A Fond Farewell from Janice

I’m writing this post to inform you, my community of devoted readers, that 15 years after co-founding Meal Makeover Moms I am moving on. This decision was difficult, but as someone once said, “every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow,” and I have made the decision to embark on a new journey.

Cooking is my first love (besides my family, friends, and dog!), and I particularly love welcoming people into my kitchen to cook with me. I will continue creating and sharing recipes, but through a different avenue. My next adventure is with JaniceCooks.com.

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Food Photography for Newbies (Podcast #138)

“Back in the day” when we went to college to study nutrition, the internet, for all intents and purposes, did not exist, and there was no such thing as a blog. Today, there are well over 150 million blogs on the internet — featuring everything from food and nutrition to fitness and crafts — filled with countless (and we mean countless) photographs. Food photography wasn’t a required class when we became registered dietitians, but as food bloggers, it’s certainly a skill we need to know today.

Gary Tardiff is a professional food photographer (he’s the man wedged here between The Meal Makeover Moms), and he recently stopped by to share his best pointers for taking beautiful food photos. Gary’s wife, food stylist Kelly Upson, introduced us, and Gary couldn’t resist the offer to help two newbie dietitian photographers learn some of the tricks to his trade: composition, lighting, exposure, white balance. On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, Gary serves up some of his expertise and food photography wisdom. By the way, in case you’re wondering, we use a Canon Rebel XSi digital camera with a 60mm macro lens.

Here, Gary used the filling of a drinking glass to explain settings that affect exposure. Shutter speed, aperture (opening of the lens), and speed (ISO) all work in tandem. For example, if you use a wide aperture (F 2.8), you’ll get a shallow depth of field and a fuzzy, out-of-focus background. To get enough natural light for a good food photo, you’ll likely need a slow shutter speed, so a tripod is recommended.
If natural light is available, use it.

You can force your camera to allow more light in by choosing a slower shutter speed (as seen in the bottom of these two muffin photos), resulting in a washed out, overexposed “look.”

If you don’t set your white balance properly, your photos may end up with an orange hue. If you take a photo indoors, say under a light bulb, you would need to set the camera to the tungsten setting. In this photo, our banana muffins look more like pumpkin muffins because we didn’t “tell” the camera we were shooting under indoor lighting.

Janice has Photoshop Elements, and Gary showed her how to use it to edit and fix photos in post production. In this photo of our Roasted Squash Hummus, she learned how to crop the photo, tweak the color balance, and sharpen the image. If you look at the Before and After images, you can see some subtle differences.

After our day with Gary, one thing is clear. Janice learned a ton (but still has a lot to learn) and remains the official photographer here at Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen. Liz had a hard time grasping the concepts (too much math involved) and has assigned herself chief bottle washer and prop gofer girl. Everyone is happy, and we look forward to learning a lot more about photography as our blogging careers progress.

Do you have a favorite photography tip you’d like to share? Do tell ….

School Lunch Revolution & a Recipe for a Healthy Hero (Podcast #102)

Over the past few months, we’ve been absolutely wowed by the growing momentum behind school lunch reform. Both of us have spent time in the “trenches” working to improve the school lunch options in our children’s schools, so we understand the time and commitment it takes to bring positive change to the system. On this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, we dish about several of those efforts and chat about the role we see for ourselves in the movement.

If you watched the last episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC, you may recall his disappointment when some of the kids brought brown-bag lunches filled with candy, chips, and soft drinks. We were disappointed too, so from now on, we will be making a greater effort on our website and blog to provide our readers and listeners with tips and recipes for adding ease, nutrition, and fun flavors to kids’ lunches. Under the Mealtime Tips section of our main site, we have a fact sheet on Brown Bag Boredom Busters, and we have some helpful articles you may want to check out too: Think Outside the Lunchbox and Smart Snacking. Read on for a lunch box Healthy Hero recipe and links to some of our favorite school lunch reform websites.

Healthy Hero

Makes 4 Servings

  • 1 cup packed baby spinach or romaine lettuce
  • 1 tablespoon lite or regular Italian salad dressing
  • 4 teaspoons honey mustard
  • 4 whole wheat submarine rolls, halved
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced roast beef
  • 4 sandwich-cut dill pickles
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced, optional
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced reduced-fat cheese (mozzarella, American, Swiss, or provolone)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced low-sodium deli turkey

1. Combine the spinach and salad dressing in a bowl and mix well.

2. Spread 1 teaspoon of the mustard on one side of each roll. Layer evenly with the roast beef, spinach, pickle, tomato as desired, cheese, and turkey. Place the remaining roll halves firmly on top. Slice in half or pack whole.

