How to Make a Halloween Vegetable Skeleton + a Recipe for Rainbow Vegetable Dip

For a healthy classroom or party treat, create a Halloween skeleton made with crunchy vegetables, and serve it with our Rainbow Vegetable Dip.

And then watch the kids eat lots and lots of vegetables! 

Make-Your-Own Halloween Vegetable Skeleton Classroom Activity

Why serve Halloween candy in the classroom or at a pre trick-or-treat party when the kids can munch and crunch their way through a make-your-own vegetable skeleton instead.

Our skeleton started out as a boy, but then he became a she with all that spinach and bell pepper hair!

Make-Your-Own Halloween Vegetable Skeleton Classroom Activity

This week, I taught a nutrition class to a group of preschoolers through a program in Lexington, MA called Kids Cooking Green. Since Halloween is just a few days away and I knew the kids were super excited about dressing up (and eating candy), I searched Pinterest for some fun and healthy Halloween ideas and came up with this make-your-own vegetable skeleton activity.

For your DIY vegetable skeleton, here’s what you’ll need:

1. A small glass bowl filled with your favorite dip. (Read on for our Greek- yogurt-based Rainbow Vegetable Dip recipe.)

2. Sliced olives for the eyes and baby spinach or kale leaves for the hair.

3. Sliced cucumbers or zucchini for the spine and sliced bell peppers for the ribs.

4. Carrot and celery sticks for the arms and legs; also, edamame and sliced bell peppers.

5. Sliced mushrooms for the pelvis.

6. Halved grape or cherry tomatoes for the feet.

7. Cooked bowtie pasta for the bowtie!

8. Patience, good humor, and a fun attitude! 😉

Make-Your-Own Halloween Vegetable Skeleton Classroom Activity

“Hmmm. Let me think about this. What should I eat next? A cucumber or a carrot?”

Rainbow Vegetable Dip

Makes 6 Servings

This dip will serve more than six kids if you’re serving it to preschoolers. For this activity I had nine kids in the class, and we had plenty to go around. Traditional dips are often made with sour cream and salty seasoning packets, and they have double the calories of this better-for-you dip, which is filled with natural flavors from fresh herbs.

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (plus more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons honey mustard
  • Fresh, chopped and sliced vegetables of your choice

1. Place the yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, and honey mustard in a medium-size bowl and stir well to combine.

2. Let everyone at the table help themselves to the dip and a variety of colorful veggies.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 3 tablespoons): 50 calories, 3g fat (0.5g saturated), 95mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 3g protein

Print Recipe

Felt board with vegetable cut outs

To start off the activity, I sat around with the kids and we talked about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Then I asked them, “if you had to dress up as a fruit or vegetable for Halloween, what would you be?” The kids then placed their “costume” on the felt board.

Of course, my answer was, “an avocado!!”

What would you be?

Make-Your-Own Halloween Vegetable Skeleton Classroom Activity

Hanging out with my Skeleton Crew…

Make-Your-Own Halloween Vegetable Skeleton Classroom Activity

Scary skeleton faces.

Happy Halloween!!!

How to Roast Delicata Squash + a Recipe for Cinnamon Roasted Delicata Squash Slices

Learn how to roast nutritious slices of delicata squash for a simple, naturally-sweet autumn side dish your family will love.

Tips for How to Roast Delicata Squash

If you’re trying to get more vegetables into your family’s diet, shake things up by trying something new. Every autumn you’ll find delicata squash at the market. It’s easy to prepare … if you know the right technique.


How to roast delicata squash

Roasted delicata squash tastes like candy. There’s simply no other way to describe it.

How to Roast Delicata Squash

You can slice delicata lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and roast it that way, but I prefer slicing each half into pretty half-moon shapes and then roasting. It’s more appealing to my kids (and to my husband and me!), and the slices cook up in just 20 minutes.

Cinnamon Butter from Hornstra Dairy Farm south of Boston

For every two, medium-size squash, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; you can also use 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir in the slices and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with kosher salt and cinnamon. For my recipe below, I actually used cinnamon butter, which I bought at Hornstra Farms located south of Boston. (I’ll tell you more about the farm in my next post.)

How to roast delicata squash

Place the slices a baking sheet and pop in a 425°F oven for 20 minutes; turn the slices halfway through with tongs.

How to roast delicata squash



Cinnamon Roasted Delicata Squash Slices

Makes 4 Servings

Delicata squash is a winter squash, also referred to as peanut squash. it’s rich in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C. Another flavorful way to serve delicata squash is to roast the halves and then fill with a variety of stuffings.

  • Two 12-ounce delicata squashes
  • 1 tablespoon butter or extra virgin olive oil (I used cinnamon butter from Hornstra Farms)
  • Kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Slice off the pointy stem on each squash. Cut each squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and cut into 1/2-inch slices.

3. Melt the butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Place the squash slices in the bowl and toss until well coated with the melted butter. If you’re using cinnamon butter, sprinkle the slices generously with the salt. If you’re using regular butter, also sprinkle with cinnamon.

4. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning each slice halfway through (I use tongs to turn the slices but you can also use a spatula or a fork). Season with additional salt to taste.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 80 calories, 3g fat (2g saturated), 35mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 2g protein, 120% vitamin A, 25% vitamin C

Print Recipe

How to roast delicata squash

Do you have a favorite delicata squash recipe? Tell me about it. :)

Tortellini Lunchbox Salad for National Pasta Month

Add excitement to your child’s lunchbox with this Tortellini Lunchbox Salad. It’s filled with color, flavor, fun, and great nutrition … and it’s easy to make too!

A nutritious lunchbox salad made with tortellini, edamame, chickpeas, almonds, and dried cranberries #vegetarian

October is National Pasta Month.

In my house, every month is pasta month!

I have two teenage boys. Need I say more?

{By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the National Pasta Association and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time. The contest is part of The Recipe Redux}

A nutritious lunchbox salad made with tortellini, edamame, chickpeas, almonds, and dried cranberries #vegetarian

My youngest son is in high school, and right now he’s playing JV soccer.

With all that exercise, he’s hungry 24/7.

Lunch is typically a rush at school, and I don’t think he’s eating enough, so I decided to create a lunchbox salad that would satisfy his hunger, please his palate, and fill his belly with high-quality calories. I think I met those goals with this vegetarian pasta salad made with pesto-filled tortellini, edamame, almonds, protein-rich chickpeas, and dried cranberries. The sweet and savory flavor combination rocks, and he LOVES it!

dried pasta shapes

The great thing about cooking with pasta is that it provides the foundation for a healthy meal. It boosts energy and pairs well with just about anything: vegetables, beans, lean protein, cheese, and even dried fruit. 

Dried tortellini boiling

I usually buy cheese-filled fresh or frozen tortellini, but I found a package of dried, pesto-filled tortellini at Trader Joe’s and decided to give it a try. One cup of the dried yielded 2 cups cooked, so if you opt for frozen or fresh in this recipe, adjust accordingly.

