Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In 2015, I resolve to do the following...

Who's taking the day off work today? ME! That's right, kids. I'm officially out of the office until 2015. I agreed to help some friends prepare for their annual NYE party tonight, so I figured it was a good excuse to burn off my remaining overtime hours.

And what a year it's been. From getting married in New Orleans surrounded by 180 of my closest friends and relatives, to accepting a new job and traveling to new places, it's been an action-packed 2014. Here's hoping 2015 brings even more excitement. But I'm also hoping to turn over a healthier leaf in the new year. I've slacked off the last few months, when it comes to exercise and healthy eating. I haven't been terrible, but there's certainly room for improvement. So the hubs and I are making some resolutions and will hopefully stick to them. Here are a few of my goals...

1) Find excitement in exercise. Since I'm no longer a 20-something spring chicken, those pounds don't shed so easily anymore. And I've often struggled with maintaining a regular routine of exercise. I'll go through months where I work out six times a week, then go through phases where I'm lucky to work out once every other week. That nonsense needs to end. Studies show that regular exercise helps reduce the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure and helps with weight loss and maintenance. Although I'm no stranger to the gym, I'm determined to shed a couple more pounds and the best way to do that is to mix up the routine. Bikram yoga one day. Weights and lunges the next. Zumba the following day. I plan to find fun new exercise classes (thank you Groupon!) to keep the interest up, rather than getting bored and lazy.
2) Get out of debt. Well, getting married earlier this year certainly didn't help my wallet. Plus, we're paying off a mortgage and car note. But thanks to my accountant-husband, I've already started working out a budget for next year and will definitely stick to it in order to pay for that honeymoon we so badly want to take in summer 2015.
3) Pick up a hobby. Remember in high school and college when you always learned something new? Yeah, I miss those days. My plan this year is to tackle something new - maybe learn a foreign language or take a jewelry-making class. I need more skillz, yo!
4) Stop procrastinating. Like many, I tend to put things off until the last minute. And then I get stressed out about how little time I have to accomplish what needs to get done. No mas! I will be better about managing my time.
5) Don't sweat the petty things. This one speaks for itself. Life is good, so why worry about insignificant issues? Appreciate what you have, rather than worry about what you don't have.

And there ya have it. Check in with me again in six months to see if I've stuck to this list. What are some of your resolutions this year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dreaming of Nog

Here's the deal...I love yogurt, cheese and ice cream, but I don't typically like dairy drinks unless they come in malt form. And while I could eat eggs morning, noon and night, I usually avoid any drinks or cocktails that feature eggs or egg whites as ingredients. The one exception, however, is eggnog. I don't know what it is about the frothy concoction, but whenever the holidays roll around, I have to indulge in at least one. I've been craving one of these beverages since Thanksgiving, so you can imagine how thrilled I was this past weekend, when pitchers of eggnog were on the menu at a friend's Ugly Christmas Sweater party. While the nog mix was pre-made, I definitely added an extra splash of bourbon, ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Ermagerd...delicious! 

I'll probably need to buy at least one eggnog-flavored coffee and consume another glass of boozy nog before the season is over. Fortunately, there are lower-cal, sugar-free versions of the drink, such as this Splenda-sweetened one that I plan to make. Either way, I look forward to getting my eggnog on this month. It's just so dang festive and tasty - and makes me want to snuggle up in front of the lit Christmas tree while Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole croon holiday tunes in the background. And for those that don't like eggnog...bah humbug! Clark Griswold is certainly a fan. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gobble, Gobble

Anyone else wondering where this year has gone? Seriously, I feel like only a few weeks ago, Atlanta was trying to thaw out from the January ice storm. Now here we are in November. I'm so not ready for the holiday season.

As in years past, we'll be packing up the car and hitting the road early Thursday morning to spend Turkey Day with my husband's family in Florida. While I know it will be close to impossible to avoid all of the rich food that comes with a Thanksgiving celebration, I will be bringing some lower-calorie fare to offset all of the heavy dishes. For example, I'm making some hummus and light dill dip, cutting up veggies and bringing a fruit platter and some white wine.  

Did you know the average American consumes more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat during Thanksgiving? For reals. That's why I plan to load up on as much vegetables and fruit as possible throughout the day, so I'm not stuffing my face come dinner. And you better believe I'll be taking the dog for a long walk on both Thursday and Friday. 

