Garden Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti + 2 Helpful Meal Planning Tools

Lean ground turkey, fresh vegetables, and whole grain pasta come together quickly for this nutritious weeknight dinner your entire family will love.

A family dinner recipe for Garden Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

With all the recipes out there in cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, and on the internet, do you ever scratch your head and wonder, “What should I make for dinner tonight?”

Here to the rescue is our recipe for Garden Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti from No Whine with Dinner. And now you can watch me cook it up on YouTube.

I hope you enjoy all the videos on the channel,
and I encourage you to subscribe so you always know “what’s cooking!”

A family dinner recipe for Garden Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

Instead of using the dried Italian herbs called for in the recipe, I used about 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh basil. Think of fresh herbs like you would a vegetable. They’re packed with antioxidants … not to mention great flavor.

As for the pasta, for this recipe, I used a whole wheat blend spaghetti, but sometimes I use 100% whole wheat. (If your kids shy away from whole wheat, toss with pasta sauce; no one will know the difference.)

Garden Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

Makes 6 Servings (about 24 meatballs)

Since my husband, Tim, is a vegetarian who eats seafood, I made him a quick quesadilla with flaked canned salmon, corn kernels, spinach, cheese, and BBQ sauce. I should really blog about that recipe, but I didn’t have a chance to take a photo … nor did I really measure!

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2 medium carrots (about 6 ounces), peeled and grated (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning or dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • One 26-ounce jar pasta sauce
  • 12 ounces whole wheat blend spaghetti

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil or coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Place the ground turkey, carrots, egg, oats, Parmesan cheese, flaxseed, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix until just combined.

3. Shape the meat mixture into twenty-four 1½-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet and cook until lightly browned, 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, place the pasta sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to a simmer. When the turkey 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 flavors, about 20 minutes.

5. While the sauce and meatballs are simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl or platter, and serve with the sauce and meatballs on top.

Nutrition Information per Serving (4 meatballs & 2 ounces pasta): 440 calories, 10g fat (2.5g saturated, 0.5g omega-3), 650mg sodium, 56g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 32g protein, 60% vitamin A, 10% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 15% iron

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A family dinner recipe for Garden Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

To help you get more organized with your weekly meal planning, check out the following resources on Meal Makeover Moms (both are free!):

Supermarket Shopping List

7-Day Meal Planner

An Oscar Party Recipe for South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup (Recipe Redux)

This family-pleasing tortilla soup comes together quickly with chicken or vegetable broth, black beans, corn kernels and fire-roasted tomatoes. The toppings of homemade tortilla chips, avocado, cilantro, and shredded cheese bring it all together. 

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup via #soup #Mexican #tortillasoup

Every year when the Oscars roll around, we stay up late to hear the results, but then we wonder, “Why on Earth did we stay up so late? We haven’t seen any of the movies!” This year is no exception … with the exception of Lincoln. I prefer watching my movies from the comfort of my own home, and the movies I often gravitate to are the ones with a foodie theme. Over the years, some of my faves have been Babette’s Feast, Big Night, Eat Drink Man Woman, Food Inc., and my ALL-TIME favorite … Tortilla Soup.

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup via #soup #Mexican #tortillasoup

 In honor of Oscar night, this month’s Recipe Redux cooking challenge theme was to create a healthy recipe inspired by a favorite food scene or featured dish from any movie. Once I heard about the challenge, Tortilla Soup came immediately to mind … and so did this bean-filled recipe for South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup, adapted from our second cookbook, No Whine with Dinner.

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup via #soup #Mexican #tortillasoup

I had so much fun taking photos of this colorful and nutrient-rich soup!

Tortilla Soup poster

I grew up in a family of three girls — I’m the “pickle in the middle” — so maybe that’s why I loved Tortilla Soup so much. It’s about a Mexican-American family living in California. The dad is a widower, and his three grown daughters still live under his roof. The dad is a chef, and his elaborate, home-cooked meals always bring the family together. The movie is filled with all sorts of hilarious happenings (which often unfold at the dinner table), though some of the scenes are a bit spicy. Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (AKA Too Hot Tamales) worked on the movie set preparing and styling the food.

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup via #soup #Mexican #tortillasoup

I made some tweaks to our original recipe. Instead of using a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce, I used a 15-ounce can of super-flavorful Muir Glen Organic 2012 Reserve Fire Roasted Petite Diced Tomatoes. I pureed the tomatoes before adding because my boys don’t like lumps. I added a few pinches of chipotle chili powder, and for the toppings, I tossed in some leftover roasted chicken.

