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!