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10 Great-For-You Chicken Soup Makeovers


Chicken soup has seemingly mystical properties; moms swear by its ability to cure anything that ails you.
 
While its medicinal attributes are still being tested, the Mayo Clinic does report that chicken soup can reduce inflammation and speed up the loosening of mucus in the nose and sinuses, which makes it a good-for-you remedy when you’re not feeling well. Add in some spice (like ginger or chile), for more relief of that stuffed-up feeling that comes with a cold. Plus, a batch of homemade chicken soup tastes a whole lot better than over-the-counter cold medicines.
 
Try these alternatives to classic chicken-noodle soup next time you’re under the weather—or you just want something to eat that’s warm, comforting and delicious.
 
Chicken Stock
Any good homemade chicken soup starts with good stock. For store-bought chicken stock, we recommend Swanson’s low-sodium organic chicken broth. But really, it’s so easy to make your own homemade stock that you should try this recipe—make a big batch and store it (in 3- or 4-cup containers) in the freezer for soup-making.
 
Basic Chicken Noodle Soup
We’ll start with this simple recipe for chicken noodle soup. It has everything you want: chunks of chicken, carrots, celery and slurp-able noodles.
Posted 2/8/2013  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 16 comments   30,390 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   55,613 views
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10 Single-Serving Sweet Treats


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. 
Posted 2/5/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 22 comments   41,347 views
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Better-For-You Southern Comfort Recipes


Down home Southern cooking has produced some of our finest classic American dishes. At the same time, many of these original recipes include unwanted fats, calories and sodium. With some simple changes, we can enjoy this quintessential comfort cuisine and still stay on-track with our health goals. 
Posted 2/1/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 13 comments   83,944 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   60,141 views
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15 Healthy Snacks for Super Bowl Sunday


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. 
Posted 1/29/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 16 comments   114,264 views
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A Dozen Quick Ways to Use Rotisserie Chicken


That lovely, roasty aroma hits you when you walk into the grocery on your way home from work and you spy a display case of rotisserie chickens near the checkout aisle. Of all the convenience foods on the store shelves, this one’s a good choice—a simple roast chicken, a good tossed salad and a loaf of whole-grain bread can make a satisfying, healthful and easy dinner.
 
A store-bought roast chicken can easily feed a family of four—and there’s more you can do with it than simply slicing and serving. Shredded or diced roast chicken can star in all kinds of easy meals. 
 
For these meal ideas, start with a store-bought chicken, or try this slow cooker version.
Posted 1/25/2013  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 24 comments   54,754 views
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12 Easy Ways to Serve Lean Pork


On more SparkPeople members' dinner tables, chicken is stepping aside while lean pork is the star of the meal. I am a big fan of lean pork products for busy weeknight meals, slow cooker Sundays, and tablecloth: and: good china Saturday night dinners.  Choosing leaner cuts of pork such as the tenderloin, roast, and chops will bring more flavor to your favorite recipes than leaner cuts of poultry and at about the same price.
 
Not sure how to cook pork or need some new ideas? Here are a dozen to get you started.
Posted 1/24/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 8 comments   22,547 views
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6 Fun Facts about Peanut Butter


Did you know today is National Peanut Butter Day?

In honor of our favorite nut butter day, we decided to share some fun facts with you. Read on for a super-cool graphic, our best peanut butter recipes, and a poll with an urgent question: chunky or creamy?

