As you know, "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" by Chef Meg Galvin and myself will be released next Tuesday, Oct. 4. This healthy cooking bible is almost 500 pages, with nearly 100 full-page color photos, more than 150 recipes, and hundreds more meal ideas, tips and tricks. The recipes are decadent--as a chef and runner Meg doesn't do deprivation--but they're meant to fit into your SparkPeople meal plans (and every recipe will be linked to the SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker) and 150 of the dishes and meal ideas are ready in under 30 minutes. The book has already been an Amazon.com best-seller!
And, no ingredient is off-limits. That means we even included an entire chapter devoted to desserts and snacks. To help us get the recipes just right, Meg recruited her friend and colleague, Megan Ketover. You might recognize her photo: She's a contestant on "Top Chef: Just Desserts" on Bravo. Megan's an award-winning pastry chef who worked at the Midwest Culinary Institute (where Chef Meg teaches), and she currently is the pastry chef for the top restaurant in Cincinnati, the Orchids at Palm Court at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. (If you're ever in Cincinnati, you must eat here. From the top-notch service to the beautiful Art Deco dining room, it's a wonderfully unique experience.)
Megan created decadent recipes that are healthy, too. You'll love her Raspberry Streusel Muffins. They're light in texture and calories with a sweet and crunchy topping. Her Banana Honey Cake uses a secret ingredient to infuse flavor for zero calories (and only 136 calories a slice)! And for all you chocolate lovers out there, you won't want to miss her Dark Chocolate Angel Food Cake--she uses a box to save time, then adds a few ingredients to ramp up the decadence. My personal favorite? Her Lemon Berry Tartlets. They're tiny and oh-so-adorable, and less than 60 calories each.
This week I reached out to Megan and asked her a few questions. While she definitely has an affinity for sweets, the petite chef said she was definitely craving veggies after those long weeks of taping. Read her exclusive interview now!
Megan: I rarely pick the super chocolate dessert on the menu, I just love caramel and vanilla flavors more. Crème brûlee has always been a favorite of mine. And I love ice cream, especially fresh spun from the machine when it is still slightly soft.
Stepfanie: You're surrounded by pastries and treats all day, every day. How do you resist eating them all?
Megan: I am very lucky because I take so many little bites throughout the day to make sure flavors are balanced, that I am very satisfied by sweets when the day is done. There are certain things that are so amazing when they come out of the oven, I do have to have some willpower to resist eating them all. Really good chocolate chip or chewy sugar cookies, or our French macarons. I just make sure if I am going to eat something decadent, it is going to be really good, and not waste my calories on junk.
Stepfanie: Do you have any tips for those who might be intimidated by baking?
Megan: With savory cooking, you can improvise and adjust amounts in a recipe, but baking is an exact science so I always recommend that bakers get a scale to measure ingredients. Measurement is just very important in baking. Scales can also help to see what a real portion size is.
Stepfanie: For "The SparkPeople Cookbook," you created recipes that were packed with flavor but low in fat? What are some ways that you make your favorite desserts healthier?
Megan: I have always liked the rich flavor of whole wheat flour, so switching out regular flour to whole wheat is an easy way to add fiber and nutrients. Flax seed is also an amazing ingredient to add that packs a nutrient punch without a huge quality difference. I have always enjoyed nutritional baking, but it is important to know what role the baking ingredients play in a recipe in order to substitute it well. It is always important to me that “healthier” desserts still taste amazing. There is just no point if it does not taste good!
Stepfanie: People tend to think of desserts as very high in calories--a food that they should rarely eat. How do you incorporate desserts into everyday life?
Megan: Sweets make people happy, they are satisfying at the end of a meal, so I encourage small portion sizes into a healthy diet. Sweets are also integral to a lot of celebrations in our culture: birthday cakes, wedding cakes. Fruits are great because they also pack vitamins, and dairy based desserts are a delicious way to add calcium and protein to a diet plan. Moderation is just key, what works for me is to have a small portion of something really delicious and satisfying.
Stepfanie: You're a contestant on "Top Chef: Just Desserts." After spending your days surrounded by treats made by world-class chefs, what kind of food did you crave? Was it more sweets--or something savory/healthier?
Megan: After all day filming in the kitchen, I craved crispy and salty foods, so I would usually go for a handful of pretzels. It’s funny because we were always on the lookout for fruit and would all get so happy to see a bowl of apples! I always loaded up with vegetables and salad at meals. A lot of time there was dessert around, and we would all just walk right past the cupcakes.
Stepfanie: How did you stay calm and focused when you were on the show and working such long days? Did you have any healthy habits that helped you "survive"?
Megan: I always tried to start each day with a good breakfast, balanced with protein, some carbs for energy and some fruit. I drank more water than ever before to try and stay hydrated and healthy. And honestly, a lot of caffeine, but that is not the best habit! At least, running around a kitchen and cooking your heart out is a great workout!
Thanks, Megan! We're rooting for you!
Check local listings to watch Megan on "Top Chef: Just Desserts" (it's on tonight), and be sure to order your copy of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" today!
Photos by Randall Hoover Photography
Have you watched Megan on "Top Chef"? Will you?
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