Feeding Families — Mediterranean Style

Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD
Liz and Janice are The Meal Makeover Moms, and together, they’re on a mission to help busy families eat a healthy and delicious diet. The dietitian duo has written two cookbooks, No Whine with Dinner (M3 Press, 2011) and The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers (Broadway Books, 2004). They write the family-friendly food blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen and co-host the weekly radio podcast, Cooking with the Moms. You can follow them on Twitter at @MealMakeovrMoms and on Facebook.

Feeding families healthy and wholesome meals in today’s on-the-go, hectic world of soccer practices, homework, and piano lessons can be a challenge, so the advice and recipes we share with our blog readers and podcast listeners is always simple: Fill your plate with a colorful array of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and garden-fresh herbs … and focus on flavors that ignite and excite everyone’s senses. To do that, we find ourselves drawn time and time again to the foods and cooking styles of the Mediterranean.

This sun-drenched region lends itself to a simple way of eating where flavor-packed foods plucked fresh from the earth make their way onto the family table. Even though we live thousands of miles away from this beautiful and fertile part of the world, we often weave hints of the Mediterranean into the recipes we create for families. In our latest cookbook, No Whine with Dinner, 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms, we feature recipes that incorporate ingredients from the Med including Layers-of-Love Ravioli Lasagna, Greek Chicken and Chickpea Stew, Spanish Tortilla Omelet, and this simple Tuscan Minestrone Soup.

Tuscan Minestrone Soup

Makes 6 Servings

We call for cannellini beans in this stick-to-your ribs soup, but you could certainly use garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas) instead. Top each sumptuous bowl with fresh basil leaves for a truly authentic Med-style meal … and serve with a crisp green salad and a loaf of crusty Italian bread on the side.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium zucchini (about 9 ounces), unpeeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
½ small onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (about ½ cup)


2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
One 32-ounce carton all-natural chicken broth
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup dried whole wheat blend elbow pasta
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Fresh basil, cut into strips

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, carrot, onion, garlic, and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables start to soften, about 12 minutes. Reduce the heat if the vegetables brown too quickly.

2. Stir in the broth and tomato sauce, cover, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Add the beans, pasta, and thyme, reduce the heat and cook at a low boil, uncovered, until the pasta is done, about 10 minutes.

3. Remove the thyme sprigs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in individual bowls and top with the Parmesan cheese and basil.


Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cup): 160 calories, 7g fat (0.5g saturated), 730mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 9g protein, 60% vitamin A, 50% vitamin C, 10% iron





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