All Entries For chef meg
Fajitas are one of those foods that you hear and smell before you see, especially when you order them at a restaurant. The onions and peppers sizzle amongst strips of meat, their intoxicating smells travel through the restaurant, and finally a skillet overflowing with food is presented to you, along with a platter of beans, rice, a stack of flour tortillas and all the trimmings.
Fajitas come from the Spanish word "faja," which means sash, skirt--or girdle. It referred to the type of meat originally used in the dish, skirt steak. When most of us eat fajitas as served, we'll likely need a girdle to get into our pants!
The fajita platter at a popular fast-casual chain has 850 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 2,440 milligrams of sodium (more than a day's worth!). Wow.
At its most basic, a fajita is grilled meat wrapped in a tortilla. The vegetables are a welcome addition, but most restaurants douse them in oil and salt. Read More ›
My love of donuts started on my sixth birthday, when my parents bought me donuts instead of a birthday cake. Ten years later my parents led my family through a pretty amazing lifestyle change that included diet and exercise. I’ll never forget walking into a well-known donut chain where you could watch them come off the line. My Mom and I asked for one without icing. They were shocked at the request, not able to comprehend. After convincing them we were serious about the no icing request, we asked for three. They delivered three dozen to the register.
Apparently, customers order them by the dozen there. This got me thinking how to enjoy the warm soft sweetness of donuts without the fat, calories and sugar of the traditional recipe. Here’s what I learned: start by substituting whole wheat flour, then use plain yogurt instead of oil and butter. Add natural ingredients—like berries, pumpkin, and banana—to add nutritional sweetness. Have fun with toppings too, using lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon sugar, or add icing in moderation. Try baking instead of frying or make smaller ones to help with portion control. If you don’t own a donut pan, try a muffin pan instead. Donuts are a wonderful treat, but these recipes give you all the flavor, but not wreck your health goals. Read More ›
Quinoa pronounced KEEN-Wah has quickly become a staple in my cooking. I love that it is quick and easy to prepare, has outstanding nutritional value and is allergy-free. Since it cooks through in less than 20 minutes, it is a useful grain substitute in just about any recipe. A single serving is high in healthy fats, fiber protein, iron, magnesium phosphorus, and riboflavin. Quinoa is also gluten free! Increase your nutritional grain options with these quick and convenient Quinoa recipes. Read More ›
Have you noticed that cupcakerys are the new hot trend in restaurants? Even in my non-metropolitan home town, our local bakery competed in the 2011 and 2012 Food Network Cupcake Wars and won "Best of the Best" on Cupcake Champions in 2012.
In our home, the month of February is an unofficial cupcake month, with Valentine's Day and nine separate family birthday celebrations to prepare for. However, if I stuck with the standard recipe, my husband and I would surely gain a few pounds and my kids would gain an eternal sugar high. That said, there are some simple modifications that add nutritional value, reduce the processed sugar, fat, and calories too. Substitute whole-grain flours for all purpose flour. Use fruits and vegetables as a natural sweetener and add color and texture; applesauce can be used in place of oil; flaxseed meal or chia seeds mixed with water can be used in place of eggs; and Greek yogurt can be used in place of flour. I also find that when I use natural ingredients, I crave the processed sugar less-and-less. Another health benefit and convenience with cupcakes is that a serving is as simple as one cupcake. Leftovers can go right into the freezer instead of a late night snack. Celebrate something special with these healthier cupcake recipes. Read More ›
Asparagus is delicious when prepared simply: steamed, roasted or grilled. I like to blanch and shock the asparagus before grilling. Boil the asparagus for 1 minute (this is the "blanch" part of the process). Immediately plunge the asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking process (this is the "shock"). The asparagus will turn bright green and retain all its taste and nutrition. Dry it off and then grill it. Serve alone or on a pizza. Or serve it cold with vinaigrette.
How do you prepare it? Easy--Mother Nature gave you a guide. Pick up a spear, hold one end in each hand, and snap it. It will naturally break at the spot where it turns from woody to tender. You can either snap each spear or use the first one as a guide and cut them all off at the same spot.
