Friday, February 27, 2009

The Ballad of Trader Joe

Before I headed off to the mountains of North Carolina last weekend, I took a trip to my favorite specialty grocery store - Trader Joe's. That place is typically my first stop whenever I'm either hosting a party or bringing snacks to a friend's party. It truly does have the best gourmet nibbles, as well as the cheapest beer and wine prices. Two Buck Chuck, anyone?

Anyhoo, my snacks were a major hit up in the cabins. I had no sooner set out the chips and salsa and hummus and crackers, and cut up some of my favorite brie and mozzarella cheese wrapped with prosciutto and basil, when they were immediately devoured by the vultures hovering around the table. And because not everyone in attendance had stepped foot in a Trader Joe's before, I'm pretty sure I helped convert a few new fans. Hey TJ! Do I get some sort of fee for finding you new customers? Kidding. Although, while I'm at it, I hope someone from Trader Joe's IS reading this and paying attention to my next point...Please stop discontinuing so many of your awesome food items! The Indian relish? Bring it back! Also, my mom and I still weep giant salty tears whenever we remember our dearly departed spicy Thai Lime and Chili peanuts (not to be confused with the Thai cashews) which no longer grace the store's shelves. Boo hiss. I still love you Trader Joe. But stop taking away all my treats.

Moving on, though, it seems I'm one of many Trader Joe's fans. I recently found some pretty entertaining poems and videos in the store's honor. Here is one example:

Finally, I'm going to leave you with some sucralose-sweetened, berry-licious recipes in honor of National Strawberry Day today. Enjoy!

Nutty Fresh Strawberry Salad

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Very Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Kiwi Sipper

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

That's a heart attack on a plate!

Um, wow. That's really all I have to say about this site. Ever since a friend sent me the link earlier this afternoon, I've been slowly perusing each Web page to see what new culinary horrors I could discover. Again...WOW!

Here are a few examples:
Lankford’s Gluttoneer - Half pound prime rib/sirloin/rib eye patty, american cheese, onions, maple bacon, hot link sausage, ketchup and honey mustard.

Bacon Poutine - French fries topped with cheese curds, egg, bacon and covered in brown gravy.

Junk Food Pizza - Large meat pizza covered with potato skins, mozzarella sticks, mini taco’s, jalapeƱo poppers and onion rings.

Heart Attack Sandwich - Chicken fried steak, chicken-fried bacon, a country sausage, a fried egg, a fried green tomato topped with cheddar cheese and sandwiched between buns toasted in bacon fat, all served with a gravy dipping sauce.

A few more of the site's offerings? Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf With A Layer Of Mac And Cheese! Deep Fried S’more On A Stick! Deep Fried Peanut Butter-Covered Brownie Wrapped In Cookie Dough! Sausage, Egg And Cheese On A Chocolate Glazed Donut! I could go on for ages, but I think you get the drift by now.

People, please! This is insanity. It's one thing to go out and enjoy the occasional hot dog or burger. It's another thing to bake an entire pie out of hot dogs or to invent a massive burger that is sandwiched between two large meat pizzas and topped with eggs, bacon and colby and pepper jack cheeses. My stomach is churning just thinking about the calorie count on these things.

Anyone ever seen The Great Outdoors? It's a fabulous movie from the late '80s featuring Dan Aykroyd and the late, great John Candy. Anyhoo, there is an infamous dinner scene in the movie where Candy attempts to polish off the "Ole 96er," a 96-ounce prime age beef steak (including fat and gristle) at a local restaurant to earn everyone dining a free meal. The type of overindulgence featured on that blog kinda reminds me of that scene. Check it out!

The Great Outdoors - The Old 96er

Now, just to prove that you CAN have fast food-friendly meals and combos without breaking the calorie bank in one sitting, here are some lower-fat, sugar-free recipes from Hungry Girl and Splenda to keep you happy. Enjoy!

Chili-rific Cheeseburger

Cheesy Good Chili Fries

Chocolate Coffee Souffle Cake

Peanut Butter Chocolate Angel Bites

Friday, February 20, 2009

Watch out below!!

In case you were wondering, I fully expect to spend my entire weekend butt-down in the snow. Why, you ask? Well, I'm headed up to Beech Mountain, NC to go skiing with friends. I have been on skis approximately one other time in my life and that was back when I was in my "tweens." On that occasion, I believe I had finally mastered the bunny hill, after spending a day outside, when it was time to leave and head home. So basically, this will be a new experience for me...which means you all need to wish me luck! And don't say "break a leg!"
The best part of the trip is, we'll be staying in a kick-ass cabin complete with a hot tub and fire pit. You KNOW we will be grilling up some hot dogs and s'mores in that joint. Anyhoo, before I head out for the weekend, I wanted to share two sucralose-sweetened recipes bound to warm up even the frostiest fingers and toes.
Have a great weekend!

Hot Cocoa


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who's got soul?

In honor of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout February, a good friend asked me to feature some low-calorie, low-fat soul food recipes. This was a welcome assignment for me, since I live within walking distance to some of the best soul food restaurants in Atlanta - places I try not to visit too frequently due to their high-calorie (read: delicious!!) menu content. So imagine my happiness upon finding several yummy-looking, relatively low-fat recipes on sites such as, Weight Watchers and Hungry Girl. Check it out!

