Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Talk

Aww yeah, people. The big day is almost here! Before you know it, you'll be crowded around the table, chowing down on turkey and mashed 'taters while watching football. I, for one, can't wait.

As most of you know, it's pretty much impossible to get through Thanksgiving without suffering from that fabulous bloated feeling by the end of the day. In addition to going the sugar-free route, here are a few tips to help you healthily navigate Thanksgiving Day while still enjoying time with friends and family:

* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before hitting the spread.
* When fixing your plate, make sure the bulk of it is fruits and veggies, such as salad, green beans, potatoes, carrots, squash or cranberries. That way you can fill up your belly faster with healthier items.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some cheesy mashed potatoes. But don't pile a mountain of it on your plate, along with moats of gravy.
* If you're eating dinner at a friend or relative's house, bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus.
* Avoid adding lots of butter, salt, gravy and fatty dressings.
* Try not to get seconds until a few hours after you've eaten the first plate.
* Always eat dessert last.
* Eat lots of cranberries. They're loaded with antioxidants.
* For a less-fattening stuffing, use a low-salt broth base along with whole wheat bread. Also go easy on the butter and oil while adding more celery, onion, nuts and fruit.
* For healthier mashed potatoes, use skim milk and fat-free sour cream.
* Drink lots of water. It will help fill you up.
* Drink alcohol in moderation.
* Take a walk after supper or round up a game of touch football in the afternoon.

Most of all, have fun and be thankful for all the fabulous things in your life.

Here are a few more low-cal, sucralose-sweetened recipes to add to the Thanksgiving menu. I'll be back later this week with more recipes.

Pumpkin Cake

Candied Sweet Potato Casserole

Pecan Pie

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanks for nothing, ABC!

Wait...what? NOOOOOOO!!!
Long-time readers are aware of my love for Pushing Daisies, the fabulously quirky TV show on ABC. But I JUST got word that the network has canceled this gem. NOOOOOOOO!!! Seriously, how could you? Pushing Daisies is one of the few shows on my "Must-See TV" list, accompanied by The Office, Lost and 30 Rock. How can this be taken off the air while crap-tastic shows like The Hills and The Real Housewives of Atlanta remain on? Seriously!! Not only does it have one of the best casts on the small screen, it is also one of the most clever and visually stunning shows I've ever seen. Plus, Fred Willard and Steven Root were featured guest stars in this week's episode. I ask you...does it get any better than that, people??

UGH.

Now, I'm going to have to make some sugar-free pie to cry into tonight. Thanks a heap, ABC.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie

Cranberry Walnut Apple Pie

As tribute, here are is a sweet clip from one of the bestest shows ever. Thanks for the good times, Pushing Daisies. I'll miss you!

Applesauce and pudding and Jell-O, oh my....

There's nothing more fun than running around town, looking - and feeling - like you got punched in the face.
Sorry I haven't posted more the past few days. I actually had dental surgery earlier this week and I underestimated how much pain I'd be feeling. Plus, I pretty much avoided food for the first 48 hours, meaning I haven't had much to blog about. But now, I'm finally getting back to normal - and am even getting the hang of this soft food thing. I had some mashed potatoes for dinner last night, followed by a giant bowl of ice cream(!) Today, I had half a bowl of chicken noodle soup, then dug into a container of both sucralose-sweetened pudding and applesauce.
And while you can take the easy way out and buy sugar-free pudding, applesauce and gelatin at the supermarket, you can also whip up some of your own if you so prefer.

Here goes...

Homemade Applesauce

Banana Pudding

I'll be back Monday with some healthy Turkey Day recipes. Until then, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuscan Trifle, for my calorie counting buddies!

Sorry I never got a chance to post another entry last week. I had the best intentions, but I just wound up too busy between all the eating, drinking and visiting with family and friends! Okay, so long story short, I went back home for a few days and proceeded to eat my way through Chicago. From deep dish pizza to South American cuisine and Indian to Italian food, I ate enough to feed a small army. Yes, I even indulged in a little gelado on a 20-degree day. But cut me some slack! It was the first time I'd been home since last Christmas. Sadly, I did not get my Polish food fix...but since I'm headed back there next month for the holidays, I figure I'll have plenty of time to fill up on the rest of my faves.
Anyhoo, one of the highlights was all the delicious dessert. For starters, we had these amazing churros dipped in chocolate and dulce de leche sauce at Carnivale, one of my fave Latin restaurants in the city. But even better, I think, was the dee-lish tirimasu I shared with some friends at Bourgeois Pig Café.

