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Mom's Best Tips for Getting Kids in the Kitchen

Turn cooking into a family affair by promoting your kids to assistant chefs. Here are some quick and easy ways to get them involved.

Help them plan.
Let your children create the menu. Teach them how to plan a balanced meal. Plan around what's in season and make it a goal to include lots of fruits and vegetables. My kids and I love to use to plan balanced meals.

Make it fun and educational.
Learning to cook is fun because it's hands-on and experiential. You can cover a whole range of topics, including math (measure ingredients), reading (recipe instructions), fine motor skills (cooking techniques), and science (chemical and physical reactions). 
Posted 5/16/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 3 comments   11,675 views
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What is Miso Paste?

Though it's just been available for a few years here, miso paste has been around for centuries. Though the first iteration, made in China almost two millennia ago, was made from fish bones, it was used much in the same way it is today. The ingredients have changed (thank goodness!) and miso today is made from fermented rice, barley, soy beans and even my favorite, buckwheat.  Though its primary flavor is salty, miso can be very subtle or complex with fruity, salty, and umami notes.  The darker the miso the more flavor and depth it will add to the dish. 
Miso, like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, contains probiotics, which aid digestion by creating microbial balance in the GI tract. Those delicate probiotics lose their effectiveness if miso is boiled. 
Posted 5/14/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 12 comments   18,551 views
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Chef Meg's Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus Recipe

Who said finger food is unhealthy? Try this asparagus appetizer at brunch, as a pre-dinner snack, or served from a picnic basket on a warm spring day.
Minutes to Prepare: 15
Minutes to Cook: 10
Number of Servings: 12
Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 12
  • Calories: 36.1
  • Total Fat: 0.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.8 mg
  • Sodium: 47.5 mg
  • Total Carbs: 3.2 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
  • Protein: 3.5 g
Posted 4/29/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 15 comments   11,163 views
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Slow Cooker Secrets

You have just had a long hard day at work or school and thoughts of what to make for dinner overwhelm your brain.  Suddenly you remember: "I put a stew in the slow cooker this morning. WooHoo!"  As you enter your kitchen, you can smell the savory delight and hear the bubbling sound of juices. Dinner is ready.
To be a good slow cooker you first need to understand the equipment and just how that crock traps all the flavors and creates an amazing stew, soup, or even dessert.  The crock pot simmers food for an extended period of time.  Depending on the recipe, the dish may be ready in 4 hours or 10.  Most slow cookers have three temperature settings: low, high, or keep warm.  On average, most cookers run at 180 degrees F for low and 250 degrees F for high.  A word of caution: Several studies have found that these numbers can vary as much as 40 degrees either way.  Just remember that even if you're in a rush, you need to check the internal temperature of the food to ensure that the proteins are cooked to proper temperatures.  Dark meat poultry should be cooked to 180 degrees, white meat poultry to 165, beef to 160, and pork, 145 degrees.
Easy clean-up is an added bonus with slow cooking.  I always spray the inner liner with non-stick pan coating.  Wait until the inner liner has cooled slightly before washing; the extreme change in temperature could cause it to break.  When storing your slow cooker, leave the lid ajar to avoid a "funny" smell.

Posted 4/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 21 comments   72,406 views
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Low-Calorie Slow Cooker Recipes

