Recipe: Sharp Cheddar, Tomato & Basil Pesto Grilled Cheese

I grew up eating grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Whether open-faced or closed between two pieces of hearty, whole grain bread, there’s nothing like the savory goodness of melted cheese and adding a slice of a ruby red tomato or a schmear of avocado, hummus or pesto, jacks up the flavor profile a big notch. Call it indulgent, decadent or plain old satifsying to the soul, grilled cheese is good food.  April is Grilled Cheese Month and my friends from *Cabot Cheese Coop sent me a care package with some of their finest cheese selections.

A memorable grilled cheese sandwich starts with good bread.  I made a loaf of Scottish Toasting Oat bread – it’s a yeast bread mix from folks at King Authur Flour.  It’s was simple to make: just add warm water and a yeast packet to the flour and oat mixture.  Let it proof for a couple of hours and bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes..  And presto – a warm, delcious bread….


I had some basil pesto that I made the other day and thought paired with a vine-ripened tomato, it would be delicious.  I pulled out sharp cheddar cheese and grated it to sprinkle over on top.  I like to grate the cheese as it’s not as dense in cheese and allows all of the flavors to meld together well.


Now we are ready to melt – just place the other slice of bread on top and place in a skillet that has been drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil (use a paper towel to spread the oil and remove excess).


Sharp Cheddar, Tomato & Basil Pesto Grilled Cheese

Serves 1 (divinely!)


2 slices toasted oat bread (or any bread you enjoy)

1 heaping Tablespoon basil pesto

1/2 vine-ripened tomato, sliced

1/4 cup Cabot “Vermont Sharp” cheddar cheese (to cut calories and fat, use the Cabot’s Sharp Light Cheddar)


Prep you skillet with the oil as mentioned about above.  Set aside.

Take one slice of the bread and schmear with pesto, top with tomato slices and grate cheese over it.  Place the other slice of bread on top.  Place in the oiled skillet over medium heat and cover. Check in 2 minutes, once you see cheese melting, flip to the other side.  Heat on this side for another 2 – 3 minutes until bread is golden brown and cheese is oozing out.  Remove and plate.  Enjoy with sliced apples or grapes.

Nutrition Information: Calories 332, Total Fat 18 g, Saturated Fat 8 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 34 mg, Sodium 472 mg, Carbohydrates 25 g, Dietary Fiber 5 g, Sugars 5 g, Protein 17 g  

I am a proud supporter and member of the illustrious Cabot Cheese Board, however all opinions (and recipes) are my own.



Spring Clean Your Nutrition Lifestyle

Spring is here!  Let’s get into the spirit and ring in the start of a new season in your kitchen.  Open windows, clear clutter and let warm sunshine fill your culinary space. A recent survey conducted for the Huffington Post revealed that a cluttered home can raise levels of cortisol, a stress hormone in the body. The survey also noted that people who tended to be stressed about disorganization in their homes were more stressed out in general. In an effort to ensure mental clarity, in all aspects of your life this spring, take the time to head off disorganization before it hits.  Cleaning and reorganizing your kitchen is the key to successfully creating quick and healthy meals.

Organize your cooking area by:

  • Rotating your cupboard stock and putting away ingredients that may only be used occasionally.
  • Adding labels and transferring common foods such as pasta, oatmeal, and nuts into clear, see-through containers, will not only serve as visual cues for recipe inspiration, but will ensure they don’t go unused in the back of your pantry.
  • Remember, “first in, first out” (FIFO) to effeciently using your pantry staples before they expire on the shelves.

“Freshening up” for the spring would not be complete without the addition of seasonal fruits and vegetables back into your repertoire. April is a peak month for asparagus, avocados, green beans, pea pods, lettucekale, swiss chard and spinach. Crisp greens pair perfectly with dressings that smell of citrus and summer to come.  Mix them up in a salad, add to stir-frys and color your plate green in hopes of a lush spring!

Green Goddess Chicken Salad with Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

By Maggie Michalczyk*

Maggie Green Goddess Salad 2

Serves 1


1 cup chicken breast, seasoned and grilled

2 cups baby kale

½ avocado, pitted and diced

¼ cup pea pods

1/2 tsp chia seeds

2 tbsp almonds, slivered

1 tsp Dijon mustard

4 tbsp canola oil

½ tsp Italian seasonings

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions: Combine lemon juice, canola oil, Dijon mustard, Italian seasonings and chia seeds in a mason jar for easy mixing and pouring. Toss kale, peapods, avocado and almonds and combine with chicken. Pour vinaigrette over salad and enjoy!

