Friday, January 30, 2009

Game Day Grub

Buffalo wings. Chili cheese dip. Chips and salsa. Burgers. Pizza. Let the gluttony begin...
That's right, folks. Football's grand finale is almost here, giving Americans another excuse to drink beer and eat lots of high-calorie foods and snacks. I don't know about the rest of you, but if I keep eating the way I have been, I might start to look like one of those beefy linemen playing on Sunday. Just kidding! Well, sorta.
I know, I know...Super Bowl is tough on calorie counters. However, there are a few ways you can cut down on the fat while rooting for your favorite team.

1. For starters, it's all about portion control - not total deprivation. That means you can still enjoy some of the traditional football fare. Have a chicken wing or two, eat a handful of chips with dip and grab a slice of pizza and a cold beer. Just don't overindulge. And, as much as liquor and football seem to go hand-in-hand, don't shoot for a liquid-only diet Sunday. Enjoy your frosty beverages, in moderation. If you're truly worried about the carbs or calories in your cocktail, drink light beer or vodka with diet soda.

2. Also, if you're either A) hosting a party or B) attending a party, whip up some healthy recipe alternatives. And I'm not just talking about busting out the veggies with low-fat ranch dip. Here are a few low-cal or sucralose-sweetened recipe options - courtesy of WeightWatchers.com and Splenda.com - that won't add to the waistline.

Sweet Red Pepper Hummus

Chicken Poppers

Sweet and Spicy Marinated Shrimp

Turkey Chili

3. In addition, don't show up hungry. Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced meal - or even a light snack - before going to curb the appetite.

4. Exercise, if possible. Try to hit the gym or go for a brisk walk before the game. Even during the big event, you can stay in motion. Get up between breaks in action and stroll around - just not to the buffet table!

For all you trivia fans out there, here are some Super Bowl facts, culled from a range of organizations and sources:
* Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving.
* Sports fans spend more than $50 million on food during Super Bowl weekend.
* According to research from the Calorie Control Council and the Snack Food Association, Americans will eat 30 million pounds of snacks on the big game day.
* Nearly thirteen percent of Americans order takeout/delivery food from a restaurant for a Super Bowl gathering. The most popular choices are pizza at 58 percent, chicken wings at 50 percent and subs or sandwiches at 20 percent.
* Approximately four percent of Americans watch the big game at a restaurant or a bar, over 9 million Americans.
* On Super Bowl Sunday, Americans will eat an estimated 20 million pounds of potato and tortilla chips and eight million pounds of avocados.
* Sales for antacid increase by 20% on Super Bowl weekend.

By the way, for those looking for something different come Game Day, the annual Animal Planet Puppy Bowl will be airing...and if you've never watched any of it before, please check it out. It's hi-LAR-ious! Here's a preview, featuring the game's ref.



Either way, have fun this weekend and stay safe!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

High Scoring Super Bowl Ads!

You know what this Sunday is, right? It's game time, baby! And even though I have absolutely no stake in this Super Bowl - my beloved Chicago Bears are on the sidelines yet again - I still love watching the game. There's nothing better than gathering with dozens of your closest friends, armed with beer and chicken wings, to watch grown men tackle each other over pigskin. Good times! And no, I'm not being facetious. I totes love me some football!
Anyhoo, in addition to the game, many also tune in for the commercials. Although admittedly weaker in recent years, there are still a few standout ads every Super Bowl. So, after a bit of online research...and a straw poll of colleagues and friends...here are the picks for our favorite Super Bowl commercials ever! Some are funny, while others are more moving. Either way, these are the 10 we remember most fondly.

P.S. Don't worry. I'll be back tomorrow with some calorie-friendly Game Day recipes.

10. Coke — “Parade Balloons” (2008)
Parade balloon versions of Underdog and Stewie from “Family Guy” fight for an inflatable Coke bottle over the New York skyline, but are thwarted when a Charlie Brown balloon shows up and steals the drink.


9. FedEx - "Cast Away" (2003)
FedEx commercial spoofs the plotline of the movie Cast Away.


8. Monster.com - "When I Grow Up" (1999)
Fresh-faced kids share their dreams for the future, such as: "When I grow up, I want to be a brown nose," and "When I grow up, I want to be in middle management."
Horrifying and hilarious at the same time.


