Archive for the ‘ Food ’ Category

Kelsey Nixon Wants You to Have Kitchen Confidence

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Star of Cooking Channel’s Kelsey’s Essentials, Kelsey Nixon dishes on the challenges of feeding her toddler, breaking into TV, and her new cookbook Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything.

You started your own cooking television show in college. What inspired that?

I grew up in a family where food seemed to be at the center of every get-together or celebration. In fact, when I left for college, I missed my mom’s home-cooked meals fiercely, and it forced me to step into my dorm room kitchen and start cooking on my own. I was a broadcast journalism major who wasn’t that interested in a news career, but I loved food and television. A lucky break with an internship at Martha Stewart Living working on the Everyday Food cooking show solidified things – I was going to find a way to work in food television! I returned to my university and approached a professor about supporting a college cooking show, and to my surprise, he thought it was a great idea. With his support we produced nearly 100 episodes of my cooking show before I graduated.

What’s the best (and worst) part of having your own series on Cooking Channel?

The best part is that my job is to essentially be myself! I get to talk about and teach the things that I feel so passionately about, and that is truly a gift. The biggest challenge is not knowing if the show will be renewed each season. When you put everything you’ve got into a show that represents you, you want so badly for it to succeed!

This is your first book. Why did you decide to call it Kitchen Confidence?

I felt that the title carried a strong, simple message that many home cooks are looking for. The book is full of recipes that are basic, yet not boring, and when made will hopefully spark a bit of that kitchen confidence that will slowly grow with every culinary success you have.

Sometimes cooking at home can seem expensive. What are some ways parents can save money feeding their families?

Carving out the time to sit down and plan your family’s meals for the week is no easy task, but it can be beneficial in so many different ways, especially when it comes to sticking to a grocery budget and having a plan to use up the ingredients that you buy so that nothing goes to waste. I’m also a big fan of shopping the ads at your local markets and stores. Some stores will even ad match, which is a great way to save as much as possible on your weekly grocery bill.

How has your cooking life changed since your son Oliver was born nearly two years ago?

Well, to be honest, I cook a little less! But, I feel like I cook with more intent now — intent to feed and nourish a growing family. I rely heavily on making three to four meals a week and really utilizing the leftovers. Not only does it save me time in the kitchen, but it also relieves me of the mental stress of deciding what to make for dinner every single night.

How did you move your son to solids?

I followed the guidance of our pediatrician when it came to a timeline for transitioning to solids, but when it came to what foods to introduce, I took a few more liberties. I always followed the guidelines of only introducing one new food at a time to check for any allergies, but I also made an effort to season his first food purees with a few mild spices like cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. We went through a big puree stage, which worked for us. But for a future child I’m really interested in the concept of baby-led weaning and may give that a try. I have a few friends that are moms who swear by it!

What are his favorite finger foods?

My Oliver loves edamame, string cheese, and black beans. Ironically the only thing I have trouble feeding him is fruit! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he comes around.

Do you make special “toddler food” for your son?

I’ve made a big effort to offer our son a version of what we’re eating each night at dinner to try and avoid the habit of making multiple meals. Some nights are easier than others and I probably spend way too much time wondering if he got enough to eat, but I feel strongly that offering him a variety of options will pay off in the long run. Realistically I’ve also got a couple of go-to toddler meals on hand to use for easy lunches and nights when mom and dad order in.

Why do you tell people they shouldn’t worry about making mistakes when they’re cooking?

So many cooking mistakes can be corrected. If something tastes a little bland or you added too much of one thing or another, there’s a good chance that simply seasoning the dish with salt and pepper can correct the problem. To have the gusto to make these adjustments, you need to trust your gut. Once you start cooking this way, cooking becomes more enjoyable and freeing.

What are five things always found in your refrigerator?

Eggs, good cheese, fresh herbs, unsalted butter, and chicken thighs (in the freezer).

What are your three favorite recipes from the book?

Lemon Scented Chicken Thighs, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Maple Pecans, and Essential Yellow Birthday Cake.