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup
This recipe is adapted from No Whine with Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes From the Meal Makeover Moms. It calls for making your own corn tortilla chips. But you could certainly use your favorite store-bought chips instead. I love this recipe because it's perfect for cozy family dinners and entertaining. You can make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth and opting out of the optional chicken topping.
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons expeller pressed canola oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • One 32-ounce carton all-natural chicken or vegetable broth (4 cups)
  • One 15-ounce can fire roasted petite diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce), pureed as desired
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • Ten 6-inch corn tortillas, sliced in half and then sliced into ¼-inch-wide strips
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Optional toppings: Shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese, diced avocado, diced roasted chicken, chopped fresh cilantro, reduced-fat sour cream, lime wedges
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and chili powder and cook an additional 1 minute.
  2. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, black beans, and corn. Cover, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the flavors meld, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F. Place the corn tortilla strips in a large bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until well coated. Place on a baking sheet and cook until golden and crispy, stirring halfway through to ensure even cooking, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. To add more body to the soup, whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl (this is called a slurry). Bring the soup back up to a boil, stir in the slurry, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
  5. Serve in individual bowls, top with the tortilla chips and the optional toppings as desired.
Each recipe has 10% vitamin A, 10% vitamin C, and 10% iron.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: (1 generous cup), Calories: 210, Fat: 6g, Saturated fat: 0g, Carbohydrates: 35g, Sodium: 630mg, Fiber: 6g, Protein: 7g

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup via #soup #Mexican #tortillasoup

 Which photo do you like better? My soup on the left is served on a flow blue plate that I bought at a local antique shop. The picture on the right is a bowl that was handed down from my great grandmother, Katie London. (And yes, she emigrated to the U.S. from the U.K.)

And the winner is???!!

A Sneak Peek of our Recent Trip to NYC for the Annual Meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP)

Last weekend, we traveled from Boston to the Big Apple for The Fashion of Food: Where Food, Fashion, and Media Connect, IACP’s annual food conference. For starters, we sat in on seminars featuring everyone from cookbook author Sara Moulton and Amanda Hesser of Food52 to Ruth Reichl, former Editor in Chef of Gourmet Magazine. As a main course, we listened to chef celebrities like Mario Batali, co-host of The Chew and Grant Achatz, owner of Alinea and Next and a leader in molecular gastronomy … and we hobnobbed with fellow food bloggers, cookbook authors, and dietitians. On a forthcoming Cooking with the Moms podcast, we’ll fill you in on all the delicious details. But in the meantime, here are just a few of the scrumptious highlights.

Okay. Let’s start with the bad news. Our podcast, Cooking with the Moms, was an IACP award’s finalist for the best culinary audio program in the broadcast and new media category. We did not win (hence the sad faces). But alas, it sure was an honor to be nominated!

At the award’s ceremony, Jacques Pepin paid homage to Julia Child. Did you know that this August marks the 100th birthday of the late food icon?

Look who we ran into … Virginia Willis, author of several cookbooks including Basic to Brilliant Y’all. Virginia was signing books at the CanolaInfo booth during the IACP’s Culinary Expo.

The Culinary Expo showcased cookware giants like KitchenAid and Cuisinart and local, New York-based artisanal food makers including Mitch Speaks, creator of these handmade Mitchmallows. The mint chocolate chip flavor was out of this world. If you listen to our podcast, you’ll know that Liz is obsessed with marshmallows, so she spent quite a bit of time at Mitch’s booth!

Liz spent Sunday afternoon showing off our cookbook, No Whine with Dinner at the Book & Blog Festival. Stopping by for a visit were Janet Helm, MS, RD from the blog, Nutrition Unplugged and co-founder of Healthy Aperture … and Wendy Bazilian, RD, author of The SuperFoods RX Diet.

Janice spoke on a panel sponsored by Dupont Teflon to discuss new consumer food trends — everything from cooking at home more often to paying more attention to the price of food. Other experts on the panel included award-winning health journalist and television personality Rovenia Brock, PhD, author and food stylist Lauren Braun Costello, Editor-in-Chief of Jocelyn Ramos Campbell, and food scientist Kantha Shelke, PhD. Kelsey Nixon from the Cooking Channel’s Kelsey’s Essentials moderated the panel.

We can’t wait to tell you about the AMAZING meal we had at Locanda Verde and the foodie/dietitian friends who joined us (hint: one of them was Ellie Krieger, host of the Cooking Channel’s Healthy Appetite). This salad featured bitter greens with dried cherries, hazelnuts, truffles, and smoked speck.

