Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: A Reminder of Why I Love What I Do

While at my dentist appointment yesterday, my very sweet hygienist took my pulse and then said, "Wow, 45...you must work out all the time." I told her that I am a runner and her eyes lit up like when I told Kimber that Santa is coming soon!

See, she is a beginning runner. Never did she see herself running anywhere. She even referred to her new running habit as "accidental". It started as a daily walk prescribed by her doctor. Then she started feelin' pretty good, so she picked it up to a jog. Before she knew it...she was running.

She went on to tell me about how she has lost 58 pounds since April, but that the weight loss is just part of the motivation to keep running She loves the feeling of reaching her running goals; pushing herself a little further each time. First it was a 5K. Now she is training for a 10K. She is hooked on running and loving it! She's reading books, asking for advice, sharing her ups and downs...it's great!

Her excitement for this new part of her life was infectious. I love running too. But I had forgotten what it feels like to be new at something, to hit my first 2 miles without walking, to finish my first race, to do something I never imagined I could do. Whether it is running, parenting, your profession, whatever...it is good to get back to why you love whatever it is you are doing. When you get back to that feeling, it's revitalizing. It gives me the energy I need to set new goals and feel that way again.

The excitement of my hygienist's accomplishments brought back those feelings for me. After some time, I think we tend to forget. I'm so happy for this woman and I thank her for bringing back those feelings in me; remembering why I love what I do. She's a reminder of how when one person changes his or her life, it has the power to motivate others and bring happiness to many.

Have a fabulous Tuesday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cookin' Lean with The Neelys: Old School Sweet Potato Souffle

Last Tuesday I asked for requests of traditional Thanksgiving favorites that ya'll would like to see Cookin' Lean Style. I was pleased to see that the very first request was for one of our own family favorites...Sweet Potato Casserole. And not just any ol' casserole! There was a specific request for "the kind with marshmallows", just to be sure there was no confusion.
For this challenge, I took inspiration from one of my favorite, adorable Food Network cookin' couples; the Neelys. There marshmallow-covered recipe for Old School Sweet Potato Souffle was the perfect starting point for making a sweet, yet slim version of this Thanksgiving staple. Thanks Patrick and Gina!

Old School Sweet Potato Souffle
Serves 8

  • 5 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4-1/2 ounces fat free half-and-half (or non-fat milk)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Lighter Bake by Sunsweet (found in baking aisle)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 twists of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 cup crushed pecans
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with NON FAT cooking spray and set aside.

Add the potatoes to a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

Mash the potatoes in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add fat free half-and-half (or non fat milk)brown sugar, LIGHT BAKE, vanilla, cinnamon, beaten egg whites, salt and pepper. Mix together until smooth. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the casserole dish from oven and top with pecans, marshmallows and brown sugar (all ingredients listed under "Toppings"). Bake until the marshmallows are lightly toasted, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Another victory for the Cookin' Lean Kitchen! Even Rudy (the Hubby), who is a self-proclaimed sweet potato hater, liked this dish. It's not over-the-top sweet and buttery, but it still tastes great! You can actually taste to wonderful, natural sweetness of the potato. You still get some of the sweet marshmallows and brown sugar, yet don't have the heaviness that comes along with the butter. The fact that it is a souffle also helps to give it that light texture and feeling. If you are looking for a place to lighten your menu this Thanksgiving, this is definitely a dish that will allow you to do so without making you feel like you are missing out.

Just look how it pans out nutritionally! Loved using Sunsweet Lighter Bake!! It's a first using it as a healthy sub for butter and I'm now excited to try it in more recipes. I've used homemade fruit purees before, but this comes in a nice jar where I can use what I need and put the rest in the fridge for next time. So smart, Sunsweet!

