Friday, June 27, 2008

Chili-Cheeseburger in Paradise

Oy gevalt! Another weekend, another two barbecue/pool party invites. And one of the "chefs" this weekend has already informed me he will be grilling up uber-sloppy chili cheeseburgers for all attendees. How's a gal supposed to keep her, um, girlish figure between all burgers, brownies and potato salad plates? Summer truly is tough on the waistline.
According to Hungry Girl, a double chili-cheeseburger from Carl's Jr. is a whopping 1,050 calories and 61g fat. FOR SERIOUS??? That's a day's worth of points on Weight Watchers. Well, fortunately for us, HG is on the scene with a lower-cal version. On the guilt-free flipside, we've got the Chili-rific Cheeseburger with only 273 calories and 3g of fat.

1 small hamburger bun (light, if available)
1 Boca Meatless Burger, Original
1 slice fat-free American cheese
2 tbsp. low-fat veggie chili (like one by Boca, Amy's or Health Valley)
4 pickle slices/chips
2 tomato slices
1 onion slice
1 tbsp. mustard

Split bun in half and toast lightly. Layer pickles, tomato, and onion on the bottom half of the bun. Cook Boca patty according to the instructions on the box (either in a pan with nonstick spray, or in the microwave). Place burger over the veggies on the bun's bottom half. Prepare chili according to package directions. Top the burger with the chili and then the cheese slice. Slap the mustard onto the top half of the bun. Plop the bun top over the cheese and chili patty.

However, if you find it too difficult to talk the dudes manning the grill into whipping up a low-cal, meatless burger for you, here are a few more BBQ-friendly, sucralose-sweetened side dish recipes you can bring along to help ease the pain. Have a fab weekend!

Bean Trio with Citrus Cumin Dressing

Blue Cheese Coleslaw

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP, George!

Some people always seem to be "great." Not me. I don't give them any superlatives; nothing to gossip around. I tell them I'm "fairly decent." Or "relatively okay." I might just say, "I'm moderately neato." And if I'm in a particularly jaunty mood, I'll tell them, ""I'm not unwell, thank you."
George Carlin

As many of you probably know by now, George Carlin died yesterday of heart failure. Although he was known for his edgy, envelope-pushing routines about drugs, religion and dirty words, in my humble opinion, George was much more than just a provocative hippie atheist with a potty mouth. Much like Lenny Bruce, Carlin was a brilliant social satirist - one whose irreverant world view has influenced generations of entertainers...and college kids.
I remember hearing a scratched vinyl version of "Class Clown" over at a friend's house back when we were kids, snickering away as Carlin described the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." That skit essentially helped shape broadcast obscenity legislation in this country. But his comedy - while often raunchy - applies to so many every-day situations. To this day, many a friend has busted out a Carlin line when airline announcements begin...and I know I've cracked one or two Carlin jokes when talking to guys named Todd.
In honor of one of the bestest comedians ever, here is a clip of Carlin's infamous "baseball versus football" schtick, as well as a sucralose-sweetened pork chop recipe. I mean, he likes pork so much he referenced it in a book title!

Polynesian Pork Chops

G.C., we'll miss ya!

Friday, June 20, 2008

I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!

Vincent Vega: Did you just order a five dollar shake?
Mrs. Mia Wallace: Ummhh.
Vincent Vega: That's a shake . . . that's milk and ice cream.
Mrs. Mia Wallace: Last I heard.
Vincent Vega: That's five dollars? You don't put bourbon in it or nothin'?
Buddy Holly: No.
Vincent Vega: Just checking.

Pulp Fiction

And you can thank the brilliant "There Will Be Blood," for the title on this particular blog entry. Like Pulp Fiction, it's a dark movie but certainly well acted - but unlike Tarantino's famous flick, there's little humor to be found in "Blood."

On to happier topics...Guess what today is??! National Vanilla Milkshake Day. And guess what I'll be drinking once I get home? Oh you betcha. I love me some milkshakes - especially on a hot day.

For all of you who want to make a low-cal version, rather than buying a fatty one from the local DQ, here is my own healthy variation of a Paula Deen recipe.

AT's Low-Cal Vanilla Milkshake
4 cups sugar-free vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 packets Splenda (add or subtract amount based on personal sweetness preference)
2 cups skim milk, less for thicker milkshakes
Using a blender, mix all ingredients together until smooth.

Oh and P.S. Tomorrow is National Peaches and Cream Day. And Sunday? It's National Chocolate Eclair Day. Happy eating y'all!

Finally, for a Friday ha-ha, here is a clip from Ugly Betty featuring one of the character's doing a rather entertaining version of "Milkshake" by Kelis. Enjoy!