By the way, Calorie Control Council has a number of healthy Thanksgiving recipes online. I strongly encouraging checking it out. Here's a sample: 

Sugar-Free Sweet Potato Pie 
Pear, Prosciutto & Hazelnut Stuffing
Bacon Sweet Potato Spinach Salad
Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie

Healthy Makeover: Green Bean Casserole

On a different but related note, if you're still trying to get into the festive mood, watch Planes, Trains & Automobiles - my favorite movie about Thanksgiving! It was directed by the late, great John Hughes and stars Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy. Love.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

So this will be a first for me...instead of hitting a Halloween party tonight, we'll be heading to a wedding. There's no Halloween theme - I guess they're worried about drunk people showing up, dressed as sexy zombies - but it does save me from having to find a costume this year. Interestingly enough, we had our Halloween costume party at work yesterday and a group of us dressed up as an "awkward family Christmas photo." Since my hubs and I attend an ugly Christmas sweater party every year, I had plenty of costume options already at my fingertips. It was a pretty awesome group effort, considering we pulled the theme together almost overnight, and donned clothes from the closet. The kicker was, one of my colleagues glued together a giant fake picture frame with a backdrop and Olan Mills sign in the corner, so we could pose in the frame, awkwardly smiling into the distance. P.S. If you've never looked at the Awkward Family Photos website, you're missing out on a lot of laughs. 

Moving on, though...seeing as how we won't be home to hand out goodies to trick-or-treaters, I've been able to escape the temptation of all those cheap bags of candy at the grocery store this year. I'm sure we'll have our share of wedding cake (and, ahem, liquor) tonight, but at least I won't have mini-Snickers sitting around the house for the days to come. 

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent packing on the pounds while still participating in spooky festivities. According to the Calorie Control Council, foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners provide a simple way to enjoy your favorite treats without the additional calories. For example, choosing sugar-free chocolate will save 50 calories a day.  Drinking a diet soda can shave off 150 calories a day - or 15 pounds - by year's end. Here are a few more tips to surviving Halloween without gaining weight:
  • If you are throwing a party, serve reduced-fat popcorn or fat-free pretzel twists or sticks. Toss in some chocolate candies, as an added treat, but watch portion sizes.
  • Instead of caramel apples, try serving whole or sliced apples with fat-free caramel sauce.
  • Cut out bread (try a reduced-fat or light version) with a Halloween cookie cutter. Serve with smoked turkey, reduced-fat cheese, tomato, lettuce and other sandwich "fixings."
  • After trick or treating, allow your children to choose a designated amount of candy (such as five pieces) to eat that night.
  • Use sugar substitutes and applesauce to replace oil and sugar when baking treats for Halloween. Explain that you are using these substitutions to make these treats more healthy.
  • After Halloween is over, let your child pick one treat to eat each day. 
  • Choose candy that is sugar-free or is made with a sugar substitute, or is reduced-fat.
And for all you trick-or-treaters tonight, here's hoping you don't wind up with any rocks in your candy bag, like poor Charlie Brown. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

College Game Day Rules!

It's been an action-packed few months, folks. Let's see - in the past month alone, my husband and I have been out of town three out of four weekends, attended two weddings, went to a college football game, attended a pro football game and lodged and entertained a large and boisterous group of friends visiting from Chicago. And that's not all...tomorrow we're hitting the road after work to drive up to Knoxville to attend the Tennessee-Bama football game. No, we don't have a particular dog in this fight. But my uncle lives there, bleeds orange and white and hosts a helluva tailgate. Exhibit A: check out the artist rendering below of my uncle's tailgate this weekend. And the hubs and I are not the types to turn down a good party.

Plus, my fabulous uncle offered to make us spicy white chicken chili tomorrow night when we arrive. And I HEART chili. Seriously, it's one of my favorite food groups. But back to the tailgate. Any recommendations from the peanut gallery on what I should bring to the spread? I'm planning a Trader Joe's run during lunch tomorrow and, of course, I'll pop by the liquor store for supplies. I thought I'd pick up some cheese and meat (standard game day fare) but also want some healthy options, so possibly a bag of celery sticks, carrots, a fruit bowl and hummus. Another option - I could actually bring some ingredients and make one of these healthy, low-call Hungry Girl recipes for the tailgating gang to enjoy on Saturday. Hmmmm...what to do? Decisions are the worst!