Nutrition Information (per one serving): Calories: 434, Total Fat: 13 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Saturated Fat: 3, Cholersterol 26 mg, Carbohydrates: 27 g, Dietary Fiber: 11 g, Sugars: 2 g, Protein: 19 g   

* A special thank you to Maggie, my fabulous intern, for this great post and delicious spring-inspired recipe.

Enjoy evolving your eating today!

Happy & healthy eating,


Evolve Your Eating: Spicy Brown Rice Cabbage Cups Recipe

It’s hard to believe March is almost over and that means National Nutrition Month is cruising right along.  During the second week of my Evolve Your Eating Challenge, “Going with Grains”, I featured a recipe, Spicy Brown Rice Cabbage Cups, and a few of you have requested it. 

Well, here it is.  Inspired by my Slovak roots, in which we grew up eating stuffed cabbage or holubky, which were traditionally rolled with rice, chopped meat, onions, garlic, paprika and topped with tomato sauce and baked until the cabbage leaves were soft and the flavors melded together perfectly.  (I wish I had a photo of my grandmother’s holubky to show you!).

I chose red or purple cabbage in this dish because it’s so pretty on the plate. You can steam the cabbage slightly to make it a bit softer (as this dish is not baked) or you can use delicate Romaine lettuce cups (I get them at Costco and they work beautifully for a dish like this as they wrap easily).


Spicy Brown Rice Cabbage Cups

Make 4 cabbage cups (1/2 cup rice mixture in each)


1 cup brown rice

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 heaping teaspoon spicy curry powder or smoked paprika

Pinch of salt

4 large red or purple cabbage leaves

Directions: Simply place rice and broth in a medium sauce pan over high heat.  Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to simmer, cover. Stir occasionally.  When water is evaporated and rice is cooked, remove from heat.   Add carrots, pistachios, olive oil, curry or paprika and salt.  Stir until combined.  Dollop 1/2 cup of brown rice mixture into each cabbage leaf and fold in the sides to close (like a burrito) or push up the side (like a taco) and serve.  This dish is perfect for a party as an appetizer or as a main dish with a lentil or bean soup.

Nutrition Information (per each leaf w/ 1/2 cup rice filling): Calories 177, Total Fat 6 g, Sat Fat 1 g, Trans fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 188 mg, Carbohydrates 28 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Sugars 3 g, Protein 4 g

Enjoy evolving your eating today!

Happy & healthy eating,











Evolve Your Eating: Curried Broccoli Almond Soup Recipe

March rings in the annual nation-wide eating right effort, National Nutrition Month™, which encourages people to think about their food and drink choices every day.  With this year’s theme, Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right, the focus is on taste and flavor of foods.  Who doesn’t love good tasting – as well as healthful foods?  However, many people just get too busy or stuck in food ruts that they can’t think about new ways to eat.

Thus, my Evolve Your Eating Challenge was born.  It’s a 29-day challenge (March 3 – 31) for participants to eat foods that fit into a weekly theme with daily corresponding challenges. For example, since color is such a big factor in healthy food choices, the challenge kicked-off with a week of “Experimenting with Color”.  Each day the challenge members were given a new color for that day and they had to add a fruit or veggie of that color to their eating day.

Here’s how our calendar for week #1 shaped up: red, blue, green, yellow, purple, pink and white.


Not only is this a fun mindful way to get in healthy foods, but new recipes are coming forth from this challenge…

Here’s one that I created for Wednesday’s “Green” Day:


Curried Broccoli Almond Soup

Serves 2


1 large head of broccoli, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup raw almonds, roasted

1 cup low-fat milk (1 or 2 percent)

1/4 cup water (optional)

1 tsp. curry powder

Pinch of salt


Directions: Place broccoli in a colander steaming pot over boiling water for 5 – 7 minutes (until vibrant green) and remove for heat. You can also place in the microwave for 60 – 90 seconds.  Let cool for a minute.  Place in a Vitamix or blender.  Add almonds, milk, water (for less thick consistency), curry powerder and salt.  Place cover on and puree for 5 – 10 minutes.  (If using a Vitamix, set to the “Soup” setting and blend until is turns off automatically.  It will be heated when done).  If you need to transfer to a pot to heat, simmer it for a few minutes and then serve.

