Thursday, September 25, 2008

See you soon, Savannah!

Ever since I read "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" way back in the day, I've been jonesing to check out Savannah. I've always loved that Southern Gothic, Spanish moss, mint juleps on the veranda, antebellum architecture vibe...New Orleans, Charleston and Key West are probably three of my favorite cities in this nation, after all. And over the years, I've heard similar comparisons to the decadent Savannah.
So guess who is FINALLY making her way to Savannah for a long weekend? THAT WOULD BE ME!!! I couldn't be more excited. According to some friends, I've already dorked out considerably, looking up information online to see what are the best sites, restaurants and attractions to check out. You better believe it, baby. I love to go prepared.
As far as food, I've got a whole list of places put together, but I'm probably most eager to check out Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady and Sons.

So to kick off my departure, I thought I'd share with you, my dear readers, a sugar-free Paula Deen recipe. I know, can you believe it? I didn't know she made anything without sugar!!

Paula Deen's Magical Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Yield: 18 cookies

1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1 1/3 cups baking sugar replacement (recommended: Splenda)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.
In a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, 1 cup sugar replacement, the egg, and vanilla, and stir well with a spoon. Roll the dough into balls the size of walnuts. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. With a fork, dipped in sugar replacement to prevent sticking, press a crisscross design on each cookie. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and sprinkle the cookies with some of the remaining sugar replacement. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

I'll be back Monday, with lots of stories (and recipes) to share. 'Til then!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Say what now?

Ruh roh, Shaggy! There are some newly-published reports now making the rounds that list some of the worst foods and drinks out there, in terms of calories, fat grams and sugar content. I think it's safe to say the findings are pretty disturbing.
Take a look for yourself.

Worst Breakfast in America
Bob Evans Stacked and Stuffed Caramel Banana Pecan Hotcakes
1,543 calories
77 g fat (26 g saturated; 9 g trans)
2,259 mg sodium
198 g carbs
109 g sugars
Saturated fat equivalent: 26 strips of bacon
Sugar equivalent: 12 chocolate chip cookies
Sodium equivalent: 12 small bags of potato chips
* It’s not a good sign when it takes you nearly five seconds to spit out the name of your breakfast. This bad boy packs in more than 75 percent of your calories for the day, along with more sugar and fat than nine glazed Dunkin’ Donuts, and nearly as much sodium as five Bloody Marys.

The Worst Drink in America
Baskin-Robbins Large Heath Bar Shake
2,310 calories
108 g fat (64 g saturated)
266 g
* Let's look at America's Worst Drink in numbers...
73: The number of ingredients that go into this milkshake.
66: The number of teaspoons of sugar this drink contains.
11: The number of Heath Bars you would have to eat to equal the number of calories found in one Baskin Robbins Large Heath Bar Shake.
12: The average number of minutes it takes to consume this drink.
240: The number of minutes you'd need to spend on a treadmill, running at a moderate pace, to burn it off.

Worst Summer Cocktail
Pina Colada
625 calories
75 g sugars
* Made from a blend of sickly-sweet pineapple juice and fat-riddled coconut milk, pina coladas may be this summer's biggest beach-body saboteurs. In fact, the only redeeming part of this drink is the garnish - that lonely chunk of pineapple hanging from the rim.

I'm not sure how you're feeling, but I believe my waistline expanded just reading about these things. That's a lot of calories in one sitting. So is there a solution? For starters, don't eat or drink any of the above-mentioned items. And keep an eye on menu calorie counts.

Instead of that pina colada? Try a mojito and save up to 400 calories!

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.

For whatever it's worth, here are two more sucralose-sweetened, low-calorie options.

Oat Bran Pancakes (2 g fat, 21 carbs, 130 calories)

Malted Mocha Frappe (4 g fat, 33 carbs, 180 calories)

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Proof of the Pudding...

Whenever someone mentions butterscotch, my first association is to remember an elderly neighbor from back when I was a wee one. He would stuff the pockets of his cardigan with butterscotch candies and hand them out to all the children on the block. What a sweetie!
My second association is with butterscotch pudding - which makes me hungry. YUMMMMMMY. As most of my friends know, I'm a big fan of pudding and gelatin products. I have boxes of the instant stuff cluttering my cabinet space. But why wouldn't I? It's tasty and quick to make - plus Jell-O has gone and made many of my favorite flavors sugar-free or fat-free. Woo hoo!

So guess who will be raising a cup of sugar-free butterscotch pudding later today in honor of National Butterscotch Pudding Day?! You betcha, ey. That would be me! On a sidenote, I will also be raising a pint of beer on behalf of my baby brother, who turned 25 today. Where does time fly?!

For all you other butterscotch pudding fans, today's a good day to indulge in the sweet treat. And if you want to dress it up a bit, I'm including two sugar-free recipes that build on the idea of butterscotch pudding.

Butter Pecan Layer Pie

Bread and Butter Pudding With Butterscotch Sauce

Now, because I'm feeling a bit nostalgic, here's a classic '80s pudding commercial featuring everybody's favorite TV dad, Mr. Bill Cosby.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Could someone please feed these girls?

