Thursday, August 27, 2009

That is B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Wow. You know how you just assume that certain things will always be around? Like flip-flops or denim or re-runs of Cheers, Sesame Street and The Golden Girls? Well, apparently some good things do eventually come to an end. After 26 years, "Reading Rainbow" will end its run on PBS this Friday. Although the show stopped production in 2006, they continued to show the old episodes on PBS. But the network's contract with the show expires on Friday and they aren't renewing it. And so another childhood relic has reached the end of the rainbow. Wocka wocka wocka! Thanks, folks. I'm here all week. Be sure to tip your waitress!
In all seriousness, I loved me some "Reading Rainbow" when I was a wee one. There was nothing better than listening to Levar Burton explain passages from various books or chatting up people about their work. For those unfamiliar with the show, each episode centered on a theme from a book or other children's literature. Over the years, it drew a number of celebrity guest readers and contributors ranging from Angela Bassett, Matthew Broderick, Diahann Carroll and Julia Child to Bill Cosby, Phyllis Diller, Jerry Orbach, Run-D.M.C. and James Earl Jones.
Most of all, though, I will miss the awesome intro which depicted a rocking song and a cartoon butterfly transforming the surroundings of kids reading books. Check it out...

While you wipe away your tears over the soon-to-be-departed Reading Rainbow, here is a bit of sweet news to help turn that frown upside down. Tomorrow is Banana Lovers Day. YUM! So here are some sucralose-sweetened, low-calorie recipes to celebrate the big event.

Raspberry Banana Smoothie

Banana Cream Tart

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane...

But don't worry because I'll be back again!

Have I mentioned that I have become a total jet-setter this year - albeit one lacking significant funds? Seriously, though, 2009 has turned into my year of travel. In recent weeks, I have been to Jacksonville, Gainesville, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Savannah. And tonight, I hop on a flight to Chicago for the weekend. That's not all folks! Next weekend, I'll be in Tennessee for a whitewater rafting trip, while the following weekend I head back to Chicago. And don't even get me started on all of the road trips in the pipeline this fall in the name of college football. It's gonna be exhausting. As for the bulk of my travels thus far, I blame weddings. Yup, about 90 percent of my trips involve wedding nuptials. Needless to say, I'm tired. And broke. On the plus side, though, I've been eating some pretty delicious meals including jambalaya, muffulettas, gumbo and po'boys this summer.
And you can bet I've been dreaming about my upcoming dining options in Chicago - which I consider one of the top cities when it comes to finding yummy, affordable, authentic food offerings. So what do I really, really want while I'm there? Hmmm....Middle Eastern, Polish, Korean, Filipino, Greek, Indian and Argentinian cuisine. Definitely some deep-dish pizza. Yeeeeeahhhh, it will be difficult to squeeze it all in. Anyhoo, while I haven't officially planned out my menu for this weekend yet, I do know one of my food outings will involve afternoon tea with my mom.
It's been a long time since I last enjoyed this tradition. And what's not to love about it? There are dainty, crustless finger sandwiches, mini-pastries and scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Either way, it's a great excuse to catch up with friends or family while noshing on tasty treats and sipping tea. Y'all should try it sometime, if you haven't already!
But for those unable or unwilling to find a restaurant or hotel that serves afternoon tea, here are a few low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened recipes that can help you enjoy this custom from the comforts of your home. Enjoy!

Vanilla Chai Latte

Caramel Hazelnut Black Tea

Pistachio Cranberry Scones

Blueberry and Lemon Thyme Scones

Monday, August 10, 2009

Low-calorie foods? Check. Exercise? Who needs it?!

According to the current Time Magazine cover story, exercise might not help with weight loss efforts. In fact, it could even result in extra pounds. Wait...what? Did I read that right? (Rubs eyes) A trip to the gym could lead to weight gain? STOP THE PRESS!

I’m not joking, folks. The lengthy article discusses a growing body of research that supports this claim: although exercise burns calories, it can also stimulate hunger. And not only do people tend to eat more after exercising, but these post-workout rewards often feature high-fat, calorie-rich snacks like muffins, Gatorade, ice cream or chips. For example, researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston recently discovered that when the 538 kids involved in their 18-month study began to exercise, they wound up eating an average of 100 calories more than they had just burned.

That being said, no one can deny that there aren't a lot of advantages linked to physical fitness. For starters, people who work out regularly are at significantly lower risk for various diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart problems. In addition, exercise improves mental health and cognitive ability. But many obesity experts now believe that frequent, low-level physical activity actually works better than high-impact, sweat-inducing rounds of vigorous exercise.

Interestingly enough, some of this research is in line with a study published in “Pediatrics” magazine two years ago. Researchers then found that overweight children could prevent further weight gain simply by walking another 2,000 steps and eliminating 100 calories each day using products sweetened with sucralose (marketed as Splenda). This was apparently the first time clinical evidence showed that overweight children could effectively prevent excess weight gain by making small changes to their lifestyle.

So here are my thoughts, for what it's worth...don't forgo physical activity for the rest of your life. But if you're trying to lose weight, focus those efforts on food rather than exercise. Or as the author of the Time magazine article wrote, "It's what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight."

Before I let you go, remember that a sugar-free diet can help shrink the waistline over time. According to this calorie savings calculator, switching from a regular 8-ounce cola to a sucralose-sweetened variation could save 100 calories each day - and result in a loss of up to 15 pounds throughout the year. And a blueberry muffin baked with sucralose can shave 80 calories from your daily intake. Not bad, ey? Either way, you will find that making small changes and turning to low-calorie foods and beverages sweetened with sucralose can have a huge impact on weight over the course of the year.

And for some final, fascinating tidbits provided by Time Magazine, this is what it would take for a 154-pound, 30-year-old woman to work off a 360-calorie blueberry muffin:
* 115 minutes of weight lifting
* 66 minutes of gardening
* 21 minutes of fast skating
* 66 minutes of lawn mowing
* 77 minutes of easy cycling
* 92 minutes of vacuuming
* 33 minutes of jogging (5 mph)
* 230 minutes spent folding the laundry.


Friday, August 07, 2009

RIP John Hughes

Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...and an athlete...and a basket case...a princess...and a criminal...Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club. (The Breakfast Club)

I gotta be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! (National Lampoons Vacation)

As a child of the late 80s, especially one who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, it's hard not to be impacted by news regarding the death of John Hughes. The writer and director of some of my generation's favorite movies - Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Pretty in Pink, etc. - died yesterday of a sudden heart attack. And he was only 59. Hearing that, my heart broke a little bit. You see, I grew up watching his movies...over and over and over again. Heck, I was even in the background of one of them (see the museum scene in She's Having a Baby). Not only do I still have a collection of John Hughes films on VHS, but like many in my age bracket, I can recite numerous quotes from said flicks off the top of my head. And there is still that huge crush I have on Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. Sigh.
To sum it up, when I heard he passed away yesterday, I felt like a part of my youth died with him.

Just moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. John, thanks for the great memories. You will be missed.