BURRITO BAR; The “everyone is happy meal”

One of our weeknight standbys is always “Mexican Night.” It’s quick to throw together even after swim lessons and after school activities. I always have what I need on hand so it’s the perfect dinner when I feel like there is nothing super creative I can come up with quickly. Perhaps the best part about it is that it allows me to put out all the components separately so everyone can pick and choose what they like. That means no whining!!


Here’s What You Need:

Brown Rice (I use 2 bags of Uncle Ben’s 10 Minute Boil in Bag)

1/2 onion, sliced

1 bell pepper, sliced

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 baked chicken breast (and/or 1 package of tofu or tempeh)

1 can black beans

1 can corn

1 avocado, chopped

Shredded Mexican Cheese (Organic Valley)


Hot Sauce



1 package sprouted wheat or corn tortillas


Ok, this is so simple that it’s not even really a recipe. First prepare the chicken, tofu or tempeh. I usually just bake the chicken with a little olive oil and salt and pepper so the kids won’t complain that it’s too spicy. For the tofu and tempeh I slice it in long strips and saute it on the stove with EVOO and salt and pepper until browned on each side. Saute onions and peppers (and any other veggies you like) on the stove over medium high heat with a bit of EVOO until soft and browned.

Prepare the rice according to package directions. Drain the beans and corn and heat up in the microwave. Heat up tortillas and put out toppings including salsa, cheese, avocado, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, lime wedges and whatever else you like.

Since the kids aren’t so great at eating burritos I typically throw together a little quesadilla for them. For this one I used chicken, cheese and beans. Put it under the broiler for a few minutes until toasty.IMG_8425

Then let everyone make their way through the “Burrito Bar” line and choose what they like. My kids typically put a little bit of various things on their plate. My husband likes to make a big fat burrito and then toast it under the broiler. No, we do not always have name place cards on the dinner table, but this night my kids wanted to make it fancy I guess. I usually make a burrito bowl with rice, beans, corn, veggies, tofu, avocado, hot sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.

And there you have it! A “clean”, nutritious quick dinner that your kids will eat without any complaints and that you and your hubby will enjoy too!


My Meatless Mediterranean Cookout

This article was featured in the May issue of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine. 

IMG_0004_NEW 2As owners of a century-old wholesale produce market here in Cleveland, it’s probably not surprising that our family loves fresh, healthy food. We say a love of fruits and veggies runs in our blood. We also love to entertain friends and family. It allows us to share our passion for healthy cooking and share the abundant fresh fruits and vegetables we are lucky enough to bring home from work.

When I plan a party I can’t help but create a theme. Nothing too kitchy, just something to help me focus on creating a cohesive, well thought-out menu. With Italian roots, I am often drawn to preparing my Grandma’s recipes when entertaining. I like to “clean them up” by replacing any heavy ingredients high in fat or calories with lighter ones. As summer approaches I also enjoy putting my spin on the classic American cookout. Today I’ve combined both in this mediterranean inspired summer cookout menu.

No matter what I’m serving, my approach to cooking is always about eating “real” foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, with little to no processing and few ingredients. My husband and I are both vegetarians, so you’ll find a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and meat free protein on our plates.

IMG_8325Let your kids help you in the kitchen when possible. While it does take extra time and patience, it teaches them so much about what goes into healthy meals. And they’re more likely to try new meals if they had a hand in creating them. They don’t seem so scary when served if the kids already tasted the ingredients going into the dish. Plus it creates an opportunity for fun memories between the two of you.

Here are a few of my tried and true, original recipes to help you put a healthier spin on some traditional summer time party favorites. I’ll call it “American Cookout meets Italian Bistro.” Whether you serve them at a party or simply to your own family, we think you’ll find these dishes to be crowd pleasers.


