Friday, August 31, 2007

Supply theft can take a bite out of business


Back in college, we used to frequent a famous German bar on campus that served boots of beer. You heard me...massive, heavy glasses shaped like boots that just overflowed with ale. We would go in large groups, gather around a long beer hall table, listen to the polka band and pass around the boots. I can't tell you how many students tried to steal those things for bragging rights purposes. Fortunately for the bar owners, the boots were so large that there was no way people could stick it in a bag - or hide it under their shirts - without management noticing. I thought of that when I saw a few articles about people stealing from restaurants and coffee shops. According to a New York Times article, diners have ripped off everything from $3 water glasses to $1,200 silver ice buckets. In the world of caffeine, it seems one of the most popular targets of theft is Splenda packets. At coffee shops, sucralose thievery has often depleted supply - leading some angry customers to storm out without coffee.
I can't say I've never snagged a few packets here and there. And once, in my poor just-out-of-college years, I stole a few rolls of toilet paper from a local bar.
But I think stealing candles, wall paintings and expensive things of that nature from restaurants is wrong, y'all! And word of advice: don't yell at the barista if there's no Splenda. It could have been your friends stealing the shop's last few packets.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Butt out, fashion police



“So okay, I don't want to be a traitor to my generation and all but I don't get how guys dress today. I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair…eww… and cover it up with a backwards cap and like, we're expected to swoon? I don't think so.” Cher Horowitz, Clueless

Apparently one of the top legislative priorities in Atlanta these days is to put the skin-is-in look out of fashion next season. No, really.
Councilman C.T. Martin is pushing an amendment to the city’s indecency laws that would outlaw clothing that displays underwear – from boxers and thongs to bra straps and even sports bras. Why? Well, Martin says the popular style of boys in oversized baggy pants sagging below their waists is an “epidemic” that must be stopped.
Look, personally, I can’t stand this trend - which is believed to have started in prisons, where inmates are not allowed to wear belts. It became more mainstream back in the early to mid-90s, when I was in middle school and high school (yes, I’m dating myself here). My opinion then was the same as it is now – there is nothing attractive about watching a guy in low-slung pants try to waddle down the street, baring his boxers to everyone around him. The same goes for girls in hip-huggers and exposed thongs.
However, that doesn’t mean I think the government should be allowed to step in and legislate what people wear.
I’ve got several concerns with this proposal. First, I think it’s heavy-handed and leaves the door open for too much interpretation. For example, what if I’m running in the park and my sports bra strap sticks out from under my tank top? Under the proposed rules, that could technically result in a fine. It seems the Atlanta Council is attempting to criminalize something best handled inside the home or the school.
Second, is this really what our city government is spending its time and resources on? What about healthcare and poverty reform? How about we focus on fixing the education system, reducing crime or patching up the roads? Shouldn't the city's "crack" problem be related to drugs not clothing? Among the numerous issues plaguing Atlanta, baggy pants is nowhere near the top of my list.
Finally, passage of this type of proposal could pave the way for additional restrictions down the road. I figure, if the government starts with a ban on baggy pants, what's to stop them from getting rid of any other undesirable fashion trend? I don't like mullets and acid-washed jeans. Can we ban those? Should body piercings, tattoos and the gothic look also go the way of the dinosaur? Who's to decide what stays and what goes?
When it comes to fashion, it seems each generation has found ways to push the envelope. Ever since the 1960s, the age of miniskirts and boys with long hair, there has been debate over the constitutionality of dress codes and whether they violate the right to freedom of expression. Eventually, this trend will fade and a new fad will irk politicians and parents. So please leave dress code regulations off city government agendas.
On a somewhat similar note, here is a clip featuring guys who might be pushing the boundaries of fashion taste. Instead of baggy pants, though, they're rocking the Daisy Duke-style shorts. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

I'd come up with a catchier headline...but I'm too busy drooling!


Back when I lived in Chicago, I used to frequent Potbelly Sandwich Works. For those unfamiliar with Potbelly, it's a Chicago-based chain now opening shop in a growing number of cities. Unfortunately, Atlanta is not included in that list of cities, but I digress...
While I was always a big fan of Potbelly's chicken salad sammich, I mostly stopped in for their absolutely fabulous oreo malt. To this day, I often find myself jonesing for the malt. That craving has been particularly brutal the past two weeks, thanks to the 90-plus degree weather. By the way, if you live anywhere near a Potbelly, make sure to check it out. It's tasty and cheap and provides a quality alternative to many of the other subway chains.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because I think I may have finally found a substitute for my beloved oreo malt. I just saw a German Chocolate Shake recipe (you heard me - GERMAN CHOCOLATE!!) on the Internet and am itching to go home and try it out. If you're a fan of chocolate, milk, coconut, pecans and Splenda, you might want to bust out the blender for this one!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Now that's some recycled fashion!