The recipes all sound so appealing. What do you look for when developing a recipe?

I look for unique ingredient pairings and constantly turn to seasonal ingredients for inspiration throughout the calendar year. It’s important to me that the food sounds and looks just as appealing as it is to eat. I’m a firm believer that we eat with our eyes first, so it’s critical that the recipes I develop look every bit as good as they taste.

What do you hope cooks take away from this book?

Ultimately, I hope this book will inspire home cooks to cook more often and find joy in the kitchen. I hope that each reader finds a few recipes that are a perfect fit for their families and that they will continue to refer to the book over the coming years for classic recipes that they know will always work. Everyone needs a great recipe for things like Lasagna, Roasted Vegetables, and Birthday Cake – you’ll find just that in my book.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

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Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better

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Give a Valentine’s Day Bouquet…of Bacon

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Thinking of buying flowers or chocolates for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? Roses and bonbons are classics for good reason, but consider a more savory idea. Something you know your spouse really wants.

Yes, I’m talking about bacon.

Back in September I was the most popular girl in the office (and on my Facebook feed) after I received a bacon bouquet from Smithfield. At first glance it looked just like a bunch of long-stemmed roses. But after a closer look—and sniff—the flowers turned out to be little bundles of porky goodness.

Smithfield has kindly shared bouquet-making instructions with us. If you’re feeling crafty, this is one Valentine’s Day gift I suspect most husbands (and, heck, most wives) will swoon for.

Valenswine’s Day Bacon Bouquet

Makes 12 Roses


1 Package of Smithfield Thick Cut Bacon

12 Rose Stems

1 Mini Muffin Pan

1 Drill with bit (1/8” suggested)

1 Broiler Pan

1 Glass Vase

STEP 1: Prepare your pan

Drill holes into the bottom of the mini muffin pan. These holes will allow the bacon drippings to drain while the bacon cooks. Place mini muffin pan on top of broiler pan.

STEP 2: Prepare your bacon rose buds

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Open pack of Smithfield Thick Cut Bacon and tightly roll the individual rose buds, one slice at a time.

Place all bacon rose buds into the mini muffin pan. Slightly push the bacon rose buds down for added support.

Place bacon rose buds, muffin pan, and broiler pan in the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Check on the bacon rose buds occasionally.

STEP 3: Prepare your rose stems

While waiting for your bacon rose buds to cook, pull all roses off their stems.

Typical components of a faux flower include a rose stem, green leaves, a green cap, and petals. Discard all flower petals, and with only green components remaining, reassemble.

STEP 4: Assemble your bacon roses

When bacon rose buds are fully cooked, remove from oven and place on paper towel to cool.

Pick your best looking rose buds and carefully slide them onto the protruding stems.

Arrange roses in a glass vase to your liking.

STEP 5: Present & enjoy!

Share the deliciousness with someone you love.

Not in the mood for bacon? Find recipes for more traditional, no-pork-added treats


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Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches
Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches
Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches

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Eating in Color: Helping Kids Love Fruits and Vegetables

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Frances Largeman-Roth is a registered dietician, author of four cookbooks, and a mom of two—with a third on the way. A health expert who has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, and the Today Show, she has helped thousands of women find the best foods during pregnancy, lose weight the right way, and incorporate healthier meals into their lives. Her latest book, Eating in Color, hits bookstores this month so we asked her how to add pops of color to our dinner plates and why it’s so important.

This book is entirely about fruits and vegetables—when they’re in season, how to choose them, how to store them, and, of course, how to use them. I have to ask: which is your favorite?

Mangos! When I spent a semester abroad in Australia, I learned how to cut them properly and incorporate them into many dishes. There are two seasons there: fall/winter and spring/summer, so you get different varieties.

You write about a study that found only 30 percent of Americans are getting the recommended 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day. Why is improving this statistic important to you?

