Marge Perry Newsday columnist Marge Perry

Marge Perry, Newsday's weekly 3 Simple columnist, also writes, broadcasts, teaches and speaks about cooking, food and nutrition. In her long-standing capacity as a Newsday columnist, Contributing Editor for Cooking Light, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, restaurant critic, recent columnist for several leading magazines (Better Homes & Gardens, Prevention); regular contributor to many magazines, (including Self, More, Coastal Living, and Relish) and frequent guest on television and radio, Perry is an accessible and authoritative guide for anyone who cooks, eats and travels.

In addition to Dinner Tonight, the cookbook based on her daily Newsday column, Ms. Perry has contributed recipes and text to nearly 20 other food and nutrition books. Her articles have been syndicated internationally in magazines and books, and her recipes have appeared on the Television Food Network and numerous television news segments.

Perry teaches cooking and food writing at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, food writing at mediabistro.com, and is a guest lecturer at the culinary management graduate school at New York University. Her extensive involvement with the food industry ranges from writing and reporting about cooking and nutrition, chefs, restaurants, growers, producers and manufacturers; restaurant reviewing; menu consulting; consumer trend analysis; and volunteering to bring food and cooking/nutrition know-how to those in need. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Libby Hillman Award for Culinary Excellence and the Food Writers’ Symposium scholarship and the Association of Food Journalists Award for Best Food Essay for an ode to her mother and strawberry-frosted cupcakes.

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CHEESY PENNE AND BEEF CASSEROLE

8 ounces penne pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound 93-percent-lean ground beef

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1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1/2 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 475. Coat a medium-size (6-cup or 9-inch- square) baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium high in a large, nonstick skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes until they start to soften. Add the beef, oregano, basil and thyme; cook, stirring to break up the crumbles, until the beef is no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes.

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4. Combine the beef and pasta; stir in the mozzarella and transfer to prepared baking dish. Combine Parmesan and bread crumbs in a small bowl; sprinkle evenly over the casserole.

5. Bake 5 to 7 minutes until top is golden.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving 390 calories, 14 g fat, 5.4 g saturated fat, 39 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 570 mg sodium

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OVERSTUFFED POTATOES

4 baking potatoes

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 green pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

1 pound 93-percent-lean ground beef

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3/4 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1. Pierce potatoes in several places with a fork. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or place on a plate in a spoke pattern and microwave, turning once, until fork tender, a total of about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium high. Add onion, garlic and green pepper; cook, stirring, until somewhat softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add beef, chili powder and cumin; cook, breaking meat into crumbles, until it is no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Stir in sugar, ketchup and Worcestershire, and cook until mixture is somewhat thickened, about 5 minutes.

3. Cut potatoes lengthwise about 2 inches through, then cut across to form a cross. Pull potatoes apart at cuts and place each on a dinner plate. Spoon in beef mixture, allowing it to overflow onto the plates.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving 405 calories, 12 g fat, 4.3 g saturated fat, 25 g protein, 53 g carbohydrates, 3.3 g fiber, 676 mg sodium

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CRUMBLED BEEF IN LETTUCE CUPS

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 pound 93-percent-lean ground beef

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped

8 small leaves butter lettuce

1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped

Lime wedges

1. Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high. Add the garlic, ginger and onion and cook, stirring, 3 minutes, or until somewhat softened. Add the beef and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring and breaking the meat into crumbles, until it is no longer pink, about 7 minutes.

2. Whisk the brown sugar, lime juice and fish sauce until the sugar is dissolved; add to the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint.

3. Spoon the beef into the lettuce cups to serve; top with peanuts and garnish with lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving 269 calories, 16 g fat, 5.2g saturated fat, 24 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 415 mg sodium