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Easy Healthy Recipes

Caprese Tortellini Salad



There are two things I’m really into these days – easy, healthy recipes and giving back to my community. I know, those two don’t seem very related, but stick with me. When I got an email from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond asking me to help promote their holiday season Southern Living cookbook in partnership with Dillards, I immediately answered yes and married together these two passions of mine. As I flipped through the amazing recipes in the book, I quickly settled on the Tortellini Caprese Bites as a “must try.” This recipe could not possibly be any easier. I whipped it up in about 5 minutes and since I wasn’t headed to a holiday party that particular afternoon, I modified it a bit to make a nice little Caprese Tortellini Salad that seriously hit the spot for a day of work at home.

Caprese Tortellini Salad | Easy, Healthy Recipes

Caprese Tortellini Salad

Follow the recipe on page 26 of the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook for Tortellini Caprese Bites.



  • 1 9oz. package refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
  • 3 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 3 8oz. containers fresh small mozzarella cheese balls
  • 60 6-inch wooden skewers
  • Basil Vinaigrette
  1. Prepare tortellini according to package directions. Rinse under cold running water.
  2. Thread 1 tomato half, 1 cheese ball, another tomato half and 1 tortellini onto each skewer. Place skewers in a 13×9-inch baking dish.
  3. Pour Basil Vinaigrette over skewers, turning to coat.
  4. Cover and chill 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Basil Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  1. Whisk together vinegar and salt until blended.
  2. Gradually add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth.
  3. Stir in basil and black pepper to taste.


How I modified the recipe to make a salad instead: 

  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Sweet sausage tortellini
  • Oat bran and sesame seed salad toppers

I used sweet sausage tortellini because it’s what I happened to have on hand. Instead of threading the ingredients on skewers, I just tossed all items in a big bowl along with the Basil Vinaigrette. Then I served it up in bowls, sprinkled with a bit of shredded parmesan on top and some oat bran and sesame seed salad toppers to give it some crunch. YUM!

The best part about this Southern Living cookbook (apart from the fact that all proceeds go to support families in need!) is that it’s actually two books in one! With over 280 pages, 200 recipes and decorating tips, on one side you get the holiday-themed Christmas cookbook and a simple flip of the book reveals the second treat, Year-Round Celebrations. I have ear-marked tons of pages with easy, must try recipes and know this cookbook will be one I come back to time and time again. Knowing that a simple $10 purchase will help support such a notable cause and will bless my own family with lots of tasty treats…that’s the easiest $10 you could ever spend. Remember, you can order online if you can’t get to the Richmond locations selling the book in person.

There’s also a Ronald McDonald House Charities of Norfolk a little bit closer to home that is always seeking support for the families they serve if you’d like to give back right here in Hampton Roads.


Be sure to follow along with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond by clicking the links below!

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  1. Echo

    December 16, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I love supporting the Ronald McDonald house! They do so many wonderful things for families! That Caprese Tortellini sounds fantastic too!

  2. Becka

    December 16, 2014 at 10:40 am

    The Ronald McDonald house is a wonderful charity to support. I know a lot of people they have helped. My niece’s parents practically lived at one when she was born. She spent the first year of her life in the hospital fighting to survive and many other trips back for surgeries and other medical issues.

  3. Savanna

    December 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    This recipe sounds awesome!! This is a great Charity, it is near and dear to my heart… some family of mine has had to use the house.

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Easy Healthy Recipes

Five Easy Recipes for “Make Your Own Dinner” Nights



Easy Dinner Recipes

We have all been there – you plan as well as you can, search for recipes, go grocery shopping, make dinner – and your child refuses to eat.  You then have to make the decision whether to stand your ground and make him eat what you’ve made, or avoid the whining and make that box of macaroni and cheese.  

Ideally, your child would realize that perfectly balanced recipe you’ve spent time preparing is both nutritious and delicious, but in the real world, this is rarely the case.  

