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Shannon Cooked 11 More Recipes from 'The SparkPeople Cookbook'


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 am so amazed and humbled by all the terrific comments I have been receiving.  You all are so wonderful, supportive and kind.  Writing this blog series has been so inspiring and motivating.  Thank you all.

I have been cooking up a storm.  Since my last blog, I have prepared the Mushroom-Cheese Frittata (it was supposed to be the Tomato-Cheese Frittata until I realized I forgot to buy feta), Baby Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Toasted Almonds (I actually made it twice), Crunchy Chicken Salad,  Bluegrass Jambalaya, Chicken Breasts with Red-Wine Sauce, Quinoa-Flaxseed Pizza Dough, Multigrain Rolls, Lemon Berry Tartlets, Dark Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Rich Chocolate Glaze, Italian Herb Seasoning and finally the Creole Spice Blend.  I’ve spent more time in my kitchen lately than on the couch and that alone feels good. 


The Mushroom-Cheese Frittata (page 91) was a snap to cook and only took minutes to make.  The only issue I had in making this was my skillet.  I used my cast-iron frying pan so I could go from stove top to oven, but it was a little too big so the egg mixture was spread pretty thin.  As a result, I did not get a quite as nice of a puff as the frittata picture shows.  But I am happy to say that it did not affect the taste one bit.  To be honest, before I tried it, I thought it was going to be pretty plain.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The pepper really brought some zip and went very well with the leeks (which I had never had).  When I make this again I will either do a double batch in my frying pan or transfer it to a pie plate before putting in it the oven. 
Posted 1/18/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Shannon Geletchuk : 28 comments   8,290 views
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Tune In to Watch Chef Meg on 'The Doctors'




Great news: Chef Meg will be on The Doctors on Thursday, January 19, to talk about "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." This is huge, and we're incredibly excited!

You'll have to tune in for all the details, but we can tell you this: She'll be spreading the Spark and talking about the cookbook. Here's a hint, from "The Doctors": Boost your nutrition, lower your weight and maintain flavor in your favorite comfort foods! Master chef Meg Galvin shares healthy recipes for sloppy Joes, creamy broccoli soup and more. Plus, the daily habit that can cut your chocolate craving in half.

Click here to check local listings, and please help us spread the word by sharing this on Facebook and Twitter, emailing this blog post to your friends, and asking others to tune in.

We're thrilled to have this opportunity to tell so many people about SparkPeople and the cookbook. The SparkPeople team will be tuning in on Thursday from our offices, and we hope you'll join us from your home, office, or gym.
Posted 1/18/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 32 comments   11,386 views
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Dinner's Ready, for about 400 Calories (or Less)


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!
 
It's 5 o'clock. You're sitting in traffic on your way to pick up the kids from daycare. All you can think about is how hungry you are. Drive-thrus and takeout are tempting, but you know neither your wallet nor your waistline will be happy with that decision.
You don't have much time, you need to make something that everyone in the family will eat, and you need it to fit into your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker.
Stop worrying, crank up the radio, and enjoy the ride. "The SparkPeople Cookbook" has dinner covered.

These 10 combos have about 400 calories--can you believe it?
Posted 1/18/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 20 comments   125,207 views
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10 Filling, Healthy Lunches


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.)

Brown bagging never sounded so good.

Today we're sharing 10 lunches that feature recipes from "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"--each with about 400 calories and many with less.

We want you to see how filling these lunches can be, how they rival what you could get at a fancy downtown bistro or your favorite sandwich shop, but for much less money. When all your co-workers see you bringing in Chef Meg's recipes, you'll be the envy of the breakroom.

We want to show you how these recipes are not only nutritious, they're delicious.
You'll need to pick up a copy of "The SparkPeople Cookbook" 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!

So let's do lunch, shall we?
Posted 1/17/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 38 comments   200,930 views
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Healthy, Delicious Breakfasts for 300 Calories


Have you ever bought a cookbook only to realize that the recipes--delicious as they may be--really don't fit into your life? They're too difficult, take too much time, have too many calories? Or, have you found that so-called diet recipes yield portions so puny you're raiding the fridge an hour after dinner?

We have, and that's why, when we were researching and writing "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," Chef Meg and I kept in mind that our book had to be different. It had to full of healthy food that was also delicious, full of meals that would work for the whole family--not just the one or two people who are eating to lose or maintain weight--and full of practical tips, meal plans, and nutrition info for integrating these recipes into your life. It had to align with SparkPeople.com's common-sense plan and aspirational, change-your-life philosophy on healthy living.

We are incredibly proud of this cookbook, and we believe it's a perfect companion to your SparkPeople.com plan. Healthy eating, we learned from our most successful members, is much easier when you cook for yourself, and learning to do so is not as difficult as you might think.

