Choosing Healthier Frozen Dinner Entrees: Spotlight Trader Joe’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

lasagna front lasagna labelTrader Joe’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna made with multigrain noodles makes for a great last minute dinner entrée. And it is super delish. Just add salad, cooked vegetable, whole grain bread, fruit and/or milk for a complete dinner.

One serving provides 30% of your days’ worth of Vitamin A, 15% of your days’ worth of calcium, 5 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of protein. All this nutrition for only 240 calories, 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 480 mg of sodium. Typically frozen meals are high in sodium so 480 mg isn’t all that bad. Surprisingly, most home-cooked meals contain 1,380 mg of sodium.

When determining if a frozen entrée is “healthy, the FDA has labeling criteria:
<500 calories
< 480 mg sodium
< 15 grams of fat
<5 grams of saturated fat
>4 grams of fiber
At least 10% of two or more of Vitamins C and A, calcium, iron, protein and fiber.

Happily, Trader Joe’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna fits the criteria.

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Safer, Healthier Non-Toxic Cookware

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission from sales of certain items, but the price is the same for you.

Rumors about the dangers of non-stick cookware are widespread on the internet. These claims state that nonstick Teflon cookware coating is potentially “unhealthy” because at high heat it releases toxic chemicals.

The most concerning issues are the  chemicals PFOA and PTFE. PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) is the substance that glues the non-stick coatings to pans, while PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) or Teflon is the coating itself. PFOA is a carcinogen that is released during the manufacturing process. PTFE decomposes at over 660 degrees, producing gases that can kill birds and cause flu-like symptoms in humans. Lead, cadmium and aluminum can also be found in certain cookware products.

I reviewed as many scientific studies and my conclusion is:  There is only a trace amount, if any, PFOA in a finished Teflon pan. Studies showed that a pan has to reach over 685 degrees to release fumes and most pans on the burner do not reach this temp. The majority of PFOA contamination in the environment is thought to come from chemical plants.

Okay so I am not overly concerned yet, I like to play it safe and limit my exposure to any potentially toxic substances. The Environmental Working Group recommends that you choose safer cookware to reduce the risk of inhaling toxic particles when you let that non-stick pan get a little too hot. Some safe alternatives are cast iron and stainless steel, ceramic titanium and porcelain enameled cast iron.

Fortunately there are many new safer alternative cookware products designed to reduce these potential hazards. I have done some research to find a set of new pans for my household that are reviewed to be safer yet still give a nice nonstick cooking surface.

Here are my top choices:

Le Creuset enameled cast iron pans with a matte black interior.

WearEver Pure Living. This is the “value” choice for a set. It has received high ratings from good Housekeeping, and Amazon users.

Scanpan. Consumer Search says that reviews indicate that the best performing and longest lasting of safer pans is Scanpan Classic. This is the more expensive option but a highly regarded set.




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Quick and Easy Healthy Recipes from Cooking Light

Quick and Easy Healthy Recipes from Cooking Light
An important step in creating a healthy lifestyle is collecting healthy recipes, experimenting with them and then creating your own “family favorite” cookbook with the recipes that your family likes.  
I have added a healthy cooking tip for each recipe to teach you some of the principles of healthy cooking. 
These quick and easy recipes from Cooking Light use ingredients you most likely have or can easily get at the supermarket. 
If you are looking for other simple to make meal ideas see this blog on minimal cook healthy meals.  Or this blog with healthy crockpot meals.
Healthy cooking lesson: For easy dinner prep, these are some of the items used in these recipes to have on hand:  
Part-skim mozzarella cheese 
Reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese 
Feta Cheese (freeze any you don’t use within a couple days) 
Frozen mixed vegetables
Frozen shrimp
Frozen chicken breasts
Jarred Marinara sauce
Quick cooking barley or bulgur
Fat-free, less-sodium chicken brothCanned diced tomatoes   Click here to see the best tasting canned tomatoes
Canned black beans
Pasta This one is award winning.
Kalamata olives in a jar
Soy sauce
Dark sesame oil
Cheesy Chicken Bagel Pizzas 
Healthy cooking lesson: Buy two rotisserie chickens. Eat one for dinner and then use the other to make the shredded chicken for this recipe. Cooking Light SEPTEMBER 2011Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 bagel pizza)


