Category Archives: Meal Planning Strategies

Bacon & Spinach Tortellini – As Heard on WROK

Makes 4 servings
30 minutes start to finish

“Everyone who has tried this recipe has loved it.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  You can put it together to cater to each person’s preference.  I buy a big  bag of spinach and use the rest for the salad.  I add the left-over pine nuts to the salad as well.

6 pieces bacon
1 family-size package cheese tortellini
1 tablespoon pine nuts -optional, but delicious
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic -minced
2 cups fresh, baby spinach
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1)  Microwave bacon between 10 paper towels (5 layers on each side) for 5 – 6 minutes.  Crumble and set aside.

2)  Cook tortellini according to package; drain.  Transfer to a large bowl.

3)  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add pine nuts to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes until toasted – stirring occasionally.  Add nuts to bowl of pasta.

4)  Heat olive oil in the same skillet over low heat.  Add garlic and saute 1 minute.  Add spinach to pan.  Cook for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.  Add to bowl.

5)  Add to bowl; parmesan, pepper, and crumbled bacon.  Toss well and serve.


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Breakfast in Bed

When I think of Mother’s Day, I think of breakfast in bed.  In fact, my kids get so excited over making me breakfast in bed, they count down the days.  My birthday falls 2 days before Mother’s Day this year, so they’ve planned to each take a day of breakfast in bed.  So even if it doesn’t sound like too much fun for you, think of how fun it is for your kiddos.  To make your life a little easier, I’ve made a list for all of you moms to print up on Saturday night and leave in a very obvious spot for Sunday morning.

1)  Use a sturdy tray that won’t tip over and is big enough to hold several dishes. 

2)  Bring something to read, such as the newspaper, up with breakfast.
3)  Fresh flowers (just from outside) make a great touch.
4)  Clean the dishes you dirtied making breakfast before Mom finishes eating in bed.
5)  Carry glasses with liquids separately, not on the tray.
6)  It’s the thought that counts and we will love anything we didn’t have make.
7)  Don’t wait until Mother’s Day to do this again.
Have a Very Happy Mother’s Day, from one Happy Mom to another!!

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Check out the wonderful mention of on Delicious Living Magazine’s Blog: “Mother’s Day Gift: meal planning service.”

It’s truly a great gift for Mother’s Day or any time of year to help moms (or dads) get organized in the kitchen and plan easy, well-balanced meals for their family!

Thank you Delicious Living!

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Teens in the Kitchen – Test it Out

Does your teenager help with family mealtime preparation?  While my children aren’t quite in their teen years yet, I hope by the time they are, I’ll have at least inspired them to become interested in what goes on in the kitchen.

Teaching your teen to cook a family meal – even just once a week – is a great win/win for parents and teens – parents get a night off and teenagers gain a lifelong skill. I’m a strong believer in the earlier we can introduce our kids to the “lay of the land” in the kitchen, the more likely they’ll become confident cooks and learn how to make healthy meals at home.

I recently read about a new website called, presented by a New Zealand teenager Claire Gourley, and it’s full of recipes, tips and ideas to inspire teens to have fun in the kitchen and start learning how to make a meal.

The site is aimed at teens so it includes foods and recipes that most teenagers tend to eat and also includes many embedded YouTube videos to make it more interactive and engaging.  “It’s My Turn to Cook” also started an ebook series and the first one is based on potatoes, a food most teens love, with a wide range of meals – from filled baked potatoes, soup, potato wedges, and a warm potato salad. The site is worth a visit if you need some inspiration for your teen.

Whatever method works for you to introduce your teen to the kitchen – go for it. Of course after much effort you may find out cooking isn’t something they love to do, but teaching them the basic skills is a priceless lesson.

Anyone have a teenager kitchen success story?

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Upgrade Your Family’s Meal

In a recent news release Americans were urged to give their family’s meals an “upgrade.” What do they mean by an upgrade? It means preparing your family’s favorite meals with less fat and calories by making smart choices and adjusting the ingredients.

As part of this initiative by Shape Up, America! And National Turkey Federation (NTF), a public education campaign was launched to educate people about how to make small changes in meal preparation. The program was developed in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to fight childhood obesity.

