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Tackle Healthy Tailgating With Top Chef Stefan Richter

Written on November 21, 2013 at 11:44 am , by

The pro’s tailgate time-saving trick: caramelize onions the night before the game for sweet flavor, sans stress. (Photo courtesy of Stefan Richter)

Hot dogs, nachos and burgers are tailgate staples but can lead to healthy practice turnovers. Topping them off with calorie-dense condiments and cocktails? Game over. Cheer on your favorite team (and your own self-control) with these three guilt-free swaps from Top Chef contestant and Stefan’s at L.A. Farm Chef/owner Stefan Richter. Winning never tasted so good.

Add Flavor, Not Fat. “Everyone loves Sloppy Joes!” Richter says. Use lean ground turkey meat instead of beef and add in your favorite veggies like onion, green pepper and metabolism-boosting habanero. “The spicier, the better.” Spoon onto a toasted whole-grain bun from your local bakery and you’re ready for kickoff!

Re-Think Your Drink. What kind of six-pack do you really want? Forget the heavy brews and try Richter’s crowd pleaser: Mulled Cider. “Mix together two quarts apple cider, two allspice berries, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sliced apple and orange,” he suggests. Lightly simmer on the grill then serve, spiking with a rum or bourbon of your choice for a hot toddy.

On the Light Side. German coleslaw is a must for this Finland native who spent the majority of his childhood in Germany. “We don’t use a mayonnaise base,” he explains. Start by combining a bag of shredded cabbage with chopped onion and green pepper. “For the sauce, boil a cup of brown sugar, a cup of white vinegar, a sprinkle of celery seeds and a half a cup of oil.” Pour over the veggie mix and chill for a refreshing, better version of the unhealthy stuff.

Want to add a festive flair to your football foods? ‘Tis the season to sport your spirit by serving and eating from plates of your team’s colors and logo. “Tailgating is paper plates and Solo cups,” the chef explains. “Why make a mess out of something that’s quick, fun and easy?” Now that deserves a touchdown dance. Hut, hut, hike!

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Twirl On: Celebrate National Pasta Month with Chef Fabio Viviani

Written on October 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm , by

Dig in! (Photo by Kate Sears)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Get ready to twirl that fork—it’s National Pasta Month! One of our fave comfort foods has gotten a bad rap over the years due to its heavy carb count and fat-laden toppings, but a single half-cup serving of pasta actually comes in roughly 100 calories—not so bad. It’s naturally low in fat, contains no salt or cholesterol, and serves as a good source of folic acid and iron. In light of all that, we’re here to celebrate National Pasta Month with Top Chef New York’s Fabio Viviani. He dished on his favorite healthy ways to integrate this favorite comfort food into our meals all October long.

When it comes to cooking with pasta, simple is better, says Viviani, and everyone should try making it from scratch at least once—it’s surprisingly easy and tastes far better than its boxed counterpart. Homemade pasta’s simple ingredient list—egg, flour and water—transforms into a simple dinner within minutes. You can even steal Viviani’s own Perfect Pasta recipe here.

“Fettuccini is the easiest pasta to make,” he says. Pulse eggs, flour and water in a food processor with a blade attachment for 45 seconds. Take another two minutes to roll it, and that’s it! “Just spice it up with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. It’s one of the easiest meals and one of the most delicious.”

The real trick when it comes to pasta is portion control. We all know what happens when we sit down to a huge plate full of our favorite farfalle and just dig in. But Chef Viviani has two ways of measuring spaghetti and penne to prevent that oh-so-common carb overload: “The perfect portion of dry spaghetti for an adult is the diameter of a quarter, and for dry penne, a good portion is whatever you can hold in the palm of your hand.”

Here are some other helpful—and healthy—pasta cooking tips from Chef Viviani:

Cook pasta without water. Cook it straight in the sauce from start to finish because it will absorb much more flavor. Plus, you avoid overcooking it.

“Al dente” is easier to digest. Overcooked pasta absorbs way more water, which is why it feels heavy in your stomach and takes the body longer to process.

Adjust those ingredients. For more nutrient-dense pasta, trade one egg yolk for two additional egg whites, and replace white flour with a whole-wheat version. Add water as necessary.