Teach Your Children Well

Wow. I'm still scratching my head over this one - a full 24 hours after first hearing it on the news.
I'm sure many of you now know about the infamous pregnancy pact at a Massachusetts high school. For the uninformed, here goes...after the teen pregnancy rate quadrupled at a Gloucester school, the administration investigated and found out the increase was primarily due to a pact between a bunch of girls (about 17, I believe) to get prego and raise their tykes together.
Can you believe that crap?
Look, it's hard enough raising a child when you're an actual adult - and have at least one or two salaries and perhaps a husband - to fall back on. Just ask anyone who's ever spent a sleepless night soothing a bawling baby and changing diapers at 3 a.m. It's another thing altogether when you're 16-years-old and don't know a THING about life. I can't tell you how ignorant I was at Sweet 16...but like every other teen, I completely deluded myself into believing that I knew best. I'm just lucky I got through those years with as few scrapes and bruises as I did, all things considered.
Moving on, news reports said many of the pregnant teens high-fived each other and began planning baby showers when they found out they were expecting, while others seemed disappointed when their results came back negative. Even more disturbing? At least one of the future daddies is a 24-year-old homeless man. Ooookay.
So where should we lay the blame here? Well, apparently some chalk it up to the recent "glamourization" of motherhood, with one gorgeous celebrity mother after another gracing the pages of glossy magazines with newborn in arms, as well as the boom of cutesy pregnancy-related movies like Juno, Waitress and Knocked Up.
Others say the high school has done, perhaps, too good a job embracing young mothers, since they offer a free on-site day-care center. I call shenanigans. I too went to a high school with a free on-site day care center for teen mothers and local families. And no matter how stupid we acted back in those days, we never all pinky-swore to become teen mothers together while braiding each other's hair.
You know what I think? I think there are a number of factors to blame, including the state of society in general. One solution, though, as simple as it may sound, is to keep an eagle eye on your kids. With teens now much more sexually active than ever before, don't feel bad about giving them a curfew. Monitor their Facebook and MySpace usage. Smell their breath and check their eyes (Hi, Mom. I'm talking about you!) when they walk in the door after being out with friends.
At the end of the day, the stricter you are, the less likely they'll get into trouble. At least until college...but that's a whole other story!
All I really know is, those Gloucester teens are in for a very rude awakening in six to nine months.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If you like pina coladas

Okay...enough already. I work out regularly. I watch what I eat. And up until recently, I was pretty successful at maintaining my weight. But now, all of a sudden, I've noticed a few new pesky pounds popping up and I feel completely unprepared for bikini season. And you know why? It's because of all the recent backyard BBQs and sipping of cocktails on outdoor patios with friends. How's a girl supposed to lose - and keep off - weight around here, once the weather warms up?
Anyway, I came across a fabulous article on the Weight Watchers site that discusses the caloric wallop of those fabulous frosty beverages. Take a piƱa colada, for example. The average eight-ouncer can set you back more than 400 calories. Wow.

So here are some Weight Watchers tips to lighten up the next drink order.
1. Never come to happy hour hungry. Arrive with a growling belly and you may find yourself downing a few handfuls of bar nuts (about 600 calories), or chowing down on nachos or chicken fingers. Instead, work in some extra exercise and eat a piece of fruit before hitting the bar.
2. Be mindful of mixers. Hard liquor runs 100-200 calories per shot, but add a sugary or creamy mixer and you'll double or triple the calories. So order your fave but make it lighter — a rum and Coke using diet cola, a gin and tonic using low-calorie tonic. Or skip mixers altogether and sip a light beer or a glass of red wine.
3. Make the cocktail your dessert. If you can't resist a daiquiri, drink seltzer during your cocktail hour and savor the mega-calorie libation instead of ice cream or a slice of cake.
4. Enjoy alcohol every other round. Alternate each alcoholic beverage with seltzer or water. It'll cut down on calories and help you keep count of how much you're drinking.

And here are a few lower-cal cocktail recipes designed to help you avoid moving up a dress size.

1. Caipirinha. Cut a room-temperature lime into quarters and drop it in a shaker. Add one packet of sucralose sweetener and one tablespoon water. Mash the mixture very well with a wooden spoon, dissolving the lime into mush. Add a shot (1½ ounces) of white rum and enough ice cubes to fit in an old-fashioned glass. Shake well. Pour mixture (including the peel) into a glass. Variation: Add slices of mangos or a few cherries along with the lime.
2. Mojito. Pour 3/4 of an ounce (about half a shot) fresh lime juice into a glass. Add one packet of Splenda and four or five mint leaves. Stir until the sweetener dissolves. Add a shot of light rum and several ice cubes. Top with 2 ounces club soda and a sprig of mint.
3. Margarita. To shaker, add 3/4 of an ounce (about half a shot) fresh lime juice, 1 to 1½ ounces low-calorie triple sec and 2 ounces tequila. Add ice. Count slowly to 10 while shaking. Rub a lime halfway along the glass's outside rim, then roll the moistened part of the rim in kosher salt. Pour margarita into the glass.
4. Long Island Iced Tea. To shaker, add 1/4 shot vodka, 1/4 shot rum, 1/4 shot gin, 1/4 shot tequila, 3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice and two packets of sucralose sweetener dissolved into 2 tablespoons of water. Shake. Pour into a tall glass filled with ice and top with diet cola. Squeeze lemon on top.
5. Sangria. Dissolve four packets of Splenda into 4 tablespoons of water. Pour into pitcher. Add slices of oranges, lemons, limes, peaches, plums or nectarines as well as grapes (for white wine sangria, red grapes; for red wine sangria, white). Add a bottle of red or white wine. Stir, then let sit. Before serving, top pitcher with a drizzle of club soda.