We want you to see for yourself how you can have your cake and eat it, too, with "The SparkPeople Cookbook," how you can fill your plate and still fit into your jeans the next day.

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.

We want to show you how these recipes are not only nutritious, they're delicious.
You'll need to pick up a copy of "The SparkPeople Cookbook" to access the full 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!

We'll use a 1,500-calorie meal plan as an example. Let's start with breakfast, the most important meal of the day. The rest of the week we'll share tips and recipes you can eat for:

Lunch: 400 calories (Tuesday)
Dinner: 400 calories (Wednesday)
Snacks: 200 calories (Thursday)
Dessert: 200 calories (Friday)

What's for breakfast with "The SparkPeople Cookbook"? For 300 calories or so, you can have…
Posted 1/16/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 23 comments   50,265 views
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Contest Closed: Commit to Cook in 2012: Enter to Win 'The SparkPeople Cookbook'


Contest Closed: Congratulations,CHARYLC, TJP2007 and ERTSMOM!

We've heard from many of you that you're committed to cooking more in 2012. Whether you've never been comfortable in the kitchen, you want to make over your existing family favorites, or you just need the motivation to give up takeout and fast food, "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" can help.
The SparkPeople Cookbook was written by Meg Galvin, World Master Chef and Healthy Cooking Expert at SparkPeople.com and me, with the help of SparkPeople experts and successful members!

We're giving away three copies of the cookbook, just in time for all those New Year's resolutions! 

Inside, you’ll find:
  • 150 meals ready in under 30 minutes
  • Recipes using real foods like butter, bacon and chocolate!
  • Slim It Down options for cutting even more  calories
  • Tips and tricks for adding flavor without fat
  • SparkPeople Success Stories
  • Pantry checklists, resources for parents, and shopping lists
With The SparkPeople Cookbook, you can eat like a chef and still lose weight—without spending hours in the kitchen!
Want a sneak peek into the cookbook?
Posted 1/6/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 56 comments   21,348 views
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Diet Myth #5: Baking and Steaming are the Only 'Healthy' Cooking Methods


As part of our research for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we conducted a "Ditch the Diet Taste Test." We asked successful SparkPeople members, yo-yo dieters and others to answer questions about weight loss, healthy eating, and dieting--and to pit Chef Meg's healthy, delicious recipes against traditional, bland "diet food."

You can read all about the Taste Test in Chapter 2 of "The SparkPeople Cookbook," but this week we're sharing five of the diet myths we debunked as part of that project. Did you miss the rest of the series? Read the rest here.

Learning to cook is like learning to dance. Once you know the basics, you’ll be able to walk onto the dance floor and know immediately whether you should waltz, tango, or jitterbug to a particular piece of music. Try to tap dance at a wedding reception or waltz to a bluegrass band. It doesn’t feel right, does it? The same goes for cooking. Learn the classic methods, and you’ll be able to walk into any farmers’ market or grocery store, pick up any ingredient, and cook it with pretty good results. There are reasons you don’t steam pot roast or sauté muffins. Below are the techniques I use most often to create healthy and delicious foods. Learn these techniques, and you’ll be whipping up meals you love to eat—with and without a cookbook—in no time!

Diet Myth #5: Baking and steaming are the only cooking methods you need to know.

No way! Today we're outlining one healthy cooking method, but we have several more to share with you in "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." Grilling, broiling, sweating, sautéing, and, yes, baking and steaming--we cover them all.

Posted 1/6/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Meg Galvin : 24 comments   27,493 views
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Diet Myth #4: Fat-Free Foods are the Best Choice


As part of our research for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we conducted a "Ditch the Diet Taste Test." We asked successful SparkPeople members, yo-yo dieters and others to answer questions about weight loss, healthy eating, and dieting--and to pit Chef Meg's healthy, delicious recipes against traditional, bland "diet food."

You can read all about the Taste Test in Chapter 2 of "The SparkPeople Cookbook," but this week we're sharing five of the diet myths we debunked as part of that project.
Cutting fat intake reduces the calorie density of a food. In other words, you get a bigger portion of food for the same calories when it has fewer fat grams. However, if you go too low in fat you won’t enjoy the flavor, texture, or satiety of your food. Plus dietary fat is essential for staying healthy.

Diet Myth #4: You should always choose fat-free versions of your favorite foods.

EAT ENOUGH fat (20 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories). This will bring the pleasure and satisfaction back to your meals so you’re less likely to overeat later. We’ve eliminated fat where you don’t need it and opted for reduced-fat and healthier sources wherever possible. Fat-free diets were a passing fad, but many people still attempt to adhere to them, we learned in our Ditch the Diet Taste Test.