IMG_8179Most summer cookouts include burgers. As a vegetarian I have attended many where I’ve been stuck eating just a bun with a squirt of mustard. Why not serve an inspired meat-free option that will please the herbivores and surprise the carnivores all at once? I have tried many store-bought veggie burgers and experimented with various combinations of foods to create my own. I am confident this is one of the best I have tasted. They’re easy to make ahead, freeze and grill up when entertaining. Serve alone or alongside traditional burgers. The sliders are so cute that the kiddos might even give them a try.

What You Need:

2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups chopped portabello mushrooms

1 can chickpeas

1/2 cup Kalamata olives

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons tomato sauce

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat bread crumbs

1 bunch fresh basil

6 to 12 sprouted wheat hamburger buns or dinner rolls (for sliders). I use Alvarado or Angelic brands.

2 roma tomatoes, sliced

1 package fresh mozzarella, sliced

Sundried Tomato Pesto

Makes 6 burgers or 12 sliders.


Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms until softened, for about 5 minutes.

Transfer half of the skillet mixture along with half the can of chickpeas and half the olives to a food processor. Set aside the other half of the skillet mixture, chickpeas and olives. Add vinegar, marinara, basil, oregano and salt to the food processor. Pulse mixture until combined but still chunky. Pulse in the whole wheat flour until well combined. Add in remaining half of skillet mixture, chickpeas, olives and fresh basil. Pulse a couple of times to chop up chunks, still leaving some olives and chickpeas visible. Transfer to a bowl. Form into golf sized balls for sliders or larger for patties and flatten into burger shape.

Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium high heat. Saute the patties in batches for 2 to 3 minutes per side until browned and heated through. To grill, freeze patties overnight. Place on the grill frozen.

Toast sprouted wheat buns. Spread sundried tomato pesto on bun (I use half to make an open faced, knife and fork burger). Stack burger, one or two leaves of fresh basil, one slice of fresh mozzarella and one or two slices of tomato. Enjoy.


Pasta salad; another common summer cookout dish. But this is not your grandma’s, mayonnaise laden pasta salad. Here’s my colorful and clean go-to recipe. It’s simple enough for a backyard cook out, yet pretty enough for a nice dinner party.


What You Need:

IMG_82241 lb. whole wheat fusilli

1 eggplant, cut in 1” circles then quartered

1/2 red onion, 1” diced

1 red bell pepper, 1” diced

1 zucchini, cut in half moons

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. salt

For Dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt


To Finish:

1/2 cup pinenuts, toasted

1/4 cup goat cheese

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 425. Chop vegetables and garlic and place on a large sheet pan. Toss with two tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping half way. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Combine dressing ingredients and mix with whisk. Toast pine nuts over medium heat on dry skillet. Watch them closely as they burn easily.

Add the roasted vegetables and the dressing to the pasta along with most of the pine nuts and 3/4 of the goat cheese and basil. Stir well to combine. Sprinkle remaining pine nuts, goat cheese and basil on top. Serve at room temperature.

Perhaps you’re thinking that your kids won’t eat this with all the vegetables mixed in. If so, simply serve the pasta in a separate bowl as the vegetables and let everyone build their own plate.IMG_8348


Set up a pizza bar including a variety of nutritious toppings and let the kiddos play chef. I use store-bought, whole wheat pitas or whole wheat tortillas for the crust. They’re the perfect size for personal pizzas.

Serve it all up with a big salad. I included pomegranate seeds, pistachios and feta in mine.

I hope you enjoy entertaining with my Meatless Mediterranean Cookout recipes as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you. Stay tuned for dessert!

21 Day Fix Followers

Burgers = 1 red, 1 yellow (half a bun), 1 blue (with mozzarella), 1 green, 1 tsp.

Pasta = 1 yellow, 1 green, 1/2 blue, 1 tsp.


A New Challenge

In some of my most recent posts I’ve opened up about how I ended 2015 in a bit of a slump.  My clothes barely fit, I was ten pounds heavier than before I began running marathons and I was experiencing a major case of the post race blues. I needed to make a change.