For those unfamiliar with tiramisu, it's a popular Italian dessert made with lady fingers, coffee and mascarpone cream. The name, in Italian, apparently means "pull me up" - and is considered a "pick-me-up" reference to the effects of the sugar and espresso. Whatever the literal translation, tiramisu has long been one of my favorite sweet treats. While I chowed down on the high-cal version, I've since dug up some sugar-free recipes (thanks to Hungry Girl and Splenda.com!) for all my calorie counting buddies. I will be testing these variations out in the near future. Hope you enjoy!

Tiramisu Parfait

Ingredients:
1 (10.5 ounce) package sugar free angel food cake, purchased from bakery
3 1/2 teaspoons instant decaffeinated coffee powder
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 (8 ounce) package fat-free cream cheese
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
Directions:
1. Cut angel food cake into 1 cubes. Set aside.
2. Dissolve instant coffee in hot water. Chill in refrigerator.
3. Combine mascarpone and cream cheese in mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons coffee, dark brown sugar, SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener and vanilla. Mix well. Set aside.
4. Pour cold coffee into a 9X13 inch pan.
5. Assemble Tiramisu: Quickly dip half of angel food cake pieces into the coffee. Remove immediately and place in medium glass serving bowl. Spread half of cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle with 1 tsp cocoa powder. Repeat with remaining angel food cake, cheese mixture, and cocoa.
6. Cover and chill for three hours or overnight before serving.

Tirami-DO!

Ingredients:
8 Trader Joe’s Soft Lady Fingers OR 6 Specialty Bakers Ladyfingers
1/2 cup cooled, strong-brewed, flavored coffee (or espresso); sweetened w/ Splenda or other no-cal sweetener
1/4 cup light ricotta cheese (not part-skim, light)
2 tbsp. Cool Whip Free
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. Splenda
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
Directions:
Begin by lining up half of the ladyfingers next to each other on a serving dish. Drizzle cooled coffee over ladyfingers until desired saturation is reached. In a bowl, combine cheese, Splenda, Cool Whip and vanilla, and mix well. Spread half of this mixture on top of ladyfingers and top with half of the cocoa. Next, layer remaining ladyfingers on top of dish. Again, cover with coffee. Spread remaining cheese mixture on top. Lastly, sprinkle cocoa over dish. Best when eaten immediately. Serves one or two, depending on how hungry you are.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sundae Dreamin'

This entry is going to be short and sweet, folks. First of all, I'm heading out in less than two hours and hopping a plane to Chicago (home sweet home!) for the rest of the week. However, I'm hoping to make you all jealous by posting at least one more blog item while on va-cay, recapping all my culinary adventures in my favorite city. Deep dish pizza? Yes please. Indian food from one of the authentic restaurants on Devon Street? Don't mind if I do! Pierogies from the delicious mom-and-pop Polish joint? YOU BETCHA! I'll fill you in on some of those food details later this week.

For now, I'm sure you'll be glad to know that today is National Sundae Day...just in case you were looking for an excuse to dig into some ice cream topped off with hot fudge, caramel and other goodies.

If you're tired of the standard sundae recipe, here are a few fabulous, low-cal, variations courtesy of Hungry Girl.

Gimme S'more Sundae
Ingredients:
1/2 cup Breyers Double Churn Free French Chocolate fat-free ice cream
2 tbsp. Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme (only 1 tbsp. will actually end up on your sundae), room temperature
2 low-fat honey graham crackers (half a sheet), lightly crushed
1 tsp. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tbsp. Fat Free Reddi-wip

Directions:
Place ice cream in a dessert bowl. Set aside. Carefully place marshmallow creme into one of the bottom corners of a Ziploc baggie. Use scissors to snip a tiny hole from the outside end of that corner, and squeeze 1 tbsp. of the creme (the rest will stick to the bag!) over your ice cream in a drizzle. Then top with the graham cracker pieces and chocolate chips. Finish it all off with a generous squirt of the Reddi-wip.

Pumpkin Pie Sundae
Ingredients:
1/2 cup Breyers Double Churn Free Creamy Vanilla fat-free ice cream
1 tbsp. canned pure pumpkin
1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 low-fat honey graham crackers (half a sheet), lightly crushed
4 tbsp. Fat Free Reddi-wip

Directions:
Place ice cream in a small dessert bowl, and allow it to thaw just slightly (a few minutes). Then stir in the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice until thoroughly mixed. Place bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the ice cream to firm up. Then top with the Redd-wip, followed by the crushed graham crackers.