The five “Make Your Own Dinner” night recipes below are designed to let everyone make their meal how they like it best, without creating a separate menu for each person in your family.  An added bonus to these recipes is that they allow children to take ownership of their nutrition and promote autonomy and independence in eating habits.  

Parents Preparing Family Breakfast In Kitchen

1. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

What you need:  

Bread, butter, varied types of cheese (American, swiss, provolone, etc.);

Tomato Soup;

Goldfish crackers, shredded cheese, croutons, crumbled bacon, chicken breast, sour cream – the possibilities are endless!  

What you do:

Let each person pick out what type (or types) of cheese they want on their sandwich, heat up some tomato soup, and let your cooks get creative dressing up the soup and creating flavor combinations.

2. Tacos

What you need:

Hard or soft taco shells;

Meat (ground beef, chicken, steak or pork);

Lettuce, tomato, sour cream, guacamole, hot sauce, salsa, rice, beans, corn, onions, peppers, etc.

What you do:

Use a mild taco seasoning on the meat of your choice and let your family choose the spices, veggies, and sauces they like best.  Cook the meat, cut the veggies you need, and put everything in bowls for your family to pick and choose from.  If your kids are a little older, let them help dice the tomato or chop the onions.  

3. Pizza

What you need:  

Traditional pizza crust, flatbread, or get creative with biscuits, bagels or even English muffins;

Sauces, which can be red (tomato) or white (usually alfredo sauce);

Any type of shredded cheese;

Toppings, toppings, toppings!  Again, the possibilities are endless.  Vegetables, meat, fruit, barbeque chicken.  Your choices are only limited by your imagination.

What you do:

If necessary, bake the pizza crust according to directions.  Set out the sauces and toppings and see who can make the most unique, tasty pizza!  

4. Baked Potato Bar

What you need:  

Russet potatoes;

Shredded cheese and meats for protein, sour cream, ranch dressing, onions, chives, broccoli, etc.

What you do:

You can do so much with a simple baked potato.  Have a Mexican baked potato by adding ground beef, taco sauce, lettuce and tomato.  Make it more traditional by adding cheese and broccoli, or go all out with turkey, cheese, onion and bacon.  

5. Kabobs

What you need:  

Steak, chicken, cubed pork, or shrimp;


Assorted vegetables (peppers, zucchini, onions, etc.) and even fruit (pineapple and pork is a delicious combination!);


What you do:

Each person can stack their kabobs to their liking.  Encourage your cooks to experiment with combinations or something they’ve never tried before.  Maybe your son swears he hates shrimp, but may be surprised when he tries it grilled with tasty vegetables and seasoning.

Grill the kabobs (this doesn’t take long) and serve with rice or another side of your choosing.

Let’s Eat!

Spend quality time with your family while making delicious, nutritious meals together.  Do you have a favorite, go-to recipe you make often?  Think about how you can turn it into a “Make Your Own” night!  The five recipes above are just the beginning of inclusive family meals.



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Easy Healthy Recipes

Not-Your-Mama’s Shepherd’s Pie Recipe



Here’s another awesome recipe from our resident cooking enthusiast, Emily Steadman. I’ve personally tasted this recipe… SO. GOOD. Enjoy! -KB

Ahh Spring… the flowers are blooming… the birds are singing…. my car is frozen shut—Wait.. What?! Oh that’s right, I live in New England… the arctic tundra that refuses to acknowledge the vernal equinox. It is April. And this week my daughter slipped and fell on a sheet of ice walking to the car… aforementioned car was frozen shut and I had to begrudgingly remove the ice scraper from the trunk (where I had ceremoniously placed it TWO WEEKS AGO, signifying it would no longer be needed and heralding the arrival of Spring) to crack the glistening sheet of suck that encased the entire car. Ok. Rant over.