The slow cooker is a great way to not only save time and energy in the kitchen but calories and fat, too. This versatile countertop appliance has the ability to turn tough, lean cuts of meat into juicy, fork-tender meals, and it locks in moisture without added fat. To prove that comfort food can be low in calories but high in flavor, we compiled 14 of our favorites, from potato soup to beef and mushrooms--all made in your slow cooker!
  Easy Slow Cooker Beef and Mushrooms
calories: 214  |  fat: 6g  |  protein: 26.9g  |  carbs: 12.4g  |  fiber: 1.7g
Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apple-Cranberry Stuffing
calories: 122.2  |  fat: 2g  |  protein: 5.8g  |  carbs: 20.5g  |  fiber: 1.9g
Bourbon Street Chicken (Slow Cooker)
calories: 168.4  |  fat: 4g  |  protein: 19.5g  |  carbs: 15.5g  |  fiber: 0.1g
Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Soup
calories: 119.5  |  fat: 2.3g  |  protein: 16.1g  |  carbs: 8.1g  |  fiber: 1.9g
Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken
calories: 199.6  |  fat: 4.9g  |  protein: 24.8g  |  carbs: 16g  |  fiber: 1.4g
Lower-Sodium Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
calories: 212  |  fat: 1.6g  |  protein: 13.3g  |  carbs: 36.8g  |  fiber: 8g
Easy Slow Cooker Lemony Garlic Chicken Breast
calories: 167.8  |  fat: 5.6g  |  protein: 27g  |  carbs: 0.9g  |  fiber: 0.2g
Slow Cooker Chicken Stew
calories: 202.7  |  fat: 3.8g  |  protein: 20.6g  |  carbs: 22.2g  |  fiber: 4.2g
Slow Cooker Healthy Potato Soup
calories: 136.6  |  fat: 0.3g  |  protein: 4.7g  |  carbs: 29.3g  |  fiber: 4.5g
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
calories: 89.2  |  fat: 1.6g  |  protein: 8.4g  |  carbs: 11.7g  |  fiber: 2.1g
Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken
calories: 115.2  |  fat: 4.8g  |  protein: 16.1g  |  carbs: 0.8g  |  fiber: 0g
Slow Cooker Northern Bean and Spinach Soup
calories: 216.5  |  fat: 7.4g  |  protein: 18.4g  |  carbs: 33.2g  |  fiber: 16.2g
Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry
calories: 178.7  |  fat: 3.3g  |  protein: 7.2g  |  carbs: 30.6g  |  fiber: 8.3g
Slow Cooker Easy Chicken Gumbo
calories: 189.6  |  fat: 6.4g  |  protein: 14.5g  |  carbs: 19.4g  |  fiber: 2.8g
Posted 4/25/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 9 comments   356,978 views
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Chef Meg's Eggs Nested in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Nestle eggs into a spicy tomato sauce and bake them for a light and easy supper. Serve over pasta or with crusty whole-wheat bread for dipping.

Add the Spring Back into Your Salad

Spring gardens, local farms, and markets offer nature’s gifts year after year, such as greens, berries, asparagus, radishes, and peas. What better choice can you make for your own health, than to dedicate a sizeable space on each plate this season to healthy and delicious salads? Have fun and get creative, trying new combinations of lettuce, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Add lean protein to your salad and enjoy it as a main dish. Salad is a great way to get multiple servings of fruit, move away from the tempting and heavy comfort foods of winter, not to mention that salads are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Here are our favorite springtime salad recipes from


Pomegranate Chicken Salad

Spinach-Berry Salad 

Almond Chicken Salad with Asparagus

Posted 4/18/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 25 comments   67,964 views
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Chef Meg’s Superior Sandwiches Video

For busy families, sandwiches are the greatest thing since sliced bread. 

Posted 4/1/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 13 comments   13,070 views
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Chef Meg's Egg-Cellent Tips and Recipes

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To take a vacation from all the egg laying.  Funny to me and you but not the chickens. 
When chickens first became domesticated animals, the only time you actually ate then was if a hen stopped laying eggs or on a holiday when no meat could be found.  If you ate an egg-laying  hen, you ate the business. 
My family has a long history of raising chickens for eggs. Back when my great-grandmother was raising hens, the birds--omnivores by nature--ate grain and roamed outside to peck for proteins in the form of bugs and worms.  Times certainly have changed from Ma's day. 
Posted 3/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 27 comments   16,132 views
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Can I Cook Rice in the Slow Cooker?

Nothing makes me crazier than investing money and time in a recipe only for it to fail. Even chefs aren't immune to kitchen disasters. I took upon a challenge to come up with some simple recipes for cooking grains in the slow cooker.  Well, after lots of testing, reading about how other people do it and talking to my "chef" friends, I've come to the conclusion that cooking plain rice or pasta all day long in the slow cooker is not a good idea.