Nutrition Information per Serving:  350 calories, 11g fat (4.5g saturated), 870mg sodium, 39g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 28g protein, 15% vitamin A, 25% calcium, 15% iron

Print Recipe

We could spend all day going from website to website reading about the people and organizations working to improve what our kids eat in school. Here is just a brief overview of some of our favorites:

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Jamie Oliver offers recipes, tips for reforming the school lunch program, a petition to save cooking skills and improve school food, and lots more!
Two Angry Moms:  Two moms make a movie about their quest to improve their school lunch program and provide tools to help you bring change to your district.
Let’s Move: More than 31 million children participate in the national school lunch program, and Michelle Obama, through her Let’s Move initiative, wants to make it a whole lot healthier.
Chef Ann Cooper: As the self-described Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann’s life work is to transform how we feed our children in school each day, from highly processed to highly nourishing food — one school lunch at a time.
Farm to School Initiative: The USDA encourages schools to buy produce from local farmers.
Fed Up with Lunch: Blogging anonymously under the pseudonym, Mrs. Q, this third-grade teacher from the Midwest is eating school lunch just like the kids every day in 2010. Her photos and insights are a real eye opener!
Moms Inc.: A group of concerned moms provides tips and tools for helping fellow parents approach school administrators and food service directors with the goal of improving the nutrition in school lunches.

What’s happening in your community? Do tell!

Family Nutrition … it’s our “Beat”

March is National Nutrition Month, and tomorrow is officially National Registered Dietitian Day.  Admittedly, we never knew there was such a day, but then again, there’s a National Pigs-in-a-Blanket Day and a National Blueberry Pancake Day, so we’re thrilled registered dietitians get their own day too.

To celebrate, we’re participating in an RD Blogfest (AKA blog carnival).  For the event, dietitian bloggers across the web are showcasing what it means to be a dietitian and highlighting the different career paths they’ve chosen (see links below).

Dietitians do a host of things.  Those with clinical backgrounds often work in hospitals and nursing homes while others, trained in the area of media and communications, bring their talents to public relations firms, food corporations and major magazines and newspapers.

As The Meal Makeover Moms, we consider ourselves family nutrition experts.  Our journey down that path began in 2004 with the release of our book, The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers.  The book highlights our simple food philosophy that kids – even picky ones — will eat nutritious food without complaint as long as it looks and tastes great. To write the book, we drew upon many experiences – Liz worked as a producer for CNN and PBS for many years, writing and reporting on food and nutrition, and she was also trained at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge MA; Janice, the uber organizer between us, worked as the dietitian for the U.S. Senate in Washington and spent over a decade collaborating with award-winning chef Daniel Bruce at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

Timing is everything. In 2004, when the web was really starting to take off we launched MealMakeoverMoms.com, our online Meal Makeover Moms’ Club (now over 6,000 members strong), and a monthly e-newsletter.  At that time, we also began hosting hands-on cooking classes for fellow parents and wrote for several parenting magazines including Nick Jr., American Baby, and Kiwi.  Today, we co-host a weekly radio podcast, Cooking with the Moms (anyone can tune in either on our website or on iTunes).  In addition, we have a newly-designed food blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen, where we post kid-friendly recipes, mealtime tips, and new food product news several times a week. We mastered a lot of new technologies along the way; we’re still amazed that Janice learned how to edit the podcast and that Liz finally figured out how to post to the blog without breaking out in a cold sweat!

As busy moms, we understand the daily challenge parents face when breakfast, lunch, and dinner rolls around.  By sharing our tried-and-true recipes — Cheeseburger Pizza, Mommy’s EdamamesApple Butterscotch Cake to name a few — and realistic mealtime advice, we aim to make a positive impact on families everywhere.

Blogfest contributors:

Beyond Prenatals -
Food vs. Supplements and Real Advice vs. Fake Advice
Annette Colby -
No More Diets! A Registered Dietitian Shares 9 Secrets to
Real and Lasting Weight Loss
Ashley Colpaart -
Dietitians working in food policy, a new frontier
Diana Dyer -
There & Back Again: Celebration of National Dietitian Day
Marjorie Geiser -
RD Showcase for National RD Day - What we do
Cheryl Harris -
Me, a Gluten Free RD!
Marilyn Jess -
National Registered Dietitian Day--RD Blogfest
Julie Lanford -
Antioxidants for Cancer Prevention
Renata Mangrum -
What I'm doing as I grow up...
Liz Marr -
Fruits and Veggies for Registered Dietian Day: Two Poems
Jill Nussinow -
The Registered Dietitian Lens I Look Through
Wendy Jo Petersen -
March 11 is our day to shine!
Diane Preves -
RDs & the White House Forum on Health Reform
Andy Sarjahani -
Green Eggs and Ham and a Sustainable Food System
Rebecca Scritchfield -
Big Tips from a "Big Loser"
Anthony Sepe -
RD Showcase: Registered Dietitian Day, March 11, 2009
Kathy Shattler -
RD Showcase for Nutri-Care Consultation
UNL-Extension, Douglas/Sarpy County -
Nutrition Know How - Making Your Life Easier 
Monika Woolsey -
Dietitians--Can't Do PCOS Without Them!
Monika Woolsey -
In Honor of National Registered Dietitian Day
Jen Zingaro -
My life as a Registered Dietitian


