Author Archives: Anne-Marie Nichols

About Anne-Marie Nichols

Anne-Marie Nichols is a Social Media Consultant and Healthy Food & Lifestyle Blogger who helps busy moms and their families with healthy recipes and lifestyle tips.

Sriracha Roasted Red Pepper Deviled Eggs

Got hard boiled eggs? Make Sriracha Roasted Red Pepper Deviled Eggs at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

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Wasabi Deviled Eggs

Got hard boiled eggs? Make Wasabi Deviled Eggs at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

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Slow Cooker Juniper Venison Stew

Slow Cooker Juniper Venison Stew at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was partnered with Corina at Searching for Spice. A UK based blogger, she explores the use of spices in some of her favorite cuisines such as Mexican, Indian, North African, Thai and Chinese. For this month’s choice, I decided to try a slow cooker recipe and wanted to use up some of the venison we had in the freezer. Corina’s recipe for Slow Cooked Juniper Beef Stew looked easily adaptable. Since she wrote that juniper berries were used in Scandinavian and Central European stews with venison, I knew it would be perfect!

Using spices like juniper berries, along with cloves, allspice, cloves and nutmeg also sounded like something served in medieval times. They often used spices like cinnamon, mace, and cloves in their stews back then – probably to mask the taste of rotting meat, since meat preservation was primitive at best.

Changing up the slow cooker stew

Slow Cooker Venison Stew with Parsnips and Carrots at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

I doubled Corina’s slow cooker beef stew recipe since it serves two and we have four people in our family. I added a pound of parsnips and lots more carrots and celery, since you can never have too many vegetables, It’s a lot of food, so you’ll need a six quart slow cooker [affiliate link] to cook this stew up!

I decided to dredge the venison in gluten free teff flour and brown it. Yes, it adds an extra step, which means more cooking and cleanup time. However, browning venison does add a nice flavor to the stew. I had teff flour leftover from another recipe, wanted to use it up, and thought its nutty taste would go well with the venison stew. Feel free to use any gluten free flour you like! As for the additional time, prep the meal the night before and place the crock in your refrigerator. Then get your venison stew going in your slow cooker first thing in the morning, so it’s ready when you get home from work.

For the broth, I used Massel beef flavored bouillon cubes, since they’re gluten free and I already had them in the pantry. You can use beef or vegetable broth. Just make sure to read the label carefully for any hidden sources of gluten.

While the combination of juniper berries, cloves, allspice and nutmeg was not what my family was used to in a stew, it was a deliciously wonderful change from the Herbes de Provence type blend that I usually add to my venison stews. Plus, it was a great way to use up that bottle of juniper berries that’s been sitting on my spice rack for eons!

Slow Cooker Juniper Venison Stew at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Slow Cooker Juniper Venison Stew


  • 2 pounds venison, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups gluten free beef or vegetable stock or 3 cups water and 3 Massel beef flavored bouillon cubes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries, gently crushed
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 red onions, sliced


  1. Place venison stew meat in a bowl and sprinkle pepper, salt and gluten free flour over meat. Toss to evenly coat.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Place venison in pan and cook until evenly browned on all sides. Remove meat from pan and place into slow cooker crock.
  3. Add 3 cups of broth or water to pan. Bring to boil, lower heat and keep at a low simmer. If using bouillon cubes, add to the pan, and break up cubes with back of a spoon or spatula. Add tomato paste to pan and stir to combine.
  4. Scrape off bits of meat and cooked on flour with spoon or spatula to deglaze pan thoroughly. Pour contents of pan over meat in slow cooker. Liquid should completely cover venison. If not, add more stock or a little water.
  5. Sprinkle spices and herbs on top of meat. Add vegetables.
  6. Cover and set the slow cooker to the low setting. Cook for 8-10 hours until the venison is tender.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 8 Hours
Total Time: 8 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4 to 6
  • Serving size: 1 large bowl

Slow Cooker Venison Stew at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

More from the Secret Recipe Club!

Want to join the Secret Recipe Club? You can sign up here.

5 ways to save water at home {Win a Silk #YayWater Savings Package!}

5 ways to save water at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Silk is committed to conserving our most precious natural resource – water. Did you know that producing Silk saves 500 gallons of water per half gallon over conventional dairy milk? Silk realizes that conserving water is everyone’s responsibility, so during Earth Month, Silk has launched a series of short, animated videos designed to celebrate, inspire and educate people about the importance of water. In addition, Silk is partnering with The Nature Conservancy to help advance water conservation efforts across the U.S. For every “share” of one of Silk’s Earth Month videos, Silk will donate $1, up to $20,000, to The Nature Conservancy.

