Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sugar Free Carmel Sauce! AKA- Why the hell did I think this would be good?

It's summer! Everyone around me is bitching nonstop about the heat, but I kind of love it. I routinely turn the air conditioning off in the house when I'm home alone, because I should not be forced to huddle under the covers in my bed at 3 in the afternoon, swaddled in a sweatshirt and sweatpants in the middle of June because it is the only remotely warm place. Summer also means vacation, which is where I'm going tonight. I'll be sharing a cabin in the boonies of Michigan with my parents, my sister, and her husband and children. I'm looking forward to a week with no TV; not so much looking forward to being without my exercise bike. But I'm going to enjoy myself by baking, swimming, reading, and sleeping as late as possible, because shortly after I get back I begin my Soul Sucking Office Temp Job. I don't think it will actually be soul sucking; in fact, it might be quite entertaining.

But you don't read this blog to find out about my boring mundane life. You read it to find out about something equally boring- diet food! Today I'm taking a foray into the often-scary world of diet dessert products. A big reason that people are terrified of anything 'lite' is because of a traumatic encounter with some sort of nasty, pre-Splenda sugar free baked good. That shit used to be nasty. But the times, they are a-changing, and now there are several not only adequate but sometimes downright tasty diet desserts.

Unfortunately, the one I'm reviewing today is not one of them.

Sorbee Sugar Free EatRite BeFit Caramel Flavored Syrup

In every grocery store, there is a little section of sugar free things. And I don't mean diet things, I mean sugar free things, generally marketed toward people with diabetes. At my Kroger, it is located between the canned and dried fruits and the international foods. Surprisingly, I had never really investigated this little enclave of the grocery store; I can pretty easily find healthy or lite versions of things I want to eat elsewhere. But a few weeks ago, I was doing a big shopping trip with my mom, and I happened to walk by them. There I saw it, staring me in the face- Sugar Free Caramel Syrup. Only 15 calories per serving!

I fucking love caramel. For four years I worked at Steak 'n Shake, and it was not uncommon for me to squirt a big heaping helping of caramel into a cup, cover it with nuts, and top it off with some whipped cream, then eat it with a spoon like a big ice cream-less sundae. I'm the same way with hot fudge. Everything delicious just tastes better with caramel on top. Something about the buttery aftertaste, I think. Just imagine a delicious turtle sundae. Nom nom nom.

Problem with caramel (or carmel, as I'm sure I will go back and forth with the title throughout this post since I don't really care what you call it, it's fucking good): bad for you. It's pure sugar that you heat with milk and butter. I don't have to tell you that that is a whole mess of calories and fat. However, most people don't eat caramel like I do, i.e. with a spoon like a container of yogurt. So most people don't care about the calories in caramel because they're not eating it by the bowl. But what if you are?

Then you solve your problem with a sugar free caramel syrup! Thinking back, I should have known I was making a mistake. Removing the chief ingredient in something with only two other ingredients does not bode well. But Mom was buying, and God help me, I can't resist the caramel. So into the cart it went. I should mention that several of the products in the sugar-free aisle were covered in a thin layer of dust. This should have told me something.

Later that night, I so excitedly made myself a little faux turtle sundae- Jello creme brulee Rice Pudding (btw, so good. Getcha some), a few almonds and a nice dollop of sugar free caramel syrup. Little did I know I was ruining some perfectly good pudding and nuts.

This stuff is NASTY. I do not say that lightly. I can't quite describe why it tastes so bad, but I'll try. First off, it is very thin- not thick and decadent like caramel syrup should be. Second, it has the distinct taste of Sweet and Low, even though it claims to use Splenda. Suuuuure. Third, it reminds me of those horrible containers of powdered creamer that cheap people put by their coffee machines. Why? Because non-dairy creamer is one of the ingredients, along with sorbitol, a common sweetener.... in cough syrups. This stuff was the definition of scary, plastic-y diet food. When your mom was on a diet in the early 80s, this was what she was eating, and is the reason why she decided dieting is not worth it and now is 50 pounds overweight. It's enough to turn you off diet food FOREVER. I beseech you, do not waste your money. In fact, I just put a little dollop of my finger to remind me of the taste, and now my throat kind of burns. There's something wrong with it. It is also, according to the bottle, "New." I wonder what the old kind tasted like.

Sorbee Sugar Free EatRite BeFit Caramel flavored Syrup has 15 calories per 2 tbsp serving, 0 from fat. However, it is kosher, so if Rosh Hoshana sneaks up on your this year and it's the only thing left in the grocery store, chug away.

