Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I resolve to do the following...

Not to brag or anything, but today is my last day in the office until 2010. Woot! If Mother Nature cooperates, I'll be landing in Chicago around 11 p.m. tonight. Don't fret, though. I'll be back in early January armed with insight on how to shed those holiday pounds. Speaking of, I've already started to compile a few realistic New Year's resolutions. After all, this is the best time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make in life and I'm determined to follow through on some of them. So here are a few of my goals, some of which are subject to change by Jan. 1.

1) It's all about exercise. Now that I'm in my early 30s, it's more important than ever to adopt healthy habits and physical fitness is a big part of that. Studies show that regular exercise helps reduce the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure and helps with weight loss and maintenance. Although I'm no stranger to the gym, I'm determined to shed a couple more pounds and start training for triathlons.
2) Get out of debt. I don't know about the rest of you, but money has been a major source of stress in my life the past year. Between the struggling economy and a packed travel schedule due to weddings and family reunions, 2009 was a bit of a wash. Thanks to my accountant-boyfriend, I've already started working out a budget for next year and WILL stick to it in order to get a handle on my finances.
3) Find new hobbies and talents. I never thought I would say this, but I miss those college days where you learned something new every day. My plan in the new year is to tackle a new skill - whether it be learning a foreign language or ballroom dancing or jewelry making. Or maybe I'll take an art class or Web design course. The possibilities are endless!
4) Don't be such a worrywart. Yes, I often stress over silly, insignificant things. As a result, I get grouchy more often than I should. All in all, life is good so I need to stop sweating the petty things and problems I can't control. Perhaps more frequent yoga classes or massages could help to accomplish this, hmmm?
5) Organization is key. If I have to dig through my closet one more time to find my favorite belt or pair of shoes or blouse, I just might have to scream. From home organization to reducing the clutter on my desk, I need to make some changes.

And there ya have it, folks. Keep in mind, this isn't just lip service. New Years resolutions have definitely helped me make some life improvements in the past including weight loss, upping my volunteer efforts and quitting smoking. So it can be done. What are some of your resolutions this year?

On a different note, here are two sucralose sweetened recipes for anyone in search of a low-calorie holiday treat.

Gingerbread Cake
Elegant Eggnog

Finally, here are clips from two of my favorite holiday films. Happy holidays and see you next year!



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dieting within reason...


As most of you know, I consistently preach the value of a low-calorie lifestyle. That being said, when a friend recently informed me that he had joined a weight loss plan that curbed his eating to between 600 and 800 calories per day, I got extremely worried. For starters, he only had to shed about 30 or so pounds - which in my opinion, was not a significant enough weight loss to require this type of drastic change. Second, he was following the diet plan without help from anyone in the medical community. Folks, do NOT try this at home! These types of weight loss methods should only be done under the supervision of a doctor. Fortunately, my friend ditched the diet after a few weeks in starvation mode and has since embraced a more reasonable and healthy weight loss plan. But not everyone has been so lucky. Take Samantha Clowe, a 34-year-old British woman who died this fall from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Clowe had been following a diet plan called LighterLife and was consuming a mere 530 calories a day. An inquest determined that Clowe most likely died from cardiac arrhythmia and raised the possibility that her death "may be related to her low calorie diet and weight loss."
So what's the deal with these very low calorie diets? After all, they can be effective and have been used to help obese and severely obese patients lose weight for more than two decades. They use a process called ketosis to prompt the body to burn stored fat for energy while being fed anywhere from 500 to 800 calories a day. Patients may eat or drink only manufactured food, shakes, and snack bars especially created for and sold through specific programs. The products are designed to supply the patient with adequate nutrition without offering excess calories.
However, diets of less than 800 calories can lead to numerous complications including heart arrhythmias, which could lead to death. Because of this risk, experts say the low-calorie program must include the involvement of a medical professional and incorporate lifestyle changes, exercise, and enough calories in order to be effective and safe for the patient. Extreme dieters are also at risk of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, low blood pressure and high uric acid, which could lead to gout or kidney stones. Also, losing weight quickly could lead to gallstones and thinning hair because dieters are getting the minimum amount of nutrition, which can affect hair and bone density.
So here is my suggestion. If you really want to lose weight, either seek the advice and guidance of a medical professional for a drastic change or make more reasonable choices to adjust to an overall healthy lifestyle. Eat right, maintain a food diary and regularly exercise. That's the best way to shed - and keep off - those pesky pounds!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Daze...

Anyone been watching the coverage of the Midwest blizzard on TV? Hot dang. That's a lot of snow and cold! Hailing from Chicago, I grew up dealing with brutally cold winters. My freshman year of college - at the University of Wisconsin - temperatures actually dipped to 30 below zero, meaning the wind chill factor made it feel about 60 below. That kind of weather spurred my eventual move to the South. Speaking of my alma mater, I heard they cancelled classes yesterday for the first time in 19 years. That led to a massive snowball fight on Bascom Hill involving more than 3,000 students. Good times! Back when I was in Madison, students would snag trays from the student union and go sledding down the hill in honor of the first snowfall of each year - so I'm glad to see the kids still enjoy snow days in style.

Moving on, nothing beats the winter blues (for me, anyway) than a piping hot beverage, whether that be a mug of hot cocoa, tea or coffee. For those tired of the same-old recipes, here are a few sucralose-sweetened recipe variations to help warm up those frozen fingers and toes. Have a great weekend and stay warm, wherever you are!

Winter White Hot Chocolate
Holiday Spiced Tea
Hot Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle
Spiced Apple Mulled Cider

Friday, December 04, 2009

Sweet News: Jones Zilch, sweetened with Splenda

Seeing as how I lurve me some Jones Soda, this news just made my Friday! Jones Soda is unveiling a new soda line - Jones Zilch - that features no-calorie beverages. According to the company, the healthier versions are enhanced with 30 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and sweetened with Splenda. They will be available in four-packs and singles in three flavors: Pomegranate, Vanilla Bean and Black Cherry. Jones Zilch has already started to hit some grocery store shelves and will continue to pop up in other locations in the coming weeks and months.

In other good news, today is National Cookie Day. And thanks to our friend sucralose, we can indulge in the sweet treat without major remorse or weight gain. Wooot! Here are a few of my favorite sugar-free cookie recipes, courtesy of Splenda.com.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookie Bites
Apple Cookies

Now, for a little Friday happy, here is a video of the forever-awesome Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gobble, Gobble! Watchin' that calorie intake...

Not that I'm watching the clock or anything, but it's almost time for the holiday weekend. Woooot! I'll be hitting the road in a few short hours and heading down to Florida, where I'll spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and his family before heading to a friend's wedding in Naples, Florida, on Saturday. I'm looking forward to a fabulous weekend filled with food, football, sun and good friends. Speaking of turkey, according to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat between snacking and eating a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings. That's the equivalent of more than 2 1/4 times the average daily calorie intake and almost 3 1/2 times the fat. Yeah, yeah...I know what you're thinking...If the holiday menu is so packed with fat, why even bother trying to eat healthy? My response is, by reducing the amount of fat and calories in your snacking and main holiday meals, you can help prevent the 5 to 10 pounds of weight the average person gains between Thanksgiving and New Years.
Here are a few "Low-Fat Holiday" tips from the American Heart Association:
* Eat lower-fat and reduced-calorie foods for days in advance of the holiday feast, and for days after.
* Prepare for handling your worst temptations; if you want both pecan and pumpkin pie, take a tiny slice of each, instead of an average serving.
* If cooking, provide low-fat foods, or ask if you can bring a low-fat dish.
* After the meal, start a tradition -- a holiday walk, for instance.
* You can also reduce the calories in a meal by using lower-calorie products. Try using a low calorie sweetener in your tea or coffee or a casserole that requires sweetness.

