All Entries For sparkmom

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   471,890 views
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Slow Cooker Soups for Winter


Welcome in the new year with these winter slow cooker soup recipes. As a busy mother, wife and writer, I have to plan ahead if I’m going to achieve my health goals. When I utilize my slow cooker, I’m able to quickly and easily prepare family meals. These hearty soup recipes will warm you on a cold night and support you nutritionally too. Begin 2013 on a strong note with these soup recipes.
Posted 1/1/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 25 comments   65,540 views
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9 Meatloaf Makeovers


At many dinner tables, the term "meatloaf" strikes fear in the hearts of even the most hardened palates. I have spent considerable time trying to bring peace among those who in my family who love and hate this classic American dish. Even for those who crave this American delicacy, there's the problem of how to prepare it without the fat and calories that wreek havoc on your health goals. Start by substituting lean meats, whole grains and vegetables. Use fresh spices and dried herbs to give it an international feel. Did you know meatloaf can even be made without meat? Have fun in your kitchen and enjoy these healthy meatloaf SparkRecipes
Posted 12/21/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Samantha Donohue : 14 comments   12,476 views
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Spice of the Month: Nutmeg


It just wouldn't be the holidays without this warm and nutty spice. Impress friends and family at the dinner table with some trivia. Did you know nutmeg is actually the seed of a type of tree?

Nutmeg Basics

Cut open the fruit of a tropical variety of evergreen tree and you’ll find this inch-sized brown seed. It doesn’t look like much but this little baby packs in warm and earthy flavor when it’s freshly grated. Ground nutmeg is also widely available, but isn’t as potent.
Native to Indonesia, the Caribbean and part of India, the outer covering of nutmeg is cultivated as an entirely different spice known as mace.

Nutrition Info

One tablespoon of nutmeg has just shy of 40 calories, 1 gram of fiber and B-vitamins like thiamin, B6 and folate. You’ll also find minerals like copper, iron and potassium.

What to do with Nutmeg

Use nutmeg to add a spicy, sweet kick to baked goods. Banana, pumpkin, apple and carrot get along famously with this sassy spice. Sweet foods love nutmeg but so do creamy dishes like fettuccine Alfredo, mac and cheese and creamed spinach. You’ll find it in lots of holiday recipes; everything from pumpkin pie to green bean casserole.

Shopping and Storage Tips

Posted 12/19/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 19 comments   8,540 views
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7 Easy Baked Pasta Dishes


Pasta is a crowd pleaser and doesn’t have to be hard to cook or unhealthy. Baked pasta is my go to meal when I need to prepare something ahead of time for dinner. With these simple modifications I've been able to take high-fat, high-calorie dishes and replaced them with highly nutritious ingredients. 
  • Use only half the amount of cheese.
  • Replace high-fat protein with lean protein.
  • Replace half the pasta with vegetables.
  • Try pasta made with rice, corn or quinoa flour for a gluten-free option. 
  • Use non-fat milk and Greek yogurt for a cream based sauce. 
These recipes are simple to prepare and taste great. Steam some broccoli or prepare a green salad and you have a well balanced meal that your family will love. 
Posted 12/18/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 2 comments   60,029 views
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7 Quick and Easy Salmon Recipes


When I was in high school, my parents made a big lifestyle change that included improved diet and exercise. One of our staples when eating out became salmon. Many years later, it's still my favorite fish, but now I enjoy it at home around our family dinner table too. The best thing about salmon is that you don't have to be a professional chef or require expensive ingredients. This fish is simple to prepare, cooks fast, and has high levels of omega-3 fats and protein, but is relatively low in calories. I prefer fresh wild salmon, but you can opt for farmed or canned salmon also. Whether you already love salmon, or if you're ready to try something new, try these simple and healthy recipes to acquaint yourself with this amazing fish. 
Posted 11/27/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 17 comments   67,103 views
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Shop Smarter and Save More on Black Friday


Turkey, pumpkin pie, football, family. Thanksgiving might include any of those things, but for many people, a vital part of the holiday weekend is the shopping. And while there are countless bargains to be found, not all promotions may be worthy of an early wake-up call or being jostled by crowds. We put Claudia Lombana, PayPal Shopping Specialist, to the test for her best Black Friday advice. 
Posted 11/20/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   8,311 views
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7 Super Soups


As the weather turns cold, heat up your meal planning with cozy soup recipes.  Soup doesn't need to be boring, plain or unsubstantial. Add ingredients like beans, lean proteins and whole grains to turn it into a complete nutritious meal. Avoid high sodium broths. Instead use spices and seasonings to add flavor. Double the recipe and use the left over's for tomorrow's lunch or freeze it to enjoy another night. Curl up with a cup of soup this week by using these recipes and resources. 
Posted 11/16/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 15 comments   17,274 views
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Better Butternut Squash Recipes


Butternut squash is my favorite fall vegetable. I tell my kids that it's like vegetable candy, because roasting brings out its natural sweetness and reduces the need for sugar in our favorite fall deserts.
 
Consuming butternut squash adds fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and C to your diet. Here's an easy way to pick the perfect one at most stores. For maximum efficiency, roast extra squashes and freeze the extra flesh for later use. If you're short on time, just pick up some pre-cut Butternut Squash in the freezer section at your market. Another fun tip is to grind the seeds in a coffee or spice grinder and use as a natural thickening agent in soups and stews. 
 
Celebrate fall with these butternut squash recipes. 
Posted 11/13/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 13 comments   13,133 views
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18 Irresistible Chocolate-Peanut Butter Recipes


"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt…" – Charles M. Schulz.