My father passed away when I was 12. He had all the things that we now understand as warning signs for heart disease and diabetes. We just didn’t know it at the time. Growing up we ate fruits and vegetables, but with my mom’s German background there was also a lot of cured meats and pastries. Now that I’m a parent I understand that moms and dads are super busy, aren’t getting enough sleep, and are more stressed than ever. Because of that, convenience often outweighs nutrition. But this book is about eating better in a fun and visual way.

Tell us more about the five rules you created: eat color often, don’t be monochrome, go outside your comfort zone, make dates with your kitchen, and exercise.

I wanted to explain to readers how they can actually attain this lifestyle and not just admire beautiful images of fruits and veggies. I wanted to connect the message and explain the execution. Sure, everyone is crazy about kale right now, but you can’t just rely on that one super-healthy thing. Plus, trying new things is essential to your health. We all get stuck in ruts with the same go-to recipes or takeout dishes. Pushing out of your comfort zone, though it may take more time and planning, is worth it! And eventually a new recipe will become part of your repertoire. And getting active just has to be part of it.

You describe nutrition not just as a career choice but a life path. How can families make this a priority in their life while balancing their often-crazy schedules?

When you’re rushing home from work to pick up your kids to then rush home to cook something up for them, it’s easy to rely on processed food. But if you can spend time in the morning or on Sunday, you can make so much happen! Simply put it into your calendar to “chop veggies.”

A trip to a farmers market is a great way to get inspired and it’s really fun for your kids. It exposes them to new sights and tastes. You can do something similar at the grocery store because there’s always something new in season. Just the other day I saw a beautiful dragon fruit that turned into an entire lesson: I asked my daughter where it came from, what color it would be inside, how the rough and scaly texture looked and felt. The bottom line: What kid wouldn’t want to try a super-bright pink fruit? This is such an easy way to dive in.

When your daughter Willa was learning colors in school, you offered her “reds, oranges, and greens” instead of “beets, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.” How did changing your food vocabulary help?

It sounds like such a small idea, but it made everything much less frustrating at the dinner table. I completely understand that from the parents’ perspective, trying to get your child to try one item 15 to 20 times is just too many. By the tenth try, you’ve wasted too much food and energy. Instead, go into it with a no-stress mentality. Just put a new food on the table and see what happens. Remember: sometimes kids are simply exerting independence when they are picky about dinner. If you take the pressure off both them and yourself, much of it can be resolved. This doesn’t mean your kids will eat and love everything, but it helps them try new things.

I like to display fruits and veggies in little bowls and in compartmental kids’ plates. I often ask them, “How many colors we can get on our plates tonight?” My two can get a bit competitive with each other, which can help on the dinner-table front.

Some families have super-picky eaters. What else can they do to make the introduction of new foods easier or more appealing?

Let your child have some control. During a trip to the farmers market or grocery store, ask him or her to pick out produce by color—one yellow and one red. Depending on your child’s age, have him or her pick out a recipe and then make it with them. I can guarantee that because they had a hand in it, your children will be more willing to try it.

Just remember that it takes patience. Kids can love something one time and hate it the next. (And vice versa.) But don’t ever stop offering! Their tastes are constantly changing. Or, like in my daughter’s case, their siblings can be influential. When she saw her brother eating avocado, she wanted some.

Don’t cater to “kid food.” The more you offer tater tots and chicken nuggets, the less your children will try the other things. I’m a big advocate of the family meal. Sure, you can have back-ups on hand, but you are not a short-order cook.

Your recipes run the gamut from meals, sides, and snacks to drinks and desserts. Why so much variety?

I wanted to show that fruits and vegetables have a place in everything. When I first started working on the book, I made a list of my chapters. I always knew it would be organized by color. So I started asking myself tough questions like “Besides a pie or crumble, what else can I do with rhubarb?” I approached recipes from outside the box.

You also added a black and tan chapter—including grains, seeds, nuts, and oats. (And my favorite: chocolate!) Why are these are just as important?

I think of the black and tan chapter as the items you pair with all of the other colors. It’s your base layer. To me, these items are a great way to bring in a lot of texture to your dishes.

Okay, we want the scoop. What’s your go-to when you’re in a pinch?

