crazy-Good Cream-less Creamed Spinach, let us know what you and your family think of it.


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