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Success Story: Using Food to Fuel Fitness


You've peeked inside at the delectable recipes in "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." But unlike in other cookbooks, ours contains much, much more--including the stories of SparkPeople members just like you who lost weight and kept it off using Chef Meg's recipes and the lessons we share in "The SparkPeople Cookbook." Today we're sharing Tara's story.

Tara (HALLELUL), a clerical worker for a Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization, has an infectious laugh and a smile that lights up her face. She was a member of our Ditch the Diet Taste Test. When Tara found she didn’t have the energy to keep up with the rest of the congregation in church, she knew she needed to lose weight. Motivation came from a friendly competition in her church and SparkPeople helped her to meet her goals. Now, she’s not only enthusiastically praising the Lord on Sundays, but she completed her first marathon in 2010.

I used to say I had “sweet teeth” not just one sweet tooth. My nickname was Froot Loop. I would literally bring an empty margarine tub of the sugary cereal to work with me and snack on it all day. Now I’ve replaced that with Kashi’s Go Lean cereal. Not only do I really like it, but it’s also healthy for me so I don’t have to feel guilty eating it. Of course I eat it in moderation—about a serving size (1 or 2) and not a tub.
It’s taken me a little more than a year to lose the weight, but I’ve reached my goal since participating in the Ditch the Diet Taste Test! Cooking has been so important to my success. I’ve been hearing more and more about “superfoods” and knowing how to properly incorporate them into a meal each day makes me feel good. I now know that I’m doing what I can to ward off sickness and fuel my body for the all-important “playtime” (which it what I call exercise).

Posted 1/31/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 31 comments   20,495 views
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10 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).
Posted 1/17/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 15 comments   26,834 views
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40 Ways to Lighten Up a Holiday Party Menu


Wondering what to make for your upcoming parties and special occasions? Need a new brunch dish, a sweet treat for a cookie exchange, or something special for the holiday meal? Look no further than "The SparkPeople Cookbook"! With more than 160 mouth-watering recipes and hundreds of additional meal ideas, tips, and tricks for adding flavor while cutting fat, this book is a healthy hostess' best friend.

Today we're sharing some of our favorite holiday recipes from "The SparkPeople Cookbook." You can take a sneak peek at a few of them, but the rest are available exclusively in the cookbook. But because 'tis the season of giving, we've also rounded up Chef Meg's favorite seasonal appetizers (including a brand-new one), plus a money-saving entertaining tip!
Posted 11/30/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 11 comments   33,133 views
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No More Dried-Out Dinners: The Trick to Tender Slow-Cooked Meat


Who can pass up a moist and tender barbecue sandwich, pulled chicken simmered in a slow cooker until it's falling apart, or, my favorite, Kentucky Burgoo, with several tender cuts in one bowl. 
 
These recipes, while quite different in ingredients, are all ideal for the slow cooker, and they yield the same fork-tender, falling-apart meat. What's the secret?
 
What do all three of these recipes have in common? What's the common thread?
Let's shift from the art of cooking to the science for a moment. That common thread is collagen, the connective tissue in meat.
 
We all know that meat is basically bundles of muscle cells, with fibers embedded within that allow the animal to move.  Connective tissue connects cells and tissues within the meat, like support hose or an athletic bandage. As you move, the fabric stretches and moves with you, supporting your movement.  As the animals grow the muscle bulks up and the connective tissue toughens, offering more support. 
Posted 5/28/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 8 comments   26,931 views
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Share Your Memories of Cooking with Mom


CONTEST CLOSED! The winners are:
BTORRES317
KATHYRB
PATTIMARR
MZBAYOUSLF
THEREDA
LUVS2BIKE101

We'll be shipping the books via Amazon today!

For years my mother was a police officer and then a police dispatcher. She worked swing shift, doubles, whatever she had to do to provide for her kids.