2 (4 1/2-inch, 2 1/4-ounce) plain or whole grain bagels, sliced in half

1/2 cup lower-sodium marinara sauce

1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken breast

1 cup pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


1. Preheat broiler.

2. Place bagel halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until lightly toasted.

3. Spread 2 tablespoons marinara on cut side of each bagel half. Top each half with 1/4 cup chicken, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Broil bagel halves an additional 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

Calories: 268

Fat: 8g

Saturated fat: 4.2g

Monounsaturated fat: 2.4g

Polyunsaturated fat: 0.6g

Protein: 22.1g

Carbohydrate: 32.7g

Fiber: 1g

Cholesterol: 47mg

Iron: 2.9mg

Sodium: 516mg

Calcium: 251mg

Chicken and Barley Stew

Healthy cooking lesson: Frozen chopped onion makes this dish even quicker to prepare. If you use them, add with the frozen mixed vegetables. Instead of barley, you can use bulgur.

Cooking Light JANUARY 2004

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 3/4 cups)


1 cup uncooked quick-cooking barley

3 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 3/4 cups chopped onion

1 (10-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables

1 cup chopped cooked chicken

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Bring barley and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

While barley cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add mixed vegetables; sauté 2 minutes. Add vegetable mixture, chicken, salt, thyme, and pepper to barley mixture; simmer 4 minutes.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

Calories: 356

Calories from fat: 19%

Fat: 7.5g

Saturated fat: 1.5g

Monounsaturated fat: 1.9g

Polyunsaturated fat: 3.3g

Protein: 22.7g

Carbohydrate: 50.7g

Fiber: 12.1g

Cholesterol: 31mg

Iron: 3.1mg

Sodium: 763mg

Calcium: 54mg

Black Bean Soup

Healthy cooking lesson: Top this hearty and healthy black bean soup with a dollop of low-fat sour cream and/or chopped green onions. Add leftover meat to this if you’d like. Or pack some for tomorrow’s lunch.

Cooking Light APRIL 2005

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)


1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup minced onion

1/4 cup diced green bell pepper

3 tablespoons chopped carrot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup water

3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Sliced green onions (optional)


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, minced onion, bell pepper, and carrot. Cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and the next 4 ingredients (through black pepper); sauté 3 minutes. Add broth, water, and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

Place half of soup in a blender, and process until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining soup. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

Calories: 221

Calories from fat: 17%

Fat: 4.1g

Saturated fat: 0.3g

Monounsaturated fat: 1.7g

Polyunsaturated fat: 1.9g

Protein: 12g

Carbohydrate: 32g

Fiber: 12.4g

Cholesterol: 0.0mg

Iron: 4.8mg

Sodium: 643mg

Calcium: 84mg

Shrimp Arrabbiata

This dish’s name–arrabbiata–comes from the Italian word for “angry” because of the spicy tomato and red pepper sauce.

Healthy cooking lesson: This sauce is versatile. If you want, double the tomato sauce and freeze half for a jump start on a future meal. You can even use this sauce to top grilled pork or other meats. Or feel free to substitute scallops or chicken chunks for the shrimp. Use Barilla Plus pasta for more nutrition and fiber.

