Simple Summer Lasagna

This light and easy to follow recipe is tasty and convincing way to get you and your family on the right track towards incorporating more healthy vegetables into your day. To take advantage of the summer season, substitute any vegetables with your family and friends’ seasonal favorites! For busy moms and dads who want to prepare lasagna ahead of time, simply cover and refrigerate after layering the noodles with veggies, ricotta and sauce. 
Ingredients (Makes 6 servings)
8 ripe plum tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic
10 leaves of basil + 1/4 cup chopped
2 cups skim milk ricotta
2 tbsp tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped red onions
2 large zucchini, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup frozen spinach
4.5 oz (half a package) no-boil whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 tsp salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a rectangular baking dish with 1/2 tsp olive oil.
  2. In a food processor, combine tomatoes, garlic, 10 leaves of basil and  salt & pepper. Process until pureed, taste for seasoning and set aside.
  3. In a pan over medium-high heat, sauté onions and mushrooms with 1 tbsp olive oil for ~5 minutes
  4. In a small bowl, combine ricotta,remaining olive oil and salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Arrange layers of lasagna by first coating bottom of the baking dish with a layer of the tomato sauce. Then continue to layer noodles. Top noodles with more tomato sauce, ricotta mixture and 1/2 the zucchini, kale and basil.
  6. Repeat layer once again and then spread remaining tomato mixture over noodles; finish the top with any remaining sauce and ricotta.
  7. Cover and bake with foil for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.
  8. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes
  10. Garnish with additional basil or other herbs you like.

Super Food and Fresh Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Choosing healthy ingredients is the first step to turning grilled cheese into a sandwich that’s good for you



Healthy grilled cheese, say what!? Recipe adjustments like using olive oil rather than butter can help turn the classic grilled cheese into a healthier meal.   You can add in tomatoes or any other seasonal vegetables, or protein and herbs you like.

Ingredients (Makes 1 sandwich)

2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
2 slices high-fiber, whole-wheat bread
1-2 slices of your favorite skim or fat-free cheese, here we’re using fresh buffalo mozzarella
1/4 red cabbage, sliced
1/2 cup fresh spinach (or 1/4 cup of frozen spinach)
1/2 roasted sweet potato
1 quarter of an avocado, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp of salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Slice sweet potato length-wise and roast for 40 minutes. Once cool, scoop out sweet potato and set aside.
3. Heat 1 tsp olive oil and add garlic. Lightly sauté spinach and red cabbage until it it slightly wilted. Add 1/4 tsp salt.
4. After transferring the vegetables onto a plate, you can use the same pan to heat 1 tsp olive oil over low heat.
5.  Next, arrange the mozzarella* slices on one slice of bread. Place both slices of bread in the pan, facing up . Season the cheese with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Cover and cook until bread is toasted brown and cheese has started to melt.
6. Remove the grilled bread from the pan. On the slice of bread with cheese, add cabbage, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocado and basil. Close the sandwich with the other slice of grilled bread. Serve immediately.

Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad

For busy families, salads can also be prepared in advance


With these versatile ingredients, you can even serve it with your favorite piece of protein, like grilled fish or chicken.


3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced


1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoon minced fresh mint, (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chipotle hot pepper sauce *optional


1. Roast corn kernels in a single layer on an baking sheet for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow it to cool.
2. Next, in a large bowl, whisk lemon juice, mint, oil, salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce*. Add celery, red pepper and onion; toss to combine. You can be prepare this step ahead of time, by up to 24 hours under refrigeration.)
3). Add corn and avocado; toss gently to combine.

Send the Message with a Cookie

My son’s school recently invited parents to share their jobs with the students. I happily agreed, but as the event got closer, I continued to struggle with what to do with the class. There are so many fun options. And while I had already made the new MyPlate with both Bobby and Billy’s classes (see the picture), I was still left to decide between taste testing different fruits and dips, coloring placemats portraying everyday foods like fruit, veggies, legumes and low-fat dairy products, or something else.

Anytime I participate in an event like this, my goal is for the kids to have fun learning about different foods so they realize that nutrition and being healthy is both easy and delicious. Easier said than done though; they are, after all, only four to six years old.