New Blog Highlights

Thanks for visiting our new-and-improved blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen.  Before we tell you all about it, we want to extend a huge and hearty thank you to social media guru, Susan Getgood, and to Samantha from Temptation Designs for helping to create this new, vibrant gathering place!

Here at Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen, you’ll find fresh ideas for feeding your family a healthy diet, simple and nutritious recipes that appeal to kids, recommendations for must-have kitchen gadgets and new food products, cool giveaways, and a whole lot more.

Some of the new blog post features you’ll see on this site include:

  • Recipe Rescue:  If you have a favorite recipe — a gooey dessert, a rich and creamy soup, a stick-to-your waistline casserole – that needs a healthy makeover, send it our way.  Each month, we’ll select one recipe to be “rescued” and feature it right here on the blog.
  • No Whine with Dinner:  Spending precious time making dinner only to have the kids whine when it’s served can be frustrating for busy parents. Once a month, we’ll feature a guest post from a fellow blogger who’s created a recipe so yummy, so kid friendly, and so easy that nobody whines when dinner is served!
  • Healthy Meal with Kid Appeal Award:  As dietitians and moms, we’re on a mission to help families eat a healthful and delicious diet. One way we do this is to search for family-friendly recipes from fellow bloggers. We try them out in our own kitchens and if they pass the “thumbs-up” test with our families, we give them our Healthy Meal with Kid Appeal Award — a Meal Makeover Mom “seal of approval” if you will.  We created a cool badge (check it out in the left sidebar) which we send to award winners.

Thanks for visiting, and please don’t hesitate to post a comment if you have a question or something you’d like to share.

Check out our new Website!

We’re happy to report that our website has undergone an extreme makeover and is ready for all to see and surf.  The website features lots of new recipes, over two dozen nutrition articles, and mealtime tools to help you plan fast and healthy family meals (even if you have picky eaters at home). While you are on the site tune in to our weekly radio podcast (Cooking with the Moms), sign up for our e-newsletter, and watch one of our many cooking videos. We hope we live up to our new tagline for MealMakeoverMoms.com: Healthy Meals with Kid Appeal.

As you can see, our blog has been redesigned and is housed on our own site, not on Blogspot.  We’ll still be blogging at least once a week to this new blog on MealMakeoverMoms.com.  We are anxious to hear what you think of all our changes!  Once you have had a chance to visit, please post your feedback right here on our blog. Happy surfing!

Bags, Wrinkles, and Roots

Before The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers was released, we were photographed for the back of the book and our website. Almost five years later, in desperate need of updated photos, we hired photographer extraordinaire David Shopper. Our directive to David was to photograph us in the kitchen doing what we do best: slicing, dicing, and cooking up a storm.

Though we have not yet seen the final photographs, our hope is that he’s able to touch us up a bit to lessen the bags under Janice’s eyes, our wrinkles, and Liz’s grey roots. Having make-up artist Jeri La Shay on the “set” came in handy too.

You’ll be able to see the final photos when we unveil our new website in the next month or so. As you can see from the amateur photos we took with David, Jeri, and Janice’s daughters, by the end of the day we were all a little bit loopy.

Meal Makeover Mom Cooking Party

Last night, Betsy, a mom from Milton, MA, hosted a Meal Makeover Mom Cooking Party. She and friends Ashley and Ruth from the SoBo (South of Boston) Moms Group got together to share a glass of wine and cook a few recipes from our book. Since Betsy let us know about the party ahead of time, we made a plan to call her house via speakerphone to join in on the fun! The moms had plenty of questions ranging from how to choose the best cooking oils to fresh ideas for preparing last-minute meal for the whole family. We hope more of you will follow their lead by hosting your own cooking party. Click the following link for our party planning page: http://www.mealmakeovermoms.com/party/index.html

We’re gearing up for our new Blog!

Tired of take out, fast food, and processed convenience meals? It’s time to get cooking with our exciting new blog, designed to help you and your family prepare fast, healthy, and delicious meals everyone will love!