Monday, August 18, 2014

Love & Marriage

Sorry I've been off the grid. It's been a crazy couple of months. Did I mention I got married a few weeks ago? Between a heavy workload, travel and the recent nuptials, I haven't had a minute of downtime. And that is not good news for my waistline. Alas...tomorrow is a new day.
Quick overview of the wedding, because I know y'all are jonesing to hear about it. My long-time fiance and I got married in New Orleans, surrounded by friends and family. The food was fabulous, the open bar was plentiful, the music was jamming, guests were dancing - and then we topped off the night with a second line parade through the French Quarter. It was too much fun.
We also had some wonderful desserts. Rather than plunk all our money down on one large, fancy-pants cake, we bought some small ones from Costco and the local grocery store. It was mostly chocolate, vanilla and red velvet, but we also threw in a lemon-flavored cake and one with a peach filling. So good! Speaking of peaches, did you know it's National Peach Month? Being a proud resident of Georgia - land of peaches - I fully support this observation. So because I love you, here are a few sucralose-sweetened peach recipes. Enjoy!

Double Crust Peach Cobbler 
Peach Frozen Yogurt 
Fizzy Peach Lemonade

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Pass me that BBQ


So, we're through the holiday weekend. How did y'all celebrate America's birthday? If you're like most folks, it probably involved a backyard BBQ, fireworks and some beverages. Seeing as how I'm getting married in less than two weeks (gulp), I tried to avoid those large plates of hot dogs/potato salad/apple pie. But talk about temptation! I love me a good cheese burger and cold beer on a hot day, so this weekend was definitely a test of willpower.

Fortunately, I have some understanding friends who were happy to provide me with grilled chicken and healthy, low-calorie salads, fresh fruit and veggies. Plus, I know some tips to avoid the BBQ bulge. Thanks to sucralose.org for the insight below!

Choose your marinades wisely. Using sauces such as Worcestershire, Chile, Soy, or light Italian dressing in place of salt or heavy sauces will add a lot of flavor with a few calories. If you are looking to flavor with spices, try garlic, onion powder, or chili powder. If sweet taste is what you are going for add a little fruit juice to the marinade. This will add a sweet taste while also tenderizing the meat. Also, a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose can help sweeten a marinade without the added calories.

Think beyond just meat. Barbeques don’t have to be a meat lover’s paradise. Try one of the sauces/seasonings listed above on steak or chicken skewers. In between each piece of meat, add pineapple, mushrooms, peppers or any other fruit or vegetable you and your family or friends enjoy. Cut the veggies into sizes that will cook well on the grill and then grill them for about 8 to 10 minutes. If you like seafood, shrimp or fish could be a great option for grilling whole or making into skewers.

When grilling chicken, make sure you remove all the skin. The skin of the chicken is where most of the saturated fat is found so removing the skin will remove this unwanted fat as well. If you are a chicken skin lover consider this: 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast with skin contains 8.8 grams of fat and 2.5 grams of saturated fat 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast without skin contains 4 grams of fat and 1.2 grams of saturated fat. Be sure to take the skin off before adding the marinade so you don’t lose the flavor along with the skin. When cooking other types of meat be sure to choose the leanest cuts possible and trim additional fat before cooking.

Portion distortion is still a problem on the grill. If you are making skewers, cut the meat in small pieces with loads of vegetables in between. If you are making burgers or steak, think “tapas” and cut them into smaller appetizer portions before cooking. For every piece of meat you have, try to have an equal amount of vegetable.

Traditional barbecues are centered on grilling meat, but don’t forget about the sides. Complement your meat with a healthful pasta salad made with whole wheat pasta and light Italian dressing. Or, going along with the tapas theme, make some mini appetizers such as bruschetta, hummus with olive oil and whole wheat pita, low fat artichoke dip, or a veggie tray. Take advantage of the delicious fruits in season and provide a fruit tray and a yogurt dipping sauce sweetened with sucralose for a low-calorie dessert that is sure to satisfy all your guests!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Science Says...

Have I mentioned I'm getting married in two months? Oy vey - for anyone getting ready to tie the knot, here's a tip for you...elope! We let our families bully us into a wedding and, as a result, we'll be in debt for years to pay off all those over-priced vendor fees.

