Healthy Frozen Meals

fitnessMagJuneMost of us devote less than an hour a day to cooking and working out combined, Ohio State University researchers found, so longer gym sessions mean less kitchen time. When you can’t be all Julie & Julia, reach for frozen meals with at least five grams of fiber and under 750 milligrams of sodium, says Tina Ruggiero, RD, the author of The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook. Heat and eat, meet burn and firm!

TV Dinners 2.0

Frozen meals have come a long way since Hungry-Man hit the scene. The latest crop lets you…

Blow off steam. Many entrees now come in plastic or paper pouches, “which allow steam to surround your food so you don’t end up with an icy center and burnt edges,” explains John Mitchell, the executive chef for Luvo, which packages its meals in parchment bags. Other options: Kashi Steam Meals and Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers.

Take it personally. Your iPhone case isn’t the only thing you can customize. Lean Cuisine Salad Additions are meant to be tossed with leafy greens of your choosing. CedarLean combos include an individually packaged wrap and soup you can eat together or split into two mini meals. And Evol burritos can be pan-fried, grilled or cooked in a panini press.

Curry favor. You don’t have to face a tempting all-you-can-eat buffet to get your Indian food fix any more. Stock up on portion-controlled versions of classic dishes, like palak paneer from Amy’s and channa masala and chicken curry from Sukhi’s and Tandoor Chef.

Make It a Meal

Most healthy frozen entrees clock in at around 300 calories, Ruggiero says, which probably isn’t enough to tide you over for more than a couple of hours. Give your main dish staying power with these simple add-ons, all less than 200 calories.

Best with pasta: 1/2 cups chopped Romaine, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, and 1/2 cup cucumber slices with 2 tablespoons Italian dressing, plus 1 cup halved strawberries with 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
Best with a burrito: 1/2 cup brown rice; 1/4 avocado, sliced; and 2 tablespoons salsa
Best with a stir-fry: 1/2 cup lightly salted edamame plus 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks

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Cranberry BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Cranberries are typically a fruit we think of at holiday time, but cranberries are versatile and can be enjoyed year-round. They even make an awesome BBQ sauce! Click here to learn how, and happy Fourth of July!
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Cranberry BBQ Sauce* (makes 1 cup):
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup minced yellow onions
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. chili powder
1 ½ Tbsp. tomato paste
1 ½ cups cranberry sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. dark molasses
¼-½ cup water, if needed

10 oz. cooked white chicken meat, diced or shredded
1 cup Cranberry BBQ Sauce*
6 whole-grain buns, split
1 ½ cups prepared creamy coleslaw


For Cranberry BBQ Sauce*:
In a sauce pan, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions and sauté 2 minutes. Mix in garlic, mustard and chili powder and continue cooking 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 more minute.

Add cranberry sauce, vinegar and molasses and bring to a simmer, whisking often until mixture becomes smooth. Lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until mixture reduces and thickens. Add water to mixture if it gets too thick. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Place in a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Reheat before using.

For Sandwich Filling:
Heat prepared Cranberry BBQ Sauce*. Add chicken and bring to a simmer. Keep warm.To Assemble Sandwich:

For each sandwich, scoop ½ cup BBQ chicken onto a bun and top with ¼ cup coleslaw. Replace bun top on sandwich and serve accompanied by cut raw vegetables and/or fresh apple wedges.

