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