So I finally caught the tail end of the much-hyped new 90210 last night. Huh. Here are my thoughts, for what it's worth. For starters, the show itself is pretty lame and the acting is fairly blah, except when it comes to the fabulous Ms. Jessica Walters (Shout out, Lucille Bluth!!!) Keep in mind, this commentary is not coming from some old-fogey completely out-of-touch with the reality of teen drama (even if I am in my 30s now) but rather from someone who loved the original 90210. Although, I admit I did quit watching once Brenda moved to London...I was a member of Team Dylan-Brenda Forever.
But on top of the steaming pile of mediocre that seems to be the new version, you know what I found really disturbing? The unhealthy physique of so many of the female stars. No joking, y'all...those are some emaciated-looking girls. And apparently, I'm not the only one to notice. Check out this sentence from an Entertainment Weekly article.
"Almost without exception, the young actresses on The CW's spin-off are alarmingly thin, with arms that seem thickest at the wrists, and legs that look, well, like arms." The article also notes that 90210 insiders "quietly admit" they know there's a problem. Well, halle-freakin-lujah. I suppose I should be thrilled that people are even NOTICING there's a problem. But here's my real beef with the weight issue. If you'll recall about a year ago, when Britney Spears took the stage at the Video Music Awards weighing a tad bit more than she did as a svelte teenager, magazines and bloggers across the globe pointed fingers and essentially called her fat. Classy!
So what kind of mixed messages are we sending to women and youth today? Because it seems to me that we're basically saying that, while we don't want them to be too skinny, gee whiz, they also better not weigh more than a size four!
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average woman is 5foot 4 inches tall and 164 pounds - in other words, a size 14. When's the last time you saw an actress on a hit show that was anywhere close to that size? Now try comparing the current cast of 90210 to the original crew (as posted in my photos at the top of this entry). Kelly, Brenda, Donna and Andrea look positively plump next to today's gaunt group. The same goes for supermodels today, most of whom are probably half the size of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell - gorgeous women who graced the cover of every magazine back in the '90s.
Sadly, I doubt it will get any better anytime soon. According to reports, the new 90210 beat every other network on Tuesday night in capturing the female 12 to 34 age bracket. You think there aren't tween girls sitting in front of their mirrors right now, measuring the size of their waist and calves? The National Eating Disorders Association cites data from the 1990s in which 42 percent of girls in grades 1-3 reported a desire to be thinner. Says the association's CEO Lynn S. Grefe, "There's no doubt it's gotten worse."
Sadly, there are Web sites devoted to tracking the weight of celebrities, gleefully noting every gained pound or appearance of cellulite. In a time when actresses and models are dropping down to frighteningly skeletal proportions, I think we're sending a dangerous message by trashing any women with full, healthy figures.
We have a problem, folks, one that seems to be getting worse each year.

Sigh. Rant over. I'm about to head off to a high-impact step class at the gym. After that? I'm going home and whipping up a healthy, low-cal dinner. It's one thing to eat smart. It's another to starve yourself.

Check out tonight's dinner recipe, courtesy of

Chicken Ferocious

Friday, September 12, 2008

That's just nuts!

So I just had some friends in Houston call up, asking advice on how to weather (tee hee) the upcoming hurricane. You see, I was one of the unfortunate souls living in Florida during the insane 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. And because I was a reporter at the time, I couldn't just pack up my car and flee to a less dangerous region, like all of the sane people. Noooooo, I had to stick around and actually, you know, report on it. Thankfully, though, I was in newspapers and not broadcast. I'd hate to have been one of those TV types who had to basically chain themselves to a tree to get the "real" effect. Back to the point...I told my friends to board up their home, fuel up the car and stock up on water, booze and dry foods. Which means LOTS of junky snack items and PB&J sandwiches. The funny thing is, I LOVE peanut butter...and the junky snack food items. But after the first wave of storms in 2004, I actually got to the point where I couldn't even look at a peanut butter and jelly sandiwch, bag of cheetos or sleeve of cookies (I KNOW!!) because I got so tired of eating them. But, what else can you do? We essentially had no power for a month. Plus, even when the stores and restaurants reopened, the fresh food items were quickly bought out - meaning lots of bare shelves in the dairy and produce sections. Sigh.
But luckily, my love for peanut butter has since been restored. You just know I've been celebrating National Peanut Day today!!! I've already had a PB&J sandwich and just might have to get a spicy Asian peanut dish tonight.
What?? It's not like it's not good for you. Peanuts and peanut butter contain more than 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients ― like protein, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese ― and have zero cholesterol and no transfats.

Want more? Here are some nutty fun facts for ya.

* Peanuts are not actually nuts at all! They are legumes, like beans, peas and lentils.
* Americans eat 3 pounds of peanut butter per person every year. That's about 700 million pounds, or enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon!
* Peanuts may be a favorite food, but we've found many uses for their shells too! You might find peanut shells in kitty litter, wallboard, fireplace logs, paper, animal feed and sometimes as fuel for power plants!
* Two peanut farmers have been elected President of the United States: Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
* One acre of peanuts will make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.