And here are a few sucralose-sweetened holiday recipes, courtesy of Splenda.com, to help cut those calories.

Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Chocolate Pecan Pie

And because I'm super awesome, here is a fabulous video that will certainly leave you feeling thankful you watched it. See how I tied the Thanksgiving theme into it? Either way, Muppets + Bohemian Rhapsody = Epic Win.
Safe travels and have a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Save the ta-tas!


Okay, apparently it's time to add my two cents to the political firestorm surrounding the mammogram issue. Unless you've been living under a rock the past week, you've heard about the U.S. Preventive Task Force's recommendation that women in their 40s forgo annual mammograms unless they have certain risk factors, like genetic mutations that make them more susceptible to breast cancer. The task force also said self-exams are useless and recommended women over 50 get mammograms every other year instead of annually.

And what was the basis of their decision? Apparently, a review of clinical data showed that annual mammograms have only reduced the risk of breast cancer death by 15 percent. At the same time, the panel of doctors and scientists concluded that such early and frequent screenings often lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies, without substantially improving women's odds of survival.
"Harms of screening include psychological harms, additional medical visits, imaging, and biopsies in women without cancer, inconvenience due to false-positive screening results, harms of unnecessary treatment, and radiation exposure," the panel said.
Of course, it's important to note that these new guidelines are influential but not binding. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, emphasized that the task force does not not set federal policy or determine what services are covered by the federal government.

"My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer and they still are today," said Sebelius. "Keep doing what you have been doing for years - talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions and make the decision that is right for you."
All I have to say is, I understand that many women have had to go through painful, and often costly, procedures only to discover a "false positive." But having lost friends and loved ones to breast cancer, isn't the anxiety worth the possibility that it could result in an early breast cancer diagnosis for someone else?

So please, please, PLEASE ladies...listen to the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, both of which still recommend routine annual mammograms starting at age 40. I just hope that the nation's insurance companies don't use the panel's recommendations as a reason to stop paying for mammograms.

Alright, my rant is finished and I'm climbing off the soapbox. By the way, I'll be working on some recipes this weekend in preparation for Thanksgiving...so I promise to post some yummy, low calorie recipes and menu ideas next week before the big day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh nuts!

Hmmm...I just found out it's Georgia Pecan Month. Since I live in Atlanta and love pecans, I should have no problem finding ways to celebrate, right? Heh. Seriously, though, if you're looking for a heart-healthy snack, pecans certainly fit the bill.

Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity, meaning pecans may decrease the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In other findings, a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that nuts like pecans may aid in weight loss and maintenance. Many more pecan-related benefits can be found here, so be sure to read up if you're unconvinced.

I find that pecans lend themselves to some of the most delicious recipes. Pecan pie? Yes please! Sweet potato casserole covered in pecans? Don't mind if I do! So here are a few sucralose-sweetened, low calorie recipes featuring pecans.

Savannah's Praline Cheesecake

Cinnamon-Pecan Monkey Bread

Sweet Southern Pecan Pie

Spicy Texas Pecans

And here are some fun facts for you, courtesy of the National Pecan Shellers Association:

* Pecan trees usually range in height from 70 to 100 feet, but some trees grow as tall as 150 feet or higher. Native pecan trees – those over 150 years old – have trunks more than three feet in diameter.

* There are over 1,000 varieties of pecans. Many are named for Native American Indian tribes, including Cheyenne, Mohawk, Sioux, Choctaw and Shawnee.

* It would take a line of over 10 billion pecans to reach the moon! |

* Albany, Georgia, which boasts more than 600,000 pecan trees, is the pecan capital of the U.S. Albany hosts the annual National Pecan Festival, which includes a race, parade, pecan-cooking contest, the crowning of the National Pecan Queen and many other activities.

* Some of the larger pecan shellers process 150,000 pounds of pecans each day. That’s enough to make 300,000 pecan pies!

* The U.S. produces about 80 percent of the world’s pecan crop.

Finally, I know Glee has NOTHING to do with pecans...but dang, that show got me all misty-eyed several times last night. And I loved the wonderful diva-off between Rachel and Kurt in reference to who would sing "Defying Gravity," the show-stopping tune from "Wicked." I found it truly heartwarming when Kurt later revealed that he deliberately flubbed the high note for his father's sake. If you haven't started watching this gem of a show yet, please tune in. You're missing out.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Raising the holiday fun while lowering the calories

How did it get to be November already? Does anybody else feel like this year has flown by in record speed? Yeesh. Anyway, now that Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is in eyesight, many of us are looking forward to weeks of cooking and baking, attending parties, hosting parties, buying and wrapping gifts, decorating the house and more. What I mean is, 'tis the season of stress, parties and weight gain!
The good news, according to researchers, is most people only gain one or two pounds during the holidays – an improvement over the five to ten pound weight gain statistic frequently cited. The bad news, though, is that the extra weight rarely comes off.
But while the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years is filled with high-fat and calorie laden food and beverages, you don't necessarily have to nix the festivities or push aside that slice of pumpkin pie. Here are a few tips to help stay trim during the hectic holiday months.

Stay active. A lack of exercise is one of the primary causes of weight gain during the holidays. Find time between social gatherings, errands and shopping for physical fitness – even if it just involves taking extra laps around the mall or walking up the stairs at work. A 30-minute workout every day will work wonders when it comes to weight maintenance.
Cook healthy. Make simple healthy recipe substitutions when baking to lower the calories. Choose fruit and veggies instead of high-fat appetizers or desserts and consider foods or beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes - such as sucralose - to enjoy your favorite meals without the additional calories. For example, drinking a diet soda can save 150 calories a day. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss. Choosing sugar-free chocolate will save you 50 calories a day, or five pounds, by year’s end.
Portion control is key. Eat regularly throughout the day but practice moderation. Keep serving sizes on the smaller side and you can enjoy your favorite holiday treats without having to bust out the elastic waistband pants.
Limit the celebration. Eat a few sweet treats when you are at a special event. Try to avoid the cake and cookies, though, when you're hanging out at home. In fact, in the days or hours leading up to a big soiree, consider eating lighter than usual to help compensate for the added calories later.
Don’t show up hungry. Before heading to a party or holiday dinner, take the time to eat a healthy snack. A small salad or cup of soup with help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later.
Don’t diet during the holidays. Avoid starting a fad diet in an effort to lose ten pounds before that big holiday party. Stay healthy, but don’t be too restrictive. The focus should be on maintenance during the holidays rather than weight loss.
Pre-make healthy meals for those hectic shopping days. Stock up on frozen dinners or make large batches of salads, pasta and other healthy, low-calorie meals so that leftovers can be easily and quickly reheated. This will help prevent any last-minute takeout orders or snacking on fattening foods.
To help get you started, here are two sucralose-sweetened recipes. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Gingerbread Cake

Spiced Apple Mulled Cider

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Think you know jack about pumpkins?