Stay tuned for more IACP news in the weeks to come 🙂

A Celebration of Vegetables: A Recipe for Winter Squash Risotto (Podcast #127)

We’ve done a lot of live TV interviews in our day and we’ve held a lot of cooking classes, but we’ve never cooked “live” online … until this week.  Thanks to Ustream technology, last Wednesday, December 15th at 1:00pm EST, we spent 30 fast-paced minutes sharing clever tips and easy recipes to inspire a love for vegetables, and our demo aired live on the new Birds Eye Facebook fan page. Pretty cool stuff!

Behind the scenes at the Tipping Point Labs studio, the director calls the shots.

Cameras, lighting, food styling by Kelly Upson, makeup by Phoebe Ramier: It took a lot of amazing cooks in this kitchen to pull the production together!

We were excited to team up with Birds Eye because they definitely share our goal of helping families get more veggies on the table. Did you know that  according to a new report from the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance, 90% of young children don’t eat their recommended amount of vegetables?  We’d love to change that statistic, so during the show, we cooked up two easy, kid-friendly dishes. The first was our Cheesy Spinach Bake from No Whine with Dinner featuring frozen chopped spinach and the second, a recipe from Birds Eye for Winter Squash Risotto. As we cooked, viewers were able to ask questions (which we answered live on the air), and we also talked about some of the proactive mealtime tips from our book for getting kids excited about eating a wider array of vegetables. If you missed the demo, you can watch it on Ustream TV or listen to us talk all about it on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast.

Winter Squash Risotto

Makes 6 Servings

This rich and creamy risotto is perfect as a side dish. To turn it into a spectacular holiday-inspired main dish, simply top it with grilled shrimp or chicken.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1½ cups dry arborio rice
  • 4 slices nitrite-free bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 4½ cups hot chicken broth (and 1/2 to 1 cup additional water as needed)
  • 1 box Birds Eye® Cooked Winter Squash (12 ounce), thawed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional

1. Heat oil in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add rice, bacon, and sage, and stir to coat with oil. Ladle 1/2 cup hot broth into the rice; cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition absorb before adding the next.

3. When there is 1 cup broth remaining, stir in the squash. Continue cooking, adding remaining broth and additional water as needed, until rice is creamy yet firm. Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese.

4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with parsley as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving:  320 calories, 11g fat (3.5g saturated), 530mg sodium, 46g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 9g protein, 60% vitamin A, 20% vitamin C, 10% calcium

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Tip 1 … Take 1 … Action!

As you may know, when it comes to vegetables, our philosophy is to make them highly visible on the plate … not concealed or hidden within the meal. If vegetables are a tough sell with kids, we have plenty of strategies to wow them. During the demo, we talked about three of our favorites:

Meal Plan as a Family: Have the kids help with the weekly meal planning. Let each child take ownership of one night with a recipe they choose, help shop for and help cook. Our Stuffed Spinach and Cheese Pizza (No Whine with Dinner, page 75) is a dish the kids will gladly help make!

Theme Nights: Once a week, pick a theme for dinner. Try Mexican Night, Picnic Night, or Asian Cooking Night. For this dish, we steamed up a bag of frozen veggie medley — broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts — then tossed it with lite teriyaki sauce. Have the kids sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top.

Celebrate Colors: With dishes like our Over-the-Rainbow Brown Rice (No Whine with Dinner, page 142), have your kids take turns calling out a color at the dinner table. Once they choose a color from their plate, have everyone take a bite of whatever color was chosen. Yell “green” for peas, “orange” for carrots, and “yellow” for corn. Before you know it, they’ll have three bites down the hatch.

The Ustream demo was a blast, and we can’t wait to hear what you all thought of it. In the meantime, between now and December 31st, if you “Like” the Birds Eye Facebook fan page, $1.00 will be donated to Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to providing nutritious food to families in need. It’s all part of an effort to feed kids better!

Book Launch Party for No Whine with Dinner PLUS Recipes for Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake and Red Potatoes with Salmon Mousse (Podcast #123)

It’s not every day you get to throw yourself a party, but that’s exactly what we did last Friday night when we officially launched our new cookbook, No Whine with Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms. On the eve of the annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association (known affectionately as FNCE), we gathered with fellow dietitians from across the country as well as family members and some fabulous foodie friends to celebrate in style.  We dish all about the party on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast and share “sound bites” from some of our guests for getting kids of all ages to eat a healthy and delicious diet. From tips on being a positive role model at mealtime to the “7 Bite Rule,” you won’t want to miss this show!

The event was catered by Absolutely Fabulous (we provided the desserts), and the party was a smashing success thanks to the generous support of the California Raisin Marketing Board, United States Potato Board, and the National Peanut Board.

