Getting a Jumpstart on a Healthy Future

If they could talk, my groaning bookshelves would tell you that I adore cookbooks. Not only do I enjoy testing new dishes, I love poring over the glossy photos and narrative in these weighty volumes.

ID-100145902My cookbook collection began long ago with two favorites — the Fun to Cook Book, a booklet published by Carnation Company, and Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook.

As when I learned to read, I felt like a whole new world opened as I paged through these books as a preteen. I devoured newbie tips on cooking techniques and experimented with recipes ranging from (ahem!) a luncheon meat ham loaf baked with pineapple to crunchy sugar cookies with lemon zest.

Obviously these were not my healthiest efforts, but the root of my cookbook obsession is plain to see. Plus, I remember how exciting it can be to concoct your own food when you’re a kid.

Experts remind us that kids are more likely to gobble up foods they prepare themselves – an important point to remember when you’re guiding them to make nutritious choices.

Good eating habits are key to a healthy future. So dig up some new recipes and invite your budding chefs into the kitchen!

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Published in: on February 11, 2015 at 9:04 am  Comments (1)  
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Meatballs & Memories

Last summer I read an intriguing article, Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life with Pasta.

ID-10035462-Luigi DiamantiThe author, Sarah Gray, whose article appeared on Serious Eats, wrote about the life-changing effects of hosting a weekly pasta night in their Philadelphia rowhouse, welcoming an ever-changing mix of friends, family, clients and anyone else craving company and a good meal.

Guests arrive each Friday evening, bearing kids, salad greens and bottles of wine.

“The room feels changed somehow, smaller and brighter and warmer,” she wrote. In the end, it became a comforting refuge, where friends refueled with food and companionship.

I love to read about the transformative effects of food—not just about how it makes you healthier, but how the experience makes you whole.

Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti at
Published in: on February 9, 2015 at 10:53 am  Comments (4)  
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What’s Left on Your Summer List?

Two days after Labor Day, I’m still reluctant to let go of summer.

As I’ve written before, summer is one of my favorite seasons, with our local farm stands overflowing with fresh berries, eggplant, squash, melons and luscious Jersey peaches, corn and tomatoes. I will sorely miss them in January.

sunset-danHappily, the bounty of summer continues as our daylight hours dwindle, and there are still many ways to take advantage of those fruits and vegetables.

A few days ago, the community-based cooking website asked readers about their summer bucket lists, which started me thinking: What is still on my summer bucket list? When I see the many available summer recipes, I only regret that I can’t prepare more of them. We have probably eaten our weight in fresh corn, watermelon, peaches, zucchini and other summer produce, but what am I still craving?

Every year I plan to make caponata, a relish-like dish of eggplant, tomatoes and various other ingredients, but for some reason I never get around to it. This week I will work on that, possibly trying this recipe from Cooking Light or another from the Under the Tuscan Sun Cookbook, a gorgeous book that I love to page through.

I also would love to make grilled pizza, and here’s a possibility, also from Cooking Light, Grilled Vegetable and Fontina Pizza.

What’s on your list?


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Published in: on September 3, 2014 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Countdown to Mardi Gras

As we approach Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras, I keep thinking about Cajun food.

ID-100141594-voraornTherefore, it was no surprise when a recipe for Shrimp Étouffée from Cooking Light caught my eye a few weeks ago.

Although it was a bit time intensive for a week night, I found it was well worth the effort.

I began by mixing thyme, basil and bay leaf with the chicken broth and setting that aside to simmer. Then I created a roux, using canola oil and flour, to which I added the broth mixture and continued with the rest of the recipe.

Although I relied on a recipe from Cooking Light’s A New Way to Cook Light, the online recipe is very similar. However, the cookbook version mostly used canola oil rather than butter. (I actually prefer to use canola oil and skip the butter.)

The recipe, served over rice, was smooth, spicy and delicious, perfect for a chilly winter evening. As a bonus, we even had leftovers to enjoy.

Savoring this dish was like taking a mini-trip to New Orleans.

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Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Rich Tomato Goodness

As fall inevitably turns to winter, one of the fresh vegetables I miss most is a ripe, juicy Jersey tomato. The pink supermarket versions just don’t measure up.

ID-100180985-Gualberto107But, as with other vegetables I have mentioned in previous posts, oven roasting transforms even supermarket plum tomatoes, unlocking and concentrating their natural sweetness.

Roasted tomatoes can be tossed with pasta, added to panini, used to top a pizza or added to so many other recipes.

Here’s a quick recipe from Ina Garten, but I prefer to use less salt and olive oil.

Sweet summer goodness even as winter approaches.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/
Published in: on November 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Fruits (and Vegetables) of Summer

This time of year, local farm markets are bursting with fresh produce – watermelon, blueberries, eggplant, zucchini, peaches and so much more.

tomatoes and beans-simon HowdenMy dad has been supplying us with a steady stream of cucumbers from his garden, but I think tonight I’m going to try this Real Simple recipe, Crispy Green Bean Salad With Tomatoes and Shallots.