I think one of the coolest aspects of this campaign is the Meal Upgrade Calculator – an online tool to show you how to adjust your favorite meals by changing some of the ingredients (meat, poultry, side dishes, condiments, etc.),  to decrease the amount of fat and calories in your recipes.

I checked out the site and it looks like they have about 24 recipes on there now with plans to add more. For instance in a traditional lasagna recipe – their “upgrade” ideas included using turkey sausage, non-fat milk ricotta cheese, part skim mozzarella cheese and light salad dressing for a side salad.

In my house we are pretty educated about those simple changes, but for many Americans out there this is a great resource to start teaching your family about simple ways they can change their diet lifestyle.

Check out the Meal Upgrade Calculator at

Does anyone have their own tricks for making your family’s favorite dishes healthier without sacrificing the taste?

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Celebrate Earth Day with “Green” Recipe from Jackie Newgent

Jackie Newgent, an award-winning cookbook author, is a well-respected registered dietitian and culinary expert. Her much-anticipated cookbook, Big Green Cookbook: Hundreds of Planet-pleasing Recipes and Tips for a Luscious Low-carbon Lifestyle (Wiley, 2009) just recently hit store shelves. It’s the first-ever cookbook which shows concerned consumers how to maximize flavor in real meals that minimize their carbon footprint.

In honor of Earth Day, Jackie was kind enough to share one of her favorite “green” recipes with In addition to her contribution, we will also be adding in a tip to each of our own recipes to make it more “green” if desired.

For Jackie shared her Greek Salad recipe.  I recently tested it out on my family and it was fabulous! We’re excited to share it with all of our subscribers! Look for it in the week’s worth of recipes that come out Thursday, April 22 – Earth Day! If you’re not a subscriber already, visit to sign up!

Jackie’s other notable accomplishments:

  • Her first cookbook, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook: The whole food approach to great taste and healthy eating (American Diabetes Association, 2007), won many awards including the Best Health and Nutrition Book in the U.S.A. and the Best Health and Nutrition Book in the World by Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2007.
  • She writes the monthly column, “Eat…More!” for Glamour magazine
  • Newgent is frequently interviewed on national television and radio
  • Newgent is regularly invited to speak at professional meetings, including the International Association of Culinary Professional’s (IACP) Annual International Conference and American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo.


Are you a top food blogger, interested foodie or chef? If so, we’d love to include one of your easy-to-make, family-friendly ( and yummy!) recipes in one of’s weekly menus. If interested, email

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New study on “Rediscovering the joys of shared meals”

Barilla, the family run pasta and sauces company, recently conducted a survey with findings that once again, support the importance of family dinners.

Here are some of the top results:

  • 93 percent of Americans acknowledge dinner time as the best way to connect as a family
  • Americans who eat with others more frequently are more satisfied with every aspect of their own lives, including their relationships, their physical and mental health and their level of achievement in life.
  • Sharing meals ranks No. 1 above all other activities (including family vacations, playing together and attending religious services) in helping Americans connect with their families and their kids.
  • Nearly six in 10 families agree that they don’t have as many opportunities to connect with their family or friends as they’d like.
  • Americans who eat with others frequently report lower levels of overweight children.

The study is part of Barilla’s “Share the Table” campaign in which they are working with country music star Martina McBride and infamous chef Mario Batali – two people who understand the importance of coming together for mealtime.

When it comes to creating the best family dinner experience, McBride, the mother of three, has three tips that include:

  1. Once in a while, make everyday dinners seem fancier with candles, a linen tablecloth and your fine china. This will add an element of fun and something to get excited about.
  2. Carry on your favorite dinnertime traditions from your childhood and tell your children about family meals from when you were a kid.
  3. Plan ahead so you can fit dinners into busy schedules. Put the dates and times on your calendar and don’t budge.

In addition to Martina’s tips – I recommend meal planning.  It’s one thing to plan a night for family dinner, but if you don’t know what’s cooking and you haven’t made a grocery store list, it often doesn’t happen – at least that’s how it is in my house. Meal planning ensures that family dinners take place…frequently. In addition, meal planning helps cut costs too – no more money wasted on groceries that you don’t need or end up going to waste in your fridge.

As a parent, what are your tips for creating a great family dining experience?

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