NUTRITION FACTS (Per Serving):  

BEFORE- 438.4 calories / 19.7g fat / 59.9g carbohydrate / 8.6g protein / 5.9g fiber
AFTER- 148.6 calories / 1.3g fat / 31.7g carbohydrate / 3.3g protein / 2.6g fiber

SAVES- 289.8 calories / 18.4g fat / 28.2g carbs

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: We Have a Guest

Today I am taking up an offer from a blog writer who sent me this great piece on ideas for creating gourmet meals at home. Sean is from the Blog Content Guild and he reminds us that great dining experiences don't have to cost a bundle. Have a look at Sean's suggestions for budget gourmet at home. Of course preparing your own meals can bring more than just financial health but physical health too! You are the chef, therefore have total control of what goes into your food and how it is prepared. Double-bonus!


Fine Dining at Chez Moi: Creating a Grocery List for the Perfect Home-Made Meal

In these tight economic times, you may be forgoing the Saturday nights out or gourmet meals. But you long for that delicious, spongy bread at your favorite Italian restaurant, the chocolate soufflĂ© from that French bistro downtown, and most importantly, that feeling of warm contentedness after you finish a fantastic meal among good company. News flash: you don’t have to give these things up! Entertaining at home can give you an opportunity to enjoy a gourmet meal in the comfort of your own home. In fact, it can be a lot of fun to plan the perfect meal, get all the items on your gourmet grocery list and create a night to remember through a delicious meal.

The perfect meal starts with the perfect menu. Use the menu of your favorite restaurant as a guide to plan out your own evening. Of course, you know the structure of a great meal. Generally, an aperitif starts the meal, followed by the hors d'oeuvres (appetizers), the main course, then dessert. It’s customary to have a digestif and/or coffee after dessert, which both closes out the meal and allows your company to mingle without feeling like they’re imposing on their host. Of course, this traditional structure is not set in stone, it’s your meal and you can amend it as you see fit!

If you are planning on having a larger number of people over, an aperitif or hors d'oeuvres can give staggering guests something to linger over while they wait for the rest of the party. Of course, you could be planning a romantic dinner for two, in which case wine or champagne can set the mood. To stimulate your appetite, shoot for wines that are young, crisp, and fresh and shy away from full bodied reds. These are too heavy for the start of the meal. A cocktail could also do the trick, like a gin and tonic or vodka with a mixer. Get creative with some dry white wine, orange juice, lemon juice, Perrier or a vermouth. Just remember to keep it light and refreshing.

Since you’ll most likely be prepping and/or finishing off the meal at the start of the evening, you’ll want to pick quick n’ easy hors d'oeuvres. This way, you’re not cooking a thousand things at once. Try a cheese and jelly combination on some artisan crackers or a baguette from your favorite bakery served with cheese, butter, and chorizo sausage on the side. Creme cheese’s thick, smooth texture compliments a fruity jelly, while brie tastes great with red pepper jelly or a tomato puree. Hors d'oeuvres don’t have to be ornate to be delicious! The key here is to pick fresh and gourmet ingredients. Go to the bakery for bread, sample an array of cheeses, and pay a little bit extra for nice, flat bread crackers.

After all of your guests have arrived and worked up a bit of an appetite, you’ll want to serve a garden fresh salad. The key to any salad is fresh ingredients and the perfect dressing. If you want to scrimp on the budget, try making your own dressing. A typical, basic green salad vinaigrette can be made with mustard, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. David Leibovitz provides a step-by-step recipe for the perfect French vinaigrette. You can also try making a raspberry vinaigrette, which goes great on a spinach salad with candied walnuts and red onion. Like the hors d’oeuvres, the salad should be a breeze. You can experiment with vinaigrettes ahead of time, and toss your salad moments before serving. Easy!