We have pasta often because it’s very versatile. I personally like to make roasted veggies on the side. I use whatever’s in season—butternut squash, sugar snap peas, purple onion, baby carrots, zucchini, cherry tomatoes. Creating a mix is best! We always have grated Parmesan in the fridge so a spaghetti dish can be done in 15 minutes.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

Author photo by Quentin Bacon.

To help get your little one on board with fruits and vegetables, Elmo and Murray told Parents their favorite snacks:

Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating


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Ellie Krieger’s Favorite Weeknight Dinners

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Ellie Krieger may be a Food Network star, but she’s also a busy mom trying to get a healthy dinner on the table every night. In her new book, Weeknight Wonders, she shares recipes for her family’s favorite healthy, delicious everyday meals. Recently she revealed her secrets for cooking on a budget, feeding choosy kids, and her all-time favorite indulgence.

Some parents want to cook from scratch more, but find the idea overwhelming. What are some baby steps people can take?

You don’t have to dive in headfirst! Choose one or two recipes to try each week that look inspiring and do-able to you, and build from there.

What are your hands-down three favorite recipes in Weeknight Wonders?

OK, not a fair question because they are all sort of my “babies.” But if I have to choose I’d say the Peach Chicken with Crispy Bread Crumbs, the Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta, and the Penne with Grape Tomatoes, Spinach and Toasted Garlic.

And your daughter’s favorite recipe?

She loves the Meatballs with Simple Marinara. I can never go wrong with those meatballs in my house!

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What is your best advice for parents cooking on a budget?

One way to get the most out of your dollar when it comes to feeding your family is to shop for and use produce strategically to cut down on waste. Buy only a few tender vegetables and fruits each week like lettuces and fresh berries and eat them first. Then move on to hearty longer-life produce like carrots and apples later in the week. Also keep economical frozen fruits and vegetables (no sauces or sugars added) on hand as well as low-sodium canned produce like tomatoes and pineapple.

Are there some quick ingredient swaps cooks can use to make meals healthier?

I love to find ways to incorporate vegetables whenever possible. One great swap is to use sautéed mushrooms to replace half the beef in a recipe. They go so well together and both have a wonderful meaty taste. Also, try swapping out refined grains with whole grains. It takes no extra time or effort to use whole grain pizza doughs and other breads and whole grain pasta, for example.

What are your favorite indulgences?

I pretty much always have some dark chocolate around. And OMG…the Chocolate Soup with Cookie “Croutons” in the book is divine and a healthier indulgence.  But the one food I just cannot resist is really good hand-cut French fries.

How do you make sure your daughter eats a well-balanced dinner? Does she eat the same foods you do?

First thing is I don’t let her snack for at least 90 minutes before dinner. I love the saying “hunger is the best gravy.” If she is overly famished right before dinner though I will offer her some of the veggies I am cutting up for the meal.

I make a nice dinner with a variety of foods and we all sit down to the same meal, but I don’t micro-manage her plate. I allow her to take and eat what she wants at the table. (Also, after dinner snacks are limited to fruit and milk, so she knows that’s it.) Sometimes she might not have a perfectly balanced dinner. She might just eat the broccoli and rice, but have 2 bites of her chicken, for example. But I don’t stress about it–over time I can see it works out.

How can other parents encourage their kids to try new foods?

I think the way I manage dinner encourages her to try new foods because there is no separate “kid-food.” Also, I encourage tasting, but I never force. I try to create an environment of joy and discovery around food. We talk about sampling, and exploring tastes, textures and aromas of different foods for the fun of it, with the idea that you don’t have to like everything you try the first time, but also with the notion that your tastes may change over time so you might enjoy it the next time you try it.

Weeknight Wonders is your fifth book! Where does the inspiration come from?

I feel like I am constantly inspired—by new ingredients I see at the farmer’s market, the foods I try at restaurants and the foodies I follow on Instagram and Pinterest. I am also inspired by all the wonderful viewers/readers/followers on Facebook and Twitter who tell me what they like best and what they would like to see me develop.