But if you're a slow cooker lover, don't fret. Not all hope is lost.  I was able to cook brown rice in the slow cooker using a "stalling method," and I found that oats and quinoa steam nicely in the slow cooker, too.
The slow cooker provides a moist environment for cooking.  It's wonderful for simmering cheaper cuts of meats that have tough connective tissue; I love it for keeping warm mashed potatoes, and its genius for making soups that are waiting for you as you walk in the door after a long day. 
That cozy, warm, moist environment is exactly what made it a bad choice for cooking whole grains. Brown long grain rice after three hours was sticky and clumpy--a real mess. 
Posted 3/24/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 21 comments   92,361 views
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Video: Chef Meg’s Spice Blends

Chef Meg collects spices the way some women collect shoes. These zero-calorie, fat-free flavor boosters are her secret weapons for delicious healthy food. 
Posted 3/18/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 12 comments   8,660 views
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An Old Family Recipe for Irish Soda Bread

I love to cook. My inspiration comes from fond memories of cooking with my two grandmothers in their respective kitchens. They taught me to cook from scratch and find joy in family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

St. Patrick's Day is a favorite of mine, since it's my mother’s birthday and reminds me of my Irish heritage, too. This year, my daughter and I went to my grandmother's house to learn the family soda bread recipe, which came from County Cork in Ireland by way of my great-grandfather’s cousin. I learned that soda bread is simple to make--it doesn’t require a rising or even much kneading—and the ingredients are easy to find. In the great tradition of Irish families giving their family soda bread a unique "twist," I like to substitute coconut oil instead of shortening and whole wheat flour for all purpose flour. I also add Flaxseed Meal for a nutritional boost. Soda bread pairs nicely with any savory dish and the leftovers taste great toasted with jam for breakfast. 
Posted 3/15/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 18 comments   15,709 views
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Buck Up! Try Buckwheat for Breakfast

Just like the boy of the same name would say, buckwheat is o-tay!  I recently became a big fan of the triangular grain that is growing in popularity.  Buckwheat is actually not part of the wheat family, which means it is gluten free.   It also provides eight amino acids, plus plenty of fiber and protein.
To learn more about this unfamiliar, trendy grain, I phoned my agriculture expert. He is actually on my speed dial under "Daddy."
Turns out, my dad has been growing buckwheat for years, which was a surprise for me. I know the farm and its fields well, and he has never mentioned buckwheat! Part of the reason I had never heard of the harvest was that my family does not harvest the crop.  My Dad grows it as a source of food for the deer and doves that call our farm home as well.  Buckwheat, as my Dad explained, is a short crop that does not require pesticides or fertilizers.  Because it is a short crop, meaning that the plant matures in about 30 days, farmers can come in after its harvest or consumption from animals and then plant a second crop during the same season. The short season makes it perfect for climates with shorter growing seasons like the upper Midwest of the United States.   
Posted 3/12/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 19 comments   13,234 views
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Better than Storebought: Easy Homemade Salad Dressings

I love to accessorize, don't you?  A hat, scarf or belt can make or break an outfit, just as a sauce, dressing, or marinade can make or break a dish.

Like everything else in my life, it all circles back to food--even accessories.  For me, the perfect accessory for salads, cold meats, fruit plates, and even savory dishes is the dressing.  It can be spicy, herbal, creamy, served hot or cold. I love them all.  The trouble is that traditional recipes call for loads of fat in the form of oils or cream.
When you're cutting the fat in dressings, the trick that I have found is that the flavor has to come in with a loud punch to offset the smaller amount of oils and cream. 
"Dressing" is a vague term that can be used to describe vinaigrettes, dipping sauces, marinades, and even flavored oils.  Whatever you call them, they basically can be divided into two categories: vinaigrettes and creamy dressings. 
Posted 3/5/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 7 comments   12,463 views
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Chef Meg's Hearty Soups Video

Soup is the perfect food for healthy eaters. Make your own, with these expert tips from Chef Meg

Posted 3/4/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 7 comments   13,331 views
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