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Celeb Chef Rocco Dispirito Talks Spring Cleaning In the Kitchen, Plus One Party-Friendly Recipe!

DiSpirito launches us into spring with tasty dishes ready for snacking.


Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern Listen up, ladies: Triscuit's new brown rice crackers aren't your mother's snack. The brand has developed delicious spins on its classic namesake snack—like sweet potato and sea salt and black pepper—that get two nutritional thumbs up from celeb chef and FITNESS advisory board member Rocco DiSpirito. The bestselling author developed three healthy, easy-to-make recipes centered around the cracker, and after sampling his culinary creations in Times Square (the turkey chili recipe below is OMG good), we chatted with DiSpirito about his cooking inspiration, eating for the season and saving calories with simple ingredient swaps.

Your Triscuit-inspired recipes were delicious! Why did you partner with the brand? When an established food company like Triscuit/Nabisco decides they’re going to put a lot of money, time and effort to make something better for you, I’m a big fan of that decision. It’s brave because most food companies are like, “Why change it? It’s perfect, we sell a ton of food, we make a gazillion dollars, we have big homes in the Hamptons, we don’t need to do anything.” But this shows recognition that America needs healthier choices, including their snacks, and I’m proud to associate with a company that feels that way because that’s what I do every day: I try to convince Americans to make healthier choices.

What’s your main goal when developing a recipe? My priority is to make a recipe that people can reproduce at home very easily. So I work backward from what I find in grocery stores. Every time I start a book, I go to the grocery stores and research what’s available, and that changes all the time. From the time I wrote Now Eat This to now, a lot has changed. There are a lot more healthy ingredients available, so that makes my job a little easier and more exciting. The point is to get people to try it and understand that when they cook, they’re in control, and cooking is better than buying from a restaurant. So those are my priorities: to make it super easy for people to make it at home.

How do you “healthify” a recipe? You want to swap fats, dairy and sugar: those are the ones that are the most calorically dense.  One ounce of any of those has more calories than one ounce of vegetables, for example. For dairy, fat-free Greek yogurt is a great swap. For fats, using something like xanthan gum. So let’s say you want to make an ice-cream smoothie, but you don’t want to use any ice cream. Skim milk and xanthan gum is a great way to create that texture that you’d get from cream. And for sugar, my favorite new sweetener is monk fruit extract. It’s an amazing calorie- and sugar-free sweetener.

What are some of your go-to spring produce? It’s ridiculous what happens in spring! I start with asparagus, which is fresh in early spring. White asparagus is one of my favorite things on the planet. I plant a garden, so I grow several kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, squash, watermelon, cucumbers—I look forward to all of those things. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like cucumbers, you’ve never had a home-grown one. Sometimes I pick off the leaves of squash blossoms and fry the blossoms, or make a squash blossom omelet. There are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables that are in season. Click for the mouthwatering chili recipe we sampled, then recreate at home - it's perfect for a party!

Triscuit Red Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Nacho Melt Serves: 12 (four crackers each)


  • 12 ounces ground turkey breast
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 35-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
  • 2 tablespoons ground chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 48 Triscuit Red Bean & Roasted Rep Pepper Crackers

Directions 1. Preheat the oven broiler. In a Dutch oven, combine garlic, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. 2. Raise heat to high and add ground turkey, stirring to break it up. Add black beans and stir into mixture. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until turkey is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 3. Pour chili in a large ovenproof casserole, sprinkle cheese on top and place under broiler until cheese is melted. Remove and let cool slightly. 4. Serve chili with Triscuit crackers for dipping. Nutrition facts per serving: 110.5 calories and 3g fat

More from FITNESS: Spring Awakening: 7 Fresh Spring Dinners Healthy Recipes for Spring’s Freshest Ingredients Healthy Spring & Summer Soups