Posted 1/24/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 79 comments   28,074 views
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Breakfast in 15 Minutes or Less


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. 
Posted 1/22/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 29 comments   78,950 views
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Easy Gluten-Free Lunch Recipes


Many people are choosing, for a variety of reasons, to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet. Whether it's due to a food allergy, or just a personal preference  quick and easy gluten-free lunch recipes are hard to come by. Furthermore, supermarkets are now carrying gluten-free options, but they're often expensive and don't taste as good as homemade recipes. Instead of blowing the budget on store-bought items, I prefer products at are naturally gluten-free. This means that the items themselves are already gluten-free and can be combined into a full gluten-free meal. Regardless of your unique needs, these recipes are great choices for healthy lunches. 
Posted 1/18/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 18 comments   70,113 views
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Recipes So Good You Won't Believe They're Good for You


When Chef Meg and I started planning the recipe list for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we had a few criteria in mind. They had to be healthy, since this would be a SparkPeople cookbook, and they had to be easy, since even Chef Meg doesn't spend hours in the kitchen when she's not teaching chefs how to cook. Most importantly they had to be delicious. We banned bland food and ditched the diet. Together we created 150 meals and recipes ready in 30 minutes or less that use real foods like butter, bacon, and chocolate (not all together!).

With this cookbook you can eat the foods you love while losing weight--and you don't have to deprive yourself! You can eat like a chef without spending hours in the kitchen. And you can learn how to get the entire family excited about eating right (there's even a section on getting kids in the kitchen and teaching them to cook).



The SparkPeople Cookbook not only shares great recipes, it also provides a healthy cooking education. From tools to ingredients, you learn what to stock in a healthy kitchen, then you get the lowdown on good-for-you cooking methods, from steaming and braising to roasting and grilling.
If that's not enough to entice you, take a sneak peek at these recipes--so good, you won't believe they're good for you!
Posted 1/17/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 14 comments   26,126 views
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13 Recipes High In Protein, Low In Fat


Are you tired of eating plain, boring chicken breast every night for dinner, or are you having a hard time eating enough protein to meet you daily needs? Studies suggest that eating protein helps you feel fuller for longer and keeps your body's systems function properly. At the same time, many high protein recipes are also loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol that work against your efforts to stay healthy. A health and balanced diet requires 10-35% protein. That's an average of 50-175 grams daily. To find the right balance of protein and fat follow these suggestions:
  • Grill, bake, poach or broil your food to limit fat.
  • Select nonfat or low fat dairy options.
  • Use egg whites in place of the whole egg.
  • Select lean meats and trim the fat and skin before cooking. 
Prepare these high protein, low fat recipes to help you stay on track and satisfied.

Posted 1/15/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 20 comments   213,476 views
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12 Ways to Top Your Tomato Soup


There's something so comforting about tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Today we're sharing with you a simple recipe for a homemade version of this comforting classic, plus ideas for how to top your soup--and easy ways to transform it into other meals.
 
Mmm, mmm, better! That's what you will be saying when you try my easy Creamy Tomato Soup.  It tastes so much better than the stand-by canned variety, which rely on salt for most of their taste.
 
The condensed tomato soup we grew up eating has 480 mg sodium (about 20% of the max you should consume in a day). The homemade version has less than 100 mg per serving.
 
Tomato soup is delightful on its own, but it also pairs well with all sorts of toppings. Try one of these flavorful toppings:
Posted 1/11/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 22 comments   21,884 views
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Make-Ahead Meals: How to Freeze and Reheat Full Dishes


Finding time to make a healthy dinner is a challenge for many of us. One of the best tips you'll hear is to freeze meals for busy nights to avoid the greasy drive-thru or pricey takeout traps. But how do you know if a meal will freeze well? How much time will it take to create a few make-ahead meals? And how in the world do you reheat and serve those frozen meals?
 
We've got you covered.

Before You Begin:
  1. Pick a day to plan meals.  Ask your kids, spouse, or friends for ideas.  Better yet, log onto SparkRecipes.com for easy, quick recipes.  Peruse grocery store ads, then make your final meal plan. 
  2. Write your grocery list--and take it with you when you shop.
  3. Once home, store recipe ingredients together in your pantry and refrigerator.
  4. Set aside a couple of hours to cook your freeze-for-later meals.  (Make sure you follow food safety guidelines for storage and reheating.)
Learn the Basics of Meal Planning
 
Before you head to the store, let's talk about which foods freeze well, and which don't:
Posted 1/7/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 28 comments   53,197 views
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