You can also do your part to conserve water by following my 5 ways to save water at home:

1) Run the dishwasher only when it’s full. If you’re like me, you can always find room for another bowl, spoon or plate!

2) Know how to use the settings on your clothes washing machine. If you have a small load, and you have a small load setting, use it so the washer doesn’t fill all the way up! (Some newer machines have sensors that detect small versus larger loads. My newer model washer does, but my old one didn’t.)

3) Fix those leaky toilets. Do you have an toilet that runs? If you’re handy, there are many online videos that can show you how to fix a leaky toilet yourself. And, the parts are available at any home repair store or online. However, calling a plumber maybe the best investment you ever made once you see the drop in your water bill!

4) Bring a bucket with you in the shower. The bucket will collect water that would normally go down the drain. Use it to water your plants or garden.

5) Upgrade your lawn sprinkler system. Do you have an older model sprinkler system? Then it may not have sensors that shut off watering when it rains. You may want to look into upgrading it. Sure that could be pricey, but in the long run it may save your family hundreds of dollars on your water bill, and having a newer system adds value to your home.

Win a Silk #YayWater Saving Package!

I’m partnering with Silk to give away a water saving packages to four lucky winners. Each winner will receive an Indoor Kitchen & Bathroom ECO-KIT Bank worth $17. It includes: 1 Spray Clean shower head, 1 bathroom faucet aerator, a heavy gauge toilet displacement bag, a kitchen aerator, and Teflon tape with installation. Each winner will also receive a Silk bag and tumbler.

Win a Silk #YayWater Savings Package at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

All you need to do is let me know that you’ve shared the Silk video by placing the link to your Facebook post in the comment box below.

The giveaway runs from April 11 until April 20, 2014.

FOUR winners will be chosen at random. You must be willing to send me your full name and mailing address by April 21, 2014, so I can pass it on to Silk’s PR team so they can mail out your prize. I’ll announce the winner on this blog. I won't share your mailing info with the public, just your first name. If you have a blog, I’ll link back to it when I announce the winner.The giveaway is valued at approximately $27 and is only open to legal residents of the United States, 18 years of age and older. No purchase required. Odds of winning based on number of entries. ONE entry per person. FOUR prizes will be given away. Void where prohibited by law.

By submitting your name and email address, you agree to receive relevant promotional emails and contest follow up communications from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet in compliance with my privacy policy and giveaway rules.

More ways to win with Silk

Starting April 4, Silk is conducting two giveaways – one on Silk’s Facebook page and the other on Instagram and Twitter. On Facebook, you can  “like” the Silk Facebook page and fill out the entry form to win one of 200 indoor or outdoor water saving prize packages. On Twitter and Instagram, you can upload a photo showcasing a fun water moment using the #yaywater hashtag and fill out an entry form on Five consumers will win a water saving prize package plus a year's supply of Silk.

Silk wants you to help us celebrate water! Every time you share one of Silk's water conservation videos, Silk will donate $1 to The Nature Conservancy (up to $20,000) to help with water conservation efforts.

I was compensated for this post but the views and opinions expressed in this post are solely mine. WhiteWave is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This giveaway is not administered by WhiteWave or its affiliates, but solely by myself.


Healthy Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits

Healthy Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

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Grilled Calamari with Grapefruit, Olives and Pine Nuts

Grilled Calamari with Grapefruit, Olives and Pine Nuts at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

I love calamari, but most of the time when I see it on a menu, it’s breaded and fried. When we go into Atlanta and have lunch at Legal Sea Foods after visiting the Georgia Aquarium, I take the opportunity to indulge in an order of fried calamari off their gluten free menu.

What I really miss it having calamari the way my mom used to make it – Italian style in a tomato based sauce served on top of pasta. She also use to sauté calamari steaks in butter and vermouth after dipping it in an egg and wheat germ batter. If anyone knew how to serve calamari, it was my mom!

Well, I have to say that celebrity chef and winner of Food Network Star Season Six, Aarti Sequeira also has a way with calamari. In this dish, she combines it with Florida grapefruit, olives, and my favorite nut substitute, pine nuts, for a wonderful wilted salad.