Halloween always brings out my inner child. Seriously. Whether it's picking out costumes, watching scary movies or trick or treating, I love Halloween festivities. So perhaps needless to say, when some friends asked me to help them carve pumpkins over the weekend, I jumped at the opportunity. Did I ever mention that for four years in a row, I helped a former office win the company-wide pumpkin-carving contest? Oh yes, I'm serious about my design skills.

But for the rookies out there, here are a few tips to help design that perfect jack-o'-lantern.

1. Select a fresh, healthy pumpkin in the shape of your choice. Some folks prefer their pumpkins low and round, while others like them tall and oval-shaped. Pick one without bruises, nicks, and cuts. Also make sure that it has a long stem, since this serves as the handle to your lid.

2. Put down newspaper on a flat surface to help ease clean-up.

3. Draw a circle or hexagon on top of the pumpkin and measure several inches down from the stem. This will be the area you cut around to make the lid.

4. Cut through the stem end of the pumpkin along your outline with a sharp knife or pumpkin-carving tool. After you’ve cut your lid, remove it and scrape off any excess filling.

5. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp from inside the pumpkin. The more that is scraped out, the better, because it allows more light to shine though. You’ll also want to make sure the bottom of the pumpkin is as flat as possible. This way when you add your light, it will stand.

6. Now it’s time to draw the design or face on the front of your pumpkin using a felt-tip pen, pencil or dry erase markers. There are numerous Web sites featuring free patterns that will help inspire a spooky, funny or creative jack-o'-lantern.
7. Once you're happy with the pattern, begin to cut the shapes with a sharp knife or carving tool. Be gentle and take your time, discarding the cut-out pieces as you go. Once all the pieces are removed, the design will become obvious.

8. Place a candle or battery operated light inside the pumpkin to create a glow.

9. Replace the lid and enjoy!

Staying on topic, here are a few sucralose-sweetened, pumpkin-based low calorie recipes.

Gingersnap Pumpkin Cheesecake

The Great Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars

And still in keeping with today's blog post theme, here are a few impressive pumpkins. Think about how much pie those could make. Yowza!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sconnie Dreamin'

So after more than five years without a visit, I finally made my way back to my old alma mater - the University of Wisconsin - this past weekend. U-Rah-Rah, how I've missed you Madison! Although time, money and circumstances have kept me away from my beloved college town for so long, I will forever be a Badger ­- even while living amongst smug SEC people. Not that I'm bitter or anything...Moving on...I had such a blast wandering around the campus and revisiting all of my old haunts and watering holes. The school looked gorgeous, the weather was brisk but sunny and the food was terrific. On the agenda: a football game, trip to the nation's largest farmers market and a pub crawl with old friends that included a stop by my favorite German bierhall. What more could an alum ask for? (Well, other than a game day victory, but I digress.) As for food, here's a sample of what we ate: macaroni & cheese, bratwurst, beer cheese soup, beer-battered cheese curds, ice cream, more brats and more fried cheese curds. Are you sensing a trend? If it's comfort food you want, or fabulous microbrewed beers at insanely low prices, Mad-Town delivers. I ate possibly the best mac & cheese I've ever tasted over the weekend. And let's put it this way, my boyfriend - enjoying his first trip to Wisco - chowed down on a burger served on a pretzel roll and topped with a one-quarter pound bratwurst patty, applewood smoked bacon and cheddar cheese. Woof-dee. I felt full just writing about that. I think if it wasn't so cold, he'd be willing to move there just to soothe his newly-discovered cheese curd addiction. Seriously, if you've never been to Madison or Milwaukee, you should really check it out. Just not in the dead of winter.

Anyway, for all you dairy lovers, here here are a few low-calorie variations of cheesy recipes, courtesy of Hungry Girl.

HG's Too-EZ Mac 'n Cheese
Ingredients:
1 package Green Giant Family Size Cauliflower & Three Cheese Sauce (freezer aisle)
2 cups uncooked Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Rotini Pasta (or another whole-wheat or whole-wheat-blend pasta)
3 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese
Directions:
Prepare pasta according to the instructions on the box, and then drain well and set aside. While pasta is cooking, place contents of the cauliflower & sauce package in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 12 - 16 minutes, until sauce has melted and cauliflower is hot.
Once the bowl is cool enough to handle, remove it from the microwave and add cooked pasta. Set aside. Unwrap cheese wedges and place in a small microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth, and then add to the bowl.
Mix thoroughly, ensuring that the Laughing Cow cheese is evenly distributed and the pasta and cauliflower are coated in cheese sauce. If you like, season to taste with salt and pepper.

HG's Fiber-ific Fried Cheese Sticks
Ingredients:
2 light mozzarella sticks (50-60 calories and 2.5g fat per stick)
1/4 cup Fiber One bran cereal (original)
2 tbsp. fat-free liquid egg substitute
salt, pepper & Italian seasonings; to taste
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor or blender, grind Fiber One to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Place crumbs in a small plastic container with a lid. Season crumbs with as much salt, pepper and Italian seasonings as you like. Set aside. Cut cheese sticks in half, so that you have 4 sticks. Place sticks in a small bowl, and pour egg substitute over the top of the sticks. Swirl egg substitute around so that it thoroughly coats the sticks. One by one, transfer sticks to the container with the crumbs. Cover container, and give it a shake to coat the sticks in the crumbs. Carefully return sticks to the dish with the egg substitute, and coat them again. Next put sticks back in the crumbs container, cover, and shake once more to coat (try doing this two at a time the second time around). Place sticks on a baking dish sprayed lightly with nonstick spray. Spritz the tops of the sticks with a quick mist of the spray. Place dish in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes (or until the first sign of cheese oozing out). If desired, serve with warm marinara sauce.

Now, for a little taste of a football game at Camp Randall, check out these video clips.





Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rainy Day Blues

My head hurts, my allergies are acting up and I'm not getting much sleep these days...think it's due to the massive amounts of rain we've been getting? Or am I coming down with a bug? Either way, I've been eating super healthy the past few days and drinking copious amounts of tea, so I'm hoping to fight off whatever is headed my way. Still, I think the nasty skies are helping to bring me down, yo! Why are our moods so tied to the seasons? When I lived in Chicago and Madison, wintry weather would give me the blues something fierce! It's been far less of an issue in sunny Atlanta, but the past month of rain is definitely taking a toll on my spirits.

Anyway, whenever I start to feel icky, I drink some emergen-C and load up on tea. Here are my favorite, new sucralose sweetened tea recipes.

Chamomile-Pomegranate Tea
Ingredients:
4 chamomile tea bags
3 cups boiling water
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/3 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
Garnish: fresh mint sprigs
Directions:
1. Place tea bags in a large heat-proof measuring cup or pitcher; pour boiling water over tea bags. Steep 1 hour, or until cooled to room temperature. Remove and discard tea bags.
2. Add pomegranate juice and SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener or SPLENDA® Packets, stirring until SPLENDA® dissolves. Serve over ice; garnish with mint sprigs.

Russian Tea
Ingredients:
1 packet SPLENDA® Flavors for Coffee, Cinnamon Spice
1 teaspoon SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener FLAVOR ACCENTS™, Lemon
1 tablespoon unsweetened instant tea
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup water
Directions:
Mix all ingredients in a measuring cup or mug. Stir well, heat in microwave for 50 to 60 seconds on high, or until desired temperature. Serve immediately.