Nutrition Information (per 1/2 cup serving): Calories: 242, Total fat: 10 g, Saturated fat: 1 g, Trans fat: 0 g, Cholesterol 6 mg, Sodium 203 mg, Total Carbs 30g, Dietary Fiber 10g, Sugars 12 g, Protein 6 g.  

Enjoy!  Join us for the #EvolveYourEating Challenge anytime this month.  We are having a lot of good food fun.  Looking forward to Week 2 “Going with Grains”…

Health & happiness,







Recipe: The Gigi Salad (Green beans, Grapefruit & Goat cheese)

Who doesn’t love a salad with a French name?  I named this salad after my big sis, Gigi, (not only do most of the ingredients start with the letter G), but it’s beautiful, sweet and elegant at the same time (just like you, Gig :).  There’s nothing better than a crisp, clean salad – it illuminates my thoughts, senses and allows me to forge ahead with my creative pursuits. It’s always a good day for a salad.

I was lucky enough to get a gift of ruby red grapefruits — Wonderful Sweet Scarletts™* to be exact.  I love ’em.  It’s the perfect time for citrus.  Jam-packed with vitamin C, potassium and loads of water – and only 60 calories per half of a medium one – they are a no-brainer as part of a healthy diet.


Grapefruit-.jpg Grapefruit-halves.jpg

As a little girl, I remember my mother copiously scooping each of the pulpy triangles out of her grapefruit and savoring it at breakfast time. Yes, she would squeeze very last drop of juice from it, too.  Now grapefruits are part of a culinary resurgence. The red ones are sweeter than their yellow counterparts. They are perfect eaten by themselves with a spoon!

Here’s how you can create a tasty salad with a few simple ingredients. Feel free to toss other ingredients in as you see fit.  You can use a different cheese or any greens or veggies you like.



Serves 4

1 lb. green beans, rinsed and trimmed

1 large Wonderful Texas Red Sweet Scarletts™ grapefruit, sectioned, retain juice

1/2 cup dry roasted (unsalted) almonds, coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. goat cheese, crumbled

A pinch of black pepper (optional)


Steam green beans in a steamer basket over boiling water for 5 – 6 minutes until beans are emerald green and tender, but firm (please do not over steam as they will become mushy).  In a pinch, you can use a steamer bag and pop in the microwave per the directions on the bag.  Toss the piping hot beans into a mixing bowl and allow to cool for a minute.  Scoop out grapefruit sections and place on top of green beans, toss in almonds and goat cheese.  Toss once or twice gently.

For dressing, just squeeze the juice from the vacant grapefruit halves over the salad.  Add black pepper, if you desire. Toss once or twice again, gently.  Serve it up with a warm crusty whole grain roll.

Nutrition Information (per 1/2 cup serving): Calories: 126, Total Fat:2 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Cholesterol: 6 mg, Sodium: 38 mg, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Dietary Fiber: 5 g, Sugars 2 g, Protein: 6 g

Enjoy evolving your eating today!

Please drop me a note, if you try it.  (I hope you like it, Gig!)


*Disclosure: I am a brand ambassador for all things Wonderful™, however all opinions (and recipes) are my own.


Recipe: Baked Quinoa ‘n Cheese

My family loves mac ‘n cheese, but they are picky about what kind. I have made both home-made and boxed versions.  I am always trying to doctor it up with ‘nutrition boosts’ like high fiber pasta, pureed beans, flax seeds and veggies.  Today, I am using quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), the pop star of grains – as it’s a perfect protein source and jam-packed with iron, fiber – and it’s gluten-free – for those that need to steer clear of this wheat protein.

So what is quinoa?  It’s a versatile, ancient grain which originated from the Andes Mountains of South America and was among one of the staple grains (with corn and potatoes) of the Incan civilization. It’s simple to make, too.  Just add a liquid like water or low-sodium broth and allow it to simmer until all the water is absorbed.  It expands before your eyes.


The beauty of quinoa is that it mixes and matches well with other grains, nuts, beans, veggies and fruit.   You can add it to salads, soups, chili, casseroles and smoothies.  Whether sweet or savory, quinoa pops in your mouth!

In this recipe, I use Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar Cheese*. (For a lower fat version, you can use Cabot’s Sharp Light Cheddar.)   This sharp cheddar imparts a unique and distinct flavor, as well as hardy mouthfeel, to the dish.