Because the cold just refuses to go away, I think this is the perfect time to share one of my absolute favorite recipes. It is a staple in our house through the winter, and as I can’t seem to get warm right now, it’s all I can think about! Let me preface this with a warning that this recipe is not a quick, 5 ingredient fix. It takes a little time and a little love but the end result is so deliciously worth it – I promise! It’s a great weekend meal, and we usually make it on Saturdays or Sundays when my daughter and I can throw on our aprons and spend the day in the kitchen, listening to music and salivating over the smells coming from the stove.

Since I was a kid, the words “Shepherd’s Pie” would make me immediately lose my appetite. It was a frequent meal in our house and the idea of mixing ground beef with frozen veggies was just unpleasant. I used to make my mother separate all the ingredients because I refused to eat them all mashed up (I now realize that payback for this has come in the form of my own child being the world’s pickiest eater). So as an adult, I didn’t even consider Shepherd’s Pie as an option for meals I’d want to cook. But I found a few recipes on Pinterest that sparked my interest and decided to give it another try. This recipe from was the one that started my downward spiral into Shepherd’s Pie obsession. I made some changes to suit my tastes and ended up with what is now my family’s favorite recipe.

I should warn you that anyone you cook this meal for will most likely want to hug you after the first bite. It is that good.


  • 2 lbs chuck roast (trim a little excess fat but not too much – it adds flavor!)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large carrot (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (peeled and chopped)
  • ½ yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 cup portabella mushrooms (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 small bunch of fresh Thyme (remove leaves from stems)
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tbsp worstershire sauce
  • 2-3 lbs potatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • ½ stick of butter
  • ¾ c milk or cream
  • 1 ½ c shredded white cheddar
  • Salt and pepper


Cut the chuck roast into large chunks and season liberally on all sides with coarse salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Sear the top and bottom of the chuck roast pieces for about 3-4 minutes per side. You should see a nice golden crust. Make sure to sear off any fat.

Remove chuck roast pieces from pot and place in separate bowl. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic to the pot. Saute for no more than 30 seconds before adding onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms. Cook for about 8 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add thyme leaves to pot.

Add the chuck roast pieces back into the pot and mix with the cooked vegetables. Sprinkle with cornstarch, stir and cook for 1 minute.

Add wine, beef broth, and worstershire. Place a lid on the pot, reduce heat to medium low and let the mixture simmer for 2 hours, stir occasionally to rotate the beef.

After 2 hours, remove the meat from the pot and shred. If the mixture is still not thickened after 2 hours, place over medium high heat and simmer until thickened before returning shredded beef to the pot.

30 minutes before the meat is finished braising, boil the diced potatoes until tender. Drain the water from the pot, mash the potatoes and add butter, milk (or cream) and 1 cup of shredded white cheddar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the meat and vegetable mixture from the pot to a casserole dish (make sure you put it on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over in the oven!). Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture and sprinkle remaining shredded cheddar on top.

Bake in a 350° oven for 10 minutes, and then broil until a golden brown crust forms on top of the potatoes.

Serve and enjoy!




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Easy Healthy Recipes

Kid’s Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies



Kid's Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies

OK, folks, I’m not even going to try to pretend I’m not slightly biased about the awesomeness of this next culinary adventure. Having lived in Maine through high school and college (go Black Bears!), I’ve developed a special fondness for Vacation Land. Anyone who’s lived in Maine at one time or another can attest to the motto being 100% true. It really IS “The Way Life Should Be!” It’s beautiful, the folks are as friendly as can be and holy crap the food is delicious! So I admit to nudging Madison towards “visiting” this state next on our Culinary World Tour because it’s summer and I was craving “Maine food” anyway! For this stamp in our Food Passport, we decided to make some good ol’ Maine clam chowder and whoopie pies! Now, there is some debate as to the origin of both those dishes, but having spent so much time in Maine, I can definitely verify that they are two staples of Maine cuisine. And they are made differently in Maine than in other places, so that’s good enough for me!