You can find calamari in the freezer section of your grocery store or at an Asian grocery store. If you find it fresh or frozen and whole, here's a tutorial on how to clean it. It's not that hard unless you're squeamish.

To toast your pine nuts, put them in a pan over medium heat and toast them until they start to turn golden. Keep an eye on them, as it's very easy to burn the pine nuts!

For more recipes from Chef Aarti, go to Florida Grapefruit’s Facebook page. Or check out her other healthy grapefruit recipes here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet like:

More recipes for you grapefruit lovers:

Grilled Calamari with Grapefruit, Olives and Pine Nuts at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Grilled Calamari with Grapefruit, Olives and Pine Nuts

Recipe by Chef Aarti Sequeira


  • 1 pound baby squid (tubes and tentacles), cleaned
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup 100% Florida grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for grilling
  • Pinch red chile flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large ruby red grapefruit, cut into segments
  • 1 cup baby arugula, washed and dried completely
  • 1/4 cup green olives (about 8), pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon currants
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Pat squid dry with paper towels. Stir together garlic, grapefruit juice, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, red chile flakes and a big pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Separate out 3 tablespoons of this marinade into a smaller bowl, add the squid and toss to coat.
  2. Heat a large grill pan over high heat. Wait until it’s very hot to start cooking or else the squid will stick.
  3. While the pan heats up, toss grapefruit segments, arugula, olives, currants and pine nuts in the large bowl of marinade.
  4. Lightly brush the grill pan with oil. Shake the squid of any excess marinade, lay it on the hot grill and cook about 3 minutes per side for the tubes; cook the tentacles until nice and crispy, about 5 minutes total. Work in batches if necessary. If the squid sticks after 3 minutes, cook another 30 seconds; it will release when it’s cooked.
  5. Toss tentacles into the large bowl. Slice tubes into thin rings. Toss calamari with the arugula mixture. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4 to 6
  • Serving size: 1/4 to 1/6 of recipe

Picture and recipe used with permission.

Get the Facts Up Front on food shopping!


Do you feel that you need a Ph.D. in nutrition to understand the labels on food packages so you can make smart and healthy choices at the supermarket? You’re not alone, which is why Facts Up Front was created in 2011 by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The GMA represents the nation's leading food and beverage companies and the FMI represents more than 1,500 food wholesalers and retailers. Working together they formed Facts Up Front, a label that brings important information from the Nutrition Facts Panel and displays it in a simple and easy-to-use format on the front of food and beverage products.

The Facts Up Front label shows calories per serving and information on three nutrients that experts believe you should limit in your diet: saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Labels may also have information on one or two nutrients you may need to get more of as part of a healthy diet, such as calcium, and only if the product contains 10 percent or more of the daily value per serving of the nutrient. This is the most significant reform on food and beverage labeling in more than 20 years, believe it or not.

Products bearing the Facts Up Front label are already in the stores. Also, many food packages already feature Facts Up Front labels including those made by Nestle, Post Foods, Ocean Spray, PepsiCo, Campbell’s, General Mills, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Kraft, and Heinz. Store brands such as Kroger, Hy-Vee and Wegmans are also using Facts Up Front labels in their packaging. To find out what manufacturers and retailers are participating, go to

More resources from Facts Up Front

Here are a few of the resources available on the on the Facts Up Front website that I found very valuable:

The Nutrition Calculator easily determined my estimated daily nutrient needs after I plugged in a few facts about myself including my age, gender, height, weight and activity level.

The Interactive Label goes into full detail of each nutrient featured on Facts Up Front label.

The Facts Up Front Recipe Section offers ideas for easy, delicious dishes made with products bearing the Facts Up Front label. It features vegetarian, gluten free (like this recipe for a Spanish Tortilla), slow cooker, and other quick and easy recipes that the whole family will love from products you’re already familiar with and buy regularly.

There’s also a section on Shopping and Meal Planning Tips, too! is a great resource you can use to understand how to read product labels, use a nutrition calculator, and find great recipes and tips! Answer the question below for a chance to win $1,000! Sweepstakes Rules.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Facts up Front. The opinions and text are all mine.