Posted 1/5/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 18 comments   11,991 views
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Learning to Cook, One 'SparkPeople Cookbook' Recipe at a Time


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 am back and still well-fed.  There were no major disasters, a few minor ones but all is well.  The first thing I would like to say is Meg is right: real food tastes good.  I have found myself fuller, less thirsty (due to lower salt intake) and satisfied.  And that is just from changing out a few recipes in a couple of weeks.  I am not going to pretend to be perfect and say that I did not rely on the old dinner in a box once or twice.  If it’s bought and paid for, it’s not going to waste.  Plus it gives you some real perspective after having healthier foods.  You can really start to taste the salt and other chemicals in the boxed meals.
 
I would like to start off this week by talking about the first few chapters of the cookbook.  Chapters in a cookbook?  Yes!  The cookbook starts off with an introduction, a little SparkPeople history and inspiration from people who have been here.  Then on to more good stuff: meeting Meg and the reasons behind the cookbook.  The reading was very informative talking about the sciences behind food, hunger and satisfaction.    No healthy cookbook would be complete without some healthful tips on portion sizes and some nutritional guidelines.  I found this part very nice to read, informative without being preachy and judgemental. 
 
Chapter 3 – The New Healthy Kitchen is the most important part for a beginner cook, such as myself. It is full of cooking methods and tips, some of which I had never heard of before.  Now I have a handy reference to go to when a recipe tells me to sweat my onions, garlic and peppers.  Then onto the tools, most of which people, including myself, already have (I have one item to add to the list: mixing bowls). 
Now it’s time for ingredients and the must-have pantry staples (nothing I couldn’t find at the supermarket, and nothing too expensive!).  This is where I had to do a little more shopping, being a from-the-box eater.  I can’t wait to put some of these ingredients to use.
 
The last section they included before the recipe chapters is devoted to motivation: inspirational stories from real people, how they added healthy eating into their lives and the amazing results they achieved.  In regular “Spark-tacular” style, they have really captured the essence of why so many of us are on the website and purchasing the cookbook.  These are real people who were motivated to change and now their stories can be your motivation to start on your own journey.
 
Part II is called Get Cooking and that’s exactly what I did.  The first thing that I made was a breakfast recipe.  Previously I would eat a honey-based oat cereal cut with some bran cereal to bring down the syrupy sweetness of it and give me some fiber.  Now I must say I am hooked on Stepfanie’s Oatmeal Mix (page 79).  In fact I am going to have to prep my next batch.  This is where a mixing bowl is crucial, a large one for this recipe.  Mixing it out was super simple, even simpler if you bought pre-ground flax and pre-chopped walnuts.  Stir it up (you can tell when it is fairly well-mixed by the colouration of the cinnamon throughout), portion it out, and you're ready to eat.  The only other tool you need for this recipe is a large spoon or ladle to aid in getting it from the mixing bowl to your fridge storage system, which can be as simple as a plastic zipper bag. 
 
Each morning before work, I just scoop out my portion, add boiled water from the kettle, and then go pack my snacks for work.  By the time I am done I have a hot and ready breakfast.  I preferred adding a little less than the suggested 3/4 cup of water because I like my oats a little thicker.  The taste and texture are wonderful.  The only thing I did find I wanted with this recipe was a little sweetness.  The dried cranberries do add some, but by adding just 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar (unpacked) it brought out some sweetness and really accentuated the flavour of the walnuts.  That portion of brown sugar adds only 6 calories.  This recipe is a keeper and has become a staple in my house already.  Experiment a little on your thickness preferences and maybe a little sweetness if you are so inclined.  Just remember if you add it, track it. 
 
My next recipe was a little more difficult. 
Posted 1/4/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Shannon Geletchuk : 43 comments   9,778 views
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Diet Myth #3: Cut Salt and Fat, Forgo Flavor


As part of our research for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we conducted a "Ditch the Diet Taste Test." We asked successful SparkPeople members, yo-yo dieters and others to answer questions about weight loss, healthy eating, and dieting--and to pit Chef Meg's healthy, delicious recipes against traditional, bland "diet food."
 
You can read all about the Taste Test in Chapter 2 of "The SparkPeople Cookbook," but this week we're sharing five of the diet myths we debunked as part of that project.
 
Some people buy dresses. I buy spices. They’re my vice.

To me, food isn't worth eating if it's bland and flavorless. Novice cooks might reach for fat, salt, or sugar for flavor, and they'll turn out some tasty food—but it won't be healthy. A good cook knows to start with wholesome food that’s as close to the source as possible (as unprocessed as can be), and use herbs and spices to impart flavor. Herbs, spices, and seasonings are a big reason why I can cook and eat what I love and still fit into my clothes!

Unfortunately, the most common seasoning in American kitchens is salt. While salt is a crucial ingredient in many recipes, it should rarely be the sole seasoning. If a food is seasoned properly—from the beginning and through every step of the cooking process—there is no need to salt or pepper your food at the table.