The Thanksgiving when I was 16, she was scheduled to work until 6 a.m. She planned to come home, sleep for a few hours and start dinner. She had recently separated from her husband and was working extra shifts to make a good life for my sisters, brother and me. My mom came home that morning and told us to make sure she was awake by 10 a.m. so she could start the turkey. There were bags under her eyes, and it was clear that she was exhausted.

My 14-year-old sister and I decided we weren't going to wake her. We enlisted our little brother and sister, then 4 and 6, and the four of us made the entire meal. We'd been helping her for so many years that, though the dishes didn't have mom's magic touch, we knew exactly what to do.

My mom awoke with a start a few hours later. She bounded into the kitchen, apologizing for oversleeping. Then she looked around and saw that we had started--and nearly finished--cooking without her. She cried, we cried, and that was the best Thanksgiving we ever had, just the five of us.

Some of my earliest memories are of being in the kitchen with my mother. Making that and every Thanksgiving dinner together, sorting through dog-eared family recipes, baking dozens of cookies each Christmas, cooking was how we bonded. My mom taught me how to separate eggs, why you should never slam the oven door when baking a soufflé, and how to make the flakiest pie crust you'll ever taste.

As a child, cooking seemed commonplace, never difficult or time-consuming. My mom brought us into the kitchen, let us help her make dinner, and assigned us tasks to occupy us and ease her workload. Before I could reach the counter, I loved grating carrots, stirring cookie dough, and shaking salad dressing.

By the time I was a preteen, Mom was working full time and putting herself through the police academy. I helped with dinner more often, even if that meant grilled cheese and tomato soup.

It wasn't until high school and later college that I realized what a gift she had given me. I had friends in college who didn't know how to boil water for pasta. Do you add the pasta first? How much water? How long does it cook?

When I moved into my first apartment, I started hosting dinner parties, first just lasagna and simple comfort foods, but later roast chicken and risotto with butternut squash, quite a fancy meal for a college student on a budget.  

Today, I make a living writing about food (and healthy living). Teaching me to cook was the best gift my mother could give me, just as her mother gave her.

This week, I want you to share your stories about cooking with your own mom. And, as way to say thanks to moms everywhere, we're giving away six copies of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight."
Posted 5/2/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 51 comments   8,120 views
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Free E-Book: Mother's Day Brunch Recipes


Take a peek inside "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," with this FREE e-book, "Light and Easy Mother's Day Brunch Recipes from SparkPeople" written by Chef Meg. Get 3 sweet and 3 savory dishes that are perfect for Mother's Day brunch, plus a brand-new intro from Chef Meg!
Posted 4/30/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 4 comments   10,461 views
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Shannon Adds Her Own Flavor to Recipe Favorites


Editor's note: Shannon is using The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight to teach herself to cook. She is blogging about her progress.

Although I did make a few new recipes over the past few weeks, this time was really about making some staple SparkRecipes my own. For instance, Stepfanie’s Oatmeal Mix (page 79) has become my standard breakfast of choice.  Since I initially made it, I have prepared dozens of batches and have weaned myself down from 1/2 tsp. of brown sugar to just a pinch. Some people might wonder how I can eat the same breakfast every day. Do I get bored with it? No way! I am very much a creature of habit; plus, there are lots of ways to mix up this simple breakfast. I have been using different dried fruits instead of the cranberries, like dried cherries, a dried mixed berry blend, raisins, and dried blueberries. These are all delicious and add minimal changes to the calorie count of the original recipe. I have also been making the same adaptations to the Nutty Fruity Granola (page 87) as well as playing around with some different nuts. Making these small changes is similar to the experience of enjoying all the different flavors available in your favorite brand of cereal.
Posted 3/14/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Shannon Geletchuk : 15 comments   7,761 views
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Shannon Explores Food Pairings-- with Delicious Results!


Editor's note: Shannon is using The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight to teach herself to cook. She is blogging about her progress.

