Samantha Donohue is all about taking her health seriously, without taking herself too seriously. She loves to fly through the air on a trapeze, hide vegetables in her children's morning smoothies, and out-sprint her husband on training runs. Having grown up cooking with both of her Italian grandmothers, she knows how to make most everything from scratch, but she's not afraid to throw in a jar of pasta sauce when no one is looking.
Her life motto is "to run the race set before me with my eyes wide open and focused on the goal."
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In honor of Heart Awareness Month, I've gathered up recipes that have the ultimate superfood: chia seeds. Chia seeds are a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. If you have not heard of chia seeds, read "What Can You Do with Chia Seeds? Plenty!" for more information. Don't let giggles and jokes about the kitschy Chia Pet commercials dissuade you. I add chia to almost all recipes these days. I love that it's gluten and alergy-free. Try these chia recipes today.
Posted 6/18/2013 6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 54 comments 629,803 views
Ground turkey (and ground chicken) are staples in my kitchen. I buy in bulk and keep them in my freezer. My favorite use for this versatile item is turkey burgers. It’s fun to experiment with items in my fridge, cupboard, or farm box, aiming for half of the ingredients to be vegetables and whole grains. This creates a complete nutritional meal for my kids that also affords them choice of toppings and condiments. My personal favorite is to enjoy the patty on top of leafy greens with honey mustard dressing. Instead of consuming that full-fat 500 calorie beef burger, opt for one of these juicy turkey burger recipes. Here are a few of the best turkey burger recipes from SparkRecipes members.
Posted 6/11/2013 6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 47 comments 329,302 views
Using a slow cooker is like magic: pour in the ingredients, set the heat level, and then shift focus to your to do list, all the while your slow cooker does the heavy lifting. Chicken is one of my favorite ingredients to use in a slow cooker, since it’s a flavorful source of lean protein and it requires little effort to cook. These are some of SparkPeople’s favorite slow cooker chicken recipes.
Slow Cooker Marinara Chicken and Vegetables (Chef Meg's Makeover)
Posted 5/16/2013 6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 30 comments 1,343,077 views
My love of doughnuts started on my sixth birthday, when my parents bought me doughnuts 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 doughnuts 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 doughnuts pan, try a muffin pan instead. Doughnuts are a wonderful treat, but these recipes give you all the flavor, but not wreck your health goals.
Posted 5/14/2013 12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 70 comments 522,521 views
For my family, spring signals the beginning of little league baseball and a renewed level of busyness that makes staying on top of nutrition a bit of a challenge. Recently, I've been using berries, another spring/summer favorite, to keep my kids fueled up. Using a simple blender, I can have a tasty treat whipped up in minutes that includes many greens that my kids wouldn't normally eat.
Berries are sweet, but also contain a boost of disease-fighting antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. It's fun to hear my kids ask for a second glass, especially when I know it's loaded with spinach, kale, or chia or flax seed to add fiber, protein and healthy omega fats. I make it a goal to get at least three servings of fruits and vegetable in each smoothie I make.
When I see deal on berries, I buy double what I need and put half in the freezer. Then I can just pull out what I need, whenever I need it, and clean up is easy too: just pop the blender parts in your dish washer or hand clean with hot soapy water. Fuel yourself with berries and other great smoothies by trying these SparkRecipes.
Posted 5/9/2013 6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 50 comments 748,913 views
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 : 44 comments 634,007 views
Spring gardens are in full bloom and the beauty of the season is reaching its peak. It's as if the gardens themselves are working overtime for Mother's Day, celebrating the proverbial "busy bees" in our lives, our moms.
Mother's Day brunch is a tradition for many families, but it often includes endless buffet tables chock-full of high fat, salt saturated, and sugar laden dishes. The high price tag of these "all you can eat affairs" wreak havoc on our common sense, leading us to rationalize eating more than we our stomachs are designed to hold. We enjoy the company of our loved ones, yes, but do we welcome the bathroom scale the following morning?
Give Mom the gift of love through a healthy and fun meal. I've gathered our best brunch recipes for you to enjoy. Many of these are from our Chef Meg. Her gourmet recipes are simple to prepare and don't require an endless list of ingredients, highlighting spring fruits and vegetables. They are perfect for dads and children to prepare together too, making the cooking as fun as the eating, if not more. Here are some other ideas to make this Mother's Day memorable: visit your local farmer's market; create a customized playlist with songs that celebrate memories with Mom; pick some fresh flowers from the garden; and adorn the table with china. Most importantly, don't forget to clean up the kitchen so Mom can spend the evening basking in the love of her loved ones.
Posted 5/3/2013 6:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 11 comments 36,789 views
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 : 45 comments 526,575 views
My current go-to green vegetable is kale, which has nutritional value and health benefits that are off-the-charts. Whether I’m throwing it in my smoothie or steaming it as a recipe addition, I do my best to eat it every day.
The next time you are at the supermarket grab a bunch of kale and start cooking these recipes that you’ll actually eat and taste great.
Enchilada Casserole with Kale and Sweet Potatoes
Posted 4/25/2013 6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 50 comments 309,765 views
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!
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 : 37 comments 419,412 views
Are you looking for new ways to eliminate unhealthy ingredients and add more healthy ingredients to your recipes? Stuffed Bell Peppers are a fun way just to do that. A large size bell pepper has about 50 calories and is loaded with folate, magnesium, copper, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and potassium. Use peppers in place of high calorie wraps that have very little nutritional value. For an added bonus, stuff your peppers nutritional storehouses like beans, lentils, whole grains, finely chopped veggies and lean meats. Top it off with a puréed vegetable sauce for added flavor. Keep yourself healthy with these 10 super stuffed pepper recipes.
Posted 3/7/2013 6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 19 comments 402,702 views
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 : 23 comments 45,231 views
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.
Posted 2/26/2013 6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 27 comments 125,439 views
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 : 21 comments 45,536 views
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 45,448 views