Friday, April 24, 2009

What would Shakespeare eat?


Lafeu: 'Twas a good lady, 'twas a good lady: we may pick a thousand salads ere we light on such another herb.
Clown: Indeed, sir, she was the sweet marjoram of the salad, or rather, the herb of grace.

- All's Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare

Alas! It appears my favorite big-city mayor, Chicago's own Richard M. Daley declared April 23rd as "Talk Like Shakespeare Day" to celebrate the 445th birthday of the man many consider the greatest playwright in the English language. In a proclamation, Daley encouraged city residents to "screw their courage to the sticking place and celebrate Shakespeare by vocal acclamation of his words."
Although I'm now in Atlanta, I would have happily played along had I known beforehand. Any excuse to unleash the inner bard! My coworkers would have loved it, I'm sure. "Prithee good sirrah! Wouldst thou pass yonder stapler?"

You know what? Who cares if it was officially yesterday? I say every day can be "Talk Like Shakespeare Day." As a matter of fact, if any driver dare cut me off this afternoon, I'll call him or her an "unwholesome plume-plucked scurvy-knave!" (Thanks to the Shakespearean Insults Generator for that gem!)
For all my fellow Shakespeare lovers, if you need assistance evoking his vernacular, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater has unveiled a Web site featuring everything from a rap song about the finer points of speaking Shakespearean to a Twitter feed where generous bards translate your 21st-century English into its 16th-century equivalent. There are also tips on how to gab like Willy. Check it out...

How to Talk like Shakespeare
* Instead of you, say thou. Instead of y’all, say thee.
* Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
* Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
* Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
* Don’t waste time saying "it," just use the letter "t" (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).
* Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
* When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
* To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
* When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say "Get thee to a nunnery!"
* When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

And since this IS a blog about eating healthy, here are a few modern-day, low-calorie variations of food recipes that Shakespeare just might have enjoyed when he was alive. Thanks to Atlanta's own Shakespeare Tavern for the menu ideas!

Shepherd's Pie

Cornish Pastry

Splenda Brown Sugar Apple Crisp

More recipes with a sugar substitute.

Finally, since it's Friday and I'm heading into a weekend full of festivals, birthday parties and other fun events, here is my stab at a Shakespearean sign-out, courtesy of the afore-mentioned Twitter feed: "By my fay, must end this week, so much imbibing may I partake!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ehhhhh-chooooo!

Silly me. I decided to sleep with my windows open last night, enticed by the glorious weather of late. But instead of rolling out of bed with a giant smile on my face, I woke up itchy and sniffling. (Yes, the title of this entry is the sound of my ginormous sneeze this morning.) Thank you Mother Freakin' Nature! Yes, it's pollen season in the ATL again. And according to experts, allergy sufferers in the Southeast might have a particularly tough season this year due to high tree pollen counts caused by fluctuating weather. Some of the major offenders include pine, birch, oak, sweetgum and sycamore trees. Let's put things into perspective, shall we? A moderate pollen count is in the 31 to 60 range, while "extremely high" is anything over 121. Here in Atlanta, our pollen count on Wednesday was 1063. Holy hay fever, Batman! Needless to say, I've already taken some Zyrtec and have been guzzling Emergen-C and hot tea throughout the afternoon.
So what else can I do to get rid of that scratchy, sniffly feeling? Here are some tips to help reduce pollen-related allergy misery.

Around the House
• Wash hands and rinse eyes in cold water to clear residual pollen.
• Keep windows closed and the car sunroof shut.
• Change air filters once a month; wash electrostatic filters.
• Outdoor pets are covered in ragweed; wash them frequently and don't let pets on the bed.
• Allergens linger in carpets and rugs; Vacuum frequently.

Outdoors• Don't dry your laundry outside.
• Shower after spending extended time outdoors.
• Wear glasses or sunglasses outdoors to prevent pollen from irritating the eyes.
• Minimize your activity between 5 and 10 a.m when pollen is usually emitted.
• A prolonged rain scrubs pollen out of the air, but a brief downpour may cause settled particles to become airborne, raising pollen counts.
• Avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves; if you cannot avoid yardwork, wear a pollen mask

In addition, experts say proper nutrtion can alleviate or prevent allergies by: helping dilate air passages, thinning the mucus in the lungs and preventing food-allergy reactions that trigger asthma attacks.

Apparently, some of these foods are beneficial to curbing allergies.