Kid's Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies

Now. I need to take a moment to talk about whoopie pies. Because, if you’ve never tried one before – and I’m really not familiar with places outside of Maine that make/sell them, so there may be many of you who haven’t tried them- you need to prepare yourself for the mouthful of awesome that you are about to experience. Seriously. I’m talking like… put on your stretchiest pants and sit your butt down in your favorite chair. Whoopie pies are a comfort food punch in the mouth in the best possible way. I honestly forgot how amazing they were since moving back to Connecticut but back in the day, they were sold in our cafeteria… at every Mom ‘n’ Pop store… gas station… bake sale… you name it. There is an entire bakery devoted to whoopie pies in Gardiner, ME (Wicked Whoopies. Go there. You will possibly die from pure sugary bliss but it will be worth it…. Or if you don’t like to travel for your sugar comas, THEY DELIVER. Did you read that correctly? Yes. Someone will put a real Maine whoopie pie in a box and ship it to your door.), and I’m fairly certain it is the official state treat.

So… is this a lot of hype? Yes. Will you ever regret making… buying… eating… a real whoopie pie? Absolutely not. Now there are a few debates on whoopie pie filling…some people use regular frosting… some use just marshmallow fluff… some use a cream cheese type concoction. While these are all delicious, I’m a whoopie pie purest and like to stick with the magical concoction included in this recipe. And this is a recipe from a couple of Maine grannies… so I’m pretty sure that makes it the best ever (visit the link to the original recipe to see pics of the adorable grannies making whoopie pies).

Kid's Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies

After we did our little bit of trivia searching – Madison learned that there is a county in Maine (Aroostock) that is larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined (this of course blew her mind) – we set up our Pandora station to accompany our baking. This time around we went for a bluegrass station, as I have so many fond memories of summers in Maine with blueberry and bluegrass festivals, and it just seemed right. To my surprise, Madison loved the bluegrass (I swear, this kid is a “Mainah” at heart!). And onto the cooking!

Kid's Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies


Ingredients for Cakes:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons of cocoa (rita uses 4)
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon each: baking powder, baking soda, salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Cream sugar and shortening together.
  2. Add beaten egg yolks.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together.
  4. Add milk and vanilla alternatively with the dry ingredients into the wet mix.
  5. Drop the batter in equal spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, leaving room to spread.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degrees oven for 7-10 minutes.
  7. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Ingredients for Filling: 

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons Fluff


  1. Combine all ingredients and blend with an electric mixer.
  2. Spoon filling onto completely cooled cakes and top off like a sandwich.Kid's Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies

(As you can see… we didn’t wait long enough to put the filling in the whoopies – it smelled too good to wait! They were still a little too warm so it got a little messy but it was still delish!)

This recipe was found on


Kid's Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies

Photo Credit: Go New England

The recipe is from the historic Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine and it pairs the briny clam broth with hickory smoked bacon. Maine clam chowder is not as thick as other New England chowders, but in my opinion it’s the best there is! Give it a try!


  • 1 slice hickory-smoked bacon, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 1 cup onion, minced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon The Cliff House Spice Blend (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 can clams (6.5 ounces)
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1-1/2 cups half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced

To create The Cliff House Spice Blend: 

  • 4 teaspoons oregano
  • 4 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dill
  • 4 teaspoons thyme
  • 4 teaspoons basil
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 4 teaspoons rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Blend all ingredients (crushing in a mortar if possible). Store in a resealable plastic bag to refrigerate.


  1. In a heavy-bottomed, 4-pint soup kettle, sauté bacon, butter, onion, garlic and The Cliff House Spice Blend over low heat. Do not allow to brown.
  2. Drain clams and set aside, reserving the juice.
  3. Slowly stir the flour and clam juices into the sauté mixture.
  4. Bring to a boil; reduce heat.
  5. Add half and half. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Add white pepper, potatoes and clams.
  7. Heat to serving temperature. (Avoid boiling, as this can make the clams tough.)
  8. Serve immediately with crackers (and cornbread!)

This recipe was found on


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