Exploding Chicken Taquitos 
Sweet Caramelized Onion Dip
De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket
Rockin' Restaurant Spinach Dip

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall into Fall Season

Can y'all believe summer is over? Seriously - where has this year gone? Seems like only yesterday, I was trying to get ready for swimsuit season and now...there are Halloween decorations on all of my neighbors' houses. Yikes! Time flies when you're busy. Speaking of all things fall, we're actually flying to Philly this weekend for my husband's cousin's wedding. It should be a great time, but I checked the weather and....brrrrrrrrr. It will be a tad chilly at night.
Honestly, I don't mind fall nearly as much now that I live in the South. Back when I was a Chicago resident, I hated it because it meant the beginning of the end - and a return to months of bitterly cold, often snowy, gray days. Here, not so much the case. But if there is one good thing about fall (other than the cute sweaters and boots you get to bust out of the closet again!), it's all the wonderful warm beverages that you can indulge in. I do love a mug of hot apple cider or hot chocolate on a cool day! On that note, here are a few of my fave, Splenda-sweetened drink recipes to help get you through any chilly nights. Enjoy!

Homemade Chai
Sweet Hot Chocolate 
Spiced Apple Mulled Cider
Hot Tea Punch
Spiced Hot Cranberry Cider

Friday, September 26, 2014

Birthdays and Tailgates

So, I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. Another year older, not necessarily wiser. But it's been an action-packed year. Since my last birthday, I've started a new job, got married in New Orleans with more than 175 of my closest friends and relatives in attendance, celebrated Oktoberfest in Germany, visited Austria, partied in Jamaica and attended numerous weddings, baby showers, housewarming and going away parties. Good times. Hoping this next year of my life brings more of the same shenanigans.

This birthday was particularly special. For the first time in a decade, I was able to spend it with immediate family. My brother and sister-in-law flew in from California for a visit and we had a fabulous dinner in Atlanta, followed by drinks with friends. Later today, we're packing up the car and heading to Athens for the Georgia-Tennessee football game. There will be tailgating-a-plenty this weekend! Granted, it won't be great for the waistline but I'll make up for it with extra workouts and lean eating next week. Huzzah!

Speaking of birthdays, my hubby actually made a delicious, sugar-free cake for my big day. The double layer chocoholic cake was the perfect treat and one I'm hoping he makes again next year. So cheers to all you September babies - and let's celebrate another year of life on planet Earth.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Long weekends rock!

Happy Labor Day weekend! Hopefully you're all enjoying a little R&R - or some fun cookouts, pool parties and the return of college football! We actually decided to stay in town this weekend, but have been busy running to various friends' BBQs. So much temptation when watching your calorie count!
It's also insanely hot and humid this weekend. I know I sound like I'm whining, but it's been a pretty mild summer - so to have the temperature soar in recent days makes it feel worse than it probably is. As a result, I've been craving shakes, ice cream, smoothies, gelado...anything icy.
I came across this sucralose-sweetened peach froyo recipe that I'm going to make for a party tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that it turns out well. Earlier this week, I made some "kool pops" that were pretty dang good, so I think I should be okay. Between the icy treats and the pool that I hope to jump into tomorrow, I'm doing everything I can to stay cool on these muggy days. Have a fabulous rest of the holiday weekend, stay hydrated and eat some sugar-free gelado, y'all!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Love & Marriage

Sorry I've been off the grid. It's been a crazy couple of months. Did I mention I got married a few weeks ago? Between a heavy workload, travel and the recent nuptials, I haven't had a minute of downtime. And that is not good news for my waistline. Alas...tomorrow is a new day.
Quick overview of the wedding, because I know y'all are jonesing to hear about it. My long-time fiance and I got married in New Orleans, surrounded by friends and family. The food was fabulous, the open bar was plentiful, the music was jamming, guests were dancing - and then we topped off the night with a second line parade through the French Quarter. It was too much fun.
We also had some wonderful desserts. Rather than plunk all our money down on one large, fancy-pants cake, we bought some small ones from Costco and the local grocery store. It was mostly chocolate, vanilla and red velvet, but we also threw in a lemon-flavored cake and one with a peach filling. So good! Speaking of peaches, did you know it's National Peach Month? Being a proud resident of Georgia - land of peaches - I fully support this observation. So because I love you, here are a few sucralose-sweetened peach recipes. Enjoy!

