Thursday, May 29, 2008

Zoinks, Scooby!

Wow! I mean, I figured restaurants probably underestimated the calorie and fat counts on their "guilt-free" menus a bit. But I had no idea it was to this extent.

Have y'all heard about this new study?
Egads. Apparently reporters from a group of Scripps TV stations took a sampling of diet menu items from chain restaurants including Applebee's, Macaroni Grill, Chili's, Taco Bell and Cheesecake Factory. Lab technicians then tested a total of 23 items, finding that 78 percent had higher fat content than listed on the menu and almost 69 percent exceeded the calorie count listed.

For example, Macaroni Grill’s "Skinny Chicken" was listed at 500 calories. Test results, however, showed it was about 1,022 calories. And while the fat grams per serving are listed at six, technicians discovered it was actually 49 grams of fat. FORTY-NINE!!! Gulp.

Granted, not all of the cases were so severe, but it certainly is a wakeup call to calorie-counters out there, particularly those who rely on these menus for say, their daily food tracking points?

Anyhoo, to help ease the pain, I've dug up a few recipes - many utilizing sucralose - that are designed to replace those not-so-guilt-free restaurant meals. While not a perfect match, the lower calories should help put a smile back on your face.

1. Instead of the On the Border Mexican Grill chicken fajitas, which clock in at 654 calories and 26.5 grams of fat, check out Hungry Girl's
Fajitas Fantastico. They only have 320 calories and 8.5g of fat.

2. Ditch the 641 calorie, nearly 50g fat Pear & Endive Salad from Cheesecake Factory for this 7g fat, 130 calorie Orange-Almond Salad.

3. Macaroni Grill's Simple Salmon dish sports 555 calories and more than 35 grams of fat. Check out this 360 calorie Grilled Glazed Salmon, which also features 10 grams less fat.

Smile!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Good eating to you all!

Happy almost Memorial Day! I'm about to hit the road for my long-awaited camping adventure in, oh, 30 or so minutes. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Can you tell I'm excited? Anyhoo, not sure what the rest of y'all are up to this weekend, but there has been lots of chatter onthe news lately about the escalating gas prices and how that's hindering many a person's plans to hit the road this Memorial Day. So for all of you staying put, I'd imagine there will be a number of backyard BBQ events taking place this weekend. Hmmmm? Trying to figure out how to keep that sugar-free diet with so many fatty foods around? Well no need to fret. There are some sugar-free recipes you can enjoy. Check it out.

Hot and Spicy BBQ Sauce

Chopped Salad with Buttermilk Poppy Seed Dressing

Classic Coleslaw

Black Bottom Pecan Pie

Have a great (and safe!) weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Asheville, here I come!

Well, not quite...but that will be the case around this time on Friday, when we hit the road for some Memorial Day fun! Don't get me wrong - I like Atlanta and all. But good grief, do I ever need to get away from this city for a few days!! I feel like it's been eons since I've had any type of vay-cay.
So I'll be heading up to North Carolina for a long weekend packed with music and camping. It's going to be a blast. But it's been almost three years since I spent the night sleeping under the stars so...what's a girl to pack?
Well, for starters, we've got a camping stove, tent, air mattress, sleeping bags, tarp and rain gear in case of bad weather (Mother Nature, please work with me this time!). I'm also bringing weather-appropriate, comfy clothes and shoes. Other things to think about? Towels, TP, anti-bacterial soap, First Aid kit, sunscreen and plenty of water. As for food, we're bringing lots of snacks, Ramen, veggies and dried fruit. And there will be beer, of course. Anyhoo, I've been asked to contribute at least two meals to the three-day menu, so I'm whipping up some awesome Splenda-sweetened oatmeal on-site and pre-making a sugar-free pie and spicy peanuts to bring along. How's this look?

Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix

Apple Pie Oatmeal

S'Mores Campfire Pie

Friday, May 16, 2008

Later Toby!

