Keep Calm and Slow-Cooker On

By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light
Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light

And we’re off! The start of the school year has descended upon us in full force. Busy school days, and just-as-busy afterschool activities, practices, rehearsals (not to mention homework!), can quickly put even the most calm and organized mom in a bit of a time-crunch tizzy.   And though as I mom I aspire to be both calm and organized, keeping up with my kids’ lives, trying to manage my professional one and juggling normal day to day stuff quickly interfere with the ideal.   I usually employ the philosophy of quick-to-assemble meals that can make it to the table in 20 minutes. Yet there are plenty of days that I really want to walk into my house and have food magically appear on the table.   In fact, there are vivid and wonderful childhood memories I recall, coming home to the amazing smells of dinner. Mom had it covered and all was well with the world.

So the invention of the slow-cooker is nothing short of genius, bringing me back to the reality that my home really can smell nourishing and food really can be table-ready when we all roll in the door. And it’s not even a new concept, though some of the digital features on them are quite 20th century. How easy it is to forget the small kitchen appliance tucked away in my top cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind I suppose. I’ve recently resolved to more regularly reacquaint with this 6-quart beauty, and though you may associate it with only a few dishes, the possibilities really are quite vast.

And while this has obviously now saved dinner, one of my favorite slow-cooker benefits is the meals that follow. Lunch for your child’s thermos the next day, a meal you can re-purpose for tomorrow’s dinner or extra servings that can be divided and frozen for a future time crunch.   Not to mention that you can confidently answer the kids’ eternal question, posed the second they see you after school: “What’s for dinner?

One of our latest favorites is slow-cooker lasagna, and while I’ll include a recipe below, don’t be afraid to play with it. Throw in some layers of diced veggies, swap out lasagna noodles with spaghetti or macaroni, mix in some fresh herbs or throw in all the little bits of cheese you have hanging out in your fridge drawer. Something magical happens when you let all these individual ingredients slowly work together over a string of calm, uninterrupted hours. They come together and by dinner, these solo players have created an orchestra of nourishment. In fact, slow cooker meals really allow you to play in your kitchen in a different, less structured way. It’s such a fun way for your children to cook with you, and see how being in the kitchen doesn’t need to be intimidating in the least.


A couple of pointers for you to consider:

  1. Read reviews online to compare features, sizes and find the best prices.
  2. If you’d like to brown or sauté before switching to slow-cooker mode, seek out versions that can accommodate.
  3. Make sure it has a “warm” feature, which the cooker will automatically switch to once the programmed cooking time has ended. This ensures you won’t come home to an over-cooked meal, if you’ve had an extra long day.
  4. Include enough liquid to prevent drying or burning.
  5. Look for a cookbook and/or search for recipes online specifically designed for slow-cookers.
  6. Consider “building” the meal the night before. Prep all the ingredients in the crock, put a lid on it, then store in your fridge until you’re ready to turn that baby on and leave the house.
  7. Make certain the area around your slow cooker is free from “stuff” – nowhere that your pet can disturb and knock to the floor, and away from stray papers or plastic that may not do well around heat.

Now sit down, taste every steamy bite and relish the fact that your clean up will be minimal, you’ve saved electricity, and have warmed the hearts, souls and tummies of your whole family!


Slow Cooker Lasagna

1 pound uncooked whole grain lasagna noodles

1.5 pounds ground beef or pork

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 ½ tsp salt

1 24-oz jar spaghetti sauce

8 oz tomato sauce

6 oz tomato pasta

3 eggs

1 15-oz container ricotta cheese

6 cups fresh spinach

2 zucchini, shredded or sliced

1 cup parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

3 Tbsp water


In a large skillet over medium heat cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic until brown. Add the spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, and Italian seasoning and stir until well incorporated. Cook until heated through.

In a large bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

Spray the crock with nonstick spray. Spoon a layer of the meat mixture onto the bottom of the slow cooker. Add a layer of the uncooked lasagna noodles. Break to fit noodles into slow cooker. Top noodles with a portion of the cheese mixture. Next layer 2 cups spinach and 1/3 of the zucchini. Repeat the layering of sauce, noodles, cheese and veggies until all the ingredients are used. Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Drizzle water around the edges of the crock.

Cover, and cook on LOW setting for 5 to 6 hours.

Let sit for 30 minutes or more and then slice and serve.

Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken

By Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services


To prepare for the upcoming school year, I’ve been trying to focus on finding meals I can make ahead and then have ready to heat and eat during the week.  This yogurt marinade recipe is my recent favorite because in addition to a marinade for chicken, I’ve also used the recipe as a sauce or even dressing for other meals and side dishes. It keeps chicken moist–whether grilled or baked–and is a tangy and fresh compliment to seasonal veggies and sides!



