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On SparkPeople.com, members log thousands of food items daily on our Nutrition Tracker. SparkRecipes now has more than 485,000 recipes. That's a lot of info on what people like you are really eating when they're working to get healthy and stay that way. We looked back at the top cooking trends of the year, based on what members like you are searching for on the site. Keep reading for a wealth of recipes and meal ideas that will help you reach your healthy cooking and eating goals in 2014.
High-Protein Foods: Protein is huge right now. You know that it's crucial to weight loss, thanks to its ability to fill you up, ward off hunger, and rebuild muscles after your workouts, and you're looking for creative and delectable ways to get enough of it each day. Beyond the usual recipes, try homemade protein bars, protein pancakes & protein powder pancakes.
No Bake Protein Bars
Peanut Butter Fudge Protein Bars
Drinking Your Vegetables: Getting in your five servings of fruits and veggies daily can be tough when you're busy. One of the easiest ways to load up on fruit is with a smoothie. Toss in a banana and some berries or melon, and you're easily halfway to your goal. But a lot of you are catching on that vegetables can be sneaked into a smoothie, too. you're trying spinach smoothie and vegetable smoothie recipes. (trust us, you can't taste the veggies.) Read More ›
As you might know, we recently hosted a $10,000 Split-the-Pot Slow Cooker Recipe Contest to celebrate the relaunch of SparkRecipes.com and do our part to help alleviate hunger. We know how much our members love how easy it is to make healthy recipes using a slow cooker, and we wanted to highlight some of YOUR best recipes, so we devised a contest that would allow us to thank you for helping SparkPeople grow into the largest healthy living community in America, while also giving back to those in need.
After weeks of popular voting, we selected 15 finalists, then taste-tested their creations at SP HQ, judging the recipes on taste, appearance, overall healthfulness, and ease of preparation. Today we're thrilled to announce the #1 slow cooker recipe in America is:
It was a hit among our taste-testers:
"I’d definitely make this recipe for my next get-together. It had just enough kick for me, but some people might like to add a little extra hot sauce. It’s great to eat as a soup, but you could also serve it as a dip with chips. Yum!"
"This was truly an easy recipe to make. I was amazed how many produce servings made it in there, and being ground up, the chicken really gave the chili a great consistency and taste."
The recipe's creator, Beth "Biz" Velatini, of Cary, Illinois, will win $10,000: $5,000 for her and $5,000 for her favorite hunger-relief charity, Common Threads. (The other 14 finalists will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.)
Founded by chef Art Smith, who was Oprah's personal chef, and artist Jesus Salgueiro, the nonprofit has been teaching children in underserved communities how to cook healthy, affordable meals during after-school programs for the last decade. Though it started in Chicago, Common Threads is focused on a nationwide effort to get one million kids cooking in the next five years.
Beth, who has a food blog called My Bizzy Kitchen, says she has used SparkPeople to help her manage her diabetes and lose weight. She's thrilled to be helping a program she believes in, and the prize money is much appreciated--she works two jobs to make ends meet, and her husband has been unemployed and dealing with health issues. Read More ›
Whipped cream-laden Thanksgiving pie notwithstanding, pumpkin has a healthy nutritional profile, with more than 200% of our RDA of Vitamin A, plus about one-third of our daily Vitamin C and nearly one-quarter of our fiber requirements. And it has just 40 calories per serving. (Without that whipped cream, of course.)
Canned pumpkin is widely available in grocery stores during the fall/winter holiday season. (Note: Be sure to grab plain pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie mix in a can, which includes sweeteners, spices and other ingredients to make a pie.) One can of pumpkin contains about 1 3/4 cup. Some canned pumpkin can have a slightly bitter taste, so it’s best suited for sweet recipes. For pumpkin-based dips or sauces, try making your own pumpkin puree; it’s super easy. Read More ›
As temperatures rise, so do your chances of getting food poisoning. , the number of illnesses surge from May to September, when picnics and cookouts mean food is out in potentially dangerous temperatures. But even though disease-causing bacteria are lurking, you can stay healthy. Here are the biggest misconceptions about summer food safety and the facts that can keep sickness at bay.
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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. Read More ›
Who doesn't like a game of hide-and-seek? The usual burger-and-fries dinner is hiding loads of fat. Seek out ours instead, which has secrets of its own. Extra lean beef can be dry, so we stuff it with onion and herbs for a juicy, tasty burger.