Beet Pickled Quail Eggs for Easter

Beet Pickled Quail Eggs for Easter at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

I’m in the middle of remodeling h-e-l-l. Actually, I shouldn’t complain, because it hasn’t been too bad, since we started with a small project first – the kids’ bathroom. Yet it seemed as soon as my husband and his friend, Guy, started working on one thing, they would break another. Like cutting into a pipe and flooding the bathroom, which meant that the living room ceiling had to be repaired and repainted. Then they, along with the plumber and electrician, used my two vacuums like shop vacs, and broke them both. Then the bathroom lighting had to be done twice. The toilet that wasn’t supposed to be installed by the plumber, was indeed installed, and was broken in the process. I’m not even going to tell you about the fight with the painter regarding his quote and the trim.

Then the kitchen remodeling started with a reminder call. But I didn’t even know we were on the schedule to get our counter tops done that day! First, I had to reschedule my daughter’s hearing test appointment. No biggie. Then I had to camp out with my dog, Nellie in our bedroom, because as soon as the workmen left to get something from their truck and came back into the house, she'd growl at them like they were breaking in. Such a silly dog!

It also meant no cooking for a few days, since we had to wait for the plumber to come and hookup the sink and the electrician to hook up the stovetop. Luckily, I have another wonderful recipe from the April 2014 issue of Martha Stewart Living to fill in while my kitchen is closed for a few days. This one is perfect for Easter, parties, and picnic season – Beet Picked Quail Eggs with an amazing picture by Jennifer Causey.

Beet Pickled Quail Eggs picnic at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Just because it’s Easter doesn’t mean you have to stick with chicken eggs. Any sort of eggs will do. Martha Stewart Living suggests getting quail eggs at, but I’ve had good luck finding fresh and canned quail eggs at Asian markets. (My mom puts quail eggs in salads and quail eggs in pho soup are amazing.) Canned quail eggs are pretty affordable, too.

Martha Stewart Living April 2014 recipes at This Mama Cooks! On a DIet -

I love the idea of dying the egg whites with the beets. Some people use beets or other foods to dye eggs shells. Or they gently crack the hard boiled egg before dyeing to form a cracked pattern on the egg white. They use foods such as:

  • Blueberries or red cabbage for blue
  • Skins of red onions or yellow apples for green
  • Skins of yellow onions or paprika for orange
  • Carrots, turmeric, chamomile, green tea or orange peel for yellow
  • Coffee or black tea for brown
  • Grape juice for purple

If you’re interested in using foods or plants as natural food dyes, has instructions on how to do so.


  • 1 small red beet, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries 1 dried bay leaf
  • 24 quail eggs
  • Hot sauce, celery leaves, and flaky sea salt, for serving


  1. Bring beet, 1 cup water, vinegar, sugar, coarse salt, juniper berries, and bay leaf to a boil in a small pot, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool completely. Pass through a fine sieve; discard solids.
  2. Cover eggs with 1 inch of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; remove from heat, cover, and let sit 3 minutes. Transfer to an ice-water bath until chilled. Drain and peel eggs.
  3. Place eggs in a container. Top with beet vinegar. Cover; chill 4 to 5 days. Slice in half and serve with accompaniments.
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 120 Hours
Total Time: 120 Hours 45 Minutes
Servings: Serves 8
  • Serving size: 3 quail eggs

Recipe and photography used with permission.

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Oyster Chowder

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Oyster Chowder at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comI jumped at the chance to join the Cook the Books selection for February/March of Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens [affiliate code] by Andrew Beahrs. Me and Mr. Twain go way back. Of course, there’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which I read in grade school. But I didn’t appreciate him until my freshman English teacher introduced us to Letters from The Earth in college. A very cynical and sarcastic college of essays that was perfect for someone who loved Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller.

I’ve dipped into Twain’s works since then, but after all these years I didn’t realize what a gourmand he – well, Samuel Clemens – was. Documented in his first successful novel, A Tramp Abroad [affiliate code], Mr. Twain  takes every opportunity to poke fun of the horrid hotel food in Europe and how he can’t wait to come back to “a great cup of American home-made coffee with the cream a-froth on top” or “a plate of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup.” So different from today’s culinary adventurers who find bliss in every European bistro and sidewalk café and shutter to think of American fast food and chain restaurants!