Makes 4 servings (marinates 4 chicken breast fillets)

2 cups Greek yogurt, plain

2 tbsp honey

1 medium lemon, juiced

1/4 cup cucumber peeled and diced, finely

2 medium strawberries diced, finely

1/4 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, made into paste

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper



1. In medium bowl, stir to combine yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice and honey.

2. Dice onion, cucumber and strawberry. Paste garlic. Combine all with yogurt mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

For Marinade: Pour into gallon-sized ziplock to cover chicken breasts and squeeze bag to coat chicken.  Allow to marinade in refrigerator overnight. Grill or bake chicken to desired doneness, checking for an internal temperature of 165F.

For Sauce: Chill yogurt mixture in airtight container and enjoy with veggies, grains, salads or proteins as a dipping sauce or dressing.



Pork Chops and Apple Salad

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE


Straight from my Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Cookbook, I’m excited to share this recipe for refreshing pork chops and Apple salad. Perfect for the end of summer and upcoming apple season this fall!


For Apple Salad:

2 tbsp (30mL) balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp (15mL) Dijon mustard

2 apples, finely sliced, lengthwise

1 head Bibb lettuce, chopped

2 (500mL) cups spinach

1 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 onion sliced

1/4 cup (60mL) crumbled, reduced-fat blue cheese

For Pork Chops:

4 bone-in pork loin chops (each 6oz/175g)

1/8 tsp (.5mL) salt

1 tbsp (15mL) chopped, fresh thyme (or 1tsp/5g dried)

1 clove garlic, minced


For Apple Salad:

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and mustard. Add apples, lettuce, spinach, celery and onion. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with blue cheese, set aside.

For Pork Chops:

Season each pork chop with salt, thyme and garlic. Heat a large skillet with cooking spray over medium heat. Cook the pork chops for 8 minutes, turning once or until lightly browned and a thermometer inserted in the center of the chop reads 145F and the juices run clear. Serve with the apple salad.


Crowd Pleasing Veggie Burgers

By Brenna O’Malley and The Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team


In search of a meatless option for a crowd or just an alternative to packaged veggie burgers with lots of extra ingredients? This easy make-ahead recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, a salad or lunch topper, or a great way to get some protein and veggies into your day! These are crowd pleasing veggie burgers because your whether your friends are meatless, gluten free or particular about the veggies or ingredients they like, these burgers can be adapted to fit your guests’ palates!

Yields ~8 patties


1 can black beans, mashed

½ medium onion, diced

1 large carrot or 1 cup baby carrots, grated or diced finely

1 (8oz) pkg of mushrooms, diced

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 cup oat flour (can be made by blending 1 cup oats)

½ cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked

½ cup sweet potato, diced and cooked

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 cloves of garlic, minced and made into paste

1 tbsp olive oil

2 eggs

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp red pepper flakes


Optional Add-ins:

1 cup sautéed spinach or kale, 2 tbsp chopped almonds, 1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce



  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. If you do not have roasted sweet potato or rinsed and cooked quinoa ready, prepare those now. Sautee onions, garlic paste, mushrooms and red pepper with tbsp. olive oil until veggies are soft.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and any optional add-ins you choose. Season to taste and mix well.
  4. Prepare a baking sheet, moisten hands with water and begin to tightly pack and shape patties for baking.
  5. Bake patties in oven for ~25 minutes, if your patties are thicker, flipping halfway through may promote even baking.
  6. Can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen to have on hand for the week. Enjoy!

Salmon Summer Rolls


By Nutrition Student, Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

These light, refreshing, and nutritious summer rolls are simple and fun to make, easily packed for lunch, or stored for leftovers, and even your kids will love them! Try keeping them in the refrigerator and eating them cold after a long hot summer day. Packed with protein and healthy fats from salmon and avocado, this roll will satisfy your hunger without making you feel too full.1

Rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, Salmon has many health benefits. One omega-3 in particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is the brain’s favorite fatty acid. A diet rich in DHA is associated with improved learning abilities and disease prevention.2,3



  • rice paper wrapper (find them in the ethnic foods section of your health food store. I recommend brown rice)
  • carrots
  • avocado
  • cucumber
  • spinach/spring mix/ lettuce
  • salmon

Optional Sauce:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1 tbs honey
  • siracha sauce (to taste, 1 tbs for a mild sauce)

salmon roll


  1. In a bowl mix the soy sauce, honey, and siracha sauce. On medium heat, add the sauce to a pan with the salmon. Once cooked, set the salmon aside to cool off.
  2. Wet paper towels large enough to cover the bottom of your plate. Place a wrapper on the paper towel and dab it with another wet paper towel. (You don’t want to get the wrappers too wet, because they will break easily.)
  3. Place a handful of spinach in the middle of the wrapper and the rest of the ingredients on top.
  4. Wrap the roll: start by folding the shortest sides in. Fold the bottom up and roll up to the top.
  5. Enjoy! The optional sauce can also be used as a delicious dipping sauce.

salmon roll finished


  1. III, V. L. F., Dreher, M., & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008.
  2. Kris-Etherton, P. M., Harris, W. S., & Appel, L. J. (2002). Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. circulation, 106(21), 2747-2757.
  3. Horrocks, L. A., & Yeo, Y. K. (1999). Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacological Research, 40(3), 211-225.