Also, as a busy mom with a demanding job outside the home I am inspired to make recipes that work for my own life and family. The solutions that work for me, work for other moms that simply want the best meals for their families but need to juggle a lot of other demands. I am happy to help people with tools to make that happen.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Interview has been edited and condensed.

Images reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from Weeknight Wonders by Ellie Krieger. Photography by Quentin Bacon. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Last image courtesy of Nigel Barker.

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Traditional Christmas Cake, French-Style

Friday, December 20th, 2013

To me, French is the most beautiful language. It floats like a cloud and feels romantic. It’s the language of love. In high school, I worked my butt off to become proficient, taking honors-level classes, joining French club, and even becoming a teacher’s aid. I had dreams of keeping it in my daily life and raising bilingual children. Unfortunately, like a flower, language is delicate and must be tended everyday in order to flourish. When I got to college, my schedule doubled and I didn’t hold a single conversation en français.

Enter the French Institute Alliance Français (FIAF), a non-profit organization in New York City that promotes cross-cultural dialogue for children and adults alike. One of the largest and most respected centers of French-American activities in the U.S., FIAF offers art and education workshops for families.

Last Saturday, I tagged along to FIAF’s holiday bûche de Noël cooking class, where kiddos spoke elementary-level French to their moms and dads—c’est manifique!—while slathering layers of sponge cake with rich chocolate icing (and tons of red and green candies). Taught by Sylvie Berger, a chef raised in Paris, the class fully immersed children in the French language and was sprinkled with bits of English.

The bûche de Noël (“Christmas log,” or “Yule Log”) is a rolled sponge cake filled with buttercream and traditionally decorated with meringue mushrooms, marzipan holly, and wood-grain scored frosting. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Celtic celebrations of the winter solstice, but French pastry chefs popularized the confection in the 19th century and each bakery became known for its unique and elaborate embellishments. Today, few French people celebrate Christmas without one of these cakes.

Though messy, making the baby bûche was a blast! Take a look at my mini how-to video (click the play button), then make your own Christmas cake using one of the recipes below.




Want more? Check out these recipes for easy holiday treats!

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Family Favorites for Feeding America

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Just like many others, my family’s holiday season is all about tradition. Though Thanksgiving is a couple days away, I already know we’ll be having my aunt’s garlic “smashed” potatoes and my gram’s pimento-stuffed celery (even though she’s the only one who likes it). We keep these recipes in the rotation because they’re near and dear to us. But this year, sharing them with others gives bigger benefits to those in need.

Go to Dish Up the Love to submit your favorite recipe and $1 will be donated to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight against hunger. Each dollar provides nine meals for families who need them.

Partnering with the program is Top Chef alum and mom Antonia Lofaso, whose first book The Busy Mom’s Cookbook was recently released in paperback. A single parent, Antonia relishes her time at home with her daughter, Xea, making memories through food.

“For me the holidays are about making memories with family and friends around the kitchen table and giving back. Dish Up the Love celebrates these special holiday moments,” Antonia says. “I shared the recipe for my grandma’s lasagna because it’s served at all Lofaso family holidays. At Thanksgiving, we have turkey, but there’s always lasagna and tons of other Italian food.”

Grandma’s Lasagna

Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes

• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
• 3 (16-ounce) cans of peeled, whole plum tomatoes
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar

• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 ½ pounds ground turkey
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, or 4 teaspoons fresh marjoram or oregano
• 1 (9-ounce) package of no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles
• Sauce (from above)
• ½ cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
• 4 cups shredded whole-milk, mozzarella cheese
• 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 6 to 8 slices each
• 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves


1. For the sauce, head the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and just as it starts to brown around the edges, throw in the canned tomatoes. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so have the cans open and ready to go beforehand.

2. Add the salt and sugar and whisk it all together. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 40 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. If any foam rises to the top of the sauce, skim it off. That’s the acid from the tomatoes, and your sauce will taste better without it. Using a hand blender or counter top blender, blend on medium until smooth.