Something else for you to read and eat!

I've taken up eating meat again. I just couldn't stay away from the foul. I still haven't eaten pork or beef and don't plan to, but damn, did I miss turkey. Turkey is one of those perfect foods- low fat, high protein, and tasty to boot. Lately I've been wrapping one in a tortillo slathered with blackberry fruit spread for lunch.

In keeping with tradition, I'll add an easy recipe here with some turkey.

Apricot Turkey Burgers
1 lb ground turkey
a handful and a half of shredded cheddar
a handful of diced dried apricots
a handful of breadcrumbs
garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper, and whatever other seasonings you're partial to

Combine all of this in a big bowl and mush it around with your hands. Form as many burgers as you want- I made seven, but you can make fewer or more depending on the size. Put them on a rack on top of a shallow broiling pan (to drain the fat) and stick them under the broiler for five minutes per side. They're tasty- just a hint of sweet with the savory, and juicy. Maybe you could add some brown sugar. That might be good. I ate mine without buns and dipped them in some delicious Premium Select Chipotle mustard. Dericious!

That's all for now! Comment and tell me the nastiest diet food you ever ate!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sounds boring but isn't: Bread!

This weekend was hell on wheels when it comes to healthy eating. Two of my cousins graduated high school, which means open houses, which means, "Why yes, I would like a third piece of coconut cream pie." I even ate chicken. Nothing wrong with a little indulgence as long as you don't fall off the wagon completely (ed. note: not good advice for drug addicts or alcoholics) and get back on track, which is what I'm doing today, eating all healthy and doing countless mini-workouts from my new obsession, Exercise TV. It's brilliant! So many free workouts, and with forums, no less. Check it out at exercisetv.tv and be prepared to be overwhelmed with awesome.

Today I'm reviewing a staple in everyone's diets: bread. The much reviled (by me) Atkins diet and its many kin would have you believe that bread is to be avoided at all costs, but let's get real. We're Americans and we like our sammiches. But there is no doubt that sometimes bread and its ilk can wreak havoc on your diet, or at least your blood sugar. White bread is one of those foods that, IMO, should be at the top of the food pyramid with Snickers bars and pork rinds. It's a treat. That's why it tastes delicious. And like lots of things at the top of the food pyramid, the more you eat it, the more you crave it. Those yummy looking loaves of french bread with their perfect golden crust baked fresh everyday at Kroger taunt me, because they have no nutritional information, and that means they're hiding something. There's just not a whole lot of redeeming value in white bread.

The obvious solution would be to switch to wheat bread. Unfortunately, some wheat bread is really not all that good for you, either. Wheat is brown before it is bleached for white bread- thus sometimes you might be a loaf of wheat bread, thinking you're all healthy, but you are WRONG. I can't stress this enough: READ. LABELS. Just because a loaf of bread is brown and weighs about three pounds does not mean it will help you lose weight or even that it is better for you. As always, I recommend that you make sure what you're eating has some fiber. Real whole wheat bread should have at least 2g per slice; if you do your comparisons, you will find some with a lot more than that. Also: be aware that some of the denser, fancier wheat breads can pack up to 110 calories per slice. In fact, in front of me I have the half-eaten loaf of bread that my parents use to make their sandwiches, Aunt Millie's Multi-Grain Bread. I see that it has 60 calories per slice and only 1g of fiber (and this is on the far low end of the calorie spectrum when it comes to these kind of breads.) Might as well eat Wonder Bread.

But don't worry, because some people are awesome, and by awesome, I mean they created diet bread with redeeming nutritional value.

Healthy Life 100% Whole Wheat Whole Grain Bread

I first discovered this in high school, and it soon became a staple of my lunches- two pieces of Healthy Life bread with some turkey pepperoni and Swiss cheese. Why is this bread so awesome, you ask? Look no further than the label:


It don't get much lower than that, folks. I especially like this bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which are pretty good for you, but the fat and calories from the peanut butter tends to add up. By balancing it with such a 'cheap' bread, calorie wise, you can enjoy them to your heart's content. And enjoy I do. For, you see, not only is this bread amazingly low cal. Oh no. It is also high fiber. Two slices? 20% of your daily fiber.

This bread is the shit. It even bills itself as the "Original Dieter's Dream." Even if you aren't on a diet, you'll still enjoy it. It's not one of those things you eat when you're only on a diet. I won't bore you with things like how it tastes, because it's fucking bread. Most run of the mill sammich bread tastes the same. It's pretty damn good. And cheap, to boot, so there's no excuse not to buy it. Use it for toast. Use it for french toast. Eat it plain. I like to make it into a little egg sandwich in the morning- two slices, an egg white or two, and a slice of Muenster cheese with some mustard. They make buns, too, and Italian bread, and even DOUBLE FIBER BREAD.