Tables were decorated with photos of some of the pint-size recipe testers who critiqued the recipes for No Whine with Dinner!

Shelly Kessen, Meredith Myers, Janice, Liz Conant, and Liz.

The Menu … That Nobody Whined About:

  • Beef Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce
  • Petit Cod Cakes with Herb-Infused Aioli Sauce
  • Baby Red Potatoes with Salmon Mousse & Capers
  • Curried Chicken Salad in Endive with California Raisins
  • Mushroom Duxelle in Filo Cup with Asiago Cheese
  • Asparagus and Dijon Puff Pastry Twists
  • Crostini with White Bean Spread and Olive Tapenade
  • Cheddar cheeses provided by Cabot Cheese Coop
    (50% Reduced Fat Sharp, Seriously Sharp, Tomato Basil, Chipotle)
  • I-Love-Chocolate Party Torte
  • Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake
  • Peanut Butter Power Cookies

Red Potatoes with Salmon Mousse & Capers (AKA Little Red and Green Appetizers).

Red Potatoes with Salmon Mousse & Capers

Makes 10 to 12 Appetizer Servings

  • 2/3 pound (about 12) small red potatoes, uniform in size
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces sliced smoked salmon, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 12 slices (1/2-inch thick) English cucumber
  • Snipped chives, dried dill weed and/or drained capers, for garnish

1. Halve potatoes; cut and discard a very thin slice from skin side of each half.

2. In 2-quart saucepan, cover potatoes with water; add salt. Bring to boiling over high heat, reduce heat, cover and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size of potatoes. Drain; cool to room temperature.

3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix cheese, salmon, lemon juice and pepper to blend thoroughly. With small spoon, mound salmon mixture onto potato halves and cucumber slices, dividing equally (1 to 1½ teaspoons each). Arrange on serving plate and add your choice of garnishes. If not served immediately, these can be prepared several hours in advance; cover and refrigerate. For best flavor, return to room temperature just before serving.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 63 calories, 3g protein, 6g carbohydrate, 3g total fat, 218mg sodium, 0.5g fiber, 4mg Vitamin C, 182mg potassium

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Featured desserts at our party included our I-Love-Chocolate Party Torte, Peanut Butter Power Cookies, and Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

Makes 16 Servings

This recipe is featured on the cover of our new cookbook! For dessert, we like to dust it with powdered sugar or serve with low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt. On it’s own, we also love it as a mid-morning or afternoon snack.

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ or ground flaxseed
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • One 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dried currants or 1/3 cup California raisins, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously oil or coat a 10-cup bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, wheat germ, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, cloves, and nutmeg in large bowl until well combined.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, milk, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients and the currants over the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

5. Cool the cake completely, and dust the top with powdered sugar as desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 slice): 210 calories, 6g fat (0.5g saturated, 0.5g omega-3), 230mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein, 80% vitamin A

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What follows are a few photos from the big bash. Please visit our Flickr photo-sharing page for more fun pics!

Bonnie Johnson from the National Peanut Board, Kristen from the blog, Eating RD, and Kathleen Zelman with WebMD.

Fellow dietitian and podcast fan, Leah Smith, poses with her mom and Janice. Leah and her two children tested recipes for No Whine with Dinner.

Susan Nicholson, author of 7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies, poses with Liz’s son, Simon (our official coat hanger-upper and waiter).

Allison Beadle, Shelly Kessen, Christine Palumbo, and sports nutritionist, Nancy Clark.

Janice, Carolyn O’Neil from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and her daughter, Katie.

Laura Lagano, Liz and her son, Josh, and Gail Frank.

Leah Bissex shows off mom’s new cookbook and greets guests with a name tag, gift bag, and a smile.

Janice and Liz greet Casey Lewis from Welch’s and Janel Ovrut from the blog, Eat Well with Janel.

College advisor and mentor, Katherine Mugrave, with her former students, Janice and Janet Rouslin.

Dieitians Kate Geagan and Christine Palumbo with Liz.

Will from The Boston Foodie stopped by!

Rhonda Witwer with National Starch Food Innovations and Kyle Potvin with Splash Communications.

No Whine with Dinner: A Recipe for Light Chicken Enchiladas

Raise Healthy Eaters is a blog where parents can go to get credible nutrition advice for their families. Maryann, a registered dietitian and mother of two, started the site to give parents peace of mind in the areas of what to feed their children, how to feed them, and how to be a healthy role model. We’ve been reading Maryann’s blog for a long time and enjoy her articles and recipes.

When we  invited Maryann to contribute a recipe and some mealtime tips for our monthly No Whine with Dinner post, she chose one of her kids’ favorites: Light Chicken Enchiladas … a dish her children happily eat.