Don't throw away those tough ends. You can simmer them for stocks or puree and use in soups. If all your spears are thick and woody, use a vegetable peeler to trim the outside and expose the tender interior.
You'll love these easy asparagus recipes:
Phyllo Wrapped Asparagus
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Takeout is tasty and convenient, but comes with high fat, sodium, and calories. Afterward, you may experience bloating or a tummy ache and have little idea what ingredients were used in the dish you purchased. Instead of surrendering control to your local drive-in, diner, or dive, use these SparkRecipes to cook your favorite take out dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen. By doing the cooking yourself, you can use savory spices, health-smart ingredients, and improved cooking methods like baking and steaming that bring out the natural flavors in food. With the money you save, don’t forget to give yourself a little tip: you deserve a reward for a job well done!
Chicken Satay with Vegetables (Chef Meg's Makeover)
Crispy Baked Egg Rolls
Chef Meg's Spring Rolls
Pot Stickers (steamed wontons)
Baked Crab Rangoon
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Are you caught up on the latest juicing craze? Regardless making homemade juices are a great choice for those wanting to take control of their health. Homemade juices are healthier than store bought as you can control what ingredients are being used and nothing unnecessary is added. It’s a great way to use those fruits and vegetables are ripe and ready to use. I’ve come up with some of the best combinations by throwing in everything on the container that needs to be eaten today into the juicer. It also a great way to eat fruits and vegetables you may not enjoy on their own. All of these recipes require a blender or juicer. Stay hydrated and filled up on nutrition with these delicious juice recipes. Read More ›
When you think of cabbage, do you think of a garnish used to add color or fill in the white space on a plate? Or worse, do you remember watery, mushy, or chewy boiled cabbage that a relative over-boiled with cured meat? If so, then you share my shock and surprise that, at least until recently, I've been missing out on the vitamins and nutrients packed into this water-rich super food. Cabbage has more vitamin C than an orange is a great source of vitamins A, K and also is high in folate and fiber too. I like the flavor that it adds to soups and salads. My favorite recipe in the "The SparkPeople Cookbook" is Chef Meg’s Minestrone Soup and much of the flavor and nutrition comes from the two cups and chopped cabbage in this recipe. Use these cabbage recipes to add extra vegetables to your nutritional intake. Read More ›
There's no more perfect time of year than right now to start cooking with blueberries. This Native American gem is flavorful and loaded with outstanding nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. A recent study from a Harvard School of Public Health found that eating three or more servings per week can reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by as much as 33%. Research is also finding that eating blueberries helps with mental wellness and can improve your memory too. Even when they're not in season, I keep them in my freezer and pop them into my hot cereal or right into the Vitamix blender for smoothies. The next time you are at the market, grab a basket of blueberries and enjoy how these recipes will help you become a healthier and happier you. Read More ›
Due to the popularity of Slow Cooker Chicken, I'd like to follow up now with pork, which is another slow cooker favorite. Pork is a staple in our house, especially when we're having a large group of dinner guests. It's a budget-friendly choice that becomes tender and juicy when cooked slowly. Whether you're tired of everything tasting like chicken, or you just need a change of pace, add these slow cooker pork recipes to your meal plan today. Read More ›
Have you ever noticed how, at restaurants, even lean cuts of steak come to the table glistening? Then, with the first bite, they taste so rich--and they're never dry! No matter what you do, you just can't figure it out. Is it the professional stove that does it? A wood-fired grill? A fancy cut of meat?
Nope. The secret's in the sauce--and I'm about to spill. The secret is butter.
Maître d’hôtel butter is a mixture of raw butter, parsley, and lemon juice. The butter is spooned over a steak just as it leaves the grill, then melts onto the surface to leave behind only a sheen.
While I'm sharing a major trade secret here, I feel it’s my duty to report to all those trying to make healthy and positive changes in food they eat.