Any other fans of "The Office" out there? Well, if you dig the Dunder Mifflin crew as much as I do, than I'm sure you enjoyed last night's season finale. From the first minute, when it went old school with Jim and Pam pulling another genius prank on Dwight, it was truly guffaw-inducing...particularly any of the scenes involving Kevin and Holly, Toby's replacement.
By the end of the episode, we discovered a number of crazy things: Jan is preggers! Ryan is in jail! Andy and Angela are engaged?! Well, they might not be for long if the last scene is any indication of what's to come next season.
Either way, my hat's off to the entire writing crew.
Poor Toby, though. While his send-off party did include fireworks and live music, he never did win over Pam's heart OR get that yummy buttercream cake Angela was planning to purchase.
In honor of our favorite paper sales folks, I'll leave you with both a funny clip of Jim and Dwight (from a previous season) as well as two sucralose-sweetened buttercream recipes (one for a cake and one for a frosting) - just in case Toby happens to stumble across this blog!

Buttercream Cake

Low-Carb Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Also, here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the last episode.

"The real crime, I think, was the beard."
"Oh, hello Mutter. Good news. I've married. Tell Vater."
"I am now his cruise director and my name is Captain Bruisin."


Monday, May 12, 2008

Righteous, delighteous and out-of-sighteous

Heyyy you guyyys! Have you heard the news? PBS is bringing back "The Electric Company," the groovy educational 70s kids show many deemed Sesame Street's older, hipper brother. I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about this, even though I am clearly no longer part of the target market and will rarely - if ever - tune in to watch the new version. But how fortunate for today's youth! While I was too young to remember the original programming days of The Electric Company (or TEC), I spent my formative years watching the reruns. Seriously, PBS was AWESOME back in those days. Does anyone else remember Reading Rainbow with LeVar Burton? Or 3-2-1 Contact? Loved it!
As for the new Electric Company - scheduled to take to the airwaves in January 2009 -sources say it will be a modern (duh!) and danceable version.
"It’s the old one mixed with ‘High School Musical’ and a Dr Pepper commercial," said Linda Simensky, senior director of programming for PBS Kids.
Hmmmm...not sure how I feel about that. But if they can come even close to the casting coup they pulled off back in the day - hellooo Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby - I'm sure it will be just fine. Despite his wall of acting awards, I still want to shout out "Easy Rider" every time I see Morgan Freeman on the telly.
I'm also glad to see they'll be addressing healthier eating in light of the skyrocketing obesity rates among youth. Apparently the show will be set, for the most part, at a natural-foods diner that is headquarters to a not-so-secret society known as the Electric Company. The four semi-superheroes who meet there have pledged not only to use their powers for good but also to eat sensible portions of healthy meals. The gang ranges in age from 13 to 20 and can scramble, recall, project and animate words in astounding ways.

So for all you Electric Company fans, here are a couple clips that will either have you waxing nostalgic about various childhood memories or hooting with laughter.





Also, I know this recipe is NOT for macaroon ice cream but hey, it's sucralose-sweetened and low-calorie. What more can ya ask for?

Coconut Macaroons

Friday, May 09, 2008

Queen for a day!


You know what Sunday is, right? RIGHT?! It's Mothers Day...that special day when you try to make it up to your mom for all of those years of self-absorption and brattiness (hello teenage angst!) and for forking out all that money for braces and swimming lessons and, of course, college.
Speaking of money, ever wondered what your mom would be paid - if she actually received a salary for all of her home-based duties? Well, wonder no more. Salary.com has looked into it and determined a stay-at-home mom would earn $116,805, while a working mom would pull in $68,405. That's quite a chunk of change - at least to someone like me, who works in a more creative (definition: lower paid) industry. However, it still doesn't come close to what I think a mom should really make when you add up all of her functions: housekeeper, teacher, cook, driver, janitor, psychologist, etc.

Anyway, if you're struggling to find a gift for Mom this weekend, there are always the usual suspects: a mani/pedi/spa package, flowers, jewelry, food or a gift card to her favorite store. Gift.com also has some great ideas.

And, of course, you might really make Mom happy by letting her put her feet up for a change. Clean the house for her so she can chillax on the sofa and watch some TV or delve into a new book. Then make her a nice meal. If you go the food route, here are a couple sugar-free, low-cal recipes sure to put a smile on your mom's face. Have a great weekend and Happy Mothers Day to any mommies out there!