Exploring American food ways with Twain’s Feast

Gluten Free Oyster Chowder at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comEven if you’re not a big fan of Mark Twain’s books, if you love American food history, you’re sure to flip over Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens. He takes some of the foods Mr. Twain mentions in A Tramp Abroad, digs deeper into how people enjoyed them back in Twain’s time, and shows us how so many of foods that were taken for granted, like prairie chickens and terrapin turtle, are gone or endangered now due to environmental destruction and/or overhunting. I was fascinated to learn how certain fish and oyster species no longer exist in their native habitats, like the native oysters in San Francisco Bay and the trout in Lake Tahoe. In fact, we’ve had to transplant other U.S. species just to keep up with demand and our changing landscape!

My choice for Cook the Books – oysters!

Dairy Free Oyster Chowder at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comWhen Twain was living in San Francisco in the 1860s, oyster places were popular places for men (and men only!) to gather, talk, eat, smoke, drink – and drink some more. In 1892, according to Beahrs, Americans would eat 197,639,000 of dressed (meat only) oysters. It was the Age of Oysters! I find it sad today that most Americans go, “Ewwwww, oysters, how disgusting!” and won’t even eat cooked oysters let alone raw ones.

Inspired by Twain's Feast and food my husband makes me sometimes, I decided to make Oyster Chowder. While I was recovering from brain surgery, one night for dinner my husband made two versions of oyster soup – one with milk and the other with rice milk for me, since I have a food sensitivity to the whey in milk. The funny thing was that after trying both soups, Paul preferred the soup made with rice milk, which had a nice sweetness to it that complimented the taste of the oysters. The soup made with cow’s milk tasted like milk and then like oysters. It was kind of nasty, frankly.

There’s got to be a better, more delicious, and gluten and dairy free way to make oyster soup!

From oyster soup to oyster chowder

Healthy Oyster Chowder at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comWhen Paul made his oyster soup, he hadn’t bothered to thicken either with a roux or cream, so I wanted to figure out how to do that while keeping the soup gluten free and dairy free. I decided to try two methods in my oyster chowder recipe. Maybe this was overkill, but it worked out rather nicely to thicken the oyster soup into a creamy oyster chowder.

First, I added cooked rice to rice milk, heated it up, and then used an immersion blender to create a super thick rice milk broth. Second, I cooked up a roux with all purpose gluten free flour and a non-dairy buttery spread. While this served to further thicken the chowder and give it a velvety finish, it also added a lot of buttery flavor to the stew. If you’re used to making a roux with regular flour and butter, don’t expect a gluten free flour and buttery spread roux to brown. It just won’t. If you wait around, it’ll just start getting crusty and burnt.

I also want to add a note about oysters. I used canned Chicken of the Sea Oysters and was pleasantly surprised of their excellent quality. The oyster liquor tasted great and the oysters themselves were plump and fresh smelling. It’s nearly impossible to get fresh oysters outside of one of Hugh Acheson’s restaurants here in Athens and I didn’t want to assume my readers have access to fresh oysters or the budget to purchase them, either.

I did find fresh (dressed) oysters at Publix, but I don’t trust the seafood at grocery stores. Plus, eight ounces of (dressed) oysters were $6 versus $2.49 for the cans. Ideally, if I lived closer to Atlanta, I would have gone to the Buford Highway Farmers Market or one of the other Asian markets with an amazing fresh seafood selection and would have gotten fresh oysters and had them shuck them for me right there. Talk about fresh and much more affordable!

Finally, if you don't like oysters, feel free to use clams instead as this recipe would also make a wonderful clam chowder. Add a bag of frozen pre-diced potatoes at the end, heat through, and you're ready to go!

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Oyster Chowder at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Oyster Chowder


  • 7 cups rice milk, divided
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 cup dairy free buttery spread
  • 1/2 cup all purpose gluten free flour
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 4 large stalks celery, minced
  • 4 (8 ounce) cans oysters, drained reserving the liquid
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce for serving


  1. Heat 4 cups of rice milk and white rice in a large pot slowly over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a low simmer.
  2. Take an immersion blender and blend rice milk and rice until smooth. (You can do this in stages in a blender or food processor instead.)
  3. Add remaining 3 cups of rice milk and bring rice broth back to a low simmer. Reduce heat to low.
  4. In a separate skillet, melt the buttery spread over medium to medium high heat for the roux. Add the gluten free flour tablespoon by tablespoon, stirring it in until the flour is totally incorporated. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the minced shallots, minced onions, and the reserved oyster liquid. Cook until the celery and shallots are softened, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add the roux, shallots and celery mixture to the rice broth. Stir until fully incorporated. If chowder seems too thick, you can add more rice milk if you like.
  7. Add oysters to the chowder and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Cook until heated through and keep on low heat.
  8. Serve with hot sauce.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour
Servings: Serves 8 to 10
  • Serving size: 1 to 2 bowls

A healthy, quick and easy dinner recipe roundup

A healthy, quick and easy dinner recipe roundup at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

I really enjoy working with to bring you another one of these recipe roundups. First, it gives me a chance to share some easy dinner recipes with the audience.