I'm no fashionista - not by any means. Half of my wardrobe is from Target, after all. But I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of Bravo's Project Runway. For one, the designers and judges can be ridiculously catty - which is a hoot to watch. But more important, I enjoy watching how the contestants pull together garments (or not pull together garments, in some cases) in a short time-frame with often the strangest of material supplies. Plus, I just love me some Tim Gunn.
Along those lines, one of my favorite episodes was the recycling challenge from Season 3. The designers literally had to dig around at a Newark-based Waste Management facility to find recycled materials (think newspapers, bottles, cans) and then create a runway garment out of them. Holy Awesome Episode, Batman!
Needless to say, I was thrilled when I saw this dress on-line. TVgasm, a Web site dedicated to recapping television shows, hosted a challenge last year - with the grand prize being a trip to the Project Runway Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week. Inspired by the recycling challenge, the TVgasm contest winner (simply named OD-TV) crafted a dress out of garbage bags and hundreds of empty Splenda packets.
No 'auf wiedersehen moment' for this "sweet" designer.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ice cream, you scream?

We had an ice cream social at my office yesterday, which is all well and good until someone has to step on a scale. While I was thrilled with the sugar-free ice cream option they provided, I blew any chance to cut-down the calories by piling on caramel, chocolate, pecans and whip cream.
I spotted this Splenda-rific recipe on Hungry Girl Web site today. It might take some time - well, more time than scooping ice cream into a bowl, anyway - to prepare, but it's low in calories and sounds too good to pass up. Note to self: replace ice cream sundae with fruit tartlets next time you choose to splurge on desserts.

Gooey Crunch Fruit Tartlets

PER SERVING (1 tartlet): 43 calories, 0.5g fat, 60mg sodium, 9g carbs, 1g fiber, 3g sugars, 1g protein = 1 Point

Ingredients:
1 batch (entire recipe) Chunky Peach Strawberry Sauce (see below); chilled 12 small square wonton wrappers like the ones by Dynasty or Nasoya (found with the other refrigerated Asian items in the supermarket); 48 sprays 0-calories-per-serving butter spray (like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spray)
Optional topping: Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, granulated OR Fat Free Reddi-wip

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray, and set aside.

On a clean dry surface, set out 4 wonton wrappers. Spray each one with 2 sprays of butter, and use your fingers to spread butter evenly over each wonton; gently flip wontons and repeat. Carefully transfer wontons to muffin tin, placing each wonton in a muffin cup and pressing it in to form the cup shape. Repeat entire process 2 more times, and place tray in the oven.

Bake wonton cups in the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are firm and brown. Once cups are cool enough to handle, transfer them to a plate. Allow cups to cool completely.

Evenly spoon chilled sauce into the wonton cups (for best results, fill the wonton cups close to the time you'll be serving or enjoying your tartlets). Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

If desired, before serving, top each tartlet with a squirt of Reddi-wip or a sprinkling of Splenda.

MAKES 12 SERVINGS

Chunky Peach Strawberry Sauce

PER SERVING (1/4th of recipe): 61 calories, <0.5g fat, 40mg sodium, 15g carbs, 2g fiber, 8g sugars, 1g protein = 1 Point

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups frozen whole strawberries
1 1/2 cups frozen peach slices
2 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, granulated
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
dash salt

Directions:
Combine Splenda, cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt with 1/2 cup of cold water. Stir until all ingredients are completely dissolved. Set aside.

Place fruit in a nonstick pot over medium-low heat. Once fruit begins to thaw, add liquid mixture. Stir.

As fruit defrosts and heats, use a spatula to break fruit apart into smaller pieces. Continuously stir until mixture becomes uniform, thick and syrupy.

Can be eaten hot, warm or chilled in the fridge until cold.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS

More Splenda recipes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

News you can sink your teeth into...

Diabetics and calorie counters rejoice!
According to a recent article in Science News, researchers have developed a low-sugar alternative to the standard U.S. supermarket watermelon.
Melon geneticist Angela Davis of the U.S. Agricultural Research Service - and her team - produced two lines of fruit whose seeds now uniformly grow into pink, low-sugar melons.
And if a series of tastes tests encompassing more than 170 youth and adults is any indication, the melon could be a huge hit with people following restricted sugar or low-carbohydrate diets. As background, domesticated watermelons tend to be so sweet, they are typically off-limits to most of the nation's 20 million people with diabetes.
The individuals involved in the taste test process were offered two types of watermelon - the conventional supermarket variety and a low-sugar version sweetened with sucralose. Researchers report the majority preferred their melon with sucralose.
The Oklahoma team will now turn its experimental melons over to seed companies.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The perfect poolside cocktail - for only 155 calories!