Double Crust Peach Cobbler 
Peach Frozen Yogurt 
Fizzy Peach Lemonade

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Pass me that BBQ

So, we're through the holiday weekend. How did y'all celebrate America's birthday? If you're like most folks, it probably involved a backyard BBQ, fireworks and some beverages. Seeing as how I'm getting married in less than two weeks (gulp), I tried to avoid those large plates of hot dogs/potato salad/apple pie. But talk about temptation! I love me a good cheese burger and cold beer on a hot day, so this weekend was definitely a test of willpower.

Fortunately, I have some understanding friends who were happy to provide me with grilled chicken and healthy, low-calorie salads, fresh fruit and veggies. Plus, I know some tips to avoid the BBQ bulge. Thanks to for the insight below!

Choose your marinades wisely. Using sauces such as Worcestershire, Chile, Soy, or light Italian dressing in place of salt or heavy sauces will add a lot of flavor with a few calories. If you are looking to flavor with spices, try garlic, onion powder, or chili powder. If sweet taste is what you are going for add a little fruit juice to the marinade. This will add a sweet taste while also tenderizing the meat. Also, a low-calorie sweetener such as sucralose can help sweeten a marinade without the added calories.

Think beyond just meat. Barbeques don’t have to be a meat lover’s paradise. Try one of the sauces/seasonings listed above on steak or chicken skewers. In between each piece of meat, add pineapple, mushrooms, peppers or any other fruit or vegetable you and your family or friends enjoy. Cut the veggies into sizes that will cook well on the grill and then grill them for about 8 to 10 minutes. If you like seafood, shrimp or fish could be a great option for grilling whole or making into skewers.

When grilling chicken, make sure you remove all the skin. The skin of the chicken is where most of the saturated fat is found so removing the skin will remove this unwanted fat as well. If you are a chicken skin lover consider this: 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast with skin contains 8.8 grams of fat and 2.5 grams of saturated fat 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast without skin contains 4 grams of fat and 1.2 grams of saturated fat. Be sure to take the skin off before adding the marinade so you don’t lose the flavor along with the skin. When cooking other types of meat be sure to choose the leanest cuts possible and trim additional fat before cooking.

Portion distortion is still a problem on the grill. If you are making skewers, cut the meat in small pieces with loads of vegetables in between. If you are making burgers or steak, think “tapas” and cut them into smaller appetizer portions before cooking. For every piece of meat you have, try to have an equal amount of vegetable.

Traditional barbecues are centered on grilling meat, but don’t forget about the sides. Complement your meat with a healthful pasta salad made with whole wheat pasta and light Italian dressing. Or, going along with the tapas theme, make some mini appetizers such as bruschetta, hummus with olive oil and whole wheat pita, low fat artichoke dip, or a veggie tray. Take advantage of the delicious fruits in season and provide a fruit tray and a yogurt dipping sauce sweetened with sucralose for a low-calorie dessert that is sure to satisfy all your guests!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Science Says...

Have I mentioned I'm getting married in two months? Oy vey - for anyone getting ready to tie the knot, here's a tip for you...elope! We let our families bully us into a wedding and, as a result, we'll be in debt for years to pay off all those over-priced vendor fees.

In addition to the upcoming nuptials, I've also been dealing with a new job. Between all of that stress, I've had a hard time exercising and an even harder time cooking. Fortunately, between low-cal microwave meals and sugar-free dishes, I've been able to maintain my weight. 

Speaking of sugar-free, a new study found the use of low-cal sweeteners resulted in body weight reductions. This is the latest research to support those findings - and they also determined that the use of products containing low-cal sweeteners do not lead to weight gain or cravings. For the meta-analysis study, researchers reviewed 35 years’ worth of independent studies on the relationship between low-calorie sweeteners and weight status. 

“Based on the gold standard study design in medical research — the randomized controlled trial — the results show that using low-calorie sweeteners resulted in statistically significant reductions in body weight, BMI, fat mass, and waist circumference,” said Dr. Vanessa Perez, one of the researchers. With recent headlines stirring debate around the benefits of sweetener alternatives, Perez added the data confirms that using low-calorie sweeteners “does not cause weight gain and may be a useful tool in helping people comply with weight loss and weight management plans.” 