Compare a typical home-cooked burger meal to our lightened-up version. Read More ›
Tips for Best Tomato Taste
Choose unblemished ripe tomatoes from a farmers’ market or your family garden. Heirloom varieties come in different flavors and colors—for example, yellow tomatoes are generally milder and less acidic; some types remain green when fully ripe. Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator; they’ll lose flavor and get mealy. To make peeling easier, core the tomato, then scrape the blade of a small paring knife over the skin to loosen it.
Halve ripe tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the sheet in the oven on the lowest temperature (150 to 170 degrees) and let the tomatoes dry for 8 hours, until they’re shrunken but still a little plump. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 6 months. Keep reading for nine more ideas!
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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. Read More ›
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. Read More ›
Why does brown rice get such a bad rap? Sure, rice can be a little bland. And yes, the brown version does take longer to cook. But here’s the thing: In addition to being one of the healthiest foods in the human diet—rich in fiber, cholesterol-lowering fats and nutritious minerals and antioxidants—brown rice has a deep, nutty flavor and hearty texture that’s anything but boring.
White rice is highly processed brown rice that’s been stripped of its bran—and nearly all its nutrients. You’ll find short- and long-grain varieties; short-grain rice tends to be more sticky and compact when it’s cooked, while long-grain rice is fluffier. You may also be able to find quick-cooking brown rice (which is partially cooked and then dried). Brown rice is different from wild rice (which is actually a grass, not a rice), though they’re delicious together. Here are some great ways to enjoy brown rice:
Cooking brown rice.
To make 3 cups of cooked rice, bring 1 cup of brown rice, 2 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 40 to 50 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Turn off the heat, leave the lid on the pan and let the rice sit for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving. (You can also make brown rice in the slow cooker.)
Oven-Baked Brown Rice.
This SparkRecipes member recipe is dubbed “foolproof”; it’s baked in a foil-covered dish in the oven for an hour.
Prepared And Make-Ahead Brown Rice.
You’ll find already-cooked brown rice on your grocery shelf, and it’s a quick and easy way to enjoy this staple. Too, cooked rice freezes well, so if you plan to cook a batch of brown rice for a recipe, make double what you need and freeze the rest for up to 6 months.
Now, onto those recipes and meal ideas... Read More ›
If you're an avid cook and foodie, you've probably discovered the wonderful (and addictive!) world of Pinterest. This website gives you access to literally millions of recipes, cooking tips and inspiring food ideas, which is great! But we know that you don't always have the time to sift through the countless recipes floating around out there to find the very best ones. Which recipes are going to impress your guests, cause your mouth to water, and make you want to make them again and again? Well, we've taken the time to sift through our most popular SparkRecipes from our Pinterest page. These are the best recipes from our site that keep getting shared and re-pinned time and time again—because they're just that good. And now you can have them all in one handy list! All of these recipes are relatively fast, healthy and easy to make—and are guaranteed to make you want to make them for years to come. Bon appetit! Read More ›
Ground turkey is a staple in my kitchen. I buy in bulk and keep it 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. Read More ›
My favorite snack of late is air-popped popcorn. A whopping 3 cups of air-popped popcorn is a mighty filling whole-grain snack yet only has 92 calories, plus 19 g carbs, 3 g protein, and 4 g fiber. But have you ever eaten plain air-popped popcorn? It can be rather bland and dry. As the saying goes, the secret's in the sauce. For under 150 calories, you can flavor your popcorn in plenty of ways. Salty or sweet, spicy or savory--it's up to you.
Once you've popped your popcorn, it's time for the seasoning. To get your dry herbs, spices and other seasonings to stick, you'll need a little liquid, usually in the form of a fat. A little goes a long way, but you can even have butter on your popcorn without going over 150 calories!
Wondering how these varieties stack up against the tins of gourmet popcorn we're all bombarded with during the holidays? While these all have 150 calories or less, the cheese, buttered or caramel versions can have up to 300 calories in a little more than a cup, with 18 g fat!
Let's get popping!
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Per your requests, our recipe ideas come in a handy, downloadable calendar packed full of meal ideas that are healthy and delicious. (It's printable, too!) Whether you use this calendar every day or just use it for ideas is up to you. We hope we've inspired you to get into the kitchen and get cooking!
Each week we'll choose a different theme: our favorite no-cook summer recipes, 7 days of meatless meals, or a week of diabetes-friendly dinners, for example. If you have a special dietary request, let us know in the comments, and we'll do our best to devise a recipe plan that might suit your needs.
By posting a weekly calendar, we think it's easier for you to save and even reuse these recipe collections over time.
This week's theme is Gluten-Free Dinners.
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