3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 10-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the ground turkey and the salt. Cook the turkey for about 5 minutes, until it’s browned throughout. Just as it’s finishing the cooking process, stir in the Italian seasoning. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan.

4. Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with 3 sheets of pasta. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. You don’t want the sauce to soak through, so you don’t need to overdo it. Layer on half of the meat, followed by half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle on one-third of the mozzarella and arrange one-third of the fresh tomatoes on top of it. Top with one-third of the basil.

5. Repeat the process for the next layer: 3 sheets of pasta, a cup of sauce, the rest of the meat, the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the remaining ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the fresh tomatoes, and another third of the basil. The last layer is your presentation layer, so make it pretty. Add three more sheets of pasta.

6. Top the noodles with the last of the sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The top should be a crispy golden brown when the lasagna is done, and the pasta sauce around the sides of the dish should be thick, not runny. Let the lasagna stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you cut into it while it is still piping hot, it will fall apart.


For more information and to share your favorite family recipe, visit After submitting a recipe, you’ll be entered for weekly sweepstakes to win Pyrex, Baker’s Secret, and CorningWare products.

Get more kid-friendly recipes from Antonia Lofaso.

Recipe and image reprinted from The Busy Mom’s Cookbook with permission from Avery, an imprint of Penguin Group.

Image of Antonia and Xea by Alex Martinez.

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Giada’s Recipe for Feeling Good

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

You know Giada De Laurentiis: the Food Network star, author of 10 books, mom, and all-around busy lady who somehow stays thin, healthy, and gorgeous. It’s enough to make us mortals green with envy. But happily, in her new book Giada’s Feel Good Food she is sharing her get-healthy and stay-there secrets with the rest of us. In a recent conversation, Giada revealed some of her tips for eating well on a budget and why she doesn’t believe in diets. 

Q: As parents, we focus a lot on good nutrition for kids (which is important of course). But we don’t talk as much about good nutrition for parents. Do you think that’s problematic?

A: I like to say that this is the perfect opportunity to lead by example! My daughter Jade loves asking me questions while I’m cooking, and if I don’t baby-talk her, but rather get on her level and explain what all the yummy things going into my smoothie are and how they are going to fuel my body, then she’s far more likely to try what normally would look to her like a nasty green shake! It’s a great motivator, being an example for anyone.

Q: Why do you think it’s so difficult for many moms to eat well?

A: Two words: busy and tired. The thing is, the best way to help offset those two words is a well-balanced meal plan and some fun exercise. I’m not suggesting a boring diet or some workout that you’re going to dread all day long. Life is short, and we are made to be happy! Take a brisk walk with the kids through the neighborhood. Play hide-and-seek. Or try some nice yoga moves together! Eating healthy can and should be delicious; I think sometimes people just need to have the opportunity to discover an appreciation for fresh foods and natural flavor.

Q: What are three simple things parents can do to improve their diets?

A: Skip sodas, replace refined sugars with natural sugars like those found in fruit, and eat more often in smaller portions. Portion control is truly the key.

Q: Do you have any tips for people on a budget who are trying to eat well?

A: Skip the restaurant and cook at home. It will be easier on your wallet than eating at restaurants night after night.  If you don’t consider yourself a cook, start simple and be patient with yourself. Learning to cook for yourself is a great way to be budget-savvy, plus it will taste better because you will learn to make it just how you like it. And if you do have a night out, skip the booze and do dessert at home to skinny up that check! 

Q: Why do you say you don’t believe in diets for you?

A: Because I don’t stick to them and I generally resist things that seem like deprivation. I choose to get excited about my health and my body and adjust my meal plan and activities accordingly.  Being healthy is a lifestyle and a state of mind, and diets don’t contribute to that in a positive way for me. It’s not sustainable, and I like things I can build on, look forward to, and get excited about. Being healthy is exciting!

Q: Like many moms you are one busy lady! How do you manage to fit exercise and healthy eating into your schedule?

A: For me, the key is good planning. You have to set yourself up for success, you know? I like to cook a few meals in advance to help with the impossible days in the week… there are always a couple!