Finally, because I'm such a nice person, here are a few low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened peanut-based recipes to try out. Hope you love them. And good luck to anyone out in the Texas area. BE SAFE AND STAY DRY!!

Sticky Sweet Peanut Brittle

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bites

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A sucker for sorbet, a great Splenda recipe

While raiding the frozen section of my local health food store the other day, I came across a "blood orange" sorbet. WOW! I think I inhaled about half the pint in one sitting. And it was worth every last calorie...which fortunately was a pretty low figure at the end of the day. Gotta love those low-fat tasty treats! The one downfall? There was a bit of sugar loaded into each scrumptious bite. Perhaps needless to say, I quickly hit the 'net to see what sugar-free sorbet recipes were out there. After all, there are still a few dog days left of summer. What better way to cool off than with a frozen, low-fat treat?

Enjoy these Splenda recipes!

Blueberry Sorbet

4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2/3 cup Splenda
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Clean and sort berries.
2. In a saucepan, bring Splenda™ and water to a boil. Let boil for about 30 seconds. Put blueberries, and lemon juice in a blender; blend until smooth. Put the mixture through a fine sieve then combine with the water and Splenda mixture. Refrigerate to chill thoroughly.
3. Put the mixture into an ice cream freezer and follow manufacturer's directions for making sorbet.

Fresh Mango Sorbet
2 mangos - peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1 cup cream
1 cup ice
1. Place cubed mangos, SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener, cream, and ice into a blender; puree until smooth.
2. Pour mixture into a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Seal, and freeze for 45 minutes to an hour. Move the contents around in the bag every 15 minutes while freezing.

More Splenda recipes.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Looking for a breakfast low in calories?

So a friend called me earlier raving about Starbucks new low-fat apple bran muffin. She said it was dee-lish. Now, not having tried it myself, I can't tell you whether it truly is that fabulous or an exaggeration caused by lack of caffeine and a still sleep-addled brain. But based on a quick Internet skim, it appears many folks do like the new muffin.
Either way, I have to give a thumbs-up to the coffee giant for its efforts to lure a more health­-conscious crowd. It recently unveiled five low-calorie breakfast items, ranging from oatmeal and a granola bar to a well-balanced protein plate.
Check it out: The 330-calorie Power Protein Plate contains a hard-boiled egg, peanut butter, a small bagel, grapes, apple slices and cheese. Perfect Oatmeal runs about 140-390 calories depending on the toppings, which include dried fruit, nuts or brown sugar. The previously-mentioned Apple Bran Muffin has 330 calories and 8 fat grams, while the Chewy Fruit & Nut Bar has 250 calories and 10 fat grams. Finally, the multigrain roll is about 280 calories and has 6 grams of fat.
Excellent (rubs hands together with glee).

Now just to make your Monday even sweeter, here are a few more low-cal and SUGAR-FREE breakfast recipes. Hope you enjoy these sucralose-sweetened goodies.

Breakfast Apricot Muffins (150 calories, 6 fat grams)

Apple Pie Oatmeal (200 calories, 3 fat grams)

Dried Cherry and Almond Scones (210 calories, 7 fat grams)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Goodness gracious, Gustav!

While I'm glad Gustav slowed down long enough to spare Louisiana the full wrath of it's stormy powers, it looks like he decided to bring company. Have y'all been watching The Weather Channel? There are hurricanes and tropical storms lined up like airplanes on a tarmac. Hanna, Ike and Josephine are all waiting in the wings - ready to possibly take on the Caribbean and U.S. in the next few days. Yikes.

As someone who lived in South Florida during the tumultous hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, I must say it's nice to now watch the coverage from a city where I don't have to worry about loss of electricity and flooded roads. (I can't even begin to describe how NOT FUN it is to spend one of the hottest months of the year with no power or running water and little access to fresh fruits and veggies.) But with friends and family still living in towns dotted across Florida, Louisiana and Texas, it's distressing to see so many other people left powerless. Literally. So here's hoping that the next few weeks bring little rain and turbulence - and that all those folks in the Gulf Coast finally get the weather break they deserve.

And in honor and appreciation of one of this nation's most fabulous cities, as well as a 'thanks' to Mother Nature for taking it a wee bit easy on the Big Easy, here are two sugar-free, New Orleans-themed recipes. Vive la French Quarter!

2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
* 2 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
* 1 tbsp simple syrup
1 tbsp grenadine

* For a healthier recipe, use some V8 Splash Guava Passion and make sugar-free simple syrup combining 1 cup of sucralose with 1 cup of boiling water. Once it has cooled, strain the sucralose and water through a coffee filter.

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, pour into a hurricane glass and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

2 tablespoons granulated Splenda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar
1. In a saucepan, combine Splenda, salt, butter, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil.
2. Add flour and cook over medium heat, beating with spoon until dough forms a ball and leaves side of pan. Remove from heat.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with electric mixer at medium speed after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth.
4. Mix in vanilla.
5. Roll dough on a floured surface and cut into 2-inch squares.
6. In skillet, heat 1 to 2-inches of oil. Then fry dough (three or four pieces at a time) until puffy and golden brown on both sides.
8. Remove beignets and drain on paper towels. While hot, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.