On a different but related note, have you ever noticed how rain makes for a powerful movie scene? Here are a few rainy-day clips from five of my all-time favorite movies.









Thursday, October 08, 2009

Follow me on Twitter

Twitter this and tweet that...I'm sure you've heard those terms a lot in recent weeks. If you happen to be unfamiliar with the latest social networking craze, here's a quick explanation: Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers, also known as followers. Love it or hate it, it seems clear that Twitter is here to stay, at least for awhile. So from now on, when I'm not writing this blog, you can find me on Twitter...check me out! Whether live-blogging events as they take place or touting the benefits of sucralose or a sugar-free lifestyle, I will add my voice to the chorus of tweeters.
Surprisingly, even in my limited experience on Twitter, I've found that there are fewer than expected "I'm standing in the grocery store, looking at fruit" posts. Instead, I've discovered a number of truly interesting, insightful messages out there. There are also a ton of hilarious, tongue-in-cheek Twitter feeds.
Speaking of humorous, it seems there are a growing number of writers now taking a stab at boiling down and tweeting the plot-lines of literary classics.
Samuel Beckett's bleak play Waiting for Godot, for example, is reduced to: "Vladimir and Estragon stand next to tree and wait for Godot. Their status is not updated."
Some other examples:
Ulysses: Man walks around Dublin. We follow every minute detail of his day. He’s probably overtweeting.
Great Expectations: Orphan given £££ by secret follower. He thinks it’s @misshavisham but it turns out to be @magwitch
The Catcher in the Rye: Rich kid thinks everyone is fake except for his little sister. Has breakdown.
Pride and Prejudice: Woman meets man called Darcy who seems horrible. He turns out to be nice really. They get together.
Aaaaand, drumroll please, the piece de resistance. These are a few highlights of Homer's Odyssey, if it was written on Twitter:
THNX for the raft. Laters!
Caught Demodocus show at dome. GREAT! Anyone have vid?
Wrecked the boat. Totaled. Everyone dead. FAIL
Back home. Who r all these random dudes?

HA! I hope you got a laugh out of those. Either way, please continue to visit me, either in blog format or Twitter feed.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Full of Glee for a Low Calorie Recipe

Does anyone else feel like there is a ridiculous number of birthdays in the months of August, September and October? Not only was my big day last week, but I've already been to two birthday dinners for other people in the past two days alone. How am I supposed to keep my girlish figure when I'm constantly forced to attend b-day celebrations??
Along those lines, though, I baked a cake last night in honor of a friend's birthday. And it was all sorts of tasty! And the the best part is, it was sweetened with sucralose so it's low in calories. Woot!

Died and Went to Heaven Chocolate Cake
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1/2 cup SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot strong black coffee

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 10 cup bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.
2. Blend flour, SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener, SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in large mixing bowl.
3. Combine buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and coffee in a small bowl.
4. Add flour to mixture, using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix until Smooth (about 2 minutes).
5. Pour batter into cake pan or bundt pan.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick in center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.

And now that we've discussed sugar-free dieting, can we stray from that topic just long enough to discuss my new favorite show? Have any of you been watching Glee, the new comedy-drama television series on Fox? If not, please do yourselves a favor and start tuning in. I've been hooked since the pilot, but each week I'm falling more and more in love with the show. So far, musical numbers have featured songs ranging from Queen to Journey to Bell Biv Devoe...now you know. Hee. Anyway, last night's episode was the best one yet, mostly because it featured the amazing Kristin Chenoweth as Will's former high school crush. Between the tear-inducing "Maybe This Time," the fantastic version of Heart's "Alone," and the final number, Queen's "Somebody to Love," well, let's just say it's official, y'all...I'm hooked! That show-stopping Queen cover was just about one of the best things I've seen on television in a long time. Don't take my word for it, though. Check it out yourself. And please start watching...I don't want to see this show also go the way of my dearly departed Pushing Daisies.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Isn't that Splenda?

Sorry folks, but this post will be short and sweet. I just wanted to talk briefly about cakes. For starters, I went to a wedding over the weekend (I do believe it was my sixth of the summer!) and not only did they have a candy buffet stuffed with sweet treats like Nerds, Smarties and Fun Dip, but they also had possibly the best wedding cake I have ever tasted. It was German Chocolate and was to die for, darling! I'm not lying. Now, here's another little tidbit...today's my birthday! That's right, y'all, I'm officially the big 3-2. While there is nothing too exciting about this particular year, I'm very grateful for the awesome Carrot Cake I got to snarf down at work today. Somebody must have mentioned that Carrot Cake is my very favorite kind!

For all of my sugar-free followers, though, here are Splenda sweetened versions of both of these pastries to help decrease the calories. Check it out.

Diabetic German Chocolate Cake

Double Layer Carrot Cake

More Splenda recipes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

What a dark and gloomy day! I don't know what it's like in your city, but Atlanta has been all sorts of rainy lately. And according to the 10-day forecast, we're going to have stormy weather for quite some time. Boo! Weather like this always bums me out…unless I have the ability to go home and curl up on my sofa with a good book and some hot cocoa. I guess I did have a bit of a sweet treat today, though. I made myself a sugar-free Caramel Latte this morning. Jealous? It's totally easy to make - check it out!

Ingredients:
2 packets SPLENDA® Flavors for Coffee, Caramel
1/4 cup brewed espresso
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup reduced fat milk

Directions:
1. Mix all ingredients together in a microwaveable bowl or mug. Heat in a microwave 30 to 40 seconds or to desired temperature.
2. Blend in blender 15 to 20 seconds to create a frothy drink, if desired. Pour into serving cup and serve immediately.

Although I'm not liking the overcast skies, I guess the weather does match my mood this week. Like many in my age bracket, I've been pretty blue following the news of Patrick Swayze's death. And that sadness only grew this morning, when I discovered that Mary Travers had also passed away. And so the Summer of 2009 claims two more victims. To add to the chorus of grievers, I'll never forget the first time I watched Patrick Swayze on the screen...I was about 9 years old and saw Dirty Dancing at a friend's slumber party. I think we were all a little bit in love with "Johnny Castle" that year. And that adoration grew over the years, thanks to awesome movies like The Outsiders, Ghost, Point Break, Donnie Darko and the cheese-fest that is Road House. As for Mary - of Peter, Paul and Mary fame - the 72-year-old passed away last night after a five-year battle with leukemia. PP&M played a crucial role in helping the folk-music scene become a mass popular movement in the early 1960s. I'll never forget Mary's beautiful, expressive vocals on such classics as "If I Had A Hammer," "Blowing in the Wind," and "Puff the Magic Dragon."
I'd like to think that Mary is up there with Patrick right now, singing while he dances. RIP.



Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

Someone asked me today if I remembered where I was when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I don't think that's a moment I'd ever forget...I was living in Chicago at the time, and had just started to get ready for work, when I heard the news. I spent the next 30 minutes glued to the TV, watching in stunned silence as the smoke billowed out of the two towers before the collapse. And like many others, I spent part of my afternoon trying to track down friends in the New York and D.C. areas. I was fortunate, though. I didn't lose any loved ones in the attack. So I can't even begin to imagine the pain the victims' families continue to endure when they remember the events of that fateful day. As for me, I feel that if 9/11 taught us anything, it's that life can be snatched away from you in the blink of an eye. So whether or not Sept. 11 had a direct impact on your life, today is a good day to reach out to friends and family and tell them how much you care. After all, you never know what tomorrow may bring.