I've been on a Mojito kick lately. Perhaps my fascination with all things Cuba (love the music, love the dancing) factors into my enjoyment of this particular beverage. And maybe it just seems a fabulous frosty drink on a hot day. Either way, I think the mojito is a seriously tasty treat!
For those looking for a lower-calorie version, here's a recipe (using sucralose) courtesy of Marlene Koch. Keep in mind, the average six-ounce martini has about 370 calories.
Mojito

Fresh mint leaves
1 ounce fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons Splenda Granular
2 ounces white rum
Splash of club soda
Slice of lime (optional)

1. In a tall collins glass, using the back of a spoon, press and crush 8 to 10 mint leaves (to break apart and release oils) with lime and Splenda.
2. Fill glass with crushed ice.
3. Add rum and top off with club soda.
4. Garnish with slice of lime and/or additional fresh mint.

Per serving
Calories: 155
Net Carbs: 4

More Splenda recipes.

Seriously? Say it ain't so....

I heard about this last night and, well, it immediately made me want to reach for the closest wastebasket so I could toss up the sucralose-baked cookies I had gobbled down minutes before.
I'm sorry if this entry offends the Ryan Seacrest fans out there, but I couldn't let this tidbit pass by without some snarky commentary.
For those that haven't heard, the American Idol "personality" has been pegged the "entertainment host" of the 2008 Super Bowl - the most sacred of American sporting rituals. Seacrest’s duties will apparently include introducing the pre-game entertainment and interviewing celebrities who show up for the game.
Here's the thing...I understand the Super Bowl is no longer just about the actual game of football. It's become a family-style event padded with big-budget commercials and pre-game and half-time entertainment. That being said, I would hate to turn on the telly come Super Bowl Sunday to see this guy strolling the red carpet, asking vapid celebrities - with no interest or knowledge of football - what designer they wore to the big game.
Sigh.
Now, keep in mind this rant is coming from someone who thinks American Idol is one of the worst things to happen to television. For me, watching karaoke-style singers warble crap-tastic ballads every year is not the best form of entertainment. But hey, different strokes for different folks.
Guess I'll have more than enough time to hit the bathroom and fill up on beer next half-time Super Bowl show.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I will not bite the hand that feeds me Butterfingers...

Or so wrote Bart during the chalkboard sequence of a Simpsons episode.
I thought of that soundbite today, after hearing that Nickelodeon plans to prohibit the use of its characters on junk food products. Starting in 2009, the network's characters - such as SpongeBob SquarePants and the Rugrats - will only be allowed to appear on packaged food products that meet "better for you" criteria established by Nickelodeon’s marketing clients. The children's programming giant joins Discovery Kids and Walt Disney in passing the initiative, which was designed to encourage exercise and healthy eating habits.
I think this is a great idea. Really, I do. But (and here's the possibly unpopular part of my opinion) I think it's often too easy for people to blame cartoons, movies, the local school district and fast food restaurants for the nation's growing childhood obesity epidemic. While there is some truth to this, I think parents also need to do a better job of monitoring what their child is eating.
All in all, I agree Jimmy Neutron's face should not be plastered on a bag of chips. At the same time, I hope this doesn't affect any TV show content. Imagine SpongeBob passing out granola bars instead of flipping Krabby Patty burgers. Or Cartman digging into a salad rather than snarfing down Cheesy Poofs. Can you really envision Homer eating tofu instead of pink donuts? It just doesn't seem right.
Anyhoo, those are my thoughts, for whatever it's worth.
In honor of this topic, I'm including one of the many Simpsons Butterfinger commercials that aired back in the day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Super Sweet Scoop for the Calorie Counting in all of us


I've got some good news for all you smoothie lovers out there. In an effort to win over the calorie-counting audience, smoothie makers are increasingly churning out sugar-free blends. While some are simply blending up fruit and juice, others are keeping the treats sweet by adding Splenda. Executives at several of the top smoothie companies say the low-sugar offerings are gaining a significant following. I don't know about you, but on a 100-degree day like today, a low-cal smoothie sounds like a dream come true!