Deciding on a main course may give you the most trouble. With so many options, how can you possibly pick just one main course? Well, you’ll need to narrow down your options. If you’re having a lot of people over, you will want to have a main course that can cook itself as you host, serve, pour, and mingle. Such entrees include rack of lamb, chicken, or pork. If you’re cooking for two, you can do something a little more complicated, like a steak, seared to perfection over a heavy frying pan. The season could also help you choose your side dishes or main course. Since you’re making a gourmet meal, you’ll want the freshest ingredients available, including fruits and vegetables that are fresh-picked and in their seasonal prime. You can check to see what foods are in season in your region on this seasonal ingredient map. The Food Network provides an archive of seasonal recipes that could help give you some inspiration. Plan your main course around an array of colors and nutrients. A colorful dish appeals to both the taste-buds and the eyes. You can also play with textures and flavors -- crisp with tender, sweet with savory -- you want to present a dish that has a little bit of everything.

Last, but certainly not least, the dessert. You and your guests may be stuffed to the brim, but we always leave a little room for some sugar, don’t we? The great thing about dessert is that it usually can be made ahead of time, then served after dinner. A chocolate tart can be chilled, then served straight out of the fridge. Certain cakes, like carrot cakes for example, taste best at room temperature (e.g. hours after they are actually made). After devouring some sweet treats, finish with a coffee or digestif. In a formal setting, the coffee is usually taken in another room, such as the living room or terrace. When buying coffee beans, go straight to the source: your favorite cafe. Resist the urge to purchase overpriced “gourmet” coffees at your local supermarket. You may be more interested in investing in a classic digestif, like a grappa, whiskey, or fortified wine, instead of an after-dinner coffee. While digestifs are uncommon in the U.S., they’re a great way to allow your guests to wrap up conversation as their stomachs settle.

Et voila! After a fresh opening drink, simple appetizers, a hearty main course, lip-smacking dessert, and a closing coffee, you will feel as content as you ever did after that fancy-schmancy restaurant meal. Yeah, you may have to say goodbye to your favorite Italian restaurant, but I’m sure you’ll find that a homemade, gourmet meal enjoyed with good company is just as sweet.

Thank you for your article, Sean!

**Pop in tomorrow to see just how simple it is to make The Neely's Sweet Potato Souffle the Cookin' Lean way! (Yes, marshmellows included!) It just might be what your Turkey Day menu needs!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cooking Light with Giada De Laurentiis: Glazed Italian Donuts

Doughnuts are delicious. I have tried to tell myself for years that I don't really care for donuts that much. Well, that's just a lie. Just the smell of fresh donuts in the morning is pure torture for someone trying hard to avoid such a wonderful treat. They are delicious, yet traditionally...they are not so great for us.
Donuts are one of those things that many of us wish were healthier in some way. It's kinda tough to make something "lean" out of flour, butter and sugar that is fried in oil and smothered in more sugar. My friend Pam and I took a stab at it with a little inspiration from Giada's Coffee-Glazed Italian Doughnuts and this is what we got. Try 'em out and let us know what you think!

Lemon Glazed Italian Donuts
Serves 6

  • 6 tablespoons "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter"
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup SPLENDA with Fiber
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup WHOLE WHEAT flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Original Egg Beaters
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (1 lemon)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup Fat Free half-and-half
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the doughnuts: In a medium saucepan, combine the ICBINB, water, SPLENDA, and salt over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 10 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour. Using a wooded spoon, quickly stir the mixture until all the flour (whole wheat and all-purpose) is fully incorporated and forms a thick dough. Return the pan to the heat and stir continuously for 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a stand mixture fitted with a paddle attachment. With the machine running on medium speed, add the Egg Beaters and egg yolk, 1 at a time until fully incorporated. Beat the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes until thick and glossy. Add the lemon zest and beat until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.

For the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the fat free half-&-half and powdered sugar until smooth. Whisk in lemon juice. If the glaze is too thick, stir in the water, 1/4 teaspoon at a time.

Prepare a mini-muffin pan by spraying with a non-fat cooking spray. Drop in doughnut dough into each muffin cup; filling about 2/3 of the way up. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until dough has puffed up and slightly golden.
Repeat until all of the dough has been used. When they have cooled enough to handle, dip the top halves in the glaze.