I’m looking forward to tasting the interplay of green beans sauteed in olive oil, diced tomatoes and garlic tossed with red wine vinegar. I’ll serve it with a baked cod recipe.

I wish the fruits and vegetables of summer could go on forever.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden/
Published in: on July 26, 2013 at 1:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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A Great Escape

A few weeks ago we took a cruise vacation, one of the most relaxing getaways. As we cruised to our destination, all of my stress seemed to be carried away in the ship’s wake.

ImageResearch has shown that vacations serve an important purpose in maintaining our health, although they are often undervalued in our overworked society. Vacations help us recharge our batteries and take a step back from the stresses of life—if we don’t overexert ourselves. Although it may seem that the benefits evaporate within a day or two on re-entry to the real world, studies demonstrate long-term advantages.

In addition to enjoying the ship amenities, we also loved sampling new dishes in the restaurants. Cruise lines offer a variety of delicious menu options for people with many dietary needs. Although we splurged a bit on vacation treats, I tried to balance those choices with luscious fresh fruit plates and egg white omelets every morning at breakfast and huge salads at lunch.

One evening for dinner I particularly enjoyed a cup of watermelon gazpacho during my soup course. I loved this refreshing dish so much that I’m on the hunt for a recipe. Here are two variations I’m considering from Eating Well and  Good Housekeeping.

Stay tuned for my rating!

Published in: on July 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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Find Your Oasis

Healthy food is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but I believe there’s so much more to the picture.

rest table-graur razvan ionutSomeone once asked me why Italians are so focused on food, and I explained that it’s not just about the food.  It’s about the people with whom we share that food. As we twirl pasta strands and sip a glass of wine, it’s that refreshing oasis of time spent with family and friends that replenishes our spirits as we laugh and share stories. When it comes down to it, it’s really what matters most.

Although people spend a lot of time talking about family values today, it’s not always reflected in our lifestyles. Career and economic demands force people to work excessively long hours and skip dinner with their families or pull up stakes and move to places where they must build a life from scratch. While it’s always good to experience new people and environments, if we’re lucky, our families offer us stability and so much more. They’re there to celebrate the good times and hold our hands when life gets too hard. They’re a safe harbor in a sometimes tumultuous storm.

Although it’s impossible to alter all of the stresses in your life, when you sit down for a meal, slow down, turn off your cell phone and appreciate the precious gift of friends and family. Your heart will be happier.

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Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 11:27 am  Comments (3)  
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Spring Antipasto

As the days grow a bit warmer and longer, I’m starting to think about spring antipasto. Although this Italian favorite — a combination of fresh and marinated vegetables, meats and other delicacies — is often served as an appetizer, for my family it becomes a light dinner option on busy nights.

source-winnondI usually serve the first antipasto of the season when I receive a call from my dad, who has been carefully nurturing tiny heads of romaine in his garden over a period of weeks. When he calls and says, “The romaine is ready,” it’s time to start planning for antipasto.

Building an antipasto is as individualized as you would like it to be. I begin by layering a platter with freshly washed and dried salad greens and top that with an array of fresh vegetables, including celery, carrots and maybe some sliced radishes. I add olives, a few hard-boiled egg wedges, maybe marinated artichokes, anchovies (strictly optional!), and a bit of provolone cheese and thinly sliced capicola. (Traditionally, antipasti often contain a variety of cheeses and cured meats, but I focus more on lean protein and vegetables.)

A few years ago Better Homes & Gardens published a Special Interest Publication featuring Italian recipes. Its antipasto included prosciutto-wrapped bread sticks and steamed seafood tossed with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. I served this version for Christmas, removing as much fat as possible from the prosciutto, and it was delicious.

This year I’d like to add grilled vegetables to my antipasto mix. As you can see, antipasto is limited only by the ingredients you have on hand and your willingness to experiment.

Buon appetito!

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Published in: on April 10, 2013 at 3:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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Taste of Spring

As I prepared for Easter this year, I began searching for a light recipe for our pasta course for dinner.

ID-1005334I found this Cooking Light recipe, Pasta With Asparagus, Pancetta and Pine Nuts. It seemed like the perfect choice.

I tested the recipe last Sunday for dinner, substituting cooked and crumbled turkey bacon for the pancetta and toasted chopped walnuts for the pine nuts. It was very easy, and it was just the taste of spring we were craving.

I’ll follow up this course with a lean ham and assorted sides, and then I’m going to try Cooking Light’s Pistachio Pavlovas with Lemon Curd and Berries, a nice light dessert that looks gorgeous.

Happy Easter!


Image courtesy of James Barker/


Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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