Raspberry Cocktail Sauce with Chilled Shrimp

Blue Cheese Coleslaw

Scallion and Habanero Marinated Pork Loin

Classic Carrot Cake

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Every day is a fiesta

Hola amigos. Sorry I haven't been as frequent in my postings lately but it has been a chaotic, stress-filled couple of weeks. I just recently moved into a new apartment and between all of the unpacking, I've also been buying odds and ends furniture to fill the extra space. I know, I know...life is rough. Enough of the excuses, though. I simply wanted to apologize for not providing any tips in advance of Cinco de Mayo. Although that day has come and gone, I figured I'd still pass along a few ideas for next year's fiesta.

For starters, let's clear something up, as it seems to be a popular misconception here in the states. Cinco de Mayo (or "5th of May") is NOT Mexico's Independence Day. Instead, it commemorates an initial victory of Mexican forces over French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla back in 1862. It is also not a federal holiday in Mexico - most banks, government buildings, offices, restaurants, etc. remain open. In other parts of the world, the date is observed as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride...or simply an excuse to party.

Moving on. If you're searching for some low-cal food and beverage recipes for the next Mexican-themed party or Cinco de Mayo celebration, look no further. Here are a few yummy, sucralose-sweetened items sure to please all your friends and guests. Thanks to Hungry Girl for the cocktail recipes!

Rockin' Razzy Rita

Ingredients:

*1.5 oz. tequila
1/2 tsp. Crystal Light powdered drink mix, Raspberry Ice
5 oz. water
1 oz. lime juice
Optional: lime slice for garnish and salt or no-calorie sweetener for rim of glass

Directions:

If desired, run some lime juice along the rim of the glass and dip into a dish of salt or sweetener. Combine all ingredients, mix well, and serve over ice. Or, for a frozen one, place all ingredients (dissolve Crystal Light in water first) in a blender with 1 cup crushed ice, and blend on high until well mixed. Optional: Garnish with a slice of lime. Serves 1!

Magical Low-Calorie Margarita

Ingredients:
6 oz. Sierra Mist Free (or Diet Sprite Zero, or your other fave no-cal lemon-lime soda)
*1.5 oz. tequila
1/2 tsp. Crystal Light powdered drink mix, Lemonade
1 oz. lime juice
Optional: lime slice for garnish and salt or no-calorie sweetener for rim of glass

Directions:
If desired, run some lime juice along the rim of the glass and dip into a dish of salt or sweetener. Mix all ingredients together. Pour over 1 cup of crushed ice. Optional: Garnish with lime slice.

I'm also attaching two delicious salsa recipes, one that utilizes Splenda, berries, apples and onion and another that features an array of hot peppers. YUM!

Berrilicious Salsa

Five Pepper Salsa

Finally, here's a short, entertaining video clip with tips for hosting a Cinco de Mayo party. Hope it comes in handy next year!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Chew on that

"And then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa!" - Chunk, The Goonies

Well, bust out the Godiva box because today is National Truffles Day. And I'm not referring to the ones that look like slimy little fungi...(ugh, mushrooms!) These truffles are of the chocolate variety.
So okay, if you're like me, you associate boxes of chocolate with either Valentines Day, the weepy days following a bad break-up or Forrest Gump. But since I was able to pass by that fabulous looking confectionary shop yesterday WITHOUT stopping in for a sampling, I figure I'm due for a little "something something" - in this case, sucralose-sweetened, low-carb chocolate truffles! Can I get a "Woo hoo?!" No?
Alrighty then.
Long story short, truffles are typically made with a chocolate ganache center coated in chocolate or cocoa powder. Other fillings include cream, caramel, nuts, almonds, berries, fudge, nougat and liquor, to name a few.
Since I'm stuck house/dog-sitting for a friend this weekend, I plan on whipping up a batch of these babies and noshing in style. Thanks to RecipeZaar for the tasty looking recipe.

Low Carb Chocolate Truffles

Also, I found this fun little test, designed to determine if you're a true "chocoholic." I think I already know my answer. What will your response be?

Finally, because it's Friday, I thought I'd add a clip from The Goonies, one of the greatest movies of the 80s. At least I thought so back when I was young. Remember Chunk and his "truffle shuffle" dance? Well, I'm not attaching that clip, because it can be a wee bit offensive, but I am including his hilarious confession to the Fratelli family. Enjoy and have a great weekend!