Lunchbox Tortellini Salad

Makes 4 Servings

This recipe is versatile. You can use any bean or nut that your kids like, add just about any vegetable, add cubes of Cheddar cheese or crumbled feta, or toss in some cooked chicken, shrimp, or beef.

  • 1 cup pesto-filled dried tortellini *
  • 3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  • 3/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons Italian salad dressing

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Five minutes before it’s done, stir in the edamame. Drain in a colander, place in a bowl, and cool (on the counter or in the fridge).

2. When the pasta comes to room temperature or cooler, add the chickpeas, cranberries, almonds, and salad dressing. Stir to combine. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

3. Before packing into a lunchbox, you may want to add an additional teaspoon of the dressing.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cup): 330 calories, 13g fat (2g saturated, 0.2g omega-3), 530mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 12g protein, 15% vitamin C, 10% calcium, 10% iron

* I used small, dried, pesto-filled tortellini for this recipe. If you use fresh or frozen tortellini, use enough so your cooked yield is 2 cups. From there, mix in the remaining ingredients.

Print Recipe

For more amazing pasta recipes, check out all the healthy recipes below, created by healthy food bloggers for The Recipe Redux.

Cha Cha Cha Chia Meatballs + a Podcast on the Nutritional and Cooking Benefits of Chia Seeds

This low fat, gluten-free meatball recipe is a dinner favorite with busy families. Made with lean ground beef, grated carrot, chia seeds, and fresh basil, they’re nutritious and delicious.  

This healthy, low-fat meatball recipe is made with lean ground beef, chia seeds, carrots, and fresh basil  #family #dinner

We love the flavor of these lean meatballs, and they’re super healthy too thanks to a bunch of nutrient-rich ingredients: lean ground beef, carrots, and chia seeds. We dish all about chia seeds on episode #254 of this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio podcast, and we share this meatball recipe as well as our recipe for Chocolate Chia Pudding.


Chia Seeds Nutrition

Chia seeds have a long list of health and culinary benefits. They’re rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats as well as fiber. And chia seeds are hydrophilic, which means they absorb water. In this recipe, they help to bind the ingredients together, so you don’t need breadcrumbs.

This healthy, low-fat meatball recipe is made with lean ground beef, chia seeds, carrots, and fresh basil  #family #dinner

Meatballs are easy to make. Just place all your ingredients in a large bowl and mix away.

This healthy, low-fat meatball recipe is made with lean ground beef, chia seeds, carrots, and fresh basil  #family #dinner

 These meatballs are gluten free, because the chia seeds replace the usual  breadcrumbs.

This healthy, low-fat meatball recipe is made with lean ground beef, chia seeds, carrots, and fresh basil  #family #dinner

Serve our meatballs with rice for a gluten-free option; If gluten is not an issue with your family, serve on a sub roll or with your favorite pasta.

Cha Cha Cha Chia Meatballs

Makes 6 Servings

Meatballs are one of those recipes we turn to all the time when our kids say, “I’m hungry!!” They’re nutritious, filling, and easy to make when we’re busy but still craving something homemade.

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 medium carrot, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • One 24-ounce jar pasta sauce

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

2. Place the ground beef, egg, carrot, chia seeds, basil, Parmesan cheese, onions, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix until just combined. Shape the meat mixture into twenty-four 1½-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet and cook until lightly browned, 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, place the pasta sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to a simmer. When the meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the sauce, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the meatballs are fully cooked and have absorbed some of the sauce-y flavors, about 20 minutes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (4 meatballs): 220 calories, 10g fat (3.5g saturated, 0.7g omega-3)), 520mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 9g protein, 50% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 10% calcium, 20% iron

Print Recipe

Tell us how you incorporate nutritious chia seeds into your family’s diet. We’d love to hear your ideas.

How to Dehydrate Tomatoes + Gluten-Free Fusilli with Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Preserve your bounty of summer tomatoes with this easy oven-dried technique, and toss them into this healthy family dinner made with gluten-free pasta and a low-fat cheese sauce.

Gluten-Free Fusilli with Oven-Dried Tomatoes via

Right now, my garden is bursting with late-summer tomatoes, so this month’s Recipe Redux challenge was right up my alley … sort of.
The Challenge: “Whether it’s extra garden bounty or a sale at the supermarket – dehydrating food is a budget-friendly way to stock up for later. You can use a food dehydrator, a low slow oven, or natural sunshine to preserve natural healthfulness. Show us how you like to dehydrate, or a healthy recipe for how you enjoy using dehydrated fruits, veggies or other bounty.

Garden Tomatoes via

Here’s my husband, Don, picking tomatoes from our garden. He’s the Green Thumb in our family; I’m the Sous Chef :)

So how do you dry tomatoes if you don’t own a dehydrator, which was the dilemma I was facing? Well, I reached out to our Meal Makeover Mom Facebook community and asked for their advice, and I did some good old-fashioned Googling. The solution was simple: Use the oven.

How to dehydrate tomatoes via

First, I cut the tomatoes in half and squeezed out most of the seeds and inside pulp. (I was told that removing this moisture would speed up the drying process.) Next, I cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. This was a bit tricky, but since the tomatoes were being dehydrated, I didn’t obsess with perfection.

How to dehydrate tomatoes via

I tossed the tomato slices with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and sprinkled with sea salt. (You can also use kosher salt).

How to dehydrate tomatoes via

I read somewhere that cooking the tomatoes between 170°F and 250°F is best, so I decided to use my Kenmore convection oven, and I set it to 180°F degrees. FYI: When using convection, set the temperature 25 degrees lower.

How to dehydrate tomatoes via

When I told Don the tomatoes would probably be in the oven for four hours, he wondered what the cost of the electricity would be! Thank goodness we have solar panels on the roof. The tomatoes cooked and cooked and cooked until finally, after 4-plus hours, I couldn’t take it anymore and removed them. As suspected, they lost most of their moisture and shriveled up.

How to dehydrate tomatoes via

Here’s what 10 tomatoes looked like after they were dehydrated. Don’t you love all the different shapes and sizes? I added about half of these gems to my gluten-free pasta recipe with low-fat cheese sauce, and I’ll probably use the rest to make bruschetta. You can also freeze any leftovers in zip-top bags for up to three months.

Gluten-Free Fusilli with Oven-Dried Tomatoes via #glutenfree #lowfat #cheese #sauce #dehydrated #tomatoes

I decided to make a creamy pasta dish with a low-fat cheese sauce for dinner, and my daughter, Leah, loved it so much, she asked for seconds. (Not bad for a sometimes-finicky eater.) She even helped me style the photo with those gorgeous oven-dried tomatoes on top.