While I always eat healthy and exercise at least 5 days a week, for a little while I was sort of just going through the motions. I needed something to reenergize and remotivate me. I needed a new challenge that didn’t involve running further or faster.

So when a friend of mine invited me to join in her 21 Day Fix Challenge this past February, it sounded like the perfect way to start off the new year and the first month of my 38th year. I have to be honest, I was a little hesitant to make a big deal about it when I first committed. Here’s why:

  1. I was afraid it could turn out to be another set of wimpy DVDs that barely made me sweat.
  2. I thought I knew pretty much everything I needed to know about eating clean and proper nutrition. I was skeptical that this could teach me anything new.
  3. I wanted to see what sort of results I got before I told anyone too much about it.
  4. I thought all my readers and friends might think it was lame that I was signing up to do a Beachbody program.

But here’s the thing. It’s about ten weeks later and now I’ve completed both the 21 Day Fix and I’m halfway through the Beachbody Hammer & Chisel program (while also running a few days a week to prepare for my spring half marathon.) And guess what. I’ve accomplished a lot.

Yes, I have achieved some physical changes;

  • I’m 10 lbs lighter.
  • I’ve lost inches of fat.
  • I’ve reduced my body fat percentage.

But, aside from the stats, I’m actually more excited about some other changes the program helped me achieve and some lessons I’ve learned as a result.

  1. The ankle pain from my injuries last summer and fall is virtually gone. My body is stronger, so my ankles are stronger. This makes me a stronger, more confident runner too.
  2. I’ve eliminated some bad eating habits that I picked up during marathon training, like snacking too much and eating extra treats after the kids go to bed. Since I’m not burning 1000+ calories per day from running so much, I’m not starving all the time and I can keep better tabs on my nutrition. I rarely crave sweets.
  3. I’ve picked up some healthier eating habits like reaching for vegetables instead of protein bars and drinking a lot more water.
  4. I can fit in my training before the kids are up so I have the three hours that John is at preschool to fit in work instead of workouts. I’m doing weight training from home that I really only thought could be accomplished at a gym. Who knew you could get a DVD workout program that has you doing cleans and jerks? Yes, you can. I do take a few mornings to add running in too.
  5. My whole body is stronger; my arms, my legs, my core. I’m not trying to look like some bikini model or weight lifting competitor. I just want to feel good in my skin, be strong, healthy and focused so I approach life with energy, confidence and guts. This program helped me feel that way again.


  • IMG_5757I’ve realized that finding the most fit, healthy version of myself doesn’t mean doing as much cardio as I can possibly fit in. It doesn’t mean running for as long and far as I can. It means doing a little bit of a lot of activities with a BIG focus on strength training. It means really honing in on feeding my body the proper combination of the right amount of whole foods. While I’ve tracked macronutrients for years (carbs, proteins and fats) along with calories, I was not necessarily always getting them in the right combinations to help my body burn fat and build muscle. I lacked confidence that I was doing it right. The 21 Day Fix helped me perfect my nutrition planning.
  • I feel more balanced than ever. I am motivated and focused, but not obsessive or ego-driven. I’m back to my happy, positive, BALANCED self. 

So while I have to say that I started out thinking I’d be the last person to recommend such a program, that is exactly what I’m doing.

Here’s a couple other things I like about it.

  • IMG_8196The recommended foods don’t require you to make time consuming recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, the simpler the better. For example, right now for lunch I commonly eat simply two hardboiled eggs, a cup of baby carrots, and a piece of sprouted wheat toast with 1/4 avocado mashed on it.
  • It’s not about depriving yourself of entire food groups like some other clean eating/cleanse programs. You are given a long list of foods that fit in each group and you can chose any combination of them from that list.

Normally in a post like this is where you see before and after photos of someone standing in their bikini inspecting the way their body looks in the mirror with their phone in front of their face. I hate those.