By the way, I never thought the most touching and tasteful 9/11 tribute would involve Budweiser. So for those that haven't seen this ad - which ran during the 2002 Super Bowl - prepare to pull out the box of tissue. It's powerful stuff.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Stealing Home

"There's nothing wrong with this team that more pitching, more fielding and more hitting couldn't help." Former Cub Bill Buckner

Guess where I'll be this time tomorrow? WRIGLEY FIELD! Don't hate because you know you're just jealous! It's true, though, I fly back to Chicago tonight for yet another wedding weekend. And although the Cubbies continue their descent into total suckitude, Wrigley still remains one of the best venues to watch a game. So I look forward to chowing down on a ballpark hot dog and cheering on my Lovable Losers with a $10 cup of Old Style (that is the going rate these days, correct?). In addition to scoring Cubs tix, we'll be eating our way around town this weekend. So far, we've got Argentinian steak, Polish and Greek food, deep dish pizza and Filipino cuisine on tap. And if we're lucky - and have any stomach space left - we'll also squeeze in some Indian and Middle Eastern food.
But for those of you not fortunate enough to enjoy some awesome ethnic cuisine or comford food in the Windy City this weekend, here are a few low calorie recipe variations to test out from the friendly confines of your home.

Veggie Supreme Pizza on a Stick

Cheesy Dog Tortilla Rollups

Low-Fat, Reduced-Calorie Baklava

Finally, to end things on the ultimate high note, here are a few popular Cubbies jokes. After all, despite a century of pain, you have to keep a sense of humor about it all. So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?

Announcement: Will the lady who left her nine kids at Wrigley Field please pick them up? They're beating the Cubs in the bottom of the seventh.

Well, at least the Chicago Cubs are trying. They installed a new pitching machine the other day. Unfortunately it beat them 4-1.

Does anyone know what they call winning teams in Chicago?
Visitors.

What do you call a Cubs player with a World Series ring?
A thief.

And here is a more than 20-year-old clip of infamous "Cub Fan, Bud Man" - aka Mr. Harry Caray - singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Alright! Lemme hear ya! Ah-One! Ah-Two! Ah-Three!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

That is B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Wow. You know how you just assume that certain things will always be around? Like flip-flops or denim or re-runs of Cheers, Sesame Street and The Golden Girls? Well, apparently some good things do eventually come to an end. After 26 years, "Reading Rainbow" will end its run on PBS this Friday. Although the show stopped production in 2006, they continued to show the old episodes on PBS. But the network's contract with the show expires on Friday and they aren't renewing it. And so another childhood relic has reached the end of the rainbow. Wocka wocka wocka! Thanks, folks. I'm here all week. Be sure to tip your waitress!
In all seriousness, I loved me some "Reading Rainbow" when I was a wee one. There was nothing better than listening to Levar Burton explain passages from various books or chatting up people about their work. For those unfamiliar with the show, each episode centered on a theme from a book or other children's literature. Over the years, it drew a number of celebrity guest readers and contributors ranging from Angela Bassett, Matthew Broderick, Diahann Carroll and Julia Child to Bill Cosby, Phyllis Diller, Jerry Orbach, Run-D.M.C. and James Earl Jones.
Most of all, though, I will miss the awesome intro which depicted a rocking song and a cartoon butterfly transforming the surroundings of kids reading books. Check it out...



While you wipe away your tears over the soon-to-be-departed Reading Rainbow, here is a bit of sweet news to help turn that frown upside down. Tomorrow is Banana Lovers Day. YUM! So here are some sucralose-sweetened, low-calorie recipes to celebrate the big event.

Raspberry Banana Smoothie

Banana Cream Tart

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane...


But don't worry because I'll be back again!

Have I mentioned that I have become a total jet-setter this year - albeit one lacking significant funds? Seriously, though, 2009 has turned into my year of travel. In recent weeks, I have been to Jacksonville, Gainesville, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Savannah. And tonight, I hop on a flight to Chicago for the weekend. That's not all folks! Next weekend, I'll be in Tennessee for a whitewater rafting trip, while the following weekend I head back to Chicago. And don't even get me started on all of the road trips in the pipeline this fall in the name of college football. It's gonna be exhausting. As for the bulk of my travels thus far, I blame weddings. Yup, about 90 percent of my trips involve wedding nuptials. Needless to say, I'm tired. And broke. On the plus side, though, I've been eating some pretty delicious meals including jambalaya, muffulettas, gumbo and po'boys this summer.
And you can bet I've been dreaming about my upcoming dining options in Chicago - which I consider one of the top cities when it comes to finding yummy, affordable, authentic food offerings. So what do I really, really want while I'm there? Hmmm....Middle Eastern, Polish, Korean, Filipino, Greek, Indian and Argentinian cuisine. Definitely some deep-dish pizza. Yeeeeeahhhh, it will be difficult to squeeze it all in. Anyhoo, while I haven't officially planned out my menu for this weekend yet, I do know one of my food outings will involve afternoon tea with my mom.
It's been a long time since I last enjoyed this tradition. And what's not to love about it? There are dainty, crustless finger sandwiches, mini-pastries and scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Either way, it's a great excuse to catch up with friends or family while noshing on tasty treats and sipping tea. Y'all should try it sometime, if you haven't already!
But for those unable or unwilling to find a restaurant or hotel that serves afternoon tea, here are a few low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened recipes that can help you enjoy this custom from the comforts of your home. Enjoy!

Vanilla Chai Latte

Caramel Hazelnut Black Tea

Pistachio Cranberry Scones

Blueberry and Lemon Thyme Scones

Monday, August 10, 2009

Low-calorie foods? Check. Exercise? Who needs it?!



According to the current Time Magazine cover story, exercise might not help with weight loss efforts. In fact, it could even result in extra pounds. Wait...what? Did I read that right? (Rubs eyes) A trip to the gym could lead to weight gain? STOP THE PRESS!

I’m not joking, folks. The lengthy article discusses a growing body of research that supports this claim: although exercise burns calories, it can also stimulate hunger. And not only do people tend to eat more after exercising, but these post-workout rewards often feature high-fat, calorie-rich snacks like muffins, Gatorade, ice cream or chips. For example, researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston recently discovered that when the 538 kids involved in their 18-month study began to exercise, they wound up eating an average of 100 calories more than they had just burned.

That being said, no one can deny that there aren't a lot of advantages linked to physical fitness. For starters, people who work out regularly are at significantly lower risk for various diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart problems. In addition, exercise improves mental health and cognitive ability. But many obesity experts now believe that frequent, low-level physical activity actually works better than high-impact, sweat-inducing rounds of vigorous exercise.

Interestingly enough, some of this research is in line with a study published in “Pediatrics” magazine two years ago. Researchers then found that overweight children could prevent further weight gain simply by walking another 2,000 steps and eliminating 100 calories each day using products sweetened with sucralose (marketed as Splenda). This was apparently the first time clinical evidence showed that overweight children could effectively prevent excess weight gain by making small changes to their lifestyle.