One of my ideas was to use a lesson plan from my program, Healthy Habits, to educate the kids on what it feels like to be hungry and full, and then have them take a quiz using their newly learned cues. When working with such young pupils, however, I also want to make sure that the message touches their bellies—not just their brains—and I was afraid that this activity wouldn’t achieve that.

Unsure of what to do, I went to my oldest son, Bobby, and asked what he would’ve liked me to do. He said he didn’t know. So instead, I tried another tactic: I asked him if he knew what I did—what a dietitian does. After thinking momentarily, he went on to share this very insightful response. “You teach people what is healthy and what is sometimes food,” said Bobby.

I don’t know why, but I was amazed that Bobby was able to give such a brief, succinct description of what I do, and I especially loved the fact that he used the phrase “sometimes food.” My efforts and practices are most definitely influencing my son. As an RD, but most importantly as a mother, I felt proud.

This is when I prosed the idea of making healthier cookies. From my encounter with Bobby, I knew that the kids could understand the idea of “sometimes foods” and “everyday foods.” (It doesn’t have to be cookies either; you can modify any recipe at home, like turning traditional spaghetti and meatballs into whole-wheat pasta with turkey meatballs and all-natural sauce.) For the purpose of my upcoming show-and-tell though, cookies would do just fine. They take just 20 minutes to make, and they’ll certainly send a kid-friendly message. Better yet, the kids may even bring the recipe home and share it with their siblings and parents.

So that is what I’m planning to do for bring your parents to class day: to turn a “sometimes food” into an almost-everyday-food and a decidedly healthy and delicious snack option.

Here is the recipe for our wholesome chocolate chip cookies (dark chocolate that is) if you want to try them out too:

Wholesome Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tina Sweitzer – Mom to Young and Chef

 Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE – Mom to Robert and Dietitian

For ~ 2 dozen cookies


Ingredients Wet

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (not imitation vanilla)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white

Ingredients Dry

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole grain oats rolled
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt

Finishing touches

  • 8-10 oz. package of Whole Foods Dark Chocolate Chips or 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Now just mix and bake them like a batch of normal chocolate chip cookies. In a mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients (partially soften the butter in the microwave, just be careful not to melt it too much). Stir them together with a spoon. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Now carefully stir in the dry ingredients in with the wet. Now stir in the dark chocolate chips. 
Place cookies on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10 – 14 minutes.

Download a PDF of the recipe here.

Guest Blog: Guidelines for Feeding Kids

Dear Readers,

I asked foodie, mother and blogger, Alissa Stoltz to share her food wisdom. Alissa has a great understanding of nutrition. She left the NYC corporate world few years ago to raise her two beautiful daughters in a simply wholesome  and nutritious way. In addition to being a fabulous mother, Alissa has also been blogging recipes she uses to feed her family. 

Guest Blog by Alissa Stoltz, The Simply Wholesome Kitchen

Being a food blogger can be a bit of a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it has provided such a great platform for me to share my views and hopefully inspire some others to get in the kitchen and make simple, real food.  But on the other hand, people often ask me for advice, expecting that I know the secret to feeding gourmet, perfectly balanced meals to enthusiastic toddlers every night!  Unfortunately, the reality is that even someone as committed to wholesome cooking as me experiences PLENTY of challenges.  Like the fact that my toddler won’t eat a single vegetable other than spinach (I know, I’m lucky about the spinach, but not even a carrot??).  Or the nights that I get home to an empty kitchen at 5:15 and have 15 minutes to plan and get some dinner on the table.  Fortunately, since my older daughter was born almost 3 years ago, I’ve been absorbing the advice of dieticians, foodies, sociologists, and, of course, my fellow bloggers to come up with a few guiding principles for feeding my kids in a way that I feel mostly good about most of the time.