BUT, I’m including a photo of myself post program only because I want to show you how strong I feel. Am I trying to reach pop culture’s idea of the perfect body? No. I will never achieve that. Nor do I really want to. Been down that route and it’s really not a healthy one. Do I have a six pack and totally cut arms? Nope! But here is me feeling happy and focused again which feels so much better than the lack of focus I was experiencing just a few months ago.


So why did I write this post? To show off pictures of myself in my sports bra? Hardly.

I wanted to reach out to any of you who might be in the same position that I was in at the end of 2015. Perhaps you might be looking to make a change and try something different, to find new focus and balance.

If you’re in this boat then I want to invite you to join me and other women as we embark on a new challenge together. I was invited to be the “featured expert/blogger/celebrity” (ha ha!) in a new Beachbody Challenge group that we created called “Fixate for Family.” If you’re interested keep reading.


Starting May 9th here’s what we’ll do


  • WORKOUT 30 MINUTES EVERY DAY FOR 21 DAYS. Together we’ll follow the 21 Day Fix program which includes 6 workouts (one for each day that you repeat in a certain order). They can all be done from home. They were challenging enough for me (a person who had already been doing some weight training and who had just run a few marathons). But they aren’t so challenging that you hate and dread doing them. They are actually enjoyable. Each is only 30 minutes. You can do them from your DVD player or using your phone with Beachbody on Demand or with Apple TV. See the link at the bottom of the page for ordering these workouts through me from Beachbody. I’ll be your coach!
  • EAT CLEAN – When you order the program you get all of this stuff above (Fixate Cookbook is separate). It includes the nutrition planning book along with the colored serving containers. The book tells you how many calories thus how many containers you get of each food group each day. You track them through a free app. It also provides some simple recipes. If you want more recipes you can order the Fixate cookbook. And I’ll be sharing my weekly meal plan and other special recipes through my blog to use with the program!!
  • TRANSFORM YOUR FAMILY’S DIET TOO! We’re calling this “Fixate for Family” because we know that many of you are moms and dads who have kids to feed.
  • We know you don’t want to follow a clean diet plan that requires you to make a separate meal for yourself and then “kid food” for your kids. That’s too much work and it’s poor food role modeling.
  • We understand that you want to help your family eliminate all the processed food that is lingering around your house, but you don’t want to listen to the whining or for them to go hungry. So you keep making them the chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and pizza you know they’ll eat quietly.
  • Through our “Fixate for Family” challenge we want to help you eat healthier while also helping your family to clean up their diet too. I’ll make it easier to do this by sharing my tried and true, family friendly, clean eating meal plan, recipes and shopping list. 
  • PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP – Just say the word and we’ll add you to the private Facebook group where I (along with a few other coaches) will provide daily motivation, inspiration, clean eating tips for you and your family and accountability.

If you want to join us on this challenge, you can email me at ashleycweingart@gmail.com. or you can comment on this post. You can also go ahead and order the 21 Day Fix and Fixate Cookbook to prepare.

But don’t wait too long because it takes a good 7 days for you to receive your materials. Here are the links!

21 Day Fix Workouts, Nutrition Plan, Recipes, Containers & Shakes

Fixate Cookbook

I can’t wait to hear from you! We are so excited to begin on May 9. Share with a friend so you can do it together!

Look for some posts from me the week before the challenge starts where I will include my supplemental family friendly, clean eating 7 day meal plan and shopping list! 

Hal Higdon Book Feature

I was pretty surprised when I received an email from long time Runner’s World Magazine contributor Hal Higdon telling me he wanted to quote me in the Half Marathon Training book he was writing. I was even more surprised when I received a signed copy of the book last week (a little over a year later) and discovered my name and a whole page featuring one of my most popular blog posts. Here is the story of how it all happened.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Hal Higdon, he’s kind of a big deal. Hal has contributed to Runner’s World for longer than any other writer, an article by him having appeared in that publication’s second issue in 1966. He is the author of 36 books, including a novel, Marathon, and the best-selling Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. He is also one of the founders of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). As a new runner, Hal’s training programs featured on his website were paramount in me going from a 2 to 3 mile runner to  a marathon runner in just a few short years.