When it comes to the sauce, lose the salt and grab the spices. Chef Viviani likes to use paprika, saffron, black pepper and chili flakes to really zest up the flavor without adding salt or calories.

Avoid oil until the end. Instead of using extra virgin olive oil in the cooking process, add a little drizzle on top of it at the end to reap its nutritional benefits without overdoing it.

Never eat leftover pasta as is. Traditional Italians refuse to reheat and eat leftover pasta the next day because it’s overcooked. Try tossing it into a soup or using it as an ingredient in a new recipe instead.

More from FITNESS:

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Celebrate National BBQ Day with Calorie-Cutting Tricks from Chef Richard Blais

Written on July 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm , by


The mushroom/meat blend reduces calories and fat in your typical burger. Toss ‘em on the grill! (Photo courtesy of Mushroom Council and Chef Richard Blais)

Written by Chloe Metzger, editorial intern

Let’s be honest—summer isn’t really summer without a few awesome barbeques. Lucky for you, National BBQ day is this Saturday, giving you another reason to cook out (as if you needed it). To lighten up your grill this summer, we nabbed some tips from Top Chef: All-Stars winner Richard Blais to help you build a better, healthier burger this grilling season.

Buy the best ingredients. Make sure your meats and breads are fresh by either buying straight from the butcher or knowing what to look for. According to The Book of Steak, the easiest way to check the freshness of grocery store meat is to look at its plastic wrap. A sure sign that the meat has been sitting on the shelf for a while is if blood has pooled at the bottom of the packaging.

Know your temps.  One of the most common grilling mistakes Blais sees is cooking at the wrong temperature. As a good rule of thumb, big pieces of meat or fish should be cooked at a lower temperature for a longer time.

Don’t leave leftovers…for too long. You don’t have to chow down that day, but meat doesn’t keep for very long post-purchase. The Book of Steak notes raw beef can be refrigerated in the bottom of the fridge for 3-5 days, but ground beef should be eaten within 1-2 days.

Customize your condiments. Get more nutritional bang for your buck by adding a splash of pomegranate juice to store-bought ketchup for a quick boost of tartness and antioxidants. Top your burger with good fats and great flavor by adding a few slices of avocado before chowing down.

Pump up your patty. Cut the calories and extend the portion size of your average burger by adding finely chopped mushrooms to ground beef or turkey to create a moist patty that’s packed with vitamin D, B, and potassium. Check out the Earth & Turf burger, Blais’ specialty, which blends portabella, shiitake and button mushrooms into a tasty creation. Best of all, this mushroom and beef blend has 25 percent less fat and 130 fewer calories than its all-beef counterpart. Yum!

Click below for the recipe!

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Top Chef Judge Tom Colicchio’s Clean Kitchen Tips (Plus Salad Recipe!)

Written on April 10, 2013 at 1:30 pm , by

Fennel and endive paired with other fresh ingredients helps take your go-to salad from drab to a healthy fab! (Photo courtesy of TalismanPHOTO)

Tom Colicchio, renowned James Beard “Outstanding Chef” and Top Chef judge, takes a simple, produce-packed approach to cuisine, telling us that the one culinary skill everyone should know is how to properly season your dish. Don’t overcomplicate it! “Simple salt and pepper go a long way,” he said. We asked Tom about his kitchen must-haves, sandwich suggestions and how he keeps his kitchen safe from cross-contamination. Here’s what Bounty’s partner dished. (His salad recipe below is out of this world!)

What are five of your kitchen staples?

Beyond the right cleaning supplies—keeping the kitchen clean as you go is a must—my staples are pretty basic. All I really need are sharp knives, a cutting board, a couple of decent pots and pans and salt and pepper to season, and I’m ready to go.

How can we add healthy variety to break a monotonous diet funk?

Produce is the answer. I always start with produce whenever I’m developing a dish because seasonal ingredients allow you to add different flavors to a meal and give whatever protein you’re working with an entirely new spin. Proteins tend to remain the same, season to season, but vegetables change. Visit your local farmer’s market or supermarket and see what fruits and vegetables are in season. Once you figure out what’s in season, you can choose what protein you want to work with. You can create so many different, healthy meals by combining seasonal produce and protein and varying the base flavors with spices and cooking methods.