7. Budweiser — “Frogs” (1995)
Three frogs sitting on a log and croaking the words “buuuud,” “wiiiise” and “errrr.”


6. Xerox - "Monks" (1977)
Brother Dominic, faced with a lifetime of painstaking hand transcription, slips over to a Xerox machine and gets his copies in minutes. His superior declares it a 'miracle.'


5. McDonald's — “The Showdown” (1993)
Michael Jordan and Larry Bird go head-to-head in a game of "Horse," with the winner getting a Big Mac. Nothin' but net!


4. Apple — “1984” (1984)
An Orwellian scene of lockstep fascism is broken up by a woman in shorts, who hurls a sledgehammer through a theater screen - followed by this text: "On January 24th, Apple will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like '1984.'"


3. Budweiser — “Respect” (2002)
The Budweiser Clydesdales cross a snowy field and the Brooklyn Bridge before kneeling in front of the New York skyline where the World Trade Center towers used to be. Powerful stuff.


2. Coke — “Mean Joe Greene” (1979)
Greene meets a kid in a stadium tunnel after the game. The kid offers Greene a Coke, and the player smiles and gives him a jersey.


1. Reebok — “Terry Tate Office Linebacker” (2003)
My own personal fave! Workers at a fictitious corporation who breach office etiquette receive bone-crunching tackles from Terry Tate, a Reebok sneaker-wearing linebacker.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blueberries taste berry, berry good to me!

If you're anything like me, you might frequently find yourself searching for excuses to make a brunch date with friends. After all, breakfast truly is the tastiest meal of the day - no matter the time of day! And there are so many different tastes involved in breakfast foods. For example, you could order an omelette with hash browns or grits. Or go spicy and request a breakfast burrito. Or you could go sweet and order up french toast, waffles or pancakes. As for my tastes, it all depends on my mood! When I'm hankering for something sweet, though, my favorite tends to be blueberry pancakes. So isn't it convenient that today is National Blueberry Pancake Day?! Yup. I will be heading home shortly and whipping up some berry-delicious pancakes for dinner.

Check out this yummy-looking sugar-free recipe, courtesy of Dr. Gourmet.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup all purpose white flour
1 tbsp Splenda
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup non-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 tsp Take Control Spread Light (or Promise Buttery Spread Light) (per serving)
1 tbsp pure maple syrup (per serving)

Directions:
1. Sift flour, Splenda and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
2. Add buttermilk, egg substitute and vanilla extract and blend using a large whisk until smooth.
3. Heat a non-stick griddle over medium-high heat. Let the batter stand for at least 2 minutes while the griddle is heating. Stir once and wait another minute before placing batter on the griddle.
4. When the griddle is hot enough that a few drops of water will dance on the surface, reduce the heat to medium and place about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake on the griddle.
5. After the pancakes have cooked for about a minute spread a tablespoon of fruit across the top of each one. Allow to cook for another 1 - 2 minutes until bubbles form on the surface and burst. Turn pancake and cook for about 1/2 the time of the first side until the are golden brown.
6. Remove and top with one teaspoon of Promise Buttery Spread Light on each pancake and serve one tablespoon of pure maple syrup for every two pancakes.

By the way, while researching fun facts about blueberry pancakes, I came across an old 1969 film called "Winter of the Witch." According to the description, the film is based on the book "Old Black Witch" and is about a woman and her son who leave their city apartment for a home in the country. The home they purchase, however, houses an amicable old witch who has a penchant for making magic pancakes. The blueberry pancakes, you see, have the power to make people happy.

AW YEAHH!!! I now have to find a copy of this movie. Check out this hysterical clip from YouTube.



Just an FYI: the recipe I included in this posting will not generate the type of psychedelic trippy response seen in this movie. However, the fabulous taste might easily put a smile on your face. Enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fear not, peanut butter lovers!

You've probably seen all of the recent news reports about the peanut butter-related salmonella outbreak. But while the list of affected products continues to grow, all those delcious jars of peanut butter that you see on grocery store shelves are still deemed safe. That means I don't have to deprive myself of my fave lunch - PB&J sandwiches - over the next few weeks! Wooo hooo!