Second, it gives me a chance to go way back in my archives and dig up some oldie but goodies like this recipe for Quick Healthy Lentil and Rice Casserole. In fact, it’s such an old recipe that I didn’t take pictures of my food back then! I make this dish all the time, so I’ll have to set some extra casserole aside and take a photo of it soon.

Third, doing these recipe roundups brings back some memories. I was cleaning up the Gluten Free Venison Daube Provencal post – formatting how the recipe looked, enlarger the original picture, and so on. Then I noticed that a comment was left from my husband’s old hunting buddy. He had passed away several years ago, and hearing from him brought tears to my eyes. We miss you Mike!

Finally, it reminds me about some terrific recipes I’ve forgotten, like Slow Cooker Sweet Chicken Curry and Healthy Slow Cooker Pork, Squash and Zucchini Stew. I should make these again for my family soon!

What types of dishes does your family enjoy having for dinner?

What you need to know about reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act

What you need to know about reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

As a brain tumor survivor, I wonder how exposure to toxic chemicals in my environment may have played a role. Did you know that more than 80,000 chemicals available in the United States – substances that we use in our homes, workplaces and schools – have never been tested for their toxic effects on our health and environment?

When passed into law in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) approved more than 60,000 chemicals that were in existence prior to 1976. Only 200 of the original 60,000 chemicals were tested for safety. In fact, some uses of only FIVE of these toxic substances have been restricted. Since then, TSCA has never been updated! Over 80,000 chemicals have been on the market and available for use since TSCA was enacted in 1976. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required very few of these to be tested for their impacts on human health and the environment.

TSCA allows chemical manufacturers to keep the ingredients in some chemicals secret — nearly 20 percent of the 80,000 chemicals are secret, according to the EPA. In addition, TSCA makes it difficult for consumers and businesses to find the information they need to identify which chemicals are safe or unsafe.  Instead of requiring chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they go into use, the law says the government has to prove actual harm in order to control or replace a dangerous chemical.

No wonder that we need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act now and pass meaningful legislation to protect the health of our families and the environment!

You can help by signing the petition at to let Congress know that you support updating TSCA to protect the health of our families and the environment.

What does meaningful reform look like?

Meaningful chemical reform should:

  1. Protect the most vulnerable among us including pregnant women, children, workers, and low income communities who are disproportionately exposed to chemicals.
  2. Require easy public access to information regarding the safety of chemicals.
  3. Respect the rights of states and local governments to protect their residents when the federal government fails to do so.
  4. Require the EPA to take fast action on the most harmful chemicals and include specific timetables for such regulatory actions.

How you can help!

The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition is calling for an overhaul of TSCA based on the law’s inability to protect the health of the American public from exposure to harmful chemicals. By updating TSCA, Congress can create the foundation for a sound and comprehensive chemicals policy that protects public health and the environment, while restoring the luster of safety to US goods in the world market.

You can help by signing the petition at to let Congress know that you support updating TSCA to protect the health of our families and the environment.

5 ways to make traveling easier when you’re gluten free

5 ways to make traveling easier when you're gluten free at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

As an Udi’s Gluten Free Ambassador, I occasionally answer questions from visitors to the Udi’s Gluten Free website. Recently, “Jules” was looking for information on gluten free travel in Europe. After doing a little research so I could answer her specific needs, I thought I’d share some of the information with you on making traveling easier when you’re gluten free.

Do your own gluten free cooking – Sure you want to relax while traveling, but being sick from getting accidentally “glutenized” and having to stay in bed for several days is no fun either. Instead, plan to do your own cooking while traveling by renting a home, apartment, or getting a hotel suite with a kitchen. That way you’re in control of at least a few meals a day. Budget conscious travels may find that renting a house or apartment is cheaper than booking a couple of hotel rooms and eating every meal at a restaurant if you have a large family, too. And if you’re a foodie, you may enjoy shopping at local grocery stores and farmer’s markets, especially if you’re traveling outside of the country.