Q: You mention that when you were younger you were addicted to chocolate and sugar. How did you kick the habit?

A: I got pregnant. Jade changed everything for me. Once I started eating for two, I really started really paying attention to what I was eating and made it a habit. A good one!

Q: If we forced you to choose, what would you say are your favorite three recipes in the book?

A: That’s hard. This book is full of my favorite recipes and feels a little like sharing my diary because a lot of these are what I cook myself… but I would say the Avocado-Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries, the Swiss Chard Rolls with Wild and Brown rice and Indian Spices, and, of course, my go-to Spinach, Ginger, and Apple smoothie [recipe below]! 

Q: A lot of moms deal with picky eaters. What do you think is the best way to encourage kids to eat a variety of foods?

A: The best way to encourage them is to involve them in the process! I think the root of picky eaters is that they want control. It’s a power struggle, and I think that’s totally okay. They want to have control of what goes in their bodies, and it’s the perfect opportunity to empower them. Flip through the cookbook with them, see what sounds fun to make, and then cook with them! It will change a picky little eater’s tune just like that.

Q: What are your daughter’s favorite foods?

A: My girl loves her waffles. I’d have to say that’s probably her favorite right now. I’m excited though because she’s adventurous with food and is willing to try new things. She has a strong opinion and knows what she likes, but she’ll give things a shot, which is great.

Q: You’ve also written children’s books. What inspired you? 

A: Jade is my ultimate inspiration. I wanted to write something she could enjoy soon, rather than having to wait until she can use my cookbooks. I come from a big Italian family of storytellers and I wanted to have a way to tell about the adventures I had with my own brother when I was a kid. We were fortunate as kids to get to travel a lot but even when we were just playing in our room, it turned into a grand adventure. Our imaginations were limitless, and I really wanted to encourage that curiosity for exploration — exploring the world as well as the kitchen!

Get recipes that will help your baby go start eating solid foods here. Plus, get everything you need for holiday baking from Shop Parents.

Spinach, Ginger, and Apple Smoothie

From Giada’s Feel Good Food

Makes 2 cups; Serves 2

1½ cups ice

½ cup water

1 medium apple, such as Fuji or Honey Crisp, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup packed baby spinach leaves

1/3 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Combine all of the ingredients in the blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

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Punchy Placemats

Monday, November 11th, 2013

DIY crafter Alison Caporimo recently released her first book, Instacraft, about fun and simple projects for adorable gifts and décor. We received permission to showcase four crafts from the book on Goodyblog. Come back each Monday (11/4, 11/11, 11/18, 11/25) to see which creations we feature next.


Pantone Placemat

“Create a color scheme that inspires you,” Alison says. “Lay it on the table. Have your hue and eat off of it, too.”

Clear Con-Tact paper (found at Michaels and Amazon)
Paint swatches

1. Cut two identical rectangles from Con-Tact paper.
2. Peel one rectangle of Con-Tact paper from the adhesive backing and lay it sticky side up, taping the corners to your workstation surface.
3. Arrange and overlap paint swatches on the Con-Tact paper.
4. Apply a second layer of Con-Tact paper on top of the paint swatches and press along the surface to eliminate air bubbles.
5. Pull the placemat free from the tape and use scissors to cut around the paint swatches.


Alison’s Extra Tips for Parents readers:

  • Swap it: Instead of paint swatches, ask your child to create custom artwork, drawings, and paintings for the project.
  • Make meal-time fun: Press coloring pages between two sheets of Con-Tact paper and let kids decorate uniquely every time (with washable markers or paint, bits of cereal or fruit).
  • Customize placemats to suit the theme of your little one’s birthday—guests can take them to use at home!
  • If your child has outgrown placemats, preserve his memorabilia—like baseball cards, concert tickets, sports game flyers, or newspaper clippings—between Con-Tact paper sheets. Hang laminated memories on the fridge or in his room.


For more ideas from Alison Caporimo, follow her on Twitter.

Text adapted from Instacraft, with permission from Ulysses Press. Copyright 2013. All images by Meera Lee Patel.

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