Diet Myth #3: When you cut back on salt and fat, you forgo all flavor in food.

As you’ll read in Chapter 12 of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," there are plenty of tricks you can use to impart flavor with almost zero calories. When you’re watching fat and calories, herbs, spices, and certain condiments are your new best friends. They add flavor and pizzazz to your cooking with little to no calories and fat. Do take care in your choice of premade spice blends and condiments, however, as many of the versions you get in the supermarket are full of salt—a big no-no when you’re watching your sodium levels or you have high blood pressure.

Posted 1/4/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Meg Galvin : 23 comments   10,435 views
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Diet Myth #2: Plain Vegetables are Better for You


As part of our research for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we conducted a "Ditch the Diet Taste Test." We asked successful SparkPeople members, yo-yo dieters and others to answer questions about weight loss, healthy eating, and dieting--and to pit Chef Meg's healthy, delicious recipes against traditional, bland "diet food."
 
You can read all about the Taste Test in Chapter 2 of "The SparkPeople Cookbook," but this week we're sharing five of the diet myths we debunked as part of that project.

Diet Myth #2: Plain Vegetables are Better for You

Love broccoli with a bit of butter? Some cheese on your cauliflower? Want some (reduced-fat) ranch with that salad? Go ahead. We insist!

I love vegetables, but even I can’t chow down on a bowl of dry greens. It’s a matter of preference, but I always dress my greens before I serve a salad. Each bite is well coated and flavorful, and I’m not tempted to overload on dressing at the table. Some people prefer to have dressing on the side, which is a good idea in theory. The next time you ask for dressing on the side at a restaurant, notice the amount they give you. While I use less than a tablespoon of dressing per salad, restaurants deliver up to four times that much. Even if you daintily dip the tines of your fork into the salad before each bite, you’ll still likely use more.

At home, when you’re in charge, try tossing your greens in a measured amount of dressing. You’ll find flavor in every bite.
If you're opting for fat-free dressings because you think it's better for you, think again.

Posted 1/3/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 23 comments   16,287 views
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Diet Myth #1: Watching Your Weight? Then Eat Less


As part of our research for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we conducted a "Ditch the Diet Taste Test." We asked successful SparkPeople members, yo-yo dieters and others to answer questions about weight loss, healthy eating, and dieting--and to pit Chef Meg's healthy, delicious recipes against traditional, bland "diet food."
 
You can read all about the Taste Test in Chapter 2 of "The SparkPeople Cookbook," but this week we're sharing five of the diet myths we debunked as part of that project.
 
Diet Myth #1: When you're watching your weight, you have to eat less.
 
No way! We say NO growling bellies, NO deprivation, and NO puny portions. We fill up our plates with healthy food, so the eyes and the stomach are satisfied. When it comes to eating right, losing weight, and feeling satisfied after a meal, it comes down to one word: satiety.

Posted 1/2/2012  5:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 10 comments   24,789 views
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Comfort Food Slimdowns


I want to pass on all my family favorites to my kids--without all the fat and calories. Now, it's a passion of mine to make those delicious comfort foods healthier. 

Posted 1/2/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 5 comments   7,784 views
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What's Cooking for 2012? Our Experts Weigh In


In just the last few years, healthy eating and cooking have become much easier, thanks to the advent of "healthy" restaurant menus, the expansion of the health-foods aisle into entire sections, and the resurgence of farmers markets and backyard gardening--all due in large part to the demand from conscious consumers like you.

Old favorites like oatmeal are once again our breakfast of choice; once-foreign foods like Greek yogurt, flaxseed and pomegranates are familiar sights in supermarkets; and salads are no longer considered "rabbit food" but a chance to bulk up your meals with vegetables.

As 2011 draws to a close, our food and nutrition experts weighed in with their predictions for the future of food and what will be on their--and your--plate next year.
These trends are a collaboration among:

Let food be thy medicine:

Diabetes affects one in eight Americans (source); heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. (source). We're hearing from our more than 11 million members that they're not ready to become a statistic. They're taking control of their health through exercise and nutrition.

That means taking the salt shaker off the table, eating at home more often to control what's going into their food, and making health-conscious choices whenever possible. In "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we kept a close eye on sodium, and Chef Meg shared numerous tricks for tricking taste buds and cutting fat but keeping flavor.

If the popularity of SparkPeople's diabetes program is any indication, 2012 is set to be a year of major change for many Americans. They might have diabetes, but it doesn't have them.

Expect to see more people fighting for their health--starting at the dinner table. 
Posted 12/28/2011  10:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 19 comments   8,203 views
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Chef Meg's Decadent Desserts Video


Chef Meg has a real sweet tooth, but she keeps her cravings in check. Find out how she indulge without going overboard.
Posted 12/26/2011  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 5 comments   4,860 views
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