1) Apples are rich in antioxidants that improve lung function. Studies have shown that people who ate as many as five apples per week had significantly better lung function than those who did not eat apples.
2) Omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent source for fighting allergies. Other sources include canola oil, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, walnuts and wheat germ. Mix a small amount wheat germ or flaxseed oil in other foods such as yogurt or spaghetti sauce.
3) For all you fish eaters (blech!) out there, eat two to three servings of coldwater fish each week. Try tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel or trout. Grill or bake the fish; don't fry it.
4) Magnesium-rich foods can help reduce respiratory problems. Eat foods like spinach, artichokes, tofu, sunflower seeds, cashews, navy and pinto beans.
5) Use lots of spices when cooking. There are plenty of ingredients that are easy to use that have anti-inflammatory effects. These include ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions and pepper.
6) Dig into foods like yogurt, ground beef, tofu, oysters, crab or dark turkey or chicken for plenty of zinc.
7) Eat citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit for their natural antihistamine effects. Bananas, pineapple and papaya also work.

Along those lines, here are some low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened recipes to add to the menu. Have a great weekend!

Sesame Strawberry Spinach Salad

Homemade Applesauce

Pineapple Yogurt Dip

Grilled Glazed Salmon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Uncork the wine knowledge

Now that I'm older and wiser...and obviously more mature...I've become more of a wine snob. Instead of those cheap boxes of Franzia (Hello! I was a poor college student once!), I try to find a decent - but still cheap - bottle of wine to pair with various meals. I've even attended a wine tasting here and there. But, like many others, I'm not always sure which wine matches with what type of food. After extensive research - or maybe a five-minute search of the Internet in addition to my own taste tests in recent years - I think I have a pretty comprehensive guide to the ideal wine-food matches. Enjoy!

P.S. The less alcoholic the wine, the fewer calories it contains!

WHITES
Chardonnay - The lemony and unoaked styles are great with fish and chicken dishes.
Sauvignon blanc - Its distinctive aroma and flavor with various hints of gooseberries and grapefruits make good partners to goat cheese salads or grilled fish.
Pinot blanc - This is one to drink with shrimp cocktails or ceviche.
Pinot grigio - Pair a light and crisp, peach variety with vegetable pastas and fish lasagna.
Riesling - The versions with an exotic fruit flavor are great with spicy fish dishes and curries.

REDS
Cabernet sauvignon - Rich, complex with ripe fruity flavors make this magic with red meats.
Merlot - Another wine packed with fruity berries, this tastes great with meaty pastas and casseroles.
Shiraz/syrah - This peppery, heady dark fruit wine is perfect with steaks and grilled meats.
Pinot noir - Good with tomato-based pastas, chopped liver and duck.
Zinfandel - Packed with fruits, spice and pepper, this is the wine to serve with cheese.
Rosé - Light versions are good with paella and seafood.

If you want more of a twist, here are two low-calorie, Sangria recipes.

HG’s Sangria-Seltzer Twist
Hit up the bar for slices of orange, lemon, and lime. Give your favorite fruit wedges a little squeeze before dropping them into your glass. Add 1 oz. of liquor (rum or vodka is yummy) and top with calorie-free seltzer. If your party-throwers are winos, top your glass with a splash of red or blush wine. Now you’ve got a fancy, signature drink that only contains around 100 calories!

George Stella's Sangria
Ingredients:
2 cups Burgundy wine
2 cups club soda or seltzer water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar substitute (recommended: Splenda)
1 lemon, sliced into circles
1 lime, sliced into circles
1/4 cup diet Tang or any Crystal light fruit drink, optional
Directions:
Mix all ingredients together in a punch bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, pour into glasses over ice.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Here today, goo tomorrow....

Happy Good Friday! I'm not sure how the rest of you celebrate Easter weekend, but I can't seem to get through it without snarfing down at least one or two Cadbury Creme eggs. And even though one egg is nearly 172 calories, they are just too yummy to pass up. Hey, cut me some slack, would ya? Easter only rolls around once a year.

But for all of you folks with more discipline, here are some low-cal, sucralose-based dessert recipes sure to indulge your sweet tooth this weekend.

Lemon Pound Cake

Double Layer Carrot Cake

Mango Cheesecake

And, of course, don't forget about the perennial Easter fave known as marshmallow peeps. After all, nothing says Easter like peeps jousting. Sidenote: Just Born - the maker of Peeps - now has a Splenda-based addition to their infamous marshmallow treat line. I don't know yet whether sugar-free Peeps can joust as well as their resilient sugary counterparts, but I'm willing to give it a shot. If you're unfamiliar with Peeps wars, check out this video for a few chuckles.


For any of you old-timers out there (aka, those who remember the 80s), check out this retro Cadbury bunny commercial.