Gluten-Free Fusilli with Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Makes 8 Servings

I made this recipe with gluten-free brown rice and quinoa fusilli from Trader Joe’s since my mom is on a low-gluten diet. You can certainly use any type of pasta your family loves, and if you don’t have the patience to dehydrate your own tomatoes, use the store-bought, sun-dried kind.

  • 1 pound Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 cups all natural chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped dehydrated tomatoes

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat in a large saucepan until the butter melts. Add the flour and whisk constantly until smooth, about 2 minutes.

3. Whisk the milk and broth 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 cheese and tomatoes until the cheese melts. Best to serve right away.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 1 cup): 390 calories, 13g fat (4.5g saturated fat), 380mg sodium, 53g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 16g protein, 10% vitamin A, 30% vitamin C

Print Recipe

Tequila bottle via

When I told my sister, Diane, that I was writing a post on dehydrating, she told me I’d save myself a lot of time if I simply posted a photo of an empty bottle of tequila and told my readers that I drank it and dehydrated myself. Funny, isn’t she? Liz will likely disapprove of this picture, but hey, it’s my blog post. :)

Pumpkin Chia Pudding + Blog Brûlée Highlights {Podcast #253}

Autumn is in the air, and after an action-packed weekend at the first annual Blog Brûlée healthy blogger retreat at Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont, we created this healthy and delicious, fall-inspired Pumpkin Chia Pudding recipe for you and your family. (As invited speakers, our travel and lodging was paid for, and we received an honorarium.)

Pumpkin Chia Pudding via

We’ll tell you more about this easy dessert recipe further down in the post. But for now, indulge us a bit as we share highlights from Blog Brûlée …

Blog Brûlée toasting marshmallows

The theme of the weekend was “Setting Fire to Better Blogs,” and our small gathering of dietitian bloggers achieved that goal with the help of Blog Brûlée’s founders (left to right), Gretchen Brown from Kumquat, Deanna Segrave-Daly from Teaspoon of Spice, Robin Plotkin from RobinsBite, and Regan Jones, founder of Healthy Aperture … as well as a lineup of well seasoned speakers.


Blog Brûlée founders via

Speakers and Topics:

Food Photography Basics, Food Styling, and Post Processing with Gretchen Brown and Regan Jones {The post-processing information presented reminded us to focus more of our editing attention on tweaking exposure}

iPhoneography with Deanna Segrave-Daly {Who knew Snapseed, a smart phone photography app, could do SO much}

The Art of Online Storytelling with Brierley Wright from Eating Well Magazine and Robin Plotkin {A great reminder that an event like Blog Brûlée could lead to multiple stories and blog posts … and a double reminder to maintain an editorial blogging calendar}

Defining and Delivering SEO with Carolyn Ketchum from All Day I Dream About Food {Aunty Em, we’re frightened, but we’re already implementing Carolyn’s tips and reading The Beginners Guide to SEO on}

Building Your Virtual Community with EA Stewart, The Spicy RD {We need to (a) get comfy with Google+ and (b) not focus all of our efforts on commenting on others’ blogs, but rather, share others’ content. Show the LOVE}

Branding in the Blogosphere and Beyond with Liz and Janice, The Meal Makeover Moms (that’s us!!). We talked about the ingredients needed for a successful brand: Authentic, Reliable, Responsive, Engaging, Evolving.

Show Me the Money: Monetizing Your Brand with Anne Mauney from fannetasticfood {We’re working on our Media Kit as we speak, and we’re using Power Point per Anne’s suggestion!}

smugglers notch, Blog Brûlée

The retreat was held at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont where the service was topnotch. Groups of three were assigned to cozy condos complete with fireplaces, well-stocked refrigerators (more on Liz’s foray into microwaved eggs with roommates Meme and Min in a future post), and gorgeous views. Returning back to reality in MA got us thinking more about our editorial calendar—formerly somewhat loosey goosey but presently more definitive!—as well as the first story we wanted to “tell” post Blog Brûlée.

Pumpkins at Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits via

Coming up with our first story was actually quite easy thanks to our Saturday afternoon field trip to the picturesque Boyden Valley Winery. We were drawn to these just-picked pumpkins perched on an antique wagon, while at the same time, jarred by the realization that our warm and sunny New England summer was over and autumn was in full swing. So a recipe featuring pumpkin became the obvious topic for this first post.

Pumpkin Chia Pudding via #pumpkin #chiaseeds #pudding

This week we got cooking in the Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen with a pudding makeover made with canned pumpkin, organic soymilk, maple syrup, and chia seeds as well a few other goodies from our Swag Bag …

Pumpkin Chia Pudding Ingredients and toppers via

Lake Champlain Chocolate, Vermont maple syrup, and Fat Toad Farm caramel.

Pumpkin Chia Pudding

Makes 2 Servings

Sticking to our MEAL MAKEOVER mission, we whipped up this easy-to-make pudding packed with kid appeal AND great nutrition. This recipe is so simple, your kids can make it in minutes by placing the ingredients in a Mason jar and giving it a shake, shake, shake!

  • 1 cup vanilla soymilk
  • 1/3 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Pinch salt

1. Place the soy milk, pumpkin, chia seeds, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a 16-ounce wide-mouth pint-size Mason jar (or any other jar you have in your kitchen), shake vigorously, and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours to overnight.

2. Serve with any number of optional toppers including: caramel, shaved chocolate, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or your favorite fruit.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1/2 cup):  190 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated, 4.4g omega-3), 180mg sodium, 24g carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 8g protein, 120% vitamin A, 30% calcium, 10% iron

Print Recipe

Blog Brûlée attendees via #blogbrulee

Every blogger at the retreat brought something to the table. We learned from one another, became instant pals, and left the weekend with a commitment to nurture and support one another. Pictured here are a few of our new friends; we’ll tell you more about the group in our follow-up posts.

{Bottom row from left to right: Julie Harrington, RD from RDelicious Kitchen, Anne Mauney, RD from fannetasticfood, Rachael Hartley, RD from An Avocado a Day, and Kara Lydon, RD from The Foodie Dietitian}

{Top row from left to right: Holly Larson, RD, Grass Roots Nutrition, Meme Inge, RD from Living Well Kitchen, Min Kwon, RD from The Adventures of MJ and Hungry Man, Marisa Moore, RD from Marisa Moore Nutrition, Ashley Galloway, RD from The Fresh Beet, Jen Haugen, RD from Down to Earth Dietitian, and Ann Dunaway Teh, RD from Dunaway Dietetics.

Picking Concord Grapes at Meadow Mist Farm with the Welch's RD via

Writer’s cramp has set in, so we’ll have to sign off soon. But stay tuned for a few more Blog Brûlée posts including foraging for Concord Grapes with Casey Lewis, the dietitian from Welch’s (an event sponsor), one of Janice’s favorite activities from the weekend—a wine and cheese tasting with Cabot cheese at Boyden Valley Winery—and Liz’s first experience cooking eggs in the microwave (microwaves hadn’t been invented when she was in college).