In January of 2015 when he was writing his new book about half marathons, Mr. Higdon asked his Facebook community (all 71,000+ of them) if they remembered their first run and the emotions they felt. He asked what advice we would give other new runners. I commented on the post with a somewhat lengthy story. Here’s what I wrote.

“After my third child was born in 2012, I was able to quickly take off most of the baby weight through various forms of exercise other than running. When we went away on vacation, and I didn’t have my elliptical machine, I decided to try going for a short jog down the beach: only a mile or two. I always had knee trouble, so running was usually out of the question, but I thought maybe the sand would be easier on the knees. I enjoyed that first run enough that when I got home from vacation, I began running more, and then more, and then some more after that. One year later I ran my first half marathon. I have since done four more halfs, plus the Big Sur Marathon Relay, where I ran 16 miles. My advice to new runners is: Just believe in yourself. You are capable of achieving so much more than you know. Let go of fear and seek ‘the impossible.’ You won’t know if you can do it unless you try. You may just discover a new love and talent you didn’t even know you had in you.”

On January 27, 2015 I received a personal email from Hal Higdon asking me if he could use what I wrote in my Facebook post in his book. After I got over laughing and shaking my head, of course I said yes! Then after I slept on it, the marketer in me decided I’d be stupid if I didn’t tell him about my blog and ask him what he thought of my recent post called, “10 Reasons Why I Run.

Apparently he liked it because the next day he shared it on his Facebook page. My blog and my Facebook page lit up, making it the most popular post I had ever written generating more than 12,000 views and doubling my Facebook following. It was popular on Hal’s site too. Here’s what he says about it in Chapter 5 “Why We Run.”

“The post 10 Reasons Why I Run, was written by Ashley Weingart, who writes the blog Running with Skissors. Weingart’s post definitely resonated with readers after I posted a link to it on my Facebook page. Within 48 hours her 10 reasons achieved more than 100,000 reaches, a thousand shares and several hundred comments from those who visit my page regularly.”


He sent me an email in early February of 2015 to tell me that he felt my reasons were so relatable to other runners that he would feature a page with the highlights of my “10 Reasons” post. I was ecstatic!

After that exchange he also forwarded my post to Tish Hamilon, the Editor of Runner’s World. I never heard from her (not surprising I suppose). Mr. Higdon then became a sort of mentor of mine. I asked him for feedback on posts I was writing and he even gave me the stamp of approval on my Busy Mom Marathon Training Plan and my Half Marathon Training Plan. He shared blog posts I published about all three of the marathons I ran in 2015 (Big Sur MarathonCleveland Marathon and the Chicago Marathon) helping to build a community through my blog that reaches around the globe.

I was so excited to finally meet him at the Marathon Expo in Chicago last October. I got to shake his hand and thank him for all he had done to help me explore my love of running and to help boost my confidence as a writer. I do have a Journalism degree, but it had been years since I put it all into practice.


Finally this past week I received the new book, Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training! I had no idea whether I was actually mentioned in there or not. To be honest I had kind of forgotten all about it until I saw an ad online that the book was now on sale. When it arrived I sifted through it quickly and didn’t see my name anywhere. My husband sent me a note later that afternoon while I was at ice skating with my daughter to tell me that it was right there on page 51 in black and white. Pretty cool especially considering in 2012 I had never run more than a mile. Now I was featured in a book about half marathons???


So at this point I realize that it appears as though I am just tooting my own horn. Perhaps I am a little. But there is a message I’m getting to and it is this.

Don’t give up on your dreams and never stop searching for new ones.

