Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD
Sports Dietitian/Spokesperson/Speaker

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Let’s Get Cooking: Finding Comfort in Your Kitchen

rsz_1img_20140407_061945By: Heather Mangieri, RDN

Man can’t live on TV dinners alone; or at least not forever. And I know from experience that others agree.  Just this past week two clients hired me because they’re sick of living on frozen meals. 

If your comfort zone is take-out or a frozen meal from the freezer, the thought of roasting a vegetable can be overwhelming.  Before you learn to prepare fancy dishes and properly balance your flavors, focus on learning the basics. That includes not only how to measure ingredients and read a recipe but how to select cooking utensils and operate your appliances. To get you started, let’s walk through the process of a simple meal. Hopefully after you prepare one you’ll be more comfortable cooking and experimenting with other foods and flavors.

1.) Appliances. You don’t need a rice cooker or a bread machine to cook a simple meal but you do need a few basic appliances. Baking, steaming, roasting or grilling require little effort and are healthy ways to prepare food. If you are cooking for one, or prefer not to use an oven, a smaller toaster will work as well. One of my favorite appliances is an outdoor grill. But let’s save grilling for another post.

To make this meal make sure you have:

*Oven or Toaster oven to bake or roast the sweet potato and asparagus

*Microwave (if you choose to steam the vegetable instead of roast it)

*Stove-top to cook Salmon

2.) Simple Cookware/bakeware. If cooking is totally new to you I don’t suggest purchasing a “set” of pots and pans. You’ll end up with a lot of cookware that you do not need. Start with a few basics so that you do not get overwhelmed.

To make this meal make sure you have:

*9- or 10-inch skillet or sauté pan

*Microwave-safe container with a lid (if you choose to steam vegetables over roasting them)

*2 baking pans



*Spoon and Fork

3.) Basic Cooking Supplies. A few other essentials will be needed to have success with preparing a simple meal. Depending on what you choose to make, you may need to purchase additional utensils. For example, a peeler is helpful if you purchase whole carrots.  For this first simple meal, let’s keep it as basic as possible.

To make this meal make sure you have:

*Aluminum Foil

*Plastic Wrap

*Food thermometer

*Cooking spray (could use a little oil instead)

4.) Seasoning. Seasoning food can be very overwhelming for a lot of folks. As you become more comfortable in the kitchen you can begin to experiment more with flavors. For starters though, we’ll keep it simple.  Salt, pepper, garlic, onions and pepper are a few of the most basic ways to flavor food. For this example, we will use cilantro and fresh (but store bought salsa. The cilantro may be already in the salsa) Someday you can make your own salsa (it’s easy too!)

Make sure you have:

*A small container of fresh store bought salsa (this should have cilantro in it)




5.) Food. Decide what meals you want to prepare. Until you are comfortable, you may want to stick to whole foods that are very simple and basic. For example, for this post we will prepare fresh salmon with roasted asparagus and a baked sweet potato.  It is not only balanced and nutritious but it is unbelievably easy.

Make sure you have:

*Fresh Salmon Fillet

*Bunch of Asparagus

*Sweet potatoes (buy only one or buy in bulk for future meals)

*margarine or butter (Or other topping of choice for your sweet potato)rsz_photogrid_1396866658743

*a small bag of crushed walnuts

*a small container of canola oil

6.) Let’s Cook. 

*Prepare the Salmon:

*Using your 9- or 10-inch skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat.

*Cut fresh salmon fillet into 3-4 ounce portion

*Place salmon in the skillet (skin side down) and sauté over medium heat. Add a spoonful or two of fresh salsa to the top of the salmon fillet then sprinkle with 1-2 crushed walnuts.
*Cook the fish for five minutes. Use a spatula to flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Cook until the flesh is firm and flakes easily. Use the food thermometer to make sure that the fish is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 145 degree.


*Prepare the Sweet Potato

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees

*Wash the potato under cool running water. Use a vegetable brush to remove soil

*Trim away the ends and any bruised spots (do not remove the skin)

*Poke with a fork a few times

*Wrap with a piece of aluminum foil making sure the potato is completely sealed

*Place the wrapped sweet potato on a baking sheet and place in the oven

*Cook for ~45 minutes or until the potato feels soft when you press on it.  The cooking time will depend on the size of the potato.

Remove from the foil, cut open and add toppings. Add 1 tsp or butter or margarine or simply sprinkle with cinnamon and a few crushed walnuts.


rsz_1photogrid_1396866737631*Prepare the Asparagus

*Preheat oven to 400 degrees

*Line sheet pan with a piece of foil and over the foil with 2 tsp oil

*Cut about 1” off the end of each asparagus spear and rinse with cool water, then pat dry with a towel.

*Lay the asparagus on the foiled pan and rub back and forth so that each asparagus spear gets coated in the oil.

*Bake in the pre-heated oven until tender, about 12-15 minutes





Think Outside the Pizza Box

Written By: Heather Mangieri, RDN

A recent report released by the USDA showed that ~ 1 in 8 Americans consumed pizza on any given day. That’s not surprising. After all, who doesn’t love a good pizza? The problem is traditional pizza is a significant source of calories and fat and ranks as one of the top three leading contributors for sodium in the American diet. But pizza night doesn’t have to be cheat night. If you make it right, pizza can contribute significant nutrients that work to keep your body working well.

Have fun and add flavor to your family’s pizza night by getting creative in the kitchen with one of these twists to the traditional pie.

Mushroom Pizzas

Start with typical white or portabella mushrooms, clean, then pat them dry with a paper towel. Remove the stems and scoop out the inside of the caps.  Add sauce, your favorite cheese and your favorite toppings. Pop the tray in a toaster oven and cook for ~10 minutes at 400 degrees.


Single Serve Tortilla Pizza

Start with a lower calorie whole wheat tortilla or flatbread and top it with sauce or brush with an olive oil and garlic. It’s helpful to toast the tortilla or flatbread in the toaster oven for a few minutes to prevent it from getting mushy in the middle. Then add pizza sauce, toppings and pop in the toaster oven for ~10 minutes.


Thin Crust Feta and Date Pizza

Slim the calories in your slice by making sure to use a thin whole wheat crust. Brush with olive oil and garlic then top with caramelized onions, feta, dates, fresh parsley and sage.



Rye Bread Mini Pizzas

Mini rye pizza breads make a great crunchy crust for pizza. Top six with sauce and fresh Parmesan cheese followed by your favorite vegetables. A six piece serving of only 240 calories makes a great snack or after-school mini-meal for the kids.


Zucchini Pizza Boats

Start by slicing a zucchini in half (length wise) then scoop out the seeds and a bit of the flesh. Create a white pizza by brushing with olive oil and garlic or top with traditional pizza sauce. Add with your favorite vegetables and fresh herbs.


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