So take that naysayers! The proof is in the science - and the extensive body of research that backs low-cal, sugar-free products for weight loss efforts. I'll take my cues from the researchers, as well as healthcare organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who support the use of low-calorie sweeteners as tools in weight and diabetes management. Until this research is proven otherwise, you'll have to pry the Diet Coke out of my cold dead hands. 

Rant over, stepping off my soapbox. Now back to wedding planning - joy! 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Butterscotch Badness...or should I say, goodness?

So I've been on a bit of an ice cream and gelado kick lately. What can I say? 'Tis the season. When the weather warms up, my icy sweet tooth comes out. So last night, after a particularly grueling round of hot yoga, we hit a local ice cream shop for shakes. I got a butterscotch one. And holy smokes, was it dee-lish!

But it seems I celebrated a day or two too early. I checked my trusty food holiday calendar (what? don't judge me! I like to eat!) today and guess what I discovered? Tomorrow is National Butterscotch Brownie Day. Huzzah!

In honor of this special occasion, and beecause I love you'se guys so much, I dug up a Splenda-sweetened butterscotch brownie recipe. Alas, I will not be able to indulge in the sweet treat tomorrow. Instead, I will be drinking cheap beer and possibly snarfig down a hot dog - or maybe just some peanuts - at Turner Field. My beloved (and as per usual, awful) Cubbies are in town, so I'm hitting enemy territory to see the game. I plan to workout in the morning and snack on some celery, carrots and hummus beforehand so I don't eat everything in sight when I get to the stadium. Wish me - and the Cubs - a little luck.

Photo courtesy of Mike Froese via freeimages. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thank Goodness It's Good Friday!

Can you believe it's almost Easter? How are we half-way through April already? I'm so not ready for swimsuit season, y'all.

Anyway, Rob and I are about to pack up the car and dog to head down to Florida for a visit with his family this weekend. I'm hoping I can hang onto my willpower a little bit longer and not dig into the bag of Cadbury Creme eggs (my kryptonite!) and Reese's egg-shaped chocolate peanut butter cups that we're bringing with us - at least until Sunday. Honestly, I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but something about Easter candy just hooks me in every year.

As for an Easter meal, I plan to contribute one or two dishes to the mix, but I'm torn on what to provide - big green salad? Low-cal version of scalloped potatoes? Deviled eggs? I'm definitely whipping up a pitcher of mimosas and some dessert - possibly this Splenda-sweetened Lemon Velvet Layer Cake.

Anyway, I hope y'all have a fabulous weekend. Here's a little Easter happy, courtesy of the incomparable Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Survey Says: Most Americans are Weight Conscious

Can't say this is particularly surprising. A new national survey released by the Calorie Control Council has found that eight out of ten men and women over the age of 18 are "weight conscious," while 54 percent want to shed some pounds and another 28 percent want to maintain their existing waistlines. Ever conducted a straw poll among friends to find out how many are worried about their weight - or are actively trying to lose it? You'd likely find that at least half of them fall into those categories.

Statistics show that about 68 percent of the U.S. population is now obese or overweight. Among respondents of the CCC survey, the top weight loss methods included cutting back on foods high in sugar (86 percent), eating smaller portion sizes (85 percent) and consuming low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages (78 percent). Also, nearly two-thirds of Americans trying to lose weight say they perform moderate exercise for 45 minutes at least three times per week.

Health professionals urge those wanting to lose weight to consider many factors, including exercise, overall diet and lifestyle changes. But there are some tools to help with weight loss measures. For example, you could choose foods and beverages that moderate sugar intake, such as products sweetened with sucralose. By choosing sugar-free chocolate over sugar-sweetened chocolate, you can trim 50 calories a day – or five pounds – by year’s end.

Here are some wonderful, low-cal recipes - courtesy of the Calorie Control Council and that won't generate extra pounds.

Grilled Steak and Vegetable Salad
Classic Carrot Cake
Apricot and Cinnamon Fruit Dip

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Final Four, baby!

For those that don't know, I'm a die-hard in, U-rah-rah Wisconsin - as in proud alum of University of Wisconsin-Madison. And it's been more than a decade since my basketball team last made it to the Final Four. So imagine my delight to finally see my boys back in the finals of the Big Dance again. That's right, ya'll! After eking out a nail-biter win last night against heavily favored Arizona, Wisconsin is officially in the Final Four. The only other determined team as of yet? Florida, my fiance's alma mater. Good thing we've been together six years already, otherwise a team faceoff might result in cancelling our wedding due to irreconcilable differences.

