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.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's all Greek to me

Okay. So I've really tried to be healthy lately - as in, loading up every day on low-fat salads for lunch, eating yogurt and fruit for snacks, etc. - but it's been so difficult because there is just so much going on. I know it sounds awful: My social life is too active, wah wah, cry me a river, right? But seriously, gang...I was down in Florida last weekend for a wedding, which meant I spent a few days drinking and eating all sorts of food ranging from home-cooked Filipino cuisine (YUM!) to pub grub and wedding cake. I was back one day this week when an out-of-state friend came to visit. That, of course, means we've been hanging out at restaurants every day and indulging in a Mexican dinner, Indian food and likely some ballpark food tonight at the Braves game. And did I mention that I will also have friends in town next week - which means even more meals out before I head out of town for Memorial Day weekend? STOP THE MADNESS! Anyhoo, I figure if you can't fight 'em, join 'em, so I'm giving up on the healthy eating until my schedule dies down...Nah, I kid! I WILL try to eat low-cal foods and hit the gym regularly the next few weeks. However, I also plan to taste some delicious Mediterranean food at the Greek Festival this weekend. Just try and stop me. I love, love, LOVE souvlaki, tiropita, rice pilaf and dolmades!

By the way, looky what I found! Some low-cal Greek cuisine recipes for all my lovely readers out there, including a sucralose-sweetened baklava recipe.

Baklava

Spanakopita

Vegetarian Pastitsio

And finally, since it's Friday and I'm in a happy place, here are two clips from films featuring a little something Greek. The first is one of my childhood faves, The Moon-Spinners. For those unfamiliar with the Disney flick, it stars the inimitable Hayley Mills and involves a jewel theft on the island of Crete. The second video is from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. OPA!



Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Hola amigos. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Anyone else celebrating over a pitcher of margaritas or cerveza and a plate of chips and salsa tonight? If so, you won't be alone. In the United States, celebrants claim Cinco de Mayo (of "Fifth of May") is a way to honor Mexican culture and heritage, much as St. Patrick's Day, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese New Year are used to celebrate those of Irish, German, and Chinese ancestry respectively. Similar to those holidays, Cinco de Mayo is now observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin.
By the way, let's clear something up, as it seems to be a popular misconception here in the states. Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico's Independence Day. Instead, it commemorates an initial victory of Mexican forces over French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla back in 1862. It is also not a federal holiday in Mexico - most banks, government buildings, offices, restaurants, etc. remain open. Moving on. If you're searching for some low-cal food and beverage recipes for the next Mexican-themed party or Cinco de Mayo celebration, look no further. Here are a few yummy, yet low-fat items sure to please all your friends and guests. Thanks to Hungry Girl for the recipes!

Freezy-Fresa Strawberry Margarita
Ingredients:
3/4 cup Sprite Zero (or any diet lemon-lime soda)
One shot (1.5 oz.) tequila
One serving (half a packet or 1/8th of a tub) sugar-free strawberry powdered drink mix (any variety, like Crystal Light Strawberry-Kiwi or Energy Wild Strawberry)
4 frozen unsweetened strawberries
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 cup crushed ice or 5 - 8 ice cubes
Optional Garnish: lime wedge
Directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until uniform and slushy. Pour into a nice glass and, if you like, garnish with a wedge of lime.

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 (the clear kind)
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. Enjoy!

Exploding Chicken Taquitos
Ingredients:
8 small (6-inch) yellow corn tortillas
One 9.75-oz. (or 10-oz.) can 98% fat-free chunk white chicken breast in water, drained well
1/2 cup salsa
1/3 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp. dry taco seasoning mix
Optional: red enchilada sauce, additional salsa, fat-free sour cream, for dipping
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken and salsa, and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove chicken mixture from the fridge, and drain any excess liquid. Add cheese and taco seasoning, and mix to combine. This is your filling. Set aside. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with nonstick spray, and set it aside. Dampen two paper towels, and place tortillas between them. Microwave for about 1 minute, until tortillas are warm and pliable. Take one tortilla (keep the rest between the paper towels), spray both sides lightly with nonstick spray, and lay it flat on a clean dry surface. Spoon about 2 heaping tbsp. of filling onto the tortilla. Spread it evenly across the entire surface, and roll tortilla up tightly, so that you have a cigar-shaped tube. Secure with toothpicks and place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Bake for 14 - 16 minutes, until crispy. Allow taquitos to cool for 5 minutes. If you like, dunk in enchilada sauce, salsa, or sour cream!