Just as an FYI, the contaminated peanut butter comes from King Nut brand, which is only distributed to institutions like schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Six people have died and nearly 500 people have become sick from eating contaminated peanut butter products, which include Keebler and Little Debbie peanut butter crackers, Clif and Luna snack bars, and various ice creams, candies, cookies and snacks. For a complete list of recalled products check the FDA's Web site.

Anyhoodle, it's Friday people. And I couldn't be happier about that. So to spread the joy, I'm including a couple PB-rich, sucralose-sweetened recipes. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Marshmallow Fluff Icing

Peanut Butter Chocolate Angel Bites

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Say Cheese!!

It's a good week, y'all! We now have a new president and my favorite show (LOST!) is returning to the air tomorrow night. And in other good news, today is National Cheese Lover's Day!
As many of my friends know, I'm a ginormous cheese fan - always reserving at least one drawer in my fridge solely for the tasty dairy products. What can I say? I'm a girl from the Midwest; one who attended college in Wisconsin, home of many a cheesehead. Give me a block of sharp cheddar, some brie on crackers or a wedge of Camembert and I will be a happy camper!
So tonight, join me in busting out a tray of crackers and cheese - whether it be Gouda, Gruyere or Gorgonzola - to celebrate all things cheese, as well as democracy in action!

By the way, here are a few cheesy recipes to check out.

Baked Spinach With Cheese

Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Grilled Brie and Apple Sandwiches

Friday, January 16, 2009

I said brrrrrr....it's cold in here!

Living in Hot-Lanta, I don't often have to don a winter coat. But with temperatures dipping into the 20s and 30s this week, I finally pulled the bulky pea coat out of storage and wore it out today. As a friend described it earlier - leaving me hooting with laughter - this is "some kind of Yankee cold!" Still, I'm fully aware that all of my friends in the Midwest and Northeast would love to have Atlanta's weather, which is downright balmy in comparison to the subarctic temperatures they've been experiencing. But for folks down South, this is as cold as it gets. So everyone is feeling the chill these days.
Either way, I've often found that nothing beats the winter blues more than a piping hot mug of hot chocolate! So 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!

Sweet Hot Chocolate

Hot White Chocolate

Raspberry Hot Chocolate

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are they made from real Girl Scouts?

Girl Scout: Is this made from real lemons?
Wednesday: Yes.
Girl Scout: I only like all-natural foods and beverages, organically grown, with no preservatives. Are you sure they're real lemons?
Pugsley: Yes.
Girl Scout: Well, I'll tell you what. I'll buy a cup if you buy a box of my delicious Girl Scout cookies. Do we have a deal?
Wednesday: Are they made from real Girl Scouts?
The Addams Family

Sorry about the title of the post...but ever since seeing The Addams Family movie years ago, that scene always made me giggle. And it's often my first snarky response when someone asks me to buy Girl Scout cookies.

As one of my readers mentioned (see previous post), 'tis the season...that time when America's favorite group of cookie sellers start making the rounds again. I think it's safe to say there are at least five order forms cluttering the lunch table in my office. Plus, I've lost track of how many times I've been approached by various colleagues about purchasing cookies to support their daughter's troop. Wow.
I know, I know. The new year has only just begun and here we are (or I am), already breaking many of those "healthy eating" resolutions. However, there is a silver lining when it comes to all things Girl Scout cookies. Like last year, there will be a sucralose-sweetened cookie on tap. There is also a reduced-fat cookie that shouldn't negatively impact too many waistlines. So this cookie season, try out either the Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips or Reduced Fat Daisy Go Rounds, a cinnamon cookie that only runs 100 calories per pack. While I expect to be tempted into buying at least one box of Samoas (my personal fave), Tagalongs and/or Thin Mints, I'll also be investing in some of those lower-fat varieties. Finally, I may have to check out the new Dulce de Leche cookie, which features milk caramel chips and stripes. YUMMY!

Don't give me any grief, y'all. It's all for the children! Bless...

And here's a little tip for any Girl Scout (and/or their parents) reading this blog...some of us might be more likely to purchase the cookies if you invite us to a star-studded cookie sales drive...or stage an impressive song-and-dance in the streets. Do we have any fans of Troop Beverly Hills in the house? If so, that reference will make sense. What? I am a child of the '80s, after all!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stop the Stress!

