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

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

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

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

Tuscan Ham & Cheese Melts

Makes 3 Servings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kraft Kitchens via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

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

Kraft Kitchens

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

Kraft tour

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

Liz with Mr. Peanut

Just had to share …

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