I left my job as an advertising executive in 2007 to raise my family. Over the 8 years following I experienced a handful of moments when I wondered if it was the right choice. I missed having people stop and listen when I spoke. I longed for feeling like I had something important to say. At times I yearned for using my talents for something other than folding laundry, changing diapers and organizing closets. Don’t get me wrong, the tasks of a parent are so very important and I wouldn’t trade the days I was lucky enough to be home to raise my babies for anything. But it doesn’t change that I also wanted to feel like I was using my gifts in other ways too. I quietly looked forward to the day when I had time to let my creative light shine again through my writing and my photography. When I could share my passion for life and my inspirational outlook to help others also live their happiest, healthiest, most fulfilling life.

That journey began when I started writing this blog about two years ago and has since opened so many new doors, both professionally and personally. I’ve met hundreds of new friends and fulfilled some wonderful goals. This crazy sequence of events that turned into me being published in a book about half marathons is just one of them.

I wanted to capture these events here on my blog so that I always remember them. (I can’t seem to remember a whole lot after having our third child!) But I also wanted to remind you all to never let yourself think you’re too old (or too far past where you were when you left your career to become a mom) to start something new or revive something old.

That original comment I made about running to Hal Higdon also happens to apply to starting anything new in life…

“Just believe in yourself. You are capable of achieving so much more than you know. Let go of fear and seek ‘the impossible.’ You won’t know if you can do it unless you try. You may just discover a new love and talent you didn’t even know you had in you.”


Confessions of a Running Addict

Something surprising can happen the year after you meet a big huge goal. Like running your first marathon (or your first three in my case). After your mind and your body are so focused, suddenly you feel lost. Well maybe not you, but me.

Following the high of conquering an enormous task, one that seemed impossible at one point, I celebrated for a bit. I felt on top of the world. Powerful. Unstoppable. Like I could achieve anything I set my mind to.

But before long at all, I began feeling lazy. Even as my body was still recovering from the big race, my mind started playing tricks on me as I wavered between never wanting to run ever again and feeling like I must do it again tomorrow. I was enjoying the rest, but hating the way I felt while resting. My mind started telling me I’d never again achieve that goal and in the next breath was planning how I was going to beat my best time. I kept seeking out that same euphoria I felt during those most challenging, yet most satisfying last miles of a marathon. But no other exercise brought me to that place. So, I considered going back for more, to experience the high once again.

But then I recognized the cycle I was in. I challenged myself to NOT attempt a new goal to ween my mind and to lower my expectations. Then came the withdrawal, the self doubt and mood swings.

I have glimpsed dependence. I now understand what it’s like to be an addict, always coming back for more, to quiet my mind and to feel… normal. Except my drug isn’t one you smoke or snort or shoot. It is the endorphin rush I get while using my own two legs to run as far and as fast as I can.

Like an alcoholic who needs more drinks with time to feel the buzz, that same kind of dependence had me needing to run 15 miles to feel high when five miles used to get me there. I’d run through illness and injuries and blizzards. Was I teaching my children discipline or obsession? Dedication or addiction? There’s a fine line.

The end of last year I experienced the low that comes after the ego boost, the confidence lift, the high of running a marathon and then another and another. The beginning of this year I forced myself to take a break from running altogether to bring myself back down to reality. You could say I went “cold turkey.” I focused on getting exercise through other means. And then with a clean slate, I decided to go at it again with a more balanced, less dependent approach. Now I run when I can, because I want to. Not because I need to.

The three marathons I ran in 2015 will always be races and a period of my life of which I will be extremely proud and look upon fondly. Though I have learned that, for me, it is healthier to stick to shorter distances. As I get older I keep confirming through all different aspects of my life, that I am best when I live “in the middle.” Like when I run half marathons or even just a few short miles on the trail instead of three marathons in one year. Or when I strive to eat healthy most of the time and allow myself to splurge some of the time. Or like when I let go of my perfectionist nature and let my house be a little messy.

