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).

Friday, March 07, 2014

Spring clean your diet


Well, I believe spring weather is almost here. Take that, polar vortex! The sun is finally shining and clocks will spring forward this Sunday for Daylight Saving Time. Hoorah! No more driving to and from work in pitch black conditions. 

Still, while I'm enjoying the warmer temperature, spring is typically an annual wake-up call - one reminding me to get back into shape before I have to start busting out the skimpy clothing again. It's even more of an issue this year, since we'll be attending a close friend's wedding in Jamaica in exactly one month...where swimsuits will be part of our daily wardrobe. And a few  months later in July, I myself will be getting married to my sweetie. That means ramping up my workout efforts and maintaining healthier eating habits  for the near future. But with friends in town this weekend, St. Patty's Day looming and various birthdays and dinners  on the calendar, it's hard to keep my girlish figure. How does one stay in shape and eat healthy with such an active social life? While I certainly don't have all those answers, I do have a few dining-related tips that don't involve steering clear of restaurants and parties altogether. 

1. Avoid buffets. While economical, buffets make it too easy to load up the plate with an array of high-carb, high-calorie and high-fat foods. 

2. Step away from the bread basket. If you'd like a roll, grab one then move it outside of your reaching distance. The same goes for chips, should you be at a Mexican restaurant. Grab a small handful than stay away from it the rest of the night. 

3. Meal modifications are key. Feel free to make special requests. Ask the waiter if they can put the sauce on the side - or to substitute french fries with veggies. Find out if your meal can be made without butter, oil or salt...anything that could help cut down on calories. 

4. Start out healthy. Consider ordering a light salad or soup to kick things off. This will help to fill you up before you dive into the big meal. You also might want to split your entree with a friend. 

5. Practice portion control. Remember that restaurant sizes are often larger than normal. Consider eating half of your meal and putting the rest in a doggie bag. 

6. Avoid all the bells and whistles. Don't add a bunch of extras to your meal. When it comes to a salad, avoid topping it off with buttery croutons, grated cheese, bacon and dollops of high-fat dressing. The same goes with a burger, baked potato and other entrees. 

7. Don't binge drink at the dinner table. A glass or wine or two with your meal is one thing. But don't knock back a six-pack of beer or a few bottles of wine single-handedly. It's not good for you - and in more ways than just calories. 

If you'd like to try your own hand at making a high-class restaurant-style meal, check out these yummy sucralose-sweetened recipes. 

Balsamic Brown Rice Salad 
Herb Rubbed Pork 
Italian Cream Pie with Strawberry Sauce

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter Wonderland? Pffftttt....

Y'all, this has been a tough food week. For those that haven't heard, Georgia was hit with "Snowpocalypse Part 2" - which in Southern terms means, we got an inch of snow and a lot of ice and the whole damn state went crazy again. Fortunately, it seems most residents and government officials learned from the last incident and avoided getting on the roads before the storm - so there weren't any reports of students stuck on school buses and motorists stranded on highways for 23 hours.
But on the downside, we've been cooped up (except for walking down to the local pub, huzzah!) at home the past few days, working remote...and mainly eating junk food because I stupidly let my fiance do the shopping before the storm. Is it difficult to eat a bowl of cantaloupe when there is a bag of Cheetos lying on the table? Why yes...yes, it is.
So I was a wee bit bad the first day - ate some pizza and junky snacks before learning my lesson and cooking up some lean ground turkey and chopping up fruit and veggie snacks. I also made some sugar-free Sweet Hot Chocolate and low-cal Santa Fe Veggie Chili to get through the chilly week. It was pretty damn yummy. Anyway, the snow is finally melting and it looks like we'll be back in our respective offices tomorrow, so I look forward to returning to a normal routine - and healthier eating pattern. Wish me luck!

And for those that haven't seen some of the brilliant comedy skits making fun of Atlanta a few weeks ago, enjoy one snippet...




Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Book Club


Since I love to both read and socialize, I joined a book club with a group of gal pals last year. It essentially entails reading one book a month and gathering together to discuss said book while snacking on delicious snacks and drinking copious amounts of wine. Well, it's my turn to host tomorrow night - and I'm a little stumped over what to serve. I definitely know I'll put out healthy trays of veggies and fruit (cauliflower and carrots and cucumbers, oh my!) as well as a cheese spread and crackers/bread. But what about dips? I have a Greek yogurt spinach/kale spread from Trader Joe's, but thinking about making this light Sweet Red Pepper Hummus. This Party on a Pizza app also looks delicious, combining arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and a lot of my other fave ingredients. 
As for a sweet treat, I heart those chocolate peanut butter cups (and chocolate peanut butter pretzels) from Trader Joe's, but in an effort to curb the calories, I think this Splenda-sweetened recipe might make a great, lower-fat alternative: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake Cups
FYI: Have any of you read The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling? That's our book of the month and so far it seems to be inspiring a lot of "meh" attitudes from the book club crew. It's too bad - I really wanted to love it, but had a pretty hard time getting into it. We're thinking about reading "The Fault in Our Stars" next, so apparently I'll need to get some tissues handy as I've heard it's a tear-jerker. 
Anyhoo, if you have any insight on next books to read or yummy, low-cal appetizers to make, let me know!


Monday, January 06, 2014

Cold! Oh crikeys, it's cold!

Unless you live in Florida or California, you're probably like most Americans tonight - bundled up under blankets, sitting next to a space heater, watching the BCS Championship game. It's freakin' cold out there! Even us peeps in Atlanta are dealing with near single digits, although I feel even worse for friends and family struggling with the Arctic blast blanketing the Midwest and North East.
True story: my freshman year of college at UW-Madison, it dipped down to -30, which felt more like -70 with wind chill. It was brutal. You couldn't leave the house without donning multiple layers and it literally hurt to breathe. And your nose would run and the snot would freeze. Lovely, ey? I do not miss those days...at all.
Anyhoodle, when the weather gets this nippy, I start to crave giant bowls of hearty soup. And today is no different. I'm currently jonesing for some chicken pho, which for the uninitiated is basically the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup. I'm either going to make or buy a vat of it on the way home tomorrow, seeing as how it will be another Arctic night. Or I might whip up one of the other low-cal soup recipes below. What say you? Pho, bisque or veggie soup?

Chicken Pho
Sweet Potato Bisque
Garden Vegetable Soup

By the way, for those that have never tried it, you really can toss up boiling water in sub-zero temperatures and watch it freeze in the air.