One of my favorite flavor combinations is peanut butter and chocolate. When enjoyed in moderation--and when consumed in their more natural forms--this treat has measurable nutritional value. Dark chocolate has been connected with preventing high blood pressure and is a good source of antioxidants. Natural peanut butter is also loaded with antioxidants, as well as being a source of plant-based proteins. Since the fusion of these flavors is so rich, I find that I can enjoy it in smaller servings, which can help me stay within my daily calorie goal. Treat yourself to something special today. You're worth it! 
Posted 11/6/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 19 comments   25,273 views
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12 Savory Pumpkin Recipes


In my home town, near San Francisco, orange and black is bursting forth and its not just because the Giants won the World Series. Halloween pumpkins have arrived! These colorful gourds come in all different shapes, colors and sizes, but they're not just for decorating. Pumpkins are a delicious base in many savory dishes. A simple one-cup serving gives almost double the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Beta-Carotene, not to mention vitamin C, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and fiber too.  Look for smaller pumpkins with minimal blemishes. They should be heavy for their size with stems intact. Pumpkin can be boiled, baked or steamed. Instead of tossing the pumpkin seeds, roast them for a delicious snack or topping.   Cook double or triple the amount you need for your recipe and freeze the rest. Enjoy each bite of these savory pumpkin recipes. 
Posted 10/31/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 7 comments   18,261 views
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7 Veggie-Packed Meals for Fall


Easy ways to turn vitamin-packed veggies into healthy, delicious dinners.
 
BLT Pasta
Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 22 minutes 
Posted 10/23/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 18 comments   27,967 views
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Stop Apologizing for Being Different


Every day I work hard to be a good mom.  There are days where I’m proud of the job I’ve done, and other days when I’m not.   I think that kind of goes with the territory.  I know I’m not perfect, but I always try to make decisions based on what I think is right for my family.  Some of those decisions aren’t the norm, but instead of being proud of paving my own path, recently I’ve started apologizing for them.  It’s time for me to stop being sorry and start embracing my differences.
 
My daughter started kindergarten last month, which means I’ve been getting involved at school, going to meetings and introducing myself to other parents in her class.  A few weeks ago, I went to a meeting where moms were chatting about popular meals they serve for dinner.  Most of the foods they were mentioning were things my kids never eat, because admittedly, I’m pretty picky about what we have.  Most of our meals don’t come from a box or fast food drive through, and I try to serve healthy foods as much as possible (leaving room for special treats now and then.)  I stayed quiet through the conversation, because I didn’t want to come off as judging other parents.  Every parent has their own things they focus on, and one of mine happens to be the quality of our food.  When I came to pick my daughter up from a playdate a few days after this, her friend’s mom asked “What does she eat for lunch?” She named a few foods she asked if my daughter would like to eat, and my daughter had never had them before.   Yes, hotdogs are on that list.    
 
After these two experiences (as well as a few others involving the toys my children have compared to other kids), I felt the need to apologize to them.  “I’m sorry that I’m different than other parents.  I’m sorry I focus a lot on what you eat, and don’t just buy you everything you want the second you ask for it.”  When my husband heard me doing this, he pulled me aside.  “Why would you apologize for doing things for our kids that you feel are going to make them better, healthier people?  Don’t be sorry for that.”  The more I thought about it, the more I knew he was right.  My kids eat plenty of treats, just not all-day, every day.  My kids get new toys and we do lots of fun things together, even if I’m not buying the latest, most expensive gadgets on the market.  I do these things because I think they are right for my family, which is why everyone makes the choices they do.  I just need to get more comfortable in my own skin and not be so self-conscious about it.
 
The path towards a healthier lifestyle isn’t always the popular choice.  Sometimes you have to turn down seconds at the dinner table, or decide against the rich dessert that everyone else is devouring.  Have you ever felt the need to apologize for that, as if you’re doing something wrong?  Do you apologize to family or friends for making time to work out instead of things others might like you to do?  I think there’s a difference between being selfish, and just saying you’re sorry for making different choices.  In the end, we all have one life to live.  The way you make yours great isn’t going to be the same as everyone else, but that’s okay.  That’s what makes each of us unique.
 
What do you think?  
  
Posted 10/23/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 68 comments   11,258 views
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The Secret to Perfect (Faux) Frying


You might not find discussions of pan frying or deep fat frying in most cookbooks geared to healthy cooking for obvious reasons. I guess that means that if we want to live a healthy lifestyle we will no  longer enjoy the golden breading color on pieces of cooked Dover sole or the crunch we hear when we bite into a chicken leg coated in a crispy breading. Guess again! If you've said goodbye to those crispy cooked foods--say hello again!  Faux frying creates a lighter version of the pan- or deep-fried foods that we all crave.  It's simple, quick, and easy.  Best of all, your home (and your hair) won't smell of a deep fat fryer for days after the meal. 
Posted 10/15/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 24 comments   34,126 views
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Tap into the Potential of Taproots This Fall


By definition, a taproot is the single root of a plant that extends deep into the soil to supply the above-ground plant with nutrients.  My definition of a taproot is YUM! It is such a shame these vegetables are grown below ground because many are just too pretty to hide.  Maybe that's their plan: to hang out underground and develop earthy flavor notes and then when plucked from the earth it's like a walk down the red carpet showing off their textured and colorful skin. Taproots such as parsnips, beets, carrots, and celery root have been around for ages and still shine as cooler weather favorites. 
I love what a little cool weather can do to sweeten up parsnips and how a hot oven will transform the  flesh into to a golden sweet vegetable dish. 
 
Look for different varieties of taproots at your local market and follow the guide below to incorporate them into all your fall and winter meals. 
Posted 10/8/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 16 comments   10,887 views
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