Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feeling a little big for my britches...

Sausage balls. Chocolate pecan pie. Cajun turducken with pork sausage stuffing. Fudge. Wine, beer, bloodies and mimosas. Those are just a few of the items I've enjoyed over the past week. Needless to say, my pants are a wee bit tighter than before I headed to Chicago for my holiday break. And seeing as how I'm here for another three days - and there is deep dish pizza, Greek food, Indian cuisine and other goodies still on tap - I might have to be rolled onto the plane Violet Beauregarde style.
Anyhoo, I've been trying to keep it on the healthy side, really! I've been exercising in the mornings, eating healthy breakfasts, not noshing on high-cal snacks throughout the day - but there is just so much temptation. I think I'll likely have to chalk this trip up to a loss and start over again when I get back to Atlanta.
By the way, there is one particular holiday treat that I have not enjoyed yet. December is almost over and I haven't had a single glass of eggnog! Don't worry. I'll be indulging in the delicious beverage soon enough. It truly is one of my favorite tasty treats during the holidays. Top it off with a little rum and some vanilla ice cream and it's heaven in a glass!
To keep things light, I'll be whipping up this sucralose-sweetened eggnog recipe tonight. Check it out.

Elegant Eggnog

1 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 egg yolks
4 cups 2% milk
2 cups fat-free half and half
2 tablespoons vanilla extract*
1. Mix together first 3 ingredients in a large heavy
saucepan. Set aside.
2. Whisk egg yolks. Add to SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener mixture whisking until blended. Gradually whisk in milk.
3. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until the temperature reaches 175 degrees approximately (5 to 8 minutes). Remove from heat and whisk in half and half; cool.
4. Cover and chill 3 hours or up to 3 days. Stir in vanilla extract just before serving.

* If desired, 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract can be replaced with 1 cup dark rum.

And for all you Griswold family fans, here is a clip from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Surviving the Holidays

This week is going to be ridiculously busy. First, we're in the middle of moving into a new home. At the same time, I've yet to finish my gift shopping for the holidays. I also need to start packing for my trip back home to Chicago. We'll be spending an entire week there, so I'll likely need a lot of bulky sweaters and pea coats to deal with those frosty temperatures. And finally, work has been cuh-razy lately!! As in, working from about 8 am to 8 pm. How does one find the time to squeeze it all in? Yet, despite the massive amounts of work that I have to wade through over the next few days, I'm in good spirits. Only a few more days of work before I'm on vacation until 2012. YAY!

I heart December. From the holiday music and decorated houses to Christmas movies on the telly and gingerbread lattes at Starbucks, it all makes me happy! And if you're like me, you've also been dealing with a full schedule of holiday parties. We had several last week and a few more coming up, which will include "white elephant" gifts, festive cocktails, rich snacks, sweet treats and more. So how does one avoid piling on the pounds when so much egg nog and fudge is around? Here are a few tips to surviving the holiday season with minimal weight gain.

* Don't show up hungry. Take time to eat a light, healthy snack before hitting the big holiday party food spread. A small salad, slice of cheese or cup of soup will help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later. Try choosing foods that are lower in calories or high in fiber – make sure to eat small portions of fruits and veggies throughout the day. That way, you won’t feel famished by the time you reach the party, but will still have some extra wiggle room (calorie wise) in order to opt for that special holiday treat.
* When fixing your plate, make sure the bulk of it is fruits and veggies. That way you can fill up your belly faster with healthier items.
* Eating smaller portions is key. Yes, you can indulge in some gingerbread. Just don't eat the entire loaf.
* If you're eating dinner at a friend or relative's house, bring some low-calorie snack options such as a fruit salad or raw veggies and hummus.
* If you're handling the cooking, avoid adding lots of butter, salt and fatty dressings. Create healthier versions of favorite baked goods by using fat-free milk instead of whole milk and applesauce in place of oil. Sweeten your beverage, casserole or dessert with a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose. To thicken a liquid without adding fat, use one of the following: flour, cornstarch, potato flakes, yogurt or fat-free evaporated milk. And remember, many holiday favorites are packed with nutrients. Sweet potatoes supply potassium and fiber and are loaded with the antioxidant vitamin A, cranberries are high in vitamin C and dried fruit and turkey can also be nutritious options.
* 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. And remember that every fruit drink, soda, glass of wine, pint of beer and sweetened coffee comes bearing calories. This is not to say you have to give up all your favorite beverages to prevent packing on the pounds. All foods and beverages can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan. You can save calories, for example, by drinking sucralose-sweetened products such as light lemonade or diet soda.
* Take a walk after supper or get in a morning or afternoon workout before arriving to the party. By sneaking in extra physical activity every day, you are more likely to keep that waistline trim.

Remember, the holidays are a time for spending time with family and friends. You don’t have to deprive yourself to prevent weight gain. With a few simple steps you can maintain your weight while celebrating the season.

For more sensible holiday eating tips, visit the recipe section of

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Celebrating the Season with Sangria and Tapas

I had a lovely dinner tonight. A gal pal wanted to organize a holiday get-together, so she scheduled a gathering at a local tapas restaurant for about two dozen people. From empanadas to croquettes and fried potatoes to paella, it was a wonderful feast with a fun group of friends. And of course, there were plenty of pitchers of sangria flowing. I love some Spanish wine and finger food, so it was the perfect meal. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly a low-calorie menu...but every now and then, you need to take one for the team. But for any others hankering for a glass of sangria - minus the calories - here are a few sugar-free Sangria recipes that have scored high grades at some of my parties in the past.

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
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
Mix all ingredients together in a punch bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, pour into glasses over ice.

And my own little Red Sangria concoction which includes:
1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, etc.)
1 sliced orange
1 sliced apple
1 sliced lime
½ cup brandy
½ cup triple sec
2 cups diet ginger ale
Six packets of low-calorie sweetener

For white sangria, use the same ingredients but replace the red wine with a white such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, etc. Also consider adding peach, mango or kiwi to sweeten the recipe even further.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Crazy about ginger

I've discussed my love of ginger-flavored products in past blog posts, waxing poetic about ginger snap cookies and ginger spice lattes from Starbucks. Well, 'tis the season! Gingerbread is definitely one of my favorite sweet treats -- and, fortunately for me, it goes hand-in-hand with the holiday season. I've started to see some pretty fabulous-looking gingerbread houses decorating various store windows in recent weeks. And now I'm determined to whip up a batch of gingerbread or ginger cookies for the eight million holiday parties coming up. And yes, they will be sugar-free! Thank goodness for low-cal options. Check it out.

Ginger Snaps
Merry Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cake

For any of you worried about adding gingerbread to the list of other holiday treats, you can take comfort in the fact that ginger provides a number of health benefits. For one, it has a long tradition of effectively alleviating symptoms of "gastrointestinal distress" - i.e., it's a nice cure for that belly-ache. Modern scientific research has also revealed it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects...all good news!
Another fun fact. According to the Guiness Book of Records, the world’s largest gingerbread man  was made by the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce in Texas at their annual Festival of Lights celebration in December 2006. The gingerbread man weighed in at 1,308 lbs, 8 oz, and stood at over 20 feet.  Now, in honor of this being Sunday Funday, here are some fun clips featuring Gingy from the Shrek movies.