Baked Quinoa ‘n Cheese



Serves 2

1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed

1 1/4 cup water

1/8 cup golden flaxseed, ground

1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 cup milk, 1 percent fat

1 cup Cabot “Seriously Sharp” cheddar cheese

2 Tablespoons bread crumbs

4 cherry tomatoes, quartered (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the rinsed quinoa in a pot with 1 cup water and bring to a boil.  Then simmer and cover until liquid is dissolved and quinoa is expanded and fluffy.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup of water and the flax seed,  mustard, milk and cheese in a blender.  Puree on high for 3 – 4 minutes until mixture thickens.

Mix cheese sauce into cooked quinoa in the pot.  Transfer to ramekins and top with breadcrumbs.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and top with tomatoes before serving.

Nutritional Information (per 1/2 cup serving): Calories: 455, Total Fat 17 g, Saturated Fat: 6 g, Cholesterol 28 mg, Sodium 311 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 54 g, Dietary Fiber: 8g, Sugar 13 g, Pro: 22 g

Enjoy evolving your eating today!


*Disclosure: I am a proud supporter and member of the Cabot Cheese Board, however all opinions are my own.





Five (Fab) Foods for a Happy Heart.

Happy 50th Anniversary of American Heart Month!  As we celebrate heart health in February, we are focusing on food and lifestyle behaviors that can keep heart disease at bay.  The statistics are real: heart disease is the number one killer of Americans – and it poses a risk at any age. So let’s look at five fabulous foods that can keep your heart happy and healthy…


1) Avocados: These sleek fruits are hot right now in health and culinary circles – and for good reason.  Jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and plant-based goodness, avocados contain the “good” fats – monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) – which can help keep your total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in a healthy range.  Avocados are versatile and fun, check out some fun recipes and facts here.

2) Olive oil: Studies have shown that olive oil, particularly extra-virgin olive oil, contains powerful antioxidants that help keep the walls of the arteries soft and pliable – which is good for keeping the heart youthful.   Olive oil’s cardio-protective fats called monounsaturated (MUFA) decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease.  Be careful to measure out olive oil as a tablespoon is 120 calories – so watch the drizzles, dips and spoonsful.  Here’s more on olive oil.

3) Oats: Infamous for their soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which dissolves in water to form a gel that sweeps through your arteries taking some cholesterol with it as it goes, oats have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure, two major risk factors for heart disease.  Steer clear of the sugar-sweetened oatmeal, instead sweeten it yourself with a teaspoon of dried fruit, a dollop of fruit puree or a handful of frozen fruit.  Take a look at closer look at oats here.

4) Leafy greens: With nearly 1,000 species of plants with edible leaves, the types of greens you can eat and enjoy for heart health run the gamut from spinach to Swiss chard to romaine lettuce to kale.  Leafy greens are packed with vitamins A, C, K and potassium (good for naturally lowering blood pressure) – and low in calories and sodium; a cup of spinach has 14 calories and 1/2 cup of collard greens has a mere 38 calories. The beauty is they can be stir-fried, stewed and steamed for heart healthy meals. Try some of these Top Leafy Greens.

5) Black beans: All beans are good for your heart – not only do they offer tons of soluble fiber (the cholesterol lowering type), but they are low in calories and saturated fat and high in plant protein.  You can’t go wrong with beans!  Toss them into soups, chili, salads and pasta dishes.  They are a great meat replacement – and fill you up.  A cup of black beans contains 15 grams of fiber – that’s about half the fiber you need for the day!  Aim for 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories you eat.  Check out more on beans here.

Keep your heart healthy and happy today.  Choose foods that count – a healthy heart will thank you over and over again!


Super Bowl Special: Horseradish Artichoke Stuffed Tomatoes

The countdown to Super Bowl XVLIII is on!  Whether you are rooting for the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos, you are thinking about the food, right?  I am thinking about ways to serve up healthy, but tasty foods that everyone will enjoy.  I’ve got quite a few things up my sleeve – and we are sampling fun apps here at my house.  Here’s a quick one that you can whip quickly before your guests knock on the door.

Start with plump tomatoes.  I love tomatoes on the vine.  They are round, hardy and sweet – perfect for stuffing (and they hold up the heating well).  Look for firm ones without blemishes or soft spots.


Next, choose a filling.  I am using one of my favorite veggies, artichokes.  I buy marinated artichokes in jars at Costco.  They work well in this recipe because you don’t have to add oil, salt or other spices because they are packed with flavor.