In addition to the upcoming nuptials, I've also been dealing with a new job. Between all of that stress, I've had a hard time exercising and an even harder time cooking. Fortunately, between low-cal microwave meals and sugar-free dishes, I've been able to maintain my weight. 

Speaking of sugar-free, a new study found the use of low-cal sweeteners resulted in body weight reductions. This is the latest research to support those findings - and they also determined that the use of products containing low-cal sweeteners do not lead to weight gain or cravings. For the meta-analysis study, researchers reviewed 35 years’ worth of independent studies on the relationship between low-calorie sweeteners and weight status. 

“Based on the gold standard study design in medical research — the randomized controlled trial — the results show that using low-calorie sweeteners resulted in statistically significant reductions in body weight, BMI, fat mass, and waist circumference,” said Dr. Vanessa Perez, one of the researchers. With recent headlines stirring debate around the benefits of sweetener alternatives, Perez added the data confirms that using low-calorie sweeteners “does not cause weight gain and may be a useful tool in helping people comply with weight loss and weight management plans.” 

So take that naysayers! The proof is in the science - and the extensive body of research that backs low-cal, sugar-free products for weight loss efforts. I'll take my cues from the researchers, as well as healthcare organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who support the use of low-calorie sweeteners as tools in weight and diabetes management. Until this research is proven otherwise, you'll have to pry the Diet Coke out of my cold dead hands. 

Rant over, stepping off my soapbox. Now back to wedding planning - joy! 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Butterscotch Badness...or should I say, goodness?

So I've been on a bit of an ice cream and gelado kick lately. What can I say? 'Tis the season. When the weather warms up, my icy sweet tooth comes out. So last night, after a particularly grueling round of hot yoga, we hit a local ice cream shop for shakes. I got a butterscotch one. And holy smokes, was it dee-lish!

But it seems I celebrated a day or two too early. I checked my trusty food holiday calendar (what? don't judge me! I like to eat!) today and guess what I discovered? Tomorrow is National Butterscotch Brownie Day. Huzzah!

In honor of this special occasion, and beecause I love you'se guys so much, I dug up a Splenda-sweetened butterscotch brownie recipe. Alas, I will not be able to indulge in the sweet treat tomorrow. Instead, I will be drinking cheap beer and possibly snarfig down a hot dog - or maybe just some peanuts - at Turner Field. My beloved (and as per usual, awful) Cubbies are in town, so I'm hitting enemy territory to see the game. I plan to workout in the morning and snack on some celery, carrots and hummus beforehand so I don't eat everything in sight when I get to the stadium. Wish me - and the Cubs - a little luck.

Photo courtesy of Mike Froese via freeimages. 





Friday, April 18, 2014

Thank Goodness It's Good Friday!

Can you believe it's almost Easter? How are we half-way through April already? I'm so not ready for swimsuit season, y'all.

Anyway, Rob and I are about to pack up the car and dog to head down to Florida for a visit with his family this weekend. I'm hoping I can hang onto my willpower a little bit longer and not dig into the bag of Cadbury Creme eggs (my kryptonite!) and Reese's egg-shaped chocolate peanut butter cups that we're bringing with us - at least until Sunday. Honestly, I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but something about Easter candy just hooks me in every year.

As for an Easter meal, I plan to contribute one or two dishes to the mix, but I'm torn on what to provide - big green salad? Low-cal version of scalloped potatoes? Deviled eggs? I'm definitely whipping up a pitcher of mimosas and some dessert - possibly this Splenda-sweetened Lemon Velvet Layer Cake.

Anyway, I hope y'all have a fabulous weekend. Here's a little Easter happy, courtesy of the incomparable Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Survey Says: Most Americans are Weight Conscious


Can't say this is particularly surprising. A new national survey released by the Calorie Control Council has found that eight out of ten men and women over the age of 18 are "weight conscious," while 54 percent want to shed some pounds and another 28 percent want to maintain their existing waistlines. Ever conducted a straw poll among friends to find out how many are worried about their weight - or are actively trying to lose it? You'd likely find that at least half of them fall into those categories.

Statistics show that about 68 percent of the U.S. population is now obese or overweight. Among respondents of the CCC survey, the top weight loss methods included cutting back on foods high in sugar (86 percent), eating smaller portion sizes (85 percent) and consuming low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages (78 percent). Also, nearly two-thirds of Americans trying to lose weight say they perform moderate exercise for 45 minutes at least three times per week.

