Healthy Shepherd’s Pie is the Ultimate Comfort Food




















There’s nothing like meat and potatoes to warm you up inside. This Shepherd’s Pie recipe is a healthier version than the original. With lean meat and veggies, it will warm you up without filling you up. The potatoes can be made the day before to speed-up prep time. Enjoy this nutritious twist on a traditional favorite!

Shepherd’s Pie


2 – 3 lbs. baking potatoes, enough to equal 4 cups mashed
1/2 – 1 cup milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tspn. salt
1/8 tspn. pepper

1 1/4 lb. 90% lean ground beef
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. balsalmic vinaigrette dressing
1 tspn. oregano, dried flakes
1 tspn. basil, dried flakes
1/2 tspn. salt
1/8 tspn. pepper
1 can (14.5 oz.) petite, diced tomatoes, undrained
1 bay leaf
1 cup corn, cooked

2 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. water

Spray 9 X 13 in. casserole dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350.

Wash and peel potatoes and cut into even pieces, approx. 2-3 in. cubes. Place in large pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil. Cook 15 minutes or until tender, using a fork to test. Drain water from pot and place pot and potatoes back on low heat and add milk a little at a time, along with cheese, butter, salt and pepper. Beat at medium speed with electric beaters until smooth. Set aside or place in refrigerator if making the rest of the recipe later.

Cook ground beef in large, non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned. Drain fat and set aside ground beef. Wipe drippings from skillet and add olive oil, warming over medium heat. Add carrot, pepper, onion and garlic and saute for 8 minutes. Add ground beef to the vegetables and add dressing, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over med-high and then reduce heat to medium and cover and cook for 25 minutes. While meat mixture is cooking, cook corn (either frozen or canned) and warm-up potatoes. When meat mixture is done, remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

Place flour in small bowl and gradually whisk in water to create a thick, soupy paste. Add to meat mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Spread meat mixture in casserole dish and sprinkle with corn. Spoon potatoes on top and spread to the edges of the pan. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly around edges, remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Alphabet Soup with Vegetables and Beans


Delicious Pasta and Bean Soup is Loaded with Veggies

Evidence is mounting on the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet – a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy fats. Low-fat dairy foods, lean red meats, fish, skinless poultry and eggs are also included in the diet, if desired, but in moderate amounts. This way of eating can lower the risk for heart disease and diabetes and may help prevent certain cancers as well. A recent study in Greece followed 2,500 adults for 10 years. They found that those individuals ranked in the top third as being most adherent to a Mediterranean diet had a 47% decrease in risk for developing heart disease compared to individuals that did not follow the diet (ranked in the bottom third).

Following this diet may be a complete lifestyle change for you, but small goals can help get you there. One way to increase your vegetable consumption is to start your lunch or dinner meal with a salad or vegetable soup. This pasta fagioli soup, or pasta and beans soup, with it’s savory tomato-based broth, is full of vegetables and flavor. It’s also a wonderful light meal with some carrot sticks and hummus, even though my teenage son has declared that soup is not a meal. However you enjoy this comforting soup, you’ll know it’s good for your heart.

Did you try this recipe? Do you have a favorite soup you enjoy? Please click on the title of this post and scroll to the bottom to leave a comment.

Alphabet Soup with Vegetables and Beans


1 sweet or yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 green squash, halved, seeds scooped out with a spoon, halved again and chopped

2 yellow squash, halved, seeds scooped out with a spoon, halved again and chopped

3 carrots, sliced in half and chopped

3 celery sticks, sliced in half and chopped

1 cup fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, chopped

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) petite diced tomatoes

1 can (15.5 oz.) cannelloni (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

32 oz. vegetable stock

1 cup water

1 ½ cup alphabet pasta*

¼ tsp. Pepper

1 tsp. Salt

1 Tbsp. Dried parsley

½ tsp. Dried oregano

1 tsp. Basil

1 Bay leaf

Warm olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 8 minutes.

Add green and yellow squash, salt and pepper and dried herbs (except bay leaf) and sauté another 5 – 8 minutes.

Add spinach and sauté another minute until wilted.

Add beans, tomatoes, stock, water and bay leaf and increase heat to medium-high until simmering.