It's been a rough couple weeks, financially. Between overspending during the holidays - and then being forced to fork out several hundred more dollars to fix my dying vehicle - I'm definitely in a bit of a financial hole these days. And that's not the best place to be in this troubled economy. But rather than throwing myself a pity party (and believe me, I'm a fabulous hostess!), I'm trying to look on the bright side and not get overwhelmed by my monetary stress. After all, at least I have a job, right? That's more than some of my friends can say, several of whom have been the victims of recent layoffs.

Also, I just came across this Health Magazine article that provides some valuable tips to dealing with stress. I plan to follow as many of these as possible. Check it out!

1. Headaches
Researchers once blamed tension headaches on tight muscles in the face and neck. But now they think that stress-induced fluctuations in neurotransmitters - like serotonin and endorphins - also activate pain pathways in the brain, leading to headaches. Just 10 minutes a day of mindful relaxation - like deep breathing or meditation - can ease the muscle tension that can trigger a headache. Studies have shown that simple, deep-breathing exercises reduce blood pressure and promote a sense of well-being.

2. Breakouts
A bad day really can go straight to your face: Chronic-stress hormones can increase oil production in skin glands. The result can be blemishes or full-blown acne. The Chinese tradition of drinking hot water with lemon helps detoxify your skin. Also try slowly rubbing a dry loofah up your body, starting from the ankles. This helps blood circulate and is invigorating and calming.

3. Stiff neck
Sometimes that pain in the neck from the office goes home with you in the form of sore, stiff muscles. After tensing up all day, trigger points within the muscles can go into tiny spasms and cause intense neck cramps, integrative-medicine expert. Massage - from hot stones to ischemic-compression therapy, during which trigger points are probed - can help relax tight muscles in your neck or upper back. Or try Kneipp hydrotherapy: Sit in bathwater that’s as cold as you can tolerate, then warm up the water; alternate between cold and hot three to four times while soaking. You can also take a cold shower or splash cold water on sore muscles for 10 to 60 seconds; the dramatic change in temperature may constrict and open blood vessels, removing toxins like lactic acid and improving blood supply and lymph flow. A recent study also showed that cold-water therapy can reduce fibromyalgia pain.

4. Fatigue
If you can’t stop yawning, it’s probably because you’ve spent hours in bed ruminating instead of sleeping. Too many restless nights, and your days will be shot - memory is impaired and you may feel more irritable and moody. If stress is keeping you awake, practice “thought stopping." Picture an actual stop sign every time you start worrying. Progressive muscle-relaxation is another anti-insomnia technique: Beginning at your toes, tighten the muscles in that area, hold for 5 seconds, then release; continue with each muscle group, going up the length of your body. Breathe calmly throughout the exercise.

5. Weight gain
Stress could be causing that upward tick in the numbers on your scale. Some studies suggest that our stressed-out bodies are becoming immune to the continuous secretion of adrenaline. Instead of burning more calories, our hyped-up systems produce more cortisol, a stress hormone that encourages the storage of fat. Add to that the fact that “some women overeat in times of stress." The stress-plus-increased-eating combo is like putting out a welcome mat for fat. Instead of snacking on junk food the next time you’re under pressure, take a good brisk walk. Studies say exercise relieves stress and burns calories. Replacing high-fat snacks with healthier options can help you relax too. Carbohydrate-rich foods like yams increase serotonin in the brain, which promotes good feelings. And whole grains, bananas, avocados, chicken, spinach, and broccoli all contain vitamin B, which can boost your sense of well-being.

6. Bloating
Your body's response to stress may cause it to divert blood away from normal digestive processes in the abdomen to large muscle groups elsewhere. The result? An upset tummy, painful bloating, diarrhea, constipation, even irritable bowel syndrome.
Placing a hot-water bottle on top of your belly may relax the smooth-muscle tissue of the bowel and eliminate pain, distention, or bloating. Eating more foods with plenty of fiber - such as a handful of almonds, peanuts or soy nuts, or a steamed artichoke with vinaigrette dressing - may also help.

And here are a few fiber-rich food recipes, which may hopefully help reduce some of that stress. Hope it helps!

