Interviews / August 16, 2012

Robin Miller

By Charles Platkin, PhD
Robin Miller’s popular shows, Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller and Robin to the Rescue, currently air on Food Network. Robin’s recipes and nutrition features can be seen regularly in a variety of magazines, including Clean Eating, Experience Life, Guideposts, Cooking Light, Health, Fit Pregnancy, and Toddler. Robin is also the author of eight books including her latest, Robin to the Rescue.

Name: Robin Miller
Birthday: July 29
Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Diet Detective: Hey Robin, thanks for the opportunity to interview you. My first question is really curiosity — I would love to know how you became interested in food?

Robin: My passion for great FOOD started when I was little — my mom is an amazing cook (one of those straight-from-the-garden type people!), so I always enjoyed watching her cook and tasting her creations. My passion for COOKING started after college when I was on my own and attempting to enjoy the same flavors I grew up with. Soon after I got married (and realized I had a kitchen full of new stuff!), I decided to take a year off work and learn to cook while writing a cookbook for others just like me — hence The Newlywed Cookbook, my first cookbook (Sourcebooks, 1990)!

Diet Detective: How did you learn to cook?

Robin: I learned a lot watching my mother, but it was truly that year of dabbling in the kitchen that proved to be my best experience. I made fabulous meals and loads of mistakes and enjoyed every step of the way! Soon after, I decided to pursue my masters in nutrition so I could enjoy delicious AND healthy food.

Diet Detective: Tell us about your overall food philosophy?

Robin: I believe people should enjoy a variety of foods, flavors and cultures for the overall food experience. There should be no “good” or “bad” foods, just healthy foods in abundance and indulgences in moderation. We’ve gotten bogged down in this country with stuffing ourselves with food that, truth be told, doesn’t taste that great. When you enjoy tantalizing, unique flavors from all over the globe (and not highly-processed foods), you most certainly need LESS and are satisfied completely. I tell people to eat until they’re satisfied, not stuffed, and to enjoy what their bodies crave.

Diet Detective: Can you share some of your best time-saving strategies for healthy fresh foods on the table quickly?

Robin: As a mom of a very busy family, I know how challenging it is to fit family dinner into a jam-packed, busy schedule. I want to serve something that is well-balanced and nutritious, but I want to make something that can be ready in no time. The following time-saving tips have really helped me to get food on the table superfast and avoid the six o’clock dinnertime scramble:

Quick Fix

Stash. You can assemble a home-cooked meal in just minutes if you plan ahead and have your own “quick fix stash” of stored food. I like stocking up on items like bottled sauces, frozen chopped vegetables and fruits and pre-cooked, recipe-ready protein, all of which will help to dramatically cut down on prep time.

Bank a batch. Keeping extra meals in your freezer or refrigerator “bank” to withdraw as necessary is a simple solution for even the busiest of days. When I make a dish, I cook double the servings and stash the rest in my freezer or fridge for another day. That way, when I’m starved for time and my boys are just starved, I can pull out any dinner of their choice, pop it in the microwave and have a delicious dish on the table in minutes.

Prep your produce. I always prepare for a busy week by chopping and prepping my produce on the weekends. I chop onions, carrots, bell peppers and celery for salads, soups and stews, and I cut up pears, apples, oranges and grapes for a healthy fruit side salad to serve with dinner. Chopping and prepping produce up to four days in advance and throwing it in the fridge is a simple step that’s a serious time-saver.

Diet Detective: What’s a “meal kit?”

Robin: Meal kits are the perfect solution for truly making meals in just moments. They are partially prepped and assembled meals that you can start in advance and finish later. The great thing about my meal kits is that you can prep when you have a bit of extra time, like on a weekend afternoon, and you can finish off the meal right before you’re ready to serve your family! A typical meal kit will include pre-chopped vegetables, coated or crusted chicken, marinated beef or pork, pre-cooked rice or pasta and any prepared sauces or glazes that you can use to accompany the meal. If you use my meal kit strategy, you can start your recipe and then finish it later in about 20 minutes or less for a delicious meal like Almond-Crusted Chicken with Baby Corn and Tomatoes or Seafood Pomodoro with Linguini.

Diet Detective: How do you makeover a recipe? What do you look at first?

Robin: The most important step to making over a recipe is to swap out unhealthy ingredients for lighter, better-for-you options. For example, my family absolutely loves Chicken Parmesan, but the traditional recipe is loaded with sodium, fat and calories. To makeover this recipe, I’ll create my own, lighter version of a Chicken Parmesan Casserole. First, I’ll swap out regular cheese and pasta sauce for part skim mozzarella and low-sodium marinara sauce. Then, I’ll use lean, recipe-ready protein, which gives my family an excellent source of protein. I’ll top off the chicken with Panko bread crumbs, which are much lower in sodium than regular seasoned dry bread crumbs, and I’ll put the entire meal over a bed of whole-wheat pasta versus regular spaghetti. Now, I’m serving a lighter, more nutritious meal, but it will still taste like the classic dish my family loves.

Diet Detective: Who and what influenced the way you think about food?

Robin: My mother, no doubt. She adores food and cooking and has always prepared meals with both flavor AND nutrition in mind. Her healthy perspective taught me that I can enjoy all the foods I love and still maintain a healthy diet. That’s a plan you can live with for life.