Light Chicken Enchiladas

Makes 4 to 6 Servings

  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese (1/3 less fat)
  • One 10-ounce can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 5 to 6 large whole wheat flour tortillas (or smaller ones if you prefer)
  • About 3/4 of a 15-ounce jar of taco sauce (mild, medium or hot — your preference), plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (reduced-fat, optional)
  • One 15-ounce can black beans (use 2 if serving more than 4)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 large avocado (or 2 small ones)
  • 1 tablespoon light sour cream

1. Spray a skillet or pan with canola cooking spray and place over medium to high heat.  Place chicken strips in skillet and keep turning over until the outsides turn white.  Take a fork and knife and shred the chicken allowing it to cook at the same time. Continue until meat is shredded and cooked through.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Add chopped onion, cream cheese, and enchilada sauce and stir to combine.  When the mixture starts to boil, turn off the heat and set aside

3. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with canola cooking spray.  Fill tortillas with mixture and fold each side over and place on the pan.  I usually get 5 to 6 big enchiladas. Cover with taco sauce.  Top with shredded cheese.  Cover with foil and cook 20 minutes.  Remove foil and cook for an additional 10 (for a total of 30 minutes).

4. When enchiladas are almost done you’ll want to quickly prepare the beans.  Put olive oil in a small pan and add garlic until it sizzles.  Drain black beans and add to pan (leave some juice).  Add cumin and mix together.  Cook on medium heat until fully heated.  Set aside.

5. Make the guacamole last.  Scoop out avocado into a bowl.  Add sour cream and taco sauce (about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon).  Mash together and add salt to taste.  Serve with tortilla chips (for dinner we each get a handful of chips with the meal).

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Q: Where did you get the recipe?
A: This recipe was inspired by a Cooking Light recipe I found online years ago.  I can’t find the original recipe but I made several changes.  This is one of the first meals I made when I started cooking 10 years ago.

Q: What do you like about this recipe?
A: I like that it can be made earlier in the day only to be popped in the oven closer to meal time.  I enjoy making Mexican food because everyone in the family loves it and it always includes whole wheat tortillas, black beans (high fiber and nutritious) and avocados.  The variety of food on the table ensures that everyone will be satisfied.

Q: What do your kids think about this recipe?
A: I have a picky three-year old, but if you put Mexican food in front of her she attacks.  During this meal she’ll say, “I love beans, I love guacamole, I love enchiladas.”  This is a girl who won’t even eat spaghetti, so I think we found a goldmine here.  My son is in a stage where he’ll eat almost anything, but he does seem to love beans, cheese, and chicken

Q: Other than the fact that this recipe makes everyone in your family happy, do you have any other tips you’d like to share with fellow parents for taking the “whine” out of dinner:
A: Putting different food items on the table is key. At dinnertime I make sure there are at least two foods my daughter will eat.  So if she doesn’t love the main entree, she can have some carrots and bread.  When it’s a meal I know she likes, I’ll try some new sides or ones she usually doesn’t eat. She’s more likely to try new foods (and not complain) when familiar items are close by. I provide more tips on the following article: How to Make Family Dinners More Kid Friendly.

I do not make the meal about how much or what she is eating.  Even if she doesn’t want to eat, we ask her to join in the conversation and tell us about her day.  Keeping the dinner table enjoyable is the most important thing to me.  It makes her excited to come back night after night.

Q: Please provide a brief description of your blog:
A: As a dietitian, writer and mom, I felt compelled to develop a credible online resource for parents.  I provide simplified, research-based nutrition and feeding advice for busy parents who don’t have the time to research all the issues.  The articles and resources on my site  cover the three essential factors for raising healthy and happy eaters: providing children with good nutrition (the “what”) utilizing a positive feeding strategy (the “how”) and being a healthy role model (the example).  I share my own struggles and challenges raising healthy eaters.

Thanks Maryanne for a great guest post!

No Whine with Dinner: Bowtie Pasta with Feta Cheese & Lemon Pepper Chicken

Here at Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen we encourage families to cook at home and eat together.  So when we discovered the blog, Eat at Home, we couldn’t wait to read it.  The tagline for Eat at Home is Everyday Food for Busy People. Written by Tiffany, a mother of four (18-year old Meredith, 15-year old Peter, 11-year old Isaac, and 7-year old Mia), Eat at Home helps families put dinner on the table … so they don’t have to spend lots of money eating out.