How can our readers lighten up their lunchboxes? Do you have a healthy sandwich suggestion?

I’ve noticed that people are becoming more aware of their diets as they adopt healthier lifestyles. I think people can lighten up lunch by eating less protein and turning to more vegetable-based diets. I like to take fresh salads and turn them into quick, portable lunches. For instance, if you make my fennel salad with yogurt vinaigrette, you could put it into a toasted whole wheat pita and grab it to go for a tasty and nutritious version of fast food.

If you could cook for any person—living or dead—who would it be?

I’d love to cook for—or with—Teddy Roosevelt.  He was a big outdoorsman and had a huge appreciation for the natural beauty of America.

How do you keep your kitchen clean and safe from contamination?

I’m obsessive about keeping everything clean in the kitchen, both at home and on the job. Paper towels are a must—I use them to tidy up as I go instead of a dishcloth. You can actually cross-contaminate kitchen surfaces if you wipe up with a used, germy dishcloth. It can harbor and spread germs, so using a durable paper towel like new Bounty DuraTowel is a much more effective way to clean. And one sheet really goes a long way – I can mop up everything from sticky sauce spills on the counter top to cleaning spatters off the fridge which helps me keep my momentum going.

Fennel Salad with Yogurt Vinaigrette
Serves 4

1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and cored
1 cucumber
1 head endive
6 radishes
1 apple, cored
½ cup of sheeps milk yogurt (plain or Greek yogurt can be used as substitutes)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (mint, chive, cilantro, basil, parsley, etc.)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Juice of one lemon

With a mandolin, thinly slice the fennel, cucumber and radishes and add the watercress and endive. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the yogurt, lemon, vinegar, soy sauce and cayenne and slowly add the olive oil. Add chopped fresh herbs. Toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette and serve.

Now tell us: How do you keep your culinary haven safe from germs?

Top Chef Star Fabio Viviani Gets Sexy with Quaker Oats

Written on February 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm , by

Viviani cares about your heart. (Photo courtesy of Quaker Oats)

A bowl of oatmeal for breakfast is…sexy? When Fabio Viviani is serving it, we like to think so. Which is why he’s the star of Quaker’s new video in support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement. And on the day of love (Valentine’s Day, in case you missed it), we had to get a piece of this Italian’s mind. Here’s his take on breakfast, and what you should be doing to spice up your love life.

Tell me about this steamy video! What made you want to get involved? 

It’s a good cause. If you’ve followed me in the last few years, then you know I’m all about good food and what’s good for you. As a chef, it has to be tasty. And well, let’s be honest, sometimes something that’s good for you is not necessarily delicious. But oatmeal is! So when I was approached by the Go Red for Women movement with Quaker Oats, it was perfect – we’re talking about food, breakfast and ladies – it was a good fit.

Whose idea was it to make it a funny, sexy video? 

The good news is that it’s easy for me to make things steamy because I have an accent! But if I’m going to do a video, it’s got to be funny – food is fun!

Are you a breakfast lover yourself? 

When I came to the United States, I learned to love it. Back in Italy, I didn’t really have it a lot. Now I like oatmeal and I like to make things different. Breakfast is something that can really change a lot about your day. We always talk about making the right choices, and something as easy and small as breakfast being done in the right way is huge.

Other than as a standard bowl for breakfast, how do you use Quaker oats? 

It’s a staple for breakfast, absolutely. But I also use oatmeal powder as a thickening agent instead of using gelatin and other chemical-filled things when I work in the kitchen. I make an oatmeal gelato that is delicious.

Healthy eating is clearly a big part of strong heart health. What strategies do you like to follow? 

You’re talking to an Italian guy, so you’re never going to hear me say drop carbs or meat! A balanced diet is the one that makes you happy while keeping you healthy. Being miserable is not healthy; it’s stressful. So I try to balance my diet with a lot of vegetables and good protein, but it’s OK to have steak once a week or so. Fish, in general, is good too. Maybe avoid tilapia because it’s really fatty, but others are great. And risotto – I love risotto! I’ll eat it any day of the week. I mean that, sometimes I’ve done it. And I’ll cook it in red wine instead of broth.