Bean Trio with Citrus Cumin Dressing

Sweet Potato Orange Cups

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Celebrate "King" Size with a Low Calorie Recipe

Happy birthday Elvis! That's right, folks..."The King" would have been 74 today.
Although he's now been gone for more than 30 years, his music is still celebrated by fans across the world. I grew up on his tunes thanks to an Elvis-loving father, who would constantly play Presley records and croon along to the music. I eventually became a fan myself - even taking a trip to Graceland a few years ago during a road trip down South with friends. Sooo, I plan to honor the legend today by chowing down on some of his favorite foods. It's common knowledge that Elvis had quite the appetite and loved to dig into Southern-style meals and comfort food like home-fried chicken, meatloaf, apple pie and cornbread. And then there were the infamous peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches!

Here are a few sugar-free, healthy variations of some of Elvis' favorite recipes. Check it out!

Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
* 2 tablespoons low-fat peanut butter (preferably smooth)
* 2 slices whole wheat bread
* 1 small ripe banana, mashed with a fork (about 1/4 cup)
* 1 tablespoon low-calorie butter

Spread peanut butter evenly on 1 slice of bread, then spread mashed banana on other slice, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge. Close sandwich, gently pressing bread slices together. Heat butter in a skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then fry sandwich, turning over once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes total.

Velvet Pound Cake

Apple Pie

Also, here are some interesting Elvis factoids I found in a Chicago Tribune article today:

•Elvis Presley was a rabid Monty Python fan, often reciting the troupe's comedy routines from memory. His favorite sketch: "Nudge nudge."

•When Presley bought Graceland, it was already named Graceland - for Grace Toof, the daughter of a previous owner of the property.

•He dyed his hair. Elvis was a natural dirty blond but dyed his locks jet-black because he thought it would look better in movies.

•Barbra Streisand lobbied fruitlessly for Elvis to play the mentor role in her remake of "A Star Is Born."

•Elvis was an insomniac most of his life.

•His own movies to the contrary, Elvis had great taste in cinema. Favorite films included "Rebel Without a Cause," "Dr. Strangelove," "The French Connection" and "Patton."

•Elvis won three Grammy Awards - all late in his career, all for gospel songs and two for the same song ("How Great Thou Art").

Finally, in memoriam...here is a video of Elvis performing one of the greats. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Counting Calories and Healthy Foods

Don't know about if the rest of you agree, but it often seems there is no timeframe more depressing than that first week of January. The weather is typically gray, work is stressful and there are no vacations or holidays to look forward to for many, many months. Blargh.

At the same time, though, I often use this as my stepping point to get back into a healthy routine after weeks of holiday parties and general craziness. Last night, for example, I went to the grocery store and loaded up on healthy foods. And today, I will be going back to the gym for the first time in a week. I also plan to keep a closer eye on my intake of calories. And to do that, I'll be turning to a few different sites to help maintain a lower-fat, lower-cal diet. These recommendations come from Hungry Girl, so you know they must be good!

1. CalorieKing - This site is THE place to go for nutritional info. There are other sites that are similar, but this has the most complete and accurate database of nutritionals for generic, name-brand, and restaurant foods.

2. Dotti's Weight Loss Zone - Dotti has what a great database of Weight Watchers POINTS® values for foods from specific restaurants. As with any unofficial site, you should try to double-check the stats to be sure they're accurate and up-to-date.

3. WeightWatchers.com - Even if you're not following the WW plan, this website is a FANTASTIC resource. The message boards are amazing, and anyone can search away on them. While members get the most from this site, there are tons of articles and valuable info available to everyone as well.

4. SparkPeople - Join for free, and you'll have access to tons of tools, the site's community, health articles, and more.

5. The Daily Plate - With a food journal, exercise tracker, calorie calculator, and database of a bazillion foods, this site is one of the best out there.

6. The World's Healthiest Foods - This is an amazing resource for food info. Find out which foods are the most nutritious and why, plus find recipes and fantastic articles.

Finally for something totally off-topic...here is a funny video from my boyfriend's show (aka Jon Stewart and the Daily Show) last night featuring Anderson Cooper and lots of doggies!!

Enjoy!