Another reason why I love this bread? On its website it has a little page devoted to the benefits of fiber. God bless Healthy Life Bread. But don't take my word for it: here is a testimonial from the testimonials section of the website.

I just wanted to say that this is the best bread, 100%Natural Whole Wheat, I ate the entire loaf in one week. I even ate the ends of the bread.
Lyneth N.
Chicago, IL

See that? She even ate the ends of the bread. That's hardcore. I picture Lyneth eating this bread plain and straight from the bag. She probably didn't, though. But it is that good. I'd do it. Okay, I've done it.

The one drawback? It's a tad flimsy. You can make a good PB&J, or turkey, or pepperoni sammich with these, but what about something that needs a stiffer bread, like a veggie sammich? Don't worry. I got you covered.

Arnold Select 100% Whole Wheat SanwichThins

My mom turned me on to these when she brought them home a few years ago. They're quite cute as a novelty item- little round pieces of bread, reminiscent of a bun but not as fluffy. And the nutritional info is something to write home about: at only 100 calories per roll and 5g of fiber, I can't see anything wrong with them. But I can see something right with them.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about performing at the Bean Cup in Greenwood and discovering their delicious vegetarian sandwich. I successfully recreated it at home, but it needs a pretty sturdy bread to keep from getting soggy, what with all the tomatoes and cucumbers. However, I really dislike some of the heartier wheat breads. What to do?

It's SandwichThin time, bitch.

They're perfect. Sturdy and dense enough to house even the wettest of lunch meat and lunch meat accoutrements. My favorite thing to put on it? Aloutte makes a yummy lite dill spreadable cheese, which I put on one slice and top with spinach, red onion, and cucumber. Sometimes some red pepper. Altogether it's less than 200 calories for a good serving of fiber, veggies, and protein. Doesn't get much more awesome.

Now, some stuff about exercise

Lately I've been reading a lot of buzz about the Couch-to-5k program online. The idea is to get you from a couch potato to someone who can run a 5k without stopping in 9 weeks. From everything I've read, the program is completely doable and really life changing. I've read countless success stories.

I used to run, but only briefly, for about three months, and only because my elliptical machine was broken and it was my only means of cardio. I hated it. I really, really did. Maybe it was because I had no iPod, or maybe it was because I had improper shoes, or maybe it was because I had to run up and down huge hills in my rural neighborhood and past construction workers who would hoot and holler even though I was a sweaty mess in an oversized T-shirt with Garfield on it and a bright orange headband. Either way, having my elliptical back was the happiest day of my life. My route in those days was roughly three miles, with lots of hills, and I rarely ran the whole way- generally I would run a mile, walk for a minute, run another mile, walk for a minute, then finish.

The thing is, even though I hated running, I still really envy runners. My mom is one, and I'm really jealous of her strength and endurance. Every year around the Mini-Marathon I wish that I was still running so that I could do that. Also, I find the idea of having a form of exercise that you can do anywhere with just your running shoes to be very appealing. In fact, soon I will be heading out to a very rural town for the weekends to do some summer stock theatre, and I'm freaking out at the idea of having nowhere to work out. So, I'm considering doing C25K to kill two birds with one stone.

The only problem is, that whole running episode was over a year ago. These days, I am much more fit. I mean, waaaay more. I exercise for an hour every day, and generally do at least one other physical thing in addition to my workout, whether it is yoga, walking the dog, or ballet class- and of course, my beloved ExerciseTV mini-workouts. And I'm not talking about some namby-pamby pansy workout, either. I like my workouts HARD. I loved Jari Love's Get Ripped 1000- that's about the intensity I'm used to. So, as crazy as it sounds, I'm worried that C25K may be too easy.

I realize that running is a whole different ball game, and that my body will have to work to get used to it. But I'm kind of nervous that if I cut back my exercise to 20 minutes a day (which is how much you do on C25K) that I'm going to lose all of the strength I've gained. I've been considering maybe shaving a few minutes off my hour a day and doing C25K in addition to my normal workouts, but that seems like a lot and I don't know if I'll have the dedication. But either way, it's something to think about.

That's all! Comment and tell my your favorite sandwich fillings, or your experience with C25K. Hopefully next time I'll have some updates from Bill on P90X!