Monday, December 27, 2010

Ants on a Log

With the holiday season amongst us once again, many of us are spending (too much) time in the kitchen baking sweet treats. As it always does, food plays a huge role in Christmas and New Year celebrations; however, that does not mean that it has to make an impact on your weight. Studies show that the average holiday weight gain is about one pound. Even more disturbing is the evidence that for most people, that one pound is there to stay. That is one extra pound that you do not need to carry around with you for the rest of your life. Have no fear however, for there are many easy ways to keep away from this seemingly unavoidable tradition—all you have to do is be mindful of what you are eating. Stick to the following tips and you’ll be on track to starting a new year feeling great.

1. Eat in moderation
This is the big one. If you were to remember just one tip, it would be to eat in moderation. Keep your servings sizes small so that you can enjoy all your favorite holiday treats without consuming extra calories. Use a small plate and don’t be tempted to go back for more.

2. Don’t forget to exercise
When you exercise, you are not only burning calories, but also using the time that you might otherwise have used to eat to do some physical activity. Exercising can also be every enjoyable and keep your heart, lungs, and bones strong and healthy. If you have a treadmill, put it in front of the TV so that you can watch your favorite show and exercise at the same time. Spending time outdoors is sure to burn some calories, but if it’s too cold outside, why not hit the mall and engage in some serious speed shopping?

3. Indulge in hot drinks
Hot drinks such as cider, hot chocolate, and eggnog are delicious fluids to have during the winter season. Because people tend to drink hot drinks slower than cold drinks, you’ll have fewer refills, which means fewer calories consumed.

4. Fill up on your fruits and vegetables
You should be following this rule all year round, but especially during the time of year when junk food is readily available. Aim for at least five servings of plants a day, and from a broad range of colors. Different colored fruits and veggies provide different nutrients so that you can get all your essential vitamins naturally. Enjoy your crunchy veggies raw and unadorned, or with a healthy dip such as hummus.

5. Stay hydrated
Stay hydrated. Stay hydrated. Stay hydrated! Although the temperature outside has dropped tremendously in the last few weeks and you may not feel as thirsty during the winter months, your body still needs to stay hydrated. Water should always be your first choice when selecting a drink. Water is vital for the regulation of body temperature and metabolism. It’s refreshing, cheap, and best of all, calorie free. Drink one or two cups of water before every meal—you will feel just as full, without consuming as many calories. So guzzle that hydrogen and oxygen, and your body will surely thank you for it.

6. Eat some candy now and then
When it’s time for dessert, suck on a candy cane or nibble a piece of dark chocolate. Instead of adding to your daily intake up to 200 calories for just one cookie, you can enjoy a candy cane for just 60 calories. Alternatively, chew some minty gum. Minty gum kills your desire for food and inhibits you from chewing food—unless you want bits of food stuck in your gum!

Ants on a log are not only for kids—they are a delicious and easy snack for anyone who enjoys good food and wants some fun. The almond butter provides protein and healthy fats so that you feel full for longer. I like almond butter in my ants on a logs, but use peanut butter or cream cheese instead if that if what you desire. Did I mention these were very healthy too? In fact, you can get your serving of vegetables, fruit, AND protein by enjoying this delicious snack.


5 stalks celery
4 tbsp almond butter
¼ cup raisins


1. Spread the almond butter in the hollows of the celery stalks and top with raisins. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Cooking: Gingerbread Men and Peppermint Bark

The countdown to Christmas has finally begun. With the Christmas tree up and adorned in ornaments and pretty lights, presents hidden in secret places, and Christmas music taking over radio stations, I’m ready to just chill and celebrate the holiday season. However, with the amount of schoolwork and college applications I still have to work on, it’s been difficult to get into the holiday spirit. What do I do when I need a quick fix of joy? Well, I bake of course!

Christmas baking is one of the best things about the season. I love to cook, and I love to give away food that makes other people happy. Christmas baking is all about having fun, making a mess, and creating smiles. I always spend way too much time browsing websites and blogs for recipes the few weeks before Christmas. Everything looks so amazing; I just want to make it all!

Gingerbread men are definitely one of the most popular treats during Christmas. Why not make a few to stand by your deliciously decorated gingerbread house? These gingerbread men are just too adorable. How can you eat the little man staring back at you with that jolly smile? Well it’s sure no problem when they taste absolutely delicious. The aroma that comes out of the oven and into my nostrils when these treats are baking is simply to die for.

Peppermint is another flavor that makes bold appearances these last few weeks of the year. It adds a complexity to any dessert, and pairs perfectly with chocolate. I was not able to eat these treats because of my New Year’s resolution, but my friends and family told me they were delicious. There’s only ten more days before I can eat chocolate again! I’m definitely quite excited.

Because it's Christmas, let yourself enjoy some treats. While these gingerbread cookies are definitely not considered healthy, they do contain some healthy ingredients such as ginger and molasses. Molasses are a great source of iron, calcium, and manganese—all of which are essential minerals. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, chocolate can also be good for you. Just remember to splurge on little portions to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain.

Add finishing touches to these Christmas treats by wrapping them in cellophane, tying a ribbon around the package, and attaching a little note. Give them to friends and they will be the Christmas presents that everyone’s talking about.

Scrumptious homemade sweet treats are all people want for Christmas this year. Dive into the Christmas spirit and spread some joy to every girl and boy!

Gingerbread Men


½ cup trans fat free margarine
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger

For the royal icing:
1 egg white
½ tsp lemon juice
1 ¾ cup confectioners sugar


1. In a large bowl, cream together the trans fat free margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into gingerbread men with cookie cutters. Place cookies on lined cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost and decorate when cool.

For the icing:
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Fill a piping bag with the icing and pipe as desired.

Peppermint Bark


2 (12 ounce) packages semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp peppermint extract
5 peppermint candy canes, crushed


1. Line a 9x12 inch pan with parchment paper.
2. Melt the semisweet chocolate with the oil in a double boiler over just barely simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid burning.
3. When the chocolate is melted, stir in 1 teaspoon of the peppermint extract. Pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan and it spread to the sides. Sprinkle the crushed candy cane pieces over the top. Chill in the refrigerator until set, about 1 hours.
4. Break into small pieces to serve.