Yeild: 6 sandwiches

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Tina’s Honeydew and Cucumber Salad

honeydew melonWhen I say “comfort food,” images of pot pie, whipped potatoes or a creamy baked macaroni probably come to mind. But my take on comfort food is different. To me, comfort foods are meals that are fresh, healthy and satisfying in ways that make me feel good about myself and what I’m doing for my body. They’re quick to make and leave me feeling nourished, not guilty. That’s why I enjoy my honeydew-cucumber salad. It just makes me happy. Loaded with nutrients, flavor and perfect at a picnic or pot luck, this salad is what to serve when you want to share the love!


cucumbers2 cups honeydew melon, scooped with a melon baller, or cut into bite-sized chunks
1 cup hothouse cucumber, small dice
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. finely chopped dill
1 Tbsp. finely chopped mint
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information per Serving:
Calories: 70
Total Fat: 2.5 g
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Protein: 4 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 190 mg
Fiber: 4 g

Yield: 4 (1 cup) servings
Time: 20 minutes

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Baked Blueberry French Toast

I’ve cooked for company with the soothing sounds of Django Reinhardt playing in the background. I’ve been tasked with clean up after the last of a big crowd has gone, grooving to Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones to keep me going. But I can’t say I’ve ever been accompanied in the kitchen by a group of drummers … until now!

This week on Daytime, garbage pails, fans, boxes and cans were the instruments of choice for the musical group STOMP, and they “played” their music, as I whipped up a healthy version of bread pudding for host Jerry Penacoli.

Creatively incorporating cottage cheese for extra protein, this recipe is a winner and perfect for a light dessert or a morning pick-me-up. Just ask the band. They ate all the bread pudding – without forks!

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Baked Blueberry French ToastIngredients

1 loaf hearty, whole wheat bread or Challah bread
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup Daisy Cottage Cheese
2 cup egg substitute
2 1/2 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract


Lightly coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Tear the bread into 1-inch cubes. Mix the bread cubes, blueberries, and almond slices. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish. Blend the cottage cheese in a blender, food processor, or using a hand mixer. When there is a smooth consistency, blend in the eggs and milk. Mix in the sugar and the extracts. Pour the liquid mixture over the top of the bread. For the best results, cover the casserole and let it sit for at least an hour (or up to overnight) in refrigerator. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the French toast with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes until the casserole is puffy and golden brown. Serve and enjoy while still warm.

Nutrition Information per Serving (Analysis used whole wheat bread):
Calories 344
Total Fat 6 g
Cholesterol 3 mg
Dietary Fiber 7 g
Sodium 594 mg
Protein 23 g
Carbohydrate 50 g

Makes 8 servings

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Mighty Mostarda

Fennel Citrus MostardaI’m willing to bet you’ve never tried mostarda. Despite being around for more than five centuries, it’s not a popular condiment (at least here, in America), and it should be; it’s delicious, inexpensive to make, healthy and versatile.

Mostarda is of Northern Italian origin. It’s a sweet and spicy mustard-based condiment that incorporates fresh or dried fruit, vegetables or a combination of the two. While mostarde can vary greatly depending on what’s in season, mustard essence is essential, giving the condiment its signature, lip-smacking flavor.

In the fall, I like to make mostarda with apples and figs; in the summer, cherries and peaches. Since spring has sprung, I just made a variation with fennel and citrus, and you can find the recipe below. It’s refreshing, and goes well with everything from charcuterie and cheese to poultry, eliminating the need for a sauce or marinade.

For beginners, just serve my mostarda alongside a high-quality, aged Parmigiano cheese. Accompany that with some crackers and a crisp, white wine, and you will be among the converted. I promise!

FennelTina’s Fennel & Citrus Mostarda


2 oranges
2 lemons
1 bulb fennel, small dice, including stalks and fronds
1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup white wine vinegar


Zest the oranges and lemons. Place the zest in a saucepan. Use a sharp knife to remove the pith from the citrus. Dice the flesh of the citrus, discarding any seeds. Place in the saucepan with the fennel, mustard seeds, Dijon, sugar and white wine vinegar. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the fennel is soft and the texture of the juices is syrupy, about 20 minutes. Cool before serving.

citrusNutrition Information per 2 Tablespoon Serving:
Calories: 35
Total Fat: 0 g
Carbohydrates: 8 g
Protein: 1 g
Sodium: 30 mg
Cholesterol: 0 mg

Yield: 2 cups
Time: 40 minutes

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