Once simmering, add pasta and reduce heat to medium once pasta begins to simmer. Let simmer 10 minutes until pasta is cooked through. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer 10 more minutes. Add more water if desired. Remove bay leaf before serving.

*For chunky pasta, like elbows, cook pasta separately and add to the soup during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Recipe compliments of

Slow Cooker Eggplant Stew: Summer’s Bounty in a Crock Pot


If you are up to your ears in vegetables from your garden, this ratatouille should do the trick. It’s a hearty vegetable stew, also known as ratatouille, that is delicious by itself or served over whole grain pasta, cous cous, quinoa or rice. I’ve even spooned it on slices of toasted French bread and used it as a pizza topping. Feel free to adjust the recipe to include your favorite vegetables, but don’t forget the chick peas (garbanzo beans) – I love those little guys, don’t you?


3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
5 cloves minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
3 small Italian eggplants, peeled and chopped
1/8 tspn. pepper
3/4 tspn. salt
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 medium zucchini, seeded and chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tspn. thyme flakes
1 1/2 tspn. basil flakes

Heat oil on med. heat and saute garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add eggplant and season with salt and pepper, cooking 5 more minutes. Turn heat to low and cover, cooking an additional 5 – 8 minutes or until eggplant are tender. Transfer to slow cooker and add peppers, zucchini and chick peas (garbanzo beans).
In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, basil and thyme and mix well. Pour into crock pot and stir all ingredients together. Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours and high for 4 – 5 hours.

Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Mouthwatering Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Mouthwatering Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones

Summer is not over yet and I have made these delicious scones several times over the season, buying the berries from south to north in the process. I started in July with blueberries from New Jersey, then moved on to my local farmer’s market in the beginning of August. By the end of August the most flavorful blueberries were from Maine, and now I’m finding the choicest berries from Oregon and Michigan. The blueberries add sweetness and moisture to the scones and the delicate crumb topping makes them irresistible. Serve with a hot cup of tea and fruit preserves – what a treat! It’s an indulgence you can feel good about too because blueberries are considered a “superfruit” – loaded with antioxidants and fiber. Enjoy for breakfast or as an elegant dessert!

3/4 C flour
1/4 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tspn cinnamon
1/4 C butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

Stir together dry ingredients and cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles crumbs. The crumb topping is optional but highly recommended!

2 1/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn non-iodized salt
1/2 C butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 eggs
1/4 C whole milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 – 2 C blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 F and grease an 11-inch diameter circle in the center of a baking pan. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients and cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together eggs, milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Gently add the blueberries and use your hands to combine. Add flour to your hands as needed since the dough will be sticky. Pat the dough in a 9-inch circle in the center of the baking pan. If using, press the crumb topping into the dough. If not using the crumb topping, press sugar (a coarse baking sugar if you have it) into the dough. Use a serrated knife to divide the circle into 8 scones by gently pressing the knife down 1 inch into the dough. Bake 30 – 35 minutes and test with a toothpick inserted in the center to see that it comes out clean – avoid the blueberries when inserting. Allow the pan to cool for 15 minutes and then transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright

Feeling Anxious? Improving Your Nutrition May Help

An Apple a Day - and a Nutritious Diet - Keep the Blues Away

An Apple a Day – and a Nutritious Diet – Keep the Blues Away

I recently attended an eye-opening talk by Dr. James Greenblatt, Adult and Pediatric Psychiatrist, as well as Founder and Medical Director of Comprehensive Psychiatric Resources in Waltham, Massachusetts. As a dietitian, I know how important the food we eat is for our health and well-being. What was new to me is how much nutrition plays a role in the treatment of depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Also new to me is the fact that depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide and it is predicted to be the number one cause of disability by 2020. This is something that needs our attention and if food and nutrition can be part of the solution, it’s worth investigating.