Since we liked her blog so much, we asked Tiffany to participate in our No Whine with Dinner Q&A guest post and to share a recipe that all her children love.   She chose Bowtie Pasta with Feta Cheese & Lemon Pepper Chicken, a recipe she created a few years ago and one that became an instant family favorite.  We think you’ll like it!

Bowtie Pasta with Feta Cheese & Lemon Pepper Chicken

Makes About 8 Servings

  • 3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • One, 16-ounce box dried bowtie pasta
  • 1 small bunch broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 to 3 carrots, chopped or ½ bag baby carrots
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 to 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 ½ cups half & half, warmed

1. Season the chicken on both sides with lemon pepper seasoning.  Grill until cooked through.

2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water according to the package directions.  If you have a pot that’s big enough, you can add the veggies to the pasta during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.  If not, steam the veggies in a small amount of water in another pot.

3. Drain the pasta and veggies.  Stir in the butter, feta cheese and half & half.  Slice the grilled chicken into thin strips and serve along with the pasta.  Serve the lemon pepper seasoning at the table for those who want more on their pasta.

Note: I used to buy the bags of fresh veggies meant to steam in the microwave, but I’ve noticed that the bags have gotten much smaller in recent years.

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Q: What do you like about this recipe?
A: I love the flavor combination of this dish.  The lemon pepper is bright and the veggies are fresh.  Pasta is one of my family’s favorite types of food, so this dish is a hit.

Q: What do your kids think about this recipe?
A: Because the recipe combines some of their favorite vegetables, pasta, and chicken I think it was a good way to introduce them to the new flavors of feta cheese and the lemon pepper seasoning. We are a homeschooling family and are often home for lunch.  We make it a habit to eat up the leftovers at lunch.  Now that the kids are older, there aren’t as many leftovers … sometimes only a serving or two.  The kids will “call” a serving of this for their lunch.  Anything kids willingly eat as a leftover is good, especially when it is healthy too.

Q: Other than the fact that this recipe makes everyone in your family happy, do you have any other tips you’d like to share with fellow parents for taking the “whine” out of dinner?
A: Some kids are naturally picky and others will try most anything.  I’ve got two of each of those types.  I’m sad to report that I’ve not been able to turn the picky kids into adventurous eaters.  But as they’ve gotten older, they like to experiment in the kitchen especially with spice combinations.  I think this helps broaden their tastes.

Although we do insist our kids eat enough variety of foods to have a balanced diet, we don’t have hard and fast rules.  I try to fix veggies that they like, but also introduce new things every so often.  And there are some foods that a child just won’t eat.  I respect that.  One of my sons really doesn’t like shrimp.  I don’t force him to eat it, but it doesn’t keep me from fixing it for the rest of us occasionally.  He can eat the other part of the meal and is free to snack on other foods to fill him up.  I don’t fix alternate foods if a child is just being picky, versus truly not liking a food they have tried.  Thankfully, it all becomes easier as they get older.

Q: Please provide a brief description of your blog:
A: Eat at Home provides recipes, menus and complete grocery lists to help families put dinner on the table fast.  The meals are easy, use common ingredients and are kid friendly.

Note from The Moms:  Janice made this recipe for her family the other night, and it was a huge hit!  Leah went back for seconds, and everyone enjoyed it reheated the next day.  The Bissex family will definitely be making it again!

No Whine with Dinner: Whole Baked Red Snapper with Herbs

The Yummy Mummy is one of those food blogs you’ll want to visit a lot.  The Yummy Mummy is Kim and her approach to feeding her two girls, 4-year old Lucy and 3-year old Edie, is right up our alley. According to Kim, “I don’t cook ‘food for kids.'” Instead, what she does prepare are fresh, delicious meals that appeal to adults. As for the kids, she expects them to eat what she and her husband eat, and she has a great sense of humor too!

If you’re wondering how Kim manages to get her family to eat the same meal happily — even the whole baked snapper recipe below — read on. We guarantee you’ll find lots of new ideas and a refreshing approach to mealtime.

Whole Baked Red Snapper with Herbs

  • One 2-to 2 ¼-pound whole red snapper, cleaned
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or a few generous squirts from a lemon
  • 5 or 6 sprigs of lemon thyme
  • 10 chives (uncut)
  • Parsley, minced and used at the end for presentation
  • 1/4 stick butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges (save a few for presentation)
  • Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a good size baking pan. Butter the pan a bit to keep the fish from sticking. Wash fish, pat dry with paper towel and place it in center of a pan.

2. Season cavity of fish with garlic, salt and pepper, and lemon juice. Dot cavity with butter. Arrange some lemon wedges, lemon thyme sprigs and chives inside cavity. (You really can use whatever herb combination you like – I won’t yell at you). Season outside of fish with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon over outside of fish. Salt and pepper the outside. Top with a couple lemon slices, if you like.