That is my happy medium where I am not dependent and addictive, but happy, healthy and balanced. That’s where I am now and that’s where I intend to stay.




Eggplant & Rigatoni with Tomato Pesto

IMG_8100Last week I did A LOT of cooking. I was trying to decide which were the best of my recipes to share in an upcoming local magazine feature.

The assignment was to provide “tried and true” party recipes to “wow your guests.”I kept going back and forth about which of my favorites would meet those requirements. “What’s more tried and true than Grandma Carter’s recipes?”, I thought. So I whipped up Grandma’s Eggplant & Rigatoni with Tomato Pesto, with my own little twist. I cooked and I photographed and I served it up to my family. We all gobbled it up and with garlic breath (there is a lot of garlic in here!!!) my husband gave me the two thumbs up.

In the end, I decided not to submit this recipe as part of my magazine article. But not because it wasn’t delicious enough. On the contrary. It is actually one of my favorites. I decided to go with some other dishes that I created on my own and that felt a little more light and summery since warmer weather is right around the corner. (At least I hope! Yesterday we got about 5 inches of snow!)

Long story short, you all are the lucky recipients of this “tried and true” recipe. It will “wow your guests” or even just your family. Serve it warm on a cool evening or at room temperature in the summer months. Here’s what you’ll need.

First put together the sundried tomato pesto.


Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup fresh basil

1/2 tsp. salt

Combine sundried tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, basil and salt in a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup oil. Process until almost smooth. Set aside.


Rigatoni with Eggplant & Pesto

1 medium onion

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

1 medium eggplant

1 lb. whole wheat rigatoni

1/3 cup sun dried tomato pesto (above)

1/4 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese

Italian parsley or basil

Cut onion in 8 wedges. Put in 13 x 9 casserole dish. Brush with 1 Tbsp. oil. Roast in 425 degree oven 10 minutes. Cut stem off of eggplant. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Brush with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir onion. Place eggplant in pan cut side down. Roast 15 minutes more on until onion is golden brown and eggplant just tender. Meanwhile cook pasta and drain. Toss pasta with tomato pesto and pepper. Put in serving bowl and keep warm. Cut eggplant with serrated knife in 1/2″ slices. Toss eggplant and onions with pasta. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Serves 4 for dinner or 6 to 8 as a side dish.



Serve alongside tofu, fish or a green salad. I hope you enjoy making my Grandma’s recipe as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you.

Look for another post soon where I’ll share the recipes that made the cut for the magazine!!!

The Second First Year

Following is an article I wrote for the April issue of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine. I know, I know, that’s all I’ve been sharing lately. Don’t worry. I PROMISE to publish new, unique content here soon! I have so many posts already written in my head, I just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and write them out. Can someone PLEASE invent a way to add more hours to the day! 

Welcoming a new baby into the world is a time full of emotions; joy, excitement and perhaps even a little anxiety. To some, the first year can seem even more challenging the second time around. Now you’ve got a new baby AND their older sibling to care for. How do you manage all of their needs all at once?

Here is some advice from both parenting experts as well as experienced parents themselves on how to survive the first year, again.

Preparing for Baby

Helping your older child prepare before baby’s arrival will make the transition easier for everyone later on. Molly Edwards, School Psychologist at Gurney Elementary in Chagrin Falls remembers what her sister told her when she was pregnant. “Having a baby is like getting a new life-long roommate who is a stranger that you don’t get to interview.” “It’s totally understandable that a child might be nervous about what to expect,” says Edwards.

Dr. Elizabeth Feighan, MD, with Pediatricenter of Greater Cleveland, says that children ages three and over thrive on “the known.” She suggests to, “Find a way to make the older child feel secure. Practice showing them what it will be like when the baby comes.”