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Top Chef All-Star Winner Richard Blais Trims Down Thanksgiving Dinner

Written on November 12, 2012 at 9:40 am , by

If only we could get Blais to cook dinner for us every night. Sigh. (Photo courtesy of Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt)

While Thanksgiving is one of the most delicious meals of the year, it’s also usually the heaviest. Instead of chowing down on foods filled with oil, butter and mayonnaise, we searched for lighter fare that was still super tasty. What (or who) did we find? Bravo’s Top Chef All-Star winner, Richard Blais. We met the cooking extraordinaire at a recent Dannon Oikos Greek yogurt event, where he wined and dined us with dishes that left us feeling full and satisfied, without the “oh my gosh I need to go run 10 miles” feeling.

So what’s Blais’ big secret? Aside from the fact that he’s a top-notch chef who blows our aprons out of the water, he subbed the aforementioned ingredients with Dannon’s Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt. We didn’t miss any of the heavy-calorie items, and got to keep all the flavor. Win-win for us!

It wouldn’t be right to brag about the decadent meal this marathoner whipped up without nabbing some recipes, though. Check out the appetizer and dessert dishes below, then use them to start and end a perfect Thanksgiving meal in your own home.

Malted Panna Cotta

Serves: 4


  • 5 fl. oz. heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup Dannon Oikos vanilla Greek nonfat yogurt (or use a 5.3 oz. single-serve container)
  • 1 oz. sugar
  • 1 oz. malted barley
  • 1 gelatin sheet
  • Clementine slices for garnish
  • Candied ginger for garnish
  • Chocolate dusted almonds for garnish


  • Heat the heavy cream and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Remove liquid from the heat and add malted barley. Let steep for 1 hour.
  • Strain mixture into a clean pot and stir in Greek yogurt.
  • Bloom gelatin in an ice bath. Meanwhile, bring strained mixture to a simmer.
  • Remove strained mixture from heat and add gelatin.
  • Pour liquid into four small containers. Let chill for 2 hour or until panna cottas have set.
  • Garnish each with a few slices of clementine, a scattering of candied ginger and chocolate dusted almonds.

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Fitting Dessert Into Diet, with Top Chef Megan Ketover

Written on October 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm , by

Megan Ketover Top Chef Just Desserts

Photo Courtesy of SparkPeople

Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant Megan Ketover, who helped with The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight, revealed to SparkPeople how she stays so petite while whipping up pastries and other yummy goodies…


Q: You’re surrounded by pastries and treats all day, every day. How do you resist eating them all? 

MK: I am very lucky because I take so many little bites throughout the day to make sure flavors are balanced, that I am very satisfied by sweets when the day is done. There are certain things that are so amazing when they come out of the oven, I do have to have some willpower to resist eating them all.  I just make sure if I am going to eat something decadent, it is going to be really good, and not waste my calories on junk.

Q: Do you have any tips for those who might be intimidated by baking? 

MK: With savory cooking, you can improvise and adjust amounts in a recipe, but baking is an exact science; so I always recommend that bakers get a scale to measure ingredients. Scales can also help to see what a real portion size is.

Q: For “The SparkPeople Cookbook,” you created recipes that were packed with flavor but low in fat? What are some ways that you make your favorite desserts healthier? 

MK: I have always liked the rich flavor of whole wheat flour, so switching out regular flour to whole wheat is an easy way to add fiber and nutrients. Flax seed is also an amazing ingredient to add that packs a nutrient punch without a huge quality difference. I have always enjoyed nutritional baking, but it is important to know what role the baking ingredients play in a recipe in order to substitute it well. It is always important to me that “healthier” desserts still taste amazing. There is just no point if it does not taste good!

Q: People tend to think of desserts as very high in calories–a food that they should rarely eat. How do you incorporate desserts into everyday life? 

MK: Sweets make people happy, they are satisfying at the end of a meal, so I encourage small portion sizes into a healthy diet. Fruits are great because they also pack vitamins, and dairy based desserts are a delicious way to add calcium and protein to a diet plan. Moderation is key; what works for me is to have a small portion of something really delicious and satisfying.

Continued: More Q&A’s with Top Chef Megan Ketover!

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