3. At this point, you can store the fish in the fridge for up to a day. If you can prep the fish ahead, dinner is just putting a pan in the oven. Simple.

4. Bake fish in oven until cooked through, about 35-40 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. Transfer fish to platter. Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and a generous little pile of lemon wedges.

Q: Where did you get the recipe?
Well, I made this myself without a recipe, but I hardly created it. Better cooks than I have done this dish in their own way. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever combination of herbs you have on hand and it will turn out beautifully. You can be the creator of the dish.

Q: What do you like best about this recipe?
This is a really beautiful dish that you can bring to the table whole out of the oven, with juices bubbling and herbs crisped. And no one will ever know how ridiculously easy it is to make. It’s great for a special weeknight dinner because you can prep the fish ahead in the morning and just pop it in the oven after you get home from work or a busy day. I think it’s also important for kids to see that “fish” does not come from a fish stick box. And this is great way to have that discussion without actually having to have that discussion.

Q:  What do your kids think about this recipe?
The key part of this dish is that you serve the fish whole at the table “with eyes.” My kids love all things fish, but the first time they saw a roasted whole fish at a Chinese dinner party hosted by a friend, they completely freaked out. Now, they ask for “fish with eyes” regularly. They are tickled to see the whole fish, to be able to inspect it, touch the scales, the gills, even pick up the fish head and put it on their plate and look closely at the eyes. The adults can flake the fish off the bone and put it on their plate while they are mesmerized by the fish itself or they can dive in with their own forks. It’s such a tactile dish and perfect for curious, young ones who haven’t quite figured out that a fish head might be “gross.”

Q:  Other than the fact that this recipe makes everyone in your family happy, do you have any other tips for taking the “whine” out of dinner?
I have a pretty un-orthodox approach when it comes to family eating. I don’t spend a lot of time making my kids eat or worrying about how much they eat. I try to recognize that sometimes kids are hungry and clean their plates and other times, they don’t. I trust they know when they’ve had enough and when they want more. I have friends who follow their kids around the table with forkfuls of food begging them to eat “one more bite.” That just makes dinner painful for everyone. I want my kids to learn to be responsible for their own eating. I’m not saying this works for everyone, but it makes our meal times much more fun.

Here are five other clever mealtime tips from The Yummy Mummy:

> Make Soup: One of the best things I ever did was introduce soup as a lunch time meal when the kids were babies. They eat some kind of home-made soup at least every other day. This has helped me feel good about what they are taking in and it has become a go-to meal for us. There is always a pot of soup in the fridge or freezer, ready for a quick, healthy meal. If they don’t like dinner, for instance, they can have some soup. When I know they’ll eat nothing else, I know they’ll eat a bowl of soup.

> No Box Mac and Cheese in the House. Ever: Nothing kills a palate like the box. It is never in our house. They can enjoy it to their hearts content at their friend’s houses and it is a real treat for them, but they don’t have any expectation that it is served at our house. Why? Because once they taste it, they’ll want it all the time. And you can never go back. It’s like a drug. So, I just don’t introduce it in the first place.

> Never Order off the Children’s Menu: Shrimp cocktail is our go-to restaurant meal for the kids. If you start ordering chicken fingers and pasta with no sauce, you’ll have to do it every time you go into a restaurant. If you start this when they can’t read the menu, they’ll have a better shot at ordering more varied items as they get older and can choose for themselves.

> Say No to Carbs Whenever Possible: Limit carby snacks, no Goldfish or Wheat Thins to curb hunger. Fruit and nuts are great as snacks, but crackers are too filling and offer no nutrition. And that’s room in their stomachs that can house fish and meat and vegetables.

> Buy Parsley: Keep a bottle of dried parsley in the fridge. Dust every dish with a little dried or even better, fresh parsley. This helps kids realize there is no such thing as “white food” and it gets them used to the idea that herbs are supposed to be in food. Nothing goes out of my kitchen that is one color. Ever. And my reward for this is that they don’t pick the rosemary out of the chicken when we are at a dinner party.

Q: Tell us about The Yummy Mummy. By the way, we love your tag line: In the Kitchen with a Couple of Spatula-Wielding Toddlers:
The Yummy Mummy is a humor blog that focuses on parenting and cooking with small children underfoot. I don’t cook “food for kids.” I do cook fresh, tasty, dishes that appeal to adults and we expect our kids to eat what we eat. No gimmicks, no angles, no food with smiley faces. I have some big victories, but a lot of the time, the kids just throw food at us. And that’s okay too.

