Visiting the Cooking Channel (Or You Can Go Home Again)


You can go home again! As a former Food Network staffer (1994-1999), I was so excited when I was invited to a mom blogger lunch at the Cooking Channel recently to introduce Drop 5 Lbs With Good Housekeeping, Hosted by Melissa d’Arabian.

Visiting the Cooking Channel (Or You Can Go Home Again) | The Mama Maven Blog | @themamamaven

I worked at the Food Network, The Cooking Channel’s sister network for 5 years when I was in my twenties (ouch!) and it was so nice to go back and see it as a mom blogger.

Visiting the Cooking Channel (Or You Can Go Home Again) | The Mama Maven Blog | @themamamaven

While the location of the network has changed (I worked at the old studio on 6th Avenue), and well as most of the people; I still got excited when I walked into the test kitchen. I used to handle the Green Room, so I interacted with the amazing kitchen staffers back in the day! I also got to reminisce with my old friend Bill Calamita and see a few other people I worked with years ago.

Bill Calamita and Nancy Johnson Horn (me)

I brought my 18 month old son with me (since I had no one to watch him) and put him in the ERGO carrier to watch the demo (since toddlers and kitchens don’t mix so well).. While I had heard of Melissa before, I wasn’t aware of how charming she was. This mom of 4 was warm and has some great ideas for making family dinners (that will still help mamas lose some pounds by swapping some of the ingredients).

Melissa’s Tips included:
Get used to measuring out ingredients (it will help you stay on track easier). Gradually you’ll be able to eye out what a 1/4 teaspoon or 1/2 teaspoon looks like
Don’t be afraid to add some salt to bring out flavor (I usually try to cook salt free, so this was helpful)
Add as many veggies as you can to help you fill up.
She also taught us to add frozen peas to the bottom of your colander when you are draining pasta. The hot water from the pasta will instantly defrost and heat up the peas. It’s a great way to add some more fiber to your food and kids will love it. I actually tried this last night and it was a huge success.

Melissa showed us how to make Low-Fat Creamy Mushroom Cavatappi and it was amazing (and the baby even loved it).

Visiting the Cooking Channel (Or You Can Go Home Again) | The Mama Maven Blog | @themamamaven

Since my family doesn’t normally eat ham and my oldest kid is mostly vegetarian (yes, even at 6); I’d serve it without the ham (or let my husband and daughter top it with turkey if they’d like). This recipe was really fast and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. Melissa recommended starting it when you get home, changing your clothes and then finishing it. If you have very picky eaters like I do, you could serve them the pasta with the peas and leave the mushroom sauce (which was so light) off.


Visiting the Cooking Channel (Or You Can Go Home Again) | The Mama Maven Blog | @themamamaven

Low-Fat Creamy Mushroom Cavatappi

Recipe courtesy of Good Housekeeping’s Drop 5 lbs


  • Salt
  • 12 ounces cavatappi (corkscrew-shaped tube pasta; sub: penne)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped (4 to 6 ounces)
  • One 8-ounce package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups 1-percent milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 10-ounce package frozen peas
  • 8 ounces deli-sliced ham, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips


Bring a large covered saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions.Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are golden and most of the liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a small bowl.In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk the cornstarch into the milk. Add to the same skillet and heat to boiling over medium heat, whisking frequently. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper.Place the peas in a colander. Pour the pasta over the peas. Drain and return to the saucepot. Stir in the mushroom mixture, cheese sauce and ham; toss to coat. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan. Each 1 1/2 cup serving: about 400 calories, 23 g protein, 57 g carbohydrate, 8 g total fat (3 g saturated), 28 mg cholesterol, 880 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

Make it a Drop 5 Meal by adding:
3 cups mixed greens tossed with 100 calories of dressing. 520 complete meal calories.

Visiting the Cooking Channel (Or You Can Go Home Again) | The Mama Maven Blog | @themamamaven

Melissa d’Arabian and Samantha Cassety

I also enjoyed meeting Good Housekeeping Nutrition Director Samantha Cassetty, one of the correspondents on the show. She answered all my picky eater related questions, like “Is soy safe for boys to eat?”  Her answer was yes, but serve it more in an unprocessed forms like edamame or tofu, rather than soy nuggets (but it’s okay to do occasionally).

I look forward to watching Drop 5 Lbs with Good Housekeeping, Hosted by Melissa d’Arabian! For show information and more recipes, go to New shows premiere on Saturdays at 11 am EST.

Thank you to the Cooking Channel who hosted us for lunch (yes, in the test kitchen). It was delicious and they served us meals from the show, including the recipe above. I had a wonderful time and I was honored to be invited.

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