Know where to purchase gluten free foods – Did you know that in Europe you buy your gluten free food at the pharmacy and at the grocery store? (You can also buy baby food at the pharmacy, too!) Go online and do some Google searches like “Germany gluten free products” to find the names of popular gluten free brands. The searches I did lead me to several gluten free travel forums where I found, for example, that Schar gluten free products can be found in Reformhaus health stores and Ossman drug stores.

Plan gluten free eating online – Go online and plan out what restaurants you’ll be visiting. Not only is this a good way to make reservations at popular restaurants, but you can take the opportunity to check out menus and talk to managers and chefs on the phone. Many restaurants now have gluten free menus posted as well as regular and children’s menus. The Yelp app (or is a great resource for checking out menus and reader reviews. In Europe and other places around the world, you can use the Gluten Free Travel Site to check out restaurants and reviews. They also have an iPhone and Android app.

Another app to check out is Schar’s Gluten Free Roads. Their app and website cover over 40,000 gluten-free supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels worldwide.

Print out foreign language has cards in several foreign languages that you can print out and hand to your server or host. You can get them in a variety of languages from Albanian to Vietnamese. If you’ll be using these a great deal, print them out to business card size, and have them laminated. Or download them to your smart phone. The cards are free, but they request that you donate $5 via PayPal.

Gluten Free Roads also has a collection of foreign language cards here, but not in as many languages as

Pack your gluten free supplies – Make sure that you have packed some essential gluten free foods for the first few days of your trip, like a loaf of Udi’s Gluten Free Bread and a box of brown rice pasta in your suit case and some Larabars and dried fruit in your purse or backpack. Know what foods you can easily order at a restaurant, for example grilled steak or fish, without having to worry about getting glutenized.

If you do get sick, make sure to pack your favorite remedies. Some people swear by activated charcoal capsules. Others like tumeric supplements for inflammation. I drink a lot of water, take some ibuprofen for my gluten headache, and treat a funky tummy with probiotics. (I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice, so please take it with a big grain of salt!)

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi's Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.


Stuffed Collard Greens

Stuffed Collard Greens at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Have you seen the April 2014 issue of Martha Stewart Living yet? You can get it on newsstands or on your iPad. I think it’s my favorite issue EVER! The photography is gorgeous and the recipes are oh-so-inspiring.

Luckily, the folks at MSL have allowed me to share a few of my favorite dishes from April's issue here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet in the upcoming weeks for Easter, Passover, and for anytime you want to make a delicious and healthy dinner for your family.

April 2014 issue of Martha Stewart Living featured at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

In praise of collard greens

When I moved to Georgia from Colorado, I was so excited to see how easy it was to buy collard greens. You could get them prewashed, shredded and bagged at the grocery store. No more special trips to the farmer’s market or Whole Foods!

Collards are cruciferous vegetables like kale and spinach and have similar antioxidant and nutritional values. My favorite way to cook them up is using Hugh Acheson’s recipe - Sweetened Collard Greens. He uses maple syrup (Hugh’s Canadian after all) but I use sorghum to take away some of the collard greens’ bitterness.  Another way I like cooking collard greens is with rice vinegar in my Tangy Collard Greens recipe.

However, I usually cook greens as a side dish. The recipe featured in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living is a perfect dinner dish for Meatless Monday – Stuffed Collard Greens. It’s reminiscent of stuffed cabbage leaves, and uses spelt, which is a whole grain rich in nutrients. (However, it is not gluten free.)

Collard greens get their signature richness from being cooked with ham hocks or bacon. ( I make my greens with country ham, which I call the “poor man’s prosciutto.”) For a vegetarian version that achieves the same depth of flavor, trying use Parmesan rind instead. It contains umami, the savory taste found in cured meat and soy sauce. The rind will hold its shape as the greens simmer. Just remove it from the pot when you’re done cooking.

Stuffed Collard Greens at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Stuffed Collard Greens

For quicker assembly, cook the tomato sauce and spelt up to two days ahead. Let cool, then store them separately in covered containers.