Using a hand grater, grate a tiny bit of lemon zest over serving plates. Place 3 to 4 donuts on each plate and garnish with fresh raspberries or lemon twist, if using. Serve immediately.


So, so, SO good! We loved them. To test out exactly how the "lean" version compared to the original, we made both. Now, Giada's version is fabulous! Naturally...she's a Food Network Star and fried donuts are delish. But minus a ton of fat and sugar, our version stood up really well next to the original! I liked how the baking method and use of lemon gave each of our doughnuts such a light and crisp taste. And these are two words not often used to describe the taste of a doughnut. They came out great and gave us proof that doughnuts can be guilt-free!

Here are how they turned out nutritionally speaking...

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving of 4 mini donuts):

4 Mini Glazed Krispy Creme Donuts: 360 calories / 25g fat / 40g carbohydrate / 0g protein / 0g fiber

4 Cookin' Lean Mini Donuts: 254 calories / 9.2g fat / 39.4g carbs / 6.2g protein / 3.5g fiber

SAVES: 106 calories & 15.8g fat 
ADDS: 6.2g protein & 3.5g fiber

Normally I like to figure out the exact nutritional information using the exact original recipe, but it's really tough to figure the facts for fried dishes. For example, Giada just calls for vegetable oil for frying; enough to fill a pan 1/3 of the way full. How much is that? Not all goes into the food? See the issue here. So instead of messing with all of that, I simply found the nutritional facts for an average mini glazed donut from www.myfitnesspal.com. I used the facts from Krispy Kreme to do the comparison this time. As you can see, the baked-made at home version wins again! Next time I make these, I am going to try out this new butter substitute I found from Sunsweet called Lighter Bake. Ever try it? I'm gonna give it a whirl and let you know how it works.

Have a beautiful Saturday! So far I have one Thanksgiving dish makeover request for Sweet Potato Casserole. Any more? Get 'em in quick! Turkey Day is almost here!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Trim Down Turkey Time

It's almost time to start the most food-filled time of the year! From Thanksgiving to New Years Day can feel like a 5-1/2 week long buffet! Thanksgiving is just over a week away and I am already hearing references to "finding fat pants" and "falling into food comas". Yes, this is a time when it is expected to let loose a little, have fun and maybe indulge a bit. But as we know, there are ways to make our favorite dishes without completely blowing our nutritional budget.

I wanna hear from you!

What's your favorite, fat-filled, gravy-laced, breaded, fried or sugar covered Thanksgiving dish?

Would you like to see it done "Cookin' Lean Style"?

Paula Deen's Lean: Fried Bacon Mashed Potatoes
Challenge me. Tell me what you crave for Turkey Day and I will test it out before the guests arrive next Thursday.

I can't do 'em all, so the first few in will get the makeover. You know I love my Food Network Stars, so if it is one of their recipes...even better!

I'm pumped to see what your favorite Thanksgiving dishes are. I'm even more excited to try them in the Cookin' Lean Kitchen!

Start thinkin' and post those requests!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Sweatin' in Style = Zweet

My friend Marja and I grew up across the street from one another. Like most kids, we both loved playing outside. In elementary school, it started with riding bikes, rollerblading, TV tag and riding on skateboards down the hill on our street. In high school, it was varsity volleyball. It was all about what we were doing, and not necessarily about what we were wearing. As we got older, things did change. It took me a little longer to catch on, but Marja was always ahead of the fashion curve. I do believe it was Marja who taught me in elementary school that socks should match your outfit. Seems basic now, but it was mind-blowing at the time. I needed the fashion advice back then and thank goodness she was there to help. Well, once again Marja has come to the rescue with her new line of high-end fitness apparel.

Some Zweet stylish sport wear!

I am so happy to introduce you to Zweet Sport!

Here is a little about Zweet and their vision...