What is with this time of year?  I’ve talked to several people and it seems that appetites are increasing and motivations are waning.  I’d love to be able to say that I am immune to this, but sadly I have been feeling the same way.  Is it the weather?  Maybe it is the lack of sun in a colder climate or the availability of fresh, local produce.  Whatever it is, I need to snap out of it.  I am happy that now I am cooking healthier I am able to eat more to stay within my calorie range, so that is helping.

Warm and Spicy Banana Waffles, Chicken Creole, Pecan Chicken with Maple Citrus Sauce, Turkey Meatballs, Maple-Glazed Roasted Salmon, Weeknight Spaghetti, Wild Rice with Roasted Shallots and Garlic, Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic Herb Oil, and Banana Honey Cake all made it onto our plates as of late.  I feel like I am eating like royalty. The first couple of weeks I started cooking real food I thought that it was going to be expensive.  That was mostly due to not having a lot of the base ingredients on hand.  Now I actually think I am saving money.  Buying those initial ingredients may have added to a few grocery bills but once you have them on hand they do several meals, unlike boxed meals which are a onetime shot. 

Also, I find so many of these meals are so hearty that you only need one serving to be full, so it usually does my husband and I for two meals.  As a result, I am actually cooking less.  As I mentioned before, my husband and I take turns cooking, so when you add up those times when we cook something hearty enough that there are leftovers I sometimes end up cooking only twice a week.  I don’t know about any of you, but that fits quite well into my schedule.  If timed right, I usually end up cooking on Wednesdays, my day off from work, and once on the weekend when I have more time. 



The first thing I made this time was the Banana Honey Cake (page 354).  I wanted to satisfy a sweet tooth (another plight of the season)! It was so simple to make and worth it, too. 

Posted 2/20/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Shannon Geletchuk : 13 comments   6,047 views
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Shannon Cooked 7 More Recipes--and Broke Her Plateau


Editor's note: Shannon is using The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight to teach herself to cook. She is blogging about her progress.

I’d love to be able to say that I made as many recipes as last time, but life got busy again.  Work and a major research paper for school took up a lot of my time.  I did however cook seven recipes and am proud to say we didn’t eat one boxed meal this time around.  There are still a few in the cupboard so I know that I will eventually use them but I am trying to outlast my husband.  I am hoping that he breaks down and makes one before I do.  For today’s blog I made Nutty Fruity Granola, Egg-White Omelets with Spinach and Mushrooms, Spinach Salad with Cherries and Pomegranate Vinaigrette, Lemon Chicken with Spinach Pasta, Roasted Root Vegetables, Herbed Mushrooms with Bacon, and Sweet and Spicy Pecans.  I noticed that I had a spinach theme going on, but that’s OK. I’m getting to that tipping point where I am learning to love and even crave veggies and spinach is one of my favorites.  Raw, cooked, it doesn’t matter!

I love spinach and it is working.  I am happy to say that since the new year I have broken through that plateau of 200.  I have lost 3 more pounds for a running total of 73 pounds.  Only 17 more pounds to go until I am at my goal!  I am excited and oddly nervous about reaching my goal but am confident that day will come.    
Well, back to cooking... 
Posted 2/7/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Shannon Geletchuk : 38 comments   15,058 views
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7 Sure-Fire Tips to Get Kids Excited about Healthy Cooking


With all the talk of how we should help kids stay healthy and fight childhood obesity, my mind keeps returning to the same thought: Teach them to cook! In my home, the kitchen is an extension of the family room, and my three teen boys have helped me cook since they were small. Teaching your kids to cook doesn’t mean that you have to turn them loose on their own. It just means letting them play an active role in meal planning, preparation—and cleanup. Training little chefs is easy. Here are some tips to get you started:
Posted 1/30/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 7 comments   8,550 views
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CONTEST CLOSED: Hungry for Another Giveaway? Two More SparkPeople Cookbooks Up For Grabs!


*This contest is now closed. The winners are CHARYLC and TJP2007. Congratulations!*

Hey dailySpark readers!