Diet Detective: If you could have a healthy meal cooked for you, what would you order, and who would you like to have cook it for you?

Robin: Hmmm. Good question. I think I would order some form of grilled chicken or shrimp with a fresh salsa on top and lots of veggies on the side. I can’t think of anyone better to complete that task than Bobby Flay.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy ingredient?

Robin: Just one? Wow, tough question! Broccoli? Roasted red peppers? Sundried tomatoes? Onions and garlic? I can’t decide!!!

Diet Detective: What’s the one kitchen utensil or tool that you can’t live without?

Robin: One sharp knife and one good cutting board – together they make the perfect food prep “team.”

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food? [Please be specific and try not to answer with a category but rather with a specific food item: for example, not “whole grain” but “raisin bran cereal”?]

Robin: Another tough one! I would say raspberries. Everyone loves them and they are crammed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber (plus my kids love them!). We learn about healthy foods every day, so who knows what’s next?! Diet Detective: What’s in your refrigerator and pantry right now?

Robin: My fridge and freezer are strategically stocked with what I like to call my “quick-fix” items. These include the ingredients that you always want to have on hand in your pantry, fridge and freezer to get weeknight meals on the table superfast. My pantry is overflowing with items that I use on a regular basis, like pasta, rice, seasonings, sauces (that don’t need refrigeration), condiments, oils, vinegars and spices. My fridge is loaded with meats, fish and poultry (which can be fresh or fully-cooked and recipe ready), fresh veggies and fruits (which you can chop and prep ahead of time) and bottled sauces. My freezer is usually stocked with fruits, veggies and meats that I won’t be using in the next week or so, and it’s also stocked with leftover meals that can be quickly thawed and reheated in the microwave.

I even have a list of 10 pantry must-haves: Olives, jarred roasted red peppers, toasted sesame oil, flour tortillas and/or corn tortillas, canned diced tomatoes, cooking spray, reduced-sodium broth (chicken, beef and vegetable), dried herbs and spices (thyme, oregano, bay leaves, cinnamon, etc.), elbow macaroni and quick-cooking brown, white and jasmine rice.

Diet Detective: Your last meal would be?

Robin: Extra-thin delivery pizza with mushrooms and my home-made chocolate chip cookies (with a margarita first of course!).

Diet Detective: What chef would you like to cook you a healthy meal?

Robin: Bobby Flay

Diet Detective: Your favorite “junk food?”

Robin: Sugary candy like Tootsie Rolls, Dots and Twizzlers!

Diet Detective: Your worst summer job?

Robin: Working in a beach restaurant (I was 16) where I was only allowed to peel potatoes, put lettuce into salad bowls or scoop ice cream. I didn’t last long there.

Diet Detective: What’s your motto?

Robin: Enjoy every moment of every day — don’t miss a beat.

Diet Detective: As a child you wanted to be:

Robin: A doctor of sports medicine (I was a jock!)

Here are a few of Robin’s Recipes:

Rotelle With Braised Zucchini, Roasted Garlic, Oregano & Feta
From “Robin to the Rescue, Quick and Simple Recipes for Delicious Home Cooking” (Taunton 2008)
Recipe serves 4

½ cup cloves garlic
1 pound rotelle or other spiral-shaped pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium zucchini, chopped
½ cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Preparations Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Wrap the garlic cloves in aluminum foil and roast until golden brown and tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
3. Cook the rotelle according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and onion and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the oregano and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and roasted garlic, bring to a simmer, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Pour the mixture over the pasta and toss to combine, adding the pasta cooking water if necessary to moisten it. Fold in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter, top with the feta, and serve.

Meatballs With Root Beer BBQ Sauce
From “Robin to the Rescue, Quick and Simple Recipes for Delicious Home Cooking” (Taunton 2008)
Recipe serves 4

1 ¼ pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons salt-free garlic-and-herb seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Root Beer BBQ Sauce:
· One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
· One 12-ounce can or bottle root beer
· 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
· 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
· 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
· 2 teaspoons chili powder
· 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
· 1 teaspoon dry mustard
· Dash of hot sauce

1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, garlic-and-herb seasoning, salt, and pepper. Mix well and shape into 16 to 20 meatballs, each 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients, then add to the meatballs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Recipe Courtesy of Robin Miller and Tyson Foods
Recipe serves 4

1 pound whole wheat pasta
2 packets (6 ounces each) Tyson® Fully Cooked Grilled Chicken Breast Strips (or you can use your own prepared chicken breast strips)
¾ cup prepared no-salt added tomato sauce (pasta sauce or pizza sauce)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, regular or part-skim
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
Pinch salt and ground black pepper

Preparation Instructions

1. Cook whole wheat pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. 2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Arrange chicken breast strips in the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Pour tomato sauce over the chicken and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the tomato sauce.
4. In a small bowl, combine the parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Mix well and sprinkle the mixture over the mozzarella cheese.
5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top of the casserole is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
6. Divide whole wheat pasta among four individual bowls, spoon casserole mixture over the top and serve.

Robin: The recipes are from my latest cookbooks Robin to the Rescue and Quick and Simple Recipes for Delicious Home Cooking.

Previous Post
Jay Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN
Next Post
Janet Podleski

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Next Post
NY Post: The Plane Truth - Airline Meals Can Land You In Fat City