Increasingly, the medical community has turned to medications as the sole treatment for mental illness. As someone who has spent 13 years working in clinical drug research, I understand how life-saving these medications can be. However, they do not work for everyone and can come with some unwanted side effects. In fact, these drugs often are only about 50% effective, basically the flip of a coin. This is due to something called the placebo-effect, where the placebo, or inactive pill, is sometimes found to be just as effective as the active drug. This could just be due to the fact that everyone in the study is getting more attention from caregivers, so even the patients on the placebo improve. This placebo-effect makes it hard for drug companies to prove the efficacy of their compound and as a result, very few new drugs for depression and anxiety make it to final approval by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Dr. Greenblat asserts that it is worthwhile checking the nutritional status of his patients, since deficiencies in vital nutrients can contribute to their condition. He pointed out that the brain is 60% fat and needs cholesterol in order to function. He has found that patients on statin medication to lower cholesterol can show signs of depression if the total cholesterol drops below 130. Sometimes children with autism are found to be genetically low in cholesterol and benefit from a cholesterol supplement. He also discussed a study showing links to prenatal vitamin D deficiency and schizophrenia. Other important nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue, anxiety, depression and mood disorders are: folate, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and zinc. Basically, a junk food and refined sugar diet is not going to help your body or your mood. Dr. Greenblat points out that improving nutritional status is just “good” medicine that can be used alone, or combined with drug therapy, to help improve outcomes in the treatment of mental illness.

Dr. Greenblatt is also an author, and fortunately for us, he has written a number of books on this fascinating topic. Here are the titles and the links on

The Breakthrough Depression Solution: A Personalized, 9-Step Method for Beating the Physical Causes of Your Depression

Answers to Appetite Control: New Hope for Binge Eating and Weight Management

Answers to Anorexia: A Breakthrough Nutritional Treatment that is Saving Lives

To learn more about Dr. Greenblatt, click on this link to his website:

Do you find a link between your diet and your mood? Click on the title of this post and then scroll down to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

As always, the information in this blog is general nutrition information and is not intended to be medical advice.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Tomato Sauce with Eggplant

Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Spring has finally arrived and I just want to be outside to enjoy it. Whether it’s gardening, walking the dog or just sitting and knitting on the porch, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time indoors cooking. That’s where the crock pot comes in handy – it’s not just for hearty, winter-time fare. This eggplant tomato sauce is as warm and delicious as any cold-weather comfort food, but it’s also light and healthy, brimming with vegetables. This is an easy vegetarian dish, perfect for meatless Monday, or any day of the week when you want to let the slow cooker do the work while you are outdoors enjoying a lovely spring day. Enjoy!

What are your favorite eggplant recipes? Click on the title of this post and scroll down to leave a comment.

Eggplant Tomato Sauce


1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) petite diced tomatos, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup mild or medium salsa
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbspn. balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic sliced thin
1 tspn. oregano
1/4 tspn. salt, plus extra for preparing the eggplant
2 cups jar tomato sauce

Prepare the eggplant by sprinkling salt on both sides of each slice and placing it in a colander for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. Set the colander over a plate to catch the liquid. When the time is up, use paper towels to wipe off the salt and absorb any excess moisture from the eggplant slices. Use a knife to cut away the peel from the outer edge of each slice. Then chop the slices into 1/2-inch pieces.

Mix the chopped eggplant, tomatoes with juice, onion, pepper, salsa, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano and salt in the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 7 – 8 hours on low, until vegetables are soft. Do not lift the lid or stir while cooking.

At the end of the cooking time, add your favorite tomato sauce and stir. Replace lid and allow to cook another 5 – 10 minutes until sauce is hot and ready to serve.

Enjoy over cous cous, rice or pasta.

Easter Recipes: Italian Sprinkle Cookies – Taralli

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

It’s almost time for the Easter bunny to pay a visit and that means it is time to do some Easter baking. Forget about the ham, it’s all about making taralli cookies. I always post this recipe at Easter and Christmas time, that is when our family typically makes these very special cookies. They are so yummy with a hot cup of tea or coffee, or an ice cold glass of milk. Be sure to leave a plate of them out for the Easter bunny, along with some carrots of course!

Click on the Recipe Rescue tab to view this recipe. Have you ever had Taralli’s before? Sometimes they are made with anise or lemon extract instead of vanilla, either added to the cookie or the glaze. Let me know what flavor is your favorite by clicking on the title of this post (above) and then scrolling down to leave a comment. Happy Easter!


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