Cheesy Beefy Quesadilla
Ingredients:
1 large La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Low Carb/High Fiber tortilla
1/3 cup frozen ground-beef-style soy crumbles (like the ones by Boca and Morningstar Farms)
1/4 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese
One-half wedge The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese
1 tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1/2 tbsp. chopped scallions
1/4 tsp. dry taco seasoning mix
Optional: additional fat-free sour cream, for dipping
Directions:
In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine soy crumbles, cheddar cheese, scallions, sour cream, and seasoning mix, stirring thoroughly. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir again, and set aside. Lay tortilla flat and spread cheese wedge evenly over one half.
Bring a medium-large pan sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat, and lay tortilla in it with the cheesy side up. Cook for about 30 seconds. Top the cheesy tortilla half with soy crumble mixture. Using a spatula, carefully fold the plain tortilla half over the other half, pressing down with the spatula to seal. Cook for about 1 minute, until slightly toasted on the bottom. Flip and continue to cook for about 1 minute, until both sides are toasted. Remove from heat and cut into four triangles. Serve with sour cream for dipping, if you like.

If you happen to be hosting a party tonight, here is a video clip packed with some really good Cinco de Mayo event tips.



As for me, I've been going out way too much lately. So I think I'll slip on some sweats, whip up a batch of sucralose-sweetened Horchata and honor Mexican heritage by watching "Como Agua Para Chocolate,"one of the best films (and novels!) ever. Hasta luego!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Nibbling on nature's candy

Okay, so I confess that whenever I eat trail mix, I tend to eat the M&Ms first. Yummy chocolate goodness wins every time! However, the raisins are always a close second. Seriously, I love me some nature's candy. Always have, always will, I suppose. So how fortunate that raisins - despite the sweet taste - are a low-fat, healthy food snack.
For those unaware, raisins are an antioxidant-rich fruit that can help cleanse the blood and prevent oxygen-based damage to cells in the body. They are also said to promote bone density, as well as healthy gums and teeth. In addition, just like carrots, raisins are seen as a preventative measure for macular degeneration. In other words, parents, please feed your children raisins if you want to improve their chances of having good eyesight.
Moving on...here's a little food for thought for all you trivia buffs.
* Raisins were produced in Persia and Egypt as early as 2,000 BC, with one of their first mentions being in the Old Testament. Murals from prehistoric times show that raisins were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean region of Europe during that era. Raisins were also highly prized by the ancient Romans, who adorned their places of worships with them and used them as barter currency and as prizes for the winners of sporting events. In addition, raisins were oftentimes an integral item on the menus at Bacchanalian feasts. From ancient Rome, the practice of drying grapes into raisins subsequently spread throughout the world.
* Currently, the largest commercial producer of raisins is California in a region known as the San Joaquin valley where raisins have been cultivated since the 19th century. The tale told of their introduction and subsequent popularity in California and the United States involves one enterprising grape grower who creatively responded to the forces of Nature. In 1873, when a heat wave destroyed the grape harvest, the grower took the dried grapes, the raisins, to a grocer in San Francisco whose attempts to sell this ancient delicacy were met with great response and demand, beginning the rise in popularity of the raisin in America.
* Australia, Turkey, Greece, Iran and Chile are the other leading commercial producers of raisins.

And here are a few sucralose-sweetened, raisin-filled recipes, courtesy of www.Splenda.com.

Crispy-Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Banana Pecan Waffles with Rum Raisin Syrup

Cinna-Raisin Rice Pudding

Almond-Raisin Biscotti

Finally, for a little Friday fun, does anyone else remember the old-school California Raisins ads featuring the Motown-singing claymation raisins? I used to love those commercials. Brings back memories! Happy weekend, y'all.