HG Style Hot Fudge'n Brownie Sundae
Ingredients:
1/2 cup Breyers Double Churn Free French Chocolate fat-free ice cream
2 tbsp. Fat Free Reddi-wip
1 tbsp. traditional fudge brownie mix
2 tsp. Hershey's Lite chocolate syrup
1 tsp. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Original Egg Beaters)

Directions:
Place brownie mix in a small microwave-safe dish (like a ramekin). Add egg substitute and 1/2 tsp. water, and mix well. Microwave for 45 seconds, and then let sit for 5 minutes. Then, use a fork to break it up and crumble into brownie bits (use your fingers, too -- just make sure your hands are clean!). Place ice cream in a dessert dish, and top with brownie bits. Set aside.
Place chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe dish, and cover with syrup. Microwave for 45 seconds, and then mix well. Pour sauce over the brownie bits and ice cream.

Enjoy! I'll be in touch.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Cheering for Chili



I'm so excited!! Tomorrow is the big chili cookoff festival in Atlanta, the one that I enjoyed so much last year. To date, it remains the best outdoor event I've attended in this particular city. I mean, how do you top an afternoon of delicious homemade chili, beer and bluegrass bands - especially if the temperature is in the upper-60s/low-70s, like the forecasters are predicting. Last year, we got to taste-test a variety of recipes provided by area residents and restaurant chefs. While I enjoyed every spoonful, I think my favorite was a green chili stew with tenderloin beef tips, potato, cilantro, onion and corn. Delicious! Wonder what the stand-out will be this time around?

By the way, if you needed another reason to grab a spoon and dig in, chili is pretty dang good for you. Tomatoes, for example, contain lycopene, vitamins C, A and K, fiber and potassium. These nutrients aid in the development of healthy teeth, bones, skin and hair, help lower blood pressure and possibly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which is now being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders. Some peppers have also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Anyhoo, while I won't be whipping up any chili recipes for the big event, I do have a few sucralose-sweetened tricks up my sleeve. Check out these dee-lish recipes courtesy of Splenda.com.

Chili Vegetarian Style

Chili

Finally, since tomorrow is National Cappuccino Day, here is a low-cal recipe for all you coffee lovers out there. Have a great weekend!

Cappuccino Mix in a Jar

Ingredients:
2/3 cup instant coffee granules
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1 cup powdered chocolate drink mix
1/2 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Directions:
Have ready 2 (12 ounce) canning jars. Put the instant coffee into a food processor, and process to a fine powder. If you don't have a food processor, put it into a large plastic bag, and crush with a rolling pin.
In a large bowl, combine creamer, chocolate mix, instant coffee, SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir together until well mixed. Spoon into 2 - 12 ounce jars.
Attach a note to each jar that reads: Cappuccino: Mix 3 tablespoons of powder with 6 fluid ounces hot water.

More Splenda recipes here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Democracy never tasted so sweet...

Unless you've been living in a cave the past year, you probably know that today is Election Day. I don't care what your politics are...please, please hit the voting booth and exercise that right that so many people have fought for, marched for and died for in years past. Election Day allows us to play a role in determining how our government is run and what policies our legislators enact. And if my little soapbox lecture on civic pride won't sway you into casting a ballot, how about food-related freebies? In Atlanta alone, there are a ton of restaurants, bars and coffee shops offering up free drinks, appetizers or entrees to those wearing a voter sticker.

Here are some more options:

* Ben & Jerry's is giving away free scoops of ice cream from 5 to 8 p.m.

* Krispy Kreme Doughnuts will be handing out star-shaped doughnuts to voters, although some stores may decline to participate.

* Starbucks is offering a free tall cup of coffee today.

Finally, a friend whipped up an uber-yummy sucralose-sweetened cake over the weekend in honor of a friend's birthday/Halloween party. It was the perfect treat for a cool, fall day. Check it out...

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup egg substitute
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Frosting
1 (8 ounce) package reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 drop imitation maple flavor
1/2 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil or spray a 13X9 inch pan with baking spray. Set aside.
To make the cake: Place SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener, brown sugar, oil, egg substitute and pumpkin puree in a large mixing bowl. Mix until well blended. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Pour cake batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven 25-30 minutes or until when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake.
To make the frosting: Place frosting ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until well blended. Ice cake when cake is completely cool.
Optional garnishes: Sprinkle finely chopped walnuts or crushed ginger snaps over the top of the cake.