So here are my thoughts, for what it's worth...don't forgo physical activity for the rest of your life. But if you're trying to lose weight, focus those efforts on food rather than exercise. Or as the author of the Time magazine article wrote, "It's what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight."

Before I let you go, remember that a sugar-free diet can help shrink the waistline over time. According to this calorie savings calculator, switching from a regular 8-ounce cola to a sucralose-sweetened variation could save 100 calories each day - and result in a loss of up to 15 pounds throughout the year. And a blueberry muffin baked with sucralose can shave 80 calories from your daily intake. Not bad, ey? Either way, you will find that making small changes and turning to low-calorie foods and beverages sweetened with sucralose can have a huge impact on weight over the course of the year.

And for some final, fascinating tidbits provided by Time Magazine, this is what it would take for a 154-pound, 30-year-old woman to work off a 360-calorie blueberry muffin:
* 115 minutes of weight lifting
* 66 minutes of gardening
* 21 minutes of fast skating
* 66 minutes of lawn mowing
* 77 minutes of easy cycling
* 92 minutes of vacuuming
* 33 minutes of jogging (5 mph)
* 230 minutes spent folding the laundry.

WOW!

Friday, August 07, 2009

RIP John Hughes

Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...and an athlete...and a basket case...a princess...and a criminal...Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club. (The Breakfast Club)

Clark:
I gotta be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! (National Lampoons Vacation)

As a child of the late 80s, especially one who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, it's hard not to be impacted by news regarding the death of John Hughes. The writer and director of some of my generation's favorite movies - Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Pretty in Pink, etc. - died yesterday of a sudden heart attack. And he was only 59. Hearing that, my heart broke a little bit. You see, I grew up watching his movies...over and over and over again. Heck, I was even in the background of one of them (see the museum scene in She's Having a Baby). Not only do I still have a collection of John Hughes films on VHS, but like many in my age bracket, I can recite numerous quotes from said flicks off the top of my head. And there is still that huge crush I have on Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. Sigh.
To sum it up, when I heard he passed away yesterday, I felt like a part of my youth died with him.

Just remember...life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. John, thanks for the great memories. You will be missed.





Friday, July 31, 2009

Vacation, all I ever wanted...


Since returning from a wonderful, hectic and too brief vacation, I've spent the past few days trying to get back on the right diet track again. It's not easy to do after gorging yourself on delicious meals in New Orleans for five days. Want to hear some of my food binge highlights? Beignets and cafe au lait, red beans and rice, chicken jambalaya, a sausage po' boy, hush puppies, pralines, not one but two muffulettas and all sorts of other goodness...not to mention a tasty buffet and wedding cake. And what have I eaten since returning home? Lots of lettuce with low-cal dressing and vegetable soup. Sigh. It sucks coming back to reality, doesn't it?

Anyway, I've got several more out-of-state weekend trips coming up, so I plan to be especially diligent about my diet until the next mini-vacation. Did I mention that all of my travel plans this year basically center around the weddings of friends and family members? Still, my jet-setting lifestyle of late raised an interesting question while gabbing with friends over coffee the other day. With so many of us on a budget and/or short on vacation time, where is there to go that won't cost an arm and a leg? While many mentioned trips to the Florida coast or Charleston or Savannah (we live in Atlanta, after all!), it's interesting that this article showed up in the paper the very next day.

Apparently AAA did a survey to determine the 10 least expensive states. These were found to be the cheapest vacation spots. (Costs are based on average published prices for meals and lodgings for two adults.) Just some food for thought (pun intended), should you be looking for cheap travel options in the near future.

1. North Dakota
Lodging: $95.71
Meals: $63.04
Total average daily cost: $158.75

2. Nebraska
Lodging: $100.33
Meals: $59.32
Total average daily cost: $159.65

3. Kansas
Lodging: $103.40
Meals: $61.22
Total average daily cost: $164.62

4. Iowa
Lodging: $107.97
Meals: $61.84
Total average daily cost: $169.81

5. South Dakota
Lodging: $109.09
Meals: $65.74
Total average daily cost: $174.83

6. Oklahoma
Lodging: $119.94
Meals: $59.86
Total average daily cost: $179.80

7. Alabama
Lodging: $111.99
Meals: $68.76
Total average daily cost: $180.75

8. Arkansas
Lodging: $120.43
Meals: $65.66
Total average daily cost: $186.09

9. Mississippi
Lodging: $110.77
Meals: $76.56
Total average daily cost: $187.33

10. Kentucky
Lodging: $121.02
Meals: $66.74
Total average daily cost: $187.76

Finally, since this blog is supposed to be about sugar-free foods, here is a sucralose-sweetened recipe in honor of tomorrow being National Raspberry Cream Pie Day. Have a great weekend!

Raspberry Cream Pie

Ingredients:
1 (9-in.) baked pie shell
1-1/2 c. skim milk
1/4 c. granulated sugar replacement (Splenda)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 T. flour
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 T. low-calorie margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed, and drained
2 c. prepared nondairy whipped topping

Directions: Combine the first 4 ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture thickens. Stir a small amount of mixture into egg yolks; then return to saucepan. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes longer. Stir in margarine and vanilla. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Fold in raspberries. transfer to baked pie shell. Top with whipped topping. Chill.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Don't be haters, but guess where I'm heading to in about 12 or so hours? NEW ORLEANS, baby!! Yup, I'm finally returning to the Big Easy - one of my fave cities in the whole word - after a multi-year absence. Although I'll be there for a wedding, I've already planned out my entire trip in terms of where I'll be eating and drinking in my free time. And yes, I'm fully prepared to come back lugging a few extra pounds around my waistline, because let's be frank...NOLA is not a city for dieters. I just plan to eat healthy foods and work out like a madwoman next week when I'm back in the ATL.

Anyhoo, for all of you who sit by jealously as I enjoy my trip to the Crescent City, here are a few low-calorie variations of some of their most famous menu items.

TURKEY MUFFULETTA PITA
Ingredients:
3 oz smoked skinless light turkey meat, thiny sliced and cut into strips
2 oz provolone cheese, sliced and cut into strips
1 1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
1/4 oz green olives, manzanilla, stuffed with pimiento and sliced (1/3 cup)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp Italian fat-free salad dressing
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 slices of white, enriched pita bread, 6 1/2" in size, cut in half crosswise

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients; toss well. Cover and chill for one hour.
2. Divide lettuce evenly into pita halves. Spoon turkey mixture evenly on top of lettuce.
3. Serve immediately.

CHICKEN JAMBALAYA
Ingredients:
1 spray non-fat cooking spray
2 1/2 oz raw turkey sausage, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium celery, stalk, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 medium chicken breast, cooked, skinless, cubed (about 2 cups)
28 oz canned tomatoes, whole, plum, peeled with juice
2 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 cup uncooked white rice, long-grain

Directions:
1. Coat a large, nonstick saucepan with cooking spray. Over high heat, sauté sausage until crispy on edges. Add onion, celery and green pepper; sauté until tender.
Reduce heat and stir in cayenne, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic; sauté until garlic is fragrant.
2. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, broth and rice. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Flavor Booster: Popcorn rice, a specialty of Louisiana, is a delicious substitute for long-grain rice. The rice, which has a mild nutty taste like basmati rice, is available through gourmet food stores and Internet specialty shops

HURRICANE
Ingredients:
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.

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

BEIGNETS
Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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.