The next time you order a lean steak at a restaurant ask your waiter if the chef finishes the steaks in butter and just say, “No, thank you.” Better yet, save money and grill at home--then add color and flavor to your lean meat with these easy ideas and recipes. (We think these ideas are perfect for a simple Valentine's Day meal!)
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If I could choose what to take with me to the proverbial desert island, sweet treats would be right up there on my list. One of the reasons I exercise so consistently is so that I have the option to enjoy them with family, when eating out, or for spontaneous celebrations. At the same time, I refuse to cook large quantities of desserts, mainly because I end up throwing them out to avoid temptation. One strategy I find useful is to prepare single serving desserts that satisfy the urge, but without circumventing my nutrition plan. Enjoy these fun and tasty single serving treats. Read More ›
Making ravioli can be a snap if you use my trick of swapping out wonton wrappers for homemade pasta dough. Wonton wrappers are found in the cold food area of the produce aisle (usually also where you would also find tofu).
Pick up round, rectangular and square shapes to mix up your ravioli. My favorite are the rectangular shaped wrappers because I can fill one half then do a quick egg wash glue and fold over to seal. The round and square ones are smaller, so I place filling in the middle of one, spread egg wash on the edges, then top with another wonton wrapper.
A tip: Don’t throw out leftover chicken, fish or beef. Keep it for ravioli filling! Instead of a second night rerun meal, you turn leftovers into a premiere. Use my recipe for Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken as a base for some of the ideas below. Get the kids involved and make an assembly line, soon you will have enough to freeze or share with the neighbors.
Prepping your ravioli:
Instead of using a whole egg as the glue to hold the ravioli together, opt for egg substitute or egg whites. I like to add 1 teaspoon of water to each egg white or 1 tablespoon of egg substitute to thin it out. Press down the edges with your fingers or a fork.
When filling the wontons, keep the package covered with a damp towel so they don’t dry out. Wrap and freeze any unused wonton wrappers for up to two months.
Cooking your ravioli:
Bring water to a boil before adding the ravioli. Add them one at a time so they don’t stick together, then give them a stir. Don’t allow them to boil rapidly; if the water has too much movement, the ravioli will break open. Ravioli will give you a sign when they are cooked: They will float to the top of the water.
Now you're ready to start cooking. You can use your favorites, such as cheese, spinach, or sausage, but you can also get creative and start cleaning out the fridge to fill your ravioli.
Here are some non-traditional but super delicious fillings: Read More ›
Speaking as a native San Franciscan, it's been a great year for professional sports! Between the Giant's World Series championship and the 49ers super bowl berth, our athletes have given us a lot to brag about. Rooting for your team is fun, but thinking about what you eat while watching the game (and the commercials) is just as important. According to USA Today, the Super Bowl is "only second behind Thanksgiving for the average amount of calories consumed in a day." To combat this unfortunate fact, I’ve gathered our favorite healthy super bowl party food so you can celebrate without the super-high calories, fat, and sodium. Don't forget to get up at halftime and dance to the music or get outside to throw the ball with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones. That way you can enjoy some great food and keep moving too. You know who I will be rooting for on the field ("Go 49ers!"), but I'm also rooting for all my fellow Sparkers out there to have a fun and healthy super bowl celebration. Read More ›
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not only because that’s "what my Mom used to say," but because, as my kids will tell you, their Mommy (me) gets pretty grumpy when she doesn't have a good breakfast. In all seriousness, several studies point to the importance of breakfast for metabolism, mental acuity, as well as other key health and wellness factors. SparkPeople has made breakfast a key priority in its programs too.
At the same time, not everyone feels the same about breakfast. Too big a breakfast and my husband will feel ill. The wrong breakfast choices and my kids will stage an uprising, of which they’re usually on the verge anyway in the morning. To help other Sparkers who find breakfast challenging, I've gathered our best recipes that have a proper balance of complex carbs, proteins, and fats that are also quick, easy, and affordable to prepare. Start your day right with these breakfast gems. Read More ›