  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch red-pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup spelt
  • 1 pound collard greens
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, or 1 can (15 ounces) low-sodium white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves


  1. Pulse tomatoes with juices in a food processor until chopped. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let cool.
  2. Stir spelt into a saucepan of salted boiling water. Reduce to a steady simmer; cook, uncovered, until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, add collard greens in batches to a pot of salted boiling water and cook until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs and let cool. Trim off stems and thick ribs. Reserve 12 large leaves; chop any remaining leaves.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coarsely mash beans in a bowl. Add cooked spelt, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, cheese, sage, and any chopped collards. Stir to combine. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Working with one collard leaf at a time, arrange 1/4 cup filling in center. Fold stem end over filling. Fold in sides. Roll collard over to form a bundle, overlapping ends to seal. Transfer, seam-side down, to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  6. Spread sauce evenly over stuffed collards. Cover with parchment, then foil; bake until sauce is bubbling and collards are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: Serves 6
  • Serving size: 1 stuffed collard green
  • Calories: 305
  • Total Fat: 12g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Unsaturated fat: 10g
  • Sodium: 635mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 43g
  • Fiber: 9g
  • Protein: 11g
  • Cholesterol: 3mg

Photography by David Malosh. Recipe and photograph used with permission.

Beef Fajita Tacos cooked with Pompeian Varietals Olive Oil

Beef Fajita Tacos at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comTracking Pixel

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pompeian.

A few years back I took an olive oil appreciation class at a food conference in San Francisco. I sampled olive oils in a process very similar to sipping fine wine or whiskey. I learned that all extra virgin olive oils weren’t the same. Some are good for grilling meats, while other olive oils are good for using on vegetables and lighter dishes like fish. Still other olive oils are best used to finish dishes like soups and salads. It all depends on the variety of olive, where they are grown, what time of year they are picked, and how they are processed.

It was such an interesting class that I took the opportunity to buy a bottle of very expensive olive oil directly from the grower – a summer harvested variety grown in Northern California. It was an indulgent souvenir of the trip that I justified by telling myself that it would last longer than a bottle of wine. Still it’s not something I’d do again as it's way too pricey, so it’s lovely to see that Pompeian is now bringing quality olive oil to my local grocery store at prices that everyone can afford with their new Pompeian Varietals Collection. (It’s not just extra virgin olive oil, but vinegars and cooking wines, too!)

Pompeian Varietals Collection reviewed at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Making Beef Fajita Tacos

I was sent a bottle the Picholine Olive Oil to grill with, which was perfect because we’re big meat eaters. Since I had a couple of steaks in the freezer (I buy the manager specials from the grocery store and stock up) I decided to cut them up into strips and make them into beef fajita tacos.

The green fruitiness, hints of herbs, and slight bitterness of the Picholine Olive Oil perfectly brought out the beef and seasoning flavors. I didn’t notice an oily taste either since some olive oils can be overpowering and quite noticeable.

Making Beef Fajita Tacos at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Beef Fajita Tacos at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Beef Fajita Tacos


  • 1 pound lean beef steak, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup Pompeian Varietals Picholine Olive Oil
  • Your favorite taco fixings
  • 12 small corn tortillas


  1. Place steak strips, seasonings, and olive oil in a bowl. Combine until meat is thoroughly covered. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Grill steak strips on griddle pan or large skillet on high heat until cooked through.
  3. Serve with pepper stir fry, avocados, salsa, queso fresca, shredded cheese, hot sauce, cilantro, etc. on corn tortillas.
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes
Servings: 12 tacos (feeds 4)
  • Serving size: 3 tacos per person
Pompeian Varietals Reviewed at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet -

Pompeian Varietals Collection

What I like about the Pompeian Varietals Collection of olive oils is that they leave the guess work out of choosing what olive oil is best for the recipe you'll be making. TV chefs like Mario Batali and Rachael Ray have educated us that extra virgin olive oil is the way to go when it comes to cooking. But do we want to go with a full, mild or medium bodied oil? With the Pompeian Varietals Collection, it’s right on the label!

  • Arbequina – a mild-bodied extra virgin olive oil  is for fish and vegetables.
  • Picholine – a medium-bodied extra virgin olive oil is for meats and sauces.
  • Koroneiki – a full-bodied extra virgin olive oil is for soups and salads.

What’s really fun is that you can learn the history behind each bottle of olive oil starting at the mill, country and harvest date, and ending at your kitchen table. By visiting the Pompeian Varietals website, you can track the lot number located on the back of your Varietals bottle to discover where it’s traveled and its unique harvesting process and origin.

What Pompeian Varietals Olive Oil would you try out first?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pompeian.