Finally, here is some great NOLA music bound to put a smile on your face. Enjoy! Or should I say - let the good times roll, chere!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I scream...for ice cream



I have been on a serious ice cream kick lately. Could it be the humid weather outside? Most likely. It's certainly nice to cool off with such a frosty sweet treat. Still, I really need to stay away from all the dang gelato shops and ice cream parlors. Just last night, some siren (aka, my sweet tooth) lured me to Morellis Gourmet Ice Cream, where I then proceeded to inhale sweet potato pie-flavored ice cream in a sugar cone. Woof...it was delicious, oozing marshmallow and sprinkles of graham cracker. Only problem? I think it added a pound or two to my waistline. So in the interest of keeping slim, I'm going to stick to the healthier versions of my favorite summer treat. They are out there, folks! You just have to look a little bit harder. Here are a few sucralose-sweetened ice cream recipes to start you out, though.
P.S. Today is National Ice Cream Day, so it's okay if you splurge just a teensy, weensy bit.

Banana Split Freeze

Lorena Garcia's Vanilla Ice Cream with Infused Papaya Chunks and Pomegranate Drizzle

Raspberry Ice

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Berry delicious....


I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend. Guess how I spent mine? Sick and in bed in Savannah. Yup. I got the flu...ON VACATION. Fortunately, I was able to rally long enough to enjoy some of the sights of the beautiful city, but it certainly wasn't the best trip I've ever taken. At least I got to enjoy an absolutely delicious brunch in the historic district before we left Sunday - it was all about the blueberry pancakes! And isn't it awesome that July just happens to be Blueberry Month?
For any of you who might not yet be sold on the fruit, here are a few more good reasons to bust out the bowl of blueberries. For starters, they are literally bursting with nutrients and flavor, yet are very low in calories. When researchers at Tufts University analyzed 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capability, blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy free radicals. Blueberries also have cardioprotective powers and can inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation and reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Finally, they are a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, and both soluble and insoluble fiber like pectin.
So what's not to like about these tasty berries?
Anyway, in honor of Blueberry Month, here are a few sucralose-sweetened, low-calorie recipes. Go blue!

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Blueberry Sage Granita

Blueberry Almond Coffeecake

Triple Berry Jam

And finally, here is an awesome clip from one of the best movies ever. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Hey folks. I'm off to Savannah for the long, holiday weekend. I can't wait to enjoy some of the city's restaurants and to stick my toes in the sand once again. But I wanted to wish you all a very happy and very safe Fourth of July.

Here are a few tips to help control your food intake over the holiday weekend:

* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before chowing down.
* When fixing your plate, make sure the bulk of it is fruits and veggies, such as salad, baked beans, corn, watermelon and grapes. That way you can fill up your belly faster with healthier items.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some mayo-licious potato salad and that scrumptious looking slice of cake. But don't pile a mountain of it on your plate or eat half a pie in one sitting.
* If you're heading to a BBQ 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 and fatty dressings.
* Try not to get seconds until a few hours after you've eaten the first plate.
* Always eat dessert last.
* Drink lots of water. It will help fill you up.

Remember, you can always bring along your own cooler with healthier food options - or serve as a second chef and whip up some low-cal favorites for the masses.
Here are some sucralose-sweetened recipes:

Sweet Red Pepper Hummus

Thai Steak Salad

Icy Lemon Sorbet

And here are some low-cal drink recipes courtesy of Hungry Girl.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with a fun video. Regardless of Michael Jackson's mess of a personal life, I think most would agree that his music - and dancing - was nothing short of phenomenal. As a child of the 80s, I remember the hours spent dancing in white socks on the hardwood floor, attempting to learn the moonwalk and other signature MJ dance moves. I also remember walking around the neighborhood, carrying my little Fisher Price boombox, which always seemed to be blasting the Thriller soundtrack. Those were good times, indeed. Happy fourth, y'all!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who wants a taste?!


So one of my favorite festivals is about to begin. And unfortunately, I won't be able to attend thanks to expensive airfare and a lack of vacation days. (P.S. A special thanks to many of my out-of-state friends and relatives, who all decided to get married within a few months of each other this year - leaving me with no vacation time to spend on myself.) Anyhoodle, what festival might I be babbling on about? It's the annual Taste of Chicago, of course, which kicks off tomorrow and runs through July 5. For those unfamiliar with the event, it is the world's largest food festival, drawing up to 3.6 million visitors from across the globe and featuring food prepared by Chicago's most popular restaurants. In addition to dozens of tables of tasty treats, there is also an international arts & crafts market, a wine garden, beer tent and concerts from both local and big-name performers. Good times, I tell ya!
While I'm bummed I can't be there this year, I suppose my waistline is thanking me. Plus, I just found a few sucralose-sweetened and low-cal variations of Taste staples. I mean, it ain't Chicago-style deep dish pizza or polish sausage...but these options are still pretty good!

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Korean Steak

Pig on a Stick in a Bacon-Wrapped Blanket

Slow Cookin' Pulled Chicken

Mmmm-azing Moo Shu

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Must.Have.Milkshake


I don't know how hot it's been where you live, but here in Atlanta, it's been crazy humid the past week or so. And since my roommate and I are both determined to save money by NOT running the A/C, it's made for somewhat of a stifling environment inside the apartment the past few days. Needless to say, I've been craving the cool treats: ice cream, frozen yogurt, ice water or sweet tea...or perhaps a chilled glass of white wine? Yes please! Most of all, though, I've been jonesing for a milkshake...particularly of the vanilla variety, which is my favorite. So how convenient that Saturday just so happens to be National Vanilla Milkshake Day! I'm going to try to hold out until then, but just in case, I already dug up a healthy milkshake recipe. Thanks to Hungry Girl for this 155-calorie, sucralose-sweetened variation!

Chilla in Vanilla Milkshake

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Breyers Double Churn Free Creamy Vanilla fat-free ice cream
1/2 cup light vanilla soymilk
1/2 tbsp. Coffee-mate Sugar Free French Vanilla powdered creamer
2 no-calorie sweetener packets (like Splenda or Truvia)
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup crushed ice or 5 - 7 ice cubes
2 tbsp. Fat Free Reddi-wip
Optional: maraschino cherry

Directions:
Place powdered creamer in a small dish, and add 1/2 tbsp. very hot water. Stir until powder dissolves, and then transfer mixture to a blender. Add all other ingredients except the Reddi-wip to the blender. Blend at high speed until completely mixed. Pour into your favorite glass and top with Reddi-wip. If you like, finish it off with a cherry!

Oh and P.S. Atlanta-area Chick-fil-A restaurants are running a Father's Day gift for dads - one free milkshake. Fathers who go to any of the 132 metro Atlanta restaurants on Saturday, June 20 from 10:30 a.m. until closing time with their children will get one free 14-ounce milkshake. The limit is one per customer.

Happy eating y'all!

