Cold-Proof Cooking with: Liz and Janice, of Meal Makeover Moms!

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This month, you get two Cold-Proof Cooking bloggers for the price of one! Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD and Liz Weiss, MS, RD, are registered dietitians and cookbook authors of No Whine with Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms and The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers, Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time. Together, the Meal Makeover ladies share a common goal: helping busy families eat better and stay balanced. Janice’s motto: “a calm mom [or dad] equals a happy family” and we couldn’t agree more!! Luckily for us, these multitasking moms are cluing us in on their foolproof tips for staying balanced and healthy, and on the simple, nutritious meals that they’re known for!

How did you get into cooking and blogging?

As dietitians, “foodies,” and The Meal Makeover Moms, we both love to cook. After the publication of our first cookbook and the launch of our website, we decided to create a blog called Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen. The blog allows us to share new recipes and food photos with our readers and to share our culinary adventures.

What’s your favorite tip for staying healthy?

Eat a nutrient-rich diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, seafood, and low-fat dairy (or dairy alternative) and get plenty of sleep. Also, wash your hands a lot!!

What’s one important way you try to care for yourself and those around you?

Janice: I work out and practice yoga twice a week and that helps keep me calm and centered (well, most of the time!). A calm mom equals a happy family. As a family, we walk whenever we can to do errands, go to church, or visit friends, and we cook together. Children who are involved in preparing meals are more likely to eat them!

Liz: I love to take long walks. It helps me burn off steam. As for taking care of my family, I cook a lot and make sure my homemade meals are packed with great flavor, lots of love, and good nutrition.

Can you share your favorite healthy/easy/deliciously comforting recipe?

Janice: I’d have to say our Simply Delicious Shepherd’s Pie, made with lean ground beef, pinto beans, shredded carrots, corn, all-natural tomato soup, and reduced-fat Cheddar cheese. Everyone loves it, the leftovers are great, and it’s packed with good nutrition including almost a day’s worth of immune-boosting vitamin A in each serving.

Simply Delicious Shepherd’s Pie
Makes 8 Servings

1½ pounds lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
2 large carrots, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
One 14½-ounce can all-natural tomato soup
1½ cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups mashed potatoes
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil or coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
2. Place a large Dutch oven or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, carrots, garlic powder, and onion powder and cook, breaking up the large pieces, until the meat is no longer pink and the carrots are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat.
3. Stir in the beans, tomato soup, cheese, and corn. Simmer until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Arrange the meat mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly on top, and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake until the meat mixture starts to bubble and the potatoes are heated through, about 15 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and broil until the top turns golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 370 calories, 10g fat (5g saturated), 520mg sodium, 41g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 30g protein, 90% vitamin A, 45% vitamin C, 25% calcium, 15% iron

Liz: In our new cookbook, No Whine with Dinner, we have a recipe for Chock-Full-O-Veggies Lasagna. The recipe is easy to make, delicious, and surprisingly light (lasagna has a reputation for being filled with way more fat and calories than most people need). It’s made with four veggies including onion, mushrooms, zucchini, and carrots and it has a “cream” sauce as the base made with low-fat milk. My entire family loves this dish. I didn’t discover it … I created it from scratch for the book. We enjoy it during busy weeknights, and we always have leftovers for the next day!

Chock-Full-O-Veggies Lasagna
Makes 8 Servings

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ small onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (½ cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 small zucchini (about 6 ounces), unpeeled and shredded (1 packed cup)
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded (½ cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground turkey
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 26-ounce jar pasta sauce
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups 1% low-fat milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 9-ounce box dried, no-boil lasagna noodles (16 sheets)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. 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 and cook for one additional minute.
2. Raise the heat to medium-high, stir in the mushrooms, zucchini, carrot, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the turkey and thyme and cook, breaking up the large pieces, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the pasta sauce, heat through, and set aside.
3. Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes.
4. Whisk the milk and nutmeg slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
5. To assemble, lightly oil or coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of meat mixture on the bottom of the pan. Lay five lasagna noodles on top, allowing them to overlap. Break the fifth noodle into a few pieces and fill in the empty spaces. Top evenly with ¾ cup béchamel sauce, ¼ cup Parmesan, 2 cups meat mixture, and ¼ cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat with a second layer of noodles (use 6 noodles this time; 4 slightly overlapping and 2 broken), ¾ cup béchamel sauce, ¼ cup Parmesan, the remaining meat, and ¼ cup mozzarella cheese.
6. Top with the remaining noodles (break up the 5th one again), béchamel sauce and cheese. Cover loosely with foil and bake until bubbly, about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the cheese melts, an additional 5 minutes. Let stand about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tip: If all you find at the market is an 8-ounce box of no-boil lasagna noodles (with a total of 12 noodles in the box), use 4 noodles per layer.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 440 calories, 19g fat (5 saturated), 710mg sodium, 41g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 28g protein, 35% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 30% calcium, 15% iron

Do you have a zany cold remedy or a unique stay-healthy routine?

Janice: I try to make sure that my family drinks plenty of water and eats a well balanced diet including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and seafood for health-enhancing omega-3 fats. During cold and flu season I also add a vitamin D supplement for a little immunity boost! Healthy eating and getting plenty of exercise has worked for us as far as staying healthy.

Liz: I encourage my family to get plenty of rest and to eat a healthy diet. It’s amazing how the simple act of adding more fruits and veggies to your diet can boost your immune system. As for zany, whenever anyone in my family gets a cold, I immediately cook up a big pot of chicken soup!! It’s what my mom did for me and now it’s what I do for my family.

One of our favorite parts of Janice and Liz’s approach is that they make nutritious food accessible to the everyday, busy parent. After all, feeding your kids good food is about so much more than nourishing them as they grow. It’s about instilling the value of healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. Luckily, as the Meal Makeover Moms showed us, food can be healthy, hearty and fun! In other words, you can have your Shepherd’s Pie or Lasagna, and eat it, too! ☺ Don’t forget to check out their podcast too!

Tell us, what’s your healthy or lighter take on a comfort-food classic?