Blog Brûlée 2014

For more information on the conference sponsors, visit the Blog Brûlée website.

Here are the Blog Brûlée blog posts from our fellow speakers and nutrition bloggers. We’ll update this as more go “live.”

Blog Brûlée Recap by Anne at Fannetastic Food

Blog Brûlée + Clean Eating Recipe RoundUp by Danielle Omar at Food Confidence

Blog Brûlée: What I Learned & What I Ate by Kara at the Foodie Dietitian

Mindful Eating: What’s Chocolate Got to Do with it? by Diane Boyd at Cape Fear Nutrition

Best Blogging Conference: Why Families Belong in the Kitchen Together by Jen Haugen, Down to Earth Dietitian

Blog Brûlée: Soaking it All In by Julie Harrington at RDelicious Kitchen

Blog Brûlée Recap (AKA The Most Epic Blogger Sleepover Ever) by Kylie at Immaeatthat

Blog Brûlée Recap & Grilled Cheese Recipe Round Up by Min Kwon of MJ & Hungryman

Blog Brûlée: Quick Recap by Marisa Moore at Marisa Moore Nutrition

Autumn Chopped Salad with Apples, Fennel, Cheddar Cheese, Macadamia Nuts and Apple Maple Vinaigrette by EA Stewart at The Spicy RD

Blog Brulee + Weekly Eats by Kristina Larue at Love & Zest

Making Your Dreams Come True: One Simple Lesson from Blog Brulee by Regan Jones at Healthy Aperture

Easy Chicken & Rice Meatball Soup

This Chicken & Rice Meatball Soup was created for the Boston kickoff of the Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest sponsored by Uncle Ben’s. It’s an easy recipe that your kids can cook with you, and it’s healthy and delicious too! 

Easy Chicken & Rice Meatball Soup via

This week, we helped Uncle Ben’s kick off the third annual Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest at Sportello restaurant in Boston.

 Bens Beginners via


Chef Barbara Lynch showed a group of kids and their parents how to make this easy Chicken & Rice Meatball Soup, and we were on hand to answer nutrition and mealtime questions. Read on for highlights from the event, information on how YOU can enter the contest, and of course, the recipe. {We were hired by Uncle Ben’s to help with the event; all ideas and opinions expressed here are our own.}

Ben's Beginners kickoff event at Sportello, Boston via

Getting kids excited about cooking is the focus of the Ben’s Beginners program. We love the campaign, because as dietitians, we know that when children become invested in the shopping, preparing, and mealtime process, they’re more likely to eat a healthy diet.

Ben's Beginner's Kick-off Event at Sportello, Boston

The contest: Parents can submit a video of their child in grades K through 8 and themselves preparing a rice-based dish and discussing their experience cooking together. Any recipe is fine, as long as rice is one of the ingredients. This year, there will be five winners, and each prize will include $15,000 cash, a hometown celebration and a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for their child’s school. Submissions for the Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Oct. 10, 2014.

Easy Chicken & Rice Meatball Soup via

Chicken & Rice Meatball Soup

Makes 4 Servings

Recipe courtesy of Chef Barbara Lynch. Try it at home with your kids … and feel free to use it as your featured recipe if you enter the video contest :)

  • 1 cup cooked UNCLE BEN’S® Brand Rice, such as Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice, cooled
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for serving
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup thinly sliced peeled carrots
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked and cooled UNCLE BEN’S® Brand Rice with the
 ground chicken, onion, garlic, parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano and egg. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3. Shape mixture into meatballs that are roughly 1/2-
inch in diameter. Roll them in seasoned breadcrumbs, shaking off excess and arrange on a nonstick sheet pan. Drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil and place in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

4. Place chicken stock in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add carrots and simmer until tender. Add meatballs and spinach and stir until spinach is just wilted. Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

If your kids are in grades K through 8, we encourage you to enter the contest; the prizes are amazing … and so is this recipe. For how-to tips on making carrot flowers, check out this YouTube video.

{We were compensated for attending the Uncle Ben’s kick-off event, but not for this blog post.}

Family, Food, and Fun in Olympia, Washington

Any time I have an excuse to visit my two sisters and their families in the Pacific Northwest, I jump at it. The wedding of my niece, Nicole, was the perfect reason to book four cross-country flights to Seattle for a nine-day family vacation. The timing was perfect: Carolyn starts her new job mid August, so this will probably be our last family vacation for a while. And speaking of perfect, the weather was just that. We had sunny skies every day, so I’m not sure what all that rainy Seattle weather talk is all about! Nicole and Miles via

Newlyweds, Nicole and Miles! The wedding at Laurel Creek Manor, in Sumner, WA was amazing. :)

Bissex family via

So fun to have the whole family together to celebrate!

Puget Sound via

We spent several nights at my sister, Lori’s house. Check out the view of Puget Sound (Budd Inlet) and Mount Rainier from her street.

Boating with Cowboy Chili via

Lori and Chris took us all for a boat ride to downtown Olympia. Lori served her famous Cowboy Caviar en route, and it was devoured by all, including my corn-averse daughter, Leah.


This Cowboy Caviar is a great side dish for a picnic or cookout!

Salmon in Olympia via

What would a trip to the Pacific Northwest be without grilled salmon? Served with brown rice, salad from my sister’s garden, and a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir, it was a meal fit for a king.

Budd Inlet

One more day of boating, tubing, and jet skiing before we headed off to the Olympic Peninsula.

Olympic Peninsula via

The Hoh Rain Forest on the west end of the Olympic Peninsula receives up to 16 feet of rain per year and the Hall of Mosses trail features – you guessed it – moss-covered trees and a stunning waterfall.

Olympic National Forest

The Olympic Mountains are breathtaking, and there are hiking trails and incredibly tall trees everywhere.

Forks, WA

If you have a teenager you have probably heard of Forks, WA. This is the setting of the popular Twilight series. Leah has read all the books and our visit to Forks was a highlight for her (second only to tubing in Puget Sound with Uncle Chris).

Quilcene National Fish Hatchery

I admit there were a few eye rolls when I announced that I wanted to make a pit stop off 101 to visit the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery. This hatchery has been around for over 100 years, and they raise coho salmon and steelhead trout.

Every year, over 400,000 coho salmon are released directly into the Quilcene River and another 200,000 are transferred to the Skokomish tribal net pen in Quilcene Bay. Amazing!

So, that’s a little taste of my recent travel adventures. Stay tuned for highlights from the Oregon portion of our trip, including visits to a cheese-making factory, olive oil farm, and local corn dog fry!

How I Got my Daughter to Eat Kale … Farm Living … and a Recipe for Kale & Black Bean Burritos

It’s amazing how living for just one short week on a farm can change a child’s taste buds and willingness to try new foods, including the king of all veggies … kale. My brother-in-law and his wife own a 40-acre farm in Vermont where my teenage daughter, Leah, visited last week. When she got home she raved about the flavorful foods she ate, including her Aunt Mary’s kale burritos. So, in true Meal Makeover Mom fashion, I decided to recreate the burritos this week for Leah and for all of you!

