Newlywed Cooking Makeover

Shannon and Brian Dickinson learn how to mesh their two styles of eating

Shannon Olsen Dickinson and Brian Dickinson are newlyweds in Las Vegas, and they're learning to mesh two styles of eating. Shannon lost 75 pounds after graduating from college and has kept it off for 10 years by eating wisely and exercising every morning before heading to work as a first-grade schoolteacher.

Cooking Light's Joy Zacharia stepped in to help plan the Dickinson family menu.

Challenge: Eat more fruits and vegetables. "I love produce, but Brian could live without it," says Shannon. "I'd like to find a way to make it appealing to both of us."

Solution: A great way to incorporate vegetables is to roast a mélange of seasonal favorites to serve with meat, poultry, or fish. Combine precut potato wedges (such as Simply Potatoes), baby carrots, sliced fennel bulb, and asparagus in a baking pan. Drizzle with a little extravirgin olive oil; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried or fresh rosemary. Toss and bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until golden and tender. Also, use fruits as toppings for savory dishes, as in the Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Pineapple Chutney.

Challenge: Rely less on prepackaged foods for breakfast and lunch.

Solution: Eating packaged breakfast bars and frozen entrées for lunch five days a week becomes boring, so we encouraged Shannon and Brian to add pizzazz to breakfast with a thick, rich Blackberry-Mango Breakfast Shake. Frozen blackberries, silken tofu, sliced mango, orange juice, and a touch of honey create a satisfying, high-protein beverage that's ready in minutes and keeps them full for hours. Homemade muffins such as Whole-Grain Blackberry Spice Muffins also call for frozen blackberries, so they can enjoy a high-fiber, antioxidant-rich fruit in two delicious recipes.

Leftovers can help at lunchtime. Many Cooking Light recipes yield four or six servings. After dinner, pack what's left to enjoy for lunch the next day. Other lunch-friendly choices are salads such as Mediterranean Couscous, which travels well and can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Challenge: Find recipes that they can prepare together. "My husband is eager to help but doesn't have much of a repertoire beyond grilling meat," says Shannon.

Solution: Cooking together is a great way for couples to bond and learn to cook. Our advice: Select recipes that appeal to both of you, and try at least one new dish each week (keep track of those you enjoy to prepare again). Divide the work: If one of you is an expert chopper and dicer, let the other rinse vegetables and mix spice rubs.

Challenge: Find whole-grain foods they both enjoy. "I would love to try some of the grains I read about in the magazine," says Shannon, "but I have no idea how to prepare them."

Solution: If a recipe looks good and contains a whole grain like bulgur, quinoa, or brown rice, try it. Most cookbooks and magazines give explicit directions on how to prepare a particular grain. Once you've sampled different varieties, you'll feel more confident substituting them in other recipes, such as using quinoa in place of rice in a pilaf.

The Feedback: "The main things we have changed are the types of foods we eat," says Shannon. "I am more adventurous when I look at recipes, and I am now more willing to prepare a recipe with a vegetable we've never tried because you showed me how easy it is to add them to a rice or couscous recipe or just roast them for a side dish."