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A Dozen Trim Thanksgiving Recipes


Are you ready for some new, healthy recipes to liven up your Thanksgiving Day table? I've created five new recipes that celebrate the season of giving thanks. No doubt about it, pumpkin takes center stage this year, along with squash of all kinds.


Whole Wheat Couscous with Spinach and Squash

228 calories, 2 g fat

Each one cup portion has a serving each of whole grains and vegetables.
Posted 11/13/2013  3:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 61 comments   101,045 views
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Take Cucumbers beyond Pickles


Cucumbers should have a permanent slot on your shopping list.  There are endless ways to use them in the kitchen.  Grab a couple because one a week may not be enough.
 
How to harvest or select from the store:
Cucumbers are very easy to grow. The hard part is to getting out into the garden and harvesting every day once the plants start producing.  Whether you are in a garden or in the produce section at your favorite market, choose firm and bright green cucumbers.  Large cucumbers might seem like a bargain when sold at a unit price instead of by pound, but the large varieties tend to have tough skins and large watery seed cavities. 
Choose small cucumbers because they have small seed cavities, thin skins, and tender flesh. If the market only has large ones, you might want to peel them and scoop out the seeds.
 
For peak freshness, choose cucumbers that are dark green, with no yellow spots or bruising on the flesh, which can be a sign that the cucumber may be bitter or bland. 
 
Most cukes at the market are coated with edible wax or oil. You can scrub it away or peel it off, but you do need to remove it before eating.
Posted 7/2/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 34 comments   27,666 views
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How to Make Dried Fruit (Using Your Oven)


It's summer, and that means fruit trees, bushes, and berry plants are exploding with a bountiful harvest.  A healthy goal is to eat a variety of these local and fresh fruits.  
 
If we fast forward to fall, the taste of sweet, juicy strawberries are all but gone.  Never fear!  With local produce at its peak, think like the animals--harvest and store for winter.   
 
When it comes to fruit, you have three options: can, freeze, or dry.
 
Today I'm going to teach you how to turn summer's freshest fruit into a snack you can enjoy year-round. It's like nature's candy, and it requires no special equipment.
 
While you could use a dehydrator or old-fashioned drying cabinet, you don't need one. All you need is an oven, parchment paper or silicone liners and sheet pans or pizza screens if you have them. 
Posted 6/20/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 71 comments   158,173 views
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Fajitas The Healthy Way!


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. 
Posted 5/21/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 29 comments   167,135 views
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10 Quick Quinoa Recipes


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.  
Posted 5/7/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 37 comments   466,917 views
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11 Healthier Cupcake Recipes


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. 
Posted 5/2/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 44 comments   354,360 views
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Easy Asparagus Recipes


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:


Salmon-Asparagus Casserole


Crab and Asparagus Crepes


Asparagus Tart with Ricotta


Strawberry-Asparagus Salad


Roasted Salmon with Lemon Couscous and Asparagus



Easy Asparagus Au Gratin


Asparagus Wrapped in Phyllo Dough

Posted 4/11/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 43 comments   34,648 views
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20 Better than Takeout Recipes


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!
 
Appetizers
Chicken Satay with Vegetables (Chef Meg's Makeover)

Crispy Baked Egg Rolls

Chef Meg's Spring Rolls
Pot Stickers (steamed wontons)

Baked Crab Rangoon
 
Posted 4/4/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 32 comments   315,811 views
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What's for Dinner? 30 Easy, Healthy Meals for April


Starting this month, we're offering up some of our favorite recipes from Chef Meg, the SparkPeople Team and members to last you the entire month. This handy list is packed full of meal ideas that are healthy and delicious. Whether you use these recipes in order and every day, or just use a couple a week is up to you. We hope this inspires you to get into the kitchen and get cooking!
 
We even threw in a few probable scenarios that could prevent you from eating right. See these as a chance to "take off the training wheels" and get creative while sticking with your healthy eating plan.
 
Sunday, April 1:
Easy Slow Cooker Lemony Garlic Chicken Breast--add asparagus (it's in season!) and whole-wheat couscous (ready in minutes!)

Monday, April 2:
Serve the leftover chicken from last night with a green veggie and Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"

Tuesday, April 3:
Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken served with baked tortilla chips

Wednesday, April 4:
Pantry night: Low-sodium canned soup with Coach Nicole's Grown Up Grilled Cheese

Thursday, April 5:
Chef Meg's Super Fast Pork and Veggie Stir Fry with brown rice

Friday, April 6:
Leftover Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken as burritos. Tip: Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream!

Saturday, April 7:
Crockpot Spicy Beef Brisket with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed veggies, plus whole-wheat bread
Posted 3/31/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 37 comments   269,947 views
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Juice Recipes for Health


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. 
Posted 3/1/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 19 comments   26,856 views
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11 Healthy Cabbage Recipes


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 Cookbookis 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. 
Posted 2/26/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 20 comments   57,814 views
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The Benefits of Going Blue: 9 Blueberry Recipes


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. 
Posted 2/20/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 19 comments   31,631 views
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7 Slow Cooker Pork Recipes


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. 
Posted 2/15/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 10 comments   33,084 views
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Simple Sauces for Steaks


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!)
Posted 2/6/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 23 comments   73,869 views
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13 Healthy Ravioli Fillings (and an Easy Way to Make Them)


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:
Posted 1/30/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 17 comments   76,760 views
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