And here is another cool clip that's been making the rounds. An entry in Cadbury's "Unleash the Goo" competition, the video features a complex contraption created solely to squish a Creme Egg.


Finally, I thought I would end this blog post with a passage from one of the most hysterical collections of non-fiction I have ever had the privilege to read. Written by David Sedaris, "Me Talk Pretty One Day" highlights the author's life as an expatriate in Paris and a strange childhood spent with a foul-mouthed brother, a sister that wears fat suits and cosmetic bruises, a father that hordes spoiled fruit and a mother who fills Easter baskets with cartons of cigarettes. Forgive me for my excitement. I'm going to see Sedaris in person next week so I've been re-reading all of his books lately. YAY! Anyhoodle, in this particular chapter, the author is in a French class in Paris and tries, along with fellow students from various nations, to explain the concept of Easter, in beginning French, to a baffled Muslim classmate:

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and ..." She faltered and her fellow countryman came to her aid. "He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two ... morsels of ... lumber." The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm. "He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father." "He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples." "He nice, the Jesus." "He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today." Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as "to give of yourself your only begotten son." Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead. "Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One too may eat of the chocolate." "And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked. I knew the word, so I raised my hand, saying, "The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate." "A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wriggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?" "Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on bed. Which a hand he have a basket and foods." The teacher sighed and shook her head. As far as she was concerned, I had just explained everything wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by a a big bell that flies in from Rome."

Have a fabulous weekend, folks!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Just another manic Monday...

Up until a few minutes ago, I'd been feeling pretty foul today...not sick so much as cranky. A combination of a totally gray Monday combined with a heavy work load and all the depressing news of late (Scores Dead in Italian Earthquake! Binghamton Shooting Rampage! Dad Killed 5 Kids Because Wife Was Leaving! Media Witness Solemn Return of Fallen Service Member! etc.) had me blue most of the afternoon. Fortunately, however, someone just sent me this clip and I now find myself grinning from ear-to-ear. Seriously, watch it and thank me later.



And in keeping with the theme of the Sound of Music song featured in the clip, here are two sucralose-sweetened recipes that will come in handy the next time you have a hankering for tea with jam and bread. Enjoy these Splenda recipes!

Vanilla Chai Latte
Ingredients:
1 cup 1% milk
2 spiced chai tea bags
2 packets SPLENDA® Flavors for Coffee, French Vanilla
ground cinnamon
Directions:
Pour milk into microwave safe mug. Add tea bags. Heat until hot. Allow tea bags to steep for 4 minutes and then remove. Stir in SPLENDA® Flavors for Coffee, French Vanilla and sprinkle ground cinnamon on top if desired.

Mixed Berry Jam
Ingredients:
6 cups fresh raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cups SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1 cup cold water
1 (1.75 ounce) package no-sugar-needed pectin
1 pint blueberries
Directions:
1. Combine raspberries and sugar in a heavy bottomed pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Boil 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Mash strawberries with a fork or potato masher.
3. Add SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener and strawberries to raspberries. Stir constantly and boil over medium-high heat for an additional 10-15 minutes.
4. Pour cold water into a small saucepan. Whisk pectin into water, and let stand 2-3 minutes. Allow the pectin to absorb the water.
5. Boil water and pectin, then stir into fruit mixture and reduce heat to medium-low. Add blueberries. Simmer and stir for 5-6 minutes, until pectin is thoroughly blended with the fruit.
6. Freeze in sterile canning jars.

Friday, April 03, 2009

TGIF!

After excessive festivities in recent weeks due to various birthdays, anniversaries, housewarming parties and other milestones in friends lives, I was looking forward to a nice, low-key evening tonight. I had hoped to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and maybe a good book or movie. Oh but no! Turns out there are more birthdays on the calendar this weekend. Will it never stop? * Sigh *
Sooo, I'm now heading immediately from work to a Mexican restaurant to help a friend celebrate her 30th birthday. On the flip side, the weather seems to be improving - so what better way to enjoy a nice night than with a cool margarita? For those of you who love Mexican restaurants but DON'T want to waste more money (or calories) on food and booze this weekend, here are a few options. Thanks to Hungry Girl for the cocktail recipes.

Magical Low-Calorie Margarita
Ingredients:
6 oz. Sierra Mist Free (or Diet Sprite Zero, or your other fave no-cal lemon-lime soda)
*1.5 oz. tequila
1/2 tsp. Crystal Light powdered drink mix, Lemonade
1 oz. lime juice
Optional: lime slice for garnish and salt or no-calorie sweetener for rim of glass
Directions:
If desired, run some lime juice along the rim of the glass and dip into a dish of salt or sweetener. Mix all ingredients together. Pour over 1 cup of crushed ice. Garnish with lime slice.