And now, because I've referenced pina coladas in this entry, I have the dang Rupert Holmes song running through my head. Of course. So because I love you all so much, I decided to share it with you...Don't hate. Appreciate!

More recipes with a sugar substitute

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who in the what now?

I know this is off-topic, but HUH?? One of my friends mentioned a "topless flip-flop" to me earlier today and I thought I'd misheard her. Oh but no! Apparently it's a new style of summer sandal - one I really, really, really hope doesn't go mainstream. Yeah, yeah, I know...Everyone is entitled to their own sense of style - to-may-to, to-mah-to, etc. - but topless flip-flops? For reals?!

ANYHOO, according to some of the literature, topless sandals "simulate walking barefoot while protecting your feet. Topless sandals stick to the bottom of your feet, but leave no residue on your feet when you take them off." Oh and P.S., they apparently eliminate tan lines and blisters. Whatever. I still think they're fugly. Then again, what do I know? Apparently word of these bad boys leaked last year, which just shows how behind the times I am these days. Sheesh.

Here's a video about their virtues, in case you're interested. I'll be back soon with sugar-free recipes.

Friday, June 06, 2008

That's all 300 calories will get me?!?

A friend directed me to this site and, well, I'm not sure if I find it enlightening or depressing. Unfortunately, it seems to be a combination of the two.

Anyway, the author of this entry decided to calculate the weight of various foods and beverages adding up to 300 calories and then photograph it for the visual impact: 300 calories, for example, will get you about two pounds of watermelon but only two ounces of milk chocolate. In some of the pictures, 300 calories looks surprisingly generous, like the heaping pile of cooked spaghetti and the deep bowl brimming with chocolate corn cereal. Others, however, made me a bit blue, such as the wee portion of almonds. The gouda cheese image particularly bummed me out - because as I mentioned in my last entry, I love me some cheese. And I've been known to eat that 300-calorie amount on a single, solitary cracker. Okay, okay...I exaggerate. But you get the idea! Thanks to today's super-sized meals and steadily growing plates, I think many of us have lost sight of what a portion should really look like. I read once that many restaurants will quadruple portion sizes, just so consumers feel they're getting their money's worth. And we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic in this country??
At least I can squeeze three glasses of red wine out of 300 calories. Sigh.

I assume it goes without saying that you have to pay attention to more than just a meal's calorie count? Don't forget to check out fat grams and carbs and dietary fiber, for example. But obviously, the less calories you consume, the less weight you'll carry.

To wrap up the week, and this particular entry, I'm attaching a few recipes hovering around the 300-calorie mark that I found on Later skaters!

Thai Grilled Chicken with Chile Dipping Sauce

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

Homemade Risotto Topped with Caramelized Apricots

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I hanker for a hunk a cheese

So I was recently told I had a bit of an cheese. Well, DUH! I DID grow up in the Midwest, after all. And I DID attend school in Wisconsin, the proud home of many a cheesehead. Several of my friends here in the South have noticed my fondness for the dairy product and it's apparently become a source of entertainment to them. Pffftttt...
So what if my cheese drawer is always brimming with goods?! I don't remember y'all turning down the brie and crackers I offered a few weeks ago. And there were more than a few takers when I busted out the mozzarella, prosciutto, basil spread only recently. SO THERE! Leave me to my cheese - and lay off the jokes, would ya?
Anyway, today must be my lucky day because it's all about cheese. That's right, folks. It's National Cheese Day. So go home, bust out a tray of crackers and cheese - whether it be Camembert, Gouda, Cheddar or Gruyere - and enjoy.
By the way, here are a few recipes to check out. The final two are sucralose-sweetened and low in calories so you can still squeeze into that bathing suit in upcoming weeks.

Cheese Scones

Potato Gratin with Munster Cheese

Cream Cheese Stuffed Apple Bread

Marvelous Mocha Cheesecake

By the way, if you're hosting any parties in the near future, I just came across this little gem of a guide provided by the American Dairy Association. It helps you pair the appropriate wines and cheeses. Cool, huh? They also have a short cheese quiz to determine your best match. In case you care, the "cheese profiler" has determined that I'm attracted to excitement and tend to jump into endeavors head-first. My food preferences are apparently equally as adventurous and include ethnic dishes featuring bold, unique flavors. "You are apt to choose cheeses that dare to defy the limits, like spicy Jalapeno Jack, smoked Gouda or an intensely flavored Gorgonzola." Oookay...I'll give you the adventurous food thing.

Anyhoo, for more fun, here is the fabulous Cheese Shop skit from the Monty Python crew, followed by an old-school PSA about cheese. Happy eating!