Moving on, though, I unfortunately did some cheating last night. I was at a party, nervously watching my team play. So instead of sticking to the healthy veggie platter and hummus/pita plate, I chowed down on wings, eggrolls, a cheeseburger and other tasty treats. I can't keep doing that if I want to fit in my bathing suit this summer, so here are some tips for all of you other nervous sports watchers. Rather than blowing out your calorie count in one sitting, here are some low-cal, game day-friendly recipes courtesy of Hungry Girl to enjoy while watching your favorite team compete.

HG's Exploding Chicken Taquitos
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

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!
Saucy Chick BBQ Nachos
4 oz. (about 70) baked tortilla chips (like the kind by Guiltless Gourmet or Baked! Tostitos Scoops!)

One 9.75-oz. (or 10-oz.) can 98% fat-free chunk white chicken breast in water, drained and flaked
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (with about 45 calories per 2-tbsp. serving), divided

1 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese

2 tbsp. chopped scallions

Optional topping: fat-free sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread out tortilla chips on a large ovenproof platter or baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, combine chicken and 1/4 cup BBQ sauce. Mix well, and then spoon mixture evenly over the chips.
Top evenly with cheese. Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce over the chips.
Bake in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes, until cheese and BBQ sauce are hot.
Sprinkle scallions over nachos. If you like, top or serve with sour cream.

De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket
1 fat-free (or nearly fat-free) hot dog (like the ones by Oscar Mayer, Hebrew National and Ball Park)
1 portion Pillsbury Reduced Fat Crescent roll dough
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut hot dog into 4 even pieces. Stretch or roll out the triangle-shaped dough slightly, to make it a larger triangle. Cut dough into 4 long, narrow triangles. Beginning at the base of each triangle, roll a piece of the hot dog up in the dough until the point of each triangle wraps around the center. Place dogs on an ungreased baking pan and cook for about 12 minutes (until dough appears slightly browned and crispy).

Friday, March 07, 2014

Spring clean your diet

Well, I believe spring weather is almost here. Take that, polar vortex! The sun is finally shining and clocks will spring forward this Sunday for Daylight Saving Time. Hoorah! No more driving to and from work in pitch black conditions. 

Still, while I'm enjoying the warmer temperature, spring is typically an annual wake-up call - one reminding me to get back into shape before I have to start busting out the skimpy clothing again. It's even more of an issue this year, since we'll be attending a close friend's wedding in Jamaica in exactly one month...where swimsuits will be part of our daily wardrobe. And a few  months later in July, I myself will be getting married to my sweetie. That means ramping up my workout efforts and maintaining healthier eating habits  for the near future. But with friends in town this weekend, St. Patty's Day looming and various birthdays and dinners  on the calendar, it's hard to keep my girlish figure. How does one stay in shape and eat healthy with such an active social life? While I certainly don't have all those answers, I do have a few dining-related tips that don't involve steering clear of restaurants and parties altogether. 

1. Avoid buffets. While economical, buffets make it too easy to load up the plate with an array of high-carb, high-calorie and high-fat foods. 

2. Step away from the bread basket. If you'd like a roll, grab one then move it outside of your reaching distance. The same goes for chips, should you be at a Mexican restaurant. Grab a small handful than stay away from it the rest of the night. 

3. Meal modifications are key. Feel free to make special requests. Ask the waiter if they can put the sauce on the side - or to substitute french fries with veggies. Find out if your meal can be made without butter, oil or salt...anything that could help cut down on calories. 

4. Start out healthy. Consider ordering a light salad or soup to kick things off. This will help to fill you up before you dive into the big meal. You also might want to split your entree with a friend. 

5. Practice portion control. Remember that restaurant sizes are often larger than normal. Consider eating half of your meal and putting the rest in a doggie bag. 

6. Avoid all the bells and whistles. Don't add a bunch of extras to your meal. When it comes to a salad, avoid topping it off with buttery croutons, grated cheese, bacon and dollops of high-fat dressing. The same goes with a burger, baked potato and other entrees. 