Fresh Zucchini and Corn Cakes


Photo by Whole Foods
Photo by Whole Foods

Our Mommy friend, Danielle, and her little girl, Lucca love these zucchini and corn cakes from the Whole Foods recipe and we’re sure you will too!


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk or low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Kernels from 1 ear sweet corn (~3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil


In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until smooth. Add corn, zucchini, onion, and stir until combined.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Working in batches, drop batter by scant 1/4 cup measures into skillet.  Cook, turning once, until browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side; lower heat if pancakes begin to brown too deeply before middle is cooked through.  Add more oil between batches if necessary.  Serve the pancakes warm or room temperature with crême fraîche.

Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Original recipe by Whole Foods can be found here.

Give Your Children the Gift of Cooking! (And Never Pay a Penny)

By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Today my twenty-three-year-old son moved to a new city eight hundred miles away for a

job opportunity. As a typical mother, I am going to worry about him adjusting well and

meeting friendly people, along with a dozen other unnecessary concerns. However, I will

never have to worry about whether or not he eats healthfully.

Without expensive lessons or significant input from me, my son learned to cook so well

that when he is home, our kitchen looks and smells like a five-star restaurant. My

college-aged vegetarian daughter also prepares meals for herself, such as soups and stir-

fry dishes that include tofu and vegetables.

While these culinary family moments make me feel proud, if I could do it all again, I

would teach my children how to cook for themselves at a young age. Cooking is an

important life skill that promotes independence, responsibility, and frugality (since it’s

less expensive than eating out every meal). Add to that knowledge about proper nutrition

and healthy eating and you have passed on a gift to your children that they will always


 Here are some important cooking and life skills that your child would benefit from

learning as it becomes age-appropriate:

  • Sanitation and food safety: Teach your child the importance of washing hands as

well as surfaces before and after meal preparation

  • Food quantities and measurement: Involve your child in using math and reasoning

skills as he/she figures out proportions in recipes

  • Cutting fruits and vegetables: Help your child improve manual dexterity as he/she

progresses from plastic utensils to regular knife skills

  • Respect kitchen dangers: Show your child how to respect hidden dangers in the

kitchen, including sharp knives, flames, and electricity

  • Menu planning: Involve your child in planning meals ahead of time as well as

cooking them, and watch him/her be receptive to trying new recipes

  • Research: Look for new recipes online, in cookbooks, or in magazines
  • Communication: Enjoy the closeness that only shared activities can bring!


Part of teaching your children how to cook is the skill of following recipes and the

excitement of creating new meal ideas. Here are two dishes my children learned to cook

on their own—without my assistance or input.


Tofu Stir-Fry Rebecca Style


1 package extra firm tofu

½ medium yellow onion

1 cup fresh broccoli

1 large red pepper

2 cups spinach leaves

2 tbsp. reduced sodium teriyaki sauce

1 ½ tbsp. sesame oil (or canola)


1.  Start by pressing the water out of the tofu. Place it between paper towels and put a heavy

pot or book atop the tofu. Leave for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables

into bite-size pieces.

2.   Slice the tofu into even squares and sauté in 1 tbsp. sesame oil over medium heat for

about 2–3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Sauté vegetables in ½

tbsp. oil, add tofu and teriyaki sauce, and simmer for one more minute.  Enjoy!

Robby’s Rockin’ Turkey Chili


2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, diced

6 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. fresh ground turkey

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp. cumin

5 tbsp. chili powder



1 16 oz. can black beans

1 16 oz. can pinto beans


1. Sauté diced onion, jalapeno, and minced garlic in oil until soft.

2. Add turkey and cook turkey until brown.

3. Add some chili pepper, cumin, and salt.

4. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.

5. Add more spices. Add black beans and pinto beans and bring from a boil to low heat.

6. Add more spices; simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

7. Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, and/or scallions. Bon appetit!


Having your children learn how to cook healthy and delicious meals offers one more

important benefit—you will have less worry as they learn to navigate the ups and downs

of adult living. I will always be assured that my kids are eating healthfully.

Grilled Pork Chops with Two Melon Salsa


We’ve been talking a lot about watermelons this summer! And as one of the most hydrating and tasty fruits, we’re happy to have one more reason to incorporate it into our summer dishes, just in time for your Fourth of July cookout!



