Plan for Success

We all know how the holidays can be nearly impossible to eat light and healthy. Seriously, it’s so difficult when faced with tins upon tins of cookies, a profusion of rich, roast meats, and cheese-laden party buffets. It’s hard. I’ve wavered a bit with my points tracking and then I caught an awful cold and quit exercising. That my friends, spells disaster with a capital D.

To have even a remote chance of success, you have to set yourself up for it. If you create an environment that makes healthy eating and exercise too challenging, you are messing with flat-out failure. You need a plan. My friend and colleague Michelle Dudash has just published  Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes with Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will LoveClean Eating for Busy Families takes the challenge out of putting delicious food on the table by providing you with a plan for success. Oh, how I love a plan!


It can be such a struggle get dinner on the table night after night. Parents want to prepare healthy and meals for their family, but busy schedules, tempting drive-throughs, and expensive ready-to-go foods get in the way. In Clean Eating for Busy Families, Michelle offers weekly grocery lists, awesome recipes, and practical tips for healthy eating. Most of the recipes can be prepared in 30 minutes or less and are created from healthy, whole foods. Kids or no kids, these recipes are good and good for you. I think you will love this book.

The praise has been stellar!

This refreshing cookbook truly reflects our time by delivering what we all crave: decidedly delectable meals that boast fresh, natural ingredients, robust flavors, exciting textures, and vibrant colors.”
-Robin Miller, nutritionist and host of Food Network’s Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller

“Clean Eating for Busy Families is a valuable resource for busy parents who yearn to serve their families great tasting, nutritious meals in the time they have available.”
-Cheryl Forberg, R.D., James Beard award-winning chef and the original nutritionist for NBC’S The Biggest Loser

Thanks to Michelle’s generosity, I am giving away a copy of  her awesome book! It’s a random drawing for US only, please. 

  1. To do so, please leave your email address in a comment at the bottom of this post.
  2. For good contest karma, follow Michelle on Twitter
  3. Love my giveaways? Please Like me on Facebook to keep up with upcoming giveaways! I’ve got some great cookbooks coming your way!

Team Hidi

I want to share something else on a more serious note. This post is about clean eating and being healthy. Yet, sadly, sometimes life doesn’t cooperate. My friend and colleague chef Ryan Hidinger was diagnosed with Stage IV gallbladder cancer that has spread to his liver and lungs. The Atlanta food community is joining together and trying to help Ryan with donations like “Round Up for Ryan”, where you can round up your check at participating Atlanta restaurants. There’s also an amazing fundraiser and live auction on January 27. There are events happening all over the country for this brave man. Please check it out to read more about Ryan’s courageous story and to see how you can help. Thank you for your consideration.

I hope you enjoy Michelle’s Turkey Meatloaf and my recipe for Lightened Up Mashed Potatoes. Add green beans or stir-fried greens for a well-rounded and most excellent meal. You’ll see that simple, minor adaptations can result in big changes. If so-called “Diet Food” is meatloaf and mashed potatoes, that’s plan for success!

Bon Appétit Y’all!


Michelle’s Turkey, Vegetable & Oat Mini-Meatloaves with Marinara Sauce

I love that meatloaf can be mixed ahead of time and popped into the oven right before dinner, and making smaller loaves cuts cooking time by half. If you want to make the mixture ahead of time and refrigerate, just be sure to let it temper for 20 minutes on the counter before putting it in the oven to ensure more even cooking.

Expeller-pressed canola oil spray
1 (8-ounce, or 225 g) package crimini (baby bella) mushrooms (about2½ cups)
1 small yellow onion, cut into eighths (1 cup, or 160 g)
4 cloves garlic (or 2 teaspoons [6 g] minced)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (80 g) dry rolled oats
2 large eggs
1 pound (455 g) lean ground turkey (or beef or bison)
1¾ cups (438 g) pasta sauce, divided
3 tablespoons (45 ml) red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon (6 g) Italian herb seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°˚C, or gas mark 5). Coat a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan or six mini loaf pans with spray. Pulse mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped and add them to a large bowl. Repeat with onion and garlic.

Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add oil. When oil is shimmering, add vegetables and sauté for 7 minutes or until water releases and evaporates completely, lowering the heat as necessary. Set aside.

Process the oats until they are of a fine consistency. Whisk the eggs in the bowl used for the vegetables. Add processed oats, turkey, ¾ cup (188 g) of pasta sauce, cooked vegetables, vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and stir together with a fork until blended.

Scoop the mixture into 6 mounds on the pan or into each mini-loaf pan, about ¾ cup (187 g) each. Shape each mound into a 4 x 2-inch (10 x 5 cm) loaf. Spread remaining 1 cup (250 g) of pasta sauce on top of the loaves, distributing evenly. Bake on middle rack for 25 minutes, turning pan midway through cooking, until loaves are firm or a thermometer inserted in the middle reads at least 165°F (74°C). Allow loaves to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Total Prep and Cook Time: 55 minutes • Yield: 6 servings, 1 loaf each. Per serving: 330 calories; 12 g total fat; 3 g saturated fat; 23 g protein; 32 g carbohydrate; 5 g dietary fiber; 115 mg cholesterol.


Virginia’s Lightened Up Yukon Gold Mash
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup homemade chicken stock or reduced fat low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the potatoes and cover with cold water. Season with salt, bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Gently simmer until fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until a floury film forms on the bottom of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Mash the potatoes in the saucepan until smooth with a ricer, food mill, or potato masher. Stir in the stock and sour cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

potato photo credit Claire Perez 

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Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.