7. Don't binge drink at the dinner table. A glass or wine or two with your meal is one thing. But don't knock back a six-pack of beer or a few bottles of wine single-handedly. It's not good for you - and in more ways than just calories. 

If you'd like to try your own hand at making a high-class restaurant-style meal, check out these yummy sucralose-sweetened recipes. 

Balsamic Brown Rice Salad 
Herb Rubbed Pork 
Italian Cream Pie with Strawberry Sauce

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter Wonderland? Pffftttt....

Y'all, this has been a tough food week. For those that haven't heard, Georgia was hit with "Snowpocalypse Part 2" - which in Southern terms means, we got an inch of snow and a lot of ice and the whole damn state went crazy again. Fortunately, it seems most residents and government officials learned from the last incident and avoided getting on the roads before the storm - so there weren't any reports of students stuck on school buses and motorists stranded on highways for 23 hours.
But on the downside, we've been cooped up (except for walking down to the local pub, huzzah!) at home the past few days, working remote...and mainly eating junk food because I stupidly let my fiance do the shopping before the storm. Is it difficult to eat a bowl of cantaloupe when there is a bag of Cheetos lying on the table? Why yes...yes, it is.
So I was a wee bit bad the first day - ate some pizza and junky snacks before learning my lesson and cooking up some lean ground turkey and chopping up fruit and veggie snacks. I also made some sugar-free Sweet Hot Chocolate and low-cal Santa Fe Veggie Chili to get through the chilly week. It was pretty damn yummy. Anyway, the snow is finally melting and it looks like we'll be back in our respective offices tomorrow, so I look forward to returning to a normal routine - and healthier eating pattern. Wish me luck!

And for those that haven't seen some of the brilliant comedy skits making fun of Atlanta a few weeks ago, enjoy one snippet...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Book Club

Since I love to both read and socialize, I joined a book club with a group of gal pals last year. It essentially entails reading one book a month and gathering together to discuss said book while snacking on delicious snacks and drinking copious amounts of wine. Well, it's my turn to host tomorrow night - and I'm a little stumped over what to serve. I definitely know I'll put out healthy trays of veggies and fruit (cauliflower and carrots and cucumbers, oh my!) as well as a cheese spread and crackers/bread. But what about dips? I have a Greek yogurt spinach/kale spread from Trader Joe's, but thinking about making this light Sweet Red Pepper Hummus. This Party on a Pizza app also looks delicious, combining arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and a lot of my other fave ingredients. 
As for a sweet treat, I heart those chocolate peanut butter cups (and chocolate peanut butter pretzels) from Trader Joe's, but in an effort to curb the calories, I think this Splenda-sweetened recipe might make a great, lower-fat alternative: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake Cups
FYI: Have any of you read The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling? That's our book of the month and so far it seems to be inspiring a lot of "meh" attitudes from the book club crew. It's too bad - I really wanted to love it, but had a pretty hard time getting into it. We're thinking about reading "The Fault in Our Stars" next, so apparently I'll need to get some tissues handy as I've heard it's a tear-jerker. 
Anyhoo, if you have any insight on next books to read or yummy, low-cal appetizers to make, let me know!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Cold! Oh crikeys, it's cold!

Unless you live in Florida or California, you're probably like most Americans tonight - bundled up under blankets, sitting next to a space heater, watching the BCS Championship game. It's freakin' cold out there! Even us peeps in Atlanta are dealing with near single digits, although I feel even worse for friends and family struggling with the Arctic blast blanketing the Midwest and North East.
True story: my freshman year of college at UW-Madison, it dipped down to -30, which felt more like -70 with wind chill. It was brutal. You couldn't leave the house without donning multiple layers and it literally hurt to breathe. And your nose would run and the snot would freeze. Lovely, ey? I do not miss those all.
Anyhoodle, when the weather gets this nippy, I start to crave giant bowls of hearty soup. And today is no different. I'm currently jonesing for some chicken pho, which for the uninitiated is basically the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup. I'm either going to make or buy a vat of it on the way home tomorrow, seeing as how it will be another Arctic night. Or I might whip up one of the other low-cal soup recipes below. What say you? Pho, bisque or veggie soup?

Chicken Pho
Sweet Potato Bisque
Garden Vegetable Soup

By the way, for those that have never tried it, you really can toss up boiling water in sub-zero temperatures and watch it freeze in the air.