Cooking Light MARCH 2006

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup shrimp mixture and 1 cup pasta)


6 ounces fresh linguine

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup prechopped onion

2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (use less if you don’t like more mild spicy)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with salt; add shrimp to pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done. Transfer shrimp to a bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add onion, minced garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or just until sauce begins to thicken. Return shrimp to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Add parsley to the pan, stirring well to combine. Serve over pasta.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

Calories: 343

Calories from fat: 26%

Fat: 10g

Saturated fat: 1.4g

Monounsaturated fat: 6g

Polyunsaturated fat: 1.7g

Protein: 29.4g

Carbohydrate: 33.1g

Fiber: 3.7g

Cholesterol: 172mg

Iron: 4.6mg

Sodium: 594mg

Calcium: 91mg

Southwestern Omelet

Healthy cooking lesson: Omelets are a quick dinner idea. Black beans and cheddar make for a southwestern-inspired hearty omelet filling, but feel free to vary this recipe by using kidney beans or Monterey Jack cheese instead. Serve with a big green or fruit salad.

Cooking Light APRIL 2002

Yield: 2 servings


2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large egg whites

1 large egg

1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup (1 ounce) reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup bottled salsa

Cooking spray


Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine beans, onions, cheese, and salsa in a medium bowl.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Pour egg mixture into pan; let egg mixture set slightly. Tilt pan and carefully lift edges of omelet with a spatula; allow uncooked portion to flow underneath cooked portion. Cook 3 minutes; flip omelet. Spoon bean mixture onto half of omelet. Carefully loosen omelet with a spatula; fold in half. Cook 1 minute or until cheese melts. Slide omelet onto a plate; cut in half.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

Calories: 181

Calories from fat: 27%

Fat: 5.5g

Saturated fat: 2.3g

Monounsaturated fat: 1g

Polyunsaturated fat: 0.8g

Protein: 20.2g

Carbohydrate: 13.8g

Fiber: 6g

Cholesterol: 116mg

Iron: 2.1mg

Sodium: 822mg

Calcium: 184mg

Ham and Egg Fried Rice

Fried rice has the best texture when prepared with cold cooked rice, making it an ideal use for leftovers. Healthy cooking lesson: Tiny rounds of thinly sliced green beans add flecks of color and crunch. Feel free to be creative. Experiment with other vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, or  sugar snap peas.

Cooking Light SEPTEMBER 2008

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups)


4 cups cold cooked long-grain rice

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup thinly horizontally sliced green beans

3/4 cup diced ham (about 4 ounces)

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup (1-inch) slices green onions


1. Break up rice with hands to remove large clumps, if necessary.

2. Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add canola oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add 1 1/2 cups onion and garlic to wok; stir-fry 1 minute or until onion begins to brown. Add beans and ham; stir-fry 2 minutes or until ham begins to brown.

3. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add cold rice to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Push rice mixture up sides of wok. Pour eggs in open space in center of wok; cook 30 seconds or until set, stirring to scramble. Gently stir scrambled eggs into rice mixture. Sprinkle with green onions.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

Calories: 397

Calories from fat: 29%

Fat: 12.8g

Saturated fat: 2.3g

Monounsaturated fat: 5.4g

Polyunsaturated fat: 3.2g

Protein: 14.5g

Carbohydrate: 54.5g

Fiber: 2.8g

Cholesterol: 121mg

Iron: 3.3mg

Sodium: 868mg

Calcium: 57mg


Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and Olives

Serve over whole wheat couscous, with dressed greens on the side.

Cooking Light SEPTEMBER 2009

Yield: 4 servings


4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 cup multicolored cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons oil and vinegar dressing, divided

20 olives, halved -Kalamata and/or picholine olives

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese


Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Keep warm. Combine tomatoes, 1 1/2 tablespoons dressing, and olives in a medium skillet over medium heat, and cook for 2 minutes or until tomatoes soften slightly and mixture is thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Brush chicken with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons dressing. Cut each chicken breast half into 3/4-inch slices. Top each chicken breast half with 1/4 cup tomato mixture. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese and torn basil leaves, if desired.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

Calories: 348

Fat: 17.3g

Saturated fat: 4.4g

Monounsaturated fat: 5g

Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2g

Protein: 41.9g

Carbohydrate: 3.9g

Fiber: 0.6g

Cholesterol: 111mg

Iron: 1.6mg

Sodium: 810mg

Calcium: 100mg


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