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Transform Your Favorite Comfort Foods With 9 Healthy Meal Makeovers

As your daydreams about time on the beach become a reality this summer, so does slimming down to fit into your swimsuit. But just because you want to look good while splashing around, that doesn’t mean you have to eat salads and boiled chicken all summer; in fact, you can still enjoy all of your comfort food favorites with a few easy swaps.

Whether it’s macaroni and cheese with some secret squash filler or devil’s food cupcakes turned angelic with whole-wheat flour, it’s easy to slim down your meals. Check out nine mind-blowing meal transformations below.

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4 Dishes from Man Fire Food That Will Help Kick-Start Your Summer

With sunny summer weekends on the way, it’s time to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. If you have a grill in your backyard, Man Fire Food‘s Roger Mooking will get you inspired to fire it up with an array of barbecued and smoked meats from around the country. Throughout his travels across the country, he’s found mouth-watering dishes from slow-cooked prime rib to baked bacon cornbread, so even if you don’t have the means to grill, you can try out some of his recipes.

Check out four of our favorites below.

Carnitas del Horno

Chipotle is having a pork shortage, so whip up your own carnitas at home with this Carnitas del Horno recipe.

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Summer TV Preview: Bobby Dean Reinvents Junk Food and Sherri Shepherd Is Holy & Hungry

As the weather heats up, you have the perfect excuse to kick back and watch your favorite TV shows in the comfort of an air-conditioned home. In addition to some returning favorites on Cooking Channel like brand-new seasons of Taco TripMan Fire Food and My Grandmother’s Ravioli, we’re welcoming some new faces to our summer programming.

Prepare to indulge in some healthy spins on comfort food with Bobby Deen and Nikki Dinki on Junk Food Flip, satisfy your inner carnivore with a country superstar on Steak Out with Kix Brooks and put your faith in actress Sherri Shepherd’s love of food on Holy & Hungry. There’s a lot on the horizon, so sit back, relax and get ready for a food-fueled summer of cooking and eating.

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6 Ways to Play with Your Food, from Mac and Cheese Pops to S’mores Bars

It’s time to let loose in the kitchen. Instead of sticking to strict recipes and living by the cookbook, take a day to play with your food. No, we’re not talking about having a food fight It Takes Two style, but rather experimenting with fun shapes, sizes and topping bars for your next party.

Whether it’s making your mac and cheese into pops or assembling a taco-and-margarita bar for a Mexican fiesta, there are plenty of ways to get playful. Bonus: Once the prep work is done, your guests do all the work making their own creative concoctions.

Skewer Your Corn

Everything’s better on a stick, and sticks make corn on the cob easier (and less messy) to eat. Try Bobby Flay’s Grilled Corn Skewers with Chipotle-Lime Butter, or mix things up with an assortment of butters and toppings like Cotija and Parmesan cheese for a DIY corn on the cob bar.

Build a Better Taco Bar

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How to Have a Celeb-Worthy Memorial Day BBQ Bash

Even though there is still almost a month until summer hits, we’ll get a taste of it on Memorial Day — a day off that’s filled with fun in the sun. Whether you’re gathering friends in your backyard, at the beach or at a campsite, make this holiday special with a memorable, flavor-packed party.

Instead of just throwing hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and buying some macaroni salad, pump things up with barbecue ribs, charred vegetables and savory sides that everyone will be talking about all summer. To achieve this level of greatness, we turned to our favorite stars who know a thing or two about throwing a celebrity-worthy bash. Check out some tips and tricks from Tiffani Thiessen, Tia Mowry, Haylie Duff and more below, and get ready to fire up that grill.

Appetizer: Debi and Gabriele’s Grilled Apricots and Goat Cheese

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How Cooking Channel Chefs Get Kids to Eat Healthy

Kids. None of us would exist without them. Therefore, we hope the following impression isn’t too belittling (even if spot-on): “Wah. That food’s too brown. That food’s too green. Wah. That food’s too yellow. That food’s not yellow enough. I’m a kid. Wah.”

Fortunately, many of our chefs have kids of their own and have figured out ways to transmit their passion of food onto their offspring. We’ve compiled a few of their tenets here:

Last, but not least, new-as-of-this-week mom Haylie Duff (pictured) has several ways to disguise healthy foods as kid-approved treats — like pizza with secret veggies and apple cookies — and she’s sharing her recipes on The Real Girl’s Kitchen,  Saturday at 1pm ET.

More Healthy-Eating Tips

How to Have the Best Morning Ever

The first step to a great morning for Tia Mowry is sunrise yoga in a park by the beach. Not everyone can live in sunny Los Angeles, though, so you may have to skip to step two: her savory quinoa breakfast bowl.

This filling bowl is packed with fiber, protein and iron, so it’ll help you get energized for a busy day. It starts with Tia’s favorite grain, quinoa, cooked until tender and fluffy. She tops that with crispy baked kale; earthy and meaty Shitake mushrooms and a perfect fried egg (the trick is to cook is low and slow).

The result is as pretty as it is healthy.

To get more of Tia’s tips for the best morning ever, watch Tia Mowry at Home on Wednesday at 9pm ET.

Get the Recipe: Tia Mowry’s Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Crispy Kale Chips

More Tia Mowry at Home

 

Work Party on a Budget: DIY Magnolia’s Cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery’s famous “Vanilla Vanilla” cupcake goes for $3.25 a pop, but with this DIY recipe we dug up in the Cooking Channel archives, you’ll spend only about 43 cents per cupcake. The low cost makes it perfect for a work party (or any party, for that matter), plus it’s simple, delicious and easy to tailor to your theme — should you choose to splurge on decorations. We tried this recipe for April’s Lab Week (Erika is a pathology resident at a nearby hospital), so we went with science-themed toppings (in case you were wondering about those strange-looking toppings above).

Below is a breakdown of the recipe steps, along with some tips we discovered through some admittedly rookie mistakes. We’re bakers in progress, so if you have any sage cupcake wisdom to share, please do so in the comments!

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Brunch on a Budget: Grilled Bourbon French Toast

Cost Breakdown

If you’re looking for an affordable brunch dish to feed your friends and family this spring, try Michael Symon’s Grilled French Toast. In this recipe he creates aluminum “ovens” to cook his fruit topping alongside French toast on the grill for a delicious smoky flavor. We tried it out for ourselves with a few tweaks (see below), and broke down the cost above. We served six, so the total came to about $4 per person (counting the addition of maple syrup and powdered sugar, which we strongly suggest!).

Tips:

– Use bananas instead of more expensive berries for your topping.

– Bourbon! (Add it to both the bananas and the custard before grilling.)

– Use whole-wheat bread and milk — instead of cream — for a healthier dish.

– Pay attention to your grill, because that toast will burn fast! An ideal char:

Mmmm Char

– But if you do burn your toast, simply cover it with lots of topping and powdered sugar, and your guests will never know:

Final Product

Also, we have to give a special thanks to our friends Bill and Justyna for hosting and letting us experiment on their grill!

7 Cute Farm Animals to Improve Your Week

On this week’s Extra Virgin (Wednesday at 9pm ET), Gabriele Corcos will restore the old chicken coop on his land and finally fulfill his dream of living on a farm. Debi’s more of a city girl at heart, but who can resist looking at these snuggly sweethearts? Plus, she gets to make a farm-inspired feast to celebrate. Scroll through the rest of the cuties after the jump and get more of your farm fix on a new Extra Virgin, Wednesday at 9pm ET.

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