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Healthy Holiday Foods

ChestnutsBetween all the cookies and cocktails, it can seem like holiday food is out to get you (or at least your waistline). But let’s take a moment to celebrate all of the festive ingredients and dishes that are actually good for you.

Nuts
Break out the nutcracker and get cracking on some fresh, whole almonds, walnuts, filberts and other nuts. They’re a great source of protein, healthy fats, fiber and some vitamins and minerals. Plus, if you take time to shell them you’ll be less likely to overdo it on these calorie-rich snacks.

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Health Reasons to Eat Pomegranates

Remember when pomegranate juice hit the shelves along with a lot of marketing hype about its super powers? While pomegranate juice does have laudable health benefits (it might help quell the growth of prostate cancer, prevent heart disease and improve memory), eating pomegranate arils may be even better. (FYI on the lingo: Arils are the seeds encapsulated by jewel-like juice sacs.) In fact, for all fruits and vegetables, getting the whole form is usually better than the juice, as whole fruits are packaged in perfect portions.

They’re rich in health-promoting flavanols. Flavanols are plant compounds that give pomegranate juice and the whole fruit most of its most-promising health benefits (see above: cancer and heart disease prevention, memory).

They take a long time to eat. Consider grapes: They are big, plump, sweet and easy to eat. You can down a couple cups of grapes (200 calories) without even realizing it. Pomegranates, on the other hand, make you work for those arils within. And the arils themselves contain seeds that require chewing.

Fiber! A half cup of pomegranate arils gives you 4 grams of fiber. Eating enough fiber is important for several aspects of your health: It makes you feel full, which can help keep your calorie intake in check, it can lower your cholesterol and it prevents your blood sugar from spiking. Women should get at least 25 grams per day; men need at least 38 grams.

They’re a good source of vitamins and minerals. Pomegranates are a good source of vitamins C and K, which support supple skin and strong bones, respectively. They also have a smattering of numerous other vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

 

 

A Festive, Healthy Holiday Party

Celebrate the season with holiday fare that will make your guests feel good, not stuffed. These bites are perfect for passing around a cocktail party and are so enticing, revelers won’t even realize they’re on the lighter side.

Fresh Ricotta Crostini: Wow your guests with this made-from-scratch fresh ricotta.

Smoky Spiced Pepitas: Smoked paprika gives these toasted pumpkin seeds just the right earthy note.

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip: Sweet-tart pomegranate molasses and rich walnuts make this a wonderfully flavorful dip.

Stuffed Mushrooms: Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for stuffed mushrooms calls for heart-healthy olive oil, rather than butter.

Prosciutto Rolls with Asparagus and Arugula: This is a great way to get greens on the table at your holiday party in slightly more sneaky fashion. Or try the perennial favorite: Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs.

Shrimp Cocktail: You can’t go wrong with shrimp cocktail; the simple, classic app is always a hit.

Nutrition Smackdown: Pumpkin Pie vs. Apple Pie

Pumpkin Pie

It’s T-minus 24 hours to T-day, arguably the most important meal of the year. Are you ready? We’re not talking menu planning, grocery shopping and food prep, but that other important aspect: are you going to have apple or pumpkin pie? To help you with that important choice, we’ve put the two iconic holiday pies head to head in a nutrition showdown.

Pumpkin Pie:

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Make Your Own Spice Blends

Everything Bagel Spice

Whether you want to make a truly homemade pumpkin pie or gussy up morning toast, spice blends can fill a lot of needs in the kitchen with just a few shakes. A lot of these are great add-ins to light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to make a flavorful dip for veggies. They’re also an excellent, portable gift idea.

Pumpkin Pie: With Thanksgiving around the corner, this is the perfect spice blend to whip up now. Use it not just in pie, but in muffins, oatmeal and pancakes.

Apple Streusel: Crushed dried apples infuse this blend with a strong apple flavor. Try it sprinkled on popcorn; stirred into sour cream or yogurt as a sweet dip for fruit; or sprinkle it on oatmeal, ice cream, pancakes or toast.

Everything Bagel: Addicted to the salty, savory flavor of everything bagels? Make this spice blend (pictured above) and use it to add flavor to a baked potato or pasta dish, coat a chicken breast, top a salad, or sprinkle over potato pancakes. It’s even great on pretzels.

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Healthier Take-Out Ideas

Burritos

When it’s dinner and you need to put food on the table, it can be tempting to just phone in an order from a favorite nearby restaurant. But lots of take-out food is rife with too much salt, sugar and oil — and not enough vegetables! The truth is, many of your favorite take-out meals can be made healthfully and just as quickly (most in under 30 minutes, which is faster than it takes to get delivery!)

Here are 17 recipes to try, no matter what you’re craving:

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Great Healthy No-Added-Sugar Breakfasts

Healthy Breakfast Burritos

Halloween may be behind us, but we’d bet that lots of people are having all-candy breakfasts this week. The occasional candy bar aside, there are definite health issues with an all-sugar diet. One way to keep total intake in check is to cut it out where you don’t need it, so that you can leave room for when you really want a treat. A great place to start is breakfast, which (candy aside) is often an unnecessarily sweet meal. Here are 15 breakfasts that show you how to start your day without sugar.

Multigrain toast topped with…

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Healthy Slow-Cooker Meals

Slow-Cooker Turkey Sandwich

Nothing beats a warm, home-cooked meal on a chilly day… except, perhaps, eliminating the hot-stove phase to get there. That’s where the slow cooker comes in. What’s great about slow-cooker meals is: They’re often one-pot dishes (Less cleanup! Complete meal!). So check out these recipes to get some inspiration for your slow cooker this week:

Breakfast
Whole-Grain Breakfast Porridge: Think beyond oats with this multigrain hot cereal.

Dinner
Chicken Jambalaya: Chicken, rice, peppers, peas, ham… need we say more?

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Trick-or-Treating Ideas Beyond Candy

jack o lanterns

Before you buy industrial-size bags of candy bars and make yours the most popular house in the neighborhood come Halloween, pause for a minute. Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course there’s the issue that we as Americans eat too much sugar and face an obesity epidemic. We’ve heard plenty about that. But also more important than ever is the issue of deadly food allergies. That’s why FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is promoting the Teal Pumpkin Project this Halloween: Offer something that’s not candy (or food) and paint your pumpkin teal so savvy (and food-sensitive) trick-or-treaters can know which houses are safe.
Lest you fear getting TP’ed for your treats, the alternatives to candy don’t have to just be raisins and toothbrushes. Here are a few cooler ways to sidestep candy.

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Squash Fears of Squash (and Make Awesome Squash Recipes)

Squash

This isn’t summer, folks. Gone are the easy days of slicing up raw cucumbers and tomatoes, sprinkling them with salt and calling it a meal. Fall vegetables take a lot more determination and know-how. Winter squashes —those vibrantly-colored gourds that double as centerpieces — are a case in point, with their intimidatingly hard shell. But once you crack your way in, delicious fall and winter dishes are yours for the making. So let’s eliminate those concerns:

How do I cut them? Use a sharp, large knife. Start to cut by placing the knife on top and giving it a good whack in the center of the squash. Cover the sharp end of the knife with a towel and rock the knife back and forth.

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