WOW! We were blown away by the response to our last cookbook giveaway! We are so grateful for your support and are thrilled that you want to use “The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight” to supplement the healthy habits that you’ve adopted using SparkPeople.com. We are so thrilled, in fact, that we’ve decided to give two more lucky readers another chance to win a copy!

In case you haven’t heard, the book is SparkPeople’s very own cookbook, written by Meg Galvin, World Master Chef and SparkPeople’s Healthy Cooking Expert, and Stepfanie Romine, the editor of the dailySpark and SparkRecipes. The book is chock-full of over 150 quick and delicious recipes like barbecue chicken pizza, coconut lime shrimp, and mini apple tarts—and since they’re created by SparkPeople, you know they’re good for you, too! The book also includes success stories from SparkPeople members, helpful tips on food preparation, pantry checklists, and much more. Think of it as SparkPeople.com in book form, encouraging you to live your best life by making smart food choices, one page-turn at a time.

To enter, click here! Be sure to read the rules. This contest will end exactly one week from today! Winners will be notified via email.
Posted 1/27/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Melinda Hershey : 32 comments   11,778 views
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Chef Meg’s Cut The Fat, Keep The Flavor Video


Think that you have to cut flavor as well as fat and salt when trying to lose weight? Think again.

Posted 1/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 7 comments   8,117 views
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10 Decadent Desserts You Won't Believe are Only 200 Calories


Editor's Note: All this week, we're sharing meals, snacks and even desserts that can fit into your daily life. We combine our recipes with simple and nutritious sides for healthy meals, snacks and desserts that are calorie-conscious. You'll be amazed that you can fill your plate and still fit into your jeans the next day. (Find the whole series here.)

You'll need to pick up a copy of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" to access the recipes, but we will share some sneak peeks this week--and you can easily add recipes from the cookbook to your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker, too!

Desserts are treats, an occasional sweet that isn’t meant to fulfill any nutritional requirements. That said, our desserts in "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" are healthier than most—and even more satisfying than anything you’ll find at the bakery or in a 100-calorie pack.
 
You won't believe that these treats are 200 calories or less (including extras!).
 
Posted 1/20/2012  10:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 27 comments   23,770 views
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Watch the Video of Chef Meg on 'The Doctors'


Thanks to all of you who tuned in to watch Chef Meg on "The Doctors" today. She said the experience was a lot of fun, and she is so grateful for the opportunity to "Spread the Spark" and tell more people about "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight."

If you couldn't tune in or want to share her big moment with friends, you're in luck. You'll find the video below.

And, "The Doctors" have three new-to-you sneak-peek recipes from "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." Click here to learn more about Meg's appearance. (And keep reading for those sneak-peek recipes!)
Posted 1/19/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 66 comments   50,944 views
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Snacktime! Healthy, Filling Snacks for 200 Calories Each


Editor's Note: All this week, we're sharing meals, snacks and even desserts that can fit into your daily life. We combine our recipes with simple and nutritious sides for healthy meals, snacks and desserts that are calorie-conscious. You'll be amazed that you can fill your plate and still fit into your jeans the next day. (Find the whole series here.)

You'll need to pick up a copy of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" to access the recipes, but we will share some sneak peeks this week--and you can easily add recipes from the cookbook to your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker, too!

 
In recent years, dietitians, doctors, and researchers have rethought the “no eating between meals” rule. Snacks are important, especially when you live an active life or are trying to lose weight. If you go hours on end without eating, your blood sugar will drop, your stomach will grumble, and you’ll start to get grouchy—and you’ll ultimately eat your way through whatever’s in the kitchen. Eating every few hours keeps your hunger levels down so you can control your appetite and prevent overeating. Healthy snacks help keep blood sugar levels in check and keep your energy up.

Just a few well-timed bites have a big impact. That's why we included so many snack tips and recipes in "The SparkPeople Cookbook." It's almost snacktime…
Posted 1/19/2012  3:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 9 comments   16,172 views
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