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, 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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8 ounces elbow pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound lean ground beef

1 teaspoon chili powder

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1 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon oregano

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup nonfat milk

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded low-fat Cheddar

1⁄2 cup panko crumbs


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1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a 6-cup capacity baking dish with cooking spray. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high; add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until somewhat softened, about 3 minutes. Add the beef, crumbling it with your spoon; stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt, and cook, stirring, until the beef is no longer pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste, and simmer 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in the pasta pot or a saucepan, whisk the flour with about 2 tablespoons of the milk until smooth; add the remaining milk and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cheese until smooth. Add the pasta and meat sauce, and transfer to the prepared baking pan.

4. Combine the panko with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, sprinkle over the casserole and bake until the crumbs are golden, about 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 438 calories, 32 g protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 16 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 812 mg sodium

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TIP: To give the casserole smoky heat, stir in 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle in ado sauce with the tomato. 



2 large eggs

1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano

1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1⁄4 cups ketchup, divided

2 tablespoons Sriracha (or to taste)

1⁄2 cup breadcrumbs

2 pounds lean ground beef


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-11-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork in a large bowl; add the oregano, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

3. Combine the ketchup with the Sriracha in a separate bowl: add 3⁄4 of the mixture and the breadcrumbs to the meat and stir thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and form into a 10-by-5-inch loaf. Spread the remaining ketchup mixture over the loaf and bake until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 165 degrees, about 1 hour. Allow to stand 5 minutes before slicing. Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 241 calories, 24 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 10 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 870 mg sodium



4 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 pound lean ground beef

1 teaspoon chili powder

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 1⁄2 cups chopped broccoli florets (1-inch pieces)

1⁄2 cup reduced-fat shredded Cheddar

1⁄4 cup chopped scallion


1. Pierce sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place on a plate in a spoke pattern and microwave 6 minutes; turn over and microwave until fork tender, about another 6 minutes (depending on your microwave). Allow to cool slightly before cutting a 1⁄4-inch slice off the top and splitting about 3⁄4 of the way down. Scoop out the interior, leaving a 1⁄2-inch-thick wall all the way around and along the bottom. (Reserve the scooped flesh for mashed sweet potatoes another night.). Place the potatoes on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray and heat the broiler.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add the onion, garlic and green pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the beef and break it up with a wooden spoon into crumbles. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic powder and cayenne; cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and broccoli; cook until broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Scoop the filling into the potatoes and top with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted, remove from the oven and top with the scallions. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving: 388 calories, 29 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 15 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 800 mg sodium