1 cup chopped seedless watermelon

1 cup chopped honeydew melon

3 tablespoons sweet onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped jalepeno pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/8 teaspoon salt


2 teaspoons canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut pork chops, trimmed

cooking spray



1. To prep salsa, combine the first 7 ingredients and set aside

2. To prep pork chops, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Combine oil and next 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small bowl.  Rub oil mixture over both sides of pork chops. Coat pan with cookies spray. Add pork to pan, cook for 4 minutes on both sides or until desired degree of doneness.

3. Serve with salsa and enjoy!


The original post for this recipe can be found here.






High-Protein Onion, Apple, Quinoa, and Kale Salad

We attended the Editor’s Showcase in February where we were able to sample different foods and learn the latest that’s going on in the food industry.  The National Onion Association and US Apple Association shared with us some of their recipes featuring both apples and onions.  Here is one we think you’ll enjoy!

Courtesy of National Onion Association
Courtesy of National Onion Association

Makes 6 Servings


  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon honey Dijon mustard
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 ½ sups tri-color quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 3 cups chopped kale, ribs removed and discarded
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 red-skinned apple, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper




  1. Whisk the vinegar with the oil, lemon juice, honey and mustard until well combined.
  2. Set aside.


  1. Bring the broth and quinoa to a boil.
  2. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until al the broth has been absorbed. Cool completely.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-height heat.
  4. Sauté onion for 3 to 5 minutes or until softened. Cool completely.
  5. In a large bowl, toss onion, kale, chicken, apple, salt, and pepper with prepared dressing.
  6. Stir in the cooled quinoa.

Bold and Fruity Chicken Tangine

Credit: Executive Chef Rachel Reuben, Food Fix Kitchen  

We wanted to share a recipe with you that was made at the Dishing with the Media Harvest Celebrations Event.  They featured some delicious recipes including Carrot Curry Kale Chips and Lemon Seed and Pepper Crusted Grilled Pork.  With summer right around the corner, we thought it would be great to share this Bold and Fruity Chicken Tangine recipe to get your mouths’ watering for the tasty food summer has to offer!


Bold and Fruity Chicken Tangine Picture
Makes 4 servings, or 8 pieces

8 chicken thighs with bones and skin
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed whole
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 strips fresh lemon peel
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Pinch saffron threads
1/8 cup rosewater
¾ cup dry white wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup pitted green olives
¼ cup dried pitted dates*
¼ cup dried apricots*
¼ cup dried figs*
1 whole wheat pita or other Middle Eastern flatbread, cut into thirds, warmed but not toasted
1/2 cup chopped roasted pistachios, optional for finishing
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional, for finishing

*Fruit Bliss’s apricots, prunes and figs are recommended

  1. Remove skin from thighs and reserve. Trim fat and reserve with skin. Partially debone for easy removal after cooking, (make cuts around bone but keep bone in place for cooking; bones will impart more flavor but we don’t want to serve with bones).
  2. Combine the cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika and cinnamon and season the spice blend with pepper and salt (keeping in mind that the olives will be adding an element of salt). Using a large bowl, sheet tray or zip bag, sprinkle the spice and seasoning mixture over the chicken and toss to coat evenly on all sides. Set aside in the refrigerator to infuse for 1 hour.
  3. Set a large Dutch oven or pressure cooker over medium-high heat and add a thin coating of vegetable oil. Add the chicken skins and fat and cook, stirring occasionally, until several tablespoons of liquid chicken fat have rendered, about 10 minutes. Remove skin and any solids from the pan, once browned and rendered, and discard.
  4. Using the rendered chicken fat, brown (2-3 minutes per side) the spice/seasoned chicken on both sides in batches, careful not to crowd the pan, and then transfer to a platter and hold aside. Add a little more oil to the pot, if needed, and sauté onions until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for a minute until aromatic but not browned. Deglaze pan by adding rosewater and wine, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook at a boil for 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Add the chicken back to the pot along with the lemon peel, thyme, bay leaf, and saffron, if using. Bring to a boil.
  5. FOR CONVENTIONAL STOVETOP OR OVEN COOKING: Cover and reduce heat to a simmer, cook until the chicken is very tender, 30 minutes longer on stovetop, or in a 400 oven for 45 minutes. Add fruit and olives to mixture, and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes. FOR PRESSURE COOKER COOKING: seal pressure cooker and bring to full pressure over medium-high heat. Once pressure is attained, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes. Release pressure, open cooker and add olives and fruit. Cover and bring to pressure once again, then remove from heat and allow pressure to release. Remove the thyme and bay leaf before serving. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and cilantro and serve.


This recipe and others are available on Dishing with the Media