Kale & Black Bean Burritos via

For the recipe, I used kale from my Farm Direct Coop CSA.

Kale & Black Bean Burritos

Makes 6 Servings

When Leah happily devours a recipe she’s eaten at someone else’s house (positive “peer pressure” at work?), I don’t waste any time making it at home. Everyone who sampled these vegetarian burritos agreed with Leah that they were delicious, filling, and a great addition to my summer recipe rotation. I served the burritos with diced California avocados, sour cream, and salsa.

  • 1 tablespoon expeller pressed canola oil
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 15-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
  • Six 10-inch burrito-style flour tortillas

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 the oil in a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, cumin, and chili powder and stir to combine. Raise the heat, cover, and bring to a low boil. Stir in the kale, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, cilantro, and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

3. To assemble the burritos, place 2/3 cup of filling down the center of each flour tortilla. Roll up tightly, tucking in the ends, and place seam side down in the dish. Cover evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, and bake, uncovered, until the cheese melts, 15 minutes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 burrito): 390 calories, 14g fat (3.5g saturated), 870mg sodium, 57g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 15g protein, 120% vitamin A, 100% vitamin C, 35% calcium, 20% iron

Print Recipe


kale via

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse. One cup of raw, chopped kale has just 33 calories but well over a day’s worth of bone-building vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

VT farm / Kale via

Don and I have a sweet little backyard garden, so after visiting Karl and Mary in Vermont, to say I’m suffering from “garden envy” would be an understatement. Look at all that kale!!

VT farm / Kale via

Mary with a few ingredients for lunch.

VT farm / Kale via

Karl and Mary let a local, CSA farmer grow produce on their land in exchange for all the produce they can eat. It’s a win-win for everyone!

If you like this recipe, then be sure to check out our Black Bean Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce!

A Recipe for Wild Rice Summer Salad … Plus the Best Recipes of Summer {Podcast #248}

There’s so much to love about summer: the beach, the sun, the farm-fresh produce. Thanks to farmers’ markets, CSAs, and backyard gardens, we’re eating lots of fresh produce and interesting, nutrient-rich recipes this season. On Cooking with the Moms radio this week, we celebrate summer’s best recipes with Roasted Pickled Beats, Pickled Cucumbers, and this Wild Rice Summer Salad—a version of Emerald City Salad.

Wild Rice Summer Salad via

The kale in this recipe came from Janice’s garden as did the parsley! If you don’t have kale, you can use Swiss chard or spinach, and if you’re not a fan of parsley, toss in basil, cilantro, or mint.

Wild Rice

Wild rice is grown in the Great Lakes region of the U.S., and technically, it’s not a rice but rather, the seed of a grass. It has a nutty flavor, a crunchy texture, and takes about an hour to cook. A one-cup serving has over 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

LISTEN TO COOKING WITH THE MOMS HERE! And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our show on iTunes.

Wild Rice Summer Salad

Makes 8 Servings

When Liz’s son, Simon, tried this salad, he said it was “fresh,” and couldn’t imagine anyone NOT loving it. All last week, he packed it as a side salad for his camp lunch.

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 bunch kale, washed, stemmed, leaves removed and cut into thin ribbons (about 2½ packed cups)
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced (we cut it into 1/4 inch dice)
  • 2 to 3 green onions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 celery stalk, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Crumbled feta cheese, optional

1. Cook the wild rice according to package directions. When done, drain, place in a large bowl, and stir occasionally until the rice is cooled.

2. When cool, stir in the kale, bell pepper, green onions, parsley, pecans, cranberries, and celery. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper until well combined. Stir into the rice mixture.

3. Season with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste and refrigerate until ready to eat. Add feta cheese as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cup):  150 calories, 12g fat (1.5g saturated), 90mg sodium, 12g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2g protein, 60% vitamin A, 100% vitamin C

Print Recipe

Wild Rice Summer Salad via #vegan #vegetarian #kale #wildrice

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, this is a great addition to your diet. To increase the protein, toss in more nuts, feta cheese (vegetarians only!), or some diced and sauteed tofu.

Janice's Garden

Janice’s garden is in full swing. Here she is with our intern, Tavierney.

Wild Rice Summer Salad via #vegan #vegetarian #kale #wildrice

Wild Rice Summer Salad – Enjoy!

Pickled Cucumbers, Pickled Beets, and the Many Reasons I Love my CSA

Picking up my weekly CSA share makes me very, very happy!

Janice at her CSA

I’ve been a member of my CSA—Farm Direct Coop—since it came to Melrose, MA close to a decade ago, and every Thursday during the growing season, I fill my re-usable shopping bags with gorgeous, farm-fresh produce. Last week, I grabbed cucumbers and beets (and lots more!), came home, and got busy creating two recipes that I saw featured on my friend Paul’s Facebook page: Roasted Pickled Beets from Alton Brown and Pickled Cucumbers from Epicurious.

Roasted Pickled Beets via

For the roasting part of this recipe, I used my grill (which took a long time), so I’ll probably do what Alton recommends next time and use my oven. Beets are a good source of vitamin C, iron, folate, and magnesium, they also contain a plant nutrient called betalain which has anti-inflammatory properties. Best of all, I love the flavor of this root vegetable, which happens to be in the same “family” as Swiss chard, spinach, and quinoa. Who knew!

Janice picking beets from CSA via

CSA stands for, Community Supported Agriculture. In 1990, there were only 60 CSAs in the country. Today, there are over 6,500! Here are my top 5 reasons why I love being a member:

1. I feel great about supporting local farmers.

2. It forces me to try vegetables that I might not ordinarily use in my everyday cooking.

3. I run into my friends at the weekly pick up.

4. It challenges me to find new recipes and go out of my culinary comfort zone.

5. The produce lasts longer because it’s picked that day … and it tastes better than anything from the supermarket.

Pickled Cucumbers via

This recipe is ridiculously easy. It took literally just a few minutes to make, and within four hours, I had pickled cukes!

If you’re a CSA member, tell me what’s growing in your area this week.

8 Healthy Summer Picnic Recipes for Your Family {Podcast #247}

The most popular day for picnics in the United States is July 4th, so we’re just in time with this roundup of healthy and delicious picnic-friendly recipes. On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, we serve up our Watermelon Strawberry Punch, Blueberry Banana S’mores, and six other must-make summer recipes from fellow food bloggers around the web. Read on for links to all the recipes, and be sure to tune in!

Healthy Picnic Recipes via

Liz is partial to picnics on the beach; Janice prefers picnics lakeside. But no matter where you set down your blanket and picnic basket, the key is to show up equipped with healthy, mouth-watering recipes the whole family will love.