Oven-Fried Chicken

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Faux-Fried Green Tomatoes

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

More recipes with a sugar substitute

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

You Betta Work!

A lot of paint and powder and a positive attitude, high heels and a dream, will take you a long way. RuPaul

Battling a wicked headache and some congestion yesterday, I decided to blow off the post-work trip to the gym and instead went home and watched TV. And boy am I happy I did because I think I may have found my new favorite show...Errr, let me rephrase. This particular show can't replace Lost or The Office, since my love for those two holds no bounds, but RuPaul's Drag Race (airing on Logo every Monday night) could very well rank in my Top 5. Ohmigosh, y'all. If you haven't seen it, tune in! It is hi-LAR-ious.
Here's the 411: RuPaul’s Drag Race is a new reality competition that explores what it takes to be a drag star today. Each of the nine contestants has his own distinctive style and look as a woman, ranging from androgynous punk to ’50s schoolmarm. Hysterically funny, the show is nearly a dead-on spoof of Project Runway and America's Next Top Model. RuPaul, for example, serves as the host AND mentor on the show playing both the Tyra/Heidi and Tim Gunn roles.
From Miss Ru herself: "Tell Tyra [Banks] that the Queen has returned, and while you’re at it have Heidi [Klum] clear the runway. I’m going to pump some ‘realness’ into reality. To be a winner on this show the contestants need to be a fashion designer, an American Idol, and a top model all rolled up into one. And they definitely have to be smarter than a fifth grader."
So far, "RuPaul’s Drag Race" seems to be a campy, good-humored ode to cross-dressing, lip-synching and striking an attitude. I understand this show might not go over well with all audiences, but I think even the most straight-laced types will enjoy some of the premise. For starters, it's only three episodes in, but already the show's contestants have had to: reinvent their glam drag looks using thrift store clothing, divide into two rival girl groups and perform a number AND show off their Oprah-esque talents as newscaster, product spokesperson and talk show host. Even better, the bottom two drag queens have to duke it out each week in a lip-synching contest to see who stays and who goes. And RuPaul's hilarious and catty quips are the icing on the cake. Examples...
1. "Tighten those tuck-in pants. It’s going to be a bumpy ride."

2. "I've consulted with the judges, my lawyers and my housekeeper, but the final decision is mine to make."

3. And the kissoff line that shames all others: "Sashay, away. I hope you take this experience back home with you and continue to do what you do best and inspire the children."

Seriously. You need to be watching this. It.Is.Awesome!

Oh and P.S. Tomorrow is National Drink Wine Day! So raise a glass of your favorite and relax.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Roses are red...yada yada yada

In case you've been living under a rock the past couple weeks, you probably already know that tomorrow is Valentine's Day - that lovely little holiday featuring sappy Hallmark cards, roses, chocolates and expensive meals. As you can tell, I'm a bit of a Grinch when it comes to celebrating V-Day. Regardless of my relationship status, I've never understood why people make such a big deal out of it. But I digress...

The Washington Post ran an interesting article earlier this week featuring a list of healthy foods hued from pink to rose to auburn to scarlet in honor of the romantic holiday. And that, my friends, is one thing I can get behind when it comes to Valentines. Here are a few of the highlights:

* Red bell peppers. This vegetable has nearly three times the daily value of Vitamin C and tons of antioxidants to fight cancer-causing free radicals. It's also rich in Vitamin A, which is thought to protect against lung cancer and promote eye health, and is one of the handful of food sources of lycopene, which protects against such cancers as prostate and pancreatic.

* Red quinoa. It looks and tastes like a nutty grain, but quinoa, red or otherwise, is actually a seed. It's a sound source of protein, making it a staple for vegetarians and vegans. In addition to potassium, it contains manganese and magnesium, both of which may help mitigate migraines.

* Radicchio. This low-calorie, highly flavored leaf vegetable makes a colorful addition to salads. It has lots of vitamins B6, C, E and K, plus folate and potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.

* Watermelon. Watermelon is a rare source of lycopene, plus vitamins C and A, both powerful antioxidants. Because it's mostly water yet very sweet, it's a dieter's dream: You can eat a lot, sate your sweet tooth and feel very full without consuming many calories. The redder and riper the melon, the more nutrients.

* Raspberries. These berries are good sources of Vitamin C and fiber.

* Cherries. Another sweet source of Vitamin C and fiber.

* Strawberries. In addition to containing more Vitamin C than any other berry, strawberries contain phenols, making them powerful inflammation fighters.

* Red beans. Canned or dried, red pinto and kidney beans contain lots of cholesterol-busting, blood-sugar-regulating fiber, and they are packed with protein. Red beans also feature molybdenum, which battles sulfites that can cause headaches and rapid heartbeat in some people.

* Red potatoes. Red-skinned pototoes are a relatively low-calorie, high-fiber food chock-full of Vitamin C.