  • “Get out your child’s baby book or photos and talk about what it was like when he or she was a baby,” suggests Edwards. “Kids love talking about and hearing about when they were an infant.” There are also many appropriate books that you and your child can read together to prepare for a sibling’s birth.
  • Discuss with your child how things changed around the house when he/she was born. Edwards says that you and your child can come up with a list of ways you think life in your home may change when the new baby arrives (e.g. more visitors, the need to be quiet during nap time, etc.) Include both positive and potentially negative changes.
  • Show them bottles, diapers and all the gadgets that go with a new baby. Tell them how the baby will use them. You may consider mentioning any safety concerns like not giving the baby small toys or touching their head.
  • Let him or her help you set up the baby’s room, pick out new clothes, wash them and put them away.
  • Help your child pick out a special gift to give the baby when he or she arrives.
  • Put together a “treasure chest” of little activities, toys and books that you can allow your older child to choose something from in the early days while you’re nursing often. The dollar store is a great place to stock up on things like magic marker coloring books.
  • Consider holding off on potty training, “big boy beds” and visits from the Pacifier Fairy until after you have adjusted to life as a family of four. Older children can regress around their new baby siblings and you will certainly have times when you are happy to give the older child a pacifier and place them in their crib so they will nap… so you can too.
  • Perhaps most importantly, be sure to talk to your child about how your love for them will not change. “When I was about to deliver my second child, I recall being afraid of how I was going to love another child as much as I love my first,” says Sarah Kostura, Chagrin Falls mother of three boys. “As soon as number two arrived, my love for them both multiplied. “Love is not finite. It is boundless, especially when it comes to loving your children.” Sarah is expecting her fourth boy this July.

And Baby Makes Four

  • One benefit of caring for your second infant is that you can relax a little about some of the day to day matters that caused you worry the first time around. You know how to change diapers, you’ve worked through breast feeding once before, you survived the sleepless nights, you know how to work the carseat and how to fold the stroller. Have confidence in all that you know from the first child. While those early days are perhaps the most challenging because you’re recovering from childbirth and you’re very tired, you know now that they are also quickly fleeting. Cling to the sweet moments because you won’t get to do them again.
  • It will take some time to find your new normal. As you know from your first child’s first year, you can’t expect for there to be a routine for the first several weeks or even the first few months. But you know now what sleeping strategies work for you and those that don’t and you understand that the sleep deprivation is somewhat short lived. It makes it a little easier to get through those long nights when you know that they won’t last forever.
  • “Try your best to keep routines as consistent as possible for your older child before and after the new birth,” says Edwards. “As many of those little routines that can remain the same before and after the baby arrives will help keep your first born, and the whole family, from feeling like everything has changed.” Soon the new baby will adapt to the family’s schedule too.
  • “Always make a special effort to have one on one time with your older child,” says Kristen Thalman, mother of two ages 4 and 1. All day long they hear “Wait, I have to feed the baby” or “Be quiet, baby is sleeping.” Even if alone time is bath time, reading books together or a walk in the park, one on one time is important.
  • Psychologist Molly Edwards recommends that you acknowledge and validate your older child’s feelings. “Babies are great, but they do change the family dynamic in a huge way,” she says. “Let your older child know that it’s ok to be frustrated or disappointed and that it is normal to feel those things.”
  • Don’t forget to make time for yourself and with your spouse. It’s easy to feel guilty leaving two needy kids with a family member or a sitter. Even just an hour or two away to exercise, pamper yourself, have dinner together or shop by yourself can go a long way.
  • Lower your expectations of what you can accomplish or how you will react to challenging situations. “Not every day is going to be a gold star day,” says Sarah Kostura. “You will go to bed wishing you hadn’t lost your temper about the spilled milk, the crayon masterpieces on your furniture or potty accidents. You have to remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day and that you will keep trying again.”

Overall it’s important to simply take one day at a time. Just like in all of life’s challenges if you think too far ahead it is easy to become overwhelmed. If you focus on the task at hand this day, even just this hour, before you know it you’ll be as confident managing two children as you felt managing the first.