We surfed the internet for recipes we would want to pack for our families, and here’s what we came up with! (Starting top/left and moving clockwise): 

Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen: Watermelon Strawberry Punch

Picky Palate: Roasted Chicken Quinoa Salad

Two Peas and Their Pod: Southwestern Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen: Blueberry Banana S’mores

Juggling with Julia: Thai Grilled Chicken with Honey and Lime

Mom’s Kitchen Handbook: Best Homemade Granola Bars

Teaspoon of Spice: Broccoli and Carrot Raisin Slaw

A Bachelor and His Grill: Creamy Avocado Greek Yogurt Dip with Homemade Tortilla Chips

Feel free to weigh in with your go-to picnic faves …

A Meatless Monday Recipe for Quinoa with Almonds & Apricots

This recipe has it all! It’s gluten free, vegetarian, packed with protein, and it’s perfect for summertime picnics and cookouts. Oh, and kids love it too thanks to the crunch of the bell peppers, quinoa, and almonds and the sweetness of the apricots and honey. This recipe first appeared in No Whine with Dinner and we’ll be adding it to our Meal Makeovers app this week.

Quinoa with Almonds & Apricots via

Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids. Half a cup of cooked quinoa has 100 calories, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein. And it’s versatile, making its way into breakfast cereals, salads like this one, and hearty mains.

Quinoa with Almonds & Apricots via #glutenfree #quinoa #vegan

 This is a flexible recipe. You can add just about any dried fruit you love, any nut, and if you’re a carnivore, your favorite grilled meat.

Quinoa with Almonds & Apricots

Makes 5 Servings

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper cut into ¼-inch dice (1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped (or golden raisins)
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Freshly ground 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 1½ cups water 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 quinoa to a salad bowl and fluff slightly with a fork every few minutes until the grains cool.

4. Stir in the bell pepper, almonds, apricots, scallions, cumin, and salt until well combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and honey. Stir into the quinoa mixture until the grains are well coated. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information per Serving (about 1 cup): 240 calories, 8g fat (0.5g saturated), 250mg sodium, 36g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 7g protein, 15% vitamin A, 35% vitamin C, 15% iron

Print Recipe

Quinoa with Almonds & Apricots via #glutenfree #quinoa #vegan

S’mores get a Healthy Makeover with our Recipe for Banana Blueberry S’mores: PLUS, the Launch of Live Well Digest Magazine for WIC

S’mores have been a campfire dessert staple for decades. Made with graham crackers, chocolate bars, and toasted marshmallows, the recipe for this gooey goodie first appeared in the 1927 publication, Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. We’re glad s’mores were invented!

girl scouts

We wouldn’t dream of giving up s’mores—they’re SO good and they’re not exactly an everyday treat—but we decided to give them a minor makeover nonetheless by spreading peanut butter on the crackers and swapping the marshmallows and chocolate for bananas and blueberries.

Blueberry Banana S'mores via

We created this recipe for a new quarterly publication produced by Brush Art Corporation called, Live Well Digest. The magazine is available to women who participate in the federally-funded health and nutrition Women, Infants and Children program. The magazine is filled with practical health tips as well as nutritious, affordable, and kid-friendly recipes, and now WIC dietitians and staff can order the magazine for their clinics and clients. We’re thrilled to be writing a recipe column for the magazine!

Blueberry Banana S’mores

Makes 2 Servings

S’mores are a classic summertime favorite made with graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, and chocolate bars. To give this sweet treat a healthy makeover, we created a fruit-filled S’more instead with sliced bananas, summer’s freshest blueberries, and peanut butter. Serve as a snack or dessert with a glass of milk.

  • 4 graham crackers
  • 8 teaspoons peanut butter
  • 16 thin slices peeled banana
  • 36 blueberries

1. Break graham crackers in half to yield 8 squares and place on a cutting board or clean work surface. Spread each square with 1 teaspoon peanut butter. Set 4 squares aside.

2. Top each of the remaining squares with 4 banana slices and 9 blueberries. Top with set aside crackers to create “sandwiches.”

Tip: For toddlers, mash blueberries and bananas before topping.

Nutrition Information per Serving (2 s’mores): 280 calories, 14g fat (2.5g saturated), 230mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 8g protein

Print Recipe

Live Well Digest via WIC

Here’s the cover of the summer Live Well Digest issue and our article, Eat the Rainbow. Read on to check out our column!

Live Well Digest via #WIC

Rainbow Dip via #snack #vegetables

This dip is super easy to make and is guaranteed to get kids excited about eating their veggies.

Live Well Digest via #WIC

Live Well Digest via #WIC

To learn more about the Live Well Digest, feel free to contact Julie Brush at

A Giveaway for Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide and a Recipe for Asian Lettuce Wraps {Podcast #246}

Any time we find a cookbook that helps families get a healthy meal on the table day after day, we add it to our collection. Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide hits the spot when it comes to recipes kids love, nutrition advice parents appreciate, and mealtime tips that work. Fellow dietitian and mom of two, Sally Kuzemchak, teamed up with Cooking Light magazine to create the book, and on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, you can hear all about it. We also serve up two recipes on the show—Asian Lettuce Wraps and a vegetarian Pasta Primavera with Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, and Ricotta—and we’re giving away a copy of Dinnertime Survival Guide, so read on for the details!

Asian Lettuce Wraps via

The book is broken up into 10 common Dinnertime Dilemmas—everything from, I Can Barely Boil Water and I’m Not a Short-Order Cook to I Can’t Afford Healthy Food. You’ll find this recipe for Asian Lettuce Wraps in the first chapter on, I Have Zero Time: Speedy Recipes Save the Day.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Makes 4 Servings 

Here’s what Sally has to say about this recipe: A meal that doesn’t require utensils equals fewer dishes to wash and, for whatever reason, more food gone from my kids’ plates. Iceberg gives there wraps juicy crunch, but you can also use Boston or Bibb lettuce or napa (Chinese) cabbage instead.

  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1¼ pounds ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon refrigerated ginger paste (such as Gourmet Garden)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 12 iceberg lettuce leaves (we used Bibb)

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. (We didn’t use the samba oelek.)

2. Cook chicken and ginger paste in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 7 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring to crumble. Stir in onions, carrots, and cilantro; cook 1 minute. Stir in soy sauce mixture. Remove from heat.

3. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture and 1 teaspoon peanuts into each lettuce leaf.

Nutrition Information per Serving (3 lettuce wraps): 302 calories, 18.2g fat (4.1g saturated), 497mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate, 2.6g fiber, 26.3g protein

Dinnertime Survival Guide

GIVEAWAY: One lucky blog reader or podcast listener will win a copy of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide (Oxmore House, 2014). To enter, tell us about your biggest dinnertime dilemma and what you’ve done to solve it, or tell us why you’d like to win the book. (U.S. only please.)

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

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

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

> Follow us on Pinterest.

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

We’ll pick our winner on July 2 at noon EST using Good luck!