Zweet Sport is a high end active wear company that is dedicated to providing fashion forward designs with incredible fit. We carefully select every element that is incorporated into our products, as we feel that quality doesn’t just come from the way a garment looks, but also how it feels. Zweet Sport’s collection is ideal for any fitness or sports activity, as all of our garments provide a wicking agent that keeps skin feeling dry. Our garments will not sag or lose shape once damp from perspiration, nor will they lose their original fit. In addition to that, Zweet Sport is committed to supporting the green initiative. We purposely do not package our products in any type of plastic, cellophane, or harsh non-biodegradable material.

Their vision...

At Zweet Sport, we demand and expect the very best out of each and every product we deliver. We are dedicated to providing high quality, fashion focused designs that promote the inner athlete in all of us.

Marja and co-owner Kimberly are two women that have created Zweet Sport from a passion for living a healthy lifestyle "oh-so fashionably". Take a look at the line and see what I mean!  These two women have put so much into every part of this venture; right down to each stitch. It's amazing to see someone I know take an idea and make it a reality with hard work and perseverance.

I wanted to review this line because Marja is my childhood friend and I am sooo excited for her. I also reviewed Zweet Sport because I believe in what they are doing!

It's high-end, yet affordable. It looks amazing. It feels amazing. It is amazing!

As they put it, it's where "Fashion Meets Function".

To see more about Zweet sport and to view the collection visit http://www.zweetsport.com/ .

Find Zweet on Twitter and Facebook too!

Congratulations Marja, Kimberly, Ariana and the Zweet Sport team! You gals have something really great here!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Paula Deen's Lean: Pumpkin Bars

I promised this recipe last week, but as I was posting on Saturday..we lost power. Why? Because it was SNOWING! Snowing in October! That is a first for me as a Virginia resident. I love snow, but not quite sure I was ready for this. So, sorry friends.

Here you have it! Your newest, leanest, Paula Deen inspired sweet treat for this fall. Enjoy it without an ounce of guilt!!

Serves 24
Original recipe courtesy Patty Ronning as adapted by Paula Deen

  • 1 cup Egg Beaters (Original)
  • 1 cup natural apple sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 1 cup Splenda with Fiber
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sifted WHOLE WHEAT flour
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces FAT FREE Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter", softened
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the Egg Beaters, sugar and Splenda, apple sauce and pumpkin until light and fluffy; using an electric mixer.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture.

Mix on a low speed until the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a prepared 13 X 10-inch baking pan. Prepare the lean way by using a fat free cooking spray. 

Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the icing: Combine the fat free cream cheese and "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" in a medium bowl. Use an electric mixer for this too and mix until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again.

Spread on cooled pumpkin cake/bars.


They didn't come out as "bars". They were more like a cake. Still...this recipe is absolutely delicious. It's a top 5 for desserts. If you are in the mood for some fall baking, then print off this recipe and get going!

And the fun part...

Look at what you will save by making a few simple switches!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving):

BEFORE: 291.8 calories / 17.2g fat / 32.2g carbohydrate / 3.1g protein / .8g fiber

AFTER: 121.8 calories / 2.3g fat / 23.9g carbohydrate / 2.4g protein / 3.3g fiber

SAVES: 170 calories / 14.9g fat / 8.3g carbohydrate & ADDS: 2.5g fiber

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Time to Get Back On Track

Many of us have gotten into some sort of healthy routine. We find a workout we enjoy. We adapt to make eating healthy a priority. Things are going great, we are feeling great, we are lookin' great...and then life happens. Stress builds up. We allow a "treat day" to become everyday. Schedules change and we lose time for exercise. The occasional "order in" night becomes a 3X/week occurrence.
It's OK.

Don't stress.

Just reset and get back on track.

My 1 Diet Coke a day was becoming 3-4. Everything is OK in moderation, but this is a bit ridiculous. So...I am staying away from my favorite little treat for a few weeks. I want to reset my body and my brain so that Diet Coke is my treat, not my go-to beverage of choice.

It's been three days. So far, so good! If you find yourself off track, it's never too late to get back on!

Have a great Tuesday!!!


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