Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

So this will be a first for me...instead of hitting a Halloween party tonight, we'll be heading to a wedding. There's no Halloween theme - I guess they're worried about drunk people showing up, dressed as sexy zombies - but it does save me from having to find a costume this year. Interestingly enough, we had our Halloween costume party at work yesterday and a group of us dressed up as an "awkward family Christmas photo." Since my hubs and I attend an ugly Christmas sweater party every year, I had plenty of costume options already at my fingertips. It was a pretty awesome group effort, considering we pulled the theme together almost overnight, and donned clothes from the closet. The kicker was, one of my colleagues glued together a giant fake picture frame with a backdrop and Olan Mills sign in the corner, so we could pose in the frame, awkwardly smiling into the distance. P.S. If you've never looked at the Awkward Family Photos website, you're missing out on a lot of laughs. 

Moving on, though...seeing as how we won't be home to hand out goodies to trick-or-treaters, I've been able to escape the temptation of all those cheap bags of candy at the grocery store this year. I'm sure we'll have our share of wedding cake (and, ahem, liquor) tonight, but at least I won't have mini-Snickers sitting around the house for the days to come. 

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent packing on the pounds while still participating in spooky festivities. According to the Calorie Control Council, foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners provide a simple way to enjoy your favorite treats without the additional calories. For example, choosing sugar-free chocolate will save 50 calories a day.  Drinking a diet soda can shave off 150 calories a day - or 15 pounds - by year's end. Here are a few more tips to surviving Halloween without gaining weight:
  • If you are throwing a party, serve reduced-fat popcorn or fat-free pretzel twists or sticks. Toss in some chocolate candies, as an added treat, but watch portion sizes.
  • Instead of caramel apples, try serving whole or sliced apples with fat-free caramel sauce.
  • Cut out bread (try a reduced-fat or light version) with a Halloween cookie cutter. Serve with smoked turkey, reduced-fat cheese, tomato, lettuce and other sandwich "fixings."
  • After trick or treating, allow your children to choose a designated amount of candy (such as five pieces) to eat that night.
  • Use sugar substitutes and applesauce to replace oil and sugar when baking treats for Halloween. Explain that you are using these substitutions to make these treats more healthy.
  • After Halloween is over, let your child pick one treat to eat each day. 
  • Choose candy that is sugar-free or is made with a sugar substitute, or is reduced-fat.
And for all you trick-or-treaters tonight, here's hoping you don't wind up with any rocks in your candy bag, like poor Charlie Brown. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

College Game Day Rules!

It's been an action-packed few months, folks. Let's see - in the past month alone, my husband and I have been out of town three out of four weekends, attended two weddings, went to a college football game, attended a pro football game and lodged and entertained a large and boisterous group of friends visiting from Chicago. And that's not all...tomorrow we're hitting the road after work to drive up to Knoxville to attend the Tennessee-Bama football game. No, we don't have a particular dog in this fight. But my uncle lives there, bleeds orange and white and hosts a helluva tailgate. Exhibit A: check out the artist rendering below of my uncle's tailgate this weekend. And the hubs and I are not the types to turn down a good party.

Plus, my fabulous uncle offered to make us spicy white chicken chili tomorrow night when we arrive. And I HEART chili. Seriously, it's one of my favorite food groups. But back to the tailgate. Any recommendations from the peanut gallery on what I should bring to the spread? I'm planning a Trader Joe's run during lunch tomorrow and, of course, I'll pop by the liquor store for supplies. I thought I'd pick up some cheese and meat (standard game day fare) but also want some healthy options, so possibly a bag of celery sticks, carrots, a fruit bowl and hummus. Another option - I could actually bring some ingredients and make one of these healthy, low-call Hungry Girl recipes for the tailgating gang to enjoy on Saturday. Hmmmm...what to do? Decisions are the worst!

Exploding Chicken Taquitos 
Sweet Caramelized Onion Dip
De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket
Rockin' Restaurant Spinach Dip

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall into Fall Season

Can y'all believe summer is over? Seriously - where has this year gone? Seems like only yesterday, I was trying to get ready for swimsuit season and now...there are Halloween decorations on all of my neighbors' houses. Yikes! Time flies when you're busy. Speaking of all things fall, we're actually flying to Philly this weekend for my husband's cousin's wedding. It should be a great time, but I checked the weather and....brrrrrrrrr. It will be a tad chilly at night.
Honestly, I don't mind fall nearly as much now that I live in the South. Back when I was a Chicago resident, I hated it because it meant the beginning of the end - and a return to months of bitterly cold, often snowy, gray days. Here, not so much the case. But if there is one good thing about fall (other than the cute sweaters and boots you get to bust out of the closet again!), it's all the wonderful warm beverages that you can indulge in. I do love a mug of hot apple cider or hot chocolate on a cool day! On that note, here are a few of my fave, Splenda-sweetened drink recipes to help get you through any chilly nights. Enjoy!

Homemade Chai
Sweet Hot Chocolate 
Spiced Apple Mulled Cider
Hot Tea Punch
Spiced Hot Cranberry Cider

Friday, September 26, 2014

Birthdays and Tailgates

So, I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. Another year older, not necessarily wiser. But it's been an action-packed year. Since my last birthday, I've started a new job, got married in New Orleans with more than 175 of my closest friends and relatives in attendance, celebrated Oktoberfest in Germany, visited Austria, partied in Jamaica and attended numerous weddings, baby showers, housewarming and going away parties. Good times. Hoping this next year of my life brings more of the same shenanigans.

This birthday was particularly special. For the first time in a decade, I was able to spend it with immediate family. My brother and sister-in-law flew in from California for a visit and we had a fabulous dinner in Atlanta, followed by drinks with friends. Later today, we're packing up the car and heading to Athens for the Georgia-Tennessee football game. There will be tailgating-a-plenty this weekend! Granted, it won't be great for the waistline but I'll make up for it with extra workouts and lean eating next week. Huzzah!

Speaking of birthdays, my hubby actually made a delicious, sugar-free cake for my big day. The double layer chocoholic cake was the perfect treat and one I'm hoping he makes again next year. So cheers to all you September babies - and let's celebrate another year of life on planet Earth.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Long weekends rock!

Happy Labor Day weekend! Hopefully you're all enjoying a little R&R - or some fun cookouts, pool parties and the return of college football! We actually decided to stay in town this weekend, but have been busy running to various friends' BBQs. So much temptation when watching your calorie count!
It's also insanely hot and humid this weekend. I know I sound like I'm whining, but it's been a pretty mild summer - so to have the temperature soar in recent days makes it feel worse than it probably is. As a result, I've been craving shakes, ice cream, smoothies, gelado...anything icy.
I came across this sucralose-sweetened peach froyo recipe that I'm going to make for a party tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that it turns out well. Earlier this week, I made some "kool pops" that were pretty dang good, so I think I should be okay. Between the icy treats and the pool that I hope to jump into tomorrow, I'm doing everything I can to stay cool on these muggy days. Have a fabulous rest of the holiday weekend, stay hydrated and eat some sugar-free gelado, y'all!

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 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!