A Recipe for Pasta Primavera with Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, and Ricotta from Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide

When it comes to feeding your family, what’s your biggest dinnertime dilemma? Lack of time? A tight budget? Feeding picky eaters? If getting healthy dinners on the table night after night feels like—or is!—a daunting challenge, then you’ll definitely want to check out the new Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide by friend, fellow dietitian, and founder of, Sally Kuzemchak.

Pasta Primavera with Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, and Ricotta via

The book is filled with recipes from Sally’s kitchen as well as the kitchens of Cooking Light Magazine, and each is kid friendly and flexible. For example, if your kids don’t love the tomatoes in this pasta primavera dish then leave them out, or sub in another veggie like mushrooms or bell peppers.

Dinnertime Survival Guide

Besides the recipes—everything from Asian Lettuce Wraps to Ravioli with Pan-Roasted Tomatoes to Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples—the book is filled with practical, real-mom tips. For instance, if you’re trying to get your kids psyched about eating their vegetables, Sally offers tips like trying different shapes, striking while the kids are hungry, and embracing ranch dressing since kids love to dip.

 Pasta Primavera via

The book is peppered with in-the-trenches mealtime advice from fellow moms as well as helpful “Crazy Tricks” sidebars designed to make dinners easier to prepare and more nutritious.

Pasta Primavera with Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, and Ricotta

Makes 4 Servings

This recipe is from Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide by Sally Kuzamchak (Oxmore House, 2014).

  • 2 cups uncooked penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves

1. Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add zucchini; sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid, tomatoes, and butter; sauté 1 minute or until butter melts. Add pasta, ricotta cheese, and basil to pan; toss gently to coat.

Nutrition Information per Serving (2 cups): 337 calories, 10g fat (4.2g saturated), 369mg sodium, 50g carbohydrate, 3.7g fiber, 13.2g protein

Print Recipe

Stay tuned, because Sally will be a guest on Cooking with the Moms next week … AND we’ll also be sharing her recipe for Asian Lettuce Wraps :)

A Recipe for Springtime Asparagus Quiche … Plus, My Trip to Switzerland {Podcast #245}

I recently returned from a trip to Switzerland where white and green asparagus were in season, which meant that restaurant menus featured them predominantly. All those good eats inspired me to create this crustless Springtime Asparagus Quiche with my trusty Meal Makeover Mom partner, Janice. Read on for the recipe and some additional highlights from my trip, and be sure to tune into this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast as we dish about my adventures.

Springtime Crustless Asparagus Quiche via #quiche #vegetarian #asparagus #glutenfree

This recipe looks oh-so gourmet, but it’s surprisingly easy to make. Rich in flavor but light on calories, this yummy crustless quiche is gluten free, nutritious, and of course, delicious.


Crustless Springtime Asparagus Quiche via #asparagus #glutenfree #vegetarian

Springtime Asparagus Quiche

Makes 6 Servings

This is a crustless quiche, but you can certainly create your own crust or buy one that’s ready made. If you go that route, just pour the filling into your pie crust and bake.

  • 8 ounces asparagus spears (8 to 10 spears)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced into half moons
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 5 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme or tarragon, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with butter and set aside.

2. Wash the asparagus, trim about 2 inches off the bottoms, and discard (or composite). Cut 3 inches from the top portion of the asparagus and set aside. Slice the remaining stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 1 minute. Add all the asparagus and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until tender, 8 minutes. (Don’t walk away from the skillet; you don’t want that shallot to burn!) Season generously with salt and pepper. Carefully remove the 3-inch spear pieces and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until well combined. Stir in the cheese, diced vegetables, and herbs as desired. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate. Arrange the remaining asparagus tips around the top of the quiche so they resemble the spokes of a wheel. Carefully place unbaked quiche in the oven.

5. Bake until the eggs are set, about 35 minutes. Slice and serve.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 slice):  180 calories, 12g fat (5g saturated), 140mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 12g protein, 15% vitamin A, 25% calcium

Print Recipe

Asparagus salad via

 On our first night in Zurich, we ate at Restaurant Quaglinos where I ordered the SpargelSalat made with white and green asparagus, radishes, tomatoes, local greens, thinly sliced purple potatoes, and smoked salmon. Welcome to Switzerland!

Asparagus and Morel Tart via

Dinner at the Kronenhalle restaurant featured classic Swiss cuisine, and one of the amazing things about the restaurant is that it houses works of art by famous artists like Marc Chagall. For an appetizer, we had this asparagus and morel mushroom tart. Yes please!

White asparagus, Dolder Grand Hotel, Zurich Switzerland

Oh look: More asparagus. One night, we took a trolly up to The Dolder Grand hotel, which was quite spectacular in terms of the views and the artwork. My brother-in-law started his meal with white asparagus while my sister and I split an asparagus risotto.

Asparagus in Zurich via

With gorgeous views and delicious local cuisine, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip!

Chocolate, Asparagus, Gorgeous Views and Other Highlights From My Trip to Switzerland

Last week I traveled to Zurich and the surrounding countryside with my mom, two sisters, and brother-in-law where breathtaking views greeted us at every turn and Swiss chocolates, brezels, and local produce—everything from strawberries to green and white asparagus—treated our taste buds. I’ll be sharing all the delicious highlights on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast along with a new recipe Janice and I just created for asparagus quiche. In the meantime, read on for a sneak peek.

Lake Zurich via

My sister and brother-in-law are living a short walk away from Lake Zurich. It’s filled with boats, ducks, and swans, and on weekends, the lakefront buzzes with activity.


 Zurich and surrounding area via

We spent the first few days touring the city and nearby town of Rapperswil and sampling the local cuisine. (Those are my sisters, Amy and Marian, in the photo along with my mom.) My mom takes a mean selfie.

Raspberry tart at sprungli via

Everything in Switzerland is pretty. And if you happen to walk into one of the many Sprungli candy stores, you’ll find an impossible-to-resist array of chocolates, pastries, and freshly-made sandwiches. I brought back a box of chocolate-covered orange slices for Janice, and I told her not to share them with anyone. They are that good!

Eating brezels in zurich via

If you love carbs, you’ll want to try a brezel while you’re in Switzerland. They’re one of the popular street foods in the region; soft, chewy pretzels that come with interesting toppings like roasted pumpkin seeds.

Chocolate May Beetles in Zurich via

The Swiss love their chocolates. This time of year, you’ll find chocolate May beetles everywhere. My sister told me that over Easter, the stores were filled with chocolate bunnies and eggs. I wonder what they’ll have this summer.

Rapperswil view via

The town of Rapperswil is a 30-minute drive from Zurich. This view from Rapperswil Castle looked like something out of a fairytale. Gotta love those Swiss Alps.

Quiche and salad in Rapperswil via

In Rapperswil, we had lunch at the Burg Cafe for quiche and salad. Everything was fresh, local, and delicious.

