Monday, April 30, 2012

Let the good times roll...


Don't be haters, but guess where I'm heading on Thursday? NEW ORLEANS, baby!! Yup, I'm returning to the Big Easy - one of my fave cities in the whole word - for our third consecutive Jazz Fest. If you've never been, allow me to wax poetic...you will never find better festival food! From cochon de lait po boys to fried boudin balls, jambalaya and cracklins to spicy meat pie, the food is ri-donk-ulous.  Thank goodness we will be walking everywhere! As for music, we've got our eyes on Jimmy Buffet, Florence & the Machine, James Cotton, Ani DiFranco, Dumpstaphunk, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, Funky Meters, Galactic, Bonnie Raitt, Neville Brothers and more.
Can you tell I'm excited? 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. However, rather than drinking only light beer during my trip, I promise to wash down some of my favorite festival snacks with diet soda too. Happy?

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.

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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Stealing Home

"There's nothing wrong with this team that more pitching, more fielding and more hitting couldn't help." Former Cub Bill Buckner


It's about time! I'm going to my first baseball game of the season this weekend. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous, the tickets are free, the beer will be cold and the baseball field is practically walking distance from our place. Needless to say, I can't find much to complain about! Well, I guess there's one small thing...I wish I was headed to Wrigley Field instead of Turner Field. As a lifelong fan of the Lovable Losers,  I used to frequent Wrigley this time of year. Although I've grown to appreciate the Braves the past five years, my heart will always belong with my Chicago team - as in, the team that has not won the World Series in over a century, which is apparently the longest championship drought in American sports. How unfortunate, huh?

Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to some overpriced light beer and salty peanuts, along with lots of Diet Coke (hello, this is Atlanta!) and water...because that's how I roll while watching America's pastime. 

To end things on the ultimate high note, here is a clip of infamous "Cub Fan, Bud Man" - aka Mr. Harry Caray - singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Alright! Lemme hear ya! Ah-One! Ah-Two! Ah-Three!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Yet Another Study Tries (And Of Course Fails) to Link Diet Sodas to Strokes


Sitting here on my Friday afternoon, I was casually sipping on my zero calorie beverage of choice, when I saw a news story pop up that tries to link sodas in general to strokes. The last thing I need is more stress at the end of the week, right? 
**gulp**
So I read further and found out that it's all just a big media hype. Typical. Way to yell fire in a hallway! 
Here's what you need to know: the study was done observationally on men and women drinking regular and diet sodas -so that means it was designed to show an association, not prove cause and effect. And the findings as per usual fail to show that soda sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners leads to strokes. 
You're totally safe to keep enjoying your diet sodas. Cheers!

View the Calorie Control Council's official response here.
In fact, a study released last month in Circulation by two of the same Harvard researchers also did not find a link between beverages sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners and coronary heart disease.  In that study, the researchers again stated, “Our results highlight the need for cautious interpretation of studies reporting on positive associations between diet drinks and cardiometabolic and cardiovascular outcomes.”
So there, you have nothing to worry about. Do your best to eat right, exercise and cut calories safely, like drinking diet soda -and you'll be just fine.

Alright, time to head to dinner and a movie with my boyfriend. Now if I could just find a diet popcorn at the theater. Yeah, right. I'll have to smuggle some air-popped in. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Truer words were never spoken


As any of my loyal readers know, I've definitely got a "thing" for diet soda. I drink it on a daily basis, using it as one tool in my efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle (and slim waistline.) And so far, it's been effective! Over the years, I've been criticized by more than one friend about my diet soda habit - with many claiming it's contributing to the obesity crisis. Well, I got news for them...Yet another study proves that diet soda can be part of a healthy diet - as long as you don't overcompensate with rich foods.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have found that diet soda drinkers who ate a so-called "prudent" diet, rich in fruit, fish, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and milk, were significantly less likely to develop metabolic syndrome over 20 years than those who ate a "Western diet" heavy in fried foods, meats and sugars.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterized by excess abdominal fat, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. About 32 percent of the participants in the "Western diet" cluster developed the condition. The study is published in the April edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"What this suggests is that it's really the dietary pattern that's driving this association with health," says Kiyah Duffey, a study author. "This kind of helps to make things a little more clear that it's not necessarily the diet beverage that is the problem."
This is just the latest study to reveal that diet soda does not contribute to obesity. A large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year found that diet soda had no effect on weight. And many experts say the diet soda habit is a good alternative to sugar sweetened beverages that are clearly linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and increased health care costs.
Look, here is my opinion, for whatever it's worth. The safety of diet soda has been reaffirmed time and again by leading health and regulatory groups worldwide. Until research definitely proves otherwise, I'll keep drinking my diet soda. In fact, you'll have to pry the can from my cold, dead fingers. Take that, haters!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Puppy breath and sleep deprivation

Guess what we did recently? We adopted a rescue pup! Seriously, y'all. Nola (a nod to one of our favorite cities) is like the cutest thing EVER. I know, I know...I sound like one of those proud moms. But she's precious and we absolutely adore her. And I think she's actually pretty smart. In just a few day's time, she learned to go to the top of the steps and whine when she needs to use the bathroom. Not to say there hasn't been a single incident inside since then, but by George, I think she's catching on! Anyway, it's obviously a lot of hard work - we're trying to crate train and potty train her, as well as keep her from biting. Another downside - in addition to picking up poop - is that she hasn't learned how to sleep through the night yet. As a result, I haven't had a good night of sleep in more than a week. Yes, I'm exhausted. Needless to say, I've been drinking either a Sugar-free Red Bull or Diet Mountain Dew every day lately. Yay for caffeine! And a double yay for puppies!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Diet Coke - the budding fashionista

Looks like Diet Coke is getting yet another fashion makeover. After pairing up with fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld last year for a round of limited-edition bottles, Diet Coke has tagged major league French haute couture fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier to serve as the brand's newest Creative Director.
The renowned designer has dressed everyone from Lady GaGa to Madonna to Jessica Alba and will lend his considerable talents to contribute a limited design of the brand’s bottles and cans.
The Gaultier ad campaign recently launched with a batch of “Serial Designer” videos that show the designer injecting style into the lives of Diet Coke’s marionette/mascots. Check it out.
I can't wait to see what he does to liven up those bottles and cans. I'm sure it will be absolutely fabulous!