Here's an example of a sugar-free drink now sold at Jamba Juice. The Strawberry Nirvana -a blend of strawberries, bananas, apple-strawberry juice, Splenda and more - runs about 150 calories for a 16-ounce cup. Sounds like the perfect treat on a muggy summer day.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Animated Splenda Video

So I was searching YouTube this afternoon for some fun and/or interesting videos about Splenda. Sadly, most of the clips I dug up featured teens snorting the sweetener up their nostrils. Kids today, I tell ya.
However, I did find this video - which I thought was pretty cool. It reminds me of some of the old cartoons and claymation videos (think Gumby) from when I was a wee girl. It's a stop motion video using Splenda packets.
In an added bonus, it also includes "Island in the Sun" by Weezer. The song may be a bit overplayed but it's certainly catchy and - for those in my age bracket - serves as a reminder of those just-out-of-college years. Time flies, y'all.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hammertoes and pump bumps

I know this is a little off-topic in terms of sugar-free dieting, but I told you this blog would meander on occasion.
This particular entry is a rant about one of my dislikes: high heels. There's no way you'll ever catch me walking more than five feet in narrow, pointy-toed boots or strappy sandals with three-inch heels. And I hate it when gal pals throw a pair of those on and then hobble along metropolitan streets in pain - all in the name of fashion. Puleez. Give me a pair of flip-flops any day.
Anyway, this graphic actually demonstrates how high heels can be bad for the body. From increased knee joint pressure to hammertoes, ankle problems to bunions, high heels do cause some problems for the person wearing them. Check out the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society Web site for more information.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sensational Splenda Recipes

I'm hearing good things about "375 Sensational Splenda Recipes: Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat and Calories." Written by Marlene Koch, a culinary nutritionist and registered dietitian, the book features hundreds of sucralose-based recipes catering to both diabetics and people watching their calorie intake. Recipes range from rotisserie chicken and avocado salad, cheesy jalapeno cornbread and a soba noodle bowl with peanut garlic sauce to buttermilk boysenberry sherbet and pumpkin mousse with gingersnaps. Um...yum!
Here is a lemon meringue pie recipe from the book to whet your appetite.

INGREDIENTS:
1 pre-baked single-crust pie pastry, or prepared single pie crust
FILLING
1/4 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
3/4 cup Splenda Granular
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 Pinch salt
3 large egg yolks (may use additional yolk if desired
1 tablespoon butter
TOPPING
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
4 large egg whites
1/4 cup Splenda Granular
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

STEPS:
1. FILLING: Whisk Splenda Sugar Blend, Splenda Granular, lemon juice, and conrstarch together in a medium saucepan until smooth. Whisk in water, zest, salt, and egg yolks until there are no pieces of egg yolk visible. Place pan over medium heat and cook, striring until mixture reaches a full boil. Simmer 1 minute, while stirring. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Pour into prepared pie crust and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
3. TOPPING: Immediately whisk together water, cornstarch, and Splenda Sugar Blend in a small sauce pan. Place on medium heat and cook, while whisking, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 15 seconds until a thick, smooth, translucent paste forms. Cover. In a medium (grease-free) bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Beat in cream of tartar. Beat in Splenda Granular until soft peaks form. Beat in cornstarch gel, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove plastic wrap from pie and cover with meringue topping. Be sure to cover all the way to the edges of the crust. Bake for 10 minutes until meringue lightly browns. Cool on rack; then refrigerate.

Serves Eight

Per serving:
Calories 220 Fat 10 grams (4 saturated)
Carbohydrate 29 grams Fiber 0 grams
Protein 4 grams Sodium 145 milligrams
Diabetic exchange = 2 Carbohydrate, 2 Fat
WW point comparison = 5 points

More recipes with a sugar substitute

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Hungry Planet



A few of these photos have been making the e-mail rounds lately and I think it really puts things into perspective, at least in the world of food.
In an effort to better understand the human diet, photojournalists Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio traveled the globe to explore what culturally diverse families eat for a week. "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" is a chronicle of their visits to 30 families in 24 countries. Their portraits feature each family with a typical week's worth of food purchases, from potatoes, sacks of grain and bananas to cereals, soda, pizza, beer and cigarettes. The book includes detailed listings of the goods, family recipes and details about the country's eating habits.
The comparisons range from a mother of five children living on $1.23 a week at a refugee camp in Chad to a German family of four spending nearly $500 a week on food and beverages. A family of four in North Carolina spent almost $342 a week on food while a California family featured in the book plunked down about $160.
Also interesting (to me, anyway) was the pervasiveness of fast food and soft drinks around the world. Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time linking to the photos. But if you get a chance, please search for them on the Internet and tell me what you think.