Stein am Rheim, Switzerland

I’m a country girl at heart, and I absolutely adored visiting the medieval town of Stein am Rhein (located on the border of Germany). That’s my brother-in-law, Jim, hanging out by the main fountain. By the way, the water that comes out of all the fountains that I saw in Zurich and the surrounding towns was perfectly AOK to drink.

Tomato Spinach Crete in Stein am Rhein via

This tomato, spinach, and feta crepe from la p’tite creperie was a nice change of gastronomic scenery from the vegetable quiches I’d been eating all week. Loved it!!

stein am Rhein

Stein am Rhein: Is this place really real!?

Local strawberries in Switzerland via

Look what we picked up on our drive back to Zurich. Local, organic (AKA bio) strawberries.

Tibits vegetarian restaurant in Zurich via

Tibits is one of my sister’s favorite restaurants. The vegetarian-only buffet features an amazing variety of non-meat dishes like guacamole, corn salad, and roasted veggies, which surprisingly, included okra.

Asparagus at the Coop in Zurich via

Local asparagus was featured prominently on every menu in Switzerland during my visit. It’s in season—both the green and white varieties—and the fatter the stalk the better! I’ll tell you more about the local asparagus, the asparagus dishes I devoured on the trip, and share a new recipe for Springtime Asparagus Quiche in my next blog post.

Flavorful Diabetes Cooking, a Recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Mushroom Sauce, AND a Cookbook Giveaway (Podcast #244) * Giveaway Closed

People with diabetes can essentially eat the same foods as everyone else, though it’s important they pay especially close attention to their total daily carbohydrate consumption. The same tenants of a healthy diet apply to all: Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and calcium-rich dairy; also, maintain a healthy weight and keep a watchful eye on sodium.

 LISTEN TO COOKING WITH THE MOMS HERE! And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our show on iTunes.

On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, we explore the latest diabetes diet recommendations with dietitian and chef, Jackie Newgent, dish about her latest cookbook, The With or Without {Meat} Cookbook, and dig into two of her recipes: Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Mushroom Sauce and Szechuan Edamame. Oh, and we’re also giving away a copy of her book.

Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Mushroom Sauce via #vegan #vegetarian

 The new book includes flexitarian recipes designed for diabetes, prediabetes, or heart health, and most are Mediterranean in style.

Roasted Cauliflower with Mushroom Sauce via

To create the “steaks,” Jackie suggests the following technique: With a chef’s knife, slice down from the top of the cauliflower head down through the stem end. Use the largest center slices as “steaks.” Reserve the remaining cauliflower for other recipes, or toss with olive oil and roast with the steaks.

Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Mushroom Sauce

Makes 2 Servings

Recipe courtesy The With or Without {Meat} Cookbook by Jackie Newgent. We adapted it a bit based on the ingredients we had on hand. We used thyme, button mushrooms, and shelled pistachio nuts. We also used kosher salt and left out the hot pepper flakes. (Yes, we are wimpy!)

  • 2 (1-inch-thick) whole slices from a medium head cauliflower (about 6 ounces per slice)
  • 2½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1½ cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the cauliflower “steaks” with 1½ teaspoons oil and arrange on a baking sheet. (We lined our baking sheet with parchment paper.) Roast until lightly caramelized and the cauliflower florets are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Gently flip over each “steak,” sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the salt, and roast until well caramelized and the cauliflower stems are cooked through, about 12 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon rosemary and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and saute until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the marinara sauce, broth, and hot pepper flakes, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until desired consistency, about 8 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

{With Meat} Add 4 ounces crumbled, uncooked ground turkey and a pinch of sea salt along with the mushrooms in step 2.

Nutritional Information per Serving (1 steak with 1/2 cup sauce each): 150 calories, 10g fat (1g saturated), 470mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 6g protein

Print Recipe

With or Without Meat Cookbook

GIVEAWAY: One lucky blog reader or podcast listener will win an autographed copy of The With our Without {Meat} Cookbook. To enter, tell us why you’d like to win this book. Do you have diabetes or know someone who does? Are you trying to maintain a healthy weight or keep your cholesterol in check? Do tell!! (U.S. only please.)

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

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

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

> Follow us on Pinterest.

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

We’ll pick our winner on June 4th at noon EST using Good luck!

Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and a Recipe for Szechuan Edamame

Imagine you’re a busy, working mom of two and you wake up one day to the surprising news that you have Type I diabetes. That’s pretty much what happened last year to Katie, one of our loyal Cooking with the Moms podcast listeners. Katie recently contacted us to share her story of diagnosis and treatment and to ask about the best diet advice for people with diabetes, especially sugar substitutes. Should she use them or shouldn’t she? Were they really necessary? “I want to eat real foods,” she told us, “especially when I’m feeding my family.” To answer her questions, we invited fellow dietitian, cookbook author, and diabetes expert, Jackie Newgent, onto the show to shed light on the latest diabetes diet wisdom.

With or Without Meat

Jackie will be on the show this week—you’ll definitely want to tune in!—but in the meantime, we thought we’d tell you a little bit about her new book, The With or Without {Meat} Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and share her recipe for Szechuan Edamame.

Szechuan Edamame via #vegan #glutenfree

Jackie serves up 125 vegetarian recipes in the book, created for people with diabetes and those trying to lose weight or keep it off. After making her edamame as well as her Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Mushroom Sauce (which we’ll post soon), we think this book works wonders for anyone and everyone. The cool thing about the recipes is that they can be easily tweaked for people who eat meat, fish or poultry. As for sugar substitutes, Jackie says they’re fine to use, but certainly not required. (Tune in for a more in depth look at myths surrounding sugar and sugar substitutes.)

Szechuan Edamame via

Szechuan Edamame

Makes 4 Servings 

Recipe courtesy of Jackie Newgent, RDN, The With our Without {Meat} Cookbook (American Diabetes Association, 2014).

  • 1 pound frozen shelled edamame (3½ cups)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated gingerroot
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1½ teaspoons naturally brewed soy sauce
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1½ teaspoons orange zest, divided

1. Prepare the edamame according to package directions. Drain well.

2. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add the edamame, ginger, and hot pepper flakes, increase heat to high, and stir-fry until the edamame begins to caramelize, about 2½ minutes. Add the soy sauce, garlic, salt, and 1 teaspoon orange zest, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Adjust seasoning.

3. Transfer to a medium bowl or individual bowls, garnish with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, and serve.

{With Poultry, Fish, or Meat}: For the full recipe, finely dice 3 ounces uncooked beef tenderloin or sirloin, sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, and add along with the edamame, ginger, and hot pepper flakes in step 2.

Exchanges/Food Choices: 1 Starch, 2 Lean Meat

Nutrition Information per Serving (3/4 cup): 160 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated), 270mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 13g protein

Print Recipe

Stay tuned for the show, more recipes, and a chance to win The With or Without {Meat} Cookbook.


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