Cooking With Catholic Mom
Meal Makeovers


Each of these great recipes is from the wonderful The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers: Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time! by Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss (Broadway Books, January 2004, paperback, 349 pages).  To read our interview with the authors, click here.

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Cooking With Catholic Mom

Mama’s Amazing Ziti  (Makes 6 Servings)

When Liz was growing up, her mother’s signature dish was an amazingly delicious baked ziti.  Made with a pound of ground beef, half a pound of ziti, two cans of Campbell’s tomato soup, and a ton of cheese, it was a big hit with the entire family.  Our updated version is still a big hit but with only a fraction of the original saturated fat and sodium.  

1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean or higher)
2 large carrots, shredded (about 2 cups) or 2 cups pre-shredded carrots
Two 10 ¾-ounce cans 30%-less-sodium tomato soup
Two cans water
8 ounces dried ziti (about 2 ½ cups)
1 tsp dried basil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 cup pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and carrots and cook, breaking up the large pieces, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Drain excess fat.  Add the tomato soup, water, ziti, basil, garlic powder, and onion powder and stir until well blended.  Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and cook, covered, at a low boil, until the ziti is tender, about 25 minutes.  Stir occasionally. Stir in the mozzarella cheese.  Serve in individual bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Calories 370, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 4.5g, Sodium 580mg, Carbohydrates 46g, Fiber 3g, Protein 27g


Quick Quesadilla Pockets  (Makes 6 Servings)

To eat “fast food” without cruising through the drive thru, try these Quick Quesadilla Pockets.  Unlike fast food -- often loaded with saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium -- this easy weeknight dish is bursting with fiber and super nutrition.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced (about 1 ½ cups)
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 ½ cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
One 15 ½-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup salsa
2 cups pre-shredded reduced-fat Mexican blend or Cheddar cheese
Six to eight 8-inch flour tortillas
One 2 ¼-ounce can sliced black olives, drained, optional
½ cup reduced-fat sour cream, optional

Lightly oil or coat a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the peppers, chili powder, and onion powder and cook until the peppers are tender, about 5 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Add the corn, beans, salsa, and 1½ cups of the cheese to the skillet and cook until the mixture is heated through and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.  To assemble the quesadillas, arrange the bean mixture evenly over half of each tortilla.  Fold over, press down gently, and place each on the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and olives as desired over the tortillas.  Bake until the cheese melts and the tortillas become crisp on the outside, about 10 minutes.  Cut into quarters and serve.  Top with sour cream as desired.

Calories 350, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 2g, Sodium 630mg, Carbohydrates 49g, Fiber 9g, Protein 18g


A-Plus Alphabet Soup  (Makes 4 Servings)

We’ve never met a kid who didn’t love alphabet soup.  Moms love it too for its simplicity.  But a lot of commercial brands have ingredients like monosodium glutamate and not enough protein or calories to call it a meal.  With the help of Janice’s daughter Carolyn, we concocted our own homemade version brimming with colorful vegetables and hearty, iron-rich chickpeas.     

2 cups all-natural chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 ½ cups water
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
4 ounces dried alphabet pasta (about 3/4 cup)
1 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
One 7 ¾-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Add the broth, water, and tomato sauce to a medium saucepan and stir to combine.  Cover and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, vegetables, and chickpeas, and boil gently, uncovered, until the pasta is done, 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir occasionally. Serve in individual bowls and top with Parmesan cheese as desired.

Calories 230, Total Fat 1g, Saturated Fat 0g, Sodium 670mg, Carbohydrates 46g, Fiber 7g, Protein 10g


Corny Tuna Cakes  (Makes 4 Servings)

You can’t beat the convenience of canned tuna but let’s face it, tuna sandwiches can get a bit boring after a while.  For a change of pace, try these Corny Tuna Cakes cooked in healthy canola oil.

Two 6-ounce cans solid white, water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
¾ cup pre-shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
¾ cup dried bread crumbs, divided
2/3 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/3 cup light canola mayonnaise
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon canola oil

Combine the tuna, cheese, ¼ cup bread crumbs, corn, mayonnaise, and egg in a medium bowl and mix until well blended.  Shape the mixture into 8 patties and coat with the remaining ½ cup bread crumbs.    Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Cook the patties until golden brown, 5 minutes.  Add the remaining oil, flip the patties and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

Calories 340, Total Fat 14g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Sodium 740mg, Carbohydrates 22g, Fiber 1g, Protein 30g


Chocolate Pudding with Toppers  (Makes 6 Servings)

One of the easiest ways to make chocolate pudding for the kids is to grab a fifty-cent box of instant pudding mix and cook it up.  Instant pudding is certainly convenient but with it can come artificial flavors and colors including red 40, yellow 5, and blue 1.  For an all-natural alternative, take a few extra minutes and make our chocolate pudding from scratch.  

½ cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups 1% lowfat milk
½ cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Gradually whisk in the milk until well blended.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer, stirring gently, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt and vanilla.  Spoon the mixture into 6 individual serving bowls.  Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for at least 1 hour.  Top with your choice of crushed graham crackers, chopped nuts, fresh berries, or granola.

Calories 160, Total Fat 1.5g, Saturated Fat 1g, Sodium 115mg, Carbohydrate 31g, Fiber 1g, Protein 5g Recommends:


Reprinted with permission