* Red onions. All onions, including red ones, are rich in Vitamin C and fiber; they also reduce the risk of stomach and other cancers and heart disease. Their chromium helps cells respond to insulin, helping to regulate blood sugar and perhaps reduce diabetes risk. Incorporate it into your diet. The stronger the smell, the better the nutritional value.

* Red wine. A daily glass of red wine is believed to help keep the cardiovascular system in shape and reduce the risk of blood clots.

* Red grapes. In addition to Vitamin C and fiber, red grapes confer many of the same heart-health benefits as red wine.

* Tomatoes. Full of the antioxidants lycopene and Vitamin C, tomatoes are thought to protect against many cancers, particularly those of the prostate and pancreas.

* Cranberries. Snack on them dried, or drink a low-sugar cranberry juice for a huge dose of Vitamin C. Like red wine, cranberry juice keeps such pathogens as E. coli from adhering to the lining of your digestive tract. Research supports the long-held legend that cranberry juice helps keep urinary-tract infections at bay.

And now, to prove how much I love all of you, here are two sucralose-sweetened dessert recipes. You can share them with your sweetie without the fear of busting out of your pants. Have a fabulous weekend!

Chocolate Velvet Mousse

HG's Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Omelettes and bagels and bacon, oh my!

Why is breakfast the best meal of the day? Seriously! Although I'm a food lovah and rarely turn down a meal of any type, there is something so comforting about that first meal of the day. Take today, for example. After a very busy morning and afternoon, I finally sat down to eat a late lunch - one consisting of scrambled eggs and a bagel. I just couldn't pass it up after I saw it in the building's cafeteria.
Whether it's a muffin, waffles or a hearty bowl of oatmeal, breakfast foods have got my vote!

Here are some sucralose-sweetened breakfast recipes to help start your next morning on the right foot.

French Toast Strata

Oat Bran Pancakes

Eggs Benedict

Friday, February 06, 2009

I am nuts for Nutella!

My fondness for Nutella began in college, when every meal we ate either came out of a jar, frozen dinner box or could easily be cooked in a crock pot or toaster. This means you would typically find some of the hazelnut and cocoa-flavored goodness next to the tub of peanut butter and endless supply of ramen noodle packets and macaroni and cheese boxes. By the time I went backpacking in Europe, however, that fondness had blossomed into a full-blown love affair. I mean, how can you top a portable chocolate that can be spread on bread, fruit, crackers and pastries? My traveling buddies and I - all of whom were on a serious, shoestring budget - frequently dined on bread, cheese, wine and Nutella. And ya know what? It was fabulous! We loved our Nutella! Although I don't eat much of the sweet treat anymore (a rapidly slowing metabolism and a few extra pounds quickly put an end to that habit!) I still do indulge every once in a blue moon. So needless to say, when I finally made my way to the newly-opened and uber-popular Flip Burger Boutique this past weekend (headed up by Richard Blais of last season's Top Chef), I was delighted to discover they had a Nutella & Burnt Marshmallow milkshake on the menu. And all I have to say is...It.Was.Worth.Every.Last.Calorie. Wow, that was a tasty shake! On a sidenote, some of you might be thrilled - or horrified - to know they also sell a Krispy Kreme shake.
But back to the some background, the product was created in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker. At the time, cocoa was in short supply because of rationing during World War II so Ferrero used hazelnuts to extend the chocolate supply. It was eventually imported from Italy to the U.S. back in 1983 and quickly grew in popularity. Nutella is now marketed in more than 75 countries across the globe and outsells all brands of peanut butter combined worldwide.

Now, as we all know, it's Friday afternoon, so what better way to close out the long work week than with a Nutella-based, reduced-sugar cookie recipe! Thanks to recipezaar for this one. Enjoy and have a safe weekend.

Nutella Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

More Splenda recipes here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Toasty Tiramisu

Listen closely, because you won't hear me say this often...not in Atlanta, anyway. It's a wee bit chilly outside. YES! I said it.
Honestly, though, the walk to my car this morning was quite frosty. According to the Weather Channel, Atlanta temperatures were in the teens this morning, with a wind chill near zero. Now, I know it's nothing compared to what folks are dealing with in the Midwest and Northeast - but for these parts, that is downright arctic.
Anyhoo, between that, and my ongoing dental woes - I had to go back to the dentist yet again this morning to get final impressions done for a pesky crown - I've been in a bit of a foul mood all day. But then I discovered this fabulous sucralose-sweetened recipe, which combines two of my favorite things - espresso and tiramisu (the flavoring, anyway!) This has certainly helped turn my frown upside down. And now, I can't wait to run home and try it. I figure if this doesn't warm up my frozen fingers, nothing will.

'Warm Tiramisu' Latte
1 packet SPLENDA® Flavors for Coffee, French Vanilla
1 packet SPLENDA® Flavors for Coffee, Cinnamon Spice
1/4 cup espresso
1/2 cup 1% milk
2 teaspoons mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix SPLENDA® Flavors for Coffee, espresso and milk together in a mug. Heat in a microwave 30 to 40 seconds or to desired temperature. Pour into jar of blender. Add remaining ingredients. Blend 15 to 20 seconds or until frothy. Serve immediately.