Tropical Mango-rita Slushie
Ingredients:
1/2 cup Diet V8 Splash in Tropical Blend
1/4 cup frozen unsweetened mango chunks
1 shot (1 1/2 oz.) blanco or silver tequila
1/4 tsp. Crystal Light Lemonade powdered drink mix (1/4th of an On The Go packet or 1/16th of a tub)
1 cup crushed ice OR 5 - 8 ice cubes
Directions:
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Tomato Raspberry Salsa

Corn Tomalito

Almond Coconut Flan

Okay, so I know I wrote a long, rambling post just last week about how much I love bacon - and I still totally stand by that - but I have to share this video of the most precious piglet ever!! I so want this little guy as my house pet. Oh and P.S. If Kingsford doesn't put a smile on your face this Friday, then you clearly have a cold, dark heart.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Can't anyone take a joke anymore?

Wow, people are so gullible! Yesterday was April Fool's Day so you would think everyone would expect pranks galore! But apparently folks are still falling for the crazy, year after year. Case in point: a viral email clip showing the "first-ever flying hotelicopter" apparently fooled millions of people - with tens of thousands referencing it on Facebook and Twitter pages. The spoof advertisement featured a Russian-made plane with the tagline: "For the first time in aviation history, the luxury of a five-star hotel room can finally take flight."



And then there was the Improv Everywhere "best funeral ever" skit. I heard about it yesterday and immediately thought "Hee! It's gotta be a big April Fool's Day joke!" Turns out, I was right. But apparently even some news stations took the bait. Long story short, Improv Everywhere (which is a group internationally known for its prankster ways) said yesterday that their latest "mission" involved sending out 30 Improv agents to a random funeral, which was selected from the obituary section of the newspaper. From the Web site: "We picked a man who had very few surviving relatives and then showed up to his funeral to make it truly awesome." The Best Funeral Ever mission was staged for April Fool’s Day and the upset “family members” were all actors and friends of Improv Everywhere. Well, DUH! But that didn't stop a local news station from covering the event on the nightly news as if it actually happened. For those unfamiliar with IE, you should spend some time checking out their Web site. I've actually been a fan of them for a few years now, ever since I saw coverage of their awesome U2 hoax. That particular event entailed dressing up like the band and performing on a rooftop across from Madison Square Garden only hours before the real U2 was scheduled to perform there. They drew a substantial crowd before police caught on and detained them. Some of my other favorite IE skits include the annual No Pants subway ride, the Best Buy uniform prank and, of course, "The Moebius," where a group of agents carried out a short sequence of events in a Starbucks cafe every five minutes for an hour. I suggest you look these up on YouTube and watch them. Not only are they insanely entertaining, but I also like that they are not demeaning to viewers. No one, other than perhaps the actors, is made to look the fool. Finally, for all you Star Wars fans out there, ThinkGeek yesterday unveiled a "Tauntaun sleeping bag," a plush replica of the beast featured in Empire Strikes Back. According to the description, the sleeping bag includes a "built-in embroidered Tauntaun head pillow," "a glowing Lightsaber zipper pull," and "the exact synthetic compounds needed to recreate Tauntaun fur" all for the bargain price of $39.99. Too bad it's fake! But apparently so many people flooded the site looking for the item, ThinkGeek is now hoping to someday create a real one. This is their response: ATTN Tauntaun Fanatics! Due to an overwhelming tsunami of requests from YOU THE PEOPLE, we have decided to TRY and bring this to life. We have no clue if the suits at Lucasfilms will grant little ThinkGeek a license, nor do we know how much it would ultimately retail for. But if you are interested in ever owning one of these, click the link below and we'll try! So here's my belated April Fool's Day prank to everyone...go home and eat all the cake and ice cream you can find! It won't have any impact on your waistline!!

I jest. Har har. What's no joke, however, is this delicious, sucralose-sweetened Curried Turkey and Apple Salad recipe.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 medium apple, cut into chunks
1 pound roasted turkey breast, chopped into bite size chunks
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
Directions:
1. Place oil, curry powder and onion in a small saucepan. Heat on medium high heat. Simmer 1-2 minutes or until onions are tender. Add lemon juice, SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener and salt. Simmer over medium heat approx. 1 minute or until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and cool.
2. Add mayonnaise to cooled sauce. Stir well. Place prepared salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing until evenly coated.
3. Serve on salad greens. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped apricots.