1. Hungry children will eat when offered food.  This is really important, because I hear all of the time that “my kid won’t eat anything other than [insert processed, high fat, high sugar, high sodium food here].”  But in reality, most normal, healthy kids (without sensory issues, allergies, etc.) will not starve themselves because they do not like what you served for dinner.  If your child will only eat 1 or 2 things, you have to ask yourself how they learned it was an option to only eat those things?  So my approach is to serve a meal, and my toddler has the choice to eat or not eat.  Sounds great, but I cannot tell you how many times she has gotten to the table and burst into tears as if I was trying to force her to eat something out of a horror movie, even when presenting a meal that she previously loved.  This is unbelievably frustrating, but in the end, it’s is also why I don’t make anything that my husband and I won’t eat as well – it’s bad enough to have your child refuse to eat your food, but it’s even worse if you went to special effort just for them and then are rejected.  But before you think I’m totally mean, if I am serving a food that might be new or challenging for my daughter, I always make sure I am serving something that she generally likes as part of the meal (e.g., bread, pasta, or fruit).  This way I know I’m not torturing her by making her feel like she has to choose between starving and eating something she really doesn’t want, but I am also not giving her an “out” and adding to my own frustration by becoming a short-order cook.  I also try to eat with my kids as much as possible – I have found a dramatic improvement in my toddler’s willingness to at least try new foods when I’m at the table eating the same things.  And in the end, if she takes two bites (or no bites!) of a meal and tells me she’s done, I have to respect that and trust that if she was really hungry, she’d find something on her plate to fill up on.  And if she’s really not hungry or willing to eat what’s on the table, there’s always the next meal or snack!

2. NOT offering UNHEALTHY foods is as important as offering healthy foods.  Of course we all want our kids to eat lots of fruits and veggies and other healthy foods.  And some of us will be lucky enough to have truly adventurous eaters.  But the rest of us will have to deal with kids who avoid entire food groups, change their minds about what they like on a daily basis, refuse to eat something if it looks slightly different than what they’re used to, or are generally finicky about eating.  Food manufacturers know how to engineer foods that are easy to like, and that makes these foods easy to feed our kids, since they will very rarely complain about chips, pretzels, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, etc.  But going back to guideline #1, if you fall into the trap of giving your kids these foods on a regular basis, they could quickly become the “only” food they’ll eat without a fuss, and even worse they may learn to hold out and refuse to eat their meals because an easier option is just a few minutes away.  So it’s not enough to just offer good foods at meal times and let kids fill up on junky snacks in between, or to offer a side of broccoli with the mac & cheese that will go untouched.   It’s just as important to make sure processed foods with minimal nutritional benefit are only an occasional option – that way you know that whenever they DO get hungry and decide to eat, they’ll have no choice but to eat something you feel good about!

3. Find a way to feed your kids healthy foods that is sustainable for YOU.  If cooking is not your thing, don’t try to be Martha Stewart!  I think the reason some people avoid cooking is because they think they need to put together elaborate, gourmet feasts every time, and that is way too much pressure.  Everything doesn’t have to be the best meal you’ve ever tasted, or the most beautiful – there’s really a lot of room for error in cooking, and you are doing your family such a huge favor by choosing to try rather than depending on processed, prepared foods.  Start by making a list of easy meals that you can easily stock the ingredients for and require no planning – my favorites are eggs (mix in some frozen chopped spinach or other veggie, or serve with a fruit or veggie on the side and some whole grain toast) or whole wheat pasta (take a bag of frozen broccoli or mixed veggies and add to the pasta water 2-3 minutes before it’s done cooking).   Every once in a while, try a simple new recipe (meals like tacos and baked ziti are generally big hits with kids!), maybe on the weekends when you have some time.  As you get better, build a repertoire of easy meals that you can rotate through – with some practice it becomes much easier to have the right ingredients on hand to throw together a dish your family will enjoy with minimal time and effort.

And don’t forget about the snacks!  Start by keeping your home stocked with healthy snacks like fresh, dried, and frozen fruit (my toddler loves to eat frozen blueberries!), veggies with hummus, ranch dressing or dip, nuts, seeds, whole grain crackers (read ingredient lists here to avoid too much filler and pretend whole grains!), cheese, plain yogurt and some whole grain pretzels.  If you’re interested, you could try some baking – I make mini-muffins, granola and nut bars, and whole grain pancakes and waffles to keep in my freezer.  A batch of muffins can be done in under 30 minutes and makes two dozen toddlers-sized snacks for whenever I need them!

4. Patience, patience, patience!  It takes time to learn how plan meals, it takes a million tries for some kids to even lick a new food, and it takes an infinite amount of patience to feed finicky kids who seem genetically programmed to declare UNHEALTHY new foods delicious, and HEALTHY new foods yucky.  Maybe by the time my kids go to college I’ll have this whole feeding thing figured out, but in the mean time, having some basic guidelines that make me feel like I’m doing a decent job trying to feed them most of the time is going to have to be enough!