A few weeks ago, I picked up a book at the library called The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers: Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time!
by Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss. I thought that I might find a recipe for one or two of our traditional favorites that had been “lightened up”. I did not expect to find was such a wealth of information. In Chapter One the book begins by pointing out what some of us are doing wrong. Food: We eat too much. Sugar: We eat too much. Refined Grains: We eat too many. Fats: We eat the wrong kind. Salt: we eat too much. Fruits and Vegetables: We don’t eat enough. Physical activity: We don’t get enough. No big surprise, right? It seems like the statistics are always in the news, “61% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.” or “According to the USDA the most frequently requested ’vegetable’ is French fries.” Lovely. I’m not shocked by this statistic. Seriously...french fries are good, cheap, and convenient! I adore fries. If I didn't know better, or had less self control, fries would be my daily "vegetable" of choice too!
The authors quickly move on from telling us what is “wrong” to outlining an action plan for “small steps toward positive change” over the course of 5 weeks. Here’s the gist of it, Week 1: Add one extra serving of fruit each day. Week 2: Add one extra vegetable serving per day. Week 3: Add one healthy beverage per day. Week 4: Include one healthy snack per day. Week 5: Serve one extra high fiber grain food per day. All good things, right? The authors, 2 moms, one a dietitian, the other a health and nutrition journalist, provide helpful hints for implementing these changes as well. As I continue to read this book, I find the topics of “Marketing good nutrition to kids” and “Establishing food rules” helpful as well as their “Best of the Bunch” analysis of typically eaten commercial food products.
Not to pat myself on the back (ok just a little pat), but I consider our family fairly healthy in our eating habits. I mean, I'm not the "Nutrition Nazi" or anything. We haven't gone completely organic and we're certainly not vegetarians. Sure, we eat a LOT of (free!) red meat from the farm, but I do try to serve at least one meatless meal per week. I'm just a regular mom, clipping coupons, finding the best deals (if organic is cheaper or the same price I go for it), and looking for meals that I know my kiddos will eat. If I can sneak in extra nutrients in the form of veggies and whole grains, I do it. Pop (aka soda aka a soft drink) is saved for special occasions, I serve healthy snacks like fruit, yogurt, and granola rather than chips and cookies, we only hit the drive thru about twice a month, there is a vegetable on every plate at every dinner (and usually lunch too), and there is always fresh fruit on the counter or in the fridge for dessert. Still, there’s always room for improvement. Even if you don’t have children, this book is chockfull of healthful hints and recipes. I promise that I’m not affiliated with “The Mom’s Guide to Meal Makeovers”. But as a woman who has taken and then taught her share of F&N (Foods and Nutrition) classes, I felt like hollering, “Can I get an AMEN!” as I read through the chapters, so I decided to pass along the book information to all of you wonderful readers. If you can’t track down this book ($11.53 in paperback, $9.99 for Kindle and possibly available at your local library), no worries. They have a FREE website with FREE podcasts, FREE recipes, and a FREE newsletter of their own. You can check it out at HERE.
Tonight's dinner came from the Meal Makeover Moms. B.L.T. in a Bowl. Doesn't it look amazing?
The mom's criteria for making over meals was this: "sneak super nutrition into each recipe...making it healthier than the original, maintaining or improving the flavor, and speeding up the prep and cook time whenever possible." This recipe was their attempt to makeover plain old canned tomato soup. Tomato soup is already a source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may ward off certain cancers. "The moms" made it over by 1) adding spinach for vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber and 2)Including tortellini to make it a heartier meal.
This recipe put me in mind of one of my favorite soups, Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup. While the Rustic Tortellini Soup is also healthy and admittedly better tasting, but I cannot argue with the fact that this B.L.T. Soup came together in 15 minutes or less. That's right! Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes. Love that! And it was still really good. A definite improvement on plain old tomato soup. In fact, it was the best tomato soup from a can that I've ever tasted.
This soup does begin with soup from a can. 2 cans, actually.
Add two cans of water and stir to combine.
Heat to boiling, then add in 6-8 ounces of frozen cheese tortellini. Prepared tortellini can be costly. To cut cost you can either make your own and freeze it ahead of time OR find a sweet deal at the grocery (like I did this week). I have found that purchasing tortellini from the deli or dairy section at the grocery is almost always more expensive that picking it up in the freezer section. This week, Rosetta brand frozen pasta was running a special that actually came in $.50 cheaper than the store brand. I think I got 1 1/2 pounds of tortellini for $4. Stock up when it's on sale!
Cook the tortellini according to package directions. I boiled mine in the tomato soup for 3 minutes.
Then stir in a 6 ounce bag of pre-washed fresh baby spinach. I roughly chopped mine a bit first. Cook until the spinach is wilted. About 2 minutes.
Top with bacon bits and grated Parmesan cheese. I ended up frying 6 pieces of bacon until crispy earlier in the day and then I crumbled it. I have a serious aversion to store-bought bacon bits. Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby!
This makes a gorgeous soup.
Excellent with grilled cheese sandwiches!
B.L.T. in a Bowl adapted from The Mom's Guide to Meal Makeovers
2 10 3/4 ounce cans tomato soup
2 cans water
8 oz. cheese tortellini
One 6-ounce bag pre-washed baby spinach, chopped if desired
Crumbled bacon, for topping
Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
1. Pour the tomato soup and water into a large saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
2. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions, stirring frequently. Do not drain. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
3. Serve in individual bowls and top with bacon an Parmesan cheese as desired.
Fat (g): 4
Saturated Fat (g): 1.5
Carbohydrate (g): 47
Fiber (g): 3
Protein (g): 7
Hope you're having a lovely Tuesday!