Finally, finish it off with a good quality cheese with a kick.  I stumbled upon Cabot Creamery’s Horseradish Cheddar as a member of The Cabot Cheese Board, I am thrilled that I did!  I really enjoy this cheese because it’s soft (almost silky) cheddar with a super bite of horseradish. (You could say it makes the artichokes sing and tomatoes dance!)


Horseradish Artichoke Stuffed Tomatoes


Makes 2

2 ripe tomatoes on the vine, top off and hallowed out

1 1/2 marinated artichokes

2 cloves, garlic

2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt

1/4 cup Cabot Horseradish Cheddar, diced


Cut off tops of tomatoes and hallow out (you can save the pulp and juice for tomato sauce).  Put tomatoes aside. Place the artichokes, garlic and yogurt in food processor and pulse – only until combined and artichokes are still chunky.  Spoon mixture into tomatoes and top each one with cheese.

Place in the oven on “Broil” mode for about 10 minutes or until cheese becomes golden brown. Remove and serve while still warm.

Nutrition Information (per serving): Calories: 296, Total Fat: 15 g, Saturated Fat 6 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 25 mg, Sodium: 375 mg, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Dietary Fiber: 9 g, Sugars 13 g, Protein 6 g

Enjoy evolving your eating today!








Shake Up Your Breakfast.

Let’s face it, mornings are super busy.  One of the top things I hear from my clients is that breakfast is hard to fit in.  I completely understand as I am a working mother of two – so I am always creating fast tricks to eat something quick and healthy for breakfast.  In working with MJ Tam, a busy mom, host of the on-line show, Chicagonista Live!, and lifestyle blogger, on healthy ways to get protein at breakfast – milk is a focus – as part of the National Milk Mustache “got milk?”® Campaign’s The Breakfast Project.   MJ is making great progress with balancing meals with high quality protein, whole grains, veggies and fruits – and bringing snacks with her on the go, too.

Here’s a simple breakfast trick – whip up a milkshake!  You can pair it with whole grain toast and nut butter and head out the door.  It’s tasty, quick and jammed-packed with calcium, vitamins A and D, potassium, as well as good quality protein (8 grams per cup). The best part is it’s portable – I pour my milkshake into a thermos and go!

Milkshake combos are endless.  Here are morning milkshakes you can whip up at home…no ice cream required (use frozen fruit instead).  For creamier milkshakes, use whole or 2 percent fat milk.


  • One cup milk + frozen cherries + handful semi-sweet chocolate chips + a mint leaf
  • One cup milk + frozen pineapple chunks + coconut (optional)
  • One cup milk + freshly brewed coffee, cooled, + a teaspoon vanilla + a drizzle of honey + handful of ice

Blend all these in your blender or Vitamix – on the “Frozen Dessert” setting.

If you have other milkshake ideas that you enjoy, let us know.  Shake up your breakfast today!


Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by the National Milk Mustache “got milk?”® Campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.



Recipe: Spicy Tomato Basil & Tofu Soup

Want a winter warm up that’s simple and delish? There’s nothing better than a hearty soup.  It’s not only the ultimate comfort food and filling, but if you stack your ingredients right – soup is a smart use of calories as it’s very “nutrient-dense”. (Think: a ton of good stuff for your body for the calories you are eating – that’s good food!).

The spicy, smokey flavor in this soup comes for the powder of sweet red peppers that are “dried slowly over an oak-burning fire”, it’s called Spanish Paprika or Smoked Paprika. It imparts such a delicious flavor and aroma to lean meats, fish, pasta and rice dishes.  I even throw a dash into my kids macaroni and cheese – and they eat it all up!  Enjoy experimenting with it…


(Serves 2)

1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 small yellow onion, minced

12 Roma tomatoes, diced or 28 ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup tofu, diced or 1 cup of cannellini beans (if canned, rinse and drain)

3 basil leaves, diced

1 Tablespoon smoked paprika

A pinch of salt

Directions:  Drizzle oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion and sauté until for a minute – until onion is translucent and garlic aroma pervades.  Add tofu and sauté together for a minute to heat it through and create a golden exterior on it.  Add diced tomatoes and stir.  Lastly, add your aromatics: basil and smoked paprika with salt.  Slowly simmer and heat through.  Serve warm with a slice of whole grain crusty bread.

Nutrition Information (1 1/2 cup serving): Calories: 147, Total Fat: 8 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 565 mg, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Sugars: 9 g, Protein: 5 g

If you try it, do tell.  Enjoy evolving your eating today!