If you want to follow Kim, here’s a link to The Yummy Mummy.

No Whine with Dinner: 50-Yard Fiesta Dip

Move over Martha Steward, because Mandy at Gourmet Mom on the Go is the queen of kitchen creativity as far as we’re concerned. The focus of Mandy’s blog is to inspire her readers to get into the kitchen with their kids, and she does this by sharing  fun and whimsical recipes. You just have to see her Edible Chandelier and Tipi Tacos to believe it!

For this post, we feature Mandy’s 50-Yard Fiesta Dip. We chose this recipe because football season is back in full swing, and we thought her super-yummy tailgate snack would be an easy (and healthy) one for everyone to make.

It’s clear Mandy’s three children, Big C, Little C, and Little H (their blog aliases), love to cook, and this recipe was easy enough for these pint-size chefs to get involved. Read on to learn more about the dish as well as Mandy’s oh-so-clever ideas for getting kids of all ages excited about food.

50-Yard Fiesta Dip
Makes 8 Servings

  • 1 can (15 oz) Black Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern Beans or Navy Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) corn, drained
  • 3/4 cup red salsa, any kind
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used Kraft Mexican Blend)
  • 1 jar (16 oz) Pace Tequila Lime Salsa (or salsa verde if you can’t find it)
  • 1 package (8 oz) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • Whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Sea salt, optional (these are for the “football crisps,” or you can just use chips)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Mix Black Beans, Great Northern Beans, corn, red salsa, and shredded cheese in a large bowl. Spread the mixture in a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with cooking spray.

3. Bake for 15 minutes until warm and bubbly. Remove from oven and let set for 5 minutes.

4. While the dip is baking, place a stack of tortillas on a cutting board and cut into football shapes. Spread on a greased cookie sheet and spray tops with cooking spray. Sprinkle sea salt on top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes until crispy.

5. After the dip has cooled for 5 minutes and set a little bit, gently spread Pace Tequila Lime Salsa over the top. Stir together the cream cheese and sour cream and place in one-gallon Ziploc freezer baggie. Snip an end off the bag and pipe on yard lines and hash marks. If the mixture is too thick to pipe out, add a little more sour cream.  Serve with Football Crisps.

Q: Where did you get the recipe?
A: I created it myself.  A friend told me about how she used beans and cheese to make a yummy hot dip and it inspired me.

Q: What do you like about this recipe?
A: I like the nutritional value, and everyone loves it.  It’s great for a football munchie, and it’s healthier than most other “football food.”

Q: What do your kids think about this recipe?
A: My girls go crazy over this dish. When Big C tried it, she said, “I am going to gobble this up!” Little C wanted to know if we were going to play football and Little H gave it two thumbs up and said, “I wike it!”

Q: Other than the fact that this recipe makes everyone in your family happy, do you have any other “Mandy” tips you’d like to share with fellow parents for taking the “whine” out of dinner?
Take an extra 60 seconds to turn the food into something “different.”  For example, recently, I took some hot rice, molded it into a little “bowl,” filled it with the chopped chicken and vegetables we cooked for dinner, and told my 2-year old it was, “Puppy Chow.”  She devoured a dish that she probably would have balked at.

I believe if you get the kids involved in the cooking process, they will be more likely to eat what you prepared.  Everyone can help, even if it’s just taking things to the recycle bin. It can even be as easy as calling a dish a different name.  “Princess Soup with Magic Wands” sounds more appetizing than “Vegetable Soup and Breadsticks.”

Another tip I have is to sit down AT THE TABLE all together and talk while you eat.  Ask questions like, “If you could turn into an animal, what would you be?”  Have everyone take a bite before they answer.  Even if you have already eaten or are not eating that dinner, find something to eat or drink and sit down with your family.

Finally, don’t stress if your kids won’t eat something the first (or 5th) time you introduce it.  If you keep introducing new foods, they eventually will try it.  Otherwise, it becomes a power game and you have lost the fun and magic of mealtime.  Kids are finicky by nature. My 2 year old will devour sushi and hot curry dishes one day and will balk at chicken nuggets another day.

Q: Can you tell us about your blog?
A: I am passionate about “taking back dinnertime” and bringing the family together around the table.  In my house, we make all kinds of fun and whimsical food that is great for all ages.  Hopefully my site will inspire you to get into the kitchen with your kids and make some fun memories.

We’d like to thank Mandy for her creative recipe and helpful mealtime tips.  Stay tuned for our next installment of No Whine with Dinner coming next month. If you’re a football fan and plan to make this dip for your next tailgate party, pleae let us know by posting a comment to the blog. Go Pats!!

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