More Splenda recipes here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Listen to Your Body

I've been thinking a lot about the body and how it can signal to your brain when you're lacking certain nutrients. Lately, for example, I've been insanely thirsty. I drink water by the gallon...I'm not even exaggerating. I've also had a hankering for fruit - a giant bowl of mixed berries, cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew sounds like my dream meal at the moment. Think my body is telling me something? Absolutely! For any of you who ignore these types of cues, think twice. Nutrients in our diet are important for the body’s functions. Sometimes your body signals the absence with a craving - which tends to be my case. In other situations, the body might offer up clues to what is missing from the diet simply through appearance and function. I recently read an article that described some of the more physical ways this can surface. Check it out...
Thinning hair: Lack of iron. Natural sources of iron can be found in red meat, liver, canned tuna, spinach and many fortified cereals.
Eyesight problems: Lack of vitamin A and C. Carrots, green leafy vegetables, fruit and sweet potatoes are all good sources of vitamin A. Vitamin C can be found in oranges, kiwi, citrus fruits and berries. Fresh vegetables also provide vitamin C.
Cracking at the corners of the mouth: Lack of Riboflavin (B2) and B6. B2 can be found in whole grains like brown rice and bread, cheese, fortified breakfast cereals and green leafy vegetables. B6 can be obtained from bananas, chicken, fish and baked beans. These two vitamins complement each other in the body.
Rough, dry skin: Lack of vitamin A and E and essential fatty acids. Oily fish (mackeral, salmon and herring) and seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids, while carrots are a great source of vitamin A. Vitamin E can be found in oils, nuts and some greens.
Brittle or split nails: Lack of calcium. Low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt, beans and greens are sources of calcium.
Stretch marks: Lack of zinc. Good sources of zinc can be found in lean steak, nuts, wheat germ and egg yolk.
Cellulite: Lack of vitamin C and fiber. Citrus fruits and berries contain vitamin C, while brown rice, whole grains, beans and oats can provide fiber.
Varicose veins: Lack of bioflavonoids. These nutrients can be found in dark-colored fruits and berries such as plums, purple grapes, blueberries and cranberries.

If that wasn't enough dietary news for you today, here is a little more food for thought...The American Dietetic Association says that eating fruits and vegetables with a variety of colors is important in order to consume nutrients needed by the body. Research increasingly shows that foods with color and rich flavor contain more phytochemicals – plant compounds that aid in disease prevention and health maintenance. When planning your meals, think about the color spectrum:
* Red foods like tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit contain lycopene, which may aid in the prevention of cancer.
* Orange foods like pumpkins, carrots and oranges contain beta-carotene, which aids in the prevention of cancer.
* Yellow and green foods like squash and broccoli aid in the prevention of cancer and vision loss.
* Blue and white foods like onions, garlic and leeks can help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Now, having said all that, here are a few colorful, nutritious and sucralose-sweetened meals bound to keep you happy and healthy this weekend. Happy Friday!

Copper Penny Salad

Watermelon Fruit Salad Bowl

California Broccoli Salad

Friday, June 05, 2009

Jonesing for Gingerbread

Any gingerbread fans out there? If you're like me, gingerbread might be more of a favorite sweet treat on a chilly autumn or winter day...but since today happens to be National Gingerbread Day, who am I to debate the best time to dig into a plate of the spicy dessert? Either way, I love me some gingerbread, whether it's in the form of flavored coffee or the tasty ginger snap cookies gracing the shelves of the local Trader Joes.
Fortunately for all you calorie counters out there, a number of sugar-free gingerbread recipes are now available. Here are two, courtesy of www.Splenda.com.

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cake

And if you're worried about a little gingerbread impacting your waistline before hitting the pool this weekend, you can take comfort in the fact that ginger provides a number of health benefits. For one, it has a long tradition of effectively alleviating symptoms of "gastrointestinal distress" - i.e., it's a nice cure for that belly-ache. Modern scientific research has also revealed it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects...all good news!
Another fun fact. According to the Guiness Book of Records, the world's largest gingerbread man weighed more than 372 pounds and was made by the chefs at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Vancouver back in 2003. It was also nearly 14 feet tall and two inches deep. And while today's youth might not be familiar with the old Gingerbread Man fairy-tale -- remember "Run, run, run as fast you can! You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"? -- they surely know Gingy from the Shrek movies.

Speaking of, here is a cute clip featuring the animated fan favorite.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Run for the Roses

Any other horse racing fans out there? I meant to write about the races a few weeks ago, when we were all cheering on our fave thoroughbreds in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. And now the Belmont Stakes is rapidly approaching - June 6 to be precise. So who, dare I ask, will take this title? Will it be everyone's favorite cowboy and his Derby-winning horse, aka Mine That Bird? Or will it be Rachel Alexandra, the fantastic filly that wowed the crowds at the Preakness Stakes? Either way, the third race in the Triple Crown should prove to be a heckuva ride!

But before you go whipping up your Belmont Stakes party menu, here are two low-cal, sucralose-sweetened variations of race day recipe mainstays.

Pomegranate Julep

Pecan Chocolate Bourbon Pie

Finally, I figured this would get everyone in the appropriate mood. TGIF, right?! This is a video clip of what is commonly called "The Match of the Century." A little background, if you will...On November 1, 1938, Seabiscuit went head-to-head with War Admiral in one of the most anticipated sporting events in U.S. history. The Pimlico Race Course, from the grandstands to the infield, was jammed solid with fans. Trains were run from all over the country to bring people to the race, and the estimated 40,000 at the track were joined by some 40 million listening on the radio. Triple Crown champion War Admiral was the prohibitive favorite and a near unanimous selection of the writers and tipsters...but how did the race end? You'll have to watch to find out!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Great Outdoors


I'm not a happy camper. Yes, it's Friday and we're heading into a three-day weekend. But have you looked out the window? It's all sorts of dreary outside! And seeing as how I'm spending my weekend sleeping under the stars, this rain best go away soon. Boo hiss, Mother Nature! I'd really rather not spend my three-day camping/hiking extravangza in North Georgia dodging thunderstorms. Sheesh.

Anyhoo, for those of you staying put, I'd imagine there will be a number of backyard barbecues taking place this weekend. For those trying to figure out how to keep that sugar-free diet with so many fatty (and dee-lish) foods around, here are some low-cal, sucralose-sweetened goodies you can enjoy. Thanks to Splenda.com for the following recipes.

Zesty Grilled Garlic-Herb Chicken

Cucumber and Onion Salad

Five Pepper Salsa

Watermelon Fruit Salad Bowl

Also, here are a few tips from Hungry Girl to help avoid BBQ-related belly bulge:

* If your host is offering hot dogs, burgers and chicken breast, go for the chicken (but remove the skin if it's still on there). The chicken is your safest bet for a low-cal, low-fat meat fix.

* Are turkey burgers, turkey franks or chicken sausage up for grabs? Be careful! Some are lean, but others have almost as much fat and calories as the beef versions.

* Is it a BYOM (Bring Your Own Meat) event? Show up with skinless boneless chicken breast, fat-free hot dogs (or ones with less than 5% fat) and Boca Meatless Burgers. They all grill up AMAZINGLY well on the BBQ, taste fantastic and will save you tons of fat and calories!

* If you're drinking beer, make it light. You'll save calories and carbs! Psssst... Beck's Premier Light has just 64 calories and 1 Point per 12 oz. bottle!

* When it comes to frozen treats, stick with non-creamy ones. Fruit bars and shaved ice are better choices than ice cream treats like cones, bars and sandwiches.

* BBQ some veggies! Corn on the cob, asparagus and onions are awesome when grilled, and they'll fill you up. But skip the butter.

That's all, folks. Happy Memorial Day and see you next week.

P.S. Keep your fingers crossed I don't break any limbs while hiking and paddling around waterfalls.