Health professionals urge those wanting to lose weight to consider many factors, including exercise, overall diet and lifestyle changes. But there are some tools to help with weight loss measures. For example, you could choose foods and beverages that moderate sugar intake, such as products sweetened with sucralose. By choosing sugar-free chocolate over sugar-sweetened chocolate, you can trim 50 calories a day – or five pounds – by year’s end.

Here are some wonderful, low-cal recipes - courtesy of the Calorie Control Council and Splenda.com- that won't generate extra pounds.

Grilled Steak and Vegetable Salad
Classic Carrot Cake
Apricot and Cinnamon Fruit Dip

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Final Four, baby!


For those that don't know, I'm a die-hard Badger...as in, U-rah-rah Wisconsin - as in proud alum of University of Wisconsin-Madison. And it's been more than a decade since my basketball team last made it to the Final Four. So imagine my delight to finally see my boys back in the finals of the Big Dance again. That's right, ya'll! After eking out a nail-biter win last night against heavily favored Arizona, Wisconsin is officially in the Final Four. The only other determined team as of yet? Florida, my fiance's alma mater. Good thing we've been together six years already, otherwise a team faceoff might result in cancelling our wedding due to irreconcilable differences.

Moving on, though, I unfortunately did some cheating last night. I was at a party, nervously watching my team play. So instead of sticking to the healthy veggie platter and hummus/pita plate, I chowed down on wings, eggrolls, a cheeseburger and other tasty treats. I can't keep doing that if I want to fit in my bathing suit this summer, so here are some tips for all of you other nervous sports watchers. Rather than blowing out your calorie count in one sitting, here are some low-cal, game day-friendly recipes courtesy of Hungry Girl to enjoy while watching your favorite team compete.

HG's Exploding Chicken Taquitos
Ingredients:
8 small (6-inch) yellow corn tortillas
One 9.75-oz. (or 10-oz.) can 98% fat-free chunk white chicken breast in water, drained well
1/2 cup salsa
1/3 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp. dry taco seasoning mix
Optional: red enchilada sauce, additional salsa, fat-free sour cream, for dipping

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken and salsa, and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Remove chicken mixture from the fridge, and drain any excess liquid. Add cheese and taco seasoning, and mix to combine. This is your filling. Set aside.
Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with nonstick spray, and set it aside.
Dampen two paper towels, and place tortillas between them. Microwave for about 1 minute, until tortillas are warm and pliable.
Take one tortilla (keep the rest between the paper towels), spray both sides lightly with nonstick spray, and lay it flat on a clean dry surface. Spoon about 2 heaping tbsp. of filling onto the tortilla. Spread it evenly across the entire surface, and roll tortilla up tightly, so that you have a cigar-shaped tube. Secure with toothpicks and place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
Bake for 14 - 16 minutes, until crispy. Allow taquitos to cool for 5 minutes. If you like, dunk in enchilada sauce, salsa, or sour cream!
 
Saucy Chick BBQ Nachos
Ingredients:
4 oz. (about 70) baked tortilla chips (like the kind by Guiltless Gourmet or Baked! Tostitos Scoops!)

One 9.75-oz. (or 10-oz.) can 98% fat-free chunk white chicken breast in water, drained and flaked
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (with about 45 calories per 2-tbsp. serving), divided

1 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese

2 tbsp. chopped scallions

Optional topping: fat-free sour cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread out tortilla chips on a large ovenproof platter or baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, combine chicken and 1/4 cup BBQ sauce. Mix well, and then spoon mixture evenly over the chips.
Top evenly with cheese. Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce over the chips.
Bake in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes, until cheese and BBQ sauce are hot.
Sprinkle scallions over nachos. If you like, top or serve with sour cream.

De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket
Ingredients:
1 fat-free (or nearly fat-free) hot dog (like the ones by Oscar Mayer, Hebrew National and Ball Park)
1 portion Pillsbury Reduced Fat Crescent roll dough
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut hot dog into 4 even pieces. Stretch or roll out the triangle-shaped dough slightly, to make it a larger triangle. Cut dough into 4 long, narrow triangles. Beginning at the base of each triangle, roll a piece of the hot dog up in the dough until the point of each triangle wraps around